Are peanuts hiding in your packaged snacks? A warning to those with food allergies!

Posted on June 15th, 2014 by Alison | Posted in News & Research, Peanuts/Nuts Allergy, Products | ADD A COMMENT »

Ocean SprayOcean Spray announced on June 5, 2014 that it was recalling packages of its Greek Yogurt Covered Craisins® Dried Cranberries because three consumers reported that they founded yogurt-covered peanuts in the bag. Yikes! And there was a recent news story about a 7-year old girl who reached into a bag of chocolate-covered banana pieces only to bite into a chocolate-covered walnut, to which she had a known allergy. Luckily she was okay after a trip to the emergency room.

So how safe is it to eat any packaged food if someone has a food allergy? And how accurate are those food labels? The Craisins label does not have a warning that the product may contain peanuts, but it that does contain a warning that the product is made on equipment that also processes nuts. Perhaps someone with a nut allergy would have steered clear of this product in the first place. However, it seems like many food packages (especially Trader Joe’s labels) contain a warning about all of the top eight allergens just to cover the bases, whether the allergen may be present or not. This can be very confusing for the consumer.

If you are not sure about a product, it is best to avoid it. If you want to find out more, call the manufacturer. They can tell you whether they have Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) with regards to allergens — whether they segregate allergens, clean between runs, have special days that they run products with allergens, have dedicated machinery, or don’t do anything at all to prevent cross-contamination. You will probably get better information from someone at the company than the generic statement on the label.

For recall information, I encourage you to sign up for FARE’s (Food Allergy Research & Education) allergy alerts that you will receive via email. For an entire list of recalls, not just allergen-related, you can visit the FDA’s Recalls, Market Withdrawals and Safety Alerts page.


Turning off food allergies – have researchers found a way?

Posted on November 7th, 2011 by Alison | Posted in Food Allergies, News & Research, Peanuts/Nuts Allergy | ADD A COMMENT »

Can peanut allergies be turned off?Researchers were able to turn off peanut allergy in mice by tricking their immune systems into thinking the nut proteins were not a threat to the body. The researchers at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine attached peanut proteins onto white blood cells and then put them back into the mice. These mice, who were supposed to have an anaphylactic response if they ate peanut, did not have a life-threatening allergic reaction to peanut extract. Essentially, the researchers created tolerance to peanut in the mice. The immune system, which previously treated the peanut protein as a threat, now didn’t. The researchers were able to achieve the same tolerance in other mice using egg protein.

This is exciting new research targeting food allergies specifically and the hope is that these methods could someday be applied to humans. If we could train the immune system not to overreact to food substances, wouldn’t that be wonderful??

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and Food Allergy Initiative.

Read full article: Peanut Allergy May Be Turned Off By Tricking Immune System


Probiotics and Gluten Intolerance/Celiac Disease

Posted on April 14th, 2011 by Alison | Posted in Celiac Disease, Gluten Intolerance, Healthy Living, News & Research | Read 2 Comments - Add Your Own »

Bacteria – your gut is full of it! But wait, before you call the doctor for antibiotics, you need to know that not all bacteria are bad. In fact, the “friendly” bacteria that reside in your gut are vital to maintaining a healthy digestive system, and amazingly and perhaps most importantly, a healthy immune system.

lactobacillus1Unfortunately, the intestinal flora in many people’s digestive tracts are out of balance, with not enough of the good bacteria. Why the decrease in beneficial gut bacteria? It seems the way we live in our modern society is contributing to the imbalance. Consider some of the following theories as to why:

  1. The use of antibiotics has killed off the good bacteria in addition to the bad.
  2. The sterilization of our society – hand sanitizers and antibacterial cleansers – has eliminated the good bacteria along with the bad.
  3. The decreased consumption of cultured and fermented foods like kefir and sauerkraut, means we are not consuming as many probiotics in our diets as we used to.
  4. The increased consumption of whole or processed grains that have not been soaked, sprouted or fermented first has eliminated a source of prebiotics, which feed the good bacteria.
  5. Processing and pasteurization of foods destroys any beneficial bacteria that may naturally occur in the foods.
  6. C-sections and formula feeding changes the microflora of infants, possibly contributing to food intolerance and allergies.

Given the pace of our society today, it is unlikely that any of the above behaviors will change, so people are going to continue to have this bacterial imbalance.

If you have gluten intolerance or celiac disease like me, your gut flora may especially be out of whack. WANT TO READ THE REST? Go over to Attune Foods, where you will read some research on probiotics and celiac disease, and also get some advice on probiotics from Certified Nutritionist Sheila Wagner. Go to rest of article on probiotics… and please leave a comment over there!


Multiple sclerosis linked to celiac disease and gluten sensitivity

Posted on March 30th, 2011 by Alison | Posted in Autoimmune Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, News & Research | Read 23 Comments - Add Your Own »

ms1One of my main goals in writing a blog is to raise awareness about the conditions associated with celiac disease and gluten intolerance, in hopes that people find answers and get well. Multiple sclerosis, a disease of the central nervous system, is one of those conditions that has been linked to celiac disease, but not much research has been put forth. I could point to anecdotes from people I know who have successfully relieved their symptoms of multiple sclerosis with a gluten-free diet, and some people would be satisfied with that. There are others who like to see research and proof before they will believe in a treatment and make such a radical change in their lifestyle. I understand that thinking too, which is why I try to bring in the studies, if available, to back up the claims.

There is a new study on the prevalence of celiac disease in multiple sclerosis, published in the journal BioMed Central. Below is my summary of the study, but be sure to read my comments after to see that the number of MS patients with a gluten sensitivity may be even higher than suggested in the results of the study.

First, they analyzed 72 MS patients, who had the Relapsing-Remitting form of Multiple Sclerosis (RRMS), characterized by intermittent episodes of relapses and prolonged remissions (this type makes up 80% of MS cases)

  • They detected positive Tissue transglutaminase 2 (tTG-2), a blood marker for celiac disease, in 7 MS patients (10%)
  • They detected mild or moderate villous atrophy (Marsh III type) in duodenal biopsies, in 8 MS patients (11.1%). Villous atrophy, or flattening of the nutrient-absorbing villi in the small intestine, is indicative of celiac disease.
  • Overall prevalence of celiac disease in MS patients was between 5-10 times higher than the frequency found in the general population.
  • All the celiac patients were put on a gluten free diet and all of them improved considerably both with respect to gastrointestinal and neurological symptoms in the follow-up period.

Then, they tested the MS patients’ 126 first-degree relatives.

  • They found that 23 out of the 126 first-degree relatives (32%) had celiac disease.

MY THOUGHTS ON THIS STUDY:

At first I thought that 11.1% of MS patients having celiac disease is a statistic to pay attention to. But then I read the study more carefully, and saw this sentence buried in the text: “We also discovered several duodenal lesions in 21 (29%) of RRMS patients and mild villous atrophy in 8 (11.1%) of them.” Duodenal lesions in 29% of MS patients! The duodenum is the first section of the small intestine, and lesions are areas of abnormal tissue. So I investigated further, and found that according to the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, “celiac disease can cause patchy lesions in the duodenum.” Perhaps those people with duodenal lesions were borderline celiac, or even celiac, and should have been counted.

It’s not clear from the study whether it was 21 patients with duodenal lesions PLUS 8 with villous atrophy, or if the 21 included the 8. If they were separate, then it would be 29 patients out of 72, which would be 40% of MS patients with celiac or borderline celiac! Now that’s a stat that would turn heads!

And, as we know from experience and recent studies, gluten sensitivity is real, and considered a separate condition from celiac because gluten-sensitive people don’t necessarily have the villous atrophy that defines celiac disease. They do, however, often display neurological symptoms.

The conclusion of all this? It’s as was stated in the study:
All of these findings, together with the high prevalence of CD in first-degree relatives, support a frequent association with gluten intolerance in RRMS patients.

You can read the full text of the study at BioMed Central.

The comment section is a great place for anyone with MS to add his/her own experience with a gluten-free diet. Your comments are so valuable to those seeking help.


Finally, gluten sensitivity is considered real

Posted on March 20th, 2011 by Alison | Posted in Celiac Disease, Gluten Intolerance, News & Research | Read 7 Comments - Add Your Own »

For years I have been talking about gluten sensitivity, encouraging people to Think Outside the Celiac Box. I have witnessed my own family members test negative for celiac disease but clearly have a sensitivity to gluten. All research up to the present has focused solely on celiac disease, an autoimmune condition in which the body mistakenly attacks its own tissue, specifically targeting the villi of the small intestine, making it difficult to absorb nutrients. I tested positive for this disease, but many others have struggled to find the validation that they too are suffering from the effects of gluten.

Finally, a new study highlighted in the Wall Street Journal acknowledges the condition of gluten sensitivity! Researchers found that there was indeed some immune response happening in a group of people that was different from those with celiac disease, but also different from the control group. They still aren’t sure how a reaction to gluten can cause so many varied symptoms in people — headaches, fatigue, neurological problems, IBS symptoms, ADHD — and the list goes on, but Dr. Alessio Fasano speculates that “once immune cells are mistakenly primed to attack gluten, they can migrate and spread inflammation, even to the brain.”

The article states that 6% of the population may be gluten sensitive. I believe the number is higher, and that this will be discovered as more studies are conducted on gluten sensitivity. But the recognition of the existence of gluten sensitivity is a great first step, so rejoice you gluten-sensitive people! You are not crazy, as doctors and family members and maybe even you believed!

Other articles that address gluten sensitivity:


Low Vitamin D linked to allergies

Posted on March 5th, 2011 by Alison | Posted in Babies & Kids, Food Allergies, News & Research | Read 8 Comments - Add Your Own »

Vitamin DChildren with low vitamin D levels were found to be 2.4 times more likely to be allergic to peanuts than children with adequate vitamin D levels, researchers discovered, according to a new study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. This was just one of 17 allergens tested in kids with vitamin D deficiency. These children were also more likely to be allergic to 11 of the 17 allergens tested, which included both environmental (such as oak and ragweed) and food (such as shrimp) allergens.

What does this mean? Researchers aren’t quite sure what the link means, but there has been a lot of emerging research about vitamin D deficiency and also about the role of vitamin D in protecting against various health conditions. Food allergies, like many other immune conditions, are on the rise, as is vitamin D deficiency.

In 2010 the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Vitamin D were raised to 400 IU/day for infants, 600 IU/day for people age 1-70, and 800 IU/day for those over 70 years old. In addition, the Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL), meaning the dose at which there are no known adverse effects, was set at 4,000 IU/day for people age 9 or older, with gradually lower amounts for lower ages. See the National Institutes of Health Vitamin D fact sheet for more information.

These new RDA levels for vitamin D, though higher than before, are thought to be still too low, according to many researchers, doctors and health practitioners. I personally supplement with vitamin D (my levels tested low) and give my kids vitamin D supplements on the advice of a nutritionist and based on my own research. My experience is not meant to be taken as medical advice. I suggest that you see a health professional for his/her recommendations on vitamin D supplementation, especially if you suffer from any chronic health condition.

If you have undiagnosed celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, you may be at greater risk for vitamin D deficiency. Dr. Vikki Petersen explains the correlation very well in this video:

Research continues, and there’s a lot more to learn about vitamin D and its crucial role in our health.


Raising awareness about food allergies at school

Posted on January 10th, 2011 by Alison | Posted in Dairy Allergy, Egg Allergy, Food Allergies, News & Research, Peanuts/Nuts Allergy, Uncategorized, Wheat Allergy | Read 10 Comments - Add Your Own »

schoolhouseI recently encouraged my daughter’s elementary school to put a food allergy program in place after the peanut butter incident. The principal liked my proposed ideas and I was able to address the entire school in an assembly on food allergies. It was well-received. In fact, my daughter told me today that whenever her classmates are eating something she is allergic to, they warn her: “Be careful, I’ve got peanut butter today.” These are first graders — it warms my heart! I have definitely sensed a heightened awareness since the assembly. I am working on the rest of the program which will be put to use at the beginning of the next school year. It is inspired by the ideas put out by The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), but with my own twist and with a more age-appropriate message for elementary school kids.

Any program that raises awareness at school is greatly needed. I have not advocated for a peanut or nut free school, CONTINUE READING »


Vitiligo and gluten intolerance

Posted on December 14th, 2010 by Alison | Posted in Celiac Disease, Gluten Intolerance, News & Research, Symptoms | Read 156 Comments - Add Your Own »

Vitiligo and celiac disease is a topic I have been meaning to write about for a while now. I have both, and believe there is a connection between vitiligo and gluten intolerance. I have found out more on this topic from the readers of this blog than any other source out there, and hope that this incredible information reaches those with vitiligo who are told there is no known cause.

Vitiligo is a skin disorder characterized by smooth, white patches on various parts of the body that occur due to loss of pigment. This loss of pigment often starts on the hands, feet and face, and then can progress to other parts of the body. Hair can turn white where there is a vitiligo patch. Vitiligo is not physically painful, but can be quite emotionally devastating as it affects one’s appearance.

The picture below is of me as a child with vitiligo on my face. It appeared symmetrically below my eyes, but asymmetrically on my legs — 8 spots on only one side of my body.

vitiligo1

The spots on my face re-pigmented with the treatment at that time (1973) which was psoralen pills and UV light treatments at Stanford. The spots on my legs remained into adulthood, never getting any bigger or smaller. When I was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2002, I didn’t think about the vitiligo, but over the past years since being on a gluten-free diet, CONTINUE READING »


Type 1 Diabetics should be screened for celiac disease

Posted on July 14th, 2010 by Alison | Posted in Celiac Disease, Gluten Intolerance, News & Research, Symptoms | Read 2 Comments - Add Your Own »

type-1-diabetes1This is important! All type 1 diabetic patients, regardless of the presence of symptoms, should be regularly screened for celiac disease. This was the message at The Endocrine Society 92nd Annual Meeting, based on findings in a new study of Type 1 diabetics.

I’ll break down the numbers for you, as I understand them:

  • 493 patients were screened for celiac disease within roughly 3 months of being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
  • 25 of these patients had positive celiac blood tests on their initial screening. Of those who tested negative the first time around, 14 tested positive the second time, making the total number of patients with a positive blood test 39, or 8% of those screened.
  • Of the patients who tested positive on the blood test, 12 had positive biopsies (one showed a positive biopsy 5 years after being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.) 7 have not been biopsied.

Now, these numbers are compelling, but I still believe the number of those with a gluten problem is higher. We know that the tests for celiac miss people. A lot of people. I wonder if the gluten intolerance or sensitivity, undetected by mainstream tests, contributed to the onset of  diabetes. The diabetes gets noticed first, because doctors understand it, are aware of it, know how to diagnose it, and to treat it, but perhaps it is another symptom of gluten wreaking havoc on the body.

Having diabetes is hard. Having celiac is hard. Having them both — well, I can’t speak from personal experience, but I imagine it is doubly hard. I can also imagine that someone with type 1 diabetes or a parent of someone with type 1 diabetes would not want to think about having celiac too. But I hope that my urging to pay attention to gluten will get someone’s attention out there.

Undiagnosed celiac disease or gluten intolerance can lead to very serious problems. As stated in an article about the study, “Undiagnosed celiac disease might cause significant morbidity… Short-term complications include growth disturbances, weight loss, and difficulty achieving glycemic control in type 1 diabetics. Long-term complications can include small bowel malignancy.” And these are just a few of the many symptoms and associated conditions related to celiac disease and gluten intolerance.

To read articles about the study, go to the Global Diabetes Community or to Medscape.com (sign up for a free account).

Does anyone have a personal story about gluten and diabetes?


Gluten-free grains may be contaminated with wheat

Posted on June 8th, 2010 by Alison | Posted in Celiac Disease, Gluten Intolerance, News & Research | Read 5 Comments - Add Your Own »

soyflour1It is common knowledge now in the gluten-free community that most oats are contaminated with wheat. For this reason, certified gluten-free oats have become available and are increasingly being used in cereals, bars and cookies. I have wondered about other grains — why would oats be the only ones when surely other grains are grown near, processed, stored, and transported with wheat? Though I wondered about it, I didn’t pursue it, probably because I never really wanted to know the answer!

The answer is here, and it’s not good news. In a study conducted by registered dietitian Tricia Thompson, Anne Lee of Schar, and Thomas Grace of Bia Diagnostics, 7 of  22 (32%) samples of naturally gluten-free grains, seeds and flours tested contained mean gluten levels above 20 ppm with amounts ranging from 25 to 2,925 ppm. What does this mean? Some foods we think of as being naturally gluten-free actually contain higher than the proposed FDA amount of allowable gluten (20 parts per million or ppm).

This poses a problem for the FDA’s proposal regarding gluten-free claims on food. Under the proposed FDA rule, gluten-free oats can have a gluten-free claim on them because some oats are contaminated with wheat and are not gluten-free. An “inherently gluten-free” food, on the other hand, such as apples, would not be allowed to have a gluten-free claim on them unless it was stated that “all apples are gluten-free” or something to that effect. Apples are obviously gluten-free so putting a gluten-free claim is considered misbranding of those particular apples. But what about these other grains?

Gluten-free grains, seeds and flours that many of us eat every day were found to be contaminated with wheat. The most contaminated samples in this study were soy flour, millet flour and sorghum flour. Thompson notes on her blog entry about the study that “sampling was not large enough to make any assessment on the overall percentage of contaminated product. Sampling also was not large enough to make any inferences on the specific grains, flours, and seeds more or less likely to be contaminated.”

This study might open a can of worms for the FDA, which must decide what a gluten-free label claim means. It also opens a can of worms for the gluten-free community… what are we to do now? Trace every grain, seed and flour, including those used as ingredients in gluten-free products, back to its origin to ensure that it has not been contaminated with wheat? Let’s hope that testing continues and that more information becomes available regarding this issue.

Read more about the study:
Abstract from the Journal of the American Dietetic Association
Contamination of Naturally Gluten-Free Grains