Thursday, June 30, 2011

Abigail Likes It!

For the first time ever, Abigail ate a sunflower butter sandwich for lunch.  Now, to most families, that wouldn't be any big deal.  But, in our family, for a child that, up until a day ago when asked if she wanted to try sunflower butter would make a disgusted face, it's significant.

We've used sunflower butter for years (at least since Abigail was 18 months old) as an alternative to peanut butter.  My husband and son eat it almost on a daily basis.  Over the years, I would ask Abigail if she wanted to try it.  Occasionally she would, and each time, same results.  That disgusted face.  Now, I should admit, that she does like the Sun Cups, but they're covered in chocolate.  Yesterday, at snack, she asked to try a cracker dipped in the sunflower butter.  She's never asked before.  She ate several.  Today at lunch she asked again if she could have some and then ended up spreading it on bread and making a sandwich.  She even asked to lick the knife.  I was amazed.

I believe that your body has innate self-defense mechanisms to keep it safe.  My fair-skinned, red-headed son, doesn't like being outside in the intense heat.  Abigail doesn't like the smell, texture or taste of the sunflower butter which is quite similar to peanut butter.  Self-defense mechanisms to protect themselves?  I'm purely speculating here, but what if through this densitization process with the peanut clinical trial, she's losing that self-defense mechanism?  Just maybe.  Or, maybe just wishful thinking.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

It's Been Another 6 Months

I can't believe it's already been 6 months since Abigail's last appointment for the Peanut Sublingual Immunotherapy Clinical Trial. It was time for another trip to Durham, NC, and the Duke University Hospital. This particular visit marks our two year anniversary in the program. Just 365 more days of daily drops, one more 6 month blood work appointment, two more food challenges and we're done. Unofficially anyway. There will still be follow-up visits to monitor her desensitization.

Another visit down!
You can tell from this picture that Abigail is just thrilled to be back. Upon our arrival, we were just a little confused. "Clinical Trial Research Unit" was no longer labeled on the front doors. At first we wondered, if in the last six months, they had moved the unit to a different part of the hospital. This small sign was all there was to announce that yes we were still in the right spot. They now share this hall with another cancer unit and it got top billing on the big double entrance doors.

This visit, like the rest, started with weight/height measurements and the application of numbing cream on both her arms. She then had to spit in a tube (her least favorite part of the visit) and sit through a skin prick test.  This test is no longer as uncomfortable as it used to be.  The skin reactions are now minimal, and her back doesn't itch near as much.

Abigail's doctor marking where the skin will be pricked.

Final results.  Some swelling at highest dosage (on top left).
Minimal swelling at the remaining pricks.
Here is a link to pictures of Abigail's last two skin prick tests.  There have been visable changes each time.  She also had 6 vials of blood drawn and then it was time to say good-bye to Dr. Kim.  His Fellowship at Duke is over, and he has accepted a permanent job in Chapel Hill.  We'll miss seeing him on our visits.  He was fabulous with Abigail and extremely patient in answering all of my many questions.  There is already another doctor assigned to continue Phase I of the Peanut Immunotherapy Sublingual Trial.  We did not get to meet her at our appointment.  While we were having our visit, she was busy doing a food challenge with the very first patient in Phase II of this trial.  I'll follow up on details of that trial in a different post.

So, what's next?  Daily drops, a report on Abigail's IgE results from this visit and a 6 month lab appointment in January 2012.  Starting in December of this year, the first participants in our trial will be starting their end of study food challenges.  When we go back to Duke in January, we'll be updated on those results.  Then in June, Abigail will have her food challenge.  If she can tolerate it, she'll be given the equivalent of 20 peanuts.  Assuming there are no issues, and I'm not expecting any (she tolerated the full 10 peanuts at her food trial last year), we'll be asked to not give her the drops or any peanut product.  After 6 weeks, she'll be given a food challenge again to see if she can continue to tolerate the 20 peanuts.  If so, we'll then introduce small amounts of peanut into her diet and/or continue the drops.  That's yet to be determined.  And, just as important, if she tests negative again to tree nuts, I'll be able to again purchase products manufactured in facilities using tree nuts.  Even better, her doctor felt she'd be able to pick up a can of any type of tree nuts and just munch.

While a year seems so far away for Abigail, I look back at how quickly the last 2 years have flown by, and how much progress she's made.  I'm looking forward to the conclusion of the study.  What will I blog about then?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Anaphylactic Reactions and Teenagers

Wow! I just watched this video on YouTube, and am somewhat speechless.  It's part of the The Anaphylactic Allergy Podcast Series (104) and features a high school student that had no history of a peanut allergy until age 15 when she got sick just walking into a Thai restaurant and smelling peanuts.  She's had numerous reactions requiring the administration of an EpiPen.  When she does come in contact with peanuts or the smell of peanuts, her lips swell to the point they crack and bleed and her face swells so that it peels.  Swelling in her throat follows sometimes causing her to black out.

A standing ovation should go to the Palos Verdes High School administration for requiring a peanut free school in order to keep her safe.  They even went so far as to require all of the students in her classes to sign a statement that they understood that there was to be severe repercussions if they brought peanuts to school.  Instead of protesting, the students took this teenager's safety to heart and did everything they could to look out for her.  It can work!  Maybe the school in Florida where parents were asking that the 1st grader with the severe peanut allergy be removed from school should take notes!   

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Peanut Clinical Trial & Heathy Eating...Why I Blog About Both!

In my last post, I shared a Top 10 list of reasons why GMO food should be labeled.  Bottom that we, the consumer, can make educated decisions on the type of foods we want to purchase to feed our families. I hope you all have had a chance to read through the list. I've been blogging for months now about the hazards of eating GMO foods, and if I haven't been convincing enough, hopefully that last post helped tip the scales in my favor.

It also helps explain why I continue to mix subjects in my blog. I've often wondered if I should have separate blogs. One for healthy eating/living and another for our journey in the peanut clinical trial. However, when I come across the link between the two, for instance:

There’s already plenty of evidence that the Bt-toxin produced in GM corn and cotton plants is toxic to humans and mammals and triggers immune system responses. The fact that it flows through our blood supply, and that is passes through the placenta into fetuses, may help explain the rise in many disorders in the US since Bt crop varieties were first introduced in 1996.

In government-sponsored research in Italy, mice fed Monsanto’s Bt corn showed a wide range of immune responses. Their elevated IgE and IgG antibodies, for example, are typically associated with allergies and infections. The mice had an increase in cytokines, which are associated with “allergic and inflammatory responses.” The specific cytokines (interleukins) that were elevated are also higher in humans who suffer from a wide range of disorders, from arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease, to MS and cancer.

Or this:

The young mice in the study also had elevated T cells (gamma delta), which are increased in people with asthma, and in children with food allergies, juvenile arthritis, and connective tissue diseases. The Bt corn that was fed to these mice, MON 810, produced the same Bt-toxin that was found in the blood of women and fetuses.

When rats were fed another of Monsanto’s Bt corn varieties called MON 863, their immune systems were also activated, showing higher numbers of basophils, lymphocytes, and white blood cells. These can indicate possible allergies, infections, toxins, and various disease states including cancer. There were also signs of toxicity in the liver and kidneys.

I think that I'm on the right track in keeping you guys up to date with what's going on in the world of food allergies and how the food we eat might very well be the root cause of those food allergies.

By the way, I took both of those excerpts from this article, Dangerous Toxins from Genetically Modified Plants Found in Women and Fetuses, written by Jeffrey Smith and published on the Institute of Responsible Technology website.  There's a lot of good information in the article, and I encourage you to read it in it's entirety.  In the meantime, I'll continue to research and report on both.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Top 10 Reasons to Label GMOs

Anybody else totally disturbed by this?

10 scary reasons to label GMOs:
(taken from the Organic Consumers Association, Organic Bytes #279)

#1 Monsanto's Bt-toxin, in its Bt-producing GMO corn and cotton (used in food in the form of cottonseed oil), was found by Canadian doctors in the blood of 93% of pregnant women and 80% of the umbilical blood of their babies.

#2 The authors of the Canadian study conclude that the women and their babies were exposed to Monsanto's GMO Bt-toxin through a "normal" non-organic Canadian diet, including non-organic (so-called "natural" and "conventional") meat, egg, and dairy products from animals fed Bt corn.

#3 Monsanto's GMO "Bt" corn and cotton plants are engineered to produce a insecticide in every cell of the plant that kills insects by breaking open their stomachs.

#4 Mice fed Monsanto's Bt corn had elevated levels of immune system substances that are also higher in humans who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis, cancer, allergies, Lou Gehrig's disease, autoimmune disease, and colitis.

#5 Young mice in the same study had elevated T-cells, which are increased in people with asthma, and in children with food allergies, juvenile arthritis, and connective tissue diseases.

#6 Monsanto's GMO Bt-toxin has properties of known allergens - it actually fails the World Health Organization's allergen screening tests.

#7 Monsanto's GMO Bt-toxin has been found to bind with the small intestines in mice and with intestinal tissue in rhesus monkeys.

#8 In addition to its GMO "Bt" crops which are engineered to produce insecticide, Monsanto also produces GMO "RoundUp Ready" crops, engineered with a bacterial DNA that allows it to survive otherwise deadly doses of its herbicide RoundUp.

#9 In the only human feeding study ever published on GMOs, Monsanto's GMO "RoundUp Ready" soybeans were found to transfer Monsanto's "RoundUp Ready" DNA to the bacteria living inside human intestines.

#10 According to Jeffrey Smith of the Institute for Responsible Technology, the transfer of Monsanto's GMO Bt DNA to human digestive bacteria could create a "living pesticide factory" that could be responsible for the "increase in gastrointestinal problems, autoimmune diseases, food allergies, and childhood learning disorders - since 1996 when Bt crops came on the market."

I have a hard time describing what I feel when I read about GMO's. To think of the damage we are doing just by eating the very food that is supposed to sustain us.

More on this later.