5 Ways to Empower Tweens and Teens to Manage Food Allergies

The tween and teen years are a time generally marked by greater independence and responsibility in each adolescent’s life. By the time your child has reached middle school, he or she should be accustomed to carrying their own epinephrine. They should know how to read labels independently, be able to recognize symptoms of an allergic reaction, and know how to administer their epinephrine.

While your child is becoming more independent and increasingly more responsible for managing their own food allergy, this time, just like many of the other stages of development, comes with its own set of challenges.

Severe and even fatal allergic reactions are more common among adolescents and young adults. Pressure to fit in and a sense of invincibility that teenagers commonly exhibit contribute to risk-taking behaviors in regards to managing their food allergies. It is not uncommon for adolescents and young adults to not always carry their epinephrine. They may even intentionally eat food that may not be safe.

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4 Ways to Limit Your Exposure to Environmental Toxicants and Pollutants

When looking at possible irritants that might play a role in contributing to the rise of food allergy, and modern chronic illness in general, we cannot overlook the role of environmental toxicants and pollutants. As you may know, cigarette smoke is associated with increased risk of asthma and a number of chronic illnesses. Inhaled pollutants, such as car exhaust, are also associated with asthma. Exposure to diesel exhaust in pregnancy has been shown to affect fetal gene expression, as does cigarette smoke. This shows that environmental pollutants can modify development through epigenetic changes. (1)

There are thousands of other pollutants that we don’t know much about. In the 2006 EPA Inventory Update Review Program, chemical manufacturers reported producing or importing 6,200 chemicals weighingin at 27 trillion pounds in 2005 and that’s not even including fuels, pesticides, medications, or food additives. (2)  Industrialization has led to many new environmental chemicals that did not exist in traditional societies. Common sources of pollution and toxicants are skin care ingredients, pesticides, food additives, preservatives, heavy metals, air pollution, etc. These persistent organic pollutants (POPs) contaminate our air, food, and water. Some common toxicants include polychlorinated biphenyl compounds (PCBs), organochlorine pesticides, dioxins and phthalates.99 These pollutants accumulate in our body fat over time and can increase with each generation. Many POPs have been detected in breast milk. In regards to chemical management the American Academy of Pediatrics issued the following statement:

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7 Ways for Moms to Practice Self-Care

The need for consistent vigilance in order to prevent exposure to allergens coupled with the never-ending fear of anaphylaxis places a significant amount of stress on the parents of children with food allergies. Parents and mothers in particular, have the added stress of communicating the risks to others who are involved in caring for the child.¹

Communicating to others about your child’s food allergy can be very stressful and frustrating sometimes. Unfortunately, poor quality of life is significantly more likely among parents who have more knowledge about food allergies.² I guess the old saying that ignorance is bliss applies in this situation; however ignorance does not help you effectively manage your child’s food allergies. Parents whose children who had been to the emergency room for a food-allergy-related issue in the past year, had multiple food allergies, or where allergic to milk, eggs, or wheat also reported having a lower quality of life.³

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Tips for a Safe, Happy, and Inclusive Halloween

safehappyhalloween

It’s almost Halloween, which means trick -or-treating will be coming to your neighborhood soon. For kids with food allergies, celiac disease, diabetes or epilepsy, Halloween, can be a bit scary, and not just because of the witches, ghosts, and goblins.

My goal is to make trick-or-treating a little less “tricky” and a lot more “treaty.”

I’ve compiled my top tips for a safe, happy, and inclusive Halloween below.

Choose allergy-friendly items, if you hand out candy.

I was shopping at Target a few weeks ago when I came across their 2016 Halloween Allergen Guide. You can find it in the Halloween candy section at Target or click here. You can also find the full list by searching “Halloween Candy Allergen Info” at Target.com. This guide allows you to see which allergens are found in which candies so you have an idea of what might be safe and which ones to avoid. Target has confirmed this information with their manufacturers but you will still need to remember to read ingredient labels, as always.

If you’re looking for a slightly healthier alternative to conventional Halloween candy, Target also has a section of organic allergy-friendly candy, like YumEarth® Gummy Bears and Gummy Worms.

allergenguide

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Tips for a Safe Hotel Stay with Food Allergies, Celiac, or Dietary Restrictions

tips-for-a-safe-hotel-stay-with-food-allergies

Traveling with food allergies, celiac disease, or other health-related dietary restrictions requires a bit of extra planning to make sure your accommodations and overall stay are both safe and enjoyable.

When you are thinking about booking a hotel, you want to consider how close it is to other places you might need such as a grocery store or emergency room. I always recommend staying at places that have kitchens or kitchenettes so that you can prepare your own safe meals. This is not always possible, but you can almost always request that a refrigerator and microwave be sent to your room. This way you do not have to eat out for every meal.

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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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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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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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