I'm severely allergic to eggs and shellfish. I've heard there are alternative treatments for food allergies. Are any of them effective?
Answers from James T C Li, M.D., Ph.D.
Some of them may be effective. However, be sure to ask your doctor about any alternative treatment you're considering. It's also important to still have on hand proven treatments to rapidly reverse severe allergic reactions, such as epinephrine injections.
Here are some alternative treatments that may play a role in controlling food allergies:
A Chinese herbal supplement called FAHF-2 has been shown to stop anaphylaxis — a life-threatening allergic reaction — caused by peanuts, eggs and fish. However, it's still being tested in larger populations. Also, many herbal supplements aren't evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and may contain active ingredients that can cause unexpected side effects.
Acupuncture needles are FDA approved as a medical device, and some people have reported a reduction in allergic reactions after acupuncture treatment. However, no published studies formally investigating the use of acupuncture for food allergies have been identified.
Allergic reactions are essentially immune responses to food, and certain nutrients, such as antioxidants, probiotics and folic acid, have known effects on immune function. Some surveys suggest that supplementing your diet with vitamins A, D and E and zinc may help control food allergies. However, no rigorous studies on the effects of nutrition on food allergies have been conducted, and the FDA doesn't evaluate most dietary supplements.
July 08, 2014
See more Expert Answers
- Li X. Complementary and alternative medicine in pediatric allergic disorders. Current Opinion in Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 2009;9:161.
- Q&A on dietary supplements. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/Food/DietarySupplements/QADietarySupplements/default.htm. Accessed Feb. 3, 2014.
- Tips for dietary supplement users. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/Food/DietarySupplements/UsingDietarySupplements/ucm110567.htm. Accessed Feb. 3, 2014.
- Li X. Treatment of asthma and food allergy with herbal interventions from traditional Chinese medicine. Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine. 2011;78:697.
- Wisniewski JA, et al. Alternative and complementary treatment for food allergy. Immunology and Allergy Clinics of North America. 2012;32:135.