Back on the Grid

I realize that I haven’t posted since last summer but after struggling with another diagnosis of more food allergies and being told I am gluten sensitive, I thought it was time to post again.

I apologize for being gone so long and I hope I can post on a more consistent basis.

Respecting Every Bite

Building off of how important it is to understand the differences between food allergies, intolerances and sensitivities, here is a PSA from Dr. Oz and the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network about food allergies.

Below is another PSA on the same subject but from Trace Adkins and the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network.

Sensitivity To Food Isn’t Much Better

Now that I have discussed food intolerances and food allergies…I am going to talk about food sensitivity. You may not think that food sensitivity isn’t a big deal, but it can be.

The worse part is is that it can be more tricky than allergies or intolerances. I say this because, with sensitivity, it can affect you at anytime. The problem with sensitivities is that you can eat a banana (example) and feel great. But the next time you eat a banana, you bloat and get bad gas cramps.

Some people with food sensitivity may become self-conscious and will limit the social events or gatherings that they go too. Sensitivity reactions to foods can be a huge problem because you never know what’s going to affect you and what’s the reaction.

Lurking under the surface though, is a far worse problem than just a food sensitivity. What people don’t realize is how much a food sensitivity can affect you. Julie Peláez, co-founder of the 14-day cleanse “Conscious Cleanse,” yoga instructor and health coach, recently conducted a study to see what would happen after she cut certain foods out of her diet that she thought might be causing problems.

After 2 weeks of no dairy, gluten or soy, she said the results were astounding! She said all of the bad acne was gone, she didn’t have bad gas anymore and severe moods swings with bouts of crying were occurring. She had also lost 10 pounds and she wasn’t so puffy. She talks about the signs of when a food sensitivity might be sabotaging your life (I will summarize these steps below).

1. You can’t live without a certain food and/or drink. – This is a red flag for most people because feeling addicted to a food is just bad. Too much of a good thing can become bad and cause food insensitivity.

2. You’ve tried several diets, tried to exercise and increase your water intake, but you can’t lose weight. – No matter how hard you try to be healthy and shed those unwanted pounds, you can’t. Food insensitivity causes bloating and inflammation in the body. The inflammation in your body causes you to hold onto the weight, no matter what you do.

3. You feel puffy. – The face and fingers/toes are swollen, clothes just don’t fit right and you feel like a puffed up fish overnight. Allergens trigger certain reactions which cause you to retain water, thus making you feel like you’re puffy.

4. Health isn’t the way it should be. – Despite the ongoing efforts to be healthy, you still feel tired. You’re battling acne, bags under the eyes, migraines, anxiety and/or depression, low energy, constipation and even sometimes, infertility.

5. Seasonal hay fever seems to run on for forever. – Runny nose, watery eyes and congestion can be the signs of hay fever and seasonal allergies. However, if these symptoms seem to occur for the majority part of the year, then a hidden sensitivity might be the culprit.

To view the full article and learn more about good dieting from Julie, visit her site here.

Attack of the Food Allergies!

Building off of the food intolerance post, now I’ll be talking about food allergies.

Food Allergies

What are they? Food allergies occur when the body’s immune system mistakes the ingredient as harmful and creates antibodies to fight the food. The antibodies create a variety of symptoms (discussed below).

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of food allergies are skin rashes, hives, nausea, stomach pain, diarrhea, itchy skin, shortness of breath chest pain, anaphylaxis and sudden drop in blood pressure.

The facts
Only 4 percent of American adults and 5 percent of children are affected by food allergies.

The most common food allergies are to peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, milk, eggs, soy and wheat.

Food allergies can be life threatening. If you think you have food allergies, see a doctor to get tested.

Food Intolerance Chews ‘Em Up And Spits ‘Em Out.

I had a fan on my community Facebook page ask me if I would be covering the topic of food intolerances. It never occurred to me but it fits the idea of my whole campaign!

Food Intolerances

What are they? Well, food intolerances are not the same as food allergies. Food intolerances occur when an ingredient(s) or compound(s) irritates the digestive system because the body can not properly digest the food.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of food intolerances are predominantly gastrointestinal and include: stomach pain, gas cramps and/or bloating, heartburn, vomiting and diarrhea. Some may also experience headaches or irritability/nervousness.

The facts
Lactose intolerance is the most common intolerance and affects about 10 percent of the American adult population. The second most common food intolerance is to sulfite or food additives (and can sometimes trigger asthma attacks in asthmatics).

Whereas food allergies are triggered by the actual food, food intolerances are often triggered by the dose.

For example, Susie has a lactose intolerance. She enjoys putting creamer in her coffee and that doesn’t bother her. But, when Susie drinks a whole glass of milk, she bloats and gets really bad stomach cramps.

Reactions to food intolerances come on gradually and are not life threatening. It occues only when you eat a large quantity of that food and how often you eat it.

Advancing for a Cure

As I said in an earlier post, there is currently no cure for food allergies, only environmental allergies. However, that doesn’t mean that researchers aren’t hard at work trying to find one.

Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) is working hard towards a strategy that will help develop a cure. The first step in their process is revealing the impact that food allergies have on today’s population.

According to FARE’s research, nearly 15 million Americans have a food allergy, including one in 13 children. FARE also reported that nearly 40% of children with food allergies have already experienced a life threatening event. Other research dissevered the economic burden that food allergies can have on a household.

Investigators for FARE, or Epidemiologists, are looking into possible factors for allergies such as: genetics, geography, diet, ethnicity and hygiene. This research allows use to create better and safer laws to protect those with food allergies.

A Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Food Allergy in the United States was released in 2010 by National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). These guidelines bring together the expertise of 24 professional associations, federal agencies and advocacy groups, by providing scientific studies that prove evidence that these researchers have the highest-quality practices for diagnosing and treating food allergies.

Right now, doctors and researchers are conducting clinical studies all across the nation. One method that they are trying out now is called Desensitization. The idea behind this method is giving a small dose of the problem food with triggering a reaction. The problem behind this method though, is that the person would have to continue taking the doses for the rest of their lives.

Oral Immunotherapy (OIT) is a method where a small amount of the problem food (in powder form) is mixed with normal food and administered to the patients. Researchers are still determining how much and how long the time frame would be before the patient became tolerant to the problem food. Research shows that this method is effective in 70 to 80 percent of patients in a controlled setting. However, they need to consider how it would treat the mass population of Americans. This method is different than Desensitization.

Sublingual Immunotherapy (SLIT) is the same method as OIT, but patients dissolve the problem food in the form of a solution under their tongue. Both OIT and SLIT are being used for in patients with peanuts and walnuts.

The ultimate goal for researchers with both methods is to eventually treat people with peanut, tree nuts, milk, egg, shellfish, fish, wheat and soy allergies.

The last method that researchers are looking at is Food Allergy Herbal Formula 2 (FAHF-2). This is a Chinese therapy to prevent people from having anaphylactic reactions to multiple food allergens.

For more information on FARE’s research grants or to find a clinical trial near you, visit their site here.

Learning To Travel With Food Allergies

On July 3, my grandfather passed away after a six year battle with dementia. Right before the funeral, my aunt called to ask me what I could eat because she was trying to plan a menu for post-funeral dinner.

Typically, I am excited when family members are willing to include something I can have on the menu. But, I am also used to it being my boyfriend and my parents when we’re dining. I told my aunt not to worry; that she should focus on getting something that 15 people would like to eat and I’d take care of myself.

After hanging up the phone, I faced the realization that this would be the first out-of-state trip that I have taken since being diagnosed with food allergies.

On the trip down, breakfast consisted of pure Greek yogurt with organic cherry granola, fresh strawberries and skim milk. For lunch, I ate tuna salad (made by my mother) served on a whole grain bun with apple juice, organic veggie straws and some Raisinets.

My meals while in Florida were made up of salads, grilled fish or turkey burgers. I think the worst meal I had was at some local dive called a diner that my grandmother wanted to eat at for breakfast. It was the type of diner where everything came pre-packaged or was made from a packet. It was also the type of place where it didn’t matter what I ate, I would still get sick, and I did.

Continental breakfast at the hotel was a nightmare; it consisted of cereal with corn syrup, apple sauce with yogurt, yogurt with corn syrup, pre-made eggs, juice that could have had corn syrup and bagels/bread that had no labels. I had to settle on pancakes and I used my own pure maple syrup that my parents had packed.

Food allergies can make traveling a drag.

About.com lists some necessary essentials that you should carry for yourself or someone else when traveling such as:

– Epi-Pen (or other medication prescribed by a doctor)
– Safe foods
– Cooler (if traveling by train or car)
– Contact information for allergist

In my case, I was traveling by car. So, I was able to carry a cooler with foods (such as the yogurt, strawberries, granola, tuna and maple syrup) that I could consume safely. Also, before I left on the trip, I went to the store and purchased snacks I knew I could have and measured out a few serving sizes of each snack.

The article on About.com also talks about etiquette for social events. Heck, it even mentions funerals! It states:

“For a short-notice gathering like a funeral, the best rule of thumb is to assume that food is unsafe. If you must eat at this sort of event, single-ingredient foods like fruit, vegetables, and cheese are the safest bets, assuming they themselves are not allergenic.”

Since the event that I was attending was short notice, I stopped by a grocery store and purchased lunch meat and bread that I could eat. At the dinner after the funeral, I built my own sandwich and nibbled on a fruit/veggie tray my aunt purchased. I stayed away from pre-packaged desserts, condiments and didn’t eat the subs on the party tray.

My best recommendation for anyone traveling (that has food allergies or is with someone who has them) is to RESEARCH. If you know where you are going, look at local or chain restaurants. Look at the menu, study it. Don’t wait until the last minute and hold everyone else up. Also, check with your hotel to see what they include in their continental breakfast – that way you can pack anything you might need.

I have included some related material and articles about traveling. Some of the articles talk about how to handle travel via plane/train. I thought it would be nice because I have not traveled by plane yet with my food allergies so I can not include a personal experience.

Check out Allergy Safe Travel. It was created by a journalist-turned-mom who’s 8-year-old girl has peanut allergies. She tried to compile places such as hotels and restaurants across the nation that cater to food allergies (or at least offer alternatives).


Related Resources

http://www.allergysafetravel.com

http://www.care2.com/causes/5-tips-for-traveling-safely-with-food-allergies.html

http://travel.cnn.com/which-country-best-food-allergy-sufferers-783356

http://www.allergyfreetable.com/traveling-with-food-allergies.php

It’s not okay to use food as a weapon.

Food allergies in young children can be a stigma.

The day I chose this topic for my blog, my mom told me about an incident that had occurred with a little girl I used to babysit. Due to her age, I will be changing her name.

I used to babysit Sally* and she was highly allergic to peanuts and strawberries.  As she grew older, the allergies expanded to include chocolate and eggs.  She is now in middle school battling some extensive food allergies.

Sally* recently had a falling out with her best friend.  Well, her best friend went to the group of friends that they both hung out with and managed to turn the girls against Sally.  One day during school, they managed to chase after Sally* with peanut butter on their hands, tackled her and intended to smear peanut butter all over her face.  That is, until a teacher intervened.

This is a case of allergy bullying.

Sally’s* incident is not the first case of allergy-related bullying and it won’t be the last.  According to CNN Health,

A 2010 study in the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology said that 35% of kids over age 5 with food allergies have endured bullying, teasing or harassment. Parents of children with food allergies reported in the study that these incidents — both physical and verbal — happened because of food allergies.”

The number of children and young adults with food allergies is growing.  The study also reported that 8% of the population have at least one food allergy.

Megan Maloney, who currently lives in Virginia, was bullied about food allergies during 7th grade at a school in Cleveland, Ohio.  In an interview with NPR, Maloney said,

“I believe I was the only student in the whole school with a food allergy. Everyone was informed about my allergy, so all my classmates knew I had a milk allergy, but I don’t know if they understood its severity. Being the new kid, I really didn’t fit in anyway. One day at lunch, I got up to use the restroom, leaving my lunch on the table. When I returned, several people were snickering and watching me. I reached for my open can of soda to take a drink and at the last second someone said “stop.” Several classmates had put a piece of cheese pizza in my soda. And they were very disappointed that I didn’t drink from the can.”

Megan had not alerted teachers of her food allergies because she wanted to fit in.  She begged her mother to not report the kids who had done this to her soda.  In the end, her mother and Megan worked out a system to never leave her food unsupervised.

As of right now, there is no cure.  Allergy shots exist but those are for environmental allergies.  The only thing that can be done is to keep Epinephrine Auto-Injector (EPIPEN) on you or your child.

I have included a PSA from FARE below. I have also attached a related article to victims of food bullying speaking out and listed the sources that I have used in this post.

Sources

King, Barbara J. “Bullied With Food: Another Risk for Kids with Food Allergies.” NPR. N.p., 27 June 2013. Google. Web. 20 July 2013. <http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2013/06/27/195557402/bullied-with-food-another-risk-for-kids-with-food-allergies&gt;.

Landau, Elizabeth. “Allergy bullying: When food is a weapon.” CNN Health. N.p., 7 Jan. 2013. Google. Web. 20 July 2013. <http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/05/health/bullying-food-allergies&gt;.

From the beginning…

In February 2010, I spent countless hours at doctors’ offices and hospitals.  My boyfriend drove me to every appointment, no matter how early it was, without complaint.  There was a time when he even took me to the E.R.  The end result of all the discomfort and pain I went through, was asthma.

For the last two years, I had my asthma pretty much under control.  I take a maintenance inhaler, an emergency inhaler and I was taking a daily pill.  But, this past summer was a completely different story.

Around the time we moved out to Charlottesville, I started having really bad chest pains.  I wasn’t responding to any of my medications, which was scary.  My general practitioner there switch medications in hopes that it would help, but it didn’t.  Instead, I had to spend more time at doctors’ offices and hospitals.  My doctor recommended that I get a chest x-ray to make sure I wasn’t misdiagnosed in 2010.  The chest x-ray came back normal and she said I looked okay for being asthmatic.  The pain continued, then worsened, and there were days were I would have to leave work early.

Because the x-ray didn’t show anything out of the ordinary, my doctor recommended that I get allergy testing done.  As a child, I had been allergy tested six times, and I wasn’t thrilled with her suggestion. When I was younger, I was allergic to environmental factors.  When I was retested, most of the environmental factors were still a trigger for me.

In August 2012, I found out that I was highly allergic to corn, and moderately allergic to eggs, cantaloupe and bananas.  After being tested, we realized that my allergic reaction to corn was mimicking my asthma attacks and that’s why I wasn’t responding to my asthma medicine.  My food allergy-related attacks were non-responsive.

Let’s not forget oral allergy syndrome (OAS). The true definition of OAS is, “OAS is perhaps the most common food-related allergy in adults. OAS is not a separate food allergy, but rather represents cross-reactivity between distant remnants of tree or weed pollen still found in certain fruits and vegetables. Therefore, OAS is typically only seen in tree and weed allergic patients, and is usually limited to ingestion of only uncooked fruits or vegetables.”

As an example, I have an allergy to Birch and Kiwi cross-reacts with Birch.  When I eat kiwis, my lips swell and my tongue itches.  I get the same reaction when I eat straight soybeans.  But, I don’t get any reactions from other fruit or veggies that cross-react with Birch.

I can’t decide what is worse: dealing with food allergies on a daily basis by reinventing my diet or the way people look at me.  When I go out to restaurants, parties or corporate functions with my family, I have to explain why I can’t eat a certain food.  This of course brings on the look of pity or intrigue, followed by comments by, “Oh poor you,” “Man, that sucks because you’re missing out on all cool food,” or “That must be an inconvenience to you and your family.”

This blog will track my every day life as I go through a trial and error of trying new foods that can fit into my diet.

Bon appetit!

Welcome! My name is Gillan Ludlow and this is my blog about food allergies.  The goal for this blog is to reach out to the community, whether the audience has food allergies or not, and raise awareness about how hard it is to deal with food allergies.

In order to achieve this goal, I will discuss the type of food allergies that I have, the type of reactions that I have and how I deal with them on a daily basis. I will occasionally post recipes for meals that I can have as well.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask! Enjoy!