Although I’ve been gluten-free for over eight years, dining out safely can still be a challenge for me. Ask anyone with celiac disease and they’ll likely say the same.
For more than 2000 years, sulfites have been used to prevent food spoilage and discoloration. Perhaps for nearly as long, they've played a more sinister role - causing allergic-type reactions in some of the people who consume them. Ellen Wiest is one such individual. She often suffered from headaches, severe nasal congestion, abdominal cramps and diarrhea after eating. But she didn't connect her symptoms to sulfites, until one June evening in 1995.
North Carolina resident Elizabeth Powell stood at the pharmacy counter, ready to buy the EpiPens her son needed for his multiple food allergies. She’d done this many times since the boy had his first anaphylactic reaction to peanuts ten years ago. Each time she would buy two EpiPen 2-Paks, ensuring he had one set at home and another when he was out and about.
Sometimes you just have to shake your head. I often join about 7,500 others on the moms-only Facebook page, Food Allergy Moms. A frequent discussion topic is what people say to mothers about their kids’ food allergies. Despite all the progress in allergy and celiac awareness, the ignorance can still be mind-blowing, especially in restaurants.
People who suffer from hay fever (allergic rhinitis caused by pollen) can experience OAS when their immune system mistakes proteins in certain fruits or vegetables for the proteins found in their problem pollen. For example, when someone like Combs with a birch pollen allergy bites into an apple, the same IgE (immunoglobulin E) antibody that recognizes the birch pollen protein also recognizes a similar protein in the apple, prompting an allergic immune response, explains allergist Philip C. Halverson, MD, FAAAAI, of Allergy & Asthma Specialists in Minneapolis.
Many food banks are staffed by volunteers and there’s little time, energy or room to provide a dedicated gluten-free or allergy-friendly space. Thankfully, however, people across the country are recognizing the needs of those experiencing food insecurity in the allergy-free community. Several gluten-free and allergy-friendly food banks are now open and serving the public, like these.
Allergist Scott Commins, MD, PhD, is one of the nation’s leading experts on the alpha-gal allergy, an allergy to mammal meat induced by a tick bite. A member of the University of Virginia’s research team that discovered alpha-gal allergy about ten years ago, Commins now heads the laboratory that studies the allergy at the University of North Carolina. He also serves as Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology and has a clinical practice that specializes in diagnosing and treating patients with the alpha-gal allergy.
A new study found that food allergies are on the rise in adults as well as children. The increase is seen across all ethnic groups. About half of all food-allergic adults reported they developed one or more food allergies after age 18. Shellfish is the most common food allergy in adults, affecting an estimated 3.6 percent of adults in the United States. This is a 44 percent increase in prevalence from the rate recorded in 2004. The study also found that nut allergy in adults (now about 1.8 percent) has risen 260 percent since a 2008 estimate.
When I was growing up, I never thought about food allergies. Food was shared freely, lunch items were swapped at school and potlucks were a regular event. In my neighborhood, kids ate dinner wherever they happened to be in the evening. We could walk into friends’ homes and help ourselves—without thinking—to whatever was in their refrigerator.
We had a lot of fun putting this issue together. When you consider we spent time munching on different brands of packaged cookies in order to bring you our in-depth review of gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, you can understand. It’s hard to complain when there are cookies calling your name.