Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

Food Allergy or Food Intolerance? January 14, 2019

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Following an illuminating study conducted by Ruchi S. Gupta and her colleagues Christopher M. Warren, et al, it is clear that most Americans don’t understand the difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance.  The study found that in the U.S.  20% of adults claim to have a food allergy, but when evaluated by a medical doctor only 10% have symptoms consistent with a true allergy.

 

What is a food allergy? What makes it unique?

Food allergies are an immune system response to food.  When the body mistakes a food as harmful, it produces a defense system (in the form of antibodies) to fight against it.  These antibodies in the immune system – called immunoglobulin E (IgE), found in the lungs, skin and mucous membranes – release a chemical that sets off a chain reaction of the vascular, respiratory, and cardiac systems.

 

Food allergic reactions can vary from hives, swelling of the mouth, lips and face, and vomiting to respiratory issues (such as wheezing), drop in blood pressure, fainting, and cardiac arrest.  Anaphylaxis is a very serious and potentially fatal condition that is characterized by a sudden drop in blood pressure, loss of consciousness and body system failure.  Epinephrine (administered by an auto-injector) is the only medication that can slow or stop anaphylaxis.

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The most common foods that cause a food allergic reaction are:  peanuts, tree nuts (such as walnuts, pistachios, pecans, etc), dairy, eggs, wheat, soy, fin fish (salmon, tuna, etc), and shellfish.  But almost any food can cause an allergic reaction.

 

 

What is a food intolerance?  How does it differ from a food allergy?

Food intolerances also make people feel discomfort.  However, this discomfort is not life-threatening.  Food intolerances are a digestive response that occur when food irritates the digestive system or makes it difficult for a person to break down the food.

 

Symptoms of a food intolerance can include bloating, gas, nausea, stomach discomfort/pain, vomiting, diarrhea, heartburn, headaches, and irritability.  Dairy, or lactose intolerance, is the most common trigger.

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What are some other differences?

 

Food allergic reactions can occur with even the smallest amount of food ingested.  In addition to the range of major symptoms when ingested, it can also cause a skin reaction just upon contact.  A food allergy is a reaction to the protein contained in a food (such as gluten with a wheat allergy).

 

With food intolerances, amount of food consumed matters.   The more food consumed, the worse the digestive reaction.  Food intolerances occur because the body cannot break down the sugar in a given food (like lactose in milk).

 

Food allergies are diagnosed in several ways.  The golden standard is an oral food challenge – where a patient eats their suspected allergen under medical supervision to note the reaction.  Patients may take an IgE blood test or be asked to take a skin prick test to diagnose and monitor food allergy.

 

When a food intolerance is suspected, patients are often asked to keep a food journal or diary in which they note the foods they ate as well as the symptoms they experience.  Patients may also be asked to eliminate a particular food from their diet and note symptoms for a period of time.

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In both cases, a doctor will help give an official diagnosis and guide the patient through any changes that need to be made to their lifestyle.   Those with food allergies will also discuss issues like cross-contamination, emergency action plans, and epinephrine.  Those with food intolerances may talk about medications that can help to ease symptoms. Avoidance of problem foods will be suggested for food allergies as well as food intolerances.

 

Knowing the difference between a life-threatening food allergy and an uncomfortable food intolerance will help keep you safe, make appropriate lifestyle changes and get you the relief you need sooner.  

 

 

 

Food Allergy References May 7, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — malawer @ 10:55 am

Just in time for Food Allergy Awareness Week (May 13-20), here is the essential list of reading and graphics to help educate yourself and others.  Post these in your social media feed, forward appropriate articles to school and camp, and print graphics to hang up in school and elsewhere.

#FoodAllergyAwarenessWeek

 

1. Food Allergy Labeling Laws:  The Ins and Outs of Reading Food Labels

2. The Symptoms and Descriptions of a Food Allergic Reaction: The Language of Food Allergies

3. What to do in a Food Allergy Emergency to Maximize Success:  #Minutes Matter: Be Prepared For Severe Allergic Reactions

4. The Quiet Danger:  Food Allergy Bullying: Not Just a School Problem

5. The ONE Form Everyone Needs: Put This on Your To Do List Today: Food Allergy Action Plan

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Language of Severe reaction

 

Allergy Shmallergy Named Among Healthline’s Top Allergy Blogs May 4, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — malawer @ 9:15 am

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In advance of Food Allergy Awareness Week, Healthline has published its annual list of the year’s top allergy blogs.  Each blog offers a unique perspective and serves as a great resource to food allergy patients, their families, and their communities.

 

I am honored that Allergy Shmallergy has once again made this list!  Check us and the rest of the winner out here: Healthline Best Allergy Blogs of 2018.

 

Thanks, Healthline!

 

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A Gluten-Free and Egg-Free Passover March 19, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — malawer @ 9:00 am

 

Passover is almost here!  The 8 day celebration is a favorite celebration for a great reason: in commemorating the story of Moses, it honors freedom everywhere.  Modern day Jewish people refrain from eating leavened bread to reflect on the Israelites’ quick flight out of Egypt and their perseverance through the desert.  Given the restriction on yeast, many Passover recipes weave matzoh crackers or matzoh meal and eggs into delicious and inventive meals.

 

But of course, if you’re allergic to wheat or eggs, this holiday can be challenging. And finding safe products poses a problem for those who wish to observe the holiday and participate in the traditional Passover dinner, called a seder.

 

Thankfully, companies have begun to take note and gluten-free Passover products are MUCH easier to find today than they were when my son was first diagnosed with a wheat allergy almost 12 years ago.

From matzo crackers to graham crackers, creamy chicken soup to the ever-essential matzo ball soup, and desserts galore, gluten-free alternatives are finding their way onto shelves in supermarket and are available for shipment online.

 

Egg is often used more often during Passover to lighten dishes and replace traditional leavening ingredients.  But what if you are allergic to eggs?  Kugel, gefilte fish, matzo balls, and matzo brei are all held together with egg.  Not to mention desserts?!

 

Of all the Passover recipes, matzo ball soup (a year-round favorite as well) is the most loved.  And, the hardest to recreate without eggs.  Enter aquafaba  [read more about aquafaba here: “Okay, I Give… What is Aquafaba?”, Oct. 2016].

 

The Tablet magazine printed a recipe by Rebecca Klempner [“Matzo Ball Soup – And Hold the Eggs?!”, Aug. 15, 2015] that uses aquafaba combined with xanthan gum to solve our problem:

Egg-Free Matzo Balls

 

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In trying to recreate your favorite Passover recipes, remember that you can use aquafaba, banana, tofu or apple sauce in place of eggs depending on taste and method of preparation.

 

What are your Passover recipes?  Which Passover dish do you need help recreating safely? (Maybe another reader has mastered it!)

 

 

 

Food Allergies on the Big Screen February 12, 2018

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Sony Pictures and the creators of the upcoming movie “Peter Rabbit” are facing a backlash from parents across the globe after it was revealed that the rabbits use a gardener’s food allergy to attack and impair him.

 

Food allergies are among several disabilities that are used as cheap gags in movies and on TV.  Sometimes, such as in the movie “Hitch” and on the TV show “Modern Family,” they garner laughs because the symptoms of anaphylaxis are so severe and fast-acting that they take the audience by surprise.  Sometimes they are used to show weakness or to emphasize low social status, like nerdiness.  In a recent Party City ad slated to run during this year’s Super Bowl, having a food allergy was deemed “gross” to convey it as annoying.

 

What makes the “Peter Rabbit” use of food allergies particularly distasteful is that 2017 was speckled with stories of food allergy bullying across the world; including the arrest of two young teenagers who knowingly used a peer’s food allergy against her sending her into anaphylaxis and at least one death – that of a 13 year old at the hands of his classmates who had snuck cheese into his sandwich at lunch.

 

The exclamation point on the “Peter Rabbit” case is that the rabbits reportedly state that food allergies are “made up for attention.”  Unfortunately, this plays on some people’s already-formed perception of food allergies and undercuts how serious they truly are.

 

The use of food allergies to prompt laughter reinforces stereotypes, spreads misinformation and strengthens the idea that food allergies are a choice meant for self-importance or as an inconvenience to others.  The use of food allergies in children’s media prays on the worst fears of children with food allergies and their families.  [1 in 13 kids in the United States have food allergies – that’s nearly 20 kids – and about 80 family members – in every screening of “Peter Rabbit” who live with the anxieties of the very severe consequences that just a small crumb of an allergen can trigger.]  These children are watching their nightmare come to life on the big screen.

 

The food allergy community is accustomed to hearing food allergies become the butt of a joke. Jokes, as distasteful as they are to some, may have their place in adult-oriented films and television shows (as is the case with the movie “Hitch” and “Horrible Bosses”).  But when it’s placed in children’s programming, it becomes unacceptable.  Exposure to such imagery, dialogue and attitudes during such a formative time in their lives can affect young audiences with food allergies (and influence those without) both psychologically and socially.  It can scare and scar those with food allergies.  And, showing it “even in a cartoonish, slapstick way” (as Sony describes it in their apology) teaches others that food allergies are not to be taken seriously.  By watching “Peter Rabbit,” kids are learning that using someone’s food allergy against them is both humorous and without consequence.  Meanwhile, children with food allergies are watching – horrified – while the audience jovially cheers the rabbits on. It’s amazing that storylines, such as this one, pass through vast numbers of people for approval without being questioned for their impact on children.

 

Thankfully, Sony has issued an apology recognizing the insensitivity of the “Peter Rabbit” material.  Let’s hope that other production companies learn from this lesson.  Apologizing after the fact is the easiest thing in the world.  How can we ensure that this doesn’t happen in the first place?

 

Brotherhood of the World Blogger Award December 22, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — malawer @ 8:50 am
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A huge THANK YOU to Rachel Alexandra of the fantastic blog, Roots,  for nominating Allergy Shmallergy for the Brotherhood of the World Blogger Award.  What an exciting way to round out a crazy week!

 

As part of the process of accepting this award, nominees answer questions.  [See additional rules and nominees below.]

 

My answers:

1.  What is your biggest regret?
That’s a tough one.  One of the things I regret is not taking more time to travel before I had kids.  I’ve lived overseas multiple times and really enmeshed myself in local culture.  But I’d love to have spent time in Africa or South Asia while I was living relatively nearby.  I guess the kids will have to pack their bags because I’m not done roaming!

 

2.  What is something that your younger self would be most proud of about you?
Great question!  Hm…  I think my younger self would be proud to know I’ve been bold about pursuing my passions.  For example, when I was younger, I wanted to be a writer – now look what I’m doing!

 

3.  What is your favorite fruit and why?
(I love these questions!)  Raspberries and summer ripe blueberries are irresistible to me.  And, it’s hard not to DROOL over kiwi.  Hairy on the outside and sweet, emerald deliciousness on the inside… Mmmm…!

 

4.  If you could play any instrument, what would you play?  (Or what can you play?)
I used to play the flute – and wish I had played for longer.  But I still play the piano!  Now, I just wish I could sing (at all) and play at the same time!  Piano takes concentration!

 

5.  What setting from a book or movie would you like to live in or experience?
That’s easy!  Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.  What I wouldn’t do for an hour in that edible room with the chocolate river!

 

6.  Why did you start blogging?
I started writing as a way to find a like-minded food allergy community to connect with.  When you get any kind of diagnosis, you tend to feel alone in the world.  When you can relate to someone else’s journey, it can sometimes take the stress out of your own.

 

7.  What is something you’re looking forward to?
There’s so much to look forward to over the next year!  One thing I’m working on is getting my organization, AllergyStrong, up and running.  AllergyStrong is an organization that revolutionizes food allergy information in education, psychosocial impact and advocates on behalf of all patients with food allergies, but particularly for those at-risk and low-income families who could use the additional support.

 

8.  If job availability/money were not factors, what would be your dream occupation?
A ballroom dancer! It’s harder than it looks and is so elegant when done well.  I’ve taken ballroom dancing from the time I was about 10 through college.

I’d also love to be a television/movie writer or a documentary film maker.  I love storytelling and think very visually.

 

9.  If you could start any charity, what would it be?
I’m starting one:  AllergyStrong!

 

10.  Name a skill you want to learn and why.
I’d love to really learn how to figure skate.  I always played around with it as a kid and never lost that amazing sensation of gliding and spinning on ice.  It was invigorating!

I’d also like singing lessons…  Ooo, and horse back riding!  Tap dancing…  Speaking Italian…  I’ve clearly got to get cracking; I have a lot to catch up on!

 

The Brotherhood of the World Blogger Award

I nominate these excellent bloggers, whose work is inspiring, insightful and on my short list of must-reads:

1.  Michelle of MyVinyasaPractice

2.  Nicole of Cole’s Moveable Feast

3.  Debbie of Femmunity

4.  David of LoveAfterKids

5.  Lisa of No Nuts Moms Group

 

 

The Rules:

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and post a link to his/her blog.
  2. List the rules of the award and post a picture of the award.
  3. Answer the questions from your nominator.
  4. Nominate other bloggers and be sure to let them know.
  5. Write a list of questions of your nominees to answer.

 

 

Questions for Nominees:

  1. Where do you get inspiration for your blog/writing?
  2. If there are past lives, who were you/what was your profession?
  3. What song brings back a strong memory each time you hear it?
  4. What’s your hidden talent?
  5. What makes you feel grateful?
 

An Allergy Update from Krispy Kreme July 25, 2017

A Dozen Doughnuts from Krispy Kreme sameold2010 flickr

Dozen Doughnuts from Krispy Kreme – unedited by sameold2010 via Flickr Shared thanks to Creative Commons Sharealike license

 

Krispy Kreme contacted me last week to alert the allergy community of an ingredient change.  In December 2016, they introduced a Nutella doughnut.  And starting today, Krispy Kreme will begin to offer a peanut-flavored doughnut.  [Cue the chorus of groans…]

 

So, while Krispy Kreme will no longer be safe for those with peanut or tree nut allergies, do not despair!  If you check Allergy Shmallergy’s ever-growing list of Food Allergy Friendly Bakeries, you’ll notice a number of doughnut shops that are both safe AND delicious.

 

From Krispy Kreme:

“On July 24, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts will introduce a doughnut with peanuts and peanut ingredients in our shops and other locations where Krispy Kreme doughnuts are sold. Because the safety of our customers is our top priority, I wanted you and your community to be among the first in the U.S. to know about the introduction of this ingredient to our menu.

The introduction of this specific peanut menu item at Krispy Kreme Doughnuts is new, but Krispy Kreme shops have never been allergy-free and specifically nut-free. Our shops have ingredients that can contain known allergens, including nuts. We receive ingredients from suppliers who produce products with allergens, including nuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish. While some shops do not sell products made with nuts on the menu, because of how our products are manufactured, none of our shops are ‘nut-free.’ Following national safety guidelines, we take many steps to clean machines and surfaces in our shops, but there is the possibility that trace allergens might be found in our products. As a result, we post and label known allergens and ask guests to make sure they check the post before entering our shops and the labels before consuming.

 

For more information about Krispy Kreme’s ingredients, please visit http://krispykreme.com/Nutritionals.”