Wednesday, October 31, 2012

"I Got a Rock" - Charlie Brown

It's Halloween.  That magical time of year when the last vestiges of colored leaves cling to the trees, and if you live in the Pacific Northwest the rain returns.  I've always found joy handing out goodies to all the little ghouls and goblins screaming "trick or treat" at our door.    That is, until food allergies entered our lives.  Suddenly, those peanut butter cups that we used to hand out because secretly we kept a stash for ourselves (Shh!  Don't tell the kids that adults love the sugary debauchery just as much as the kids!), evoked a most visceral response.  The thought of eating a peanut butter cup literally makes me ill - so I don't.  It's a waste of calories if it can't be enjoyed.  By the way, please don't feel bad if you are a parent to a food-allergic child who can still enjoy eating your child's allergen!  I honestly have a really hard time with it, though :(. 

This year is perhaps the most challenging year yet on this food allergy journey.  JR is now 4.5 years old, and it is clear that on some level he "gets" his allergies and that he understands he is different from most other children his age.  His level of maturity regarding his allergies has repeatedly shocked me over the last 6 months.  When a friend offered JR a cookie, he replied, "I can't eat that.  I'm allergic."  Comments like this infuse pride because my son is learning to navigate an allergen-infested world, and yet deep inside, my core aches for my son.  When did JR grow into a little boy, who is advocating for himself?!  Perhaps what makes me so sad is that no  4 year old child should have to deal with issues this big - matters of life or death, and yet, here JR is exhibiting a maturity level well beyond his 4.5 years.

Halloween is an absolute mine-field for us.  Because JR is allergic to corn (yup, it's in EVERYTHING in the U.S.), peanuts, many tree nuts, soy, and several fruits (among others), I have yet to find commonly available products on the market that may not contain nuts, corn, soy, or fruit-derived sweeteners, most commonly apple.  Believe me, I have tried.  Last year, I left Target practically in tears after looking at what seemed like nutrition labels for practically every bag of candy.

Well, tonight, my heart broke into even more pieces.  Last year, we began the inaugural Halloween tradition of watching It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.  Last night, we carried on the annual tradition.  If you haven't seen this holiday classic for some time, here is a brief recap.  All the kiddos are out Trick or Treating in their holiday garb.  Poor Charlie Brown is constantly mocked for having the strange ghost costume with eye holes cut all over his sheet.  Several scenes show all the kids stopping after visiting a house to share what each of them got from the house.  All the kids besides Charlie Brown excitedly proclaimed, "I got two (or three! or more!) pieces of candy!"  Like they were competing with each other for the best Halloween spoils.  Then, Charlie Brown would take his turn last and whimper, "I got a rock."

"I got a rock" - Charlie Brown
My heart has always gone out to Charlie Brown, but this scene suddenly took on new meaning when JR stated ever so matter-of-factly, "Charlie Brown has allergies like me.  That's why he kept getting rocks."  My husband and I looked at each other in complete disbelief.  We just let the comment sit like dead weight in the room.  Usually, we try to explain things when JR makes comments trying to understand how the world works, but for some reason, we did not have the heart to tell him the real reason Charlie Brown got rocks.  JR moved on and was chipper as could be for a boy on the eve of Halloween.  However, this comment from a 4.5 year old boy continues to linger deep in my soul and probably will for sometime.  Another example that the world is unfair and even cruel at times.  Even though I know the real reason Charlie Brown got rocks, it is my hope that for a moment, JR feels a bit of comraderie with another little boy who has allergies just like him, even if that little boy didn't really have allergies.  

Those are just a few thoughts from a Mom navigating the perilous food allergy road on a food-oriented holiday. By the way, it is not all doom and gloom!  JR had a blast at a school harvest festival yesterday, and we will be trick-or-treating tonight.  We have chosen to do a candy exchange (we have found a few safe things that I don't have to hand-make!), so he will get a combination of candy and non-food based Halloween goodies.  All-in-all, exciting times for a 4.5 year old boy!  May your Halloween be safe and fun!  And to all the food allergy parents out there, stay strong!  Maybe Charlie Brown is a little boy with food allergies who absolutely adores rocks.

Sheriff Woody enjoyed decorating safe Halloween cupcakes with his school friends.  Vegan pumpkin muffins were decked out by Woody with chocolate chips (from Enjoy Life) in the shape of a pumpkin!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Moms - A Force to be Reckoned With?

Photo: Joy of Mom

This week, I feel truly blessed to be a part of a community of Moms, inspired by love, to use our talents to make the world a better place for our food allergy kiddos.  Food Allergy Sleuth is nominated as a Top 25 blog for food allergies by the Circle of Moms!  By the way, this will be my only attempt throughout the remainder of the blog post at "shameless" self promotion.  If you like what I do, follow the link and click the big yellow 'thumbs up' for Food Allergy Sleuth once every 24 hours until Oct 17  :).

Thanks to the community at Circle of Moms, my eyes have truly been opened to the number of Mom bloggers out there. It has been an absolute joy to read through so many other family's experiences in dealing with food allergies and to even connect with a few of the other Mom's individually!  I encourage you to take a gander at the excellent work of some of these amazing women.

Image source
Since this is a "science" blog and I am a scientist at heart, I can't help but notice one glaring trait of most food allergy bloggers - a distinct lack of male food allergy bloggers (not that I was expecting many men to show up in a top 25 list for Food Allergy Moms!).  In general, though, throughout my experiences becoming more entrenched in the food allergy community, I've noticed a distinct lack of men who are blogger-vocal about food allergies.  Or is it an overwhelming abundance of women?  Is the glass half empty or half full?  (Hint - judging by the cartoon at the side, I may fall into the "realist" camp!).

In a little "test" to explore this observation further, I opened Google and searched "food allergy blog" this morning.  My reasoning is that by searching "food allergy blog," Google should return hits regardless of whether they are authored by a Mom, a Dad, an allergy-sufferer, friend, foe, alien, one-eyed, one-horned, flying purple people eater. (You can thank me later for getting this song stuck in your head :).  I selected the first 25 "hits" that were personal blogs (e.g. not organizations like FAAN), visited their site, and determined whether they were male or female, a food allergy parent, and/or a food allergy sufferer (as self-reported, of course).  What I found was shocking!  In my sample of 25, only 8% of food allergy bloggers were men, which means 92% of food allergy bloggers were women!  84% were a parent to a food-allergic child, while 16% were food-allergic adults who did not specify if they also had a food allergic child.  Interestingly, 24% all bloggers were food allergy sufferers, meaning that there are a few food-allergic adult bloggers out there who are raising food-allergic children!  If I tease the data out of the two factors 1) gender and 2) whether the individual is a parent to a food-allergic child, 80% of food allergy bloggers are Moms to food-allergic children!
Of course, my little "study," is by no means scientifically rigorous (e.g. the error of the sample may be quite large and the google search method may be flawed - I'll explain later), but I think it starts to get at a couple of really interesting key points.  There are distinct biological differences between men and women (besides the obvious, folks!), and women just may be a social force to be reckoned with.

I am a neuroscientist (a scientist who studies the brain) by training.  Even though it is not my area of expertise, differences between the male and female brain is truly fascinating.  It is clear from many years of research that there are profound differences in how male and female brains are wired (for more information, see this excellent, relatively easy to understand summary by the Dana Foundation). So, what does this mean?

If women's brains are indeed wired differently, it means that women observe and engage with the world differently than men.  Something that has likely been obvious to most human-beings since Adam and Eve :).  For awhile, there has been a "movement" that women are essentially the same as men, mentally.  Scientific evidence suggests otherwise.  In fact, testosterone that is made by a male fetus (genetically X-Y) early in prenatal development (before birth ), appears to be critical in establishing male brain pathways.  Interestingly, once testosterone reaches the boy brain, it gets converted to estrogen (link to a review research article)!  Yes, this is not a typo.  In order for a little boy to be a little boy, he needs to have his testosterone converted to the "female" hormone, estrogen!  Now, who is the better sex? Is it evidence that our bodies convert the "toxin" also known as testosterone into a more manageable substance (Ha ha - I'm being humorous here.  No, I don't think testosterone is actually poison!). There is no way I'm weighing in which sex is the better sex, but I'll leave you with this little blast from the past from Annie Get Your Gun.

So if men and women truly are different from one another, perhaps my little "study" on the gender prevalence among food allergy bloggers reflects a much grander observation.  Perhaps women banding together may in fact truly be vehicles of social awareness and change.  I come full circle back to one possible flaw in my "study" using a Google search for the terms "food allergy blog."  You see, Google and search engines like Google, use mathematical algorithms (complex formulas) to return the most "relevant" items first.  How search engines define what is "relevant" to a human relies heavily on how well webpages are referenced by other webpages.  So let's say that women are indeed better than men at connecting with one another to deal with issues and promote social change simply because our brains our wired to do so.  This means women's blogs will tend to reference other women's blogs, and thus Google may inflate the percentage of food allergy bloggers who are women.  I would be interested to know if there is a different way to search for blogs that doesn't rely on the "relevancy" criteria and if the results would be different than the Google search.

Many examples from history suggest that women banding together are powerful forces for social awareness and change (think of the women's suffrage movement or even heaven forbid prohibition).  This is only anecdotal in nature, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that food allergy Mom's are moving heaven and earth to raise awareness to an uneducated public, while simultaneously keeping our kiddos safe, and giving them the most that life has to offer in spite of an uphill food battle.  Most importantly, we seem to get together and want to share our knowledge with others!  Here is my tip of the hat to all my fellow food allergy Mom's out there making a difference in any way that we know how, whether it be great or small.

Sidenote:  I'd love to hear from any food allergy men and Dad's out there!  I am a huge believer that the more diverse we are in our thinking, the more ideas for solutions and change are possible.  Here is a shout-out to two of the blogs authored by men who made the Google search, top 25 list.

Friday, September 21, 2012

If you're going to San Francisco...

be sure to bring the kitchen sink.  Okay this may be a slight exaggeration, but this post is entirely about our first real family vacation since dealing with multiple food allergies.

Quite frankly, if I had given it more thought,I probably would have rationalized my way out of it because the challenges were "too great."  Since I am writing in the past tense and a post about a failed family vacation isn't terribly interesting blog material, it is safe to say we actually pulled it off... successfully!  May our little journey bring you hope.

Vacation planning timeline:
3 weeks ago:  Jason finds out he will be jetting to San Francisco to present at a conference.

2 weeks and 6 days ago:  I work myself into a tizzy, " Wouldn't it be cool if we (I, JR and Luke) could join you (Jason) after your conference is done?!  A real family vacation!"

2 weeks and 5 days ago - 10 pm:  Research airfare between Portland and San Francisco.  Wow, it's not that bad!  Airfare booked.

2 weeks and 4 days ago - 1 am:  Can't sleep as I repeatedly say the phrase, "What did I just do?!!"  Wait, how are we going to pull this off?  Food?  In an unfamiliar city?  With no immediate friends or family?  Oh ya, and I have to make it to the airport, onto a plane for a 2 hour flight with both JR (4 years old) and Luke (7 months old), by myself?!  Oh, and JR has a bit of a life-threatening allergy to tree nuts and peanuts among other things?  What kind of mother am I?!

That's right.  I'm one dura mater to pull this off by myself!  Google dura mater if you don't get the  horrible attempt at humorous neuro-geek speak.

Like so many parents out there, to my core, I just want some sense of normalcy.  I want my children to experience all the great things that this world has to offer because there are just too many for one lifetime.  With this in mind, I pushed aside my fears (mostly) and went into planning mode.  How can we solve this food problem while staying in a hotel, far away from home, and eating at restaurants isn't a viable option?  Side note - for us, JR's allergy to corn and soy is a minefield.  We stopped trying to find safe foods at restaurants a long time ago.

To make a long story short, in order to pull it off, we brought a cooler with icepacks containing a few of JR's favorite food options.  TSA got a bit persnickety on the way back, but here is me not caring :).  The great thing is that the cooler with ice packs served us well for our entire trip!  It was a great asset for taking lunch on the go.

The other key piece is that we stayed in a business traveler's hotel, complete with a pre-equipped kitchenette.  I also made sure that the first night we arrived, we found a Trader Joe's, which has many of the familiar foods that are safe for us.  We bought safe food for JR, and of course a couple of bottles of wine and seasonal beer may have ended up in the cart to boot.

I brought along ziploc bags filled with standard spices (salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, sugar, and a cinnamon/sugar mix for breakfasts).  My intention was definitely not gourmet meals, so you may want to forgo the oregano - I hear the TSA may not like that.  The great thing is that the bags pack nice and flat in your suitcase and the cinnamon acts as a built-in air-freshener.  Who knew?
Bagged spices brought along on the trip because who has room in their suitcase to bring all those containers?!

With just a few spices, rice, hamburger, chicken stock (we can't find a beef stock that works for our allergy needs....), frozen pre-cut broccoli, and some cut-up squash, dinner was done.  Here's the other cool thing, I figured out by pure accident due to complete laziness on my part, housekeeping will do the dishes for you - awesome!

One of our several meals prepared "on the go," with just a few simple ingredients and spices.
We managed the hard part - food.  To manage the "just in case" allergy incident response, we carried 3 current epi-pens (and 2 recently expired), and a  stockpile of chewable children's Benadryl.  I boarded the airplane early and wiped down all surfaces with clorox wipes.  JR received a chewable children's Benadryl as we boarded (a little bit of tiredness and an ounce of allergy prevention couldn't hurt when you're 30,000 feet up and nowhere near a medical facility, right?).  We had no allergy incidents, not even a random contact reaction hive for our entire trip.  Hallelujah!

The arsenal of wipes to rid the airplane surfaces and JR's hands of allergens.

Now for the fun and memories part -
  • We toured the bay on a sailboat!
  • Saw the beached seals and got suckered into all kinds of tourist-y trappedness at Pier 39.
  • JR ate french fries at a restaurant - thank you In N Out for cutting real potatoes and frying them strictly in their own frier of cottonseed oil.  JR was giddy with excitement to eat in a restaurant.  Only a food allergy parent would be thrilled that their child's dinner consisted entirely of french fries!
JR and Dad eating french fries from In N Out.  This was HUGE for a little boy that  has no memory of eating restaurant food.
  • Luke  popped his first tooth!
  • Walked along a beachfront marina while JR chased a jack rabbit.
  • Toured the California Academy of Science museum because, yes, we are that geeky of a family.
  • Ate a picnic lunch in Golden Gate Park
Our family at Muir Woods next to a giant coastal redwood
  • Hiked at Muir Woods and spent Sunday morning reveling the greatest natural cathedral known to this world - the ancient coastal redwoods!
  •  Played on the beach at Muir beach.
We did it, and I couldn't be any prouder because now JR has tangible memories of a real family vacation.  I remember thinking at the beginning of our food allergy journey just how overwhelming cooking became.  I/we adapted.  Travel is no different.  It's all about baby steps.  This trip allowed us to step a bit out of our comfort zone.  Perhaps now, we have what it takes to step beyond and go a little further and a little bigger for our next adventure.  My job as Mom is to lift my son up until he can venture out safely on his own.  I just need to make sure I take those necessary steps, too.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Fifty Shades of Egg

At the end of April, I shared Egg-cellent news that JR, my 4 year old son, successfully ate one half of a hard-boiled egg during a food challenge at the allergist's office (see previous post for a detailed description of a food challenge).  As parents, we were beyond thrilled, since it appeared that JR had outgrown his egg allergy!  In a long list of food allergies, egg is one that I will happily check off the list.

However, there was a remote possibility that JR's egg allergy could return with a vengeance following the egg exposure at the food challenge.  Before the egg challenge, JR's last known exposure to egg had been as an ~18 month old, and the reaction had been anaphylactic (for description of anaphylaxis, see the Allergist Mom's post).  Needless to say, nothing strikes fear into a food allergy parent more than anaphylaxis, the most severe, lightning fast (usually), and life-threatening kind of reaction which involves several bodily systems.

Because of this possibility, we were to wait at least a month and follow up with a blood test to look for the specific antibodies to egg in JR's blood that could cause an allergic reaction.  Because it had been so long since JR's last egg exposure, the level of antibodies to egg may have fallen below what the blood test could reliably detect.  This means that the first exposure to egg would not trigger a reaction.  With more time (e.g. weeks), however, JR's immune system may have mounted a "defense" against the egg he just ate. Meaning, antibody production would increase so that the immune system may respond if exposed again (Side note:  normally this is a brilliant process to protect from invading bacteria/viruses/etc that cause illness.  Our immune system learns to fight them off, so we don't fall ill to the same bad "bugs" again).  If the amount of antibody in JR's blood did not change, then we were in the clear, meaning the egg allergy had indeed gone away.  However, if the amount of antibody in JR's blood increased above its last tested value, it could indicate that the allergy had returned.

So, we tested JR, and the answer was not black or white like we had hoped, but rather shades of gray.

So, we've been sitting, waiting, trying to muster the strength to figure this out once and for all.  In the back of my mind, I swing between the worst and best case scenarios.  I remember my sweet, 18 month old, in the midst of hives, throat constriction, vomiting, and sheer terror.  On the other hand, I think of a 4 year old enjoying waffles, french toast, and scrambled eggs.  I hope for the best, but am terrified of the worst.  So we wait...  until finally this past week, we mustered up the courage to try egg.  By the way, we were advised that he will likely be ok, but to watch him closely.  Can you say, "shades of gray?!".  After looking up some of the scientific literature on egg allergy, I completely agree with this rather "gray" assessment.  It just goes to show that we have a long way to go in making allergy testing more certain in diagnosing a true allergy!  I guarantee the doctors advising patients much be just as frustrated as the sufferers! 

JR and I made chocolate cookies, and I threw an egg into the mix.  Just as an extra precaution, I smudged a little cookie dough on JR's face to see if there were any signs of allergy.  Fifteen minutes later, redness and a small hive appeared where the cookie dough had been.  Both JR and I were devastated:  JR because he had to wait for me to whip up another batch of cookies without the egg and me, because it appeared egg may not safe after all.
Redness and small hive where egg-containing
cookie dough was placed ~15 min before photo
This was in no means a controlled, scientific experiment that shows JR will react to egg if eaten, I realize this fact.  There are many possible explanations given the poor "experimental" parameters tested that day (e.g. no experimental control, raw egg instead of cooked egg, etc).  What it does tell me, however, is that blood tests are only prediction tools and not great ones at that.  It is safe to say, we will be talking with our allergist about another food challenge, which is the only way to confirm the allergy one way or the other.... sigh.

Stay tuned for an egg allergy fact sheet and another installment in the "Fifty Shades of Egg" saga.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

My Background

I have nearly 10 years of biomedical research experience, which culminated in a Ph.D. in Neuroscience at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU).  I currently live in the Portland, Oregon area with my husband, Jason, and two young boys, *JR and *Luke (*Names changed to protect children's identity).

At heart, I am a Midwest girl born and bred in rural Illinois.  My journey in science research began at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where I earned an undergraduate research fellowship from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, studying thalamic brain pathways in the laboratory of Charles "Lee" Cox.  In 2003, I graduated with my B.S. in Molecular and Integrative Physiology and left my midwest roots to set up shop in Portland, Oregon.

As a graduate student at OHSU, I worked in the laboratory of Agnieszka Balkowiec, where I studied how the nervous system pathways that control blood pressure and breathing develop after birth.  As a result of my research, I authored two peer-reviewed research papers (see links below), presented at several national scientific meetings, and earned several awards, including a highly competitive research fellowship from the American Heart Association.  In addition, I was even interviewed for TV (my 15 SECONDS of fame!), since my work may some day establish an underlying cause of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.  

Although I am not currently engaged in laboratory research, my literature research endeavors continue. I make it my goal to better understand an equally elegant and complex bodily system, the immune system, because of JR's numerous food allergies (see Our Story).  Currently, I am a faculty member in biology at Portland Community College, where I teach Introductory Biology and Anatomy & Physiology.  It has been refreshing to see the "big picture" after such a narrow focus during my PhD years, and I absolutely enjoy sharing my love and passion for science with others.  It is my hope that through this blog, my passion will translate to a better understanding for all who are dealing with allergic disorders.  I eventually would like to return to the lab where I can be in the trenches of food allergy research, but for now, my life is happily (and crazily) filled to the brim with being an educator and a Mom to JR and Luke.  Also, as most food allergy sufferers and parents already know, part-time cook is included in my list of many "talents."  For the moment, our kitchen is my laboratory :).  Happy reading!

My peer-reviewed, first author publications:

1)  Neuroscience. 2012 Apr 5;207:333-46. Epub 2012 Jan 18.Glia determine the course of brain-derived neurotrophic factor-mediated dendritogenesis and provide a soluble inhibitory cue to dendritic growth in the brainstem.
Martin JLBrown ALBalkowiec A.

2)  J Neurochem. 2009 Jan;108(2):450-64. Epub 2008 Nov 29.
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor in arterial baroreceptor pathways: implications for activity-dependent plasticity at baroafferent synapses.
Martin JLJenkins VKHsieh HYBalkowiec A.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Egg-cellent news

Thursday was a stressful day to say the least. It was food challenge day, and it marks the first time in living with food allergies that hope may indeed be reality.

So, when does this egg story begin?  December of 2009 marks the last time that JR, our handsome young 1 year old at the time, ate anything with eggs.  Before that point, JR regularly devoured scrambled eggs.  Like any parent, I enjoyed watching my growing boy enjoy such a wonderful source of protein.  But in December 2009, the immune "switch" was flipped and our joy quickly turned to terror as scrambled eggs suddenly evoked the scariest of immune system responses, anaphylaxis.  Vomiting, lip swelling, hives, coughing - all within 5-10 minutes.  The incredible, edible egg suddenly became not-so-incredible and definitely not edible.  For JR, eggs were poison.  (As a side note, a few weeks after the scrambled egg incident, we learned the hard way that "made on shared equipment" labels should be heeded.  Mac n Cheese made on shared equipment with egg-containing foods caused the same reaction.  We were novice food allergy parents, and absolutely heart-broken to have put JR through that terror.  JR was ridiculously sensitive to trace amounts of egg protein).

Fast forward to 2012.  Every year since 2009, JR has been tested through a blood test (RAST) for the presence of antibodies to egg protein.  You know, those same antibodies that protect us from disease?  Well for the food allergic, the immune system erroneously targets innocuous substances like eggs.  This year, the antibody level was at the threshold of being positive.

The antibody (dark green, Y-shaped structure) binding to antigen (light green circle).  In Ian's case that antigen is the "harmless" egg protein.  C'mon, immune system. Since when were eggs worse than the plague?!
Photo source:

Hope, but not proof. 

If only it were as simple as measuring antibody levels in the blood.  Due to the unpredictable nature of the immune system when it comes to food allergies and the large error inherent to allergy testing methods, the definitive proof is the food challenge.  To put it more bluntly, this is the "test" where you go to the doctor's office and consume the offending food... and wait.  Will there be a reaction?

On a very rainy Thursday afternoon, JR and I headed into the doctor's office with 3 hard-boiled eggs and an i-Pad loaded up with Disney movies (for the waiting part).  JR was chipper.  I was terrified.  I remember what happened two and a half years ago.  I'm not sure that JR does. As a scientist, I know this "test" is necessary to confirm the egg allergy is gone (or not), but at that moment, I would have given anything to not have my son be a subject in this test.  But, hey, at least we were in the best place should a reaction occur, right?!

The egg-cellent news

Step 1 - scratch egg into the skin surface and wait (watch the Lion King)... no reaction.
Step 2 - rub egg on lips and wait (Simba just can't wait to be king)... no reaction.
Step 3 - eat a bite of egg and wait (Hakuna Matata)... no reaction.
Step 4 - eat more egg and wait (Lion King done, 4 year old takes over)... no reaction.
Step 5 - try and eat even more egg (4 year old loudly resists)... no reaction.
Step 6 - resort to every form of bribery known to parents to convince 4 year old he should eat more egg... no reaction.
Step 7 - half an egg finally goes down the gullet and Dr. agrees half an egg (instead of a whole egg) is sufficient for the test - no reaction.
Step 8 - relief and a dinner of ice cream and chocolate chips :).

It turns out, we're not quite out of the woods just yet.  Apparently, there is a small chance that the immune system could come back with a roaring vengeance to egg.  For one month, we will avoid eggs altogether.  At the end of the month, JR will be given a blood test to look for antibodies against egg.  If the antibody levels are still extremely low, JR is given the ok to eat egg!  And there will be cake, and cookies, and french toast aplenty.

Scientifically, the immune system is not my area of expertise, but I am in expert in what food allergy parents go through.  As a parent and a scientist, I can't help but wonder why in the world a medical community capable of successfully transplanting vital organs, doesn't have more reliable, indirect methods of allergy testing (e.g. any other test besides the direct food challenge test?!).  What is it that we lack in our understanding?  Finally, if JR has indeed outgrown his egg allergy, what has changed?  What has turned that immune system "switch" off?  If we can understand what turns that "switch" off, then we may just have a cure for food allergies.  I'm not an expert in the immune system scientifically, but I make it my goal everyday to try... for JR and for all of us that are walking on eggshells when it comes to food allergy.

Let's turn the food allergy switch off.