Wednesday, April 25, 2012

This is why we're Generation RX

Day one: "I feel sick"; pale, deep dark circles, nausea, not eating...she stays home and sleeps.
Day two: "I'm going to throw up," she stays home and sleeps, eventually eating in the evening and then feeling nauseous partly from not eating to avoid throwing up.
Day three: "I'm hungry," but she still wants a bucket nearby, just in case, and her hands and knees are still shaky from 2 days home sick, sleeping and not eating.  She can't make it to school for a full day, but she's definitely on the mend.
Day four: School will not allow her to return without a doctor's note because she's been sick.

At no point in that process did she need to be seen.  She was hydrated.  She was keeping sips of water and juice down.  Any doctor can tell you that viruses do not respond to antibiotics.  Stomach bugs are miserable, but unless there is dehydration, they just need to be waited out.  Follow the BRAT diet.  (That's bananas, rice, applesauce and toast)

So, now that she's feeling better, she needs to be seen.  And if she feels worse tomorrow and actually needs to be seen?  That's another copay.  And a dr who sees an overanxious mom rather than a kid who was sick, got better and then suddenly took a turn for the worse.

I can see why doctors are pressured to hand out antibiotics and unnecessary tests.  It's not just the parents and patients who jump the gun.  It's the societal pressure; the red tape and rules that society members need to navigate.  Some people get hit harder than others with a cold or flu.  It doesn't always need medical intervention.  Getting that doctor's note confirming it, though, may take away not only open appointments from people who need them but costs insurance and patients a lot of money.  It's not about the money, but if that cold costs a hundred dollars in copays to prove to a school or boss you were not functioning, you're not going to want to make an appointment for that strange lump you noticed under an arm or any other non urgent seeming symptom.

I don't know what the answer is.  But it's something that a lot of people don't seem to realize is much of an issue...probably because they happen to have really strong constitutions or never get sick to begin with.  So I thought I'd blog about it, before bringing a child on the mend to the doctor for a rather expensive "I agree she looks like she's recovering" note.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Earth Huggers

Earth day is here.  Corn allergies make one much more in tune to what is going on in the environment.  Pesticide residue, genetically modified organisms and the honey bee disappearance all seem to appear when you start asking questions about corn and corn syrup.

And then there is the food supply.  Artificial food colorings are derived from what?  Crude oil?  I'm not allergic to that.  I don't think.  But do I want it in my body?  What else is in our food that we don't know to think about?

Earth day is the day to remember to ask.

What are we doing to save the Earth?  Probably not nearly enough.  I still drive more than I'd like.  My car isn't electric or even a hybrid.  We still use processed foods, and my garden is a hopeless tangle of weeds.  But, this week when my husband took the trash out on trash night he popped his head back in to say "Really?  There's just one kitchen bag full of trash out there.  Are you sure we emptied all the cans?" (Yes, we had!)  And then he informed me that the recycling bin couldn't quite close all the way.  Good news for Earth week.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Secret Power of Plants

Today, I found an article that talks about plant intelligence.  Essentially, plants are naturally hardwired to survive.  They also work together to fight off insects; and will share the nutrients in the ground with plants of their own species while greedily growing in the presence of 'strangers'. 
I read that article, and the one it linked off of.  It made me think of genetically altered varieties.  What happens when we begin injecting DNA with new material?  Do the plant messages get along?  Do they send conflicting messages?  How far can it go? 
Food for thought.  Plants have adapted at a natural pace; making peace with their DNA in their own way over the past millenia.  They've created a variety of defense mechanisms that we can only begin to think to look for and learn about.  How can we study the repercussions of things we don't know were there to begin with? 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Food allergies are not a disease.
Some days, I get frustrated.  Living with a food allergy is not akin to being permanently ill.  I'm not on death's door.  Food allergies are not a life sentence.  And yet, as a chronic medical condition, it's hard to stay out of patient mentality.

Earlier, someone told my daughter that it must be hard to have her mom so sick all the time.  Immediately, I fell into the trap.  Other food allergy sufferers, especially those with a corn allergy, may know the trap I mean.  The one where you flash, quickly, on evenings when you really wished you could have gone out to dinner.  Or birthday parties where you had to abstain from cake.  Or that awesome gingerbread house that you didn't dare let get through the front door.  You're assailed by memories of the days when you gave in and paid for it, the nausea and cramping, the sound of kids voices in another room as you curl up in bed biting your lip to avoid groaning.  This is accompanied by guilt, and a knife like shame.  Yes, I'm sick all the time.  Head down.  It's hard.  Half smile, shrug.  We survive.

Today, I read this article on Facebook and thought 'that's great'.  A cure?  More money for drug and vaccine research?  Wait a moment.  Food allergies are not an illness.
We don't need another medical condition treated with more drugs.  We don't need more vaccines to try and combat the damage we're doing to our bodies and the environment with our questionable diets and pesticide and herbicide use (both on farms and around our homes)  We need to take action.  We need to do something. We need prevention.

I'm not saying I don't want to cure anaphylaxis.  Peanut allergies terrify me.  Even as a food allergy parent, I'm more than a little nervous inviting a nut allergic child over.  Not that I don't want to include them, I just don't want to be responsible for harming them with the jar of peanut butter I've kept in the fridge since Bumblebee passed her challenge.  But combating allergies and anaphylaxis with more new innovative treatments just makes food allergy into another illness we need to cure.  It removes the focus from prevention and understanding.  (What's wrong with our environment?  How can we avoid triggering them in the first place?)

The earlier comment was followed by a discourse on time in the doctors office where both my daughter and I shifted uncomfortably before changing the subject.  We don't spend much time with a doctor now that I'm diagnosed, now that her sister is diagnosed.  There's just no point.  As a food allergy sufferer, I simply live a different kind of norm.  As a corn allergic individual, my life tends to be even more limited.  That doesn't mean I'm sick all the time, just that I'm less reliable than many.  I'm more susceptible to environmental issues like popcorn and cleaners.  It's a frustrating theory to relate.  I missed a large portion of my life to 'being sick'.  Ironically back then, prediagnosis, I didn't have a label so I was just...spending a lot of time in bed and in the restroom.  Now that I have a label and am managing symptoms...I have the reputation of being always sick.  It makes me forget that other parents get tired sometimes.  Other parents get headaches, or come down with the flu.  Just because I don't feel up to inviting someone home doesn't mean that I'm 'sick all the time'.  But somehow, because allergies lead to that patient mentality, I feel a sense of guilt. 

We need to do something.  Not just research for cures, I'm not looking for more medications.  We need to find the root cause so we can address it as a society.  Food allergies aren't just something that affects someone else.  The first reaction can occur any time during one's lifetime.  Between 2% and 10% of the population suffer from allergies; and the CDC reports that the number of children affected has risen 18% between 1997 and 2007.  Food allergies aren't the only childhood condition on the rise.  Asthma, autism, ADHD, and diabetes are just a few of the new childhood conditions frequently seen by pediatricians.

That tells me that food allergies aren't a new illness to treat, they're a symptom of something bigger.  With all the additives and preservatives in our food supply, and the GMO's that aren't currently labeled , and the lack of open space for kids to run wild in and the multitude of vaccines given before the third birthday and...well, the list gets pretty long.  Which is causing the problems, or is it a combination?  Food allergies are a lifelong condition; a symptom of something wrong in our environment or our lifestyle.  There isn't a simple cause and effect to track.  The cure is to find out what the overall trigger is.  Looking for new ways to simply overcome our immune system pushes us back to a sense of victimization.  Searching for a cure puts the power in the hands of drug companies, when in fact we need to be united.  Food allergies aren't a disease.  They're a reason to eat healthier, to be more informed and to take control of our lives (and our health) again.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Ways to Make a Difference

If corn allergy (or intolerance) has touched your life, consider joining the write in campaign.  Nicole over at Corn Freedom is spear heading the plan to raise awareness; especially among the medical community.  Erica has more information on her blog, Corn Free Lifestyle.  While they are looking for all aspects of corn allergy, they especially want to hear from individuals who notice neurological and behavioral responses to corn exposure.  It doesn't have to be long, just a few succinct paragraphs.

Another way to make a difference is to join the Just Label It campaign.  This one isn't corn specific, but the goal is to get GMOs labeled.  Those of us with corn allergy know how vital it is to be able to control what we put in our bodies, what we feed our families.  It's an essential part of managing our health.  Many of us suspect that GMOs may be partly responsible for the rise in food allergies.  Whether that's true or not, we deserve to make a choice...which means we deserve to have our food clearly labeled.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Day in the Life with Corn Allergy

Corn allergy.  At first, this diagnosis was overwhelming.  It was consuming.  It was defining.  And yet, it was freeing too.  It's difficult to express how it feels to finally have validation.  These symptoms, these real and debillitating, seemingly random symptoms, were not 'just stress'.  I did not need a psychologist, or a psychiatrist, or a really good massage (although that last one might have been nice!)  I simply needed to change my diet, and subsequently my lifestyle.
The diet itself has been eye opening.  I am blessed to live in a state where farmer's markets and fresh produce are available year round.  I can get to the health food store in under twenty minutes.  So, while my diet may not be all that varied, at least it's survivable.
Our day to day life has evolved to include these corn restrictions (and the rest of the family's restrictions) to the point that it's matter of fact.  I don't share meals not planned with me in mind.  I don't eat at family gatherings, unless I bring my own food.  I don't eat out.
It's not that big of an issue, unless other people ask questions and remind us that it is an issue.  Our lifestyle, to the outsider, seems unique and quaint.  We're health nuts, who eat a lot of chocolate.  We're organic.  We're...well...different.  Everyone's different.  So, in our day to day life, that part doesn't bother me.
What I live in fear of are the few days a year when I can't do it alone.  The days when I need to go to the dentist, or the doctor.  These are the days when I need outside help.  The days I'm least able to self advocate, most vulnerable, and most desperate.  You see, corn derivatives show up in medical supplies.  Although I was diagnosed by a medical doctor, who urged me to look deeper, she herself was surprised by what I found.  And insurance issues coupled with the economical downturn have forced me to seek medical care from new doctors, new health centers, new providers who are not so sure they really believe in 'corn allergy'.  Or, if they do, are fairly certain that corn derivatives rarely make their way into pharmaceuticals.  Instead of a simple diagnosis and prescription, my office visits often end in a frustrating cycle that sends me back and forth between a pharmacist and the medical provider, with a nurse intervening who reassures me that my worries are foundless or simply explains that they don't cater to those kinds of needs.  (Only to huff and grumble when I ask them to direct me to someone who can help me, and how exactly I can tell the difference from the anticipated reaction to corn derivatives in the medication and a worsening of my condition that merits immediate medical condition.  After two or three individuals have received the same question, someone eventually finds in my records that I do, indeed, already have a compounding pharmacy that does, indeed, manage to suit my needs.  And after's only once or twice that the prescription gets rerouted to the wrong pharmacy.)  As you might imagine, I'd rather avoid the fuss.
Day to day, I can make it normal to keep tabs on popcorn related fundraisers so I can make alternate arrangements for my kids that day.  I can wear a mask to the farmer's market and the mall that includes a movie theater.  I can skip food related events or finagle my way through with as much finesse as I can wrangle for the evening.  I can prepare 3 meals a day, forgo yeasted breads and make my own broth once a week.  I can clean with vinegar and baking soda, and use safe soaps on my dishes and clothing.
But I can't make my own medication.  I can't diagnose myself.  And I can't get help if and when I need it; unless the person I'm addressing takes my explanations and concerns seriously.  I know how it sounds "I'm allergic to corn...wait, are there corn derivatives in that IV?  In this pill?  Are your gloves dusted with cornstarch?"  But I've learned the hard way, time and again, that I'm not just paranoid.  These are valid concerns.
So my pain killers are compounded, with weeks worth of effort put into the signature authorizing it.  I can't take most nutritional supplements although they'd do me good.  And unless it's serious, and I can convince a dr and a pharmacist to work together on a solution, I skip the meds and go to bed.  it's the one part of 'normal' I can never normalize.  A simple sinus infection is drama.  I don't want to know what happens when it isn't so simple.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Why is it that we have to work so hard to avoid questionable ingredients?  Why should it be so expensive NOT to eat food created in a laboratory, that took millions of dollars worth of research to develop.
As consumers, we have the right to choose.  It shouldn't cost more to get pure, old fashioned, real food.