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Food Allergies/Food Phobias


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So many people have a wide variety of food allergies these days that I can't help wondering if this is a result of the way we live, "we" meaning American society by and large, or if it is a result of globalism and the effects that American culture has on world culture at large. Or would you say its our primordial selves reasserting themselves with a vengeance? Remember, Mother Nature will not be denied. [g]

I am lactose intolerant, other egulleteers have a marked aversion to beef, pork, dairy and other foodstuffs, and some of my friends are allergic to CORN (anything corn-related) and potatoes respectively. It makes for an interesting challenge to cook for them, to say the least.

Any comments? Discuss.

SA

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I know many people who don't drink milk and avoid dairy. They point out that humans are the only mammals that drink milk after infancy (We're probably the only mammals that deep fry our food also, so I don't know the relevance of that) and claim that adult's aren't meant to process milk.

On the other hand, my sister does advertising for a dairy association, and claims that very few people are actually lactose intolerant, and most are just jumping on the bandwagon (similar to claims of ADD and Epstein's Barr Syndrome, both of which I definitely have).

I've never heard of anyone being "allergic" to beef or pork (and from an evolutionary standpoint I find it difficult to believe that such an allergy could affect all but a tiny percentage of the population), although vegetarians tell me that after abstaining for long enough, the body reacts a little violently when the meat is first re-introduced.

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I know many people who don't drink milk and avoid dairy.  They point out that humans are the only mammals that drink milk after infancy (We're probably the only mammals that deep fry our food also, so I don't know the relevance of that) and claim that adult's aren't meant to process milk.

On the other hand, my sister does advertising for a dairy association, and claims that very few people are actually lactose intolerant, and most are just jumping on the bandwagon (similar to claims of ADD and Epstein's Barr Syndrome, both of which I definitely have).

I've never heard of anyone being "allergic" to beef or pork (and from an evolutionary standpoint I find it difficult to believe that such an allergy could affect all but a tiny percentage of the population), although vegetarians tell me that after abstaining for long enough, the body reacts a little violently when the meat is first re-introduced.

I'm lactose intolerant. And it's real, believe you me.

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There is clearly a massive disconnect between the actual number of people in society with food allergies and the number of people who think they have food allergies. Even the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), which is what I guess you'd call a "pro-allergy" group (not that they're in favor of allergies, but they lobby on behalf of those with allergies) will tell you that "2 to 2 1/2 percent of the general population suffers from food allergy." Yet a much higher percentage of people believe they have food allergies: Somewhere in the neighborhood of 30% according to the surveys I've seen for the United States.

Now that doesn't mean there are no allergies, but if 2 out of 100 people actually have them and 30 out of 100 people say they do then you do the math, and that's not counting the people who say they don't but really do.

Note also that lactose intolerance is not an allergy. It is, as the name implies, an intolerance. There is, again, a disconnect between the number of people who have it for real and the number of people who think they have it.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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There was an article in the New York Times magazine a while back about the surge in allergies over recent years. I don't think it's available for free on the 'Net anymore, though. Someone could probably read it and summarize the main topics of the article, however.

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It's always worth remembering that the people who provide "statistics" on the "increase" in allergies are the very same people who benefit from people believing they have allergies.

An allergy is a strictly bioloigical reaction to a substance, which is scientifically observable. An intolerance is generally not, but simply produces subjective responses (such as nausea) and in many cases responses which could as easily be attributable to quite different causes.

Probably a majority of people suffer from pollen allergy, which is generally believed to be caused by humans drinking cows' milk as babies. But food allergies are pretty rare by comparison. I believe that blind tests were carried out several years ago in the USA on a large group of people who calimed to have a specific food allergy, and not one reacted to their allergen in the blind test !!!

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It's always worth remembering that the people who provide "statistics" on the "increase" in allergies are the very same people who benefit from people believing they have allergies.

Yes, Martin-san. And the people who believe they have allergies benefit by believing there is something special about themselves that deserves especial care. It not only occupies them but can cause a flurry of activity on the part of others directed towards and about them.

Allergy, thy name is vanity.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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I'm not usually one for anecdotal evidence, but I can't help observing that so many North Americans think they have allergies and intolerances (and that they're the same thing, and that the ability to eat something is an all-or-nothing/infinite-or-zero proposition), whereas when you go to Europe it seems nobody has ever heard of food allergies or intolerances. Given that the majority of North Americans are from European genetic stock (This is still true, isn't it? Regardless, the number is high.), there are pretty much only two possible explanations: Psychological and environmental. Since the environmental explanations strike me as pseudoscientific and predictably neurotic, I lean heavily towards the psychological.

At the same time, food allergies can kill. It happens to several hundred very unfortunate people every year in the United States alone, and I assume it happens elsewhere in the world whether it is properly diagnosed or not. Those who fabricate allergies -- intentionally or not -- are the boys-who-cried-wolf for those who really have them.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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If people are fabricating food allergies then why are they doing so?

Attention? Maybe, but it strikes me as part of a more general trend amongst Americans to refute thenotion of taking personal responsibility for anything that happens to you.

You got ill from smoking? Why it's not your fault for ignoring the health warnings for 20 years but the fault of those nasty cigarettes and those who make them.

I can honestly see a time when someone soon will sue a banana company for not posting a health warning on the banana to the effect that some people may be allergic to bananas. It already happens with nuts,doesn't it?

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I have no evidence to back this up but I would hazard a guess that the number of women claiming to have food allergies outweighs the number of men.

Why? Because food allergies are part of a spectrum of food disorders that affect women more than men (although admittedly the gender gap is closing).

As Fat Guy rightly says,genuine allergies are extremely dangerous and can be life threatening. That is NOT what is generally meant these days when people claim to have allergies.

In the West we have an extremely complex,ambivalent relationship to food. The rise in smoking amongst teenage girls and young women has been proved to be directly related to their fear of putting on weight. THEY WOULD RATHER RISK CANCER THAN PUT ON WEIGHT. Is there not something deeply perverse about that?

Saying you have an allergy is just another way of saying you don't want to eat something. Why not just say you don't want it or don't like it? Because the desire to not eat it springs out of a disorder rather than a naturally evolved set of likes and dislikes. A disorder doesn't have to manifest itself as extremely as anorexia or bulimia but is no less of a disorder when manifesting itself as a bogus allergy.

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I'd say this is comparable to the number of people claiming sensitivity to MSG.

=Mark

Give a man a fish, he eats for a Day.

Teach a man to fish, he eats for Life.

Teach a man to sell fish, he eats Steak

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From what I remember after watching a lengthy Discovery Health Channel special on Allergies, your body's immune system treats any foreign object (including food) as a threat. When we are children and we first try a fruit our body's immune system checks it out and creates an antibody for that food. I remember they used a lady who was closeted by her parents as an example. She was never given a variety of things to try as a youngster so her immune system never created antibodies for a variety of stuff.

Edit: This one goes a little deeper into the subject.

Allergies

Food Allergy - FAAN

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But nowadays people are becoming allergic to foods that they were never allergic to before. It's not uncommon to hear people say "I used to love cream and cheese but now I'm allergic to dairy"

What they mean is: They got ill after they had eaten dairy one time and associate the two together thereby concluding that they have an allergy.Or they don't like dairy products any more. Or they may like dairy products but ,for whatever reason,don't want to eat them any more.

Whatever, they are NOT allergic to them in 99% of cases.

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I started having problems with chocolate a few years ago. I love chocolate and am a definate chocoholic but now if I eat too much chocolate I get a blister from the roof of my mouth and straight down my throat. I could say that I am allergic to chocolate but I dont think that is so. I think that maybe they are putting something different into the chocolate. It is the same thing with tomato sauce. I cannot be allergic to tomato sauce. I make tomato sauce at home from scratch all the time but I get hives from some of the store brands....like Ragu. It has to be a preservative, chemical or ingredient that they have added to the product. Not the product itself.

Im not giving up my precious chocolate and tomato sauce just because someone wants to tell me that Im allergic to it. Im not allergic to it. Im allergic to something in it. There's a big difference. And besides, Im not gonna bitch about one little thing...everyone on the planet is not allergic to the one thing I am allergic to. Heck, someone could be allergic to the tomato sauce I make at home. :wink:

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Here's how real lactose intolerance works:

I drink a glass of milk, or eat a bowl of ice cream - one hour later, or sometimes less, big trouble. It's that simple. If I take a bunch of lactaids, it helps a lot, but not completely. And I know several people who have the same reaction.

I know a couple of people with really severe food allergies. They eat the food (certain nuts, certain fruits, for example), then: hives, itching, fever, swelling...

...none of the above are anything but very real.

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Here's how real lactose intolerance works:

I drink a glass of milk, or eat a bowl of ice cream - one hour later, or sometimes less, big trouble.  It's that simple.  If I take a bunch of lactaids, it helps a lot, but not completely.  And I know several people who have the same reaction.

I know a couple of people with really severe food allergies.  They eat the food (certain nuts, certain fruits, for example), then:  hives, itching, fever, swelling...

...none of the above are anything but very real.

LOL! yeah, duh. we know that. we are also saying "it's all in your head". pay attention, here's how it works.

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Nina, I think all reasonable people must agree:

1) Food allergies are real and can be deadly.

2) Food intolerances are real and can be uncomfortable or even, in exceptional cases, dangerous.

3) Something like 90% (or some very high percentage) of people claiming to have either, don't.

So what are we to make of it all? Specifically, what do you have to say about point number 3?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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FAAN says "2 to 2 1/2 percent of the general population suffers from food allergy."

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I swore I wasn't going to post in this thread (obviously I lied)...some people do develop allergies...mine is to caviar. It is something I truly enjoyed in the past. I was lucky enough to have a boyfriend who practically lived on beluga (yes, he was a chef). I had never had a "problem" eating it before. If you get squeamish stop reading here....Recently a chef sent out his version of a beggar's purse (no, it wasn't March...they know about my allergy). I asked the waiter what was in it...smoked salmon, creme fraiche, chives and caviar...I asked osetra (I am only alllergic to the "good stuff")...no ma'am american lumpfish (which I am not alllergic to, unfortunately). So, I ate it...a few mins. later I knew I was going to be seriously ill (can you say projectile?) Luckily (for me and everyone in the vicinity)...the ladies' room was nearby. That was the end of my evening. It was very embarassing.

And, while I am at it...whenever something on the menu...be it Matsuhisa, Jean George, Le Cirque or wherever that has a dish with caviar included...I still get charged full freight...talking about adding insult to injury :blink:. The upshot is, until this happened to me, I would have agreed with the sentiment that allergies are all in peoples' minds (since until caviar I had no allergies what so ever...including pollens). Now, I have to believe as we age and our enviroment changes...it is possible our tolerances change and we are susceptible to developing allergies...whether it be to milk (who would "want" to be allergic to ice cream?!?!), caviar or whatever. Much less suffer the consequences that can accompany these intolerances.

Okay, Rant over :wacko: I feel much better now :biggrin: Thanks for letting me vent :wink:

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Does FAAN consider Lactose Intolerance as an allergy? Or do they define intolerance as something other than an allergy? I admit I haven't gone to the link yet...on my way now...

Never mind...I read the links and have my answers...now, I wonder if they can do a scratch test instead of rast for caviar...calling the alllergist on Mon.

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Southern Girl: Your reaction to caviar doesn't sound like an allergic reaction. Have you had it diagnosed by a doctor? Let me know what you learn from the FAAN site.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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