New research findings suggests that adults in the U.S. are increasingly self-reporting that they have a food allergy without obtaining a diagnosis from a doctor, according to a recent report from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.
FDA researchers looked at data from the 2001, 2006, and 2010 Food Safety Survey to determine the rate of adults who report they have a food allergy.
Self-reports of food allergy increased about 4 percent between 2001 and 2010, from 9.1 to 13 percent, according to the findings published in Asthma and Allergy Proceedings. In the same time period, researchers did not find a significant change in the prevalence of doctor-diagnosed food allergies (5.3 percent in 2001 and 6.5 percent in 2010).
These results indicate that an increasing number of adults are diagnosing themselves with food allergies. Consequently, they may be needlessly avoiding foods. This is problematic, as restricting dietary choices can lead to poorer quality of life and overall health and nutrition.
Why aren’t adults seeking a diagnosis from a health care professional? Some theories include lack of access to health care and increased reports of gastrointestinal symptoms, which are more difficult to diagnose as food allergy. Data collected did not determine whether these gastrointestinal symptoms were caused by IgE-mediated food allergies, or by another related disorder such as celiac disease.
If you believe you have a food allergy, or are experiencing symptoms after eating certain foods, you should seek a proper diagnosis from a health care professional. While it may be tempting to self-diagnose, it is critical to seek medical advice so you are properly treating your condition and preparing in case you are at risk for severe symptoms. View FARE’s guidance on how to find an allergist.