Thursday, February 25, 2010

Allergy Talk and More Reading

In my stack of books to get through (which is going pretty well, actually), there lurked a book I never would have read a year ago. The Unhealthy Truth:How Our Food is Making Us Sick and What We Can do About It is a book about the food supply and the increase in food allergies among children. I wouldn't have read this book a few years back because, honestly I didn't really buy into the whole food allergy thing. This is certainly a bias I have picked up from my family where we believe you prepare a balanced and nourishing meal and then you enjoy it. End of story. Reading labels and wondering how individual ingredients might affect certain family members doesn't enter the picture, it never needed to.

Then I had a baby who would spit up after every feeding. The weekend of his baptism, he had suspiciously red cheeks and a rash that didn't really improve over the next several months. Eventually we found out that Milo is allergic to dairy, eggs and most likely sesame. We're probably missing something else, too, because while the spitting up has stopped, the rashiness continues.

Now I read labels and I refuse some of my favorite foods. I've started to eat pizza without the cheese, which is surprisingly good. My Dad is learning to make fresh pasta without the egg. We're all slowly learning to deal with the food allergy, while hoping that Milo will be one of the majority of children who grow out of their early allergies.

This is all background to the perspective I went into when reading The Unhealthy Truth. The book is told in the first person of a stay at home who discovers her daughter has an egg allergy. She then goes on a research journey and ends up at her own theory of what is causing the increase in allergy (in her view GMO foods). Keep in mind I read the Michael Pollan books a few years back, so I already know our food supply is beyond messed up. This was the first thing that really irritated me about the book, the author seemed to have no clue about the current food supply issues. So she spends a lot of the book revealing some of the problems with the food supply using an excessive amount of exclamation points. I just didn't buy she really had no idea that feeding her kids blue yogurt was somehow not a natural thing to do.

The other thing I didn't like about the book is that the author is all over the place in terms of what the problems might be: she starts with a thorough investigation of the research concerning soy (this was the best part of the book in my opinion) and then moves on to what happens in the GMO process and why there could be problems with it (another strong point of the book). From there, though, she moves on to artificial colorings. Which I agree, best to stay away from, but she didn't really clearly connect this to the allergy topic.

If you read the book (and in spite of how negative this review seems, I do hope you read it), do yourself a favor and stop before you get to the section about putting her suggestions to use in your kitchen. Her suggestions focus on swapping out the colored goldfish crackers for the white cheddar ones. Probably not going to make a big enough difference. I do like her suggestion of crafting a family's diet to include 80% "good" and 20% "bad" foods, but I still bristle against labeling food good or bad.

All in all, this was a good read and it certainly does bring up some good points. I do believe we're in the midst of an allergy epidemic, I just don't know what is causing it or what I can do about it. To begin with, I'll be ordering Milo a vegan cake for his birthday next week.

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