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Parents Panel: Food shouldn’t make you sick

Feb 8, 2011 1:35:00 PM - thestate.com
I was recently tested for allergies. One of the most life-changing findings was the fact that I have food allergies. The good news is I now know what has been aggravating my body and making me feel sick. The bad news is my diet is now very limited.

I am allergic to mold and yeast, two ingredients surprisingly common in food form. I also have a high intolerance for casein, a milk protein found in dairy products and many packaged foods. I learned there’s no simple fix to manage these allergies. The only way to prevent health problems is to eliminate the allergen from my diet. That means no dairy (milk, cheese, butter, etc.), vinegar (e.g., traditional salad dressing), cream-based soups or sauces, ice cream, bread, beer or any other fermented product. What does that leave me? Not much.

Sure, I can have a steak, baked potato (without butter) and vegetable. But I have to admit, the list of what I can eat is much shorter than what I can’t. It makes eating out very challenging and I’m not fun to invite over for dinner. My restrictions can stress even the best of hostesses.

It appears I’m not alone in my health journey. According to The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, more than 12 million Americans have food allergies. This amounts to one in 25 people. What is making us sick? The CDC says there are eight foods that account for 90% of all food allergy reactions: cow’s milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soybeans and wheat. These findings are not exclusive to adults; our children are living with allergies as well.

The CDC states that in 2007, approximately 3 million children under the age of 18 were reported to have a food or digestive allergy in the past 12 months. This amounts to four out of every 100 children, and there is a trend for an increase in these numbers. The same report claims that from 1997 to 2007 the prevalence of reported food allergies increased 18% among children under 18 years old. The catalyst for this rise in allergies has not been identified and is the subject of great debate.