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If you fly on airlines, read this…

June 14, 2010 •  6 comments.

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Originally submitted to the AllergyKids Foundation by Nancy Myrick June 13 2010

We learned early on that our son Sinclair had a severe peanut allergy. In his earliest childhood he went to the hospital several times with hives and at times even labored breathing. He went through testing and his allergist explained to us that we must remove all peanut products from our home and always have and epi pen with us.

During the summer of 2006 (Sinclair was 6) I learned more about the awful realities of Sinclair’s peanut allergy. Sinclair was flying back to California with a grandparent following a visit with them. Somewhere between Monroe, LA and Dallas, TX, he either ingested a peanut, inhaled peanut dust or had contact with peanut products. We don’t know which or where but the fact that he was in a very small plane trapped on the tarmac for 4 hours before leaving Monroe could well have been the reason. When he reached Dallas he was taken by ambulance out of DFW airport to Baylor Hospital. He was treated at the hospital where he remained for several hours and then allowed to fly home. Knowing what I know now, I would have never allowed that flight. Soon after his return Sinclair had two more reactions from the same peanut that included two more emergency room visits, the last causing anaphylaxis in which his face became so distorted he was nearly unrecognizable. Sinclair almost died that night. His allergy had a grip on the entire family.

When we fly I have learned to accept that I will likely be met with skepticism and have to jump through hoops to be able to have some reasonable comfort about avoiding anaphylactic shock at 30,000 feet. It can be exhausting, both physically and mentally. I have often thought to myself how reassuring it would be to have a clearly stated airline policy, any policy, on what they would like me to do – what they expect of me and what I can expect of them. Most gate agents and flight attendants are well intended but you really never know when you are going to encounter someone on a bad day, or someone who doesn’t believe there is even such a thing as a life threatening food allergy. There seems to be little institutional awareness or training and so each individual airline employee seems to present another potential level of screening or someone who may need to be persuaded. And you do all this in the presence of your child not sure of what psychological burden your imposing on him by suggesting his life may be in the balance.

To summarize the events of November 29, 2009 on a flight returning to San Francisco, ordeal, we were abruptly told we had to leave the plane; and unceremoniously marched off the plane after suggesting that we’d like to be seated somewhere where person next to us was willing to refrain from eating peanuts. While my son cried, we were taken off the plane and made to stand in the jet way for 20 minutes without anyone from AA even speaking to us to indicate what was going on or whether we were being booted from the flight. Finally the gate agent asked me, “do you have an epi pen” which seemed like a good question, if only asked an hour before. They finally put us back on the plane after calling a woman who never introduced herself and who never asked us any questions but made comments like, “most of the time people just take their medicine before getting on the plane”.

After reaching out to my Congresswoman’s office and several allergy agencies, I was told to look at the Air Carrier Access Act. After reading it I felt completely confident that what had happened to my son and I had been wrong and I filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation (“DOT”) on January 15, 2010 and received a response from the DOT General Counsel stating that no rule was violated by American Airlines since at the end of the day, we were in fact transported back to San Francisco. Anything goes if we get you home. The DOT went on to say:

“. . . at this time carriers are not required to make any accommodations requested by, or on the behalf of, passengers with severe allergies to peanuts based on past guidance provided to the Department by Congress.

So the reality of flight on a domestic carrier is that while any given flight attendant may agree to a dispensation or accommodation, there are no formal procedures or policies except that a passenger should be responsible for managing an exposure.

The Department of Transportation is proposing to improve the air travel environment for consumers in several areas including individuals with peanut allergies. They are asking for comments to be filed in order to obtain information to support the protections originally intended in the Air Carrier Access Act for passengers with severe allergies. Some of the options they are considering are:

“ (1) Banning the serving of peanuts and all peanut products by both U.S. and foreign carriers on flights covered by DOT’s disability rule; (2) banning the serving of peanuts and all peanut products on all such flights where a passenger with a peanut allergy is on board and has requested a peanut-free flight in advance; or (3) requiring a peanut-free buffer zone in the immediate area of a passenger with a medically-documented severe allergy to peanuts if passenger has requested a peanut-free flight in advance. We seek comment on these approaches as well as the question of whether it would be preferable to maintain the current practice of not prescribing carrier practices concerning the serving of peanuts”

DOT is going to be writing rules and providing guidance re rights of passengers with severe peanut allergies. Here is the opportunity for all to provide comments about what those rules should look like. You can make comments until August 9, 2010, and there are several ways to do so, the easiest of which is to go to www.regulationroom.com and register, sign in and make a comment about what you think. Or use the Federal eRulemaking Portal which can be found by clicking here.

Please make your comments. Your support can make a difference. Simply visit the Federal eRulemaking Portal which can be found by clicking here and together, we can affect remarkable change.

Peanut Allergy Has a Purpose…and a Deeper Meaning

June 11, 2010 •  30 comments.

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Submitted by Heather Fraser June 10, 2010 www.peanutallergyepidemic.com

When we discovered that my one year old son had a life threatening allergy to peanuts/tree nuts, we seemed to be something of an anomaly in 1995. Today I understand that we were part of the first wave of food allergic kids to emerge from an event which accelerated the prevalence of allergy starting in 1988.

Since then, I have come to believe that allergy is not a dysfunction. Before reading Margie Profet’s “The Function of Allergy” (1991) it had not occurred to me that this frightening condition could have a purpose. Allergy is an evolved immune response, a defense against acute toxicity. With allergy, acute toxicity occurs when a protein manages to enter and persist in the bloodstream long enough for IgE, the “allergy antibodies” to form against it. When the body next encounters this protein, the defense against it can be violent. The swelling, itching and coughing are emergency measures designed to eject the toxic proteins from the body as fast as possible and the drop in blood pressure to prevent it from circulating to vital organs. All mammals have these antibodies and can develop alalergies. But there are only five ways that toxins can access the bloodstream: ingestion; inhalation; through the skin; and by injection.

With this novel understanding, the story of how my son had become allergic to peanuts took shape. I scoured the historical medical literature and found other epidemics and outbreaks of allergy to foods and drugs. The first outbreak of peanut allergy was at the close of WWII in a study of children and penicillin. The penicillin was made with Romansky’s formula, a thick buttery mix of beeswax and peanut oil. It was difficult to inject and resulted in peanut allergy in many of the children. With this lesson learned and improved refining processes in place, peanut oil became a common ingredient in medicines and vaccines. Starting in 1964, Merck began to use a novel peanut oil adjuvant that promised to increase the effectiveness of all vaccines. Coincidentally, allergy to peanut began to rise.

How had peanut proteins entered and persisted in my toddler’s blood stream when he had never eaten peanut before? Was it from vaccination? By 2000, when I realized that the allergy had become common, that those affected in this wave were small children only in certain countries, that there was a sudden acceleration of the allergy in late 1980s (supported by ER records, cohort studies and eye witness accounts) there seemed only one mechanism that could have created it on this scale. In the US, an average of 100,000 kids every year between 1997 and 2001 became peanut allergic.

While all of this played on my mind, my son struggled with eczema, allergies, and asthma. In desperation, we turned to the holistic treatments and found ways to detoxify, chelate, realign and understand that the body is both biology and energy. He has grown to 15 now and is intellectually gifted, amazingly funny, speaks Japanese, plays guitar and has turned to acting. His symptoms of asthma, eczema and some lesser food allergies have diminished greatly but his RAST IgE score to peanut is still off the chart.

This year he decided to take a cracker offered to him by a friend at school. He had a reaction the likes of which we have not seen since 1995. Without the emergency services at the hospital, he might not be here. Another very frightening lesson learned.

But what does our peanut allergy mean to the larger society? If the tendency to develop allergy is inversely related to the body’s ability to detoxify, we have created in our children a level of toxicity never before seen in human history. In epidemic proportions, we have unleashed an evolutionarily programmed response designed only for emergency failure of all other lines of defense. The peanut allergy epidemic is a man-made phenomenon. And being so, there should be no question that we have the power to end it.

Heather Fraser, MA, BA, B.Ed is a Toronto-based writer, historian and the mother of a peanut-allergic child.

A Typical American Day….With Corn

June 8, 2010 •  59 comments.

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Originally published by Sharon Rosen, author of Live Corn Free. Reprinted with permission.

How many times do you think you interact with corn based products in a given day? Ten times? Twenty? Thirty?

In the documentary King Corn, the filmmakers Curt Ellis and Ian Cheney are introduced to Professor Stephen Macko, and his methods for hair analysis. Cheney has a sample of hair tested, and the results are astonishing, as Cheney learns his hair shows how corn dominates his diet.

For real world comparison, join me on a walk through the day of a typical American female. She’s in her mid-30’s and strives to eat a healthy, well balanced diet, as well as interact with as few chemicals as possible. For sake of example, this woman’s name is Susie.

Susie awakens in the morning, brushes her teeth, uses mouthwash, and hops in the shower. While in the shower, she uses shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. After showering, she uses her allergy nasal spray, and pops her daily allergy pill and multi-vitamin as she begins to brew her coffee.

Total interactions with corn before breakfast? Eight items, some with multiple corn-based ingredients. Let’s take a closer look…

Items below show their corn based ingredients, and then brand name for a concrete example:

  1. Toothpaste: Sorbitol and Sodium SaccharinColgate Total 12 Hour Multi-Protection Toothpaste
  2. Mouthwash: Sorbitol and Sodium SaccharinListerine
  3. Shampoo: Citric AcidGiovanni Tea Tree Triple Treat Shampoo
  4. Conditioner: Citric Acid – Giovanni Smooth as Silk Conditioner
  5. Body Wash: – Xanthan Gum, Citric AcidBurt’s Bees Milk & Shea Butter Body Wash
  6. Nasal Allergy Spray: DextroseFlonase
  7. Daily Allergy Pill: Microcrystalline Cellulose, Magnesium Stearate - Zyrtec
  8. Daily Multi-Vitamin: Cellulose, Magnesium Stearate, Starch, Tocopherol, and a whole bunch of FD&C coloringOne-A-Day Women’s Formula Vitamins

Susie progresses on to have coffee with milk and Sweet N’Low, thinking it’s better for her than sugar. That’s a +1 for the corn side given she just consumed dextrose, care of that little pink packet.

She’s in a hurry and decides to skip breakfast, taking yogurt with her as a snack for later instead. She grabs a yogurt, her favorite – Yoplait Whips – and packs up her things. The corn in that last minute grab includes the ever popular High Fructose Corn Syrup, along with Modified Corn Starch. This is another +1 for corn.

Susie is now really running late for work, and quickly applies some light makeup consisting of face powder, blush, and a light lip tint. Each of the facial powders contain corn starch, and the lip tint? Well she went with Burt’s Bees, which means she’ll be licking corn off her lips in the form of corn based Tocopherol. The makeup session gave us a +3 for corn.

Where are we now? Oh yes, we’re up to 13 interactions with corn and it’s first thing in the morning.

Let’s speed this up a bit. Susie goes to work, eats her yogurt in the car (we already counted that), and realizes she didn’t bring enough of a snack. When she gets to work, she goes for her emergency stash of Ritz crackers she keeps at her desk. This point went yet again to High Fructose Corn Syrup, who is definitely in the lead is this match.

For lunch, Susie grabs a salad from the cafeteria, and chooses a Fat Free Ranch dressing (complete with Corn Syrup, Modified Corn Starch, Cellulose Gum, Xanthan Gum, and Tocopheryl Acetate). For our example, we can use Wish Bone.

She also purchases a sandwich to eat back at her desk – a turkey and cheese sandwich. Since most lunch meats are injected with Dextrose, she would have consumed this unless she happened to be eating organic meat. Given she’s at an office cafeteria, those odds are low. The last thing she grabs to include with her salad and sandwich, is a Vlasic Kosher Dill pickle, which is packaged in Polysorbate 80. And lastly, she finishes her lunch with some chewing gum to freshen her breath, Trident White, because it is sugar free, and helps to whiten teeth. She may be whitening her teeth, but she’s also consuming Sorbitol, and Mannitol. And to answer the unasked, but well researched question – no, there are no chewing gums available for purchase in the US that are 100% corn free. Glee Gum almost makes that cut, but doesn’t.

Later in the day Susie goes to a friend’s house for dinner. The friend prepared chicken, with side dishes of vegetables and rice. The chicken was seasoned with seasoned salt (yep, more corn, in the form of corn starch), the vegetables were pre-sweetened with sauce in the package (just read the label of ANY frozen vegetables with a sauce for this example), and the rice “fortified”.

The current tally? 20 interactions with corn, even though it wasn’t on the menu. Add in some dessert such as ice cream or cookies, and that number likely just went up to 21. Oh, wait, Susie got a headache, and took some Tylenol (Corn Starch, Magnesium Stearate, Powdered Cellulose), and washed it down with a Diet Coke. Now we’re up to 23.

Poor Susie… she really tries to eat healthy and limit her interactions with chemicals as much as possible. However, she has allergies, asthma, and eczema for which her doctors give her medicine to “control” her conditions. Her asthma inhaler is Proventil, which uses ethanol derived from corn. When her asthma or eczema really act up, her doctor will prescribe Prednisone to help her “break the cycle.” Prednisone contains several types of corn based ingredients including; microcrystalline cellulose, polysorbate 80, and saccharin sodium.

What’s really wrong with our “typical” example here? Susie has an undiagnosed Corn Allergy, because her doctors treat her Asthma and Eczema as dead-end conditions with no cause. The very medications she is prescribed to “help” those conditions actually continue to make them worse – because they contain her allergens. Since the amount of ingredients that may be derived from corn is so lengthy, unless a person suspects they have a corn allergy, or is tested specifically for one – it remains undiagnosed. Even with an “elimination” diet (avoiding all corn), it is very difficult to reach that 100% corn free state. It seems almost magically unreachable given the reaches of corn in America.

If you or someone you know has an allergy to corn – it’s time to speak up. There is a problem in this country, and it goes by the name of corn.

Originally published by Sharon Rosen, author of Live Corn Free.

Start: With What Works for You

June 4, 2010 •  one comment.

 •  Blog, Resources

With the Euro hitting new lows, obesity hitting new highs, and toxins spewing across our oceans, food and finances, it just might be time to start making some changes in the way that we do things.

But where in the world to start? Lightbulbs? Groceries? Cars?

It can be so totally overwhelming. And when things get overwhelming, they get confusing. And confusion can lead to paralysis. And paralysis doesn’t get us anywhere.

So while none of us can do everything, all of us can do one thing. We just have to start where we stand.

Thankfully, His Royal Highness Prince of Wales has launched an initiative called START to help us do just that.

Start with the clip below. Start thinking about alternatives. Start with what works for you. Just start…

Because one start will lead to another…

Learn more at www.startuk.org

Inspiration…

June 1, 2010 •  3 comments.

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The landscape of children’s health has changed. And we now live in a world that has increasingly toxic oceans, air, food and water. But despite all of that, perhaps we should remember….

Together, we can affect remarkable change.