This question can be a very difficult one to answer. Alcohol, though consumed like juice, food, or soda (though your liver hopes not with the same frequency!), isn't governed by the same regulations or even the same agency as these others. While foods and most beverages fall under the domain of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), alcohol falls under the guidance and regulations of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, a subdivision of the Department of Treasury. This INCLUDES labeling rules and regulations. So while your mega-jumbo-can-o-caffeinated-monkey-juice will most certainly have a label listing the nutritional value and all the ingredients, alcohol is almost always devoid of the former (and often the latter as well). Though it is often easier to determine how many calories are in your alcoholic beverage of choice, finding the actual ingredients that make up that drink is another story entirely.
Many producers do list ingredients on their website or have at least become savvy enough to list some of the common allergens that are NOT in their products, particularly nuts or nut derivatives. Beyond visiting websites and doing your own investigative research, many people are left with only anecdotal evidence as to whether a type of drink can cause a reaction or not.
Distilled spirits (think whiskey, rum, etc.) have a list of standard requirements when it comes to labeling. These include
- Alcohol Content
- Address of Distiller Country of Origin
- Net Contents (a metric measurement of volume)
- Coloring Agents (colored with caramel, annatto, etc.)
- Wood Treatment ("beechwood aged" ring a bell?)
- Other Ingredients like Dyes, (Yellow #5), Saccharin, or Sulfites
- Specific Type of Commodity (redistilled, blended, compounded, etc.)
- Statement of Age
- Distillation/Production Location
- A Health Warning
As of right now, major food allergens can voluntarily be listed for wines, distilled spirits, and malt beverages, but again, this is only voluntary. There has been a proposal to make this mandatory, and since 2006, nothing has been finalized... eight years later.
And, even if you do find a list of ingredients, this still may not cover a statement regarding the processing. Though some can tell you that there are no nuts in their products, many can't ensure their products were produced in a facility that is also nut-free. This touches on another problem, cross-contamination.
Bartenders and those mixing drinks work in fast paced environments and worrying about cross contaminating a drink is likely not high on the priority list when there are half a dozen orders rolling in at a time. A good general tip is to skip the garnish. One garnish in particular that can be troublesome for those with nut allergies is maraschino cherries. These are often processed or flavored with almond extract. If you know a favorite mix or type of drink that is safe for you and you order it with no garnish, you can dramatically reduce any risk. At that point ingredients should be coming straight from the bottle to your glass.
For reference purposes, here's a quick list of some common alcoholic beverages that contain nuts or nut extracts. Keep in mind, things can and do change, so contacting the producer is still your best bet.
- Creme de noyaux
- Creme de noix
- Kahana Royale
- Bombay Sapphire
- Harp Lager
- Phillips Dirty Squirrel
- Southern Comfort
This list is by no means comprehensive, and there are MANY varieties of wines, beers, champagnes and other types of alcohol I excluded because they to be rather obvious choices to avoid (many had things like "Nut", "Cashew", or "Almond" in the actual name).
In general, I advise people to stick with what they know. For people with severe nut allergies being adventurous around the holidays can likely lead to some not-so-festive memories. Check producers websites whenever possible, and if you don't see the information you need listed, call or email them. Most producers would much prefer you contact them and err on the side of safety when consuming their products. Lastly, make sure you keep your auto injector (and a backup!) handy at all times.
Unfortunately, all we've covered today is nuts. If you are one of the rare people who has a wheat or gluten allergy, that's a whole other ball of wax. Be safe and enjoy the holidays responsibly!
Researchers started by examining the role gut bacteria play in food sensitivities and food allergies in two groups of mice. Playing on the "hygiene hypothesis" researchers put together one group of mice that were raised in a sterile environment. In the other group, the mice were given a large dose of antibiotics at just two weeks of age. After being given peanut extract, both groups were observed, and from here researchers began introduction specific groups of bacteria to see if they had any effect on the allergic response. Specifically, Bacteroides and Clostridia bacteria groups were the focus, two types that are commonly found in wild mice.
The results were very interesting. First, mice that were given antibiotics showed a high sensitivity to the peanut extract. Antibiotics given early in life have recently been shown to be linked to a myriad of problems later on, including things like the development of allergies and asthma. Of the second group, the reaction to the peanut allergen was even more severe with some showing signs of anaphylaxis. While the introducing Bacteroides into the gut of mice had little effect, Clostridia was another story.
In both groups of mice, the introduction of Clostridia bacteria into the mice resulted in reduced allergic responses to the peanut allergen. This is extremely important for two reasons. First, it shows a link between specific gut bacteria and the development of allergies, again highlighting the link between the microbiome and the health of the animal. Second, these results point toward the potential of treating food allergies with the use of probiotics.
This study also refines the "hygiene theory" somewhat. While traditionally, it was suggested that a lack of exposure to germs and microbes early on could lead to the immune system overreacting to innocuous substances like dust mites, peanuts, or pollen, these results would suggest that a more sterile environment or perhaps even an overuse of antibiotics could lead to less diverse and less numerous gut bacteria, which would in turn be setting the stage for allergen sensitivity.
While the notion of treating allergies or food sensitivities with probiotics are still many years away, this latest research solidifies the link between gut bacteria and allergies. More importantly, it opens the door for potentially novel, new treatments of allergies, asthma and possibly other allergic diseases.
To read the abstract of this study.
Allergy-free peanuts? While it may seem a bit farfetched, this is just what they are working on. Started with a cashew extract (oil), researchers are treating the proteins found in the oil with heat and sodium sulfite. You may recognize sodium sulfite, as it's a preservative commonly found in a variety of foods. What this process does is change the molecular look of reaction-causing protein in the cashew, making it more difficult for immunoglobin (IgE - the antibody that kicks off your body's response, aka, allergic reaction) to recognize and bind with the protein.
Test results showed that when mixing unmodified and modified cashew proteins with the IgE of a nut allergic person, 50% fewer of the IgE molecules bonded with the altered proteins. This is important for a few reasons. Even though this isn't the first experiment to attempt this, it is the first that uses a compound generally regarded as safe (GRAS) to disrupt the protein structure of the allergen. It is also important because unlike other treatments, it is aimed at treating the food, not the person. Lastly, its success shows the potential for reducing or possibly even eliminating the binding of IgE to food allergens, the root of the allergic response.
For now results show a allergy-reduced nut, which isn't as helpful a non-allergenic one. However, these results at least point towards the possibility of this as a solution. What's up next for researchers? Modifying whole cashews then ensuring the cashews still taste they way they should! Until then, avoidance remains the best option for most dealing with severe food allergies.
To read the full abstract of the research.
For more information on food allergies.
Author: K. Gilmore
Eggs are used in wine production? All along I thought my glass of wine was made from grapes in a barrel sprinkled with some yeast. After doing some research, I discovered that not just eggs, but other fining agents are used to remove suspended proteins and solids from wine. These substances clarify the wine before being bottled. So while looking at my Riesling, I wonder if people with egg allergies are able to enjoy a little wine without fear of reactions.
So what are some of the fining agents used in the winemaking process? Here are a few of the most common things you might have never expected to be used in wine production.
- Egg Whites - The albumen found in egg whites is used to clarify red wines during barrel aging. This is the oldest fining method in winemaking.
- Chitosan - Composed of exoskeletons of crustaceans (shrimp, crab, shellfish), is a very common agent for finishing white wines.
- Gelatine (gelatin) - Derived from animal protein, it is recommended for red wines to help reduce excessive tannins and astringency.
- Isinglass - Made from collagen, a protein extracted from the swim bladders of fish. It's a very gentle fining agent, as it does not strip the flavor of the whites and blushes.
- Casein - Not necessarily used for fining, but used to clarify white wines.
For those who are highly allergic to lactose/dairy, eggs, or shellfish or for vegetarians and vegans, the best way to enjoy a bottle of wine without compromising your health is to check the labels, and try to stick with Old World wines (European). Cheers!
Author: R. Power
Halle Berry is one of the seven million people who cannot enjoy shrimp cocktails or a romantic lobster dinner, or any mollusks because of her shellfish allergy. Luckily this doesn't include Swordfish! Shellfish allergy symptoms can include hives, itching, swelling of the lips, face, tongue throat, or any body part, trouble breathing, stomach pain, dizziness, and even anaphylaxis. Unfortunately, many do not know they are allergic until they are adults.
Quirky Zooey Deschanel can only have oatmeal with almond milk for breakfast. Well, that’s what I would serve her, due to her lactose intolerance, celiac disease and egg allergy. Lactose intolerance and egg allergies can be hard on the digestive tract while celiac disease leads to the inability to absorb sufficient amounts of calcium and iron often leading to osteoporosis and anemia.
Let’s be grateful that Kim Kardashian is not allergic to latex. That would cut her wardrobe in half! However, she is allergic to cats. Approximately 10 million people are allergic to cats, making this the most common pet allergy in the U.S. What makes Kimmie sneeze and sniff is not the cat hair itself but the protein in the dander of felines.
Bouncing over to the world of sports, Serena Williams does not go to peanuts as a source of protein. Peanut allergies can cause anaphylaxis, wheezing, nausea and itching and tingling in or around the mouth and throat. Almond butter is a great alternative with high amounts of magnesium, iron and calcium.
And last but not least, Miley Cyrus could possibly be allergic to pants. Sadly, she can’t go anywhere that’s not similar to LA weather.
Have a great weekend, and enjoy the weather before another snow storm drifts our way!
Author: Rachel P.
Almond milk is a great milk substitute (1 cup of unsweetened almond milk contains 1 g of fiber and 30-40 calories!), with omega-3 fatty acids (important for mental health) and no lactose. Not only is it a great dairy milk alternative, but it also is helpful for those trying to reduce heart disease risks and watch their cholesterol intake.
So what is lactose intolerance? The Mayo Clinic explains lactose intolerance is due to the lack of lactase in the small intestine. This enzyme bonds to lactose molecules and breaks them down into glucose and galactose (simple sugars), to be absorbed into your bloodstream. Without lactase, foods with lactose move along unprocessed, thus leading to tummy aches and problems.
So Marsha can't enjoy pizza, quesadillas, crème brûlée or French toast, unless she puts a non-lactose spin on it. Breakfast is our favorite meal of the day, so I decided to share Marsha's favorite breakfast recipe. Bon Appétit!
French Toast (6 Pcs.)
- 2 Eggs
- 1 1/4 C. Almond Milk or 1 C. Almond Milk & 1/4 C. Coconut Milk
- 1/2 Tsp. Vanilla Extract
- Sprinkle of Cinnamon
- 6 Slices of Bread
- Coconut Oil or Vegetable Oil (Anything other than butter)
Next, place a knife’s tip of coconut oil on the pan and let it melt, which it quickly will, and spread over the pan. Place one slice in the pan, and let it cook on each side for about a minute and a half or brown to taste. Keeping the heat low can help to avoid burning your toast and scorching the oil.
Enjoy this delicious French Toast with fruit, powdered sugar (my mom uses blueberry sauce and powdered sugar) or maple syrup.
Come back and check out how we make crème brûlée sans heavy cream!
[Editor's Note: We would have a wonderful picture of this delicious French Toast, but our author ate it all. Poor show, Ms. Power, poor show.]
Author: R. Power
I have one general rule when it comes to handing out candy. I always give out things that I will want to eat if there's any left over. As I've gotten older, my sweet tooth has gotten larger, and this means not only stocking full-size candy bars but also suckers and gum balls. Having worked at AchooAllergy for several years, I've gotten into the habit of keeping things on hand that lack the nuts or dairy ingredients that can cause many food allergic kids problems. Some years I've also taken a handful of two dollar bills (the novelty never wears off on me) and put one each in a plastic Easter egg. On the big night, I bundle three suckers or six gum balls together, since in my mind, those are about equal to one candy bar. I keep each of these different types of things in different bowls and make up a little sign for each, i.e. "Diary-Free," "Dairy & Nut Free," and "Cavities Ahoy!"
This doesn't cover everything, but it does touch on some of the major food allergens. For me, it's not only important to have food allergic alternatives, but also for any kid who shows up at my doorstep not to feel slighted simply because they have a food allergy. Halloween is supposed to be fun, not disappointing!
Not everyone is going to take the time or effort to be so accommodating, and for many people food allergies are not something with which they have experience. So despite efforts that people do or do not take, here are a list of helpful tips that any parent of a food allergic child can keep in mind.
- Wait to Eat - As the most basic tip, try to avoid letting your child eat the candy while trick or treating. Wait until you get back home to not only tally the evening's sweet plunder but also sort out any potentially dangerous candy or sweets.
- Keep Your Own Stash - I like this tip! This is like your currency that you can use when the evening is over. As you sort and pick out any potentially dangerous treats, trade your child for a safe one from your stash. It's a win-win!
- Always Read the Label - Even treats that have been safe in the past can change, so always, always check the label. Avoid candy that is unlabeled, and if unsure, use the trade-in technique from above.
- Have Fun - Halloween is particularly loved by candy makers, but it isn't all about the sweets. Being in costume, visiting neighbors, and just spending time together can make the evening more fun and sweeter than any candy. If candy, and the possible problems from this, just seem like too much, go to party or host your own! There are always fun alternatives if you're willing to put in a little effort.
- Keep an Auto-Injector Handy - It always bears repeating, but keep epinephrine on hand when out and about.
My name is Lisa Rutter, and I am the founder of a group called No Nuts Moms Group. This is a group dedicated to raising food allergy awareness. We offer many resources on our site including a Support Group and Forum on Facebook for all food allergic families from all over the world as well as over 40 local groups throughout the United States, with one in Canada and one in Australia. Our groups are private, free to join, and are a wonderful way to stay connected with others in your area that are also dealing with life threatening food allergies. Within the local groups, we discuss things like, local events, schools, and safe restaurants. This is also a great place to lean on each other or let off some steam and not feel judged for your feelings. Food allergies can be very hard on families and it is nice to have a place to go where everyone understands these challenges. We also encourage outings and play dates within our local groups. This past Easter, our No Nuts Moms Group of Michigan hosted our second annual food free Easter Egg Hunt, with the Easter Bunny making a special appearance. Our Michigan group is also having a food free Halloween event coming up in October.
When I originally started this group in 2011, I was searching for local support and other playmates for my peanut and tree nut allergic child. I felt alone and overwhelmed, and I really wanted to find other moms and kids that both my son and I could relate to. The group has turned out to be so much more to my family and me. I have met so many amazing people and have had so many great things happen to me on this journey. I am now the Co-Leader of FACES of Michigan, which is a local support group for food allergic families. Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) recently recognized No Nuts Moms Group as an official support group. This was a great accomplishment and a very proud moment for me. Within the past two years, I have also been invited to educational and informative summits by some of the top food allergy organizations out there, and our group is currently helping to get a bill passed that would allow schools to stock the life saving medication, epinephrine. This is something new for me, and I am very proud to help out in this effort.
I am very passionate about food allergies, and it is extremely rewarding to be able to help so many families. I often say that I have the best non-paying job out there! This community and my family fuel me to keep going, and I couldn’t do it without all of them. At the end of the day, I can honestly say that I am doing everything I can to make my son’s future brighter. We, as a family, have hope and will never let go of that.
If you have life-threatening food allergies or have a child with life-threatening food allergies, please visit our main website, No Nuts Moms Group to learn more about our support groups.
About the Author: Founder of No Nuts Moms Group and Co-Leader of FACES Michigan, Lisa Rutter is a 36 year-old mother of two. She, her husband and children all deal with environmental allergies, and one child has severe peanut and tree nut allergies.
What could an allergist could do to help me other than confirm what I already know? Specifically, is there any way to desensitize my body's responses to dairy so that I can enjoy products like cheese and ice cream again. - submitted by Milk Allergic
Cow's milk allergy is one of the more difficult allergies to deal with. If you see a board-certified Allergist, they would be able to help define what level of reactivity you have to these food products, and if you may have allergic sensitivity to other foods. In addition, there are many different ways the immune system can react to food protein that produces a rash, and an allergist could help determine whether it is an IgE mediated process or not. Also, an allergist could help define the exact molecule in milk protein that you are reacting to, i.e. alpha-lactalbumin, etc. which could point towards cross-sensitivity to beef, chicken, etc.
We know have several methods of food desensitization, but only for IgE reactions. Cow's milk is one of the foods for which there are established protocols. Not every allergist does food desensitization as it is a very new technique. Some allergists do desensitizations to hen's egg and peanut as well.
- Dr. Frank
Inhalants, such as, perfume, smoke, and chemicals, cause my asthma to get much worse. Are there any treatments that work? Simple avoidance makes me feel like a captive. - submitted by Jan & Larry
There are quite a few people out there that suffer from those types of triggers called "oxidants" and "volatile organic compounds" (VOCs). Oxidants are released when things burn, or by electrical equipment - or when stuff burns, and VOCs are petroleum based molecules which can directly or indirectly activate your body's nerves or allergy receptors. Many people with asthma can identify these things are triggers, and it usually means that their asthma is not well controlled and they have a lot of active inflammation in the lungs. the key to reducing the asthma triggers is to get the active inflammation under control as best you can.
Many products on this website can help you clean the air in your home, I would recommend a system that reduces VOCs as well as the standard smoke and dust.
- Dr. Frank
My nose runs when I am in the parrot room. Is there a test to see if I am allergic to my Umbrella Cockatoo? - submitted by Cockatoo Blues
True bird-feather allergy is quite rare, and most allergists do not have that in their testing equipment. We commonly see people who think they are allergic to feather pillows, and 75% of the time it is actually just dust mite matter that has built up in the pillow. People with true feather allergy tend to be reactive to a cross-reactive allergen (gal d 5) which is chicken serum albumin and report symptoms with ingestion of egg yolk and chicken meat. Even in exotic bird fanciers, the majority of fanciers that report symptoms are actually allergic to feather mites, Diplaegidia columbae, a cousin of the common dust mite.
The cockatoo is of the order Psittaciformes(Parrots) and there is a blood test called a Parrot Feather specific IgE, which can determine if you are allergic to it or not. However if you already know you develop symptoms when you walk into the room, you should think about wearing an N95 mask to protect your nose, mouth, and lungs. Depending on the diet, some bird droppings will release ammonia as a by product of nitrogen metabolism, and this can be seriously irritating to the nose and throat.
- Dr. Frank
Author: Kevin Gilmore
As we welcome in August, teachers across the U.S. are headed back to prep for the coming school year. That signals kickoff of back to school shopping but also fresh worries for parents about food allergies. Over the last few years, schools have become more responsive to the increasing numbers of children with food allergies, but it remains important for parents to meet with teachers and administrators ahead of time to prepare. Here are few simple points to go over before the new school year begins.
- Recognize Triggers - Recognizing the situation and diagnosing the problem is the first step. What is the child allergic to? What are the symptoms? What are some common sources of this allergen?
- Lunch Time - Will the school lunch be acceptable? If not, what about trading stuff from a sack lunch? Since as of right now there are no overarching laws or guidelines to govern food allergies in schools, much is left to the local district and even the individual school administrators. So inquire as to what steps they have taken. In some local Atlanta school districts administrators have designated peanut-free tables at lunch.
- Notifying Staff - Typically, you would want the teachers, administrators, lunch room personnel, and school nurse to be aware of the allergy and the situation. At different points throughout the school day it would be important for these staff members to be aware.
- Worst Case Scenario - Set a Plan of Action. Time is critical, particularly when it involves anaphylaxis, so it is crucial to have a plan of action already in place in case of emergencies. What is the problem? What action should be taken? Who should or is trained to administer medication? Who needs to be notified?
- Auto-Injectors and Emergency Numbers - Does the school provide emergency epinephrine? Who can administer epinephrine? Who should be called? What other types of drugs can or should be administered (like antihistamines, bronchodilators, etc.)? Again, as of now, many of these things are handled by the individual school, so as far as administering the drug, ask if the teacher/nurse/emergency care provider will be trained and if the school stocks additional auto injectors (as over 1/3 of all cases that require epinephrine often require a second dose). Though Congress is acting to provide more support for food allergies in schools, many schools do not currently stock epinephrine for cases when a second dose is required or where the allergic response is the first of its kind for the student.
All of these questions should be addressed and answered prior to the start of the school year. In the most severe cases of food allergies, minutes can literally determine the fate of a child, and having a plan of action in place can make difference between immediate action and a slow, uncertain response to an emergency.
For additional tips on managing allergies at home or ways to reduce particle allergies and eczema at home.
Author: Kevin Gilmore