So I got the opportunity to have some “air time” on Sunday and it was fun. But, of course, it was a only a few minutes worth and it made me realise what I REALLY wanted to say to the general public, about food allergies (if I had more air time!). I got emailed some details about genuine Australian based research regarding the possible impact that highly processed food is having on our bodies, as a population. Neither of my children had hot chips at 7 months old and this was not the cause of Sam’s food allergies. This was of course, not the point of the research. Over the last thirty years our diets have changed and just like we have access to information at the press of a button so to are we inundated with versions of actual food, processed and pre-packaged for our convenience.
I personally, have started a wellness journey myself thanks to the shock of my life when I hopped onto some scales, coupled with the usual fatigue and ‘blah’ feeling that many of us busy mums have, but feel we don’t have the time to do anything about it. All of ‘this’ followed by an amazing and life changing wellness session with my wonderful and inspiring friend, Sophie (from Happy Well and Fed, ). I cleaned out my pantry and my fridge, am drinking a lot of water and started to become more mindful of the foods that I am putting into my body. As parents of children with food allergies know, we check labels. We check EVERY label. But over time I have become more critical of what I am checking and what I am really giving my children. I don’t just check the allergens anymore, I am checking additives, colourings, sugar and salt. Sophie recommended a book to me called “Eat.Nourish.Glow” by Amelia Freer (www.ameliafreer.com) which has completely changed my thinking about my own eating habits. I read it cover to cover in a day. I thought I was a healthy eater. I was so wrong. Amelia says, Banana’s don’t come in a packet that we have to check to see the contents to decide if it is good for us. It’s a fruit. It just is.
Being a psychologist I am also well aware and fascinated by the impact that food and food habits can have on our state of mind. The two are connected – our physical and mental wellbeing. If we are not eating well our mind is also not operating well and vice versa. The same can be said of our children. From what I have noticed in my own two boys (and they are busy!), the simpler their nutrition is the more they are able to regulate their emotions and the happier they are (obviously the impact of good food does not operate in isolation). If I do not have crap food in the house then it is simply not available and they can’t eat it. I will happily cut up a carrot instead and make an “avocado dip” which is basically mashed avocado. And Sam loves it. Got a fussy eater? I get it. Sam was too, and anecdotally, it is not the first time I have heard of allergy kids being fussy. Perhaps it comes from their initial allergic reactions and then being particularly wary of food (I am sure there is a research paper in that!). But anyway the research into fussy/picky eating in the general public suggests that kids need to be exposed to the same food over and over again. At least 10- 15 times before they might like it. That will be the next blog – Fussy eating.
When I say that food allergies has made us a healthier family, I genuinely mean it. I know it sounds extreme but I basically went Vegan when we intitally found out Sam had a dairy and egg allergy. My way of coping was to basically not have it in the home. It was the healthiest I have ever been.
As a recent example, I made a Banana Bread the other day (its a staple in our house) but this week, No sugar. None. Not even Agave Syrup. Sam (my eldest and food allergy son) said “Mum, this is the best banana bread you have ever made”. Our bodies become accustomed to tastes and how they make us feel. Over a number of weeks I had been doing my own in-house experiment slowly reducing the amount of sugar in the recipe, until there was none.
If you read enough about it and you are motivated, it really can change your perception about what our bodies need to thrive. I am certainly not saying that I or my boys will never eat less desirable food but what I am saying is that it is very easy for poor habits to form and I would like to try my best to instill positive and nutritious eating in both of my boys, so that becomes their habit.
This is part of the excerpt I read before my interview. A report on the research:
IT could be the “missing link” in discovering why millions of people suffer from an increasing array of food allergies.
Australian research has found the way we cook our food may be contributing to the dramatic increase in allergies in the Western world, with processed, superheated foods damaging our bodies and causing the immune system to overreact.
The work of Griffith University of Medicine’s Professor Pete Smith proposes that fast food promotes danger signals and immune responses in our bodies called “alarmins”.
Alarmins are molecules secreted from cells “undergoing non-programmed cell death” that signal tissue and cell damage that in turn alerts the immune response which increases allergies and auto-immune conditions.
“We are eating food heated, dried, reconstituted with sugar added, then superheated and that generates compounds that look like damaged tissue and our bodies respond to damaged tissue,” he said.
Diets high in what are called Advanced Glycation End products (AGEs) come about through deep frying and microwaving.
Professor Smith, who is also medical director at Allergy Medical, said foods in their original state are not at fault, but the manner in which we prepare food can alter their cellular structure and cause AGEs.
“When foods, particularly meats, are heated to high temperature, glycolipid compounds form. When consumed, these create danger signals within our body. We’re talking superheated foods like chips, which are the most commonly eaten vegetable in the Western world, deep-fried meat, the bacon burger with fries and all with low fibre.”
According to the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy Limited, food allergy occurs in about one in 20 children and in about two in 100 adults. The most common triggers are eggs, cow’s milk, peanuts, tree nuts, seafood, sesame, soy, fish and wheat.
Hospital admissions for severe allergic reactions have doubled over the past decade and admissions for anaphylaxis due to food allergy in children aged 0 to four years have increased fivefold over the same period.
Sydney mum Hannah Lange has an allergy to wheat and has been very careful introducing solids to her six-month-old Bobby.
Hannah’s brother is also coeliac so Bobby’s cousin Enzo, one, has also had a careful introduction to food.
“I’ve started him on spelt bread and there has been no reaction, but he has had a reaction to cheese,” Enzo’s mum Bethany Golles, 26, said