Food Allergies 101


How to Pull Off an Elimination Diet

 

We have all heard the best way to pin point an offending allergen is to remove it from the diet and see if your symptoms disappear.  If the symptoms vanish, reintroduce the potential allergen and see if the symptoms reappear.  It sounds simple, but for some of us it can be overwhelming.

Jennifer of It’s an Itchy Little World has successfully uncovered all of her son’s eczema triggers through an elimination diet.  You can read her encouraging experience  in her article: Elimination Diet: How You Can Do it Too!.

Why the Rise in Food Allergies?

Wow!  I just watched this talk by Robyn O’Brien and I am fired up.  She is speaking my language!  Want to know why there is such a rise in food allergies?  Robyn O’Brien has some ideas.  From You Tube:

Robyn shares her personal story and how it inspired her current path as a “Real Food” evangelist. Grounded in a successful Wall Street career that was more interested in food as good business than good-for-you, this mother of four was shaken awake by the dangerous allergic reaction of one of her children to a “typical” breakfast. Her mission to unearth the cause revealed more about the food industry than she could stomach, and impelled her to share her findings with others. Informative and inspiring.

New Study Reveals 1 in 13 Children Have Food Allergies

Have you seen the latest food allergy study in the headlines this week?  Here are the highlights:

  • 8% of children under the age of 18 in the US have food allergies
  • That converts to about 6 million children
  • 40% of those children have severe reactions
  • 30% of the children have multiple food allergies
  • Most common allergen is peanut followed by milk and shellfish

You can read more about the study here, here and here.

I have mixed emotions about this study.  Part of me is relieved to know that we are not the only ones dealing with these issues.  The more people who have these issues mean that there will be more “supply and demand” for allergy-friendly food at restaurants.

However, I am grieved that so many children and their parents are suffering and frustrated that there is so little known about the cause.  I am also grateful that my child has only had mild reactions.  I cannot imagine living with the constant fear of an anaphylactic reaction.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.  How do you feel about these new numbers?

Photo Credit: Bruce Tuten

Which is better: Flaxseed vs Chia Seed?

Anne at Quick and Easy Cheap and Healthy asked the following questions on my chia egg substitute post:

“How does it [chia egg] compare health-wise to flax gel (which I use almost 100% of the time as my egg sub)? And cost?”

What great questions! 

Let’s start with flaxseeds…

Pros:

  • Flaxseeds are known for containing high levels of omega-3′s.  Omega-3′s can help reduce inflammation, prevent and control high blood pressure and lower cholesterol.
  • Taking 40 mg of flaxseed can help with symptoms of menopause.
  • Flaxseeds are high in fiber, manganese, magnesium, folate and antioxidants.

Cons:

  • Grinding the seed is necessary in order to absorb it’s nutrients.
  • Grinding the seed is necessary in order to make flax eggs.
  • Whole flax seeds can be stored for at least a year but once the seed is ground it will quickly oxidize or turn rancid.
  • Flaxseeds are high in phytic acid. Some believe phytic acid is good for us. Others believe it is an anti-nutrient that must be avoided.
  • Flaxseeds contain phytoestrogens.  This can be beneficial to postmenopausal women or women with certain hormonal imbalances.  However, since most of us already have more estrogen than we need and not enough progesterone, we should probably limit our flax consumption.  Men might consider avoiding it all together.  It is also important to note that one study shows pregnant women who consume flax oil quadrupled their rates of premature labor.

Price: The best price currently available at Amazon is Bob’s Red Mill Golden Flaxseed.  If you sign-up for Subscribe and Save you can get them for $.13 per ounce.

And now for chia seed…

Pros:

  • Chia seed is higher in Omega-3s than flaxseed.  Chia seed oil is more than 60% omega-3 making it one of the highest commercially available source.
  • Chia seed is higher in fiber than flaxseed.  Three tablespoons of chia seeds contain fifteen grams of fiber while three tablespoons of flaxseeds contain nine grams of fiber. Chia seeds are often recommended for diabetics because the balance of soluble and insoluble fiber slows the absorption of glucose.
  • Chia seeds have one of the highest levels of antioxidants in a whole food.
  • Chia is a wonderful source for calcium.  Three tablespoons contains 307 milligrams of calcium.
  • Chia seed is easily digested and does not need to be ground.
  • Chia seed will store up to two years in a dry place.

Cons:

  • Due to their high fiber content, chia seeds can cause bloating and stomach issues.
  • The high content of omega-3s can thin blood and lower blood pressure.  Those who are on blood pressure medication or blood thinners should limit or avoid chia.
  • Some people have allergic reactions to chia.  Those who are allergic to sesame or mustard seeds are more likely to have an allergic reaction to chia.

Price: The best price currently available at Amazon is Alive and Aware Chia Seeds.  They are $.98 per ounce.

 

The Bottom Line:

There are benefits to eating both flaxseed and chia seed.  For this busy mom, chia seeds are the winner because they can be used whole.  However, I don’t feel using either of them exclusively is a good idea.  The key to a healthy and balanced diet is variety.

Chia Photo Credit: Little Blue Hen, Flaxseed Photo Credit: AlishaV

Food Allergy Statistics

Previous: What is a food allergy?

In the United States, it is estimated that 12 million people have food allergies.  That includes 4% of adults and 6-8% of children under 3. 

Ninety percent of food allergies are caused by eight foods.  They are milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy and wheat.

Seventy five percent of children with milk allergies can tolerate milk in baked goods.

Fifty percent of children who are allergic to milk, egg, soy and/or wheat are expected to outgrow their allergies by age six. Only 8% of children who have not outgrown their allergies by age 12 will outgrow them. 

Children are very unlikely to outgrow nut allergies.

For more statisitics see Wikipedia:Food Allergy:Epidemiology

What is a food allergy?

An allergic reaction to food is usually your immune system overreacting to a protein.   Immunoglobulin E (IGE) tags the protein as destructive and starts attacking.  The reaction could range from mild to severe and can include skin issues (rash, hives), digestive issues (stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea) and/or respiratory issues (cold symptoms, wheezing, anaphylaxis).  In the United States, allergic reactions to food account for 30,000 emergency room visits and 100-200 deaths per year.

Next: Food allergy statistics