Monday, September 24, 2012

101 Ways to Prevent Asthma, Allergies, Eczema and Hayfever

Okay, if you got here because you think I'm going to offer you advice on how to prevent anything, I'm not. The title is entirely facetious. If you've read my blog, you know that I don't believe in cures for non-curable conditions (atopy and allergies) and I don't offer medical advice.

Recently, I had a brief Twitter discussion resulting from this BBC News article: 'Super soup" test in asthma trial. It also followed a few discussions I had with some parents at a wedding a couple of weeks ago about the current "wisdom" regarding what mothers should eat during pregnancy to prevent their child developing a condition like asthma. For the moment, nuts seem to be the recommended food to eat during pregnancy.

The Twitter discussion ended up with both of us agreeing that we'd love it if there were one resource in which a parent could access all the things they're supposed to do and not supposed to do during pregnant. The list could include get more Vitamin E in your diet, get a cat (but don't change the litter box), eat nuts, don't smoke, don't drink, limit your caffeine intake, etc.

Since I have allergies and atopy, a list like this would be perfect for me since no matter what I do, should I have a child, he or she is very likely to have the same conditions. With one parent, the risk is 25 per cent, but risk is a funny thing. It doesn't mean that should I have four children only one would have the conditions. It means that every time I have a child, the risk is 25 per cent. Should the father have any allergic or atopic condition (even hayfever counts), that risks soars. Add in all the dos and don'ts and the fact that those change, and I think that a parent can do everything "right" and still end up with an atopic and/or allergic child.

A few years ago, the prevailing "wisdom" said that delaying the introduction of priority allergen foods for children would prevent them from developing allergies. Milk seems to be the exception there, which is probably more of a lobbying effort than anything else. My sister did that with all of her children. No allergies. However, the current "wisdom" is totally opposite, though they do say to introduce solid foods later, rather than sooner.

However, will the evidence suggest otherwise in a few years? Maybe. Probably. At a recent medical talk I attended, one of the doctors stated that "Medicine is an art". I've heard that said by many doctors, probably the better ones.

But, can there be a list that tells us exactly what to do to prevent disease? Not right now, but I'd like to think there will be.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Atopic Girl's Week Off

I am moving - physically, not social media-ly - so, the blog is on hold for the week. I will return as scheduled on Monday, September 24th. I will remain a bit quieter on Twitter this week, but if you tweet me I will reply. Same goes for email. If you're reading this and thinking, I wonder if AtopicGirl plans to cover , there's only one way to find out. Email me or leave a comment below.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Atopic Girl's Weekend Off!

Being an "atopic" girl doesn't mean that I just think about allergies and atopy all day long. Honestly, I don't think about it all that much. Labour Day weekend was a great example of how I integrate the fact that I have allergies and atopy and love travelling, eating, shopping and having a great time in general. Nothing in that sentence excludes anything else. This is a bit of a longer post, but I hope it gives you an idea of how anyone with allergies or atopy can live pretty normally.

I arrived in Toronto to meet my younger sister. The plan, have a manicure, have lunch with my sister and then go find her a dress for a glitzy Indian wedding on Saturday!

At Holt's Salon and Spa, located at the flagship Holt Renfrew store on Bloor Street, I happily sat back and enjoyed my hand massage and Express Manicure. I've been there and know that none of the products contain my allergens. It's always good to check, especially if you have a new aesthetician.

A bit later, my sister and I met up at Fresh on Bloor, near Spadina. This is my favourite Fresh in Toronto. Even though I've been there about a hundred times by now, I still let them know about my allergies (leaving out eggs and shellfish, because they don't have them on site). I emphasized my allergy to cashews, since they use them in a couple of dishes, but made sure they knew that almonds are okay. As always, I had an allergy-free and really delicious meal - cornbread with hummus, Ninja rice bowl and a matcha green tea latte with almond milk to go. I was ridiculously full for hours.*

All RentFrockRepeat!
Fresh was followed by RentFrockRepeat on Golden Avenue, just off of Dundas Street West. It's about a 20 minute streetcar ride from St. Patrick Station. The premise of RFR is brilliant. Rent a designer dress for a totally reasonable price. If you live in or are visiting the GTA, you can go in and try on the dress. If not, the site has detailed measurements and you can even ask for a second size (for free) in case the first one doesn't fit. They ship the dress out to you and you ship it back. Have two events to attend during the same time period? Rent a second dress for $35. And, if you refer a friend, you get a credit towards a future dress rental. I know! Brilliant! I actually visited RentFrockRepeat a few weeks earlier to try on a stunning David Meister dress for the wedding in question. Happily, it went up for sale and I bought it. My sister decided to try it out and we spent an hour and half in RFR amongst too many stunning dresses. Everyone there is amazing and friendly. I couldn't have spent a better afternoon. We were super lucky and met the CEO and Co-Founder, Lisa Delorme. Yes, she's that stunning in person.

That evening included mobile phones that weren't turned on and GO buses to suburbia. Thankfully, it also included a great martini from the bar in the lovely Fairmont Royal York and an easy, allergy-friendly meal from Spring Rolls in the Bramalea City Centre in Brampton. I love allergy-friendly chains and Spring Rolls is definitely one of them.

Unfortunately, I'd forgotten to inform the hotel that we needed down-free bedding. While the hotel had somehow run out of synthetic fibre pillows, I found that some of the pillows in our room were synthetic and we ended up all right. Definite note for next time though.

Breakfast was included and provided by the hotel, but I planned ahead and brought an allergy-friendly, travel-friendly protein powder (Genuine Health Vegan Proteins) which I could easily mix with orange juice. Thank goodness since they didn't even have fruit!

If you've been following my blog or Twitter feed, you may know that I was expected to sing at a wedding. While I have a Grade 8 in Voice from the Royal Conservatory, I got it quite a while ago. So, even with my two months of vocal lessons, I was nervous. I practiced in the shower that morning and thankfully my voice wasn't hoarse and my asthma was under control. I will admit that I started off a bit shakily when I started singing in front of a packed church, but I bucked up and asthma-smasthma - I sang my heart out.

Between the wedding and the reception, we need to grab a very late lunch. I headed to another allergy-friendly chain, Moxie's, also at the Bramalea City Centre. The menu here changes so sometimes I have a lot of choices and sometimes not a lot. This time, I chose the Citrus Chicken to go and when the manager came out to speak with me, she let me know that the dish was totally free of all my allergens! I felt like I'd won a prize! It was delicious and I happily wolfed it down at the hotel.

The picture looks odd as it's sideways
The reception was held at the Pearson Convention Centre. I called them months in advance to let them know about my allergies. The chefs are made aware of the allergies ahead of time and then on the day, guests are provided with colour-coded cards. I had a red card which listed all my allergies. The salad and pasta were safe, they just omitted the cheese on the latter. And the meal itself, beef, chicken and veggies, were easy and delicious without the sauce. Dessert was a martini glass of fresh fruit.

The top off to a great weekend was brunch at Frank at the AGO. I've been here a few times for drinks and appetizers, but never a meal. To celebrate my mother's birthday, the entire family got together (from as far flung as Peru and Ottawa) and had the best brunch I've ever had. When I made the reservation, I let them know about my allergies and was told that it wasn't a problem. Before we arrived, the server and the chef had a discussion about what would work. I had to reiterate my egg allergy, but once that was done, I found I had quite a few choices on the menu. I ended up with a beavertail bacon sandwich with apple butter which is even better than it sounds.

That was my weekend. Pretty spectacular. I didn't let my eczema, asthma or food allergies get in my way. I stuck to my regimen - washed my face, used moisturizer, used save shaving tips, and always double-checked food ingredients. That's the way to live an atopic life!

* I went back to Fresh (on Bloor) on Tuesday and had a Miso Burger (a fave), a glass of organic wine and took a Sweets From the Earth cupcake to go. You can never get bored at Fresh.