Monday, February 25, 2013

The Strong Link Between Food Allergies and Hormones

Many people ask me if food allergies can be affected by hormones, especially by people that did not have any known food allergies earlier in their life. I am honored to have Valerie Johnston from Healthline writing this guest post for me to give a clearer picture of how this can all be a part of the ever-expanding world of food allergies. 

Allergies affect nearly fifty percent of the U.S. population. They can come in all different forms, from food and drug allergies to pets and pollen. People can become allergic to just about anything at any time in their lives. While many allergies surface in the younger years, hormone changes brought about later on in life can often cause new allergic reactions to form, especially food related ones. This is because there is a very strong link  link between food allergies and hormones.

What Are Allergies Anyway?

Allergies are actually very complicated things. Essentially, an allergic reaction is caused by a misfired immune response in the body. So, if a bee stings someone, his or her body shoots off certain immune responses that cause specific reactions to begin. In a normal person, the immune system would recognize the bee sting and send the proper signals to get the infection out and the swelling down as soon as possible. However, in allergic people, their immune system overreacts to the sting and sends a bunch of crazy signals that can cause massive swelling, irritation, hives, and sometimes even swelling of the throat in more severe cases. 

Food Allergies

Food allergies work in much of the same way. When the body is exposed to a certain food, the immune system incorrectly identifies that food as being dangerous or harmful, as it would an infection or illness. However, the food is not actually bad. So, the body sends out antibodies to attack the source of the danger, which causes all the symptoms of an allergic reaction. Some people have more severe food allergies and can die from simply touching something to which they are allergic. In most cases, though, people will food allergies will experience hives, a stuffy or runny nose, sneezing, possible swelling of the tongue or throat, and maybe an upset stomach.

What Hormones Can Do

Once people figure out their allergic triggers, they can usually avoid them pretty easily and take medications to ease their symptoms. So, the question for many allergy sufferers then often becomes one of “why” rather than “what.” This is especially true for people with adult onset allergies. These individuals sometimes do not know why they are experiencing all of these allergies that they never used to have as a child. Hormones are the answer.

Because the immune system and the hormone system are pretty closely related, when one changes, so does the other. There are several stages in people’s lives when their hormone levels naturally fluctuate, which is often when they will see the appearance of new allergies, mainly to food. For example, puberty and the female menstrual cycle are major hormone changes that often cause allergic changes as well. Food allergies are more common because food is something people come into contact with on a daily basis and it is easy for the body to mistake it for something threatening.

Not all hormone fluctuations are naturally occurring, though. Sometimes, these ups and downs can be brought on by stress or other external factors. Some people even get hormone injections for a variety of reasons. These injections can trigger immune system changes that may lead to the development of new food or other allergies.


Because allergies are so unpredictable and can come about at any point in time, there is no real way of knowing how to stop or prevent them. However it is possible to keep them in check by avoiding the triggers, taking certain allergy medications, and being sure to keep a close eye on one’s bodily changes. Though not everyone will develop allergies, it is likely that most people will have an allergic reaction at some point in their lives due to the strong link between food allergies and hormones and the fact that all people experience hormone fluctuations throughout their lifetimes.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Reminder About Tomorrow's Event with Nutrimom

I will be at WomenConnect  tomorrow! This is a free event open to all and since it's going to be a rainy day, why not stop by?

Where:     The Village Inn
                 Clemmons, NC

Time:        9 AM - 3 PM

Cost:         FREE

My table will have a TON of allergy-friendly samples, magazines, information and it's an opportunity to meet me to ask any questions that you have.

Samples have been graciously sent by Barney Butter, Enjoy Life Foods, Sunbutter, RW Garcia, Crispy Greens, AD RescueWear, Saffron Road Foods, Surf Sweets and Ener-G. Please keep in mind that everyone has different food allergies. The samples I am providing are a mix of different items to show how food allergies are not limiting. Any food samples that I will have will be either safely sealed as an individual item, clearly labeled or will be dispensed into individual cups with gloves to reduce the possibility of cross-contamination.

This is an indoor event so bring a friend and check it out. I look forward to seeing you there!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Sweet Surprise Compliments of Divvies

After a bustling January, I was at the tail end of a huge traveling/blogging/client-seeing/giving a cooking class spurt and I was reminded that at the end of the day someone, somewhere in the world that you don't even know is thinking about you.

This may sound odd, maybe even a little creepy and stalkish but it's meant in the best of ways. I am one of those people that tends to forget to do anything nice for myself because I am busy helping others. This is not a complaint, I love what I do and I would not change a thing! But once in awhile, I receive something and I am reminded that I am special too.

And what was this wondrous thing that happened? A simple gesture, a tasty gift but nonetheless, it made my day. I came home mumbling and grumbling, tired and grouchy and there was a box waiting for me from Divvies. An early valentine for me, just me and nobody else. When I opened it, there was a treat bag with a cute note-

'To Tracy From Divvies XOXO Happy Valentine's Day"

Inside the blue and white striped tissue were two packages of chocolate hearts- one large, crispy heart and two smaller, solid hearts. I do admit that as tempted as I was to run and hide them away to have for myself, I did the unselfish mom-thing and shared with my children. I checked their labels and I double-checked their website for ingredients and I was happy to see their allergen information that read "Divvies candies, frosting, and sprinkles are certified by their manufacturers to be peanut-, tree nut-, milk-, egg-free, and sesame-free and are packaged in Divvies Bakery. Divvies conducts routine testing to minimize the risk of any cross-contamination in their certified allergen-free ingredients." Yay! My son could also eat them!

As always, pictures first. Nothing is worse than trying to give a product review when there are bite marks in the product.  Notice the size of the crispy heart- holy chocolate, Batman! I wish I had taken a picture after one bite to show the thickness but they were gobbled up too quickly. Believe me, these are no ordinary, thin chocolates- these babies are just a good, solid chunk of chocolate.....Mmmm, chocolate!

You will also be happy to know that the ingredients were sugar, chocolate liquor, non-dairy cocoa butter, soya lecithin, vanilla extract and salt. (Does contain soy)

The end result? Three out of four people were happy and satisfied. Who is the unhappy one? Dad because he only got a tiny piece of what I was able to salvage for him. Sorry, Dad but it was just bad timing. (Good for the rest of us though!)

A big thank you to Divvies for not only brightening up my day but for making such a great product.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

"Gluten Free is Easy" Cookbook Review

I was recently asked to review a new gluten free cookbook titled "Gluten Free is Easy"written by Christi Silbaugh and Michele Vilseck.

I immediately found the bright pictures to be helpful. When our family began cooking allergy-free meals, converting recipes without some type of picture to go by made it more challenging for us. Visuals are a great thing and all of these photos are well taken- the foods look like they could leap off of the page right onto your plate.

Another aspect that I loved were the helpful tips throughout the book. Simple questions that a newly diagnosed person learning to cook gluten free would (most likely) be asking are all available to them. Not only do the tips help with what types of products to use where but there are even a few that touch on how your body may be reacting to the adjustment of a new diet. Tip #9 is "Your body is accustomed to eating gluten. It may take 2 or even 4 weeks to overcome your cravings. Stay strong and give yourself time to adjust. Continuing to cheat will only make matters worse by prolonging the detoxification process." This is key as many people will start to feel worse and think that it is because their new diet is not right for them when, in reality, it's simply withdrawal.

Lastly, I appreciated that most of the recipes were simple, easy to follow recipes that were not too time consuming. In my opinion, the worst thing that someone can do is hand over a book of recipes that only a professional chef would make and expect them to make the recipe let alone make it well. Keeping everything simple allows the reader to feel less anxious to try new gluten free products that they have not used before and lets them know that cooking gluten free does not have to take any more time than any other recipe.

I do want to make a point that this is strictly a gluten free cookbook. Many of the recipes contain dairy and eggs (which is fine if you are not allergic) but may not be as helpful to someone who has multiple food allergies. "Gluten Free is Easy" is available as an ebook or can be ordered as a printed book as well. I highly recommend this book to start anyone on a gluten free lifestyle.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Food Allergy Princess (..for a few days!)

It was difficult for me but I was able to keep a secret. It nearly killed me but somehow, I survived and now that I can share it.

If you follow my Facebook page, you know that I am always true to my word. I do not bend to make sure all of my information is politically correct and I am always honest in what I say because (I feel) this is truly how people will learn and understand. But holding back a secret was not really bending...maybe it was more like saving the best for last.

I had the honor of being invited by Lauren Kashtan of Mylan Specialty to a blogger summit in New York City. This was invitation only and it was very hush-hush so until I got there, I didn't know who else would be there, why we were there or where I would fit into everything. My travel arrangements were handled by Jennifer and Suzanne from Chandler  Chicco Agency and I was a guest at The Strand Hotel. I have to say, I felt like a Food Allergy Princess for those few days and I am beyond appreciative for the entire experience.

So what happened and who was there? Goodness! First and foremost, let me get all of the silly, star-struck sappy stuff out of the way! I know this sounds like I am 13 and at a rock concert but, well, how often do you meet not only one of your favorite stars but several all at once? And, not only did I meet them, I had dinner, conversations and discussed topics that were dear to my heart. And what's even way cooler is that some of the people that I met had the same reaction as I did, which made me realize that what I am doing is absolutely, positively the right thing for me to continue to do. We all met for dinner and who was at the table? Sloane Miller, Dr. Ruchi Gupta, Cybele Pascal, Kelly Rudnicki and about 14 other wonderful food allergy bloggers. (For the complete list, please click here.) What was funny to watch were the introductions. Each of us said our name, what our blog was and then you would hear "Oh, I know you!!" What was even better was that all of these people were just so laid back, open to sharing and it felt as if I had met up with my old high school friends. We exchanged food allergy stories, how we began doing what we were doing and we even closed the rooftop area with the awesome view of the Empire State Building right there with us.

What did I learn? I learned that when you ask the universe for help, it presents answers to guide you to the next step. Corny, yes, way corny and hokey but this is how I feel. I began this year with the resolution and thought that what I really need to learn is to do more but how? How can I begin to go beyond what I have accomplished to help others? This was my answer in many ways. I will admit, I am not even remotely as tech and media savvy as I need to be. I was overjoyed when one of the speakers, Ritesh Patel gave us a very specific list of what we needed to do to get our information out and what avenues generally worked best. This created a newer and bigger to do list for me but it was a list full of hope and energy.

I also learned that Mylan and it's associates are very dedicated to improving their studies to get the importance of Epipen usage out to everyone who desperately needs it. They expressed that many of their studies often show that a majority of the allergic reactions that occur are almost always preventable as long as we stay vigilant in our preplanning skills. How can we do this? It's a simple process as explained by Sloane Miller "Identify the issue, break it down into components and tackle each one at a time." If you say you thought that's what you are doing, check yourself and see if that's true of all situations. Are you discussing and following through with your allergy plan of action with your child? Are you discussing all types of situations that may present themselves so that communication will not hinder your son or daughter from asking you important questions? Do they feel comfortable enough to ask you anything, even if it's about kissing and dating with food allergies? This is a life long process and just like learning to tie your shoe, the more you keep it as a part of your daily routine, the easier and more casual it will be.

We also had the honor of talking with Dr. Ruchi Gupta, author of "The Food Allergy Experience" and well-known for her involvement in the food allergy world. She guided us through the importance of having the right information, not just for our family but for everyone that food allergies effect. Having food allergies does not have a simple fix (well, we all know that) but having great Doctors to help you find your resources and provide the additional support that is needed is one of the biggest hurdles that needs to be met.

So what now? Well, for me, it was first back to everyday life and work because, you know, laundry and dishes seem to always be there. But more importantly, I have my sites set high for this coming year. I have some new projects in mind (my next secret!) and I returned finding myself thinking way too many things at once. I feel empowered with this new information that I have been given. I feel stronger with fresh ideas and approaches on how to increase not only my skills and knowledge but to share it with who I can as well. Life is not about who you are but what you can become and the people that take that journey with you. There is never a light at the end of the tunnel because the tunnel doesn't end- it simply leads us on our path. I am going to listen to my heart and just keep traveling ahead and I invite anyone who would like to go with me.

I would like to express my gratitude to Mylan Specialty for providing this wonderful opportunity to me, Chandler Chicco Agency for making sure that all of my travel arrangements were perfect, The Strand Hotel for delicious food and accommodations, Noel Malcolm for the photographs (minus the somewhat blurry Empire State Building, which was mine and I would not want to disgrace him with that one!) and for all of my fellow bloggers that were there with me.

I would like to mention that I was not compensated nor am I obligated in any way by anyone who sponsored this trip for me.