food allergy immunotherapy
food allergy immunotherapy

Food Allergy Immunotherapy 101

6 min read



Living with food allergies can be daunting. While there isn’t a “cure” for food allergies, there are food allergy treatment options and emerging therapies that can manage and reduce the impact of allergic reactions. In this blog post, we'll explore the current landscape of food allergy treatment, focusing on food immunotherapy and its potential benefits.

Living with food allergies

The main approach to dealing with food allergies involves symptom management and strict avoidance. This can be challenging and stressful; accidental exposure to even trace amounts of allergens can lead to severe consequences.

How does food immunotherapy work?

One emerging alternative to food allergy treatment is immunotherapy. Two common forms of food immunotherapy are Oral Immunotherapy (OIT) and food Sublingual Immunotherapy (SLIT). While it isn’t a cure, OIT and food SLIT are designed to increase your allergic threshold and potentially prevent reactions triggered by accidental exposures to specific foods. OIT and SLIT involve exposing you to controlled, small amounts of the food you’re allergic to through ingestion by mouth or liquid under the tongue, respectively.

If you live in the Tri-State Area and want to get a food allergy evaluation, book an appointment at our allergy clinic in NYC. We offer same-day comprehensive evaluations and results. Learn more here.

Step 1: Initial Dosing

In the initial dosing phase, you would be exposed to a tiny amount of the allergenic food under close medical supervision. We're talking amounts well below what would normally send your immune system into red alert.

Step 2: The Build-Up Phase

Over weeks to months, the dose is gradually increased. This slowly teaches your immune system to adapt and recognize the food as safe. You would be under healthcare professionals' supervision to ensure you’re safe.

Step 3: The Maintenance Phase

Once you've reached a certain tolerance level, you consume that specific amount regularly. This will maintain desensitization.

How is food allergy immunotherapy different from environmental allergy immunotherapy?

The goal of food allergy immunotherapy is to increase your allergic threshold. That means you will be able to handle small quantities of the foods you're allergic to but you won't be able to get rid of the allergy completely or eat the food normally. Ideally, accidental exposure to your allergen and trace amounts won't trigger a severe allergic reaction.

On the other hand, the goal of environmental allergy immunotherapy is long-term symptom relief. In the best-case scenario, patients no longer need their OTC medications and in the worst-case scenario, their reliance on them is minimal.

The reason environmental allergy immunotherapy is more successful at providing sustained unresponsiveness to the allergen is still not known and is being studied. It likely has to do with the nature of the food protein itself, the route of exposure and sensitization, and limitations in dosing due to an increased risk of systemic reactions with food.

Learn about environmental allergy immunotherapy in detail here.

Is food immunotherapy effective?

Studies show OIT is 60-80% effective, meaning patients can handle higher doses of the food than before.¹ Food SLIT has shown similar percentages.

Is food immunotherapy safe?

Yes, with appropriate guidance and supervision. While most patients experience mild to moderate reactions during their build-up phase, adverse reactions generally decrease in the maintenance phase.² In general, food SLIT has a more favorable safety profile than OIT with fewer systemic allergic reactions reported.

Food allergy treatment with immunotherapy can significantly reduce the anxiety associated with accidentally eating your allergy, providing you with a sense of control and security.

The advantages of food immunotherapy include:

  • Reduced Anxiety:

Knowing that your immune system has been desensitized to specific allergens can alleviate the constant fear of accidental exposure.

  • Increased Tolerance:

Food immunotherapy aims to increase your allergic threshold, allowing you to tolerate higher amounts of allergenic food without triggering severe reactions.

  • Enhanced Quality of Life:

By mitigating the impact of food allergies, immunotherapy contributes to an enhanced quality of life. You will be better equipped to navigate social situations, travel, and daily activities without the constant fear of being exposed to your food allergies.

As research continues and technology advances, the landscape of food allergy treatment may evolve, potentially leading to more effective and personalized solutions. In the meantime, individuals living with food allergies can explore alternative treatments like OIT and food SLIT and work closely with healthcare providers to find the most suitable approach for their specific needs. Through ongoing research and innovative therapies, the journey towards a better understanding and management of food allergies continues.

If you live in the Tri-State Area and want to get a food allergy evaluation, book an appointment at our allergy clinic in NYC. We offer same-day comprehensive evaluations and results. Learn more here.

1. Guillaume Pouessel, and Guillaume Lezmi. Oral Immunotherapy for Food Allergy: Translation from Studies to Clinical Practice? Vol. 16, no. 2, 1 Feb. 2023, pp. 100747–100747, Accessed 11 June 2023.

2. Anagnostou, Aikaterini. Weighing the benefits and risks of oral immunotherapy in clinical practice. Allergy and asthma proceedings vol. 42,2 (2021): 118-123. doi:10.2500/aap.2021.42.200107

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