If you notice that you often get a headache after eating, you could be having an allergic reaction to some food. As with other allergic reactions, food allergies can cause a number of symptoms from a runny nose and itchy eyes to headaches and stomach pain. A visit with an allergy specialist will pinpoint the cause so you'll know which foods to avoid.
Prepare For Your Allergy Screening
Before going in to see the allergist, take note of the following to help the doctor narrow down the problem foods:
- What symptoms do you typically experience after eating?
- How long after eating do the problems begin?
- How often do the symptoms occur after eating?
- What prescription medications are you taking?
- Does anyone else in your family have food allergies?
Food Allergy Testing
Two types of tests are used to determine if you have a food allergy, and to which foods you react. Both tests may be done to verify the existence of a food allergy.
Blood test - As with other allergic reactions, the immune system creates antigens in response to a specific food to which you are allergic. This blood test looks for the presence of antigens in the blood. The antigens indicate that you have an allergy to a class of foods, such as dairy products, but can't tell the doctor which specific food is the problem. For this information, they need to do a skin test.
Skin test - A small drop of fluid containing an extract of the food is placed on your skin. The doctor than uses a needle to make a small prick in the skin under the drop. If you have a sensitivity to the food, you'll notice a reaction in a few minutes. You may develop a small raised bump or a rash where the prick was done. Your doctor may test you on several areas of your skin with different food extracts to get a clear understanding of the foods to which you react.
The Challenge Test
The blood test doesn't indicate how sensitive you are to a food. Some people test positive with the prick test but don't have symptoms when eating the food. In these cases, your doctor may have you do a challenge test to determine to which foods you are allergic and how much you must eat to have symptoms.
Your doctor will have you eat a small amount of a specific food and evaluate the result. You'll increase the amount of the food you eat over a period of days until you start to show symptoms, if any. Your doctor may have you try several foods this way over the course of several weeks to get a clear picture of any food allergy.
Treating Your Food Allergy
Food allergies can't be cured. Treatment is focused on the symptoms. Once the doctor knows which foods you react to and how sensitive you are to them, your allergist will recommend one or more of the following treatments:
- medications to reduce the immediate discomfort after eating.
- dietary changes to limit or restrict the foods you eat.
- incorporating substitutes in your diet for the foods to which you are sensitive.
If you suspect that your headaches are caused by a food allergy, visit a local clinic like The Regional Allergy Asthma & Immunology Center, PC.