Did you know that food allergies can lead to an eating disorder? Food allergies happen when a person’s body, or immune system, overreacts to eating a specific food. Symptoms depend on the person and the severity of the allergy. These may include itchy skin and hives, vomiting, swollen lips/face/eyes, and difficulty breathing.
Stress and fear surrounding food is common among people with food allergies. In fact, this Eating Disorder Hope article reports children with a peanut allergy have more stress around food and restrict their diet more than people with insulin-dependent diabetes. Anxiety and restricting one’s diet both play a role in developing eating disorders. For example, individuals with the eating disorder ARFID (Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder) can have anxious feelings and/or fear of getting sick when eating certain foods. Those with ARFID can become picky eaters and limit the number of foods they are willing to eat. ARFID may be a concern when the diet is restricted beyond allergens.
Removing allergens from the diet is important to prevent an allergic reaction, unless otherwise directed by a medical professional. It is also important to speak with a medical professional if you think you have an allergy but have not yet been diagnosed. A varied diet provides a range of nutrients. For example, milk products have a lot of calcium and protein in them. Removing milk from your diet without a diagnosis may place yourself at nutritional risk. Removing gluten from your diet could limit your consumption of fiber, B vitamins, and iron. A varied diet containing all food groups will provide all of the nutrients to support an active and healthy life.
Do you have allergies or think you have a food allergy? Check out these steps to make sure you are not placing yourself a nutritional risk:
Check out my post on the gut-brain axis to learn how else restricting food can impact your body and your mood.