Shellfish is a broad term that covers a wide variety of fish and are divided into two categories:
- Gastropods: Snails, slugs, limpets, periwinkles
- Cephalopods: Squid, octopus, cuttlefish
- Bivalves: Mussels, oysters, scallops, clams
Shellfish can be nutritious, but they are also one of the most common food allergens.
What are the benefits of including shellfish in your diet?
- High in protein and generally low in fat
- Rich in amino acids and easily digested due to the absence of connective tissue.
- High in vitamins A, B3, B6, and B12
- Contain omega-3 fatty acids, such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) fatty acids, which help:
What are the risks of eating shellfish?
Since raw shellfish could be contaminated and cause food poisoning, it’s best to eat them fully cooked to make sure harmful bacteria or viruses are killed. Shrimp, lobsters, oysters, mussels, crab, and clams also contain high levels of cholesterol for their serving size, so it’s best to consume these in moderation.
Due to increased plastics in the ocean, shellfish have been found to contain microplastics according to various studies. High levels of mercury, cadmium, and other heavy metals in the shellfish have become an ongoing health concern.
What are symptoms of a shellfish allergy?
Shellfish allergy is one of the most common food allergies, and it often lasts a lifetime. If you have an allergy to the proteins found in shellfish, your immune system goes into overdrive and starts to produce histamine, which can cause allergic symptoms, is a component of this process.
Shellfish allergy symptoms may include:
- Abdominal pain
- Swelling of the throat, tongue, or lips
- Hives, itching, or eczema
- Shortness of breath
- Anaphylactic shock
About 60% of people with shellfish allergies don't experience a reaction until adulthood. Food allergy testing may help figure out which types of shellfish trigger a reaction. Some people are allergic to a wide range of shellfish, whereas others are only allergic to one species.
What are treatment options for shellfish allergy?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for food allergies, including shellfish allergies. Avoiding shellfish is the best way to prevent an allergic reaction. So to prevent unexpected flare-ups, be attentive when grocery shopping and review the list of ingredients on food packaging.
If you do inadvertently end up eating shellfish, seek medical treatment immediately. Antihistamines can help with mild allergic reactions, and an adrenaline or epinephrine auto-injector may prevent anaphylaxis in severe situations.
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Food Allergy Canada. Crustaceans and Molluscs. https://foodallergycanada.ca/allergies/crustaceans-and-molluscs/
American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Shellfish Allergy. https://acaai.org/allergies/types/food-allergies/types-food-allergy/shellfish-allergy
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