Saturday. I always look forward to this day, a day of different food- but now, instead of having a cheat list, its just nice to go about the day and be able to eat whatever comes my way. Saturday is the day I don’t have to second guess my choices, and even indulge if I choose. But on this particular Saturday, I definitely had a different perspective on food and the food choices I make. I am lucky enough to be able to choose my food and have no restrictions when it comes to eating food.
First thing this morning, we had the allergy walk in Wash Park. We attend this every year because my niece has severe food allergies. In fact, I wouldn’t even call it allergies, that’s putting it too mildly, these foods are like poison to her. She is anaphylactic, which means certain foods cause her body to go into shock and can kill her. These foods are basic foods and included in most peoples’ every day lives. But for my niece, eating an egg can cause deadly reactions, drinking milk can make her vomit, and even so much as touching a piece of garlic can break her out in hives. She has reactions to so many things, even carrots and avocado, things most all of us consider healthy and safe. The allergy walk is a way for these kids, their friends and family, to get together and realize how widespread our food allergy problem has become. Growing up, I had only known one girl who was allergic to certain foods and now I realize she was lactose intolerant. Intolerance and an allergy are quite different. Food allergies, such as my niece’s, which are life threatening, were simply unheard of up until a couple decades ago. But now, food allergies are prevalent and its pretty clear why. Our food is tampered with and treated with all sorts of pesticides and chemicals, and most of our food is genetically engineered, (aka created). And unfortunately not all children, or humans for that matter, can process these foods.
If you look at the Asian culture, many asians are lactose intolerant. This is because their diets rarely include dairy, therefore, their bodies and their immune systems can’t tolerate or digest lactose. But with people who are lactose intolerant, there is some treatment and in most cases, the most severe side effect is uncomfortable or upset stomach. These side effects won’t kill you. Also, dairy is a naturally occurring ingredient – I’m sure there is nothing natural about latex and pesticides in our food. So how does a country create or grow such foods that will actually cause such extensive amount of harm to so many people? Well I think it’s a pretty safe assumption that our food is not the healthiest or the purest. Those of us born without these allergies (in addition to a healthy dose of luck) just so happen to be able tolerate the pesticides, chemicals and genetically engineered food. I may not know of many food allergy children but I certainly know most every body at one time or another has suffered from a bout of food poisoning. Food poisoning is never pleasant, but chances are whatever you ate was probably not clean, whether it was mixed or grown with something not clean or could have even just touched something not clean. Once consumed, your body rejected it, while leaving you reeling and praying to the porcelain gods. Now, think if your child ate a cookie and had an even more severe reaction than food poisoning. A reaction to the point their body went into shock, and every time your child ate this cookie, they were taking a chance they would be put into the hospital or stuck with an epi pen to save their life? For 4-6% of the population, and one in 13 children, this is a reality.
How many of us don’t think twice of our child sitting down in a movie theatre or in their desk in a class room. How about forgetting to wash our kid’s hands after eating a meal or a snack, or getting onto an airplane for a 2 hour flight, even hunting for eggs on Easter? To an allergy kid, these are activities that are well thought out and planned, maybe even avoided. Washing hands is not just a must but a necessity. Just a spoonful of peanut butter can be straight poison, causing not just hives or vomiting, but restricted breathing, even cardiac arrest. Doesn’t that statement sound ridiculous? Why in this day and age is something as simple as a peanut or an egg even a concern?
So what can we do? Well I am not suggesting everybody stop buying peanut butter. I am suggesting people be educated, get educated and share the knowledge. We need more research on our food and what is causing our children to reject these foods. We need more funding to make sure we understand what and how we treat and grow our food sources. We need to prevent more children from having these so called allergies. In this case, knowledge really is power. If you are so inclined, check out these articles and organizations devoted to understanding food allergies:
Clearly this is an issue near and dear to my heart but it deserves a chance to be understood by the greater population because there are quite a few kids’ lives that depend on it. Now I will proceed to step off my soap box.