Food Allergies and Thanksgiving

There is no more food-centric holiday than Thanksgiving. Friends and family gather with the turkey as the centerpiece and a bountiful complement of side dishes and desserts. We express our thanks and bask in each other’s company, but let’s be honest. What we’re really excited about is the big meal.

Food Allergies and Thanksgiving

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The food-mania, however, may dim significantly if you have food allergies. Then you’re left to contemplate, and even fear, a number of scenarios. You may bite into dessert not realizing that it contains nuts, only to spiral into an anaphylactic reaction. Side dishes may include ingredients such as milk, wheat, eggs or other common allergens that could lead to a number of symptoms, including gas, bloating, vomiting, nausea, wheezing, asthma or a rash.

Food allergies are nothing to be ignored. They are a fast-growing problem in the U.S. It is estimated that in children, they increased by 50 percent in the years between 1997 and 2011. Today, roughly two kids per school classroom have allergies.

If you have food-allergic guests joining your Thanksgiving celebration this year, here are a few tips for making the holiday a safe and enjoyable experience for all:

  • Spread the word about guests’ allergies. That way if multiple people are contributing to the meal, they’ll know what ingredients to steer clear of.
  • Don’t make food the only thing to get excited about. Offer board games, crafts, sports, and perhaps a fun family outing.
  • Provide safe choices. You don’t have to strip every dish of food allergens, but make sure that there is a decent selection of foods that guests with allergies can enjoy worry-free.
  • Let guests with allergies fill their plates first. This could prevent people from moving serving pieces from one dish to the next, facilitating cross-contamination.
  • For severe allergies, make sure that you have an EpiPen ready just in case.

If you have food allergies and are eating outside of your home for the holiday, you can come armed with an allergy-free meal. Dish it up on a plate, wrap it securely and take it on the go so you can be sure that you will have enough safe food to eat.

If food allergies are compromising your or your child’s enjoyment of life, there’s good news. Though it used to be that people with food allergies had to simply avoid trigger foods, you can now eat more of the foods you love without fear of allergic reaction. This development is possible through a treatment known as sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT).

SLIT works much like allergy shots. It starts with allergy serum that can be taken regularly in order to desensitize your body to the foods that once made you feel miserable. With shots, the serum is injected into your skin. With sublingual immunotherapy, it is placed under the tongue where it absorbs into the bloodstream through specialized oral cells. The treatment is effective for milk, egg, wheat and nut allergy treatment and more.

Talk to a doctor about assessing your allergies using a food allergy test kit. You may also inquire about food allergy treatment using sublingual immunotherapy drops.

Food allergy treatment can help with a number of ailments, including eosinophilic esophagitis (EE). This allergy-related disease feels a lot like acid reflux, but doctors now believe that it is caused by allergies (usually food allergies). Talk to your doctor if you experience these symptoms: reflux, regurgitation, chest pain while eating and trouble swallowing foods. Your doctor can prescribe sublingual immunotherapy for eosinophilic esophagitis treatment.

About The Author

Stuart H. Agren, M.D.

Stuart H. Agren, M.D. completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Utah and went on to earn his Doctor of Medicine from Tulane University School of Medicine in 1974. He completed additional training at L.D.S. Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah and then established his private medical practice starting in 1975. Dr. Agren completed a mini-residency in Industrial Medicine at the Robert Johnson School of Medicine at Rutgers University and also completed training to become a certified Medical Review Officer.

Dr. Agren was the Medical Director at TRW and McDonnell Douglas in Mesa, Arizona and at Stauffer Chemical and Kennecott Copper in Salt Lake City, Utah. He also served as an adjunct faculty member at Arizona State University.

In his private medical practice, Dr. Agren specialized in family practice and allergy. In his work as a private practice allergist, he was one of the first doctors in the country to prescribe sublingual immunotherapy to his patients as an alternative to subcutaneous immunotherapy (allergy shots). He has also been a trailblazer in the field of food allergy treatment and research, developing a program to treat multiple food allergies simultaneously using sublingual immunotherapy. Dr. Agren has been featured on local CBS, NBC, and ABC news affiliates and won the peer-nominated “Top Doc” award from Phoenix Magazine.

After 20 years in private practice, Dr. Agren became the Founder and President of AllergyEasy, which helps primary care physicians around the country offer allergy testing and sublingual immunotherapy treatment to their patients. Over 200 physicians in over 32 states use the AllergyEasy program to help their patients overcome environmental and food allergies and asthma.