Unusual food allergies can cause odd symptoms, limit diet choices

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Roughly 8 percent of people have a food allergy, according to American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Of that group, nearly one-third have multiple food allergies. The most common food allergies are peanuts, followed by milk and shellfish, but there are a great many unusual food allergies that affect many people. 

Walk into any average restaurant or fast food franchise and look at their menu. What is the main side? Some kind of potato. Now imagine being allergic to potatoes.

I first found out that I was allergic to potatoes after going to an asthma and allergy specialist for severe chest pains and random throat swelling. Since potatoes are a very uncommon allergy, some allergists will do a second test to confirm the allergy. Once potatoes were cut from my diet, I noticed an immediate change. Every person with this allergy is different, though.

Most
people think it would be impossible to live without potatoes in their diet. It
is difficult at times; however, I’m here to tell you it’s not impossible if you watch what you eat. Obviously
baked potatoes, french fries and potato chips are out of the question, but potatoes can be found in foods that you would not expect. 

Potato starches are found in some breads,
pastries and pasta. Some pharmaceutical drugs,
vitamins and supplements list starch but do not always specify what kind.
Even bizarre things, like envelope glue, contain potato starch. For people with very severe potato allergies, figuring out what products contain potato can be very difficult.

The
easiest way to begin to deal with a potato allergy is to switch to corn- and
wheat-based products. 
While this means I can’t have yummy potato chips, I can replace them with corn-based chips, like Doritos and Cheetos. The hardest part for me, at first, was eating out, but I have found that most restaurants will offer another side dish when I mention my allergy, ranging from
another vegetable to a fruit dish to a dessert.

This allergy is still not well understood. There is a huge variety of symptoms that people allergic to potatoes can experience, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, itchy mouth, swelling of the throat, throat pain, eczema, atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, runny nose, weepy eyes, sneezing, asthma and chest tightness. 

Along with
the wide variety of symptoms, there are also many degrees to which the allergy affects people. Some people
are fine as long as they don’t eat too much, some get mild gastrointestinal symptoms, while others
who eat the same amount may go into anaphylactic shock. If you think you may have a food allergy, testing should be done by a certified allergist. 

So the next time you go out to eat or go to the store, look at exactly how
many products you consume that contain some sort of potato. Then think,
“What if I was allergic to potatoes?”

Briana Jacobus is a sophomore in agricultural communications. Please send comments to edge@kstatecollegian.com.

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