Sunday, May 30, 2010

My Gardens

It's in full bloom. My yard that is. Last year, I tried my hand at gardening, organic, of course, and found I really enjoyed it. Knowing that I had time and space constraints, I chose to try my hand at square foot gardening. It was the perfect solution. This year in my 3 foot by 12 foot space, I am growing 4 types of heirloom tomatoes, green peppers, jalapeno peppers, okra, squash, zucchini, spinach, broccoli, swiss chard, basil and dill. In pots around my garden, I'm growing pickling cucumbers, bush cucumbers, habanero peppers and cherry tomatoes. I wanted more squash and zucchini this year so I added another small 2 foot by 6 foot garden put in each of those as well as a cantaloupe and several banana pepper plants.

My herb garden is on my deck. I have dill, basil, rosemary, thyme, lemon thyme, parsley, bee balm, chives and lettuce. After several years, this is the first year that my blueberry plant flowered and produced berries.  I'm watching to make sure I get the ripened berries before the birds do. This spring, my mom gave me a blackberry bush to add to my collection. Told you. I'm loving it.

And a surprise this year...I have a few plants growing in my make-shift compost pile. I'm guessing they're squash and from the looks of them, they really like it there.

We ate fresh veggies all summer last year, and I even had enough to put a few things in the freezer. I think I'm going to try my hand at pickling and canning this summer.  I found several recipes for pickles that call for freezing your jars instead of using a hot water bath or a pressure cooker. Sounds perfect!

If you haven't started a vegetable garden, and want to, it's not too late. You really should check out square foot gardening. It's fast and easy. We made our raised bed frames with a couple of inexpensive 2 x 6 boards. I put up a fence for protection against the rabbits and my 2 year old (he likes to help....maybe a bit too much). If you have no inclination for gardening, then check out this guide to pesticides. It tells which fruits and vegetables you should purchase organic and which ones are the lowest in pesticides. Did you know that only 5% of the world's farmland is dedicated to organic farming?  So, if you can, support your local organic farmers by shopping your Farmer's Markets and local produce stands.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

More on Bloodprinting and Food Sensitivities

I'm really intrigued by the Bloodprinting test that I discovered after doing some research several weeks ago. I have made several inquiries and am thinking about having this test done.  Unfortunately, after a call to my insurance company this morning, it looks like I'm going to have to wait a while.

If you didn't catch an earlier post, you're probably wondering just what is this Bloodprint test. In simple terms, it's a test to determine which foods you are sensitive to. Traditionally, the way to figure out what foods are bothersome to your digestive system is to do a dreaded elimination diet. However, according to the literature that Immuno Laboratories of Florida sent me, your Bloodprint is as individual as your fingerprint.  Their testing can determine your food sensitivities (with a 95% rate of accuracy and reproducibility), and they provide an individualized computer printout of all foods that you should start eliminating from your diet.  The lab just needs a small sample of blood, and within a week, the report is back in the hands of your doctor.  I even called Immuno Laboratories to find a doctor in my area, and was excited to hear that there is a local MD that has been in practice for 23 years, went to school at Duke and University of CT and specializes in Integrative and Family Medicine.  However, the laboratory in Florida is out-of-network which means a $500 deductible, and I'm responsible for 35% of the bill which isn't cheap.  For the complete panel, 154 foods, it's approximately $1,500.

Again, if you haven't been following my interest in Bloodprinting, you're probably also wondering why.  That takes me into the topic of food sensitivities. If you're reading my blog, you're probably very familiar with food allergies. If you eat something that you are allergic to, there is an immediate, and in many cases, quite a strong even life-threatening reaction.  With food sensitivities, there is a delayed reaction that can occur hours to days after eating a reactive food.  Symptoms of food sensitivities include, but not limited to, weight gain, headaches, sinus problems, skin rashes, joint pain, depression, fatigue, indigestion and bloating.

I can eat scrambled eggs and feel nauseous an hour later.  I can drink a milk shake and feel like I gained 10 lbs. from bloating, but I tested negative to everything on the basic IgE food allergy panel.  Those are obvious, but there are other foods that I can't narrow down.  So, now I'm researching food sensitivities which brings me back to the Immuno Bloodprint IgG ELISA Food Sensitivity Assay.

The Immuno Laboratories literature gives a good explanation of what causes food sensitivities.  From their brochure... "Medical literature suggests that food sensitivities result when foods and their protein components are not completely digested.  When these components are absorbed by your body, your immune system does not recognize them as nutritional.  It responds protectively by producing antibodies, starting a series of reactions which can affect many tissues and organs."

The positive side of food sensitivities, according to the Immuno Lab literature, is that they are usually just temporary and typically disappear when you eliminate the specific food for 60 to 90 days.  They state that you can reintroduce the food back into your diet and prevent reoccurring food sensitivities by rotating, combining and cooking foods properly.  The individual report that comes back from the lab provides all of those preventive measures.

I'd really like to have this test done.  Or, I can start an elimination diet.  It's free, but definitely not as easy.  I've also discovered an elimination diet program that guarantees results in 21 days.  It's cheaper at around $100.  Can anybody offer up any suggestions?  I'd love to hear your comments.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Food Allergies in the News

Last week was a very busy week for food allergy news.  The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) released a new study in their May 12th issue that was picked up by a ton of major news outlets including my own local paper. The objective of the study as written in the article, "Diagnosing and Managing Common Food Allergies", was to review all available evidence regarding the prevalence, diagnosis, management and prevention of food allergies.  Using 72 pre-qualified studies indexed between 1988 and 2009, the conclusion was made that "the evidence for the prevalence and management of food allergy is greatly limited by the lack of uniformity of criteria for making a food allergy diagnosis, severely limiting conclusions about best practices for management and prevention." Wow....tell me something I didn't know!  Sorry, just a little sarcasm there.

Here are a few of my thoughts from combing through the various news articles related to the JAMA study.  The study concludes that 1 to 2 percent of the population have a food allergy, but not more than 10%.  The JAMA abstract states that "it is unclear if the prevalence of food allergies is increasing."  Ever ask yourself why it is that you didn't know anyone with a food allergy growing up, nor do you or your spouse have a food why is it your child does?  Not very scientific, but I'd conclude that food allergies have increased over the last 10 years!

Another study conclusion was that food challenges, skin prick tests and blood tests for IgE are all valuable in diagnosing a food allergy, however there is not just one test that can be solely recommended to use by itself or even over the other.  Again, there's no surprise there.  Our poor kids are being pricked and poked, and yet we still don't know the true severity of their reaction....unless of course they've actually had one that's rushed us to the hospital! 

Here's another finding, "immunotherapy is promising but data are insufficient to recommend use."  Speaking as a mother with a daughter participating in a sublingual immunotherapy clinical trial, how can a study recommend not using a "promising" therapy simply because data is insufficient.  If it looks promising, then wouldn't you think that the recommendation would be for more people to participate in these types of trials so that a more conclusive finding can be published??

And my last comment, it turns out they found there to be no universally accepted definition for "food allergy" leaving the public in a state of confusion regarding the difference between food intolerances, food allergies, and life-threatening food allergies.  I think we'd all have to agree that there is a general lack of appreciation for the risk that our children live with on a daily basis doing something as routine as eating a meal.

The upside of the study is that The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which funded it, is working on guidelines for the diagnosis and management of food allergies to be released this fall. If the average, non-allergic reader took the time to read the articles, then all of the press that circulated last week did a good job of raising food allergy awareness.  I thought CNN Health wrote a particularly good article.  Regardless of how good the article is though, with headlines like "Doubt is Cast on Many Reports of Food Allergies" from The New York Times, or "Are Your Food Allergies for Real?  Many Mistakenly Think They are Allergic" by abc NEWS  there is a downside if a reader stops there.

I can truly appreciate how wonderful it would be to find out that your mild food allergy doesn't require a strict elimination of that food from your diet, or that after all this time, you don't have a food allergy at all.  But...please, please...don't muddy the water for those that do have a severe, life threatening allergy!!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Here's to Moms of Children with Life-Threatening Allergies!

Happy Mother's Day to my mom, mother-in-law, aunts, cousins, friends and faithful readers!  What a wonderful honor it is to be a mother. At the same time, is it not one of the most difficult jobs there is?

Today I want to recognize a special group of moms...moms of children with life-threatening allergies.  A mom with an allergic child has a lot on her plate making sure certain foods stay off their kids' plates!  So, here's to the moms that make sure that the Epi Pens and antihistamines are always on hand and in date, that read every label on every food, that call ahead to restaurants to see if the food is safe, that know every party/special occasion that takes place in their child's class in order to provide a comparable safe treat, that have meeting after meeting with school officials and teachers to discuss the special requirements of their child's allergy, that fill out multiple health forms and action plans with in case of emergency details, that receive the grumbling from a few that feel put out for having to accommodate their child's allergy, that hate knowing their child will be labeled as disabled, that search cookbooks looking for allergy friendly recipes and websites looking for alternative ingredients, that break the bad news to their child that they can't attend a function because it's not safe, that help their child sort through Halloween candy bags and Valentine card boxes to remove offending treats only to find that the throw out pile is larger than the keep pile, that keep up-to-date with all food recall information to make sure there isn't a mislabeled food violation in their pantry, that write their political leaders asking for more support for food allergy issues, that get angry with food manufacturers for worrying more about the bottom line then the safety of their child, that go to battle with acquaintances maybe even family members that don't believe the seriousness of their child's allergy, that hold their child's hand tightly while they have blood drawn or their skin pricked during a food allergy test, that explain to their child one more time that they're not weird and that yes it is unfair that they have this allergy, that pray regularly that there will someday be a cure for or even just a better understanding of food allergies, that wait year after year thinking this will be the one when their child outgrows their allergy only to realize that it's probably not going to happen, that watch their child go off to school by himself and worry all day that he isn't exposed to that one or more foods that can make him deathly ill, that soothe a child upset by an insensitive comment made by a peer, that spend hours researching the latest food allergy treatments, that drive miles out of the way to shop at grocery stores that stock safe foods, that spend hundreds of dollars more a year for those safe foods, that frequent their child's school at lunchtime so that their child doesn't have to sit alone, that shelter their young child from the true consequences of their food allergy and later watches as their older child accepts those consequences for themselves, that teach their child how to inject a life-saving device into their thigh, that hope their teenager isn't too cool or too forgetful to carry their Epi Pen when they're out with their friends, that rush to the hospital because one of their greatest fears did occur and their child is having difficulty breathing, that remove an offending food from their own diet so as to not put their child at risk, that privately battle their anxiety, that paste a smile on their face and assure their child that everything is going to be okay and that pray they can keep it together, be strong for their child and family and protect their child from the dangers they face on a daily basis. To you fellow moms, a very special Happy Mother's Day!

Many Blessings,

Friday, May 7, 2010


I've thrown around the term "IgE" quite often in my posts and felt it time to take a closer look.  If a person's Immunoglobulin E (IgE) level, derived from a simple blood test, is elevated, it usually indicates a food allergy and increases with the number of allergies a person has.  I don't know Abigail's total IgE number. I just know her peanut specific IgE number.  It's the number that tells us the percent chance of her having a reaction if exposed to peanuts and is the number that will tell us if her tolerance to peanuts is improving on the study.

There are actually several Immunoglobulins, or antibodies, in our blood.  According to WebMD, antibodies are substances made by the body's immune system in response to bacteria, viruses, fungus, animal dander, or cancer cells. Antibodies attach to the foreign substances so the immune system can destroy them.  There are 5 different types:
  • IgA antibodies are found in the nose, breathing passages, digestive tract, ears, eyes, etc., and protect the body surfaces that are exposed to the outside.  Celiac disease is diagnosed using IgA antibodies as a starting point.
  • IgM antibodies are found in blood and lymph fluid and are made in response to infections.
  • IgE antibodies are found in the lungs, skin and mucous membranes.  They cause the body to react against foreign substances like pollen, dander or food.
  • IgD antibodies are found in the tissues that line the belly or chest. WebMD states that it's unclear how they work.
  • IgG antibodies are found in bodily fluids and are the most common making up 75 to 80% of all antibodies in our bodies. IgG antibodies help fight bacterial and viral infections.
According to the literature that Immuno Laboratories provided me, the majority of negative reactions to foods, or food sensitivities, with delayed symptoms are caused by IgG antibodies.  The literature states that 90% of immune reactions to foods are non-IgE.

I've been so fixated on IgE numbers that I never really paid attention to anything else.  It wasn't until I started looking closer at the difference between food allergies and food intolerances, that I realized that IgG numbers were quite important.  In my quest to now understand my own food sensitivities and those of several family members, I've been doing more research into the difference between allergies and intolerances.  In the next couple of posts I'll look closer at the symptoms of food sensitivities and the Immuno 1 Bloodprint test that identifies which foods a person is sensitive to.

On a more personal note, I went to my physician last week to discuss my symptoms which I believe are directly related to an intolerance to one or more foods.  I mentioned IgG antibodies, and she said it was something she wasn't familiar with.  She ordered an IgE food allergy test and Celiac test and then indicated that the most she could do to help was to refer me to an Allergist.  While not surprised, I'm frustrated that I have to go through the process of finding a doctor that is more knowledgeable on the subject of food sensitivities.  I haven't received the results of either test yet, but am expecting both to come back negative.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Big day for Abigail

After almost 2 years, Abigail's hair was finally long enough to cut and donate to Pantene Beautiful Lengths. This morning she and her best friend had appointments together to have their hair cut for donation.

Here's a couple of pictures. I love her new short hair!

About the time Abigail was starting Kindergarten, she decided she wanted to grow her hair for a friend at church that was battling cancer.  Her friend, Caroline, was in the middle of yet another round of treatment and had lost her hair as a result.  Just last month Caroline lost her battle with childhood cancer, and she passed away.  Caroline was a very special little girl, and I'm so proud that Abigail was doing this in her honor.

Aside from having a life-threatening allergy, I have a happy, healthy child.  I have so much to be thankful for!