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What It’s Like to Be An Allergy-Mom

January 30, 2014 •  14 comments.

 •  Blog, News

mom-with-boyThe food allergy community is a powerful one.  None of us chose to be part of it, it chose us.  And stories, successes, heartaches and strategies are often shared across networks and social media.

Like the piece below.  Dawn Crowe, a mom with a child with food allergies, shared this on her Facebook page this morning.  It was written by Carissa K.  Her words ring so true.  Allergy moms are everywhere, from the beautiful Julie Bowen to the ones on the sidelines at soccer games, and as the mom below writes, we are all “humble and grateful and reminded of just how fortunate we are that we are the parents of a child with only food allergies.”

“What it’s Like to Be an Allergy-Mom”

1. As the parent of a child with food allergies, it makes us crazy when people make any sort of assumption about food allergies other than this one assumption — a food allergy is a life-threatening condition that causes children to stop. breathing. immediately. It’s very real… and it’s very scary.

2. As the parent of a child with food allergies we want you to know that this is not a lifestyle choice. While it’s admirable that some people choose to eat healthy and be aware of the ingredients in their food, we aren’t standing in the grocery store aisle reading the label on everything that goes into our cart as a hobby. We’re studying those ingredients to make sure there’s not an obscure ingredient that could kill our children. (Did you know that caramel coloring is made out of dairy? Are you familiar with the difference between sodium lactate and potassium lactate?)

3. As the parent of a child with food allergies there is not a playdate or school activity that our child will attend without us having a discussion with the hosting parent, event chaperone or teacher first. Every event my child has ever participated in (ever!) from t-ball to school to summer camps has always been preempted with a medical conversation first. We know we’re perceived as high-maintenance parents. And we feel badly about that because the level of diligence we’re forced to have about the subject of food allergies may not be consistent with the level of diligence our personalities would normally reflect.

4. As the parent of a child with food allergies we have laid awake at night, wondering if we’ll be able to spot the signs of our child’s throat closing. We’ve been told that anaphylaxis can happen in less than two minutes, so not only do we wonder if we’ll be able to identify this emergency, we wonder if our child’s teacher, babysitter, grandparent, recess monitor, friend or coach will know when our child can’t breathe.

5. As a parent of a child with food allergies we have laid awake at night, wondering if our child will ever be able to attend a party in college or share a random kiss. And if he does, who will carry his epi-pen?

6. Speaking of which, as the parent of a child with food allergies we leave the house remembering the basics like phone, wallets, keys — and epi-pens. We know not to leave them in a car that is too hot or too cold and we always carry at least two, if not seven. Even with insurance, they are $25 a pop, so we treat them with the utmost respect for the year that we have them before they expire. But that’s all ok, because those little devices carrying a shot of adrenaline could save our child, or at least sustain them, until the ambulance arrives.

7. As the parent of a child with food allergies, we sit outside every birthday party or sports practice while other parents leave.

8. As the parent of a child with food allergies, we balance the emotional impact of being a helicopter parent against the medical threat of having our child go into anaphylaxis when we’re not around. We feel guilty and scared of both.

9. As the parent of a child with food allergies, we have never relaxed, sat back and actually enjoyed or tasted a meal in a restaurant. Never. You see, we spend those meals playing and replaying the emergency plan in our head while quietly observing our child’s breathing as he enjoys his meal.

10. As the parent of a child with food allergies, we regularly attend medical appointments in big time children’s hospitals where we can’t help but see other patients and deeply suffering families. And upon this realization, we are humbled and grateful and reminded of just how fortunate we are that we are the parents of a child with only food allergies. While our child has a life-threatening medical condition, it is manageable. And as long as we have help from you and others in managing it, our child is alive — and that’s really something!

This article first appeared on Huffington Post. To read more of Carissa K.’s work, please visit http://www.carissak.com/

The Top Food Awakening Stories of 2013

January 4, 2014 •  no comments.

 •  Blog, News

2013 was the year of the Food Awakening.

Consumers and Wall Street got in on the food movement like never before.

Thanks to social media and online networks, eaters around the country used their voices to create change.  The courage was contagious and inspired countless acts.  The list below highlights just how much we can do when we leverage our collective talents.

Some of these changes happened with lightning speed, others were years in the making with many out in front, that finally came to a head in 2013.

The message is clear: The bottom line is that we impact the bottom line of companies, and companies that are moving with the consumer, bringing transparency to their products, are being rewarded in the marketplace.

As the food awakening continues, the food industry has a choice: to step forward, respond to consumer demand and be rewarded in the marketplace or to entrench, using  obsolete technologies and artificial ingredients, and ignore the growing concern of Americans around the country over the health of their loved ones.  There really is only one answer.

Here’s a list of just some of the incredible accomplishments of 2013 as shared across social media. It reinforces that while none of us can do everything, all of us can do something, and together, we can create incredible change.

  1. The Chipotle Scarecrow film getting 11.6 million views in just a few months.
  2. Kashi admitting GMO and producing a FB reply…then they created some Organic cereals with Non GMO verification project.
  3. A teen’s online petition gets Gatorade to kick a nasty additive out of their sports’ drinks.
  4. Whole Foods March announcement that all products in their stores that contain GMOs must be labeled by 2018 (or reformulated to not contain them).
  5. Kroger, which launched its Simple Truth line of organic and natural foods in August, now says it will double the brand’s lineup early next year, the Dayton Business Journal said. The original lineup included 200 foods
  6. Connecticut passing a GMO labeling law
  7. Chipotle’s commitment to going non GMO in 2014, and the market’s response sending the stock soaring
  8. Hawaii’s legislation, a win to get GMOs off Kauai and a win to require pesticide disclosure and buffer zones of the 4 of the 5 top biotech companies there.
  9. Elimination of trans fats and looming FDA deadline
  10. The rise in Annie’s stock & products
  11. Chick-fil-A changing the ingredients in their food
  12. Chipotle labeling its menu of GMOs
  13. Whole Foods no longer selling Chobani yogurt due to GMO concerns.
  14. Helping Houston ISD to get msg out of their food items!
  15. Lawsuit against “Naked” juice for being loaded with GMOs and claiming to be “natural.”
  16. Trader Joe’s certifies that all of the products in its stores that carry the TRADER JOE label are NON-GMO (buyer beware, though, as these products are not third party verified by the Non GMO Project.)
  17. Explosion in Non GMO Project verified products
  18. Twinkie maker hostess filed for bankruptcy then reemerged talking about a gluten free Twinkie!
  19. Canadian Superstore brought in an entire large isle of organic foods last month. Did our emails make a difference?
  20. Target is planning a new line of “natural food” products and it will be non gmo. (Walmart is also planning a line of “natural food’ PRODUCTS, but Walmart’s line will be all genetically modified ingredients.)
  21. Raising awareness in Washington State and beyond with I-522
  22. Starbucks dropping the beetles from their menu!
  23. Ben and Jerry’s commitment to going non-GMO by mid-’14 and already having a dozen flavors sourced and labeled non-GMO
  24. Kraft finally ditching artificial dyes from a handful of their mac and cheese products
  25. A mom starting a movement called “March Against Monsanto” that led to 2 million people in 56 countries peacefully standing up for food freedom
  26. A lot more brands coming out with gluten free/dairy free and non GMO products!
  27. UNREAL candy taking on the big guys by making America’s favorite candy without the junk
  28. Unilever for deciding, after supporting the No on GMO Labeling side and receiving criticism from consumers, to actively advocate for Yes on 522 in Washington State.
  29. Kellogg’s having to downsize because consumers quit purchasing their products. “Would prefer Kellog’s be a better business model and remove the GMO’s so that we can purchase more instead of boycott.”
  30. Monsanto having to run commercials lying because we are impacting their bottom line.

And while there were countless others, some were personal:

“My daughter realizing she’s been eating organic ketchup poured into a non-organic bottle…and when the charade was revealed, saying she wondered why the ketchup tasted better lately.”

“I’ve lost 42lbs…dont drink energy drinks anymore..dropped all my bad blood levels …went from 40 inch to 32 inch waist…just cutting out processed food with HFCS and GMOs.”

And from a Navy Seal: “Nothing spectacular, had heart operation, found tumors same time, got sick, went whole, got better, kicked the cancer end of tumors, and watch with shear amazement at what we had been brainwashed into eating, have gotten a few of my seal budddys now on organic diets and transformation is amazing, keep at it, you have people like me watching…”

Keep at it.  2014 is going to be a great year.  Companies and investors are paying attention.  The food companies that do not adapt will find their 20th century products, loaded with artificial dyes, growth hormones and GMOs soaked in pesticides, becoming an obsolete technology in the 21st century.

Keep an eye on legislation and labeling laws, as well as things like the Trans Pacific Partnership which protects patented products (like the chemical industry’s GMOs in our food),  send an email to a Congressman’s office or share a YouTube video with a friend.

Hedge funds are paying attention, Wall Street is paying attention and parents are on the front lines sending messages every day, as they navigate the grocery store aisles differently.

A quick look at how UNREAL candy is revolutionizing the candy aisles in Target shows just how quickly it can be done.

Just because we have inherited a food system that no longer works for us today does not mean that we have to embrace it going forward.  Together, leveraging our collective talents, we can build a smarter food system, so that clean food, free from genetically engineered ingredients regulated by the EPA as pesticides, becomes a freedom afforded all Americans.

Follow Robyn on Twitter @unhealthytruth and on Facebook.  She is a former financial analyst and author.

 

 

 

Food Allergies & Food Sensitivities: What You Need to Know

January 2, 2014 •  22 comments.

 •  Blog, News, Uncategorized

Written by Robyn O’Brien, founder of the AllergyKids Foundation, author of The Unhealthy Truth

Today, one in eleven children struggle with asthma, and one in four are affected by allergies. The incidence of allergy has increased significantly over the past two decades, and allergy to peanuts has more than doubled from 1997 to 2002. Approximately 30 million children – more than 1/3 of our kids – are affected by one of these four new childhood epidemics. This is not something we can just accept.

The official statistic holds that allergies affect some 7 million Americans, including about 6 percent of children below the age of three. That information comes courtesy of U.S. Food and Drug Administration Deputy Commissioner Lester M. Crawford, J., D.V.M., Ph.D., speaking before the Consumer Federation of America on April 22, 2002. But that data is now almost ten years old.

Since then, the only update we’ve had is from the Centers for Disease Control and a report issued in 2008 that said that there has been a 265% increase in the rate of hospitalizations related to food allergic reactions.

This begs explanation.

An allergy is basically an overreaction by your immune system to a protein that it perceives as a threat—for example, the proteins in particular types of food, the dust mite protein, or pollen. For people without allergies, these proteins are harmless. But if you’ve got an allergy, your immune system sees these proteins as dangerous invaders.

To drive the invader out, your immune system mobilizes all its resources: mucous, to flush out the intruder; vomiting, to force it out; diarrhea, to expel it quickly. Such conditions may make you feel sick, but they’re actually evidence of your body’s attempts to get well.

A key aspect of the immune response is known as inflammation, characterized by one or more of four classic symptoms: redness, heat, swelling, and pain. Inflammation doesn’t occur only in allergic reactions; it flares up whenever your body feels threatened, in response to a bruise, cut, bacteria, or virus as well as to otherwise harmless pollen, dust, or food. Scientists now believe that much of our immune system is found in our digestive tracts, where many of these inflammatory reactions occur in the form of stomachaches, cramping, nausea, bloating, and vomiting.

Ironically, the immune system’s inflammatory reaction—meant to heal and protect the body—often causes more problems than the initial “invader” in the cases when allergic reactions become life-threatening.

Common Symptoms of Food Allergy: Immediate Reactions

* rash or hives

* nausea

* stomach pain

* diarrhea

* itchy skin

* eczema

* shortness of breath

* chest pain

* swelling of the airways to the lungs

* anaphylaxis

Food Allergies and Food Sensitivity: Our Immune System Overreacts Again

At first glance, the distinction between “allergies” and “sensitivity” may seem like a meaningless word game. But understanding the relationship between these two conditions is crucial to grasping the true nature of the allergy epidemic—and to seeing how even the supposedly healthy foods in our kitchens may be harmful to our health.

As we’ve seen, allergies are an overreaction of our immune system, a kind of exaggerated response to a perceived danger. When a child comes in contact with these proteins (peanut, egg, wheat, etc.) her immune system “recognizes” the protein as dangerous, just as it would have seen the danger in the bacterium that causes pneumonia or the virus that causes mumps. In response, her immune system creates special “fighter” proteins called antibodies designed to identify and neutralize the “invader.”

These fighter proteins are known as immunoglobulin E, or IgE for short. When they’re released into the bloodstream, their purpose is to “seek and destroy” the invader, which they do by creating one or more of the classic food allergy symptoms, such as the hives, or the diarrhea with which other children respond, or, in more extreme cases, the anaphylactic shock that can kill a child within minutes.

The classic IgE response occurs within minutes or even seconds, because IgE proteins are some of the most aggressive antibodies we know. That immediate IgE response is the defining characteristic of an allergic reaction.

Food sensitivities start out in a similar way. If a “sensitive” child is exposed to a protein that his system perceives as a threat, he’ll manufacture another type of fighter protein, known as Immunglobulin G, or IgG. Although IgE and IgG antibodies play similar roles, they produce somewhat different—though often overlapping—symptoms.

A crucial difference between the two, though, is their reaction time. The less aggressive IgG antibodies typically produce a delayed response that might not appear for hours or even days after the child has consumed the offending food.

So even though food sensitivities and food allergies both produce painful, inflammatory, and potentially dangerous responses, this delayed reaction time has led many doctors to give food sensitivities second-class status. Partly that’s because they don’t present an immediate and obvious threat to children’s lives: only the IgE proteins trigger anaphylactic shock, for example, and in that sense, only the IgE proteins can kill (though the IgG reaction can have serious long-term consequences). I also think that traditional doctors tend to downplay the importance of nutrition, frequently dismissing the idea that such symptoms as earache, eczema, crankiness, brain fog, and sleep problems might be related to a child’s diet.

However, an article in The Lancet, Britain’s most respected medical journal, casts another light on the subject. The article referred to doctors who use elimination diets—diets that begin with a very limited, “safe” array of food choices and then add potentially problematic foods back into the diet, one by one.

The reason to do an elimination diet is to identify which foods in your diet might be triggering symptoms like skin rashes, fatigue, or stomach ache. Often, some foods affect us without our realizing it and we live with the symptoms, taking medicine to alleviate the suffering. But if you eliminate these foods from your diet, you may find that your symptoms disappear. What becomes even more interesting is that when you reintroduce the offending food, you may suddenly suffer drastic symptoms which make it clear that the food was indeed triggering one or more problems. An elimination diet can sometimes reveal with dramatic speed that a particular food you’ve always believed was harmless is actually causing such chronic symptoms as headache, digestive problems, and even more serious complaints. Masked by your daily diet and by the slowness of the food-sensitivity reaction, the offending food does its dirty work without ever realizing that it is the culprit behind your—or your child’s—disorders.

When you take a break from eating that problem food, however, and then add it back into your diet, you see how powerful its effects are and how responsible it may be for a seemingly unrelated problem. Foods that you thought were safe for you turn out to be highly problematic, indicating the presence of a previous undiagnosed food sensitivity. As a result, the authors of the Lancet article conclude that the prevalence of food sensitivity (referred to in the article as “food intolerance”) has been seriously underestimated.

Certainly, food allergies are far more dramatic. Whenever you read about a kid who died within minutes of eating at a fast-food joint or after breathing in the peanut dust from a friend’s candy wrapper, that’s an “IgE-mediated” food allergy. They’re fast, they can be deadly, and I’m glad doctors want to give them the attention they deserve.

But I also think doctors should be looking at delayed reactions, too, the “IgG-mediated” responses to food sensitivities. And some doctors do look seriously at both. Most conventional doctors, though, tend to focus on IgE immediate reactions. I think there are lots of reasons why they should view the two types of reactions as part of a larger, single problem.

First, both reactions have the same ultimate cause: the immune system’s overreaction to apparently harmless food. According to internationally acclaimed author and physician Kenneth Bock, M.D., there’s also quite a bit of overlap between IgE and IgG symptoms. Both can contribute to inflammatory responses in multiple body systems.

True, the delayed IgG reactions are less likely to cause hives and are more likely to produce a host of apparently vague symptoms, such as headache, brain fog, sleep problems, joint pain, fatigue, and muscle aches. But both the immediate and the delayed responses are immune system problems triggered by a supposedly “harmless” food.

Conventional doctors’ tendency to separate “IgE-mediated” food allergies and “IgG-mediated” food sensitivities into two separate problems has the effect of minimizing the allergy epidemic. Remember, IgE allergies, IgG sensitivities, and asthma—three similar ways that our immune systems can overreact—are all on the rise. It makes sense to find a doctor who is willing to address all three as symptoms of a greater underlying issue.

Common Symptoms of Food Sensitivity: Delayed Reactions

* fatigue

* gastrointestinal problems, including bloating and gas

* itchy skin and skin rashes like eczema

* brain fog

* muscle or joint aches

* headache

* sleeplessness and sleep disorders

* chronic rhinitis (runny nose), congestion, and post-nasal drip

Four Take-Aways:

1. Even if your kids can’t talk, their skin speaks volumes! Did you know that the skin is a person’s largest organ? Even when your kid is too young to tell you how he feels or too used to her symptoms to identify them (when kids hurt all the time, they don’t know they hurt!), you can often read your child’s condition in his or her skin.

Does your kid have eczema? Does he get rashes around the mouth, especially after he eats a certain food or swallows a certain beverage? Rashes around the knees, elbows, or armpits? Does he have “allergic shiners”—that is, dark circles under the eyes?

These are all inflammatory reactions, signs that the body is trying to rid itself of what it perceives as “toxic invader.” In your child’s case, that “toxic invader” might be an apparently harmless food, to which your kid is either allergic or “sensitive.” Keeping that invader away from your kid may bring relief from symptoms—and it may clear up other problems, such as brain fog, crankiness, sleep problems, inattention, acne, and mood swings.

2. The toilet bowl has a lot to tell you. Your kids’ bowel movements, not to be too delicate here, also speak volumes. Runny poops are a sign that a person isn’t properly digesting his food. And indeed, as we got the allergens out of some children’s diets, poops tend to firm up.

3. Chronic ear infections are often a sign of dairy allergies. In some cases, milk may have ill effects like eczema, upset stomachs or chronic ear infections for children who are allergic or sensitive to it.

4. Find a doctor who is willing to work with you, test for both IgE and IgG allergies and sensitivities and to address the important role that elimination diets can play in managing allergic symptoms like eczema, ear infections and chronic mucous.

Disclaimer: Always discuss individual health inquiries and medical issues with a qualified personal physician and/or specialist. Robyn O’Brien/AllergyKids is not responsible for medical decisions made by any one person. The professionals who share their knowledge, discussions, minutes, handouts, agendas, and other products do not constitute medical and/or legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Always discuss individual health inquiries and medical issues with a qualified personal physician and/or specialist.