Because of spam, I personally moderate all comments left on my blog. However, because of health issues, I will not be able to do so in the future.

If you have a personal question about LI or any related topic you can send me an email at I will try to respond.

Otherwise, this blog is now a legacy site, meaning that I am not updating it any longer. The basic information about LI is still sound. However, product information and weblinks may be out of date.

In addition, my old website, Planet Lactose, has been taken down because of the age of the information. Unfortunately, that means links to the site on this blog will no longer work.

For quick offline reference, you can purchase Planet Lactose: The Best of the Blog as an ebook on or Almost 100,000 words on LI, allergies, milk products, milk-free products, and the genetics of intolerance, along with large helpings of the weirdness that is the Net.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Red Raspberry Lactose Free

J. P. Licks is a small chain of seven ice cream stores in the Boston area. They boast that they are "Kosher certified and proudly meets all the high quality standards pertaining to ingredients, production and store cleanliness."

And they're having a February promotion involving night delivery that you can read all about in their press release. Best of all, take a gander of what they're doing for the rest of this month:

Special February flavors include Coconut Crème, Chocolate Orange, Snickers, Cheesecake Brownie, Organic/Fair trade Infused Coffee, Mango Sorbet, Lime Sherbet, Red Raspberry Lactose Free, Black Raspberry Chip Low Fat Yogurt.

Cool. Red Raspberry Lactose Free.

Wait a minute. Red Raspberry Lactose Free what? Ice cream? Maybe. But it isn't listed with the ice creams, but after the sorbet and the sherbet. Red Raspberry Sorbet? But all sorbet should be lactose free. It would only be special if it were ice cream...

What? I should just go to the website and look there? You mean you think they would change the website from January specials to February specials just because it is now February 1? Oh, you crazy dreamer, you.

Can anyone from Boston help me out? I'm so confused...

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Worst Case Result if You're Lactose Intolerant...

... you might have to go on reality television.

The horror! The horror!

Before you avert your eyes in sheer mortification, here's some helpful reassurance. It wasn't the lactose intolerance that was the problem. That was a mere trigger for the nutty food intolerances-are-everywhere idiocy that is consuming the U.K.

I take this from the most reliable possible source, Kim Gregory's article on

Yasmin Smith was legitimately diagnosed with lactose intolerance. Unfortunately, she assumed that if she felt better by removing one food from her diet, she would feel multiply so by wiping out all dairy. And wheat. And fish. And fast foods. And foods with preservatives and additives.

Her underlying problem was an eating disorder rather than any organic allergies.

Her cure was suitably drastic. She went on the reality show Supersize vs Superskinny and was forced to swap diets with a man who weighed 462 pounds (33 stone).

I have my doubts whether stuffing herself with cockle pizza and blood pudding managed to cure her of anything but a liking for cockle pizza and blood pudding. However, she also spent a week in a clinic and was sent home with a 12-week healthy eating program.

Yasmin gained back seven pounds and four inches around her stomach and hips. She said:

"I’ve learned not to fear food anymore. I feared food because I put all my worries of my intolerances from lactose all in one and combined them unnecessarily.

"It’s brilliant and means I can lead a normal life again."

Please don't fear food. Food intolerances and allergies can be challenging but should never be limiting, not with so many alternatives and substitutes on the market today. Yasmin's diet of fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean meat is the basis for a healthy diet but shouldn't be the whole of it as she had it. Moderation in all things except moderation. And reality television. Strict avoidance is the only hope.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Can Friendly Bacteria Be Dangerous?

Can so-called "friendly" bacteria, the type that are added to "functional foods" and known as probiotics, be dangerous? (See my Primer on Probiotics for an introduction to the subject.)

Questions like this make me grumpy. The answer is that anything can be dangerous. Water can be dangerous, even plain, ordinary, non-contaminated water. The question is a bad one.

Here's the correct question: Is the so-called "friendly" bacteria added to products likely to be dangerous to you? And that answer, of course, is no.

Let's take a peek behind the dumb, over-broad question and get to the meat of the issue, taken from an article by Peta Bee in England's Daily Mail.

The bad news is that people who are seriously ill, especially those suffering from inflammation of the pancreas, should not be given probiotics. Doing so occasionally "can induce a potentially fatal condition called lactobacillus septicaemia." Hospitals already know this, however. Probiotics are already prohibited for most such patients. And "the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority has ruled that supplements should not be given to patients in intensive care, those with organ failure or anyone being fed through a drip."

Dangerous? Yes. Something you or I have to worry about? No.

I'd worry more about the rest of the article, which says that most probiotic products don't contain enough of the bacteria to be helpful. Not helpful is not at all the same as harmful, to be sure, but you're probably paying extra for the word "healthy" to be slapped on the label.

I'm not convinced there is enough good science cited in the article to judge the probiotic beverages and foods on the market. Most people probably don't need to pay for probiotics when a container of ordinary yogurt may give as much benefit, though. I've said as much before, as in my posting Answers on Probiotics.

It's an issue I'll keep an eye on in the future.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Answers to Questions from Readers, part 13

Q. a. Is goat milk lactose free?
b. My mom claims to have become lactose intolerant. since a lot of my diet here is milk based, with lots of cheeses naturally, will I be going wrong by substituting goat or sheep cheeses and other milk products in my recipes?

a) Goat's milk contains almost exactly the same amount of lactose as cow's milk. For a listing of the lactose contents of dozens of different animal milks, go to my Lactose Zoo page.

b) Goat's milk cheese will have about the same amount of lactose as cow's milk cheese or sheep's milk cheese: very little. All aged cheeses are low in lactose. Substituting one for the other shouldn't make a bit of difference.

Q. I noticed that I get occasionally get LI symptoms after eating Chinese takeout, especially dishes with thick, starchy sauces. This may be a long shot, but is it possible that they contain lactose?

My guess is probably not. Usually in cooking, sauces are made thick and starchy by adding corn starch rather than milk powder. I can't guarantee this, of course, and recipes are often adapted to local customs. Some people do have corn allergies, by the way, so it may in fact be the corn that is the problem. (I hate to suggest anything so obvious that you've probably already considered it, but just to be thorough, have you tested yourself on dishes with and without MSG?)

You might also want to simply ask the next time you're in a restaurant in which you've had problems whether the dish does indeed contain any milk. Most places will be happy to check for you.

Q. Could LI over a period of time lead to osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis does not a single cause, although inadequate calcium intake, especially while young, is thought to be a major factor. So LI by itself cannot cause osteoporosis. However, since milk is leading source of calcium, someone who does not drink milk (whether because of LI or not) must ensure a substitute calcium source, either though other calcium-containing foods or by taking calcium supplements. This would be true of anyone, regardless or LI status.

Q. My mother is severely lactose intolerant, and she recently came across a new one that she hasn't seen before. It's a chocolate bar ingredient: "milk fat." What part of milk is that? Is it suitable or not for an LI person to consume?

It's the fat that is taken out of milk when lowfat or skim milk is made fat-free. Since fat makes things taste better, milk processors sell off the waste fat to other manufacturers. It should have little or no lactose, however, being pretty close to pure fat.

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Raw Food. Vegan Raw Food.

I'm old fashioned enough to believe that cooking food is what separates humans from animals, so the raw food movement baffles me. Veganism is also odd since no human society in history has ever chosen to be vegan.

Vegan raw food, therefore...

Of course, lots and lots of things in our world today baffle me, starting with reality television and extending to dressing pets like circus clowns, so I'm not going to let a little thing like bafflement get in the way of providing information to you, my motley crowd of readers.

Meet Roxanne Klein. She's well-known to the snootiest of snoots as the former owner of "the now-defunct internationally renowned haute cuisine restaurant Roxanne's in Larkspur." (This is a good thing?) And she is the co-author of Raw, a cookbook about guess what.

Leslie Harlib of the Marin Independent Journal tells us that Klein is a lean 43-year-old with miles of butter-and-honey-colored hair and movie-star good looks. (To see the first three feet of her hair, go to her website, Fortunately, she looks much less like an Ann Coulter doppelganger there than in the newspaper photo.)

And Klein is a launching a line of vegan raw food products. "Raw" is not necessarily what those outside the lifestyle might think. It means food that has not been "cooked" beyond 118 degrees, the temperature at which raw food can be heated or dehydrated and still retain its healthful enzymes. She says.

Klein's line, Roxanne's Fine Cuisine, includes trail mix, granola, sandwiches, cheeses, hummus, snacks, ice creams and cake. All are vegan, dairy- and wheat-free and sweetened with agave nectar, barley malt, maple syrup or honey.

The seeming contradiction between vegan and cheese and ice cream does get explained with a description of the actual items.

Trail mix of dehydrated carrots and corn as well as Himalayan goji berries and cashews; vanilla almond sprouted grain and nut granola that tastes like crumbled crunchy cookies; velvety Boursin-like nut milk and garlic cheese spread that's packaged with pre-sliced carrot and celery sticks for dipping; chocolate and vanilla nut milk-based ice creams, not quite as creamy as the restaurant versions but still smooth and remarkably like traditional ice cream; and triangles of fudgy chocolate cake layered with coconut.

For now you'll have to go to the high end food stores in the greater San Francisco area to find Roxanne's Fine Cuisine, but she is planning on a national rollout some time in the future.

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Almond Milk

If you don't want to go for lactose-free milk as your drink of choice, what are the alternatives?

Soy milk is the most common. Rice milk is second. Oat milk. Rice and Soy blends. Potato starch-based, even. And then there's almond milk.

I list commercial almond milks on the Nondairy Milk Alternatives - Other Beverages page in my Milk-Free Bookstore. They're not the most popular or most widely known.

I was floored, therefore, when I ran across two mentions of them today.

One was in Elizabeth Keyser's article in the New Canaan News-Review on a talk by Susan Rubin.

The holistic nutrition consultant is known as one of the "Two Angry Moms" of the documentary that followed Rubin's efforts to make school lunches healthier. The former dentist is the founder of Better School Food, a coalition that raises awareness about the connection between food and health.

Her position is pretty much against any processed, preservative or hormone-laden, non-natural food. So when asked about lactose-free milk, the answer she gave was mostly because it's standard milk.
The audience had a lot of questions for her. Someone asked what she thought about Lactaid, a milk-replacement product for those who are lactose-intolerant.

Rubin suggested trying almond milk instead. "Buy it or make your own in a blender, strain it and use the solids for baking."

Someone asked about soy milk.

"That's a touchy one," she said. She noted that soy is the second most widely grown crop in the United States, and it is a "powerful hormone cocktail." She added, "It pulls the thyroid out of synch."

"If you are on Synthroid," she said, "Rethink your soy consumption."

She feeds her children organic milk from grass-fed cows.

Since most of you are not going to make your own almond milk, what about buying it?

An article on recommended Pacific Natural Foods' Almond Milk, which is probably the leading brand.

Then there's almond milk, which is by far my favorite. Have you ever tried it? It's made by soaking almonds in water, and then they're ground into a liquid. Since these nuts have a soft texture, mild flavor and light coloring (when skinned), the liquid looks and tastes like sweet milk, making it a great substitute.

Interested in seeing the nutritional info? Then read more

One cup has only 2.5 g of fat and zero saturated fat so it's great if you're watching your cholesterol. It doesn't have a ton of protein, but it does have 30 percent of your daily calcium. Plus it only has 90 calories, which is less than soy milk (110), cow's milk (102), and rice milk (130).

You can check the Pacific Natural Foods Nut & Grain Beverages page, which lists Original and Vanilla Almond Milks; Unsweetened Original and Vanilla Almond Milks; Chocolate and Vanilla Lowfat Almond Milks; and Hazelnut Milk. All are Kosher Parve, Gluten Free, Wheat Free, Casein Free, Low Sodium, Vegan, and Yeast Free.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Lifetime Lactose-Free Cheese Now Mail Orderable

Lifetime Specialty Cheeses is one of the major sources for real-time lactose-free cheese.

Back in July I had to announce that Lifetime was no longer offering its cheeses through the mail because of the cost of shipping.

That's no longer true. Derek Thielke of Northwoods Cheese Co. sent me an email telling me his company has taken over the shipping for Lifetime. He wrote:

I just wanted you to know that the Lactose Free cheeses from Lifetime Cheese are now available through my company. We have taken on the role of shipping cheese to individuals that cannot find this cheese in their local stores. If you go to the Lifetime Cheese web site, you will see this message:

9/24/2007 --- UPDATE!


Thank you for your patience while we have been busy working to find a solution for our Mail/Phone/Fax customers!

We have partnered with a great company called Northwoods Cheese Company based in Verona, Wisconsin to handle mail order for our customers. Northwoods Cheese does an exceptional job and are much better set up to handle customer orders. They also sell a wide range of cheeses and cheese gift packages which are great for the holidays.

They are currently selling our Lifetime Fat Free Cheese for $3.99/each plus shipping. The rest of the Lifetime cheeses should be available through Northwoods Cheese shortly.

To place an order, Please called Derek toll free at:

Toll Free: 888-878-3161
Fax: 608-833-0092


Lifeline Food Company, Inc.

We are located in WI, which has helped cut the cost of shipping cheese throughout the country. We ship the cheese in a cooler with ice and can reach most areas of the country shipping UPS within 3 days. Shipping costs vary by the location and the amount of cheese ordered-we price each individual shipment so it is fair to everyone that orders from us.

The problem has been cleared up for some months now so I certainly apologize to Lifetime if anybody was dissuaded from their site by my earlier post. As I have to emphasize, however, I can't monitor every site every day and I rely on others to feed me information I've missed. Thanks to Derek for the heads-up.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Huge News! Lactase Drops Return to U.S.

Lactase is the enzyme that digests lactose. Virtually all humans make lactase at birth so that they can digest the lactose in breastmilk. Starting at about three, the age of normal weaning, humans, like almost every other mammal, naturally stop producing lactase. It's just not needed.

Not having lactase results in lactose intolerance, the name for having symptoms when you drink or eat any dairy product that contains lactose, which is most of them.

Wouldn't it be great if scientists could figure out a way to artificially manufacture lactase?

Back in the 1970s, a Dutch company named Gist-Brocades did exactly that. Along the way they discovered something fascinating and important. It all has to do with digestion.

The human stomach is highly acidic. Hydrochloric acid is produced to help digest and break down food. Stomach acid could burn holes in your shirt if it leaked out.

Lactase is made in the small intestine, under conditions that are far less acidic. In fact, if you swallow lactase it won't work. The stomach acid will destroy it.

So the first product that Gist-Brocade made was a lactase that was designed to be put directly into milk. Milk is less acid than the stomach, so if you just let it sit in the refrigerator for a day or two, the lactase would break down all the lactose, making it safe to drink.

It took several years and much tinkering to come up with a form of lactase that could withstand the acid in stomachs and several more before a lactase pill entered the American market. Lactaid introduced the lactase pill in 1984 and the lactose intolerance rejoiced. (I sure did.)

For many years, Lactaid, its competitor Dairy Ease, and other firms made both lactase pills and a liquid lactase that could be dropped into milk or other liquid or soft dairy products. Lactase drops never took off in the marketplace. Americans love convenience and immediate gratification. I eventually had to break the bad news to Americans that the only way to get lactase drops was to import them from Canada. Gelda Scientific, the firm that made the lactase for the Canadian brand Lacteeze, graciously worked with me to make contact information available. See my Lactase Drops page (now revised, obviously) to order them

And that was it.

Until this week, when I received an email from Brian C. He gave me the amazing news that he could get liquid lactase drops from the online store of
IBS Treatment Center in Seattle, Washington
or The Center for Food Allergies, same address.

Liquid Lactase is the only liquid source of lactase available and is appropriate for anyone with lactose intolerance, including infants. This dropper bottle is the perfect solution at home and on the go for alleviating digestive problems associated with lactose intolerance. Lactase is an enzyme that hydrolyses (breaks down) the lactose in milk and milk products into glucose and galactose, two forms of simple sugars that can be digested and tolerated by lactose intolerant individuals. Liquid Lactase can be taken directly or added to dairy products prior to consumption.

Liquid Lactase Drops contains: 15 milliliters of lactase in solution. Non-active ingredients: purified water and glycerol.

Suggested Dosage: General guideline: Add five drops of Liquid Lactase to one pint (568 ml) of milk and refrigerate for 24 hours. Use as ordinary milk. Each 15 ml bottle is able to convert approximately 75 pints of milk. Alternatively, five drops can be taken directly in water or juice prior to consumption of dairy products.

Liquid Lactase Drops: $14.95

Do they work? Brian said:
We have used them to successfully treat milk (it tastes better to me than Lactaid milk), buttermilk, yogurt, and even cream cheese. ... My fiancée is extremely sensitive to lactose, and we have found this stuff to be amazing. She doesn't have any problem eating or drinking foods treated properly.

Some investigation found that these drops are made by Pharmax LLC.
Pharmax LLC, a privately owned company, was established in 1998 as a strategic alliance between highly experienced American healthcare professionals and Cultech Limited, the prime nutritional supplement development and manufacturing company in the U.K. Cultech is the market-leading provider of research-driven nutraceuticals to healthcare professionals in U.K and within Europe as a whole.

Pharmax Liquid Lactase is not limited to Seattle. I found it on for $11.30 a bottle.

Other outlets may exist that I haven't found yet. As always, I am not endorsing either the product or the sellers, just passing along information.

While I was searching, though, I found lactase drops in other countries as well so I'll list several here for completeness.


Lactaid Drops for Milk.


Lacteeze Drops

United Kingdom.

BioCare Lactase Enzyme.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

New GFCF Resources on

While we're waiting for the results of a huge five-year study of a gluten-free, casein-free (GFCF) diet to come out of The University of Rochester Medical School (possibly as soon as May, but I can't be sure), parents will want to check into the resources currently available.

Lisa Jo Rudy's Autism blog on announced New Resources on GFCF (Wheat and Dairy-Free) Diets on the Autism.About.Com Website.

A brand new section of the site, Wheat and Dairy Free Recipes and Tips for Children with Autism, includes articles from around focusing on what's, where's and how's of shopping and cooking for kids who can't eat wheat or dairy.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

More Reactions to Allergy Reaction Reactions

On Sunday I wrote about the contentiousness of allergy issues in Our Reactions to Allergy Reaction Reactions. I noted that parents of children with serious food allergies have a legitimate sensitivity to the frequently disparaging comments made by those who have no stake in the issue while at the same time unnecessary fears have been generated by those who appear to feel that everything is a risk.

If I had waited one more day, The New York Times would have dropped a magnificent example into my lap.

Last week science writer John Tierney expounded on our culture of fear and what it is doing to our health in Living in Fear and Paying a High Cost in Heart Risk. His point is that worrying about fear may be costlier to our collective health than the actual risks posed by what we fear.

He started with what I would consider to be a perfectly innocuous sentence:

Although it’s impossible to calculate the pain that terrorist attacks inflict on victims and society, when statisticians look at cold numbers, they have variously estimated the chances of the average person dying in America at the hands of international terrorists to be comparable to the risk of dying from eating peanuts, being struck by an asteroid or drowning in a toilet.

He's quoting actual comments by statisticians concerning small risks rather than making these comments himself, note.

Yet Ellen Urich wrote a letter of complaint to the Times:
As the mother of a child with a life-threatening food allergy, I was greatly disheartened by John Tierney’s grouping the chances of dying from eating peanuts with being struck by an asteroid or drowning in a toilet. Public awareness and understanding of anaphylaxis and food allergies has grown enormously in the past decade, but it is my fear that this type of analogy trivializes a growing health condition that requires a serious attitude in order to save lives.

This may be taking a parent's concern way too far. Tierney trivializes nothing in his article. He properly quotes others as pointing out that the risks of death by terrorism is real by highly unlikely, as highly unlikely and as small in number as some other risks.

The statisticians are numerically right. The Center for Disease Control recorded only 12 deaths from food allergies in 2004. The Consumer Product Safety Commission warns parents that:
Toilets are often overlooked as a drowning hazard in the home. The typical scenario involves a child under 3-years-old falling headfirst into the toilet.

Yet that same page indicates the number of drowning victims is probably in the same range as the 14 that the CDC estimates for food allergy deaths.

The number of deaths from terrorism in the U.S. in recent years. Zero.

Any such avoidable death, especially the death of a child, is tragic and should never be trivialized. Everything reasonable that can be done to prevent such tragedies should be.

We've gone far beyond reasonable over the past six years. The world today is exactly as dangerous as it was on Sept 10, 2001, probably neither more so or less than. Nothing new there. The world has always been dangerous, from events both large and small. As Tierney notes, both public figures and the media have created a climate of fear. I'd go further, and accuse the Administration and its partisan toadys and the bootlickers in the media of doing so deliberately to further their aims and concentrate their power.

For all their crimes - and they are legion - even the Administration did not create a fear of peanuts. On that issue, both the fearmongers and the trivializers run rampant across the media and the internet. In a culture of fear fears will multiply and reason will flee.

The best thing we can collectively do is to break out of the culture of fear. In the next 10 months of a presidential race, you'll hear fear as a constant: fear of strangers, fear of change, fear of the future, fear of the unknown, fear of uncertainty, fear of "Them." Don't allow the fearmongers to triumph. More than that: don't allow their fearmongering to go unchallenged. Reason must triumph.

As Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his first inaugural speech, fighting against a climate of fear as deep and pervasive if not as deliberately created as the one today, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." If you've ever wondered what he meant by that, just look around you.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Divvies Founder on Martha Stewart

Divvies makes Martha Stewart!

Let me rephrase that. I've mentioned Divvies, makers of kosher, vegan, dairy-free and several other frees cupcakes and "fun foods" several times here. You might remember Divvies Dairy-Free Halloween and the later post when they began shipping, Divvies Delivers.

Whatever they're doing, they're doing big league. Lori Sanders, along with Benjamin, the son for whom she started baking the specialty goods, will appear on Martha Stewart's intragalactically-broadcast television show.

Do I hear the words press release?

On Tuesday, the 29th, Lori Sandler, creator of Divvies (the nut- and dairy-free treats that are “made to share”), and her son Benjamin, will join Martha Stewart on her show to make their notoriously moist and delicious cupcakes without using the traditional ingredients; milk and eggs.

Lori Sandler started Divvies with her husband Mark as a sweet solution for the millions who have serious food allergies and can’t share in the fun of party treats or even the simplest playdate snacks. Sandler was determined to bring the yummy, safe confections she’d perfected for her son, Benjamin, who has life-threatening food allergies, to the rescue of other parents who were struggling to find delicious treats for their children with food allergies.


About Divvies
Divvies is a dedicated peanut-, tree nut-, milk- and egg-free bakery headquartered in South Salem, NY. and is committed to raising awareness and identifying new ways to help parents and children cope with food allergies. Divvies donates a portion of the proceeds of the sales on their gift boxes to the Food Allergy Initiative, an organization dedicated to food allergy research. Divvies is continually expanding their product line. For a press kit, or to place an order, visit Thanks to Divvies, life’s little pleasures of delicious desserts are now available to share!

Check local listings.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Our Reactions to Allergy Reaction Reactions

I see stories in newspapers, magazines, and blogs every week that mock lactose intolerance and food allergies. Some people seem to find the very term lactose intolerance funny, and the fact that lactose intolerance causes people to fart sends them into gales of hysterics. Other mock the allergy culture in which people - *gasp* - have the temerity to ask hosts not to serve them food which might make them ill. Schools banning peanut butter because of the risks of anaphylactic shock are a special cause of derision. How dare they! Nobody ever died when they were children!

So when I came across Leslea Harmon's Guerrilla Mothering column on the website, I was primed to agree with her intelligent and thoughtful take on the subject.

Someone is attacking my kid, saying his food allergies are exaggerated. ... The author of the article, Meredith Broussard, is a semi-humorist with a history of failed relationships. I’m not saying that to be mean — she has actually built a writing career on the topic of failed relationships, even publishing a presumably witty book on their unique lexicon. I’m sure it’s hilarious, just the kind of thing I would have loved back when I was a single chick who valued a snark above all else. Since I’ve become a mom, I feel differently about that kind of thing, but that’s just me going soft, I’m sure.

On her blog (entitled “The Blog of Failed Relationships,” naturally), Broussard mentions the torture of growing up with food allergies, and the diet of strict avoidance her mother put her on. In her own words “no sugar, no white flour, no peanut butter, no artificial coloring of any kind, no chocolate, no fish, no shellfish, no dairy.” Ouch. Strict avoidance. The diet evidently worked — Broussard outgrew her food allergies — but she still sounds so angry about it.

I hate it, but it’s the same kind of diet we have our kid on, though admittedly Broussard had it worse. Sam doesn’t have to avoid such a long list of things, but he really has trouble with what he has to manage. And now I feel sorry for her. I can’t help but see her as having so much in common with our own witty, impudent, wacky kid. How hard her life must have been, and at the same tender age our child is now.

I wonder if I can do any better than this woman’s mother did — not just in making my child avoid his allergic foods, but in communicating that I am doing so in hopes that he will outgrow his food allergies. Can I somehow impart kindness and caring to my son, who is denied so many treats and experiences that his friends and classmates get to have? Is it part of life for allergic children to be resentful of their parents? Must this baseline frustration hinder him for life?

Being me, I couldn't let it go at that. I had to check Broussard's blog and find the original article.

What I found surprised me. Broussard's blog, The Blog of Failed Relationships, wasn't snarky or satirical or anti-allergy. Broussard was as thoughtful as Harmon and featured several postings sensitive to the community.

Her original article, moreover, was a piece in Harper's Magazine critically analyzing an advertisement run by FAAN, the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network.

I've mentioned FAAN numerous times on this blog. I think it does good work and plays a crucial role in disseminating information about allergies.

Broussard, however, criticizes FAAN for scaring parents about the prevalence and seriousness of allergies, for creating the impression that large numbers of children are at risk of death through anaphylactic shock, and for overclose ties to the adrenalin injector industry.

Ironically, these accusations exactly parallel the ones normally hurled against the pharmaceutical industry or the dairy industry or any industry on the other side of the food advocacy groups.

Broussard does give FAAN some praise; it's not a general attack. She says that food allergies are real, just that the dangers are exaggerated and the press is complicit in making the dangers seem worse than they are.

That's a position near and dear to my heart, since it's one that I've been promulgating since I began this blog.

Both Harmon and Broussard are right in their approaches, their attacks, and their defenses. Too much exaggeration is a commonplace in the allergy world, just as too much derision is an everyday scourge that needs to be fought. More information, more balance, more understanding is needed on all sides.

Let's meet in the middle and make sure everyone gets what's at stake. Allergies are rising in number, in seriousness, and in the length of time they stay with children. Few allergies are deadly. Most require some vigilance in diet but little more and a relapse causes only discomfort. (Ditto for those with lactose intolerance.) The tiny minority who do have to screen the world for every speck of an allergen truly have a serious ailment, though, and should be afforded every respect and courtesy.

Let's keep the arguments on both sides as thoughtful as these and save the scorn for the silly and dangerous quackery, like homeopathy.

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Nightmare Advice on Allergies

I write fantasy and science fiction professionally. Even so I swear I could never make anything up as wild as homeopathy.

Homeopathy is based on the ancient folklore of "like cures like." Practitioners take herbs that create symptoms superficially similar to those produced by a disease or ailment and then dilute them until nothing but water and a "memory" of the herb is left. This magically creates a cure.

You can therefore use homeopathy to cure just about anything that creates symptoms. Ricky Hussey in The American Chronicle want to cure eczema this way.


Homeopathy Apis, Graphites, Pulsatilla, Rhus tox., and Sulfur may be helpful. Herbal Medicine Marigold tea, calendula ointment, or aloe vera gel are all helpful. Aromatherapy Add 12 drops of fennel, geranium, or sandalwood to 2fl oz/60ml of carrier oil.

Pulsatilla? It's "the weather cock among remedies." What? Huh? Even after reading this site I can't figure out what that's supposed to mean.
The disposition and mental state are the chief guiding symptoms to the selection of Pulsatilla. It is pre-eminently a female remedy, especially for mild, gentle, yielding disposition. Sad, crying readily; weeps when talking; Changeable, contradictory. The patient seeks the open air; always feels better there, even though he is chilly. Mucous membranes are all affected. Discharges thick, bland, and yellowish-green. Often indicated after abuse of Iron tonics, and after badly-managed measles. Symptoms ever changing. thirstless, peevish, and chilly. When first serious impairment of health is referred to age of puberty. Great sensitiveness. Wants the head high. Feels uncomfortable with only one pillow. Lies with hands above head.[bolding and punctuation as in original]

Wow. If this were the 60s, everybody would know what this guy was on, and they wouldn't think homeopathy.

What's even worse is that many, if not most, homeopathic pills are made out of lactose. The Organic Pharmacy dips its toe into the world of science.
Homeopathic products are very clean-meaning they have no binders, fillers or coatings. The soft molded lactose tablets are made to dissolve almost instantly when placed in the mouth. Because the remedies dissolve in the mouth, they are absorbed by the mucous membranes in the mouth and carried directly into your system. For this reason, the remedies work faster than conventional medicines because conventional medicines are usually coated and don't get absorbed into the system until the coating is dissolved by the stomach acid, and that generally takes about twenty minutes.

In standard, or allopathic, medicine, this is called sublingual administration. It can be very effective, but doctors and pharmacists will note that not every chemical works well this way, with some not mixing well with saliva or containing chemicals too large to be absorbed.

Besides, if lactose isn't a binder or filler, then what conceivable role does it play?

For even more evidence that homeopathists understand nothing of chemistry, here is another mind-busting statement from the pulsatilla site:
[Q.]Does anyone know if there can be a problem using the homeopathic tablets which are lactose tablets when a person is lactose intolerant?

[A.]Probably no problem. But if you wish you can disolve them in water further diluting any lactose content.

Dilution solves everything! Yay!

Lactose is lactose. The amount you take in counts. It doesn't matter if the amount is concentrated in a pill or spread through a glass of water. That same amount will enter your intestines.

This is absolutely the most basic chemistry of digestion. If the homeopaths don't know this, you shouldn't allow them or any of their products within a thousand feet of your intestines.

And I shouldn't have to tell you that people with serious dairy allergies will avoid any product that contains lactose in the first place.

Homeopathy is a nightmare of pseudoscience and its most ignorant peddlers are dangerous.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Read the Label. Read the Label. Always Read the Label.

I've spent countless hours in supermarket aisles reading the ingredients lists on products. It's tedious. It's bothersome. It's time-consuming. It's a pain.

Sure, it's so much easier to just pick up a familiar package, the one you've bought so many times before, and just put it in the cart. Why check again? Why bother?

Why bother putting on your seat belt every single time you get in the car?

Here's why you need to bother.

The UK firm Trufree makes biscuits - cookies to us in the U.S. - called custard creams. Despite the name, the custard creams used to be free of wheat, gluten, egg - and dairy.

But they changed the recipe to add milk. They said this on the package. Clearly. Contains milk is part of the ingredients list now.

People are people. They didn't check the ingredients. And some had allergic reactions.

Trufree will now put a separate "contains milk" sticker on the package, presumably on the front so it will hit customers between the eyeballs.

Read the label. Always. Please.

More about the problem along with contact information on the Trufree site.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Cloned Foods and Milk Safe, says FDA

"It is beyond our imagination to even find a theory that would cause the food to be unsafe."

With that statement summarizing the science on the issue, Stephen Sundlof, the chief food-safety expert at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) threw down the gauntlet to activists who are sure to find it within their imaginations to denounce the FDA. It is abandoning its "voluntary" moratorium on food and milk from the offspring of cloned cows, pigs and goats and allowing them to go to market as safe for human consumption.

A clone, no matter how many bad science fiction movies you've seen, is merely an identical twin. They are created by in vitro fertilization in the same way as many other animals these days. You won't even be eating clones, by the way. Only the offspring of clones will be entered into the food chain for consumption. The food will not need any special labels that call attention to its origination in a cloned ancestor.

You're sure to hear endless debate about the subject in the future, so let's start out with the actual science.

The Washington Post ran Selected Excerpts from Animal Cloning: A Risk Assessment January 2008

Center for Veterinary Medicine
U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Conclusions Regarding Food Consumption Risks from Bovine Clones and their Progeny.

The simple summary is that the risks and problems are equivalent to those from any other form of breeding animals. (You might say that this is a reason not to eat animal-based foods, but that logic would also exclude plant material because of the known deaths from E. coli outbreaks in spinach and lettuce over the past year. And it would exclude raw milk because of similar problems.)

Here's the text for one item of specific interest: cloned milk:

Summary Statement on Composition of Milk from Clones

Several peer-reviewed studies describe the composition of milk from bovine clones. In addition to gross composition (percent solids, fat, protein, and lactose), some reports include a detailed analysis of fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, and in some cases, comparisons are made with previously published reference values for milk composition. These studies indicate that milk from cow clones is not significantly different in composition from milk from non-clones. Some minor differences have been identified in the composition of milk from clones compared to non-clones or reference values, but in each of these reports, the authors attribute the minor differences to diet, environmental conditions, small numbers of animals, and limited numbers of genotypes, rather than to cloning per se. None of these differences, however, indicate the presence of hazards that could pose food consumption risks, as they all fall within published historical values for milk. We therefore that milk derived from bovine clones does is not materially different from milk from milk from conventionally bred cattle.

For more information about the debate, the politics, and the sure-to-come reaction:

FDA to Back Food From Cloned Animals, by Rick Weiss, Washington Post Staff Writer.

Son of Frankenfood?, from The Economist magazine.

A cloned cheeseburger? Don't fire up the coals yet, by Jerry Hirsch, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer.

Even though it looks like the U.S. will be the first nation to give official approval, Europe may not be far behind. An article by Dominique Patton on says that:
Meat and dairy products from cloned animals are probably safe for human consumption, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded in a draft opinion released on Friday.

"Based on current knowledge, there is no expectation that clones or their progeny would introduce any new food safety risks compared with conventionally bred animals," the preliminary report said.

It said that meat and milk obtained from healthy cattle and pig clones and their offspring are "within the normal range with respect to the composition and nutritional value of similar products obtained from conventionally bred animals".

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