Faking it: Food allergies as eating disorders

We recently covered the globalization diet, but there is another diet that is beginning to rise and has rapidly become a cause for concern.

It starts in an unlikely place: with a fake food “allergy.” Most people wouldn’t consider being allergic to something — particularly an ingredient/substance or products derived from that ingredient/substance—  a good thing, as it can cause hives, vomiting, fainting, among other things. These individuals usually have to restrict themselves entirely from something because, in the instances of severe enough allergies, even a single particulate of such ingredients/substances can cause an adverse reaction.

So why are people resorting to food allergies as their new diet plan?

“Some see it as the answer to losing weight, or something that will force them to do so,” says nutritionist Lauren Schmitt, RD, in an article in Cosmopolitan Magazine. Allergies or intolerances are the perfect reason to not eat a food, especially when trying to lose weight.

As individuals are beginning to tout the gluten-free lifestyle, they are dropping weight and claiming to feel happier and healthier.  In order to justify their new lifestyle, many are claiming that they have a gluten allergy (or even allergies to dairy, sugar or eggs) so they can eliminate entire food groups from their diet.

One of the issues with this new trend is the misconstruction of what a food allergy really is. Read this post to understand difference between allergies and intolerances.

But it is the social epidemic that has risen that has a lot of doctors worried. The trend of losing weight and looking great has people wishing for an allergy/intolerance to certain foods to permanently cut it out from their diets, “justifiably” so.

Our hyper-critical society has every aspect of our being evaluated and we feel the societal pressure to fit and mold ourselves into what people say we should be. As a result — we’ve become hypochondriacs. After all, how many times have you heard the excuse: “Sorry, I can’t eat that, I’m gluten intolerant”? Is it true? Or, has society pushed us to a point of no return, making up excuses in order to meet weight loss goals?

A substantial downside of people alleging to have fake food allergies is that it further muddles the accurate recognition and diagnosis of true food allergies. Those with real food allergies face real consequences each day their conditions go undiagnosed and untreated.

According to The Food Allergy & Anaphalaxis Network (FAAN), about 4% of the population in the United States has a real food allergy. In a study of a two month period alone, the FAAN recorded 20,821 emergency room visits, and 100-200 deaths per year from anaphylaxis.

If you believe you might be suffering from a food allergy or intolerance, please visit a physician who will be able to properly diagnose you. This way, you will be certain on whether or not there are certain foods out there that do pose a serious risk to your health … or if you have just become part of yet another trend.

For Neogen’s test kits on allergens, click here

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