Solving the Food Allergy Puzzle: Philippe Bégin, M.D.

beginResearchers and other medical professionals are crucial allies to families living with food allergies. They are the ones who break the news when a child gets diagnosed, treat reactions, conduct food challenges, provide advice, run innovative clinical trials and stand at the front lines of our mission to find a cure. Doctors like Philippe Bégin spend each day helping patients living with food allergies and working to find effective treatments. He will be speaking about his work at FARE’s Food Allergy Conference in Anaheim, CA on June 1.

We asked Dr. Bégin to tell us a bit about his sessions and his motivation for working in the food allergy field.

What was your interest in getting involved in food allergy research?

From a scientific point of view, food allergies are very interesting (I guess I am kind of nerd). It is quite a puzzle how the body could mistake something as vital as food for a harmful substance and mount such a strong reaction to it. Food allergies kind of took us by surprise at the end of the last century, and everything we think we know about them changes at the speed of light. However, we are making progress and this is certainly a very exciting field to work in. As a clinician/scientist, I get to see both the lab and clinic sides, and I get my motivation from my patients. When you deal with families who are managing food allergies, you see how much your work matters and how it affects lives. Every small step toward a better understanding or an effective treatment feels like a huge victory and is more motivation to keep going.

This is your first FARE conference – what are you most excited about?

One of my mentors used to say that having food allergies is like carrying a bomb with you at all times. It’s the quality of our teaching that can make sure that bomb doesn’t go off and we can potentially save lives. The FARE conferences do just that. They are the ultimate learning and teaching experience for families dealing with food allergies, covering topics from the scientific point of view to the very practical tips for the day-to-day life. There is no cure for food allergies, but you can learn to outsmart and outplay them. I’m very excited to be part of this great educational event and to have the opportunity to make a difference.

What do you hope attendees will be able to take away from your sessions?

My sessions will focus on the medical and scientific sides of food allergies. The first talk entitled “Understanding Food Allergies” will cover the who, what, where, how and why of food allergies. I will give the answers to typical questions that I get asked by patients or families in clinics, such as “What is a food allergy?” “Why is there so much more today?” “How should I diagnose/follow it?” and “How should I deal with an acute reaction?”

We may not have a cure yet, but I am confident we will get there in the future. The second session will discuss food allergies from a research point of view, focusing on emerging therapies that are being studied, giving a feel of the different ideas out there and where we are now. I will also describe the type of research we do here at the Stanford Alliance for Food Allergy Research, what it is like to be in a clinical trial, and the challenges that await us in the future.

Philippe Bégin is a visiting scholar at the Stanford Alliance for Food Allergy Research (SAFAR), a leader in therapies and prevention for severe food allergies. He completed his medical and specialty training at the University of Montreal in Canada, where he currently holds a position as an allergist and associate researcher. 

There’s still time to register for our conference in Anaheim, CA (June 1). Register today on our website: www.foodallergy.org/conferences

Let’s Make it Food Allergy Awareness YEAR!

We heard from many of you who helped spread the word during Food Allergy Awareness Week – from going into your children’s classrooms to educate students and teachers, to sharing your story with local media outlets, to helping secure Food Allergy Awareness Week proclamations in your state.

Big and small, every step we take to educate and raise awareness in our communities gets us one step closer to ensuring safety and inclusion for those living with food allergies. These are a few of the great things we saw happen in honor of Food Allergy Awareness Week:

Blue Ridge Elementary School Advocating

  1. Members of the Northeast Georgia Food Allergy Support Group gave a presentation about food allergies in every elementary school in their county. Dressed in teal, they reached more than 1000 children and educators!
  2. Extreme athlete Mike Monroe powered through 24 hours of continuous rowing, raising more than $37,000 for FARE during his Odyssey Against Food Allergies.
  3. First-grader Spencer made a video about how to use an epinephrine auto-injector. 
  4. Celebrities like Jerome Bettis, Julie Bowen, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, Kenton Duty, Rhonda Adkins, and Chef Ming Tsai helped raise awareness.

Last week was a success, but we want to make sure that the momentum built does not end now. So here are a few ways you can take action to help raise awareness throughout the year:

  1. Share our “It’s Not a Joke” public service announcement with a school, scout troop, camp, or other community group. We heard from one food allergy mom whose daughter viewed the PSA with her classmates; it was also shown in every classroom in the school. Afterward her daughter felt that her classmates empathized with her and became more aware of the seriousness of food allergies. The mother said, “The PSA shown today at school made an impact on our entire family.” For tips on how to prevent and address food allergy bullying, visit our website: www.foodallergy.org/document.doc?id=192
  2. Join a FARE Walk for Food Allergy. Participating in or sponsoring a walk can be a great way for you to get involved and raise funds with other families in your community who are living with food allergies. To register please visit www.foodallergywalk.org or you can sponsor a walk by contacting your Regional Office.
  3. Expand and leverage your network. Do you know a politician, school administrator, celebrity, or business owner who could help spread the word, raise funds, or advocate for those living with food allergies? Talk to them! Has a support group not been established yet in your area? Start one!

We truly appreciate all of the extra efforts you made to raise awareness about food allergies last week, and we can’t wait to see what we can accomplish together! Please tell us about what you’re doing to increase awareness in the comments below.

Help for Food Allergy Families in Moore, Oklahoma

Our hearts go out to all of the victims of the May 20, 2013 tornado, which has devastated the city of Moore, Oklahoma. In the aftermath of this disaster, families managing food allergies are in need of your help. Many in the food allergy community have mobilized to help send food donations for those with food allergies and special dietary needs.

FARE has spoken with the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, which has a need for allergy-friendly, shelf-stable food that can be eaten with little preparation. If you are interested in donating food, please send your donation to the food bank at the address below, and label your package “Moore Tornado disaster food allergy food” or “Moore Tornado disaster gluten-free food” on the outside:

Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma
3355 S. Purdue
Oklahoma City, OK 73139

The greatest need is for the following items:

  • Peanut butter replacements
  • Shelf stable products, such as allergy-friendly snacks or dried or canned fruits
  • Canned or boxed soup that is free of major allergens
  • Canned meats, such as canned tuna that does not contain soy
  • Boxed milk replacements, such as rice milk or coconut milk

FARE is also working with epinephrine manufacturers to see what resources may be available to help families replace epinephrine auto-injectors that were lost due to the tornado.

You can support broader disaster relief efforts in Oklahoma by donating to the Red Cross Disaster Relief efforts online; or by texting “REDCROSS” to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

We will continue to post updates here.

For Those in the Affected Area

If you or your family has been affected by the disaster and are in need of assistance, please visit the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma (address above) or visit the Red Cross shelter finder page to find a shelter near you.

If you are in need of additional assistance, please contact us at contactfare@foodallergy.org.

Update 4:30pm

For families in need of replacement epinephrine, Mylan’s $0 co-pay coupon is available here: https://activatemysavings.com/epipen/

Many people in the community are working to provide support for the victims. Additional contacts and opportunities to provide assistance are listed on Heidi Bayer’s Brooklyn Allergy Mom’s Blog.

Maintaining a Healthy Diet with Food Allergies: Cheryl Harris, MPH, RD

cherylpic littleWhen you have food allergies, it’s often a challenge to find foods that are safe, tasty, and nutritious all at the same time. Worrying about hidden allergens, reading labels multiple times, and the caution you have to take with every meal can make it difficult to find a balanced diet. As a dietician, Cheryl Harris, MPH, RD aims to help people, especially those with food allergies or celiac disease, find ways to live and eat well. She will be speaking on the topic at FARE’s Food Allergy Conference in Arlington, VA on May 18.

We asked Cheryl to tell us a bit about her session and her experience at our conferences in the past.

You’ve been to a conference before – what was your favorite part?

FARE always does a great job. I think we’re so very lucky to have Dr. Wood in our backyard, and it’s so gracious of him to present every year. I mean, how great is it to have a Q&A with one of the go-to allergy experts in the country? It’s quite a privilege to get the latest and greatest in the allergy world directly from the source. I’m also really looking forward to the session on managing emotional issues with food allergies because that is so critical, and it’s an area that often gets too little attention.

What will you be covering in your session?

We’ll be covering a range of topics, from nutritional potholes and how to avoid them to tips and tricks that help make life more wonderful. Obviously the first step is strictly avoiding the allergen, but the second step is supporting yourself or your child to ensure a balanced, nutritious, and varied diet.

What challenges do people with food allergies typically face from a nutritional standpoint?

Oh, that’s the hardest one to sum up briefly, because it totally depends on what the problematic food and the child’s age. Every allergy has its own nutritional impact, and of course, the more severe the allergy, the harder it is, especially for people who can only use foods from a dedicated allergen-free facility. Not surprisingly, research studies have shown that children with multiple allergies and/or milk protein allergies are much more likely to be underweight or malnourished.

Food allergies inevitably change the whole family’s relationship with food. Many toddlers are picky in the best of times. Not surprisingly, young children who have learned that food can lead to a trip to the ER are often much more reluctant to try new foods, and who can blame them? It adds an extra layer of hurdles for parents.

There’s still time to register for one of our upcoming conferences, being held in Arlington, VA (May 18); and Anaheim, CA (June 1). Register today on our website: www.foodallergy.org/conferences

Read more about Cheryl on her website www.harriswholehealth.com

FARE Food Allergy Fundraising Champion: Mike Monroe

Think about the last time you went to the gym or out for a run – how long did you exercise? Thirty minutes? One hour? Now picture yourself sitting down at a rowing machine and not stopping for 24 hours straight. That is what Mike Monroe – food allergy dad, extreme athlete and former Marine – will attempt to accomplish on May 17. Mike hopes to break the indoor rowing machine record for his age/weight, which will require him to row 276,917 meters, with the goal of raising $50,000 to benefit FARE.

We asked Mike a few questions about his event to kick off a new series of blog posts that will highlight some of our FARE Food Allergy Fundraising Champions. Over the years, our supporters have organized some incredible fundraisers in support of food allergy education, advocacy, awareness and research. We’ll be posting their stories periodically to highlight their contributions and show innovative ways that you can get involved with raising funds for and awareness about food allergies.

What is your connection to food allergies?
My 8-year-old son, Miles, has severe food allergies. He is allergic to wheat, milk, eggs and nuts. He is an amazing little boy and it breaks my heart when he gets upset about being different.

Tell us about your fundraiser. How did you think of the idea?
I am going to row on an indoor rowing machine for 24 hours. I want to try to break the known record for my age/weight class. I thought of the idea because I wanted to raise money to help with clinical trials for kids with food allergies. I wanted to do something that was just crazy enough that it would get people’s attention and make them want to donate. I also wanted to do something that was new to me so I could challenge myself.

How can others get involved?
There are a few ways:

  1. You can go to my website and make a donation. I am trying to raise $50,000 in donations and every little bit helps.   
  2. You can row alongside me!  On the website, you can sign up to “Participate.”  For a $50 donation you can row for 30 minutes to show your support. 
  3. You can simply spread the word via friends and family.  Share the web link, post to Facebook and Twitter, etc. 
  4. Visit the Sport&Health Club in Old Town Alexandria between noon on Friday, May 17 and noon on Saturday, May 18 and cheer me on a bit. 

Why did you decide to get involved with FARE in particular?

My wife and I attended a fundraiser last year that was hosted by the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN). I met Maria Acebal (former FAAN CEO) and Dr. Hemant Sharma, who is now Miles’ allergist. FARE has been amazing in helping me put this together.

What’s been the best part about running this event/fundraiser?
I am fueled to reach my fundraising goal by my son and the other kids out there who suffer from food allergies. We need to figure this out and hopefully my efforts will help.

We’d like to thank Mike for his generosity and invite you to visit his FARE webpage for more information. If you would like to take on a physical challenge (such as a marathon or 5K) on behalf of FARE or set up a campaign asking friends to give to FARE in lieu of special occasion gifts, please contact your regional office for more information.

Food Allergy Awareness Week 2013

fawwthumbFood Allergy Awareness Week (FAAW) starts in just two days! Next week, May 12-18, provides the perfect opportunity to educate those in your community about the severity of this potentially life-threatening medical condition. Here are a few events and ways you can get involved!

  1. Educate: Hang up a Food Allergy Awareness Week Poster at your school, library, or workplace. Make a presentation to educate others about food allergies, or share some facts about food allergies on social media.
  2. Participate: We’ll have quite a few opportunities for you to participate in events and help raise awareness online. Make sure you like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter so you can take part!
  3. Show your support: Sign up a team for a FARE Walk for Food Allergy in your area, purchase a Food Allergy Awareness T-shirt, or become a member of FARE to show your support!

We look forward to celebrating FAAW with you, and be sure to stay tuned for a big announcement this week! For more resources and a full calendar of events, visit our website: http://www.foodallergy.org/food-allergy-awareness-week/activities

What are you doing for FAAW? We’d love to see what you’re up to! Post pictures on our Facebook page, use the hashtag #FoodAllergyWk on Twitter, leave a comment here, or email Anna Luke at aluke@foodallergy.org.

FARE Supports Local Groups Via Community Outreach Grants

FARE is happy to announce the recipients of our 2013 Community Outreach Grants (COG). The COG program seeks to raise awareness and improve education about food allergies through grassroots programs across the United States. This year, a total of 13 grants were given out to programs in 10 states. A summary of the approved projects is below.

Grant Title and Location

Staying Safe at School Assembly
Lansing, MI

Austin Area School Staff Education & Support
Austin, TX

Food Allergies Impact on Mental Health
Charlotte, NC

Boise, ID Support Group Outreach
Boise, ID

Utah Food Allergy Conference
Salt Lake City, UT

“Road to No Reaction” Concert
Ridgewood, NJ

Food Allergy Blogger Conference
Las Vegas, NV

San Diego Community Outreach and Education
San Diego, CA

School Allergy Awareness Assemblies
San Jose, CA

Food Allergy Support & Resources in Western NY
Buffalo, NY

Capital District Food Allergy Educational Conference
Albany, NY

Food Allergy Kids of Atlanta School Advocacy Program
Atlanta, GA

Food Allergy Book Donations for Public Schools
Triangle, NC

We’d like to extend our congratulations and appreciation to all of the local leaders who are spearheading these terrific projects, which will help raise awareness of food allergies as a serious public health issue.