Pediatric allergists Harvey L. Leo and Neal Jain answer questions about allergies and food sensitivities.
Give any 2-year-old child a doughnut and soda just before bedtime and you’ll see the relationship between food and behavior. Eating for Autism, The 10-Step Nutrition Plan to Help Treat Your Child’s Autism, Asperger’s or ADHD by Elizabeth Strickland (Da Capo/Lifelong Books) is a book devoted to nutritional therapy for autism spectrum disorders. Here parents will find a useful tool for understanding the autism-nutrition connection.
It’s estimated that 20 percent of us have some sort of sensitivity to fragrance. If you have allergies or asthma, your chances are higher than most of developing a reaction to certain scents. The world of artificial aromas has grown to encompass much more than perfumes and colognes. Just about every product we use today contains some sort of fragrance. From laundry detergents, dryer sheets and cleaning supplies to shampoos, cosmetics, tissues and magazine inserts, we are bombarded with items sporting their own smell.
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When teachers noticed 10-year-old Abby was spending more time in the bathroom than at her desk, they knew she wasn’t just trying to skip class. Abby had always loved learning and was highly motivated. Plus, it wasn’t just school she was missing. “Abby loves sports but she was ducking out of soccer, lacrosse and basketball games because of stomach cramps,” recalls Abby’s mom, Donna Williamson* of Baltimore, Maryland. “If she made it through a game, she rushed to the port-a-potty afterward.” Abby’s increasingly frequent bouts of diarrhea were embarrassing and her painful stomach cramps and bloating interfered with her active lifestyle. With food allergies in the family, Williamson suspected that something Abby was eating was to blame. She took her daughter to the family doctor who tested her for more than 60 potential food allergens.
There are no tests or biomarkers for conclusively diagnosing gluten sensitivity, says Alessio Fasano, MD, medical director of the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research. The condition is typically determined by a positive response to the gluten-free diet. Gluten sensitivity may be up to 6 to 7 times more common than celiac disease, according to Fasano. Unlike celiac disease, gluten sensitivity causes no measurable intestinal damage. Classic symptoms are gastrointestinal discomfort, such as diarrhea, bloating or constipation, but symptoms can range from clumsiness, brain fog and depression to ADHD or autistic behaviors.
Genetic Testing for Celiac Disease.
Patients are usually screened for celiac disease with a blood panel. The diagnosis is then confirmed with a biopsy of the small bowel. Not every case of celiac disease is a straightforward diagnosis, in part because each test for celiac has an important limitation.
Unlike allergies to food and airborne substances, family genetics do not appear to play a role in medication allergies. Even when multiple family members report having an allergy to a particular drug, there’s no greater likelihood that others in that family will develop a similar reaction. An important exception is Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS), a rare and potentially life-threatening reaction to certain drugs, usually sulfa-containing antibiotics or epilepsy medicines (although other medications can also cause this condition). There’s some evidence that patients who develop SJS may have a certain gene in their immune system that predisposes them to this type of reaction. SJS aside, many medication allergies are “outgrown” or lost over time, even in adults. Testing (albeit difficult for certain types of drugs) often reveals that patients are no longer allergic.