It’s Not Too Early to Teach Your Preschooler to Manage Food Allergies

This piece was originally posted on October 1, 2013 at FantasticallyFree.com

I had a “proud mom” moment yesterday when I picked up my 4-year old daughter from Pre-K yesterday. She told me that her class had cucumbers and ranch dressing for snack yesterday. I felt a brief lump in my throat because although my daughters have outgrown their dairy fantasticallyfreekidswithdoughallergies they all have an anaphylactic egg allergy.

To my relief, she also told me that she informed her teacher and her friends that she could not have ranch dressing because she is allergic to egg. Whew!

I was impressed that she remembered that ranch dressing often contains milk and egg ingredients. I was even more impressed after she told me that her classmate told her that the ranch dressing was okay for her to eat but she insisted that she could not eat it.

That shows a lot of awareness for a young 4-year old, which brings me to my point: It is never too early to teach your preschooler how to manage food allergies. They soak things in like a sponge and grasp concepts quickly. While I would never expect a child to be able to handle food allergies with the same level of maturity and skill as an adult, it is beneficial to teach them how to be their own self-advocates when you are not around.

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3 Things You Should Know About Celiac Disease

3thingsaboutceliac

If you’ve been following my blog for any amount of time, then you probably know that I am the mom of 3 kiddos with multiple food allergies and two of them also have Celiac disease.

In addition to it being Asthma and Allergy Awareness month, May is also Celiac Awareness Month so I’ve been thinking about ways that I can help raise awareness around Celiac disease. I’ve asked myself, “What do I want people to know about Celiac?” After pondering this question, I’ve come up with the top three things I wish everyone knew.

3 Things You Should Know About Celiac Disease

#1. Celiac Disease is a Growing Health Problem

Currently, about 1 in 133 people in the US have Celiac disease. The number of adults over 50 years of age with Celiac has more than doubled between the years of 1988 and 2012.(1) Research has shown the prevalence of Celiac disease in children to be 5 times higher than in adults.(2)

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Know What to Do During an Allergic Reaction

food allergy reaction

May is Food Allergy Action Month and May 8th through May 14th is Food Allergy Awareness Week. Every May, FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) hosts a nationwide Food Allergy Awareness Week to shine a spotlight on the seriousness of food allergies and to improve public understanding of this potentially life-threatening medical condition.

Here are some quick facts about food allergies:

  • Food allergies can be life-threatening and are a serious and growing public health problem.
  • They affect up to 15 million Americans, including nearly 6 million children–that’s approximately 1 in 13 kids or two in
    every classroom.¹
  • Nearly 40 percent of these children have already experienced a severe or life-threatening
    reaction. In addition, more than 30 percent of these children have multiple food allergies.
  • The number of children with food allergies in the U.S. increased 50 percent between 1997
    and 2011, but there is no clear answer as to why.²
  • A reaction to food can range from a mild response (such as an itchy mouth) to anaphylaxis, a
    severe and potentially deadly reaction.
  • Every three minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency room in the U.S.
  • In the US, eight foods (peanut, tree nuts, egg, soy, milk, fish, shellfish, and wheat), known as the top 8, account for 90% of all food allergy reactions, though anyone can be allergic to any food. Interestingly, the top allergic foods vary by country.

Being the mother of 3 children with multiple food allergies, there is so much that I could write about to raise awareness today, this week, this month, this year. After giving it much thought, what I really want to talk about is knowing what to do during an allergic reaction. 

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Is Your Home Making Asthma and Allergies Worse?

asthma allergies

Well, it’s National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month and Clean Air Month (among many other things, like Food Allergy Action Month, Celiac Awareness Month, Arthritis Awarness Month, Lupus Awarness Month, etc) and I want to talk to you about the air in your home and how it could be affecting your asthma or allergies.

Did you know that the level of indoor air pollution inside the home is often 2-5 times higher than air pollution levels outside? And sometimes it is 100 times higher. Indoor air pollutants are of particular concern because most people spend as much as 90% of their time indoors.¹

Poor indoor air quality is associated with a number of chronic health conditions such as asthma and allergic diseases, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), airborne respiratory infections and cardiovascular disease. And unfortunately, indoor air quality is only getting worse.²

Since the energy crisis in the 1970’s, we’ve been on a quest to make our homes more energy-efficient to conserve energy and reduce energy costs. Overtime, our homes have become increasingly airtight. As homes become more airtight, air exchange has decreased. Less fresh air is coming into our homes and more polluted air is staying in. 

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Cilantro: Love It or Hate It?

cilantro

This weekend I was helping teach a cooking class for a local organization that encourages people to grow, buy, and cook real whole foods to prevent chronic illness. One of the ingredients we were using in the salsa and guacamole we were making was cilantro. It turns out that cilantro is one of those foods that people either love or hate.

We had one person who really despised cilantro (just like my mother) and one with a sensitivity to cilantro, so we also made a small batch of cilantro-free guacamole. I, on the other hand, love it. I love the way it smells and I often mix it with my salad greens. I don’t even bother to chop it before putting it in my salad, I just toss in the whole thing. Yum!

Cilantro (and parsley) contains many cancer-fighting antioxidants as well as antibacterial and antifungal properties.¹ It is also believed to help the body detoxify, aid in digestion, and help stabilize blood sugar levels.

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10 Tips to Reduce Stress for Stress Awareness Month

stress

April is National Stress Awareness Month. I must say, after a fairly stressful March, we all could use a little stress awareness and relaxation.

Our fast-paced modern lifestyle can be very stressful without even considering the daily onslaught of weather-related disasters, mass-shootings, terrorist attacks, and the banter and bickering about the current US Presidential campaign.

These are definitely difficult times to deal with.

Our schedules are often filled with activities, projects, and to-do lists that leave us little time to catch our breath, relax, renew, and rejuvenate. As a society, we teach our children to do the same “busy-ness” from the moment they can sit up. Have you ever noticed how many infant and toddler classes there are now? And teenagers have schedules that would rival Fortune 500 CEOs.

So what’s the problem with stress?

Stress is the result of the interaction between environmental factors and life events plus the mental, emotional, and physical burden that they put upon you as an individual.

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Before You Eat that Avocado Seed

avocado seed 2

Avocados are one of my favorite foods. They’re a perfect addition to an anti-inflammatory whole-foods-based diet. They are so versatile and can be used in a number of different and creative ways. I’ve seen recipes for chocolate avocado pudding, lemon avocado mousse, fudgy avocado brownies, avocado deviled eggs, etc. (although, I usually stick to slicing them up and putting them on my food–hey, I like to keep it simple).

But the latest trend going around is eating avocado seeds. Yep, people are going wild drying out avocado pits by placing them in the oven for 2 hours at 250 degrees Fahrenheit, removing the outer skin, and pulverizing them before adding them to smoothies and green juices.

The reason most people added it to smoothies is because it tastes pretty bad and they want to conceal the flavor.One friend of mine decided to eat the pit by just baking it and slicing it into pieces. It tasted very bitter and she didn’t feel that well after eating it. I’m not all that surprised that it wasn’t fabulous. I imagine it would taste like a wooden ball, if I had ever tasted a wooden ball.

I’ve built BrightFire Living around the concept of simple, toxic-free, allergy-friendly living so I have to tell you this…

Avocado pits have been used medicinally in South America to treat high-blood, pressure, diabetes, and inflammation. While they do contain beneficial nutrients and fiber, avocado pits (and leaves) are mildly toxic but adults can usually eat them safely in small amounts. So, if you do decide to eat them, be sure to eat them in small quantities and pay attention to how your body reacts.

If you’re pregnant, you might want to forgo the seed. I wouldn’t recommend feeding them to children either. There just hasn’t been much research on the potential toxicity of consuming avocado seeds. Obviously, if you have an allergy to avocados, you want to avoid eating the pits as well as the fruit.

You also want to keep them away from your pets, as they are toxic to horses, birds, and possibly other domesticated animals.  According to Dr. Robert Clipsham, DVM:

“The parts of the [avocado] tree containing the toxic chemical are limited to the bark, leaves, and pits. There is no current evidence that the fruit has caused toxicities in any species of animal. Due to the parts of the plant which carry the poison, the most commonly affected animals tend to be horses, cattle and goats; however, cases have been reported in mice, rabbits and birds. Drying of the plant does not seem to modify the toxin as animals have been
poisoned by consuming dried leaves and pits. The nature of the toxin is unknown…”¹

 

Here’s the good news

The good news is that you don’t have to eat the bitter seeds to get the health benefits of avocado. The flesh of the avocado, especially the dark green part next to the skin, is loaded with phytosterols, polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols (PFAs) and omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation.

They’re also a good source of potassium, antioxidants and monounsaturated fats, in addition to being low in sodium. This makes them great at protecting against high-blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease.

  1. A little bit of avocado goes a long way. You only need to eat half an avocado to get 600 mg of potassium. Half an avocado also gives you about 20% of your fiber for the day.
  2. You might want to stick to half an avocado if you have a histamine intolerance or IBS. If you’re on a low histamine diet, you should note that avocados are high in histamine. If you’re on a low FODMAP diet, guess what? Avocados are a FODMAP (they’re one of the P’s for polyols). If I eat more than half an avocado at a time or in combination with a lot of other high-histamine foods or certain FODMAPs,  I have issues. It’s important to find out what amount works for you, so pay attention to your body.
  3. Obviously, again, don’t eat avocados if you are allergic to them. You should also know that there is high cross-reactivity between latex, banana, kiwi, and avocado so proceed with caution if you have one of those allergies. Pineapple is also another potential cross-reactor, among others (like melons, peaches, etc).²

Because my girls have seed allergies, I don’t foresee feeding them giant avocado seeds in the future. Plus, one daughter has a banana allergy and another one has a pineapple allergy, which means I’m usually the only one eating avocado so I don’t get too fancy with it. In fact, I very carefully pitch the seed, but hey, you might want to give it a try.

I would love to hear how you use avocados. Planning on eating the seed? Feel free to leave a comment below!

References

  1. Clipsham, Robert, D.V.M. “Avocado Toxicity.” Watchbird Apr.-May 1987: 14-15. Web. 06 Apr. 2016.
  2. Grier, Tom. “Latex Cross‐reactive Foods Fact Sheet.” Latex Cross‐reactive Foods Fact Sheet. American Latex Allergy Association, 08 Oct. 2015. Web. 06 Apr. 2016.

 

Blueberries May Protect Against Alzheimer’s Disease

blueberries

Blueberries have to be one of my favorite foods on the planet. In fact, blueberries are the one thing that I absolutely will not go a day without eating. I love them that much.

Lucky for me, blueberries are typically easy to come by in the U.S., as they are native to North America, and they are one of the most nutritious foods you can eat. Studies have shown that blueberries have the highest levels of active antioxidants per serving of any food.

Blueberries also contain a high concentration of proanthocyanidin compounds which can slow the growth and spread of cancer cells. Blueberries also contain anthocyanins which protect against gastroenteritis and diarrhea, may prevent cardiovascular disease, and improve eye health.

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7 Ways to Use Dandelions in Your Diet

dandelionspost

Did you know that Weed Appreciation Day is coming up? No? I’m not surprised. ;) Weed Appreciation Day is coming up on Monday, March 28th, and in recognition, I’d like to share my favorite weed: the Dandelion.

Besides being the most hated weed found in lawns across the United States, dandelions pack quite a bit of nutritional value.

Research suggest that dandelions help reduce inflammation in the liver and gallbladder. Their leaves, which are a natural source of potassium, have traditionally been used to remove excess water and toxins from the body.

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5 Ways to Get Kids Excited About Eating Vegetables

kids and veggies

I often hear dismayed parents talk about how their children simply won’t eat their veggies. It’s not uncommon to hear “my child will only eat ______.” Usually the blank is filled with a processed food like chicken nuggets or McDonald’s french fries.

It’s true, children can be picky eaters and they do often “turn their noses up” at anything that looks unfamiliar or “weird” to them. In addition, because the Standard American Diet (SAD) is chock full of processed foods that are engineered to be highly-palatable, whole foods like vegetables tend to taste relatively bland and unappealing to the American palate.

That doesn’t mean you stop trying to get them to eat their vegetables, however. It just means that you have to find creative ways to familiarize them with a variety of foods so that they are more open to trying them. Once they are used to eating vegetables instead of processed foods, their palates will normalize and they will begin to actually enjoy eating vegetables.

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