Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Q. What do 3 Million Kids in the US Have in Common?

A. Food allergies.*

And that number is growing. I'm sure the trend is the same in Canada. It's a huge number considering that we haven't even added adults into the equation.

As many of you know, food allergies have affected my life in a big way - some positive, some negative. We definitely eat healthier because of it, but I'm not sure we could maintain 100 percent diligence in our diet all of the time if we didn't have food allergies keeping us in line.

Combined, our family avoids a lot of food. Want to see the list?

Soy and all legumes
Grains, including corn
Eggs, including duck eggs
Canola Oil
Artificial sweeteners
All forms of refined sugar

Basically, what this list means for us is that there are close to zero convenience foods for us to buy at the store in the small community where we live. Very few products do not have at least one of the above allergens in it. Even if they don't, they could be cross-contaminated by being produced in a facility that contains one of the above. It means that we make everything we eat from scratch. It means we dine out very, very rarely. It means that our days largely revolve around preparing food. We try to keep it fun and make it enjoyable, but some days, I have to be honest, it's a real drag.

In many ways, I am glad that I'm forced to take better care of myself and my family, but it sure is nicer to have the choice - and that is the truly unfortunate thing about food allergies in kids. I'm sure those 3 million kids are going to grow up just fine, but it's never easy being the odd person out. The one that causes every other student to have to avoid peanuts at school. The one that has to ask to see the list of ingredients on everything before taking a bite. The one that has to carry an epi-pen. The one that lives in constant fear of an allergic reaction.

I don't have all of the answers as to why food allergies are on the rise, but here are a few of my thoughts:

Our immune systems are overburdened.
Our produce is laden with toxic chemicals.
We are unknowingly consuming genetically engineered food with unknown consequences.
Food additives, preservatives and colorings are not food, but we eat them nonetheless.
There is too much sugar hiding (or not) in our food.
Packaged food is often devoid of nutrients and of vitality.
We're eating too much processed food.
We're eating more soy, corn and grains than we realize.
Lax food labeling standards means we don't always know what is going into our food.
There is a major problem with conventional food growing and raising practices.
Vaccines and antibiotics have contributed to an unbalanced digestive flora.
We've forgotten many of the traditional ways to prepare foods that make them easy to digest.

There are many more reasons as to why I think food allergies are on the rise, but I'll stop there.

The biggest stumbling block right now with food allergies is awareness - specifically of allergy symptoms - and what we can do about it. Food allergies cause a whole range of symptoms, from instant anaphylactic shock to skin rashes to digestive discomfort to neurological changes 24 hours later. Since many of the symptoms are delayed, they are dismissed as being caused by something else. I'm sure there are millions of more kids out there that have yet to be diagnosed with food allergies.

Avoidance of food allergens is certainly the first step in remaining symptom free, but it is not a long term solution. Many people with allergies have experienced healing through specific diet changes (ie: GAPS, SCD, Fodmaps) and holistic treatments (ie: NAET), and I think the knowledge of what is working needs to become more mainstream.

I didn't start off writing this as a plug for the Circle of Moms Top 25 Food Allergy Blogger contest, but being on that list did spur me to think about why allergy awareness is important to me. There is a definite need for more voices on the subject and remaining in the top 25 means that I could have the amazing opportunity to be one of them. It's an issue that's very close to my heart.

Many people tell me that they are so thankful that they don't have food allergies, and then one day, they realize that the symptoms that have been plaguing them all of their lives are, in fact, because of food allergies. That was me four years ago. That was why I started this blog.

It's an important issue. If you think it's important too, click here and vote.

*Center for Disease and Control

Linked to Real Food Wednesday, WFMW, Health2Day, Simple Lives Thursday, Pennywise Platter Thursday, Freaky Friday, Fresh Bites Friday, Gallery of Favorites, Fight Back Friday, Living Well, Sunday School, Monday Mania, Barn Hop,


Rebecca said...

Thank you so much for this post. I think as moms, we need encouragement from other moms who struggle with the same things. This post really encouraged me today! It's so hard to be the odd one out. I had to explain how to use my daughter's epi-pens to a new babysitter today, and she was completely horified! I hope you don't mind if I share this post on my blog. It's very well written! And I'll definately be voting for you! Good Luck!

Shanon Hilton said...

Hi Rebecca, Thank you so much for your support. Please do share it!

wilderness said...

Shanon I have never experienced contact with anyone with food allergies but I can relate bringing up a brittle diabetic son.

Food allergies or not it is too bad that young parents lack the knowledge to cook from scratch rather than the packaged junk and fast food. Also there are so many ways to duplicate those packaged foods that are convenient and just as fast to prepare if anyone takes the time to do a little digging. Just one example is making your own Hamburger Helper which is easy and cooks in the same time.

Shanon Hilton said...

I do very much enjoy cooking from scratch - it definitely tastes better.

Mrs. Ed said...

Great post. So many of our family's food issues were due to food allergies and poor gut flora, but we had no idea until we tried "one of those dangerous diets" for our son's autism. Years of suffering, my throat and mouth ulcers, brain fog, my mom's cronic migraines and even her stuttering- ALL food realted. You are so right that this knowledge needs to be mainstream.

Shanon Hilton said...

Mrs. Ed, Thank you so much for commenting. It is unfortunate that doctors advise against looking into the "alternative" diets. It's not the first time I've heard that before. Eating healthier and removing allergens from the diet is NOT dangerous!

The 21st Century Housewife© said...

Excellent post! It's really well thought out and contains some very important ideas. My family are very lucky not to suffer from any food allergies, but I know many people who do. Thank you for sharing this post with the Gallery of Favorites.
PS - I voted for you :)

beyond the peel said...

I am sorry to hear that there are so many foods that your family can't have. We cook everything from scratch and I'm sure you would anyway regardless of the allergies, just based on your posts. Unfortunately you need to be more selective but your family is so much better off because of it. They're lucky they have you as a mom.

Anonymous said...

We have food allergies as well, especially my youngest. We haven't been able to determine what all she is allergic to but it is already a long and growing list that includes soy and corn, two ingredients almost impossible to avoid in processed food. You're right, cooking at home from scratch every meal every day can be a real drag and sometimes I just need a break! But overall, the better health we are experiencing from real food is just too precious!

Jo's Health Corner/www.naturallysports.com said...

Thanks for bringing awareness to food allergies. So many suffer from food allergies but don't realize they have an allergy. For example, Hashimoto's is an allergy to gluten, but the doctors are not telling their patients that.

I never thought when I was younger that anyone in my family suffered from food allergies. It wasn't until I got more involved in health that I realized that the discomfort I felt was caused by food I ate. I was eating a very healthy organic diet but it wasn't enough. The same goes for the rest of the family.

We are now following a diet that excludes a lot of things and we feel so much better..Actually, I have never felt better and cutting out many triggers helped..

I will hop over and vote. Thanks for linking up to Living Well Blog Hop.

Shanon Hilton said...

21st Century Housewife: Thank you so much for taking the time to vote. I really appreciate it!

Shanon Hilton said...

Beyond the Peel: Thank you for saying that! Yes, I think we would continue to make most things from scratch, but every now and then I pine for the treat of being able to go out and eat without worrying! :)

Shanon Hilton said...

Localnourishment: Yes, the reward from seeing your child allergy and symptom free makes it all the special food preparation worth while. They depend on us completely in that department! Thanks so much for commenting.

Shanon Hilton said...

Hi Jo's Health Corner: That was part of the shock for me as well. I always ate healthy, organic food and lots of whole grains. I had no idea my symptoms were connected to food allergies until I had an allergy test done. I'm glad that you and your family are feeling better now.

Thank you for voting and commenting!

Alea Milham said...

We have a mix of food problems in our house - from celiacs disease and lactose intolerance to food allergies. We are blessed that our list is not as long as yours, but still it was life changing 17 years ago when my son and I were first diagnosed. The first few years were the hardest, especially since there weren't all of the internet resources that there are today. We are all so much healthier and happier and were better prepared when the other children had similar issues. It is also easier now because there is so much more awareness.

Carol said...

My daughter developed allergies when I switched her from breastfeeding to pasteurized cow's milk at 9 months of age. As a result she developed a sore throat-- treated with antibiotics which then led to repeat ear infections and more antibiotics. When she received the MMR vaccine at 15 mos. she developed severe stomach and intestinal distress. I wish I had understood the importance of avoiding antibiotics unless absolutely necessary.

Over the years my daughter's health improved on a healthy diet -- we avoided eggs, dairy, wheat, all grains with gluten and refined sugar. When she received the hepatitis B vaccine at nursing school her health plummeted again. For nine years she has been treated for fibromylagia. Now we are advocates for more research and education regarding vaccines.

Shanon Hilton said...

Hi Carol, I'm so glad to hear you've found better health for your daughter through diet.

I definitely agree that children should be screened for food allergies and sensitivities before receiving vaccines. It is the children with allergies that are having the adverse reactions to the vaccines, like your daughter.

Good for you for advocating more research and education. It is so important.