Friday, 5 June 2015

Not waving, but drowning.

Both The Times and The Telegraph are today running stories on concern over middle class children being starved due to misplaced parental concern over food allergies. Clearly this article has been shared between both newspapers but what concerns me is the complete lack of medical advice or concrete information on the subject amongst the sweeping accusations made. Whilst loosely based on the collaborative report in Sense About Science  on Allergy, it's just another scaremongering article which belongs in the gutter press and helps no one. Indeed, the original report, whilst more balanced, still neglects to described the non IgE food allergies so many - including my family - suffer from.

I'm sure there is some genuine cause for concern, and it's true to say that more affluent parents are more likely to fall foul of the latest food fad since a)they have more money to spend on their children and therefore have greater choice and b) possibly more time to consider the options. (A child in my daughter's class is "allergic" to sandwiches, but eats cakes and biscuits with wheat in...) Certainly middle class tooth decay is no myth, as one comedian observed in his comment on raisins being "middle class crack for kids" our obsession with meeting the "Five a Day" guidelines led many to unwittingly feed their children frequent fruit snacks which were so full of sugar that the incidence of tooth decay soared amongst children of the better off.

The Gwyneth Paltrow's of this world do little to help, and the media should know better than to support the celeb drive for fashionable exclusion diets. Convinced that they "feel healthier" off wheat, gluten or whatever the latest craze is, they apply the same warped logic to their children, thus controlling their diet too. In a world where fast food is ubiquitous and many children are overweight- even obese - I can see they might find this attractive, but they would receive no medical support for this. Perhaps the media should focus their attention specifically on such a group, striving to enlighten and advise rather than tar all allergy parents with the same brush? The way to avoid indiscriminate attacks like today's articles is to write responsibly and include a little factual information at least somewhere in your piece - either that or write for the Daily Mirror...



I wrote here about Free From foods not being a Lifestyle choice - and for many they most certainly are not. Eating "freefrom" food is not a lifestyle choice for the vast majority who do so, it's a no-alternative, medically imposed way of life and to suggest otherwise is both ignorant and offensive. What is really crucial here, is explaining the difference between systemic IgE allergies, and non IgE allergies. They are both allergies, both involve the immune system and neither is an intolerance. Despite being detailed in the NICE guidelines of February 2011 most doctors are still ignorant of  Non IgE responses to food proteins, still confusing them with intolerances which involve sugars.

The difference is that non IgE patients don't risk their lives on a one-off encounter with a protein they react to. The reaction will be slower, possibly delayed and more insidious. You can read about it here but the main symptoms are likely to be as follows:-

IgE (systemic) allergy


non IgE (local) reaction

Most frustrating of all, YOU CANNOT TEST FOR NON-IGE ALLERGIES. So there might be no initial reaction, no "waving" - but the sufferer is still "drowning" - having an allergic reaction under the surface.

So I cannot prove to you, here and now, that my daughter reacts horribly to soya. But come and spend a couple of days with us and watch and THEN I can demonstrate to you how she suffers. Telling me she is not allergic because you watched her eat something with soya in and she didn't stop breathing is down to ignorance - not prejudice, and the media should act responsibly and add some degree of education in its articles to avoid perpetuating this awful situation. 

My kids have EGID - Eosinophilic Disease. If they eat food their body has a local reaction to then inflammation occurs in the gut. Basic bodily functions such as digestion, absorption and defecation don't happen as nature intended. And that's the VERY short version. EGID is a very unpleasant, poorly understood, emergent disease, with other unpleasant symptoms beyond the gut. It often goes with other disorders too, Hypermobility Syndrome, EDS and (as is increasingly noted) Autism. We have the full house here. For the EGID side of things we are dairy, soya, wheat, gluten free and on minimal egg, beef and other foods. One of my kids used to be tube fed and without a strict exclusion diet he was heading towards bowel surgery due to chronic inflammation and resultant nerve damage.. And we are the lucky ones - I know far too many children who cannot eat at all - some whom the media, in particular the Daily Mail - seek to advertise as rare and bizarre anomalies. Sadly their numbers are dramatically increasing.

For reasons unknown to current researchers and health professionals there is a cluster of cases of this formerly rare disease in the Home Counties and London, and again, for unknown reasons vitamin deficiencies often PRECEDE this condition. There is current research into Vitamin D levels and gut allergies, which needs further funding - which is going to be less likely when such drivel is written in the media. Less than 1% of ALL research funding goes on gastrointestinal conditions, NONE on paediatric gastrointestinal conditions - despite health professionals widely acknowledging that children with chronic gastrointestinal diseases having the poorest quality of life of all chronically sick children.

So whilst there might be some incidence of middle class over reaction to food allergies, just as you would not publish a thesis without some research and a decent evidence base, no health article should be based on hearsay either. The media needs to start exercising some responsibility for what they publish.  Articles like this trivialise serious conditions like Eosinophilic Disease instead of educate their readers on how to seek advice if they suspect their child has a problem with a certain food.  We need greater awareness (see here) with accurate information which would not only make misunderstanding less likely, but offer greater community to support to those really suffering.


18 comments:

  1. Great article Kate - will be sharing on x

    ReplyDelete
  2. I totally agree with you.
    I recently had to push for my daughter to be seen, we found out that she has a dairy allergy. It has been a complete lifestyle change for her. But she would rather do that than suffer with the the tummy pains and sickness.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm not sure if my comment went through so I'll post again just in case ;-)

    I always think it's such a shame when information is lost because journalists just want to sensationalise a story!

    ReplyDelete
  4. The way that the research has been reported in the media today has been worrying and irresponsible. I'm so sorry for the conditions that your children live with and I hope that more research is carried out soon to help them.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Very interesting post that raises some very good points, thanks for sharing it.

    Helen X

    ReplyDelete
  6. Wel done for wriitng this and sharing a ot of important information that I didn't know before. Mich x

    ReplyDelete
  7. I really do learn a lot from your articles Kate.
    The tabloids need somebody as knowledgeable as yourself to teach their readers a few things.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! I heard earlier that Sense about Science are now considering expanding the paper to include more on non IgE allergies having read this, which makes me very, very happy :)

      Delete
  8. My twin nephews are 6 months old and have allergies but because they are considered babies, my sister has to randomly try them with foods to see how severe the reaction is before anyone will take it seriously x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sorry to hear that, I hope they can get appropriate help soon.

      Delete
  9. Amazing read! So informative. This is the reason why I dont read the papers anymore! They really sensationalized everything and they dont have enough research. Thanks for sharing. #pocolo

    ReplyDelete
  10. What a great post - it is shame how the media can change things.

    ReplyDelete
  11. What an insightful post. I know what you mean about the kid with sandwiches (we have something similar with a friends kid)!

    ReplyDelete
  12. The mainstream media just want to sell papers, magazines and advertising, and so sensationalise everything. You are living with the situation, and this article has been very insightful... thank you for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  13. This is such a great post and really important. I'm never ceased to be amazed at how wrong the mainstram media can get things!

    ReplyDelete
  14. i really should see someone myself i seem to struggle when i eat most things i eat less than my 4 yr old yet put on more weight and it gives me such cramps and bloating x

    ReplyDelete
  15. What a great post - thank you for sharing this important info. Kaz x

    ReplyDelete

Many thanks for taking the time to comment!

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...