POKWASPA, The Blog: A place to examine in depth what really matters to us most

POKWASPA: The Blog is for all peanut allergy news on the radar: Things which infuriate, inspire, excite, terrify or upset us about peanut allergies. Our blog's mission is similar to our Facebook group, but here it's posted in a longer form so we can have the news we discuss available to refer to.

From the highly scientific to the deeply personal. From breakthroughs to personal setbacks. From tears to triumphs: Parents Of Kids With A Severe Peanut Allergy, The Blog seeks to engage, inform and empower parents to be the best they can be to their peanut allergic child by staying on top of what the buzz is right now regarding peanut allergies.

To submit posts for this blog email at parents.peanutallergy@gmail.com

POKWASPA Parents Of Kids With A Severe Peanut Allergy Group

POKWASPA Parents Of Kids With A Severe Peanut Allergy Group
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Friday, March 20, 2015

Greatest tool parents of kids with peanut allergies have to protect them at school is social psychology.

Most people would say it's the Epi Pen, or a 504 plan, but here's what I think the greatest tool parents of kids with a peanut allergy have to protect their children from harm at school: Social Psychology:

I firmly think using one's social network to protect our children has been the greatest tool a parent has at their disposal to help keep their child safe at school.

What does this mean?

It means telling people they can't have a food will bring you resistance.  Offering them a choice to help you do a good deed may be far, far more effective.

One tactic is based on might.  The other is using tools of engagement.   Something I've been writing on my FB Group, Pokwaspa, for several years now.

The article, entitled Our Warm Embrace Of Those Allergic To Peanuts would argue that it is social psychology that is the most effective:   You really should read this article, as it's very helpful.

I have been stating this fact on my FB group page for years, but lately I'm not sure the newest wave of Peanut Allergy parents fully understand what I mean by "you catch more flies with honey than vinegar."

Some new peanut allergy parents arrive on the food allergy scene assuming that just because a food can kill their child that naturally they have the rights of the law to protect their children anywhere in schools.  Maybe -- but, sometimes, not so easy to enforce.   Things are still very new.    In fact this wave of so many deadly peanut allergies en mass is also rather new in the scheme of things.

Your kid might be killed by contact with a popular snack food.  But, just try to set rules with people about food.  The fact is, people are very resistant to change about their food.   Food is deeply personal.  It's about home.  It's about how we nurture those we love beyond the breast.  It's about comfort and safety (Well, for us it is!) and it's something people are extremely personally connected to:  Food.

Logic does not always lead change.  Not when it comes to people and their food.  No way.

FOOD is emotional.  You can only approach getting others to change their ways of eating by using their emotions.  That's how what I've learned.

And you can't just stomp your foot and insist people "cooperate" about peanut allergies.  

This approach will be always be met with resistance.    A more effective, long lasting strategy is to inspire engagement.

In fact, this is precisely why I left my FB Pokwaspa page "open" to the public for 7+ years.  I wanted to inspire those who did not have peanut allergies to "eavesdrop" on what our world is truly like for us.  I wanted the world to witness how cruel it is to marginalize us for just trying to keep our kids alive and safe.   I knew only by encouraging the non-allergic to FEEL what our world was like would any real change come about.

In the article,  Our Warm Embrace Of Those Allergic To Peanuts, I read:

"So: What makes peanuts different? Why do American consumers appear to be more accepting of one kind of restriction (on peanuts) than on others?
The answer has a lot to do with the way the message is delivered. In the case of peanut allergies, it’s often parents appealing directly to other parents on a hyper-local level about their child’s condition. The justification for the restriction comes with a personal and emotional appeal. It’s dramatically clear what’s at stake in the request. The request usually comes in a spirit of humility. Perhaps most critically, those being asked to make the sacrifice are placed in the position of being a model citizen and doing a good deed by saying “Yes."
The truth is, people are deeply emotional about food.  They flat out rebel against rules about what they like to eat.  Nothing is so fundamental as a person's relationship with food.    If you want them to give up a specific food, then you have to use a strategy that encourages them to FEEL why you are asking them to give something up.  
"-   The fact is, though, when given the chance to help others in a big way with a small sacrifice—one that’s presented to them as a choice—most consumers are eager to cooperate."

The answer has a lot to do HOW the message is delivered to others who do not have a problem with food.  People go wonky over being told what they CAN eat, or not eat.

Trust me: There appears to be no other subject more loaded with reactivity than bans of foods, or even just rules about foods.  I have been saying this for years.

You can't win the war by insisting people change.  You have to reach into their hearts and inspire them to want to help.  That's the key.

This is what I have said for over a decade now.

I have used this philosophy to turn one of the most stubborn, blue-ribbon winning, nationally acclaimed school districts around starting in 2002.

 It wasn't easy.

But, my journey there taught me that you can force people to give up food, and you'll encounter resistance.

OR you can request others join you in your quest to do the right thing, better yet -- you can first touch the hearts of the children who are in class with your child, and then reach out to their parents...and then you may very find that after engaging their hearts first -- then you will succeed.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

New type of food allergy showing up more now called eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), an inflammatory response in the esophagus causing trouble swallowing food

COLUMBUS -- A new type of food allergy is showing up more and doctors don't yet know why. It's called eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), an inflammatory response in the esophagus that makes it hard to swallow food.
"It's considered a newer medical diagnosis, identified just in the last 15 to 20 years. We're seeing a steady increase in the number of people with this condition and we don't really have a clear cause yet," said Dr. Princess Ogbogu, director of the allergy and immunology program at Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center.
It's widely believed that EoE is related to both food and pollen allergies, and may be more common in people with allergies and asthma.
Eosinophils are white blood cells that aren't normally present in the esophagus. They are immune cells that help fight off certain types of infections. If there are too many eosinophils, they can cause damage to the body. High counts of eosinophils are common among those with asthma, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, lupus, eczema and some forms of cancer.
When large amounts of these white blood cells collect in the esophagus, it can cause inflammation, scarring and narrowing of the esophagus. Ogbogu says depending on the person's age, symptoms can vary.
"Children with EoE often complain of stomach pain and refuse to eat. They may have trouble swallowing, vomit frequently, and have failure to thrive," Ogbogu said. "Adults and teens with EoE also have difficulty swallowing and issues with food getting impacted in the esophagus, which can lead to an emergency department visit for removal. They can also get persistent heartburn that's not relieved with medication and even chest pain."
Because most cases of EoE are related to food allergies, Ogbogu says treatment and management include tests to identify the allergen, elimination diets, and medical therapy. Often the culprit is among the eight foods that cause about 90 percent of all food allergies in the United States: peanuts, tree nuts, cow's milk, eggs, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish. Sometimes the symptoms are seasonal and related to pollen that easily gets inhaled and swallowed.
In addition to eliminating the allergen, inhalers are often prescribed as topical steroids that can be used to coat the throat and reduce inflammation. If these treatments aren't helpful, doctors may suggest dilation to help improve swallowing.
"We work closely with our colleagues in gastroenterology to diagnose and monitor EoE," Ogbogu said. "Unfortunately, this condition is becoming more common, but the testing and monitoring hasn't caught up yet. We are learning more every day."
Researchers at Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center are partnering with colleagues at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus to study and learn more about EoE. Current projects include examining eosinophils to learn more about these cells and their effects related to allergies; testing whether vitamin D levels influence susceptibility to EoE; and working to identify the most common triggers associated with EoE.
Follow WKYC's Senior Health Correspondent Monica Robins on Twitter: @MonicaRobins

Monday, March 16, 2015

Meet Other Parents Managing Food Allergies at the 2015 FARE National Food Allergy Conference in Long Beach, CA May 16-17

When was the last time you were in a room with hundreds of parents and others managing food allergies? Maybe never? You’ll get your chance by attending the 2015 FARE National Food Allergy Conference on May 16-17 in Long Beach, Calif. This year marks the first time the national conference will take place on the West Coast! 

This unique opportunity gathers individuals and families managing food allergies, caregivers, school staff, healthcare professionals and others to learn about advances in food allergy research and advocacy, best practices and practical skills for living well with food allergies, and much more. Here are just a few of the exciting sessions you can attend:

·         “Support Group for Parents of Newly Diagnosed Children,” led by a registered dietician and mother of a 16-year-old with multiple food allergies
·         “Primed to Present: What Every Parent Must Know About Managing Food Allergies at School,” led by Gina Clowes, FARE’s Director of Education and founder of Allergy Moms
·         “Finding the Right Food Allergy Specialist for You and Your Child,” led by Dr. Allen Lieberman
·         “Bring Fun Back to the Kitchen,” led by Amy Hull Brown, founder of WellAmy.com and Tiffany Rogers, founder of Allergy Cookie

Both full conference and single-day registrations are now available. Register before March 27 to receive a special Early Bird discount! View the agenda and register today at www.foodallergy.org/conference

On a personal note:  My daughter, Juliet Larsen, who inspired me to create PARENTS OF KIDS WITH A SEVERE PEANUT ALLERGY, is speaking at FARE in a seminar called Living Your Dreams, about her experience in overcoming her fears about following her dreams while managing a life-threatening food allergy. 

Juliet will share insights about what is was like growing up for years known only as "the peanut allergy kid" from pre-school and up.  

She will share how her self-perception changed once she watched Project Runway and realized she is the master of her own fate, hampered only by fear of the unknown.  She faced the future knowing that as long as she stayed are focus and prepared she could reach for her dream not limited by health issues.  

Juliet seeks to inspire all food allergic kids to recognize their own dreams and see them through to fruition with a deep faith in their own ability to keep themselves safe and motivated.  

Having a food allergy is not the end to a dream, it's an opportunity to learn to focus on what matters and prepare well for the future.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

More stories pouring in about how introducing peanuts early in life "may be the key" to preventing peanut allergies....really?

Except, in my opinion - as a peanut mom for 18 years now is that is this really can't be the whole story, it can't be "the missing silver bullet." --  Not by a  long shot.

If it were really just that easy to stop a peanut allergy from happening just by rubbing it on our babies or feeding it to them early on, don't you think must of us concerned parents might have figured this out already by now?  I do.  We allergy  moms notice everything to do with nuts.

I find these stories so simplistic in theory and so filled with logical loop holes that it's almost hard to post them.  What about the babies who were severely allergic prior to ingesting peanuts at a few months old?  What about them?  What about the baby who might go into anaphylaxis because a mom or dad reads this and makes them eat peanuts when they fall into the category of super, uber, extremely peanut allergic kids?  -- Oh, well.  Clearly some children are helped by this concept and it's important to share news that really help those peanut allergic kids.  I just wish the media would calm down and make sure we all know there is NO ONE SIZE FITS ALL PEANUT ALLERGY.  They are are different.   Some even are more reactive at different times than others.  So, these new theories really do need to take that into account more.

For instance, I have a very good friend with a peanut allergic child who she says was already born with the allergy.

I wrote her and asked her how she felt about these new reports about early introduction to peanuts possibly preventing a peanut allergy.

I wrote: "What do YOU make of this new report that introducting peanuts early prevents PA?"

My mommy friend, Donna wrote me back, "I think it's so simplistic and would have killed my kid. Samantha was reacting badly to my eating peanuts every day of her childhood. I lived on peanuts! I ate peanut butter on apples every day and had it on my hands. I nursed her while eating it. She had horrific eczema and rashes and have bloody poop all the time as a baby. in 1996 they never made the connection btwn peanuts and her rashes on her mouth and bloody poop. I'm sure my ingesting peanuts contributed to her allergy. Of course I can't prove that, but it's a real concern to me to read these reports now."

So, you see?  If you ask real peanut allergy parents about these new reports based on what they've discovered in Israel, you do get a wide variety of reactions from to "Good to know!" to "I don't buy it."

Such is the madness of the peanut allergy world.  Every year a new study reverses the "new study" of the few years before.   It is crazy-making.

However, for the record here's one more story about introducing peanuts early may prevent a peanut allergy later on...


One of the authors, Gideon Lack, is a professor of pediatric allergy at Kings College, London who’d already published a study in 2008 showing that the rate of peanut allergy in Israeli Jewish kids is only about a tenth that of British Jewish kids.
Why? Bamba. 
Bamba is a hugely popular Israeli snack. Bamba is what would result if Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch and a puffed Cheeto had a baby. Bamba is like a sweet version of Veggie Booty, if Veggie Booty were eaten not only by kale-dusted American hippie children, but by everyone. Ninety percent of Israeli families buy it on a regular basis; a million bags are produced a day. In Israel, the very notion of banning peanuts in school lunches would be greeted with derisive laughter.
For the newly published study , Lack and the rest of the international team of researchers selected 530 four-to-eleven-month-old babies with eczema or an egg allergy (two indicators of a propensity toward peanut allergy). Half the babies were fed a small amount of Bamba or peanut butter three times a week until they turned five. The other half were given a peanut-free diet. The result: 1.9 percent of those who were fed peanuts wound up being allergic to them, compared with 13.7 percent of kids in the peanut-free group. The scientists also looked at 98 babies who tested weakly positive to peanuts before the study began, meaning that they were likely to become truly allergic. In that group, 10.6 percent of the peanut-eaters developed an allergy by age five, compared to 35.3 percent of the peanut-avoiders.
This is big news, but the medical establishment was already starting to figure that earlier approaches to preventing peanut allergy weren’t working. Back in 2000, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that kids with a family history of allergies not eat peanuts at all until age three. In 2008, the AAP revised its stance, saying that there was no evidence this strategy prevented allergies. However, it didn’t actually suggest throwing handfuls of Bamba in the air and catching them in one’s mouth. Now that the number of Americans with peanut allergies has more than quadrupled in the last 20 years, an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine asks if we shouldn’t go that extra mile. “Given the results of this prospective, randomized trial, which clearly indicates that the early introduction of peanut dramatically decreases the risk of development of peanut allergy (approximately 70 to 80%), should the guidelines be changed?” The editorial goes on to recommend additional studies to find out exactly how much peanut is optimal to introduce, and whether the findings are applicable to other common allergies like tree nuts, milk and eggs, but provisionally suggests that “because the results of this trial are so compelling, and the problem of the increasing prevalence of peanut allergy so alarming, new guidelines should be forthcoming very soon.” It concludes that this study, “makes it clear that we can do something now to reverse the increasing prevalence of peanut allergy.” It does not say “AND EVERYBODY SHOULD EAT BAMBA BECAUSE IT IS DELICIOUS AND LIFESAVING.” But that’s implied, right?
Related: Going Nuts
Find this story online: http://tabletmag.com/scroll/189256/do-peanuts-prevent-childhood-allergies

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Full Podcast of npr's Diane Rehm Show "New Research On Preventing Peanut Allergies"

Click here to listen to Diane Rehm's show

-- from the WAMU 88.5 npr website
   For reasons not entirely clear, the number of people allergic to peanuts has risen dramatically in recent years. Peanut allergies usually appear in childhood. The condition is sometimes fatal, and there is no cure. For children with risk factors for allergies, pediatricians have long advised complete avoidance of peanuts. But a new study by British doctors — just published in The New England Journal of Medicine — suggests that advice was wrong. The study shows that exposing infants to peanuts could sharply cut the incidence of allergies to the legume. Many pediatricians are optimistic but not ready to issue new guidelines. We discuss the latest research.


  • Dr. Sally Joo Bailey assistant professor of pediatrics at Georgetown University School of Medicine.
  • Dr. Gideon Lack professor, King’s College London, and co-investigator of the peanut allergy study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
  • Dr. Hemant Sharma acting chief of the Division of Allergy and Immunology, and director of the Food Allergy Program, Children's National Health System.

Great examination on newest findings about the peanut allergies from the 2015 LEAP study

Article courtesy from very useful allergy/asthma website, AllergiesAsthmaChildren.com.  

Breaking Down the Landmark LEAP Study: What Does it Mean?

By David Stukus, MD
Electric. That was the mood when Dr. Gideon Lack presented the LEAP findings to the audience at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. It was an honor to be there, and some day I may be telling allergists who haven’t even been born that I was there, like a classic 7th game of a World Series or the recent Super Bowl. By now, almost everyone concerned with the peanut allergy epidemic knows: Dr. Lack and his colleagues George du Toit et al have completed a study showing that they may have found a way to wind down the epidemic a bit. The study has seized the imaginations of health care reporters all over the world. But before we declare victory, let’s take stock of what we know and what we don’t.
Bamba: The snack that started it
Bamba: The snack that started it
The numbers tell a familiar story: Food allergy in children has doubled in the past 10 years, and peanut allergy has nearly quadrupled since 1997. For the roughly 2% of children in the United States currently living with peanut allergy, managing their allergies demands significant lifestyle modification and constant preparation for accidents. Needless to say, quality of life often suffers for parents and children.
Most recent research has focused on treatment, but these results have not been definitive or quite as promising as we had hoped. Causation is another matter. The big picture is too big—the way we eat, the way we drive, the way we grow our food, and the way we treat illness. But what if we can prevent peanut allergies from occurring in the first place? What if we can do something if not for the current generation of food allergic kids, then at least for the next generation? That’s exactly what the researchers involved in the Learning About Peanut Allergy (LEAP) study sought to find out.
As the dimensions of the food allergy epidemic really started to take off, the conventional wisdom for how to prevent these allergies has shifted repeatedly. In 2000, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended that parents refrain from feeding peanuts to infants at high risk for atopic disease until 3 years of age. However, peanut allergy continued to rise, which sent many physicians to reconsider. Careful review of the literature revealed very little, if any, evidence to support the guidelines. In 2008, the AAP published new guidelines in 2008, which in medical terms is overnight, retracting their previous stance, and declaring there was insufficient evidence to avoid peanut and other foods until a certain age, confusing pediatricians and parents alike.
In the midst of these changes, George du Toit, lead author of the LEAP study, identified a dramatic difference in peanut allergy between Israeli children and a similar population of kids in London. What was the difference? Israeli children almost universally consumed a snack called Bamba, prepared with peanuts, during infancy. The British researchers shifted their strategy from avoidance to early introduction. This was all speculation until the LEAP study results were released on February 23, 2015.
Before I dissect the LEAP study, there are a few extremely important things to understand about these findings:
  • This was not a study looking at treatment of children with peanut allergy. It does not offer insight into a cure and is not applicable to anyone who has had prior allergic reactions to peanut.
  • This should NOT be done at home! Every single child enrolled in this study underwent skin prick testing AND physician supervised oral challenge to peanut. Don’t experiment on your infant!
  • The children enrolled in this study were all less than 12 months old, living in the United Kingdom, predominantly white, had severe eczema and/or egg allergy. This must be considered before extrapolating results to other populations, i.e. older children or African American infants in the U.S. with multiple food allergies.
  • This study looked at very specific infants with severe eczema and/or egg allergy. There are other risk factors to consider (namely presence of other food allergies such as milk, wheat, soy and/or history of wheezing) that may have variable effects on this protocol.
  • The cut off point chosen as upper limit for inclusion by skin prick test size was a 4 mm wheal. There are many infants deemed at risk but will have larger skin test findings. The results of this study cannot be extrapolated to this population.
Now for the study findings. In my opinion, this is one of the best-designed research studies I have read, both in regards to study design, but also by incorporating solid and proper outcome measures. 640 infants aged 4-11 months old (median age 7.8 months) were divided into two groups: those with negative skin prick tests to peanut and those with mildly positive skin tests to peanut, as defined by a wheal size of 1-4 mm. Ten percent of infants were excluded from the study due to wheal size > 4 mm.
These two cohorts were then randomized to either completely avoid peanut or eat Bamba or peanut butter (the equivalent of 8 peanuts per serving) three times a week until 5 years of age. Every infant randomized to eat peanut then underwent an oral challenge before starting the study to ensure they would not have an allergic reaction. One child with negative skin prick and 6 (13%) children with mildly positive skin prick tests had reactions during challenge and were reassigned to avoidance categories. This is exactly why consultation with a board-certified allergist is paramount before trying this at home – children at risk will need to have skin test and/or oral challenge to ensure safety before incorporating peanut into their diet.
The primary outcome measure was proportion of children who reacted to an oral challenge (gold standard to diagnose food allergy) to peanut at the age of 5. Secondary outcomes included immune markers. Ninety-eight percent of participants remained in the study until completion, which is astounding for a study of this magnitude. There was no significant difference in the rate of serious reactions between the two groups, and only one needed epinephrine. Most reactions were mild to moderate.
Major take home points: An 86% relative risk reduction in peanut allergy between infants with negative skin prick test who regularly consumed peanut compared with those who avoided peanut. Furthermore, there was a 70% reduction in peanut allergy in infants with mildly positive peanut skin prick test (sensitized) who consumed peanut compared with those who avoided.
By the age of five, among the 530 infants who initially had negative skin test results, 13.7% of those who had strictly avoided peanuts developed a peanut allergy, compared to only 1.9% of the children who had been eating peanuts.
Among the 98 infants who had mildly positive skin results, 35.3% of the avoidance group went on to develop a peanut allergy, but only 10.6% of the babies eating peanuts. Impressive, but not 100% effective.
Monitoring adherence to the protocol is crucial for any research conducted largely away from the laboratory. The researchers not only used food diaries, which can be fudged, but also objective measurement of levels of peanut protein in the beds of children in each group. They found significantly more peanut dust from those who were eating peanuts, and estimated 92% adherence for all participants. Furthermore, immune markers were followed over time for all groups. A significant increase in baseline peanut wheal size on skin testing was observed only in the peanut avoidance group. Serum IgE levels increased in both avoidance and consumption groups over time, but there were fewer participants in the consumption group with very high IgE levels at 12, 30 and 60 months. Lastly, levels of peanut-specific IgG and IgG4, the immunoglobulins associated with tolerance, were higher in the consumption group than in the avoidance group. This mirrors the effect seen with standard allergy shots.
So, what does this change? Most importantly, the study demonstrates for the first time that both primary (no sensitization) and secondary (sensitized, not allergic) prevention can occur with early introduction of peanut. There clearly exists a small window of opportunity in which frequent consumption can promote tolerance. It remains to be seen whether this is due to desensitization, i.e. oral immunotherapy, or true prevention, but the authors are already investigating this through their next-phase “LEAP-On” study. For LEAP-On, the participants from LEAP who ate peanut and were not allergic will now stop eating peanut completely and undergo challenge 12 months later. We all can’t wait for those findings!
What does this exciting news mean for the rest of us? I don’t advocate for pediatricians or families to try this without having important information such as skin prick size and oral challenge results, which only allergists can provide. As for working allergists, especially pediatric allergists, they ought to be on the drawing board right now thinking about how to incorporate this new data into their practices. Many families will be discouraged by these thoughts, citing poor access to pediatric allergists. This puts additional responsibility on allergists to find ways of collaborating more closely with pediatricians to enforce higher standards of treatment even as they expand their outreach. Every single study that has enrolled children for food allergy desensitization, treatment, and now prevention has used very specific entry criteria. This method, however low-tech, should be just as conscientious. Even in the research setting, participants still experience allergic reactions. Keep in mind, this study limited participants from those without high risk for development of allergic disease, which we’ve been trying to communicate since 2008. Whenever an experimental therapy is adopted there will always be pressure to step over the line. This study may be called LEAP, but it’s still only one step.
David Stukus, MD, is board certified in Allergy/Immunology and is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. His clinical and research interests focus on asthma and food allergies, especially improving education and adherence for patients and families. As part of his research, Dr. Stukus has created novel technology and educational tools using mobile health apps to improve the care of patients, for which he was recognized with the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Department of Pediatrics Junior Faculty Award in November 2013. Dr. Stukus has been an active member of the medical advisory team for Kids with Food Allergies since 2009 and was elected to the Board of Directors for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America in 2014. Lastly, Dr. Stukus actively engages with food allergy support groups and participates in social media on twitter through @AllergyKidsDoc. 
- See more at: http://asthmaallergieschildren.com/2015/02/25/breaking-down-the-landmark-leap-study-what-does-it-mean/#sthash.0B0DFhvH.ZidqaGGv.dpuf

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Bay Area Allergy Advisory Board's top picks for Allergy Books for 2013

If you want a great list to get started in your own Food Allergy journey by digging in to a formidable selection of books all related to food allergies, the Bay Area Allergy Advisory Board's choices are a great way to get started.

Included are some great books I can vouch are well worth your time and will offer you many helpful insights into either the life of the allergic individual, such as -- Sloane Miller's Allergic Girl: Adventures in Living Well with Food Allergies.

One particular book gives a great deal if insight and understanding into a complex but intriguing allergy treatment based on a very old form of medicine; Chinese medicine.  Author Henry Ehrlich takes on this story and expertly delves into this complicated, but extremely promising work currently being developed which is as close to becoming as close for food allergies as we've seen to date.  It's  a very interesting insight into the science behind the search for a cure, written by author Henry Ehrlich. Food Allergies: Traditional Chinese Medicine, Western Science, And The Search For A Cure.

Also on this list is a book by one of the Bay Area Allergy Advisory Board members, Mireille Schwartz, who, interestingly, was featured in the Discovery Channel (wonderful) documentary “An Emerging Epidemic: Food Allergies in America.” 

Her book is  The Family Food Allergy Book.  Unfortunately, I've not read it yet, but absolutely plan to as it seems like it will be both helpful and comprehensive.

Again, if you missed it above, here's a link to the Bay Area Allergy Board's picks, or you can just read below.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Inside the Search for Chinese Herbal Food Allergy Treatments

Article reposted courtesy of  ALLERGIC LIVING MAGAZINE.  (subscribe here)

Inside the Search for Chinese Herbal Food Allergy Treatments
Explorers_Dr Ying Song_3
Whenever there is talk of a cure for food allergies, hopes soar. One area of research that has had consistently promising studies in the last few years has been the Food Allergy Herbal Formula, currently called B-FAHF-2, which is being developed by Dr. Xiu-Min Li at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.
What we often don’t hear about, however, is the people who toil in the labs, making this research possible. One such person is Dr. Ying Song, a professor of pediatrics at Mount Sinai, an expert in mice and allergy research and a key player on the herbal formula research team.
As we launch our new Allergy Explorers series, which celebrates those working tirelessly to find treatments for food allergies, Claire Gagné talks with Dr. Ying Song about her role in this research, what she’s learned about Chinese herbs, and her findings on the impact of mother’s allergy status.

How did you become involved with Dr. Xiu Min-Li’s research?

Back in China I did my post graduate fellowship in immunology, but at that time I was interested in cancer immunology. I found a lot of papers in PubMed, the database of medical research literature, from Dr. Xiu-Min Li [2]’s group at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. They were working on herbal medicine in the immunology field, which grabbed my attention. I e-mailed her wanting to talk about it and she said, “Why don’t you join us to do immunology research here?” I came to North America eight years ago.

What has your role been in the herbal medicine research?

The Chinese herbal formula (FAHF-2) for food allergies has been studied for more than 10 years at Mount Sinai by our group, but there are still a lot of questions we need to answer. For example, how the complex interactions produce synergistic effects, and how to reduce the large numbers of pills it requires taking a day.
A big part of my job is to understand how the traditional Chinese medicine formula (FAHF-2) prevents allergic reaction. My major finding was to identify three pure compounds that promise to benefit millions of allergy patients as anti-allergy therapeutics or as add-ons to other immunotherapy regimens.
We sensitize normal mice with peanut and then test different combination of herbs or active compounds isolated from the herbs on our mouse model to see short-term and also long-term effects – are they safe, can they reduce IgE antibodies, can they help to reduce anaphylactic reactions when we give the mice a huge amount of peanut? If we see a good trend or possible effect, then we will also work on figuring out why. We’re also testing the Chinese herbal formula in combination with other treatments, such as oral immunotherapy [2].

What have you found out about why the herbs work?

We found that some compounds in herb extracts reduce IgE levels, some reduce inflammation, and some block mast cell and basophil histamine release. The bioactive compounds in FAHF-2, which contains extracts of several herbs, have all these effects.
We have learned that these effects are associated with changes in the immune system that represent a more normal (or non-allergic) status. We are now finding alterations in the molecular biology of immune system cells.

How receptive to Chinese herbal medicine do you find people in North America are?

It may not be mainstream here, but people are increasingly interested in and receptive to Chinese herbal medicine. I expect that as research demonstrates the effectiveness of certain herb extracts, and eventually pure herb compounds, that it will become more mainstream.
Next: From mice to humans, and preventing food allergy

SONG Y[3]What else are you working on?

My big interest is how maternal peanut allergy status affects a child’s immune system in regards to the development of peanut allergy.
Clinical observational studies have shown that a mother having allergies increases the chance of a child developing peanut allergies, although the exact reason for this is unknown. We did four years of research in mice on this subject. We made a mouse allergic to peanut and then examined the effects on allergy in the next generation.
We found that something called “DNA methylation”, which is altered when the mouse has a peanut allergy, was already altered in the offspring when they were born. This can go on to cause allergic disease. We will need to verify this finding in humans.

What are the next steps in that research?

This ability to influence DNA methylation status provides an opportunity to reverse the allergy process. If we could somehow correct the epigenetic alteration in the first generation of allergy so this high risk of allergy can not be transferred to the second generation, then we may be able to stop the allergy from developing in the first place. This is my big hope.

What is your lab like?

We take up about a third of the space in a really big lab shared with Dr. Hugh Sampson. You can see at least six fellows and a number of students working in our area at a given time. We have lab meetings every week with Dr. Li. We also have our pediatric allergy division lab meetings under the direction of Dr. Sampson and Dr. Scott Sicherer [4]. That’s where we present our research findings and people can discuss and make suggestions and comments. It’s a very supportive scientific environment.

Are you involved in research on human patients?

Yes, I am involved in human studies in several ways. One is related to FAHF-2 clinical trials. I am in charge of immunological studies that determine how cells respond to the herbal treatment. My second role is to study FAHF-2 and other Chinese herbal medicine extracts and compounds immuno-modulatory and anti-inflammatory effects on cultured cells from allergic patients and patients with inflammatory bowel disease.
Some of Dr. Li’s patients also give blood samples for the in vitro studies. We test cytokine and IgE production, basophil activation, and epigenetic changes, etc. I also work with medical students to organize case reporting from Dr. Li’s off-site clinic, which is where several potential beneficial effects of TCM therapy for food-allergic children have been observed. For example, prevention of frequent and potentially severe reactions, reduced IgE production.
This case study has just been published. I am working on more case reports from Dr. Li off-site clinic on other observed beneficial effects.  Now, I’m looking forward to playing a major role in an upcoming biomarker study of TCM effects on polyallergen sensitization.

What are the next steps for studying traditional Chinese medicine in human patients?

We are proposing a new practice-based study. This study combines clinical practice and basic science to conduct a biomarker study of practice based TCM effects in polyallergen sensitization. The project has raised great interest among families whose children are patients from Dr. Li’s offsite clinic. They have begun fundraising [5], working with Mount Sinai Development Office, for this project. Our first target is $50,000. Once we reach the target, we’re going to start this new study where we can explore the immunological changes with the herbal treatment and how the people with severe food allergy respond to the herbal treatment.

What are some of the challenges you have with your research?

Funding, actually. NIH funding has been very difficult. Fortunately, we received substantial funds from private organizations and philanthropic support. We’re trying really hard to get more private funding and grants, including NIH grants, to continue our research.


Article printed from Allergic Living: http://allergicliving.com
URL to article: http://allergicliving.com/2015/02/18/inside-search-for-chinese-herbal-allergy-treatment/
URLs in this post:
[1] Image: http://allergicliving.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Explorers_Dr-Ying-Song_3.png
[2] Dr. Xiu-Min Li: http://allergicliving.com/2014/03/18/herbs-and-oit-prove-an-effective-food-allergy-combo/
[3] Image: http://allergicliving.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/SONG-Y.png
[4] Dr. Scott Sicherer: http://allergicliving.com/2015/02/02/food-challenges-when-outgrowing-milk-and-egg-allergies/
[5] fundraising: https://www.crowdrise.com/chinesemedicineforfa/fundraiser/tcmforfoodallergies