Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Wheat Allergies

For our family, an allergy to wheat was one of the toughest to manage. Unable to buy bread, pretzels, many cereals, cookies, crackers make meal planning a challenge with eating out and travel even more difficult. As awareness of celiac disease (an intolerance to gluten) has increased, so too has the availability of wheat free options in grocery stores and wheat free mixes for breads, pretzels and other wheat-based foods. Check out The Gluten Free Mall at http://www.glutenfreemall.com for many options for those with wheat allergies.

It is still possible to bake your favorite recipes by substituting wheat flour for a mixture of non-wheat flours. You may have to experiment and tweak it a bit, but I often used a recipe of: 2 cups white rice flour, 2/3 cup potato starch flour, 1/3 cup tapioca flour in my cookie and cake recipes. Mix up a batch and then measure out the amount required by the recipe. You'll need to add at least a teaspoon of guar gum or xantham gum (available in most grocery stores) to keep your baked goods from falling apart. Happy baking!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Desensitization to food allergies

Would you put your child in a clinical study? Researchers are currently conducting a study on food allergies and are testing peanut allergic individuals, ages 12-20, and egg allergic individuals, ages 6-18, to see if they can tolerate small amounts of the food to which they are allergic. I know that we need research in order to find a cure, or at least better treatments, to food allergies. That said, I would be hard pressed to volunteer my child for such a study. This particular study gives peanut and egg allergic individuals increasing amounts of peanut and egg protein to see if the individual's immune system will tolerate it. The problem for me is that if an allergic reaction does occur, symptoms can be rapid and range from hives to vomiting to breathing issues and even death. How do parents make a decision for a young child to participate in such a trial? I feel so grateful that studies continue to try to find good treatments and eventually a cure for food allergy, but the risk of a trial such as this, personally feels too great. For more information about this particular trial, go to http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/104568.php.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

15th Annual Food Allergy Conference

I've had a chance to reflect upon my recent experiences at FAAN's (www.foodallergy.org) annual conference in Baltimore. This was my 4th trip to the conference and I found that much of the content is a repeat for those of us who are repeat attenders. It was stated at the beginning of the day that the majority of the people in the room were first time attendees. For that reason, the same overview of food allergies, its causes and symptoms, definition of anaphylaxis, etc. was presented for those new to this diagnosis. I can appreciate that. Personally, I found the afternoon sessions more helpful. There were discussions about how parents need to change their roles as they prepare their food allergic children for the challenges of life with food allergy. There was a presentation on advocating for change with updated information that I found to be useful. Some of the take-aways from this conference for me:
  • Sesame seed allergies are rising and may soon be included in the top allergen list.
  • After an anaphylaxis reaction, emergency rooms often prescribe 5 days of steroids- question the necessity of this.
  • Help is still needed on The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Management Act (FAAMA) which calls for national guidelines for managing food allergies in school. Specifically, the bills are HR 2063 in the House and S 1232 in the Senate. I am pleased to report that the house passed this bill on April 8, 2008. The Senate has yet to take action. The full Senate bill can be read here: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c110:S.1232. Contact your state Senators (check here if you don't know who they are: http://www.firstgov.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml) and write, e-mail, call and ask them to support this bill.
  • Progress is being made in the area of possible treatments for food allergies. Chinese herbal formulas, immunotherapy, a peanut vaccine are all being studied and show some promising results.
  • Regent Seven Seas cruise lines are food allergy friendly.
  • The Yellow Fever vaccine must be avoided by those with an egg allergy. Also, those with egg allergy need to avoid the flu shot and flu mist.

Every time I attend this conference, I meet some really nice people and I leave with good information and a renewed spirit about living with food allergies in our family. While I can't control my child's food allergies, I know that I can do many things to educate, advocate and manage food allergies.