"Lets Eat Out!" Book Helps Individuals With Food Allergies Enhance Their Dining

By: Allana Mortell

There is no denying the prevalence of recent discussions about food allergies, gluten intolerances and treatment of both. We are all aware food allergies are on the rise but something less talked about is how restaurants are adapting their menus to deal with such allergies. Gluten-free menus are bursting onto the scene and those in the service industry are certainly becoming more knowledgeable on how to handle preparing dishes that are satisfying to the customer without compromising their health. With that said, proper communication between servers, kitchen staff, restaurant managers and the customer is absolutely vital.

For allergen and gluten intolerant individuals to have a complete dining experience, there must be a collaborative process between the guests and restaurants. In their 2005 book, Kim Koeller and Robert La France created a manual, the "Bible," if you will, for those with allergies and intolerances looking to dine out of their home. "Lets Eat Out! The Allergy Free Passport," was recently updated with a third edition this past year and features a whirlwind of tips, menu items, and questions all geared towards an objective of enjoying a safe experience regardless of restaurant, cuisine or location.

The book is a leader for the "Gluten Free Passport," which features different types of print and online articles geared towards a two-fold vision Koeller and LaFrance had so many years ago. First, to educate restaurants, travel providers and food manufacturers to cater to the needs of gluten, allergen and special diet customers while also empowering individuals to safely live, eat and travel while managing their allergies, sensitivities, diabetes and vegan or vegetarian diets.

The updated version of the book features 175 menu items in seven of the worlds most popular ethnic cuisines: American, Chinese, French, Indian, Italian, Mexican and Thai food and ten of the most common allergies: corn, dairy, eggs, fish, gluten, nuts, peanuts, shellfish, soy and wheat. Additionally, the book covers over 300 questions to ask about particular foods and allergies, while simultaneously featuring tips courtesy of chefs, nutritional and culinary experts and experienced eaters with long-term allergies. A focal point of the book is the freedom it gives to readers to make healthy and smart choices about what they want to eat and what they can and should be eating.

For the authors, the collaborative process between the restaurant and the guest begins with efforts from both sides. The allergy-free planning effort begins with education about dining outside the home and continues with tableside communication at the restaurant. The dramatic growth for dietary menus in restaurants is due to a number of factors. Most importantly, the awareness of these diseases and sensitivities eventually drives more restaurants to request that guests notify them upon dining of any food concerns. With that said, a recent study showed that 92% of gluten, wheat and allergen guests will return frequently to the same restaurant after a positive dining experience.

Lisa Felix, from "The Library Journal," highly recommends "Lets Eat Out!," because of its "detailed analysis of ingredients, preparation techniques, information about restaurant dining and airline meals and translation cards to indicate food preferences in various languages." The success of the book is certainly growing and with this recent third edition available in stores now, the hope is that those with allergies, intolerances, and the like will feel much more comfortable in their dining out and travel experiences. Lets Eat Out! is available in bookstores, Amazon.com and for those tablet handy,the book comes in e-book form as well.


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New Food Allergy Treatment on the Horizon

By: Allana Mortell

The word, "allergy," doesn't necessarily prompt feelings of positivity, especially when talking about food and the massive development of food allergies all over the world. Two of the biggest allergens are milk and peanut, which, alongside six others, account for the estimated 90% of allergic reactions in adults and children. The sensitivity surrounding allergies, in particular, treatment of such, is about to be slashed, thanks to new developments by researchers at Johns Hopkins Medical Center and Duke University.

Dr. Robert Wood, the Division Chief of Allergy and Immunology at Johns Hopkins recently presented a study that suggests providing a longer period of sublingual therapy, a method of treatment that puts small amounts of the allergen solution under the tongue of the person affected, could result in fewer allergic reactions from the treatment. Immunotherapy, or the building up of the immune system by gradually introducing small amounts of the allergen, was the original treatment to help those with food allergies. Within that category, sublingual and oral immunotherapy came into play - both different, but when combined together could potentially help those individuals with food allergies eat those trigger foods without any symptoms.

In a medical setting focusing on thirty children with cow's milk allergies, Wood and his team found that by performing a longer period of sublingual therapy, combined soon after with a shorter period of oral immunotherapy, where that small amount of allergen is swallowed, symptoms were slowly improved.

 CNN reported, "the results suggested that children who went through a year of sublingual therapy followed by one to two years of oral immunotherapy were less likely to have significant allergic reactions while undergoing the oral immunotherapy." Though this fascinating research is still in the early phases, (reports suggest the information and treatment wouldn't be made public for a possible six to eight years), the results shown have made vast improvements within this sticky situation of allergies.

While the belief should hold true regarding those with allergies staying as far away from their allergens as possible, the research and results Wood and his team conducted could certainly alter that belief, striking gold on such a sensitive, case-ridden topic.

Photo: iamshimone 

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Food Allergy Awareness Increases in Mainstream

By: Michael Engle

Do you remember when, once upon a time, flight attendants would apologize for withholding the free bags of peanuts due to a flier's allergy?  Today, this concern is more prevalent than ever; however, establishments have become increasingly aware of food allergies, are better informed of their potential ramifications, and are more prepared for life-or-death scenarios.  In a recent article for The Wall Street Journal, Liz Rappaport documented how the awareness of common food allergies has become more commonplace throughout mainstream society.

One such important development is the better understanding, and associated distinctions, between food intolerances and allergies.  Allergies, which only affect about 4% of the world's adult population, are caused if one's immune system were to treat an offending food as an infection.  This, with the resulting anaphylactic shock, can be fatal; people with confirmed food allergies should carry an Epi-Pen at all times, in case of an emergency.  On the other hand, intolerances do not involve the immune system, though they might result in body rashes, hives, cramps, bloating, diarrhea, and/or gas.

Intolerances and allergies should be monitored, as each person's reactions to various foods will vary.  For some people, a small degree of cross-contamination may necessitate a trip to the emergency room, so if a loved one suffers from a severe allergy to peanuts, take great care not to dip the peanut butter knife into the jam jar!  On the other hand, certain intolerances can be relatively benign, as evidenced by certain people who may always order the veal marsala instead of the veal parmesan, because of an allergy to wheat.  In addition, certain food intolerances may manifest themselves more severely in some foods, as opposed to others.  For instance, mild wheat allergies may encourage one to avoid wheat bread, yet not be affected by Rice or Corn Chex, which are made in the same factory as Wheat Chex.

Despite these societal advances, some parents still have reservations about their local schools, and their children's safety, with respect to on-campus food.  For every child who is privately instructed never to purchase a school lunch, there may be an occasional classroom snack that may not be safe.  Occasionally, tragedy can ensue from an allergic accident, as evidenced by 13-year old Katelyn Carlson's death in December 2010, as she suffered an allergic reaction to a peanut ingredient in the Chinese food that her class ordered.  In addition, while some schools do not allow Epi-Pens outside of a locked compartment in the school nurse's office, there is some concern that that may be inadequate, since every second is crucial when responding to allergic reactions.

However, with increased emphasis on food safety, it is easier than ever to dine at restaurants with reduced concerns over allergies.  Even though a maa®tre d' may not be able to pull the peanuts out of a Snickers bar, s/he will always be able to identify particular dishes to avoid, and/or to communicate the vital information to the kitchen.

Photo:  Caitlin Covington

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Food Allergies at a Steady Incline

By: Dylan Rodgers

What would cause a body to kill itself?  I am sure the first answer to conjure in your mind wasn't "food".  It wouldn't have seemed logical to accuse the very thing that sustains our lives as the cause of roughly 200 deaths per year.  To be clear, I am not talking about improperly handled foods or even bacteria contaminated meats; these deaths occur from allergic reactions to entirely clean, well-prepared meals.

Food allergies aren't anything new.  In fact, an estimated 15 million Americans deal with food allergies on a daily basis.  The thing that has peaked public interest over the years is that food allergies are steadily rising, especially in children.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that food allergies have risen 18 percent from 1997 to 2008.  This of course includes the mildest of reactions like an itchy throat or tingly sensations in the mouth, but this growing problem isn't to be taken lightly.

Peanut allergies are notoriously dangerous afflictions.  Roughly 160 people die from peanut allergies annually.  Ingesting the slightest amount of peanut-anything can be potentially fatal by initiating an entire body shutdown.

When the peanut, and often other tree nut protein is consumed, it can cause the body's defenses to attempt to fight off the 'invading' proteins with antibodies.  This reaction triggers the release of histamines that can affect a person's respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, skin, and cardiovascular system.  The most severe cases end up in anaphylaxis where the airways sell to a close and the blood pressure drops, causing the person to lose consciousness.

As we look for the cause and possible solutions to food allergies, educating the public on the immense gravity of this situation remains solely important.  This information isn't designed to send the masses into an irrational panic stopping the sales of peanuts throughout the country by any means.  The point is that anyone with such an allergy should carry their epinephrine shots constantly.  You simply never know when it might save your life.

Photo: EuroMagic

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