The Cost of Avoiding Foods (Rather than Treating Food Allergies)

Peanut-free lunch tables. Allergen-free menus at restaurants. A plethora of milk substitutes, ranging from soy to almond milk. Evidence of the food allergy epidemic are everywhere.

If you’re wondering why you didn’t hear as much about food allergies when you were young, it’s because they weren’t nearly as big of a problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food allergies in children rose by 50% from 1997 to 2011. What’s more, peanut or tree nut allergies appear to have tripled in roughly that same time period. According to Food Allergy Research and Education, 1 in 13 children currently suffers from food allergies (that’s approximately two per school classroom). And while some kids outgrow these allergies, many don’t, as evidenced by the fact that 1 in 10 adults suffers from food allergies.

Treating Food Allergies

(piviso / pixabay)

Food Avoidance

The standard approach to food allergy management is food avoidance, but that poses problems of its own. Nearly 40 percent of children with food allergies are allergic to more than one food. That leaves parents jumping through all kinds of hoops to fix meals that avoid common foods. For example, a common trifecta in kids is milk, wheat and egg allergies. Imagine having to feed a child three square meals per day with those mainstay ingredients removed from the equation. Chances are, you’ll be spending a lot of money shopping for ingredient alternatives—not to mention a lot of time trying to brew up meals that avoid allergens while still tasting good.

And even if you’re successful at avoiding trigger foods, you may not be successful at hitting nutritional benchmarks. According to the Journal of Food Allergy, avoidance or elimination diets can pose risks to overall health: “Children who avoid nutritionally important foods, such as milk or multiple foods allergens, may be at greater risk. Even adults with food allergies may encounter challenges to meet current recommended dietary guidelines for health and reduced risk of chronic disease.”

Food Avoidance Risks

To get a closer look at the health risks posed by elimination diets, consider the challenges of a diet without milk. One cup of cow’s milk can deliver 8 grams of protein. It can also provide both calcium and vitamin D, both of which can be difficult to get from other sources. Vitamin D facilitates calcium absorption, and calcium is critical for optimal bone mineralization.

Granted, there are plenty of plant-based milk substitutes, but they don’t all pack the same nutritional punch. For example, oat milk only has half of the protein and calcium. Almond milk has plenty of calcium but only a fraction of the protein as cow’s milk. Soy milk has similar quantities of protein and calcium, but it has a higher fat content and is considerably more expensive than cow’s milk.

According to Kelly Klaczkiewicz, registered dietitian at Children’s Hospital Colorado, “The biggest misinformation about elimination diets is that they are ‘healthier,’ but they are not necessarily safe for kids. Cutting out a major food group can significantly impact a child’s total nutrient intake and inhibit growth.”

Food Allergy Treatment

The challenges of elimination diets make food allergy treatment all the more critical. The kind of allergy treatment that works for environmental allergens (subcutaneous immunotherapy or allergy shots) is not safe for food allergy treatment. However, different forms of immunotherapy have been shown to be safe and effective for desensitizing people to food allergens.

These therapies include oral immunotherapy (OIT), which involves ingesting trace amounts of allergenic foods in gradually increasing doses over time. Another method is sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT), which is safer than OIT and involves liquid antigen being dispensed under the tongue where it can absorb into the bloodstream through specialized cells in the mouth. Both treatments have reported high levels of success and low risks in desensitizing people to food allergens.

At AllergyEasy, we have been offering food allergy treatment using sublingual immunotherapy with outstanding results. Using our Comprehensive Serum Mix, we can safely desensitize patients to dozens of the most prevalent food allergens with daily immunotherapy drops under the tongue. The drops condition the body to tolerate the proteins that once triggered uncomfortable and, in some cases, dangerous reactions to common food proteins. The result is that patients can enjoy more of the foods that they love—and the nutrition that they need.

A growing body of research bears out the success of sublingual immunotherapy for food allergies. For example, studies reviewed in the World Allergy Organization Journal revealed that randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled multicenter trials of SLIT for peanut allergens “clearly showed that peanut SLIT can safely induce a desensitized state in a majority of subjects compared with placebo and that the length of therapy can significantly affect the amount of allergen consumed.”

While food avoidance has long been the only option for food allergy sufferers, it is, at best, a cumbersome one and, at worst, a risky one that deprives people of the nutrients needed for optimal health. Ask us about sublingual immunotherapy for wheat, milk and nut allergy treatment and more.

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.