In Defense of Allergies

Food Allergies 2

Today I read an article on a psychology website that really hit a nerve. It discussed the anxiety that children can feel when they have food allergies and the overreactions of some of their parents.

What bothered me is that the commentary seemed to downplay how serious and widespread food allergies are. It also addressed gluten intolerance as if it’s not a real condition.

Of course I posted a comment in response. The author’s experience and expertise are valid. She is a professional psychologist and I am not. But I’m afraid that the article might perpetuate longstanding myths and stereotypes about food allergic people.

Two additional things I wish I would have pointed out are 1) As the latest IBS Treatment Center newsletter says, migraines can often be solved by diet changes, and 2) Are the diets of children thought to have ADD and other issues thoroughly evaluated before they are labeled or medicated?

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As someone completing my M.A. in forensic psychology who has celiac disease and multiple severe food allergies, I am very concerned about some of the information in this article.

Like many friends with celiac, before I was diagnosed I was told that I needed a good psychiatrist. Little did I know that I was suffering from a genetic autoimmune disorder that had snowballed into a number of other issues.

The prevalence and seriousness of celiac and food allergies have been downplayed and minimized for ages. Most doctors don’t even bother to administer testing for food allergies and intolerances, instead telling their patients “it’s in their head” or prescribing medication for a vague description of their symptoms like IBS. I have had specialists tell me they “don’t believe” in food allergies despite the severity of my symptoms.

Additionally, there is such a thing as food intolerances, which are different than food allergies. A true food allergy is an immune system response against the protein in a given food. Celiac disease is real; so is gluten intolerance.

Food allergy and intolerance testing and evaluation should be standard in our culture. Given the experiences of the many people with dietary issues that I know, a person’s diet should be evaluated and adjusted before they are ever treated for any “psychological” or “psychiatric” issue. This is common sense, and countries like Italy are starting to standardize such testing in newborns. It should be noted that genes such as celiac may not activate until later in life.

Eating food that makes you sick can affect your mind as well as your body. Gluten, for example, can act as a neurotoxin in some people. Anxiety and depression can improve dramatically with appropriate changes in diet. “Head” symptoms are often overlooked or ignored as symptoms of food allergies and intolerances. Even a poor diet that does not involve allergies or intolerances can cause a myriad of problems.

Given our genetics, environmental influences, diets, and other factors, I often tell people that we need to put the right kind of gas in our cars. Some of us are leaded, some of us are unleaded, some are diesel. When we are born, it is assumed that we are leaded. When we become ill, doctors may examine every aspect of us except for the type of fuel we’re putting in our car.

I don’t doubt that the author has encountered children who have anxiety about their diets and parents who may overreact. But those reactions are not common in my interactions with food allergic people. A diagnosis is a blessing; it gives people control over their illness and the means to get better without surgery or medication. It means health after years of suffering and clueless doctors.

We are just now coming out of the Dark Ages in regard to food allergies and intolerances. I strongly encourage people to learn more about these conditions at reputable sites like http://www.foodallergy.org/ (FAAN), http://www.celiac.org/ (CDF), and http://www.ibstreatmentcenter.com/ (I know the doctor personally).

I appreciate the attention that this article brings to dietary issues. But those who have lived with such conditions can attest to the fact that these conditions are more widespread and serious than many professionals believe they are.

As an example, one in 99 to one in 133 people are estimated to have celiac, but 98 percent are misdiagnosed or not diagnosed. Many more (some figures say 1 in 20) carry the gene. Some interesting facts and figures are at http://www.celiacdisease.net/assets/pdf/CDCFactSheets%20FactsFigures%20v3.pdf.

Some of my personal experiences are on my blog, including this piece: https://wildninja.wordpress.com/2010/04/14/from-the-gut/. Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

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Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. -Albert Einstein

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©2011 H. Hiatt/wildninja.wordpress.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninja.wordpress.com.

GFGC

2 thoughts on “In Defense of Allergies

  1. Thanks for visiting! Pets wouldn’t eat gluten in the wild. I don’t believe it belongs in their diets. No wonder so many pets that eat gluten (the protein in wheat, barley, and rye) have health issues.

    I’m so glad that you have been able to keep your dog healthy, and also for the info. on potassium bromide. I was unfamiliar with that. Thanks!

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  2. I found this blog very interesting. You had commented on our cats in my husband’s blog and so I had to check out yours to see what it was like. What he didn’t mention is we also have a husky who has seizures. We were able to control her seizures for over 7 years just by eliminating all glutens from her diet. She is now over 10 and diet isn’t working any longer and we were warned of this but Potassium Bromide has made her life one of joy again and not fear. But I tell people that we have to take serious looks at what we put into our bodies and our pets. Most of the vets were/are pretty skeptical about our claims against glutens but my gut tells me I was rigt.

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