Skip to main content

Food Allergy in the Spotlight

Food allergies.  They seem to be everywhere, lately.  We hear most about peanut allergies, but we humans can be allergic to pretty much any food.   Some foods are more likely to cause allergies, which are often referred to as the "Top 8":  Dairy, Eggs, Soy, Wheat/Gluten, Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Fish, and Shellfish.  Food allergies are on the rise in the US, but the answer to the logical question "Why?" remains elusive.  One raging debate is about how we produce food in this country, en masse, to feed the masses quickly and cheaply.  Another, related debate, is the use of genetically modified crops (GMOs) that go along with the more potent pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides we use to minimize crop losses.  I'm not going to get into all of that today.  Rather, talk a bit about the social and psychological impact of food allergies.

But first, announcements!

The Discovery Channel will air a documentary, “An Emerging Epidemic: Food Allergies in America,” on Saturday September 7 at 8 a.m. ET/PT and September 21 at 8 a.m. ET/PT. The organization Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) teamed up with the Discovery Channel to explore what it's like to live with food allergies, awareness campaigns, and current research into food allergy treatments.  Even if you don't have food allergies, or have a friend or family member with them, I think it'd be a good idea to check this out because the odds that you'll encounter someone with food allergies in your lifetime are pretty high.  According to FARE, 1 in 13 kids have a food allergy and an estimated 15 million people in the US are affected.

Several months ago, I wrote a guest post for a great blog It's an Itchy Little World where I touched on some of the struggles parents of kids with food allergies face.  For example, 41% report significant caregiver stress, 49% state that food allergy reduces the family’s social activities, and 34% report reduced school attendance. In my research on this topic, I came across Food Allergy Fun, a blog with cartoons that depict stigma and, well, some of the dumb things people say to people with food allergies.  Here are a few of my favorites, if favorites is the right term for something like this.

Wait, you still have this?  Many people have a hard time wrapping their brains around chronic illness, including food allergies.  There are many theories as to why this is the case, and individual differences exist, but I would say about 95.87% of people I see report something along the lines of this:

Blame, either from the self or others.  Patients, or parents of kid-patients, may ask what they did (or didn't do) to bring on food allergies.  It doesn't help that many people seem to be experts on the subject, especially with such easy access to Dr. Google:

Yeah, well I have this.  I believe that most people mean well, and try to relate to what people living with food allergies are going through.  But comparisons can make people feel unheard and that their situation is being minimized.  I call this empathy gone wrong:

These are just a few examples of what life with food allergies can be like. I'm looking forward to seeing how the Discovery documentary addresses some of these issues and helps turn our attention away from Miley.

Dr. T

Popular posts from this blog

The Long Shot

I don't even know where to begin as my head is still spinning with the news I received today.  So I'm just going to put it out into the ether:

Entyvio (vedolizumab), which I started for my Crohn's disease about 6 months ago, did what no other approach has:  cleared my eosinophilic esophagitis. 

But wait, isn't Entyvio a drug for inflammatory bowel disease?  Yes.

Is Eosinophilic Esophagitis a type of inflammatory bowel disease?  Nope.

Are IBD and EoE related at all?  As far as we know today, no.  There are very few overlapping cases.

So WTF happened?

Without getting into the biomechanics of a drug that's way over my pay grade in medical understanding, my gastroenterologist had a theory that the way Entyvio works would block the cascade of eosinophils (a part of your immune system, a type of white blood cell) through it's magical way of selectively keeping my immune system from attacking my digestive tract.

She was fucking right.

Since being diagnosed with EoE in ear…


I've been thinking a lot about how we live in an era of infinite access to infinite information (thanks, internet tubes!) yet we still fall into many of the well-established psychological laws, if we can call them that, of human behavior.  Don't worry, this isn't going to be some drawn out post on social psychology. Wikipedia is great for that.

I want to talk about bubbles.  Information bubbles, that is. And how each one of us lives in one to some extent, no matter how educated or enlightened we see ourselves to be. And even if we know we live in said bubble, it takes being shown information that directly conflicts with how you think things are, or should be, and the result is you feel kinda ew - the technical term for "ew" being cognitive dissonance.

I live in a bubble.

In my bubble is the world of academic medicine, academic health psychology, and a circle of psychologists dedicated to people living with chronic digestive illness.  I live in Chicago, a major me…

Everyone Can Fall Down the Rabbit Hole

A few months ago my 3 year old son uttered the words, "I hate you, mommy."  It was after I yelled at him for doing something wrong, which I've long forgotten what exactly the source of our exchange was. But I certainly can remember those words. I can hear them in my head if my brain decides, at random moments, to replay them.

My intellectual, clinical psychologist brain can explain this for days. He's 3, he doesn't know what he's saying, he learned the word hate somewhere else, presumably at preschool, as I discourage its free use in our house. He's using it to express his anger not his true feelings toward me because once he self-regulates (psychobabble for calms the F down) he tells me he loves me.  Blah blah blah.

Regardless of all that knowledge and shit I have from too much education, those words destroy me emotionally.  Maybe they hit me harder because of my profession because my head goes to all the subsequent pathology he'll surely go on to de…