Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Highlights from Dr. Jones' Talk, Part 1

At our July UFAN chapter meeting, we were fortunate enough to have Dr. Douglas Jones come speak to our group about the latest food allergy news in testing, treatments, and research. As the only full-time board-certified allergist in Davis County, he discovered when he opened his practice almost a year ago that people in this area have a dire need for accurate, up-to-date information about food allergies. Our group was no exception – we may be more well-informed than many of the people he sees, but we were still anxious to learn more, and he obliged beautifully!

Dr. Jones covered a wide variety of topics for us, and delved into both the science and the regulations that affect research and testing. He covered so much that I’m going to mention a few highlights from his presentation this week, and more next week.

How early can children be tested for food allergies? Dr. Jones said there’s no specific limit on when a child can be tested. It’s more important to look at the child’s and family’s history of reactions, what they want to learn, the family’s needs, and so on. Theoretically, you can test anytime if the child’s history really warrants it, but it’s a case-by-case decision. Dr. Jones recommends retesting every 6 to 12 months for younger kids, less frequently for older kids.

Should you avoid common food allergens when pregnant or nursing to avoid causing your baby to have allergies? Dr. Jones doesn’t feel there’s enough good data to base a decision on. He says it’s probably more important to continue to eat a healthy diet and not worry so much about the allergens in it, because the fetus needs the nutrition. He stresses to mothers: “It’s not your fault!” As for nursing, there is some evidence to suggest nursing for 4-6 months may be beneficial. As far as mothers avoiding foods while nursing in an effort to try and prevent food allergies, there is no data to support this. If you can identify a pattern with nursing and reactions, then that’s one thing, but avoiding things to try to prevent allergies is not recommended. He says it could be more likely that children develop food allergies through accidental skin contact (Uncle Fred forgot to wash his hands after eating those peanuts) rather than through breast milk. Until there’s more data, it’s another case-by-case decision.

Eczema: Apart from Dr. Jones’ discussion, the group had a general discussion about eczema, and why so many pediatricians don’t seem to realize that most cases have an underlying root cause, and most often that root cause is food allergies. Dr. Jones didn’t have an answer for why this is unrecognized or ignored by primary care doctors. But, we all know people whose children have suffered for years with eczema, and their doctors have simply prescribed steroid creams and sent them away, before the parents finally went to an allergist and had their children tested. Often those children’s skin is clear in a matter of a couple of weeks after eliminating the offending food – often milk or eggs – from their diet. It's such a simple thing to test for and cure, yet these children suffer for years sometimes because their doctors don’t know or won’t accept that food allergies could be the cause.

For More Information: Dr. Jones recommended a book called Food Allergy Survival Guide, by Vesanto Melina, Dina Aronson, and Jo Stepaniak.

Those are some of the topics we discussed, and we all learned a tremendous amount. Next week I’ll write about more highlights from his talk, including blood serum testing, the latest news on the Chinese herbal study, and more. Many, many thanks to Dr. Jones for coming to share his knowledge with all of us. If you want to contact his office for an appointment, here’s his information:

Dr. Douglas H. Jones, MD
Rocky Mountain Allergy, Asthma, Immunology
1660 W. Antelope Dr ., Suite 310
Layton , UT 84041

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sonoma Valley Musings

I’m back! OK, so you probably didn’t even miss me. But I tried really hard to post a blog column last week from Sonoma Valley, California, but I couldn’t get my wi-fi connection to work, so I could never get online. So I apologize for the long break between postings.

Last week was my husband’s and my twentieth anniversary, so we went to Sonoma to celebrate. It was our first trip alone since our son was born ten years ago, and we enjoyed spending time together and being extremely lazy. We’d picked a destination where we wouldn’t feel guilty about not having our son with us – he’s such an avid traveler that most of the places we considered we worried we’d spend the whole time saying, “Oh, I wish he were here to see that!” Then we hit upon Wine Country and decided that would be perfect. It was about the only place in the world where he would be bored out of his mind and we grown-ups would be happy as little clams.

We were right.

While my husband and I were sitting on patios overlooking acres and acres of vineyards, tasting decadent Bordeaux-style reds, smooth-as-silk Zinfandels, and crisp Sauvignon Blancs, our son was having the time of his life staying with his best friend’s family, going to swimming pools, movies, parks, batting cages, and birthday parties. And since his best friend is food-allergic, too, we didn’t have to worry for even a second about whether or not he’d be safe. The mom he stayed with, Kim, has been my partner in the food-allergy battle for nearly ten years now, and she’s the ultimate mom anyway – I wanna be just like her when I grow up!

Knowing my son was safe under Kim’s wing made it easier to relax and enjoy my husband last week. We spent a lot of time talking about wine, the funny people we encountered at the wineries, the lack of tourists for this time of year (the bad economy was great for our vacation, bad for the winery and restaurant owners), and why I don’t cook like the California gourmet chefs at all the restaurants in Sonoma and Napa. (I have a lot of good excuses, believe me.)

We also noticed things about allergies here and there, and were surprised at how often they came up. For example, the bed and breakfast where we stayed was absolutely delightful – it’s called the Thistle Dew Inn, and it’s one block off the main plaza (town square) in Sonoma. My husband had been a little leery of staying in a B&B because he knows many of them use a lot of potpourri and perfumes, and he’s allergic to those types of scents. When we arrived, the welcome paper we received explained that this B&B was fragrance-free, and asked guests to please refrain from using perfumes and colognes. That was great for us! We told the owner she should put that on her website, so that fragrance-sensitive travelers will know to choose her establishment over others. Her welcome sheet also asked guests to please let her know about any food allergies so she could accommodate them in her fabulous breakfasts. Enlightened!

Other things we noticed about allergies on our trip:

  • Many wineries set out little trays of almonds during the wine tastings.
  • Californians love avocados, so I had to remember to ask about avocados in menu items frequently (I’m allergic to them).
  • Trader Joe’s carries a sunflower-seed butter that looks a lot like Sunbutter. I bought a jar but haven’t opened it yet, so I’ll let you know when I do if it’s similar.
  • Trader Joe’s also carries an aluminum-free deodorant that uses cotton, similar to the Adidas deodorant I’ve been using that is difficult to find in stores. (I’m allergic to aluminum.) I bought a couple of canisters but haven’t tried it yet.
  • I hear a rumor Trader Joe’s might be opening in Utah soon – I can’t wait!
  • A romesco sauce is made of ground nuts (often almonds or hazelnuts) mixed with ground roasted peppers and olive oil, but the peppers can hide the taste of the nuts, so don’t ever order anything without asking what all the ingredients are first. (Fortunately, since our son wasn’t with us, nuts weren’t a problem for us, but I’m glad I’ve learned what romesco sauce is anyway!)

Now we’re home, reunited with our son, and life is slowly returning to normal, whatever that is. Gone are the five-star meals, the housekeeping service, and the lively little walking-distance town square with its luscious restaurants and party-atmosphere farmer’s market.

Oh well. Guess I’ll have to start brushing up on my gourmet cooking skills now. Do tacos count as gourmet cooking?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Summer Nights at the Ice Cream Stand

My childhood memories of summer include lots and lots of hot, muggy nights driving to the ice cream stand with my parents and my younger brother. My dad loves ice cream with a passion other men might reserve for things like women or NASCAR racing. So when the temperatures rose to somewhere around “blistering,” we’d be in the car headed for a favorite ice cream haunt.

Where we went depended on where we lived. When I was very young, we lived in upstate New York, and our favorite place was a stand that served fresh peach ice cream. I remember driving there in the dark with the car windows down, the smell of lilacs streaming by in the night, then standing around the parking lot waiting with other patrons for our hand-dipped treat. There were probably fireflies and the sound of crickets. There was sometimes heat lightening. I know there was giggling, and drips we tried to catch before they fell from our cones onto the hot pavement.

In other places, our stand-by was Dairy Queen or Baskin-Robbins. You can’t go wrong with 31 flavors.

When my son was born, I looked forward to keeping our ice-cream-stand summer evenings going. But then we discovered his nut allergies.

Baskin-Robbins went right out the window. Can’t trust all those scoops in the same murky dishwater, moving from the Rocky Road to the Mango Sorbet. Dairy Queen has a big sign on the door saying everything they sell may be contaminated with nuts.

So, our ice cream evenings changed. We buy safe ice cream at the store and serve it at home on the patio. It’s nice, but somehow it’s just not the same thing as piling in the car, headed for a delectable treat, noise, and other good-natured ice cream lovers. But it’s just not something that was in the cards for us and our allergic son. It was easy to let go, because he’s more important than a hot fudge sundae (most days), but still, it was sort of sad.

But guess what? There’s a new place in town! Zeppe’s has opened up on Main Street in Layton, and they serve Italian Ice (gelato – kind of like sorbet, in wonderfully rich fruit flavors). I had some of their Italian ice last week at a birthday party, and it was delicious. So I stopped by there this weekend while out running errands and checked out the place, and sure enough, they have a few tables, a couple of chairs on the sidewalk, and a whole array of luscious-sounding flavors.

The best part is this: because their Italian ices are nut-, egg-, and dairy-free, my son’s best friend can also eat there.

Suddenly, I foresee a Friday night in my future that involves all of us – and my son’s best friend – piling into the car and heading out for a frozen treat, just like I did when I was a kid. I’m so ready for my long-lost summer tradition!

Now if only Utah had fireflies…