Will This Cell Phone Hurt My Family’s Health?

They are putting a cell tower in front of my house.

towerWhile researching how I could fight it, I came across this article about environmental conditions that impact our health.  I thought you’d find it as interesting–and alarming–as I did.

 

Truth11

Why Do Smells Make Some People Sick?  Jan. 22, 2012 — Science Daily

Do you get a headache from the perfume of the lady next to you at the table? Do cleaning solutions at work make your nose itch? If you have symptoms prompted by everyday smells, it does not necessarily mean you are allergic but rather that you suffer from chemical intolerance. According to Linus Andersson at Umeå University, this hypersensitivity can be the result of an inability to get used to smells.


Normally your smell perceptions diminish rapidly, as when you enter a friend’s apartment. Even though you clearly notice smells just inside the door, you don’t think about them for long. For people with chemical intolerance, on the other hand, smells seem always to be present. Psychology researcher Linus Andersson has exposed both intolerant and non-intolerant individuals to smells and compared their reactions.

“The hypersensitive individuals felt that…

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Aside

A Rash Decision

Yesterday I decided to take care of this annoying rash on my face and neck that’s been plaguing me for quite some time.  Why now?  Well, I’ll be attending the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference this weekend and I didn’t want to look like I’d forgotten to take off my Halloween mask.

The ironic thing is this conference is full of people with ALLERGIES.  A rash looks perfectly normal to them.  But you know, a girl likes to look good.

Went to the doctor’s and got a prescription. First pharmacy didn’t have the ointment in stock so had to drive across town to another pharmacy and wait an hour.

Then the lady at the counter looked me in the eye and said, “Did your doctor tell you how much this was going to cost?”  Never a good sign.

Image

Yep, you’re reading that right.  $166 for that tiny little tube that’s the size of cement glue!  By the way, I have “good” health insurance;  makes you wonder what I’d pay if I had “bad” health insurance.

Next I headed off to Walgreens to replace some old makeup that might be irritating my skin and to take a look at some recommended sensitive skin products. Anna at Walgreens was incredibly knowledgeable.  $100 later I was back in my car.

Image

Good news is my face is already looking better. Bad news is I spent more than the airline ticket to Las Vegas cost.

If you’ll be at the conference, please introduce yourself!  If you’re not going, I’ll be live blogging during and after the sessions … after all, I have no money left for gambling.

Related Post from An Allergic Foodie

A Tribute to Food Allergy Bloggers

“A Rash Decision” originally appeared in Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

 

Get Rid of Tipping? Those with food allergies will suffer

When restaurant waitstaff answer my myriad questions and do everything in their power to ensure my food is allergy free and gluten safe, I always reward them with a handsome tip. The better the service, the higher the gratuity. So this morning’s Today Show’s discussion about whether restaurants should start paying waiters a living wage and stop the practice of tipping alarms me. Evidently, some high-end restaurants are already including service fees in menu prices and paying their staff higher wages.

gratuity

My concern is this: Will waitstaff provide quality service to an allergic foodie like me if they aren’t relying on tips?

Based on my experience of dining in gratuity-free Italy, I don’t think they will. While I certainly had some superb meals in Italy and met some gregarious waiters, the service wasn’t all that great. In fact, more often than not, the service was bad.

Take my dinner in a small hotel in beautiful Positano for example.

Here we are on the beach of Positano

Here we are on the beach of Positano

Sitting down at the bistro table, I handed over my laminated translation card with highlighted food allergies (dairy, gluten, soy, corn, asparagus, capers, etc.). The gray-haired waiter with a pleasant smile barely glanced at it–yet he insisted he understood my special needs. Concerned, my husband reiterated my litany of allergies and went over every ingredient in the dish I ordered—a simple plate of vegetables and a plain piece of meat (at least that’s what I thought I was ordering).

Halfway through the meal, while the waiter filled our wine glasses, I gushed over the delicious food.

“It’s the cream that makes–” Stopping midsentence, the waiter turned as red as the tomato on my fork. He obviously knew cream was dairy and I couldn’t eat dairy–yet he served it to me!

This pretty dish made me sick!

This pretty dish made me sick!

We spent the next day walking up and down the steep cobblestone streets looking for the Italian version of Imodium. (By the way, anti-diarrhea medicine isn’t sold over-the-counter in Italy. You have to ask the pharmacist for it. How embarrassing.)

Of course, the system of tipping in America does not guarantee good service. We’ve all experienced difficult waitstaff. Still, I can’t help but think if I generously tip a waiter who took my allergies seriously, he or she will give me–and the next allergic foodie after me–good service again. Tipping is a reward system. Without a reward, there is little incentive for waitstaff to make sure my food won’t make me sick tomorrow.

A side note: My husband and I couldn’t get used to not tipping in Italy and we often added an extra 20 percent. We suspect that’s why waitstaff kept refilling our after-dinner Lemoncellos!

I’m Obsessed with Food!

I’m always thinking about food.

In fact, you could say I’m obsessed with food.

For a woman who’s struggled with weight issues all her life, this doesn’t seem like a good thing. But when your body reacts negatively to wheat and soy and corn and dairy products, you can’t help but think about every morsel that passes through your lips.

My health depends on it.

A recent week-long trip alerted me to how food obsessed I’ve become.  Before I could even step through the airport doors, I planned what to pack in my lunchbox that would pass TSA inspection. (Last trip, they confiscated my almond yogurt and peanut butter!)  Then, the entire time I was away from home, I had to constantly think about what the host was serving and how she was preparing the food.

No, I can’t eat a croissant with butter or that sausage that isn’t labeled gluten free.  And by the way, could you not serve the fruit on the same plate as the rolls?

I didn't look this happy when I was grocery shopping for food allergy food!

I didn’t look this happy when I was grocery shopping for food allergy food!

Before I finished breakfast, I was already planning lunch and dinner. If we were eating out, I jumped online and researched the restaurants through apps like AllergyEats. I followed up with a call to the staff to review my allergies. Sometimes plans were changed. If eating in, I had to negotiate a meal that included something allergy free for me to eat.

Of course, it isn’t just when I’m travelling that I’m thinking about food.  My desk is covered with books and magazines and articles related to food and health and cooking.

Books about celiac disease and food allergies

I can never just read one book at a time.

Every morning I read blogs and tweets about celiac disease and food allergies. I belong to multiple support groups and organizations.  I try to stay up on the latest news about CD, leaky gut, and eosinophilic esophagitis. I keep this blog and associated Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest accounts. I write reviews of cookbooks and restaurants and test food and products designed for allergic foodies like me.

I guess you could say food has become my passion as well as obsession.

I love meeting other allergic foodies! Please “friend” me on Facebook and Pinterest and Twitter–I’ll reciprocate!

I Couldn’t Swallow! When Food Allergies Cause an Allergic Esophagus

I was eating roasted chicken at a chain restaurant the first time it happened. The meat got stuck somewhere in my esophagus and wouldn’t go down. Water didn’t help; in fact, it worsened the pain. I wasn’t choking and I could breathe, but my throat and chest felt like it was exploding. Tears dripped from my eyes, my face flushed, and I gripped onto the table. My children, then still in high school, looked as scared as I felt. Luckily, after a few very long minutes, the meat finally dislodged.

I blamed the whole incident on reflux since I’d been diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) years ago. Or, I thought, it could have something to do with my hiatal hernia, the other diagnosis I got long ago when I reported pain in my chest. When other strange symptoms popped up and tests came back confirming celiac disease and myriad food allergies, I suspected something else might be causing my throat to constrict.

The fourth doctor I saw performed an upper endoscopy and diagnosed eosinophilic esophagitis (EE or EoE). In simple terms, I have an allergic esophagus. Ah ha! I am extremely sensitive to even a tiny bit of soy and the chicken in the chain restaurant was cooked with soy oil. Thinking back, I can now pinpoint what foods I consumed–that I now know I’m allergic to–that caused food to get stuck.

Eosinophil

Eosinophil (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So what exactly is EE? Basically, it’s when the esophagus, the tube connecting the mouth to the stomach, has severely elevated levels of eosinophils, a type of white blood cell. Eosinophils can attack the gastrointestinal system and cause vomiting and difficulty swallowing food. Reviewing my many lab reports over the years, I always had high eosinophils. Hmmm.
Symptoms of EE vary from person to person. Episodes like mine—inability to swallow food or vomit food up– are common. In severe cases, food stays stuck and medical help is needed. Some people may experience heartburn-like symptoms, but the symptoms frequently do not improve with acid blocking medications.

Diagnosis is made through an upper endoscopy. A doctor looks at the esophagus, stomach, and the first part of the small bowel and takes tissue samples (biopsies) to examine under a microscope. An abnormal number of eosinophils indicates EE. Other features of EE include whitish spots, long furrows, corrugated rings, or a lining that looks like crepe paper and is easily torn.

When first diagnosed, I used a steroid inhaler (sprayed into my mouth and swallowed) to reduce the inflammation and reduce the eosinophils. According to research, relapse after treatment occurs in at least 25 percent of patients. Fortunately, by eliminating the foods I react to, my EE has been kept under control.

If you suspect you have an allergic esophagus, make an appointment with a gastroenterologist who has experience in diagnosing EE (it’s a fairly new diagnosis but becoming more and more prevalent).

Here are some other useful resources:

www.curedfoundation.org

www.youtube.com/watch?v=op5SyHob6xo
www.eosinophilicesophagitishome.org
www.mayoclinic.org/eosinophilic-esophagitis
medicalxpress.com/news/2012-06-food-diet-difficulty-swallowing-throat.html
www.scoop.it/t/food-allergies-and-eosinophilic-esophagitis

New Allergy Causes Trouble Swallowing – WDBJ7 | @scoopit http://sco.lt/5AXW0P

What is this in my cheese?

Everywhere I go this holiday season, huge festive plates of crackers and cheese tease my allergic taste buds. BA (before allergies), I loved cheese! After all, I grew up in Vermont, the state that has more cows per capita than humans. As if it was yesterday, I remember enjoying thick cheddar on apple pie, melted Swiss on rye crackers, cream cheese swirled in broccoli, ricotta lasagna, parmesan sprinkled on spaghetti.

Glorious Cheese!

Then I was diagnosed with a dairy allergy.  Sigh.

Seeking help at the healthfood store, I discovered the most common alternative to dairy cheese is vegan cheese . . . made from soy.

I’m allergic to soy.

So I turned to nut cheeses. I’m not allergic to nuts. Nut cheese will do in a pinch (and some allergic foodies love them), but honestly I don’t find cheeses made from almonds and cashews and hazelnuts all that flavorful (I do like almond yogurt flavored with fruit though!).

This allergic foodie did a happy dance when she discovered cheese made from goat’s and sheep’s milk (this was a few years back, before goat cheese became so popular). I thought the goats and sheep had saved me

goat

until I got sick, really sick, after eating a goat cheese salad.  Imagine my disappointment when I read that many allergic foodies who can’t eat dairy also can’t eat goat’s or sheep’s milk.  C’mon!  Can’t a cheese-loving allergic foodie get a break?!

According to The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Food Allergies, “If you are allergic to one food group, you may also be allergic to another food in the same family because they share similar proteins.”   The authors include cow and goat under the listing of “dairy proucts.”  The Food Allergy and Anaphalaxis Nework states on their web site  that goat milk is not a safe alternative to cow’s milk.  Many other foodies I’ve talked with say they are indeed allergic to both cow and goat and sometimes sheep.

Cover of

Cover via Amazon

Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living provides some more positive info.  The author writes, “Goat milk is slightly closer in composition to human milk than cow milk is, with proteins that may be easier to digest. It is estimated that 20 to 40% of milk allergic individuals do not react to goat milk [my emphasis].” However, she goes on to say, “Milk allergic individuals should obtain an allergy test prior to trialing, as most people who are allergic to cow milk have similar reactions to goat milk. Plus, a rare few are in fact more allergic to [the casein or whey in] goat milk.”

cheese making

Ah ha.  Maybe it wasn’t the goat part I was allergic to, but rather the other strange-sounding and -looking stuff in my cheese.  I dug out my massive allergy-testing paperwork from ImuPro, as it’s been a few years since I’ve read the results. Under the category of “milk products,” I had no allergic reaction to camel’s milk and mare’s milk–those should be easy to find on the grocery shelf!–and [insert drum roll here] I had no reaction to SHEEP’S MILK AND CHEESE.

Reading on . . . it appears I have a slight reaction to goat cheese (blame my allergy-induced brain fog for not remembering that one!).  I am also quite allergic to halloumi, rennet, kefir, and whey.  Huh?  I’ve often seen these ingredients listed on the labels of dairy products, but since I’m not sure what they are, I put on my investigative hat. I discovered a lot of ingredient and allergy crossover, which probably explains my reactions to most types of cheeses.

Halloumi is a semi-hard and unripened brined cheese made from a mixture of cow’s, goat’s and sheep’s milk (gotta read those labels carefully).  It is set with rennetTrader Joe’s has a handy list of rennet definitions.  Basically, animal rennet is an enzyme that comes from the stomach (yuck!) of a suckling calf, lamb or goat; vegetable rennet is derived from plants (soy alert!); and microbial rennet is derived from microorganisms (fungi and bacteria; mold alert!) through a process of fermentation.

Kefir, according to my ImuPro test, is a thick and slightly alcoholic fermented milk product that is often used for milk mix drinks, sweets or sauces.  I’ve seen kefir advertised lately as a health benefit, but certainly not for those of us who are allergic to it.  Finally, whey is the watery liquid that separates from the solid part of milk when it turns sour or when enzymes are added in cheese making.

Wow.  Cheese is not my friend.*  My best guess is that when I developed leaky gut, I was eating a lot of cheese and crackers with my wine.  This holiday season I’ll be grabbing the grapes.

* In Italy, I ate mozzarella made from water buffalo–no reaction!

Resources:

Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Nework

Go Dairy Free

What Is This In My Food?

Cow’s milk can be disguised under the labels of:

  • Buttermilk
  • Butter (Many restaurants I’ve encountered don’t realize butter is dairy!)
  • Casein
  • Hydrolysed milk
  • Lacatalbumin
  • Lactoglobulin
  • Lactoserum
  • Milk proteins
  • Whole milk, dried whole milk, concentrated milk
  • Sour cream

(Note: Lactic Acid is not derived from dairy.)