May is Food Allergy Awareness Month, a time in which we see increased awareness and action on behalf of the food allergy community. Food Allergy Awareness Week is May 13-19 and provides a special opportunity to shine a light on food allergies and anaphylaxis. I am delighted that this week’s guest blog comes to us via Kathleen Shannon of Enjoy Life Foods, a company focused on creating delicious snacks that are both gluten-free and free from 14 common allergens. Although they ramp up their awareness and education work at this time of the year, they also share gluten free and allergy friendly recipes, lifestyle hacks and other fun content all year long.
It is estimated that up to 15 million Americans have food allergies, with 1 in 13 children having a food allergy. The prevalence of food allergies in children increased by 50% between 1997 and 2011, and continues to rise. While any food can trigger an allergic reaction, in the US, there are 8 allergens that account for 90% of all food allergic reactions. These are: wheat, dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, fish and shellfish.
Whether you have food allergies, or know someone else who does, it’s important to know a bit about food allergy safety and information so you can act as an advocate to keep yourself and others safe. Here are our tips for living with food allergies:
1. Do Your Research
Getting the correct information is so important when you’re adjusting to an allergy-friendly lifestyle. There are so many resources out there, such as FARE’s website, that contain a wealth of knowledge. A quick online search can open up many of those resources!
2. Get Plugged In
There are lots of local and online support groups for individuals living with allergies. There’s no better support system than a group of people who are experiencing the same thing firsthand. These communities are great places to get advice and recommendations!
Click the link to find a support group in your area.
3. Start Cooking
Sometimes, removing allergens from your diet and lifestyle can mean cooking more meals from scratch instead of opting for pre-packaged snacks. Finding some allergy-friendly cookbooks or online blogs with delicious recipes is a great place to start when you’re trying to find new dishes to eat!
4. Educate Your Friends & Family
Living with allergies is an adjustment – for both the individual and their family and friends. If you’re the one with allergies, let your loved ones know what it means to live allergy-friendly and how they can help you navigate this change. If you’re friends or family with someone who has allergies, be sure to listen to their needs and do your own research for accommodating those needs!
The name Food Allergy Awareness Week includes an important term – AWARENESS. This is a time to step up and get the word out there. Promote food allergy education, whether that be in your own family and friends circle, or beyond! Be your own advocate. Put thoughts into action and help educate others on how they can help you and others with dietary restrictions feel confident and empowered to eat freely and enjoy life!
 Food Allergy Research & Education
I want to give a shout out to RedSneakersForOakley a non-profit organization founded in memory of Oakley Debbs, an 11 year old boy who passed away due to a fatal anaphylactic reaction resulting from a mild nut allergy.
I’d be interested to hear from #HealthEd teachers regarding what they teach their students when it comes to food allergy awareness. What health skills do you think can best be infused with your nutrition content? Please post your comments on Twitter using the #slowchathealth hashtag.
You can find Enjoy Life Foods on Twitter at @enjoylifefoods