They’re seemingly everywhere & growing in number. It’s gone from peanut free schools to homeschooling due to severe allergies.
And it’s just getting worse.
The number of food products catering to those watching out for allergens has skyrocketed in the grocery stores in the last few years. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you. Surely you’ve seen the stickers and claims on half the boxes lining the shelves. It’s not just “low fat!” or “50% less salt!” anymore. Now we’re seeing “gluten free!” and “made in a nut free facility!”. Just last August the labeling laws for allergens were dramatically improved. If the government & the big companies are getting on board, that means there’s demand. The big question is why. And what do we do about it?
The reasons for food allergies are murky and sometimes contradictory. In some cases it’s a genetic inheritance. Being fed formula rather than breast milk can increase allergies. Sometimes it’s leaky gut. Grandma could be blamed for giving a peanut butter sandwich to a child under the recommended nut consuming age. It could be so many things, and yet sometimes allergies seem to appear out of thin air with no rhyme or reason.
Often times the only course of action is to avoid the offending food. This however, is very often easier said than done. The next time you’re picking up milk & bread (or almond milk & gluten free bread) from the store, take a look around. The sheer volume of packaged, processed, commercialized foods that so many rely on is astonishing. It seems that the fresh food selection shrinks every day, and the frozen aisles grow. Many shoppers take these foods for granted (and perhaps their health as well), but those with food allergies rarely can grab a frozen pizza and have a hot meal in 20 minutes.
Navigating the nutrition information and ingredient panels is a challenge. Xanthan gum? That’s corn. Malt vinegar? Gluten. Textured Vegetable Protein? Soy. Riboflavin? That’s vitamin B2, it’s okay! Sometimes the labeling is clear, but more often the manufacturers do the bare minimum. Educating yourself on all of the mysterious words on an ingredient list is not only necessary, but agonizing. There are128 terms that could be on an ingredient list that contain wheat (and many more that could contain wheat). Needless to say, a whole foods diet (avoiding processed foods) is far easier to manage. And better for anyone’s health at that.
Educating those around you is also a very important part of managing your food allergy. Making sure that friends & relatives that may come to visit know they can’t use the same knife they just spread almond butter on their toast to dip into the jam jar could avoid a big incident. Don’t be ashamed of the way you eat, tell the world how important it is that your smoothie doesn’t have OJ in it as you have a citrus allergy. Explain to the server at the restaurant how your body will shut down if the kitchen staff aren’t careful about cross contamination issues. Enforcing how important it is that your body is kept safe to those around you will catch their attention, perhaps make them think twice. Maybe they’ll make it a habit not to double dip the mustard spreading knife into the mayo jar in their own home (as it too is one of the top 14 allergens).
Being your healthiest self and keeping your body clean of the foods that aggravate it (whether your reaction is anaphylactic, intestinal or a rash) will result in less illness, more energy and an overall better sense of health. If you are having difficulties adjusting to a new diet with allergies, please contact our office to book an appointment. We too want you to be your healthiest self!