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What is a Seed Allergy?
Seed allergies are quite rare, occurring much less often than nut allergies. Sesame, sunflower, flax and poppy seeds are potential allergens. Seeds are often used in baked goods, dressings and sauces, and their extracts are used in some personal care products like shampoo.
Proteins in the seed oil trigger an abnormal immune response in the body, causing a variety of symptoms that can range from mild to severe and in some rare instances, even life-threatening.
Symptoms of Seed Allergy
Minor sensitivity to seeds may cause abdominal cramping, nausea, diarrhea, headaches, sinus congestion and skin rash. More severe allergies may cause shortness of breath, wheezing, weakness, dizziness and, in very rare cases, anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis causes swelling of the face and throat, restricting the airway, and can be potentially fatal if not treated immediately.
In addition to those with allergies, people with Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulitis are also advised to avoid seeds due to the potential they have to cause extreme digestive discomfort.
Diagnosing Seed Allergies
Seed allergies are usually diagnosed through a history of symptoms and physical examination to rule out any other possible problems. The doctor will likely ask the type of seeds or seed oils consumed, what happened after you ate them, how long it took for the reaction to take place and what amount was consumed. Seed allergy presence may be confirmed with an elimination diet, skin test and/or blood test.
Sometimes reactions to more than one type of food may be suspected. In that instance, your doctor may require an elimination diet where all suspect foods are eliminated for a couple of weeks and then gradually returned to see if a reaction occurs.
Skin tests and blood tests may be ordered if the allergies are serious enough and an elimination diet doesn't resolve the issue. Skin prick tests involve placing a small amount of a suspected allergen just beneath the skin surface and waiting for fifteen minutes to see if there is a reaction. A raised bump or irritation at the site indicates a positive result. Blood tests can also be used to measure the body's immune response to particular foods by checking the level of immunoglobulin E antibodies (IgE) in your system.
Even if allergies aren't present, some may have an intolerance to seeds that causes a less severe reaction. Those with intolerance may be able to eat seeds or seed oils in moderation with only minor symptoms, since intolerance doesn't trigger a full allergic response.
Help for Seed Allergies
Gastrointestinal discomfort caused by seed consumption can often be aided by drinking more water to help flush the seeds through the digestive tract efficiently. Digestive enzymes are also effective for helping the body better digest foods when an intolerance is present. Minor allergic reactions that result in skin rash, itching or sneezing are usually treated with antihistamines.