Written by Carrie Gerencher for Simple Again We have been hearing a lot about strengthening our immune health related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The immune system uses its defense mechanisms, such as the skin and building up antibodies to prevent bacteria, viruses, and fungi from ever entering the body and getting rid of them if they do enter. Our immune systems adapt throughout our lives, fighting these invaders that enter our bodies as a team. The immune system team is comprised of white blood cells, antibodies, lymph nodes, the spleen, tonsils & adenoids, the skin, mucus membranes, the gastrointestinal tract, and bone marrow. Recommendations about how to keep our immune system healthy have not changed since COVID-19. It has just come to the forefront of our thinking as we have educated ourselves on maintaining our health & safety from the disease. Getting enough sleep, staying active, maintaining a healthy weight for your body, reducing stress, discontinuing smoking, washing your hands often and eating healthy foods such as lean proteins, whole grains, fruits and vegetables are just some ways to keep our immune system healthy. But what if eating certain healthy foods can put your life in danger? For some people, their immune system believes certain foods, known as food allergens to those allergic, are a threat and it responds with symptoms such as hives, itching, coughing, swelling of the throat, painful stomach cramps, nausea or diarrhea. These symptoms can happen within minutes to hours after ingesting this food, causing an unplanned trip to the emergency room. Food allergies have been on the rise over the last 20 years. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, it is estimated that “more than 50 million Americans have an allergy of some kind.” 1 You may even know someone with a food allergy or have one yourself. In the United States, there are eight common foods that cause food allergies. They are soy, wheat, milk, eggs, shellfish, fish, tree nuts and peanuts. Unfortunately, there are no magic pills or treatments for food allergies. They can be life threatening and the only way to keep the person safe is to avoid the food allergen completely, as well as any potential risk of cross contamination. For those that are anaphylactic to a food allergen, they must carry an epinephrine pen with them. Continued on next page. the basics of Food Allergies Nutrition Quarterly · 2021 – Volume 3 5 What We’re Reading