Food Without Fear-reviewing a book about food allergy

If you or someone in your family has problems eating certain foods, or think you may, then this book, along with your personal physician, can help you sort out what, why, and how to deal with it.

FOOD WITHOUT FEAR

Identify, Prevent, and Treat Food Allergies, Intolerances, and Sensitivities

by Ruchi Gupta, MD, MPH with Kristin Loberg

What do you know about food allergy?

Can you answer correctly these true/false questions about food allergy ?

  1. Food allergies and intolerances develop only in childhood.
  2. Food allergies are rare, occurring in only 1% of people in the US.
  3. Women should avoid eating peanuts in pregnancy.
  4. Food allergies are more common in cities than in rural areas.
  5. Reactions to food may change over one’s lifetime.

The answers are at the end of this post, but the answers to these and many other questions about food allergies are in Dr. Gupta’s comprehensive book about the “food reaction spectrum.”

If you or someone in your family has problems eating certain foods, or think you may, then this book, along with your personal physician, can help you sort out what, why, and how to deal with it.

Dr. Ruchi Gupta, a board certified pediatrician, developed a special interest in allergic disease because of her many patients with food allergy as well as her own child. She directs the Center for Food Allergy and Asthma Research in Chicago where she and her team study and treat patients with food allergies and intolerances.

Even if you don’t have problems related to food, you may in the future as they can develop at any time in life. We all need food to live but sometimes food becomes our enemy, making us sick rather than well.

Understanding the “food reaction spectrum”

Dr. Gupta explains the “food reaction spectrum”. We may tend to call any adverse reaction to food ( or any other substance) an allergy but most are not.

An allergy activates the immune system, such as antibodies, which then trigger the symptoms. An intolerance (sometimes incorrectly called a sensitivity) does not involve the immune system. These are the only two recognized terms to describe adverse food reactions. Some foods can cause both allergy and intolerance.

Adverse food reactions may occur immediately or very soon after ingestion. These include

  • hives
  • swelling
  • itching
  • diarrhea

Other reactions can be delayed for hours or even days-

  • headache
  • rash
  • brain fog
  • bloating/gas

The Top 9 Food Allergens

Peanuts, tree nuts, milk, egg, shellfish, finfish, soy, wheat, sesame

Common offenders for food intolerances

Dairy, gluten, caffeine, salicylates, amines, sulfites, fructose, alcohol, monosodium glutamate-MSG, food dyes

Other conditions can be caused or aggravated by certain foods such as celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, and irritable bowel syndrome.

What you will learn in Food Without Fear

Dr. Gupta divided the book into two parts.

Part 1 helps you determine “Where are you on the Food Reaction Spectrum?”

Part 2 ,Finding Food Freedom, explores understanding food manufacturing and processing by reading labels .

She touches on the role of our genome and the microbiome (bacteria that live in our gut) and the role of inflammation in autoimmune disease.

Each chapter ends with a one page summary of Fearless Facts.,

If you check this book out from a library, you may want to buy it for future reference as it has an exhaustive list of resources. I learned more about food allergy from this book and believe you will also.

LISTEN TO AN EXCERPT

Appendix A-The Parent’s Playbook

How to manage your child’s food allergies at school from infancy through college, including a plan for a food allergy emergency

Appendix B contains an extensive list of resource including

  • Medical organizations
  • Government websites
  • Hospitals and medical centers
  • Advocacy and support groups, foundations
  • Apps

Appendix C is a Sample Food Log; use this to record food intake and reactions

Dr. Gupta also wrote The Food Allergy Experience .

“A source of reliable information and sound advice to help parents, caregivers, friends, relatives, health care providers, and teachers better understand how food allergies impact all aspects of a child’s life. Beyond statistics, The Food Allergy Experience provides tools for generating greater awareness that includes inspiring quotes, useful tips, and light-hearted comics, which put a positive and more realistic face on food allergies.

The Food Allergy Experience also provides a comprehensive resource section with information about relevant organizations, a handy checklist, and a sample letter to inform people about a child’s specific food allergy. As daunting as food allergies might seem, researchers are making breakthroughs every day as they search for cures.” source-Amazon

The answers to the questions are
  1. False
  2. False
  3. False
  4. True
  5. True

Did you answer correctly, or did you learn something new?

In this video, Dr. Gupta discusses using epinephrine in case of an allergy emergency.

exploring the HEART of food allergy

I appreciate all of you who are following Watercress Words, and if you aren’t I invite you to join the wonderful people who are. You can meet some of them in the sidebar, where you can click on their image and visit their blogs. Use the form to get an email notification of new posts. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything else from me.

Dr. Aletha
the Bean sculpture in Chicago
I took this photo of THE BEAN in downtown Chicago.

Affectionately called “The Bean,” Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate has become synonymous with the Chicago experience.

How to manage food allergy with confidence

Probably up to 10% of the population have true food allergy, but as many as 50-90% of people who believe they have food allergy may not. An accurate diagnosis is important so the condition can be managed properly when appropriate, but not needlessly.

One way I explore the “heart of health” is attending CME -continuing medical education- conferences. All physicians do, to stay current on medical information and maintain licensure and board certification.

One of the most informative lectures I heard recently was about food allergy, a topic often discussed in the lay literature and media. Much of that discussion is based on personal experiences and opinions which, while interesting, may not be scientifically valid.

I welcomed the chance to hear from an expert to help me counsel my patients. I also have a personal interest since my grandson has food allergies; when he visits me, I have to be careful not to feed him foods he may react to.

The speaker, Kirsten Bennett, Ph.D is a registered dietitian (RD) who specializes in counselling patients with food allergies. She presented data from research studies as well as from her clinical practice, and I’m sharing some of what she said with you.

How to manage food allergy with confidence-watercresswords.com

 

What is food allergy?

You may assume that any symptom due to eating a food is an allergy but there are many ways food can make us sick, including allergy, intolerance, toxic effects, and infection.

Dr. Bennett explained that the difference between food allergy and food intolerance. (The other two will not be discussed here)

Allergy– immune mediated, that is it involves the immune system with the production of antibodies after exposure to a food; celiac disease is due to food allergy.

Intolerance– does not involve the immune system, no antibodies are produced; this occurs in lactose intolerance.

Some foods such as wheat and milk can cause both allergy and intolerance.

cup of milk, plate of bread
Mil and wheat can cause allergy and intolerance.

So how do you know the difference? You can’t, without an appropriate medical evaluation, so it is important to see a physician if you suspect food allergy.

Probably up to 10% of the population have true food allergy, but as many as 50-90% of people who believe they have food allergy may not. An accurate diagnosis is important so the condition can be managed properly when appropriate, but not needlessly.

What causes food allergy?

The BIG 8 cause 90% of food allergy. These are

  1. Milk
  2. egg
  3. peanut
  4. fish
  5. shellfish
  6. soy
  7. wheat
  8. tree nut

 

 

 

 

 

Symptoms of food allergy

Almost any symptom can occur with allergy but the most common are

  • Rash with or without itching
  • Swelling of the face, lips, eyes
  • Watery, itchy eyes
  • Nasal drainage and/or congestion
  • Hoarse voice
  • Cough, wheezing, difficulty breathing
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Dizziness, fainting
  • Low blood pressure, fast heart beat
  • Feeling of “impending doom”

 

 

 

 

How to diagnose food allergy

Although blood and skin testing may be needed, the history is the first and most important step to identify food allergy. The evaluation may start with the answers to these 9 questions-

  • What are the symptoms?
  • What food was eaten that may have caused the symptoms and was it eaten before?
  • How much of the food was eaten?
  • Was the suspect food cooked or raw?
  • Has the food ever been eaten without symptoms?
  • Was else was the person doing or ingesting at the same time, such as exercise, medications, etc.?
  • Have the symptoms occurred without eating the food?
  • How were the symptoms treated and how long did they last?

What You Need to Know About Diagnostic Allergy Testing

by David Stukus, MD,Assistant Professor of Pediatrics in the Section of Allergy/Immunology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, in Columbus Ohio.

 

 

Goals in  managing food allergies

Allow the child (or adult) to live as normal a life as possible while avoiding foods that might cause allergic symptoms.

The fear of a serious food allergic reaction can cause a family to forgo normal activities and keep a child isolated. Dr. Bennett suggested these tactics to minimize food allergy anxiety.

Family of 4 sitting at a dining table.
Read food  labels carefully to avoid inadvertently eating foods that cause allergy.

At home 

  • Cook as a family ; Learn how to cook meat and other protein foods
  • Take children grocery shopping and engage them in food selection
  • Use at least 3 elements of the plate model for meal planning
  • Gather together and celebrate food and eating together
  • Practice manners and table talk
  • Make the home kitchen a safe sanctuary
  • Enjoy the food journey

Travel

  • Take foods along that are safe
  • Identify possible allergy risks in travel itinerary -Restaurants

At school 

  • What does the school staff and administration know about food allergies?
  • Start a conversation Provide reference materials or community resources
  • Create a plan for inclusion
  • Partner with the school
  • Universal supports for all children

Find more Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle from Kids With Food Allergies.org

 

Be prepared for an emergency allergic reaction. Anaphylaxis

The greatest danger of any allergy is anaphylaxis, a life threatening allergic reaction which impairs breathing and heart function.

a heart monitor showing a heart tracing EKG
Minutes matter with heart emergencies

Anyone who cares for a person with food allergy needs to know what to do in case of a reaction. Schools and work places should have a plan for dealing with such emergencies.

Create and Maintain an Action Plan for school/work-

an individualized Health Care Plan  – which includes strategies for food avoidance

Create and Maintain an Emergency Plan
Food Allergy Emergency Action Plan -Include specific actions to be taken in the event of accidental or purposeful ingestion of the allergenic food

Maintain a current and back-up supply of emergency medication

Specific instruction on transport to ER/ED (emergency room) for follow up care
Emergency medications and plan need to be with child/adult

a speed limit sign with an H for hospital , 5 miles
  • in school
  • at work
  • sporting events
  • field trips

“Eating a little bit won’t hurt.” “Childhood allergies last for life.” True or false? Find out at this link.

Food Allergy Myths and Misconceptions 

from Food Allergy.org


exploring the HEART of food allergy

I appreciate all of you who are following Watercress Words, and if you aren’t I invite you to join the wonderful people who are. You can meet some of them in the sidebar, where you can click on their image and visit their blogs. Use the form to get an email notification of new posts. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything else from me.

Dr Aletha

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