Discover the Positive Effects of Yoga

At this year’s FARE National Food Allergy Conference, teens with food allergies participated in a 90 minute yoga workshop learning how to enhance their quality of life and experience the mind-body connection. The workshop was led by Kristen Kauke, a licensed clinical social worker and 200-hour registered yoga teacher who teaches yoga weekly. Kristen’s two sons have food allergies, and Kristen also lives with food allergies herself, so she has a wealth of experience in coping with anxiety and living well with food allergies.

We asked Kristen to give us a recap of the mental and physical exercises that she led the group through during her workshop, as well as provide us with information on the positive effects of yoga.

kaukeyoga

By Kristen Kauke

Drawing on my knowledge of psychosocial principles, empirically based treatment modalities, group processes, yoga, and overall wellness, during this workshop I helped teens to quiet their minds, gain awareness of their body, and learn tools for coping with stress and regulating emotions. Research shows that stressors associated with managing life-threatening food allergies can have a negative impact on quality of life. Research also demonstrates that yoga is associated with a decrease in symptoms of anxiety and depression, and an increase in self-compassion. As the body and mind relax and release through breath and vinyasa (flow of postures), so do pent-up emotions and traumatic memories. This workshop allowed teens to experience such positive outcomes of yoga.

During this transformational workshop, I introduced teens to the connection between thoughts, actions and feelings. I call the negative cycle “the Bermuda Triangle” where catastrophic thoughts exacerbate anxious feelings and reinforce protective actions. In exploring the “Bermuda Triangle,” teens shared common anxious thoughts about living with food allergies such as “I’m not in control,” or “Sometimes I’m afraid I might die.” Teens noted correlating feelings such as anxiety, sadness, annoyance, or flabbergasted. And they identified typical protective actions such as isolating or being shaky. I challenged the teens to consider more ideal patterns of thoughts, feelings and actions in living with food allergies. These included more optimistic thoughts, feelings of safety and calm, and actions such as connection with others. I emphasized how changing thoughts changes feelings.

Then I led teens through the action of a gentle yoga flow. In this manner, teens experienced relaxation of the body, and consequently, a shift in baseline feeling. I highlighted how in using an action such as yoga, they could tolerate and even soften feelings.

Finally, through an experiential activity called “Being Willingly Out of Breath,” teens learned about parts of their Self, as well as applied tools to observe thoughts, tolerate emotions in times of stress, and listen to their inner wisdom.

Teens shared freely, laughed, and gained insight. They moved and stretched themselves both physically and emotionally. In the end, they learned that they DO have control over their wellbeing and can utilize tools to achieve calm despite living with food allergies.

Another important takeaway is that any BODY can do yoga! Yoga is for athletes and those who only run when being chased, super bendy people and those who can’t touch their toes, teenagers and silver-haired folk, women and men! Yoga offers something for everyone! If you’ve never practiced before, it’s best to take a class with a qualified teacher or follow a video. There are many different styles of yoga from restorative to powerful. However, the following are some simple and relaxing poses you might enjoy at home:

3 Part/Elevator breath – why and how

Beginning any yoga practice with a centering breath is of utmost of importance. When the breath slows, the thoughts follow. Diaphragmatic breathing signals the relaxation response in the central nervous system. One of my favorite breath exercises is the “elevator” or “3 part breath.”

To begin, exhale!

Then begin to inhale from the low belly and stop at “floor 1.” Pause. Inhale more to mid-belly or “floor 2.” Pause. Inhale to upper chest or “floor 3.” Pause. Then exhale slowly, contracting belly towards spine, tucking pelvis and lengthening spine until empty, or back to “floor 1.”

Begin again and repeat the cycle two more times.

Neck – why and how

We hold a ton of stress and tension in our necks! When our neck and jaw remain tense, it sends a signal to the central nervous system that we are in danger. This signal activates and maintains the stress response. To achieve consistent peace, we are wise to mind our necks!

Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position. Being by inhaling and simultaneously raising the right hand.  As you exhale, bend the right hand over the top of your head and pull down on your ear, moving ear towards right shoulder. Continue to inhale and exhale for three cycles. Then scooch your right hand to the base of your neck. Gently pull down on the base of your neck so your chin eases down and angles towards your right knee. Inhale and exhale for three cycles.

Release your right hand and allow your right palm to press into your forehead, easing your head back to center.

Repeat this process with your left hand over your right ear. First, left ear to shoulder. Then base of neck towards left knee.

Legs up the wall – why and how

If you’re only going to do one yoga pose, this is it!  This pose is like getting an oil change for all your internal systems. Besides increasing strength and flexibility, you reap cardiovascular benefits; you reverse the effects of gravity. This pose balances hormones, increases immunity, soothes the nervous system, and aids digestion and restful sleep.

To begin, scooch your right thigh and glut against the wall. Then shift your legs up, back down. Center your legs against the wall and align hips square.  Allow spine and neck to lengthen and rest on the floor.  Breathe your 3 part breath, allowing spine to sink to the floor, heart to lift with inhalation.  Hold legs up the wall for 3-10 minutes, with increasing amounts each trial.

Thank you to Kristen for providing this summary! We hope those of you reading at home will try some of her sample yoga exercises. For more content from Kristen, you can view a webinar she presented on the topic of “Dating and Intimacy Challenges Associated with Having Severe Food Allergies” on FARE’s website

FARE Membership: Join Us

Stand with us to make the world safer and more inclusive for individuals with food allergies! Being a member of FARE entitles you to some great member benefits, such as registration discounts to Teen Summit and our National Food Allergy Conference, a fantastic discount on a subscription to Allergic Living magazine, and advanced registration for our monthly educational webinars. But membership is about so much more than benefits.

Debbie Jacobs, of Potomac, Md., expressed this sentiment perfectly:

“Since she was a baby and my husband first found FAAN online and called to double-check what turned out to be erroneous advice from our pediatrician, FAAN and now FARE, has been there for our family. I can’t think of a single organization (or company) that has had such a direct and positive impact on our family than FAAN/FARE.  We have been members for 16 years and even if my daughter outgrew all of her allergies, we would continue as members just to show our support for an organization that has done so much for families with food allergies. The advocacy on food labeling laws alone would justify all of our annual dues! Now, that my daughter will be going away to college, it is great to see that FARE has taken such an active role in making colleges safe for students with food allergies. It seems that FARE is growing right along with our daughter, and it is my hope that as an adult she will continue to look to FARE for advice and support.”

Visit www.foodallergy.org/membership and join FARE today!

Researchers Discover Cause of Eosinophilic Esophagitis

Researchers report that they have discovered the cause of eosinophilic eophagitis (EoE), a hard-to-treat food allergy. In EoE, large numbers of white blood cells, known as eosinophils, accumulate in the lining of the esophagus (the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach), causing chronic inflammation. Led by a team at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, investigators have found a new genetic and molecular pathway in the esophagus. This discovery, reported online today in Nature Genetics, opens the door to new therapies for EoE, which has been diagnosed in a growing number of children and adults over the past decade.

The study found that EoE is triggered by the interplay between epithelial cells, which help form the lining of the esophagus, and a gene called CAPN14. When the epithelial cells are exposed to an immune hormone called interleukin 13 (IL-13), which is known to play a role in EoE, they cause a dramatic increase in CAPN14. CAPN14 encodes an enzyme called calpain14, which is also part of the disease process. Because drugs can target calpain 14 and modify its activity, the study opens up new therapeutic strategies for researchers to explore.

drmarkrothenberg125x156“In a nutshell, we have used cutting-edge genomic analysis of patient DNA, as well as gene and protein analysis, to explain why people develop EoE,” says Marc E. Rothenberg, MD, senior investigator on the study. “This is a major breakthrough for this condition … Our results are immediately applicable to EoE and have broad implications for understanding eosinophilic disorders as well as allergies in general.” The study was funded, in part, by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), with additional support from other organizations, including FARE.

A New Look at Food Allergy Bullying

In a study published in Pediatrics in 2012, researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (New York, NY) surveyed 251 families to determine the prevalence and impact of bullying on children with food allergies, aged 8-17. They reported that more than one third of children and teens were bullied specifically because of their food allergies, usually by their classmates. A year later, the same research team conducted a follow-up study recently published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice to learn whether the bullying continued and whether specific strategies led to a reduction in bullying.

Of the 124 families who participated in the second survey, 29 percent reported that their children were bullied because of their food allergies – a similar rate to what was reported in the first study. Thirty-four percent of these children were bullied “frequently” – more than twice a month. Sixty-nine percent of the children who reported being bullied in the first study said that the bullying continued. Bullying lessened for 31 percent of the children. Not surprisingly, when bullying resolved, quality of life improved.

Simply talking about bullying with parents did not improve a child’s quality of life. The most successful strategies were parental intervention with the help of school personnel or, less frequently, with the help of the bully’s parents. Based on the results of this and other studies, the researchers recommend that physicians ask parents and children about bullying during office visits. If a child is being bullied, parents should address the issue with school personnel.

Watch FARE’s Food Allergy Bullying: “It’s Not a Joke” PSA:

Find more resources on food allergy bullying on FARE’s website>

Questions From FARE’s Mailbag: Allergens in Non-Food Items

mailbagEvery day we receive dozens of phone calls, emails, and letters from individuals and families who have questions about food allergies. Many of these questions are concerning non-food items that may contain food allergens and if they are a risk to those with food allergies. Below are answers to a few questions that we have received recently about non-food items:

  1. Is there any risk from using ant baits that have peanut?

Although it is not required to be labeled since it is not a food product, many ant baits or traps display a label warning that the products contain peanut. As long as these traps are not handled by the person who is allergic (or wear gloves while handling), and they are placed in an area that is out of reach (such as in a garage or behind a bookshelf), they should not pose a threat. There are alternative or natural options for ant baits that do not contain peanuts, however, which may be a better choice if the peanut-containing traps are a worry to you.

  1. Do those with tree nut allergies need to avoid shea nut butter in cosmetic products, such as lotion?

Shea nuts are considered tree nuts, and are designated as such according to the Food Allergen Labeling & Consumer Protection Act. If they are included as an ingredient in food products, they must be labeled. When used in cosmetic products, such as lotion, shea nuts are turned into “butter” by processing their oil, which is highly refined. A 2010 study published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that shea nut butter poses little to no risk to the peanut or tree nut allergic because it contains no IgE-binding soluble proteins. While the risk is minimal, consult with your doctor if you believe you or your child is allergic to shea nut.

Also note: there is a recent case study that indicated that if you have a skin inflammation such as eczema, using skin cream that contains food ingredients could lead to an allergic reaction. The researchers who piloted the case study remind clinicians and patients that “skin care ought to be bland, advocating avoidance of agents capable of sensitization – especially foods.”

  1. I’ve heard that some asthma inhalers contain lactose (a milk sugar). Are these inhalers a risk to those with milk allergy?

Pharmaceutical grade lactose may contain trace milk proteins and could rarely induce reactions in inhaled or injected medications. A 2014 article in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology indicated that reactions are “quite a rare phenomenon given the large number of children with milk allergy who use lactose-containing dry powder inhalers uneventfully.”Any inhaler that contains milk should indicate so in the patient information insert.

  1. Is pet food that contains my child’s allergens okay to purchase?

It is best to avoid purchasing food for your pets, especially dogs, that contains your child’s allergen. The food’s proteins can be transferred through saliva if the dog licks your child, or the child may handle or even eat some of the pet food. If there are pets that your child is visiting or encounters outside of your home, you will want to closely observe their interaction.

You Might Live With Food Allergies If …

curtis_sittenfeld_fare_conferenceLast month, attendees at the first FARE National Food Allergy Conference were treated to a heartfelt, warm and witty keynote speech, “Finding Your Food Allergy Voice,” by bestselling author Curtis Sittenfeld, whose daughter has food allergies.

Curtis’s riff on comedian Jeff Foxworthy’s popular “You Might Be a Redneck” routine was met with appreciative laughs. With many food allergy parents exchanging knowing glances at some of the familiar scenarios Curtis mentioned, we were not surprised we received requests to reprint her speech. We are happy to share this excerpt from Curtis’s speech.

  • You Might Live With Food Allergies If … you develop a strategy for attending a four-year-old’s birthday party with the same precision you’d use to invade a small country.
  • You Might Live With Food Allergies If … you’ve ever been with a group of people singing Take Me Out to the Ballgame and you’ve wondered what you should do when they get to the line “Buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks…” Should you keep singing? Should you go silent? Should you hum?
  • You Might Live With Food Allergies If … someone says milk, and you think, “Can you be more specific? Like cow milk? Almond milk? Soy milk? Hemp milk? Rice Milk?”
  • You Might Live With Food Allergies If … you’ve ever worried about what will happen when your child attends a slumber party … and she’s 2!
  • You Might Live With Food Allergies If … if you’ve ever worried about what will happen when your child goes to college … and he’s 9!
  • You Might Live With Food Allergies If … you’ve ever accidentally lost weight.
  • You Might Live with Food Allergies If … your greatest fear on Halloween is not witches, zombies, ghouls, or haunted houses.
  • You Might Live With Food Allergies If … you’ve ever wondered if your child has food allergies either because you did fill-in-the-blank or because you did the opposite of fill-in-the-blank. Like, is it because you ate TOO MANY shrimp when you were pregnant? Or is because you didn’t eat ENOUGH shrimp?
  • You Might Live With Food Allergies If … you’ve ever been given extensive advice about how to handle food allergies by people WITHOUT medical degrees.
  • You Might Live With Food Allergies If … before leaving home, you think to yourself: Keys, cell phone, sunglasses, wallet, epinephrine.
  • You Might Live With Food Allergies If … you’ve ever stood inside a grocery store, reading ingredients on a package and thinking, wait, tricalcium phosphate—that doesn’t have milk in it, right? Thank goodness for smartphones, huh?
  • You Might Live With Food Allergies If … you’ve ever been to a party where the hosts tells you there won’t be any nuts in the food and what they mean is BESIDES the cashews in the pasta salad and the walnuts in the cookies. But yeah, besides that, there won’t be any nuts.
  • You Might Live With Food Allergies If … you’ve ever been at a playground where someone’s else toddler was staggering around with a baggie of crackers and you’ve watched him as intently as if you were on a criminal stake-out.
  • You Might Live With Food Allergies If … you’re not that into Martha Stewart or Rachael Ray but you just love Kelly Rudnicki and Cybele Pascal.
  • You Might Live With Food Allergies If … you’re no longer on speaking terms with at least one blood relative either because they think you take food allergies too seriously, or because you think they don’t take them seriously enough. (An alternative to this is, if you wish you were no longer on speaking terms with at least one blood relative)
  • You Might Live With Food Allergies If … you’ve ever made a recipe from a vegan cookbook because it avoids milk and eggs but then you’ve added real bacon to it. I’m speaking from personal experience with that one—I have some great vegan cookbooks and I’ve thought to myself ‘I wonder if the person who wrote this would understand that I’m working within certain restrictions or if they’d just think I’m a corrupt, disgusting carnivore.’ We’ll save that question for another day.

Do you have your own “You Might Live With Food Allergies If …” to share? Post yours in the comment area!

Thank you, Curtis, for a great speech in Chicago and for granting permission to reprint excerpts here! 

2014 Regional Food Allergy Conferences

In 2014, FARE provided funding for five regional conferences, which are managed by local support groups and volunteers. These events are made possible though FARE’s Community Outreach Grants Program, which gave nearly $23,000 in support to these important education and community gatherings. If one of these events is in your area, we encourage you to attend!

 

Michigan Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Conference

Saturday, Aug 9, 8 am
Kresge Hall Auditorium
Madonna University
Livonia, MI

http://www.foodallergymiconference.com

 

NY/NJ Food Allergy Education Conference

Sunday, Sept 14, 9 am–12 pm
Saddle Brook Marriott
Saddle Brook, NJ

http://www.tinyurl.com/FARENJ

 

Utah Food Allergy Conference

Saturday, Nov 15, 2 pm
University Guest House Hotel
Salt Lake City, UT

http://www.utahfoodallergy.org

 

Washington FEAST Regional Conference

Fall 2014 (date and location TBA)
Washington State

http://www.wafeast.org

 

Eosinophilic Esophagitis in the Spectrum of Food Allergy

Saturday, Nov 15
ForeFront Conference Center
Waltham, MA

EGID@childrens.harvard.edu

The next FARE National Food Allergy Conference will be held in Long Beach, CA on May 16-17, 2015. Save the date!