Thursday, May 27, 2010

Welcome to the Living With Food Allergies Blog Carnival

It's once again time for the Living With Food Allergies blog carnival, which I have the privilege of hosting this time around!

Jenn Casey shares one of her favorite posts from Food Allergy Awareness Week, Food Allergy Awareness Week: An Interview with Ryan posted at Rational Jenn.

And Shannon shares two of her posts from Food Allergy Awareness week Our Food Allergy Story: Chapter 1 and Going Dairy-Free posted at It's My Time to Write.

Thanita discusses the struggles food-allergic children face at school with The Valuable Lesson of Exclusion posted at Vicky's Ickies.

Melinda shares her perspective as a parent with Playdates, Impressions and Following Your Heart posted at This Mama's Heart.

Ruth LovettSmith reinforces the need to continue to educate and advocate with Food Allergy Testing and Statistics posted at Allergy Guide - Best Allergy Sites.

Food Allergy Assistant reminds us about food allergy studies and blood tests to detect food allergy risk with two posts: Food Allergy Research Centers and Blood Test For Risk of Food Allergy from Food Allergy Assistant.

Lyzz Jones discusses the difficulties of eating allergen-free with What's the hardest part about eating allergen-free? posted at Food Fight.

And Trista finds the positive side of living with food allergies with The upside of food allergies posted at Food Allergy Families.

Alison at Sure Foods Living - gluten-free and allergen-free living shares an upcoming event inspired by Jamie Oliver's recent TV show 30 Days to a Food Revolution as well as a great find in instant cereal Eco-Planet gluten-free instant hot cereal.

Jenny from The Nut-Free Mom Blog brings us Peanut Allergy and "The Brown Bag Lunch", and Food Allergies and Memorial Day--Safety Tips for a Fun Time .

Karen at Avoiding Milk Protein makes us think about the movement to change how we use the word milk with The Word Milk.

Alisa shares her dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soy-free cinnamon rolls Celebrating with Cinnamon Rolls posted at Go Dairy Free.

And check out another great allergen-free and gluten-free recipe from Alisa: Hearty Maple Cinnamon Muffins (Gluten-Free) posted at One Frugal Foodie.

Heidi Bayer shares Allergy Free: Our Day In Food + Pictures posted at Brooklyn Allergy Mom's Blog, including a recipe for fluffy applesauce flapjacks.

Jenni Hilton (a Mom with a child in daycare who shares a classroom with a peanut-allergic child) presents Peanut free snack ideas for the classroom posted at Eternal Thoughts from a Sunshine Mind. Kudos to Jenni for setting such a great example!

And while you're here at Learning to Eat Allergy Free, I invite you to check out How Common Are Food Allergies?

Thanks to everyone who participated for sharing their views, news, and recipes. What a way to wrap up allergy awareness month!

You can participate in the next Living With Food Allergies blog carnival by using the carnival submission form. Past issues can be found at the blog carnival index page.

Many thanks to Jennifer at Food Allergy Buzz for making this carnival possible.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

How Common Are Food Allergies?

A New York Times article published during Food Allergy Awareness Week caused quite a stir in the food allergy community.

Why the uproar?

The article begins with the statement, “Many who think they have food allergies actually do not.”

Wouldn’t that be nice? A study is done, an article printed and presto – food allergies miraculously disappear. If only it were so easy.

The truth is – there is no good reason for anyone to overstate his or her food allergies. Nobody wants to have food allergies. Nobody wants to deal with the restrictions that come with having food allergies. No parent wants to have to worry about whether his or her child will be safe. And surely we don’t need doubt cast on what we know is a real problem.

Some are lucky enough to outgrow their food allergies, but others suffer for years before an accurate diagnosis. We know that one size doesn’t fit all. Not all allergies can be diagnosed with skin pricks, and not all allergies can be diagnosed with blood tests. Thankfully, not all food allergies result in anaphylaxis.

I think Dr. Stephen Wangen responded to the NY Times article perfectly when he said the issue is “Largely a semantics problem.” Dr. Wangen points out that researchers and doctors are stuck on an out-dated definition of food allergy, and that the public recognizes there is a larger problem. Thanks go out to Dr. Wangen for his down-to-earth approach.

And thanks go out as well to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) and the Food Allergy Initiative (FAI) on their joint press release calling for more funding for allergy research. Clearly we need it.

What I know for sure is that if a food makes you sick – whether that’s a rash, swelling of the throat and mouth, closing up of the esophagus, inability to breath, etc. – and avoiding that food keeps you well, then you need to avoid that food.

Shall we call that a food allergy? I would.

Monday, May 24, 2010

King Arthur Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake Mix

You may have noticed that I love chocolate. But what you probably don’t know is that my birthday and mother’s day were on the same day this year. My family did get me a lovely (bakery-bought) chocolate cake for the occasion, but is one cake ever really enough? Probably not…

So, post-celebration I decided to make myself a chocolate cake, using the new King Arthur gluten-free chocolate cake mix. Since the folks at King Arthur sent me some mixes to review, this particular box has been screaming, “Make me! Make me!” So I did.

Like most of the King Arthur gluten-free line, this mix uses rice, tapioca, and potato starches and flours. It does contain corn ingredients (cornstarch and xantham gum) as well as (non-dairy) cocoa.

I think King Arthur has done an especially good job with their packaging. Unlike many other gluten-free cake mixes, one box of King Arthur’s mix makes two layers (or one larger sheet cake).

The ingredients and preparation is simple – just add water, oil, vanilla and eggs. I used one cup of flax seed goop instead of four eggs. My double layer cake took about 38 minutes (34 to 40 minutes is the recommendation).

Some gluten-free cakes are very flaky when done – but not this one. Notice that this cake has a really nice top that makes it very easy to frost using your favorite allergen-free frosting.

I resisted the urge to add extras to this mix, as I am sometimes prone to do, because I wanted to really test the base product. And I wasn’t disappointed. This cake is moist and spongy, and as close to a traditional chocolate cake as you can get. I have tried a lot of gluten-free chocolate cake mixes, and this is definitely one of the best!

Birthday cake anyone?

Friday, May 21, 2010

APFED Twitter Party for Eosinophilic Disorder Awareness – Recap

If you missed the twitter party yesterday with the American Partnership for Eosinophilic Disorders, you can still catch up on the discussion. Just go to twitter and search on #ANEAW or check out the @APFEDorg twitter page and you’ll see what was discussed.

Here are just a few of the takeaways from the twitter party yesterday on eosinophilic disorders:

From @DrPutnam:

In response to the question, “How common is EE?” It probably varies somewhat by geographic area, but approximately 55 patients per 100,000 people is the estimate for the US.

Both children and adults can get EE. Adults can either have it from childhood persisting into adulthood, or they develop symptoms in adulthood.

From Dr. Markowitz:

Anyone can get EoE, any ages, any races. Boys tend to get it more often than girls, by about 3 to 1.

From @DrFuruta:

One study by Dr. Kagalwalla showed that by eliminating the 6 most common food allergens, most patients with EoE were cont. brought into remission. The six foods eliminated included cow-milk protein, soy, wheat, egg, peanut, and seafood.

From @DrSaGupta:

There is data and clinical experience to support that EoE (eosinophilic esophagitis) can occur in multiple members of the same family.

A big thank-you to all the doctors who supported this event!

One last note – there is still time to bid on Demi Lovato’s dress to support APFED. Check it out on ebay!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Let’s Talk About Hemp

In addition to being National Eosinophil Awareness Week, this week is also the first annual Hemp History Week. (Wow! It’s been a busy month!) Check out the Hemp History Week website to learn more about the events taking place.

I discovered hemp when searching for an alternative for my milk-allergic son. We tried them all – rice, oat, almond. Soy was out due to a soy allergy. Hemp milk was his choice for use on breakfast cereals. (He prefers Living Harvest Vanilla Hemp Milk.) And hemp milk is also great for my dairy-free baking projects. I often use unsweetened hemp milk or chocolate hemp milk, depending on what I am making.

It wasn’t until recently that I learned that it is currently illegal to grow hemp in the United States. Why? Well, it goes back to the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Marijuana and hemp happen to come from the same plant genus (cannibas), but they are different varieties, and hemp does not contain the same psychoactive ingredient as marijuana. Nevertheless, The United States Drug Enforcement Agency doesn’t distinguish between varieties of cannabis. When the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 made it illegal to grow marijuana, growing hemp was also banned. But, hemp is grown (legally) in Canada and most industrialized nations, and it is legal to purchase hemp in the US.

Interestingly, despite the controversy surrounding hemp, it could be considered a wonder crop; hemp is an extremely hardy plant, requiring no pesticides or fertilizer and very little water to thrive, and hemp seeds are high in protein and omega-3 essential fatty acids.

While many people believe that hemp is a nut, it’s not; hemp is a seed. Best of all, the seeds have not been known to produce allergic reactions, and the milk formulas are free of all common allergens.

Hemp milk, anyone?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Learn About Eosinophilic Disorders

Join APFED on Thursday for a twitter party!

It’s National Eosinophil Awareness Week, a time to focus on the eosinophilic gastrointestinal disorders that affect more than 1 in every 3000 children. Often, the disorder is triggered by food allergies. As part of awareness activities for this week, APFED is hosting a twitter party, Thursday (5/20) starting at 2pm Eastern Time.

Check out the lineup of doctors ready to tweet:

2:00 pm Eosinophil associated disorders – What are they? with Dr. Philip Putnam, Pediatric Gastroenterology, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

2:20 pm How are eosinophil associated gastrointestinal disorders (EGID) diagnosed? with Dr. Jonathan Markowitz, Pediatric Gastroenterology, Greenville Hospital System University Medical Center

2:40 pm Allergies and eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) with Dr. Amal Assa'ad, Allergist, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

3:00 pm Treatment of eosinophil associated gastrointestinal disorders with Dr. Glen Furuta, Pediatric Gastoenterology, The Children's Hospital

3:20 pm Prognosis and late complications of EGID with Dr. Sandeep Gupta, James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children.

The doctors will answer questions asked by APFED. There will be brief opportunities for participants to ask general questions in between guests, as time allows.

The twitter hashtag for this event is #ANEAW.

Please join live if you can by searching on #ANEAW, or catch up on the discussion later by using the hashtag. Happy tweeting!

Also, don't forget to check out the ebay auction going on now for Demi Lovato's dress!

Friday, May 14, 2010

National Eosinophil Awareness Week - Bid on Demi Lovato's Dress

Right on the heels of Food Allergy Awareness Week is National Eosinophil Awareness Week, from May 16th through May 22nd. This is a cause that is very important to me, as my son suffers from eosinophilic esophagitis (EE), which is triggered by his multiple food allergies.

EE is just one of many eosinophilic gastrointestinal disorders (EGID) – any part of the gastrointestinal system can be affected. Allergic reactions to the proteins in foods cause elevated levels of eosinophils, which in turn cause inflammation in the affected part(s) of the GI tract. In many cases treatment is the same as the more common food allergies – to avoid the foods that cause the autoimmune response. In the worst cases the only solution is to be fed via a tube.

The American Partnership for Eosinophilic Disorders (APFED) is very lucky to have Demi Lovato, actress and singer, as a supporter and ambassador for eosinophilic disorders. Take a peek at this video from a 2009 dinner where Demi shared her thoughts on the topic. (Grab a Kleenex before you hit play.)

What’s planned for this year?

Demi Lovato donated her Burberry cocktail dress from the Camp Rock premiere, to be auctioned off on e-bay starting Sunday May 16th. All proceeds will go to support APFED.

Look for the dress on ebay on Sunday!

Also, check back early next week for details on a twitter party being planned by the APFED team.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Food Allergy Anxiety

This week (May 9th – May 15th) is Food Allergy Awareness week, so it was fitting that I spent the day Saturday in Tarrytown at the Food Allergy Conference run by FAAN. The conference was a great source of information for parents, grandparents, teens, nurses and school officials. One underlying theme that crossed many of the presentations was the emotional impact of food allergies.

Anxiety resonated with the audience.

Parents of food allergic children are afraid – and rightly so. When your child has a severe allergic reaction those protective Mommy and Daddy genes kick in. Some families even go to extremes to protect their food-allergic child. According to the data presented, between 10 and 16 percent of food allergic children:
  • Don’t go to restaurants at all
  • Don’t engage in activities with relatives
  • Aren’t allowed to play at friends’ houses
  • Don’t go to birthday parties
  • Are home-schooled because of their food allergies (i.e. the family would not have chosen home-schooling otherwise)
Are you surprised? I was. Despite my son’s food allergies, I always tried to find ways to accommodate his dietary needs so that he wouldn’t miss out on ‘normal’ activities. Sometimes that meant feeding him before he went, but most often it meant bringing along foods he could eat.

It seems that food-allergic parents are far more restrictive with their children than those who have other very serious diseases (e.g. diabetes) and yet the incidence of death from food allergy is considered very low (estimated to range between 1 in 3 million to 1 in 20 million per year).

What do you think about this? How restrictive are you with your food-allergic child?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Welcome to the Blog Jog

Today I am participating in a blog jog, where blog readers have the opportunity to visit many blogs by "jogging" from site to site.

Thank you for stopping by my blog! If you or anyone you know has food allergies, I'd love it if you would leave a comment and let me know what your biggest food allergy problem is. Please consider becoming a follower.  After you explore my blog, your next stop is the site of Carl David, author of Bader Field, or head back to blog jog to find another interesting blog to visit.

Stop back on Tuesday for my usual bi-weekly update.

Most importantly, Happy Mother's Day to all the Mom's stopping by!

Friday, May 7, 2010

More Chocolate! Enjoy Life or Sunspire Chocolate Chips?

Until now, whenever I needed a dose of allergen-free chocolate, Sunspire dairy-free chocolate chips have been my choice. More recently I discovered Enjoy Life semi-sweet chocolate chips, and these are quickly becoming a favorite as well. Today I wanted to give you a comparison of the two products – head to head. Here goes:

The Enjoy Life chocolate chips (like the dark chocolate Boom Choco Boom bars) have just three ingredients: evaporated cane juice, chocolate liquor, and non-dairy cocoa butter. I love that! The shorter the list of ingredients the better. Sunspire uses those same three ingredients plus soy lecithin and vanilla beans. As I have noted in the past, soy lecithin is generally thought to be okay for those with soy allergies (and that is true in my family) because the protein has been removed, but those with severe soy allergies will feel safest with Enjoy Life.

Both are similar in taste and texture, both are dark chocolate, and both bake extremely well. One advantage to the Sunspire brand is that (at least in my area of the country) they are easier to find on the grocery store shelves, but you can find Enjoy Life chocolate chips online.

The biggest difference in these products is the chip size. Sunspire chocolate chips are what you think of as standard chocolate chip size, while the Enjoy Life chips are miniatures (see picture). If I were looking for a chunky chip for something that requires chocolate presence (like a chocolate chip cookie) I’d choose Sunspire. The Enjoy Life chips tend to melt into whatever you are baking. If I want that extra chocolate punch, or if I want chocolate to melt, then I’d choose the Enjoy Life chocolate chips. Both are on my list of pantry staples.

Have you tried these chocolate chips? Which do you prefer?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Invitation to Participate in a Survey

You are invited to take part in a research study seeking to understand how young adults with severe food allergies cope with issues surrounding this condition. This research is being conducted by Susan Cohen, a graduate student at Walden University. You are eligible to participate in the study if you are between 18 and 25 years old and have experienced an anaphylactic allergic reaction to food that required treatment with epinephrine (a shot). If you are interested in participating, click here to be redirected to the survey.

I have also included a link to the survey in the sidebar. The link will be taken down once the survey is completed.

Monday, May 3, 2010

King Arthur Gluten-Free Muffin Mix

King Arthur Flour has not only introduced a gluten-free flour mix, but they have a complementary line of gluten-free mixes including the muffin mix I am reviewing today.

This mix is a vanilla base, but it is intended to be made your favorite way. Blueberry muffins anyone? Or perhaps you prefer them as apple cinnamon muffins. I decided to make mine as banana chocolate chip muffins.

The recipe calls for butter, eggs, and milk. As usual, I replaced these with allergen-free alternatives. Specifically, in addition to the base mix I added:
  • 6 Tbps Earth Balance (in place of the 6 tbsp butter or oil). I think canola oil would work equally well.
  • 3 flax seed ‘eggs’ (see my post on flax seed goop to learn how to make these).
  • ¾ cup of rice milk (in place of the cow’s milk). I would also suggest unsweetened hemp milk.
  • 2 bananas – I used overripe bananas that I had previously frozen.
  • 1 cup Enjoy Life semi-sweet chocolate chips.
The first thing I noticed was that this is a batter-like mix, which means that you need a structure to hold the batter. I filled a standard 12 muffin pan, but they did run over a little. This may have been due to my substitutions and additions. I could have made about 15 muffins with this one mix. This would also work nicely in a bread pan. Also note that I needed to leave it in the oven about 25 minutes (rather than the recommended 18-22).

The ingredients include rice flour, potato starch and tapioca starch, as well as both guar gum and xantham gum. This mix is not for you if you have corn allergies (due to cornstarch and xantham gum).

I found these muffins to be on the sweet side (not surprising since the first ingredient is sugar). In that respect I found them to be more of a dessert muffin than a breakfast muffin – that’s a personal preference. I will point out however, that the ingredient list is very similar to the King Arthur gluten-free cake mix (that I will be reviewing in a future post).

So, how did they come out? Quite nicely! This mix works extremely well with the allergen-free substitutions and the muffins tasted great!

Thanks go out to the folks at King Arthur Flour who sent me this free sample to try!

Try them and let me know what you think.