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It's hard adapting to ever-increasing food allergies. First they stripped away peanuts, tree nuts (bad reaction to pistachios), and milk from me. Then my first substitute for peanuts and tree nuts, sunflower seeds. More and more foods started attacking me, until my allergy laundry list resembles most peoples' grocery lists, including wheat, fish, eggs (including duck eggs), shellfish, most seeds including canola/flax/grapeseed, beef, pork, tomatoes, and odd spices like cloves and black pepper (but not, oddly, paprika.)

And don't even get me started on my contact allergies, like latex and some perfumes ... the things I'm cross-allergic to, like bananas and kiwifruits ... or my pollen allergies, which have been so bad this year I honestly thought I might be dying.

So what can I eat? (That's the most common question I get in real life and on here.) Well, not a lot. I'm not independently wealthy, so I subsist on the cheapest stuff I can get, which usually consists of soy or coconut milk, plenty of coffee, rice, chicken, turkey, corn, and so on.

At least, I thought I could eat these things. Now, with this new Consumer Reports study on arsenic in rice, I'm not so sure! What can I do now?

As I said, I'm not independently wealthy, so I can't afford to go out and buy all new things to eat. My morning cereal is (of course) a gluten-free rice cereal that was on sale. All the "pasta" I have is brown rice pasta. I have a bread substitute that is (what else?) rice-based.

Now, the FDA site doesn't seem too concerned about the issue, but given all that we know about regulatory capture and underfunding of government agencies, I tend to give Consumer Reports the edge. Also, there's this excerpt from the CR story that turns my stomach in more ways than one: "But scientists warn of complacency. “We already know that high concentrations of arsenic in drinking water result in the highest known toxic substance disease risks from any environmental exposure,” says Allan Smith, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of epidemiology at the University of California, Berkeley. “So we should not be arguing to wait for years until we have results of epidemiologic studies at lower arsenic intake, such as from rice consumption, to take action.” His studies of arsenic in public water in Chile and Argentina helped show that it causes lung and bladder cancer and other diseases." (emphasis added)

So I guess I have two choices before me right now...starvation, or killing myself slowly, until I run out of the rice things I have already and can get other substitutes. Or continuing to eat as well as I can in light of my major disability and lack of funds and risk giving myself or my husband cancer, and breaking our family's heart by dying that way, as my mother-in-law did earlier this year.

What would you do?

Seriously, what would you do? I have no ideas right now.

Originally posted to birdsneezing on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 10:17 AM PDT.

Also republished by KosAbility.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I don't know (7+ / 0-)

    I'm experiencing my own post operative histamine reaction.

    Food wise I cooked up beef with an onion in it and am eating corn tortilla tacos sans veggies. I didn't even put a chili in the meat and that little basket of tomatoes will just have to go elsewhere. I know i'm allergic to those so I am not risking it.

    Fortunately the most painful part is over with.

    Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.

    by Horace Boothroyd III on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 10:24:23 AM PDT

  •  My understanding is that this problem seems (6+ / 0-)

    to be specific to rice grown in the southern US where cotton was previously grown.  Is obtaining rice/rice products grown in other regions practical/affordable?

  •  I know the desperation of finding food now days (8+ / 0-)

    that doesn't kill me. It is far worse when you can't afford to buy healthy natural substitutes to the engineered, additive laden and antibiotic overdosed foods in the stores. I get people looking at me when I talk about it either with desperate hope that I have an answer to thier misery or like I am nuts. That goes away when I show them the scars from bleeding sores that arise when I eat something I react to.

    Allergies and reactions are on the rise yet so many still resist looking at what we are doing to our food.

    How can you tell when Rmoney is lying? His lips are moving. Fear is the Mind Killer

    by boophus on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 10:34:47 AM PDT

  •  I'm sure you are aware that (4+ / 0-)

    soy has been implicated in causing (or worsening) allergies to other products in some people. If you are drinking a lot of it, you might want to try to cut back for a while and see if some of your other allergies subside.

  •  Wow. Beans? (4+ / 0-)

    You didn't mention them. Cornbread and beans kept many a hillbilly alive. Still do.
    My solution of first resort for just about anything is to go to my Gonstead Chiropractor and get adjusted. If you can come up with a couple of hundred bucks, it might be something that could help. If the blood flow and nerve impulse is not working, glands don't function right. My guy also is very well versed in food and herbs, as are a number of this type of Chiro. A liver cleanse might be in order as well.
    Sorry to hear that you are struggling so. Preens to the Flok.

    Only thing more infuriating than an ignorant man is one who tries to make others ignorant for his own gain. Crashing Vor

    by emmasnacker on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 11:04:35 AM PDT

  •  Is there any way to lose a mild allergy? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    allergywoman, JamieG from Md, weck

    Brand new favorite RSS feed of Daily Kos Radio Podcasts
    Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

    by We Won on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 11:07:22 AM PDT

  •  Republished to KosAbility (4+ / 0-)

    I passed my copy of CR along to someone, but I seem to remember them saying a lot of the arsenic can be removed from raw rice by rinsing before cooking, and that brown rice is more contaminated than white rice.

    It literally took my breath away when I read that the very first food (after formula or breast milk) that many babies eat, Gerber's Rice Cereal, is contaminated. Also a form of organic soy formula.

    My daughter-in-law, a Filipina, used to cook rice for the family at least twice a day. Yikes! And, like many people, she used a special rice cooker - no rinsing "required". This news hits home to many of us, allergywoman. I worry particularly about my grandson.

    The good news, if there is any, is that the company that made the contaminated organic formula has take a proactive approach and has found a way to remove virtually all of the arsenic from their product.

    "Do your little bit of good where you are; it is those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world." ~ Desmond Tutu

    by KelleyRN2 on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 11:14:17 AM PDT

    •  Yeah, I'm actually kind of glad we buy the bottom (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      KelleyRN2, weck

      line cheap white rice from Aldi now. :D Though my cereal and pasta's all brown rice.

      And according to WGN radio last night, apparently Lisa Madigan did some studies that also turned up the problems with baby cereal. That woman needs to run for higher office someday, and she'd have tons of support on her own merits.

  •  Egads. I wish I had an answer for you (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    allergywoman, weck

    I don't know what I would do, but I hope you are able to find an alternative.

    "...and if proud Americans can be who they are and boldly stand at the altar with who they love...then surely, surely we can give everyone in this country a fair chance at that great American Dream." ~ Michelle Obama

    by BoiseBlue on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 11:24:59 AM PDT

  •  Barley and quinoa? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    allergywoman, Involuntary Exile, weck

    It seems curiosity has killed the cat that had my tongue.

    by Murphoney on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 11:47:48 AM PDT

  •  Can you afford high quality H2O filtration system? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    allergywoman, weck, BusyinCA

    I have an autoimmune disorder.  I know allergies differ from autoimmune disorders, but both involve inappropriate and excessive immune response. The first thing my physician recommended was installing a high quality reverse osmosis water filtration system.  I had a five-stage system installed which eliminates or reduces to an exceedingly low level all heavy metals, arsenic, parasitic organisms, parasitic cysts, bacteria and even certain viruses.  It also reduces chlorine by 90% and bromine by 80%.  Unfortunately, that means it all but eliminates fluoride as well, so fluoride containing toothpaste and mouth rinse is a must.  My system was expensive, but based on the overall improvement in my health - and the health of my dogs -  I'm convinced it was worth every penny.

    My physician's second recommendation was, if at all possible, to eat only organic foods. If I couldn't do that she instructed me to especially avoid any corn or soy products, any prepared products containing corn or soy components (high fructose corn sugar, soy bean oil, etc.), and any milk or milk containing products unless they were organic.  She also believes that the high amount of antibiotics fed to cattle, hogs, poultry, farmed fish and farmed shrimp are a serious problem for certain people with drug sensitivities (like me) and allergies (perhaps like you).  She recommended a vegetarian diet or, if that wasn't possible, to eat only grass or organically fed meat and wild caught fish and shrimp. She said that nearly every one of her autoimmune patients who followed this advice has shown marked improvement in her/his condition.

    It took me several visits to her for the administration of steroids (oral and injections) before I finally decided to give her advice a try. I was in so much pain I was ready to try anything.  The side effects from high doses of prednisone including joint damage were becoming a concern, and it looked like we were going to have to try methotrexate next despite its known adverse effects, especially for someone with my level of drug sensitivity. I thought, what the hell; I wanted to avoid methotrexate if at all possible, so I went organic.  I threw out most of what was in my pantry, fridge and freezer, I stopped eating fast foods of any kind, and I stopped frequenting chain restaurants.

    All I can say is, Hallelujah!  I started feeling better within a few weeks.  My autoimmune disease is now well under control.  I now get a long-acting prednisone injection once every six months instead of once every six weeks, and I haven't had to take a prednisone dose pack in nearly two years.

    I don't know if my results are translatable to someone like you, but I'm convinced that corn and soy are a Huge problem, and some of us are the proverbial canaries in the coal mine serving as a warning to everyone.  Try eliminating them, including all foods that contain corn and soy components, from your diet for two weeks.  If you can't do that, eat only organic corn and soy-containing products.  If you don't start feeling better within two weeks you can always go back to what you were doing before.

    It's just a suggestion. Do with it what you will.

    "Some folks rob you with a six-gun, some rob you with a fountain pen." - Woody Guthrie

    by Involuntary Exile on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 01:11:01 PM PDT

    •  I don't think so, thanks. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      weck, grover, Involuntary Exile

      Corn and soy are two of the vanishingly few safe foods I can eat. Plus I don't make the income to buy only organic. I appreciate you being willing to share what worked for you, though. Some people are able to make the switch and it helps them.

      Also, I grew up in a natural foods vegetarian household. I'd think if it were going to do anything for me, it already would have. Sigh. :)

      •  For those of us with these allergies (3+ / 0-)

        (mine are potentially lethal anaphylaxis allergies), I think it's a matter of buying the right organic foods since we can't afford to buy all organics

        In the 1992 policy, FDA discussed the importance of evaluating the potential allergenicity of
        proteins introduced into foods derived from new plant varieties.
         FDA also explained that
        the act requires that a food be labeled to inform consumers of possible consequences that result
        from the use of a product, such as the presence in food of an unexpected allergen (57 FR 22984
        at 22991). FDA's principal concern regarding allergenicity is that proteins transferred from a
        donor plant source to the host food plant (introduced proteins) might confer on host plant food
        the allergenic properties of donor plant (57 FR 22984 at 22987).
        FDA stated that developers
        should initially assume that a protein derived from a food that commonly causes allergic
        reactions is an allergen and that labeling would be required to alert sensitive individuals, unless
        scientific evidence demonstrated that the introduced protein was not an allergen (57 FR 22984 at
        22987 and 22991). FDA cited several examples of foods that commonly cause allergic reactions:
        milk, eggs, fish, crustacea, molluscs, tree nuts, wheat, and legumes (particularly peanuts and
        soybeans) (57 FR 22984 at 22987).

        In 1992, they know this was a huge problem with GMO foods. But heck, FDA didn't even require cross-contamination labeling for how many years?

        I'm certain that's why my peanut allergy went from a minor inconvenience to something that could easily kill me. I avoided foods with peanuts. But how could I possibly know that the FLOUR I was buying that obviously had no peanuts contained peanut dust in it?  

        And still, FDA does NOT require GMO foods to be labeled.

        Of course not.

        So I buy organics whenever I think that a food might be cross-bred with a food that I'm deathly allergic to. That means, for me, all organic grains and flours, organic seeds, organic tomatoes, etc.

        I know that it's possible that they are creating a peanut/blueberry hybrid;  but I KNOW that the vast majority of soy in America is genetically engineered:

        GM plants are widespread in the world’s leading soybean producing countries.

            The United States (85%) and Argentina (98%) produce almost exclusively GM soybeans. In these countries, GM soybeans are approved without restrictions and are treated just like conventional soybeans.

        Note the date on this article. And honestly, you need to read every word. I started to highlight the important parts and realized I had bolded the whole blurb.

        Genetic Engineering of Crops Can Spread Allergies, Study Shows

        By WARREN E. LEARY
        Published: March 14, 1996

        Researchers said today that they had the first solid evidence that proteins that can cause potentially serious allergic reactions could be transferred to crops through genetic engineering.

        Scientists at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln said tests proved that soybeans modified with genes from Brazil nuts to produce a nutritious protein found in the nuts also produced proteins that set off a strong, potentially deadly allergic reaction in people sensitive to Brazil nuts.

         But proponents of the technology and Federal regulators say the findings indicate that the current system of mostly voluntary monitoring and reporting is sufficient to protect the public.

        "The study shows that caution is needed, but that we are on course as far as regulations go," said Dr. George H. Pauli of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at the Food and Drug Administration. "Industry is following our guidance and essentially has been notifying us about what it is doing, _regardless of whether it is required or not."

        How much have your allergies deteriorated in the last 16 years because industry was left to comply with regulators, "whether it was required or not?"

        The thing is, FDA knew in nineteen-ninety, freaking TWO that this was a big concern:

        All food allergens are proteins. However, only a small fraction of the thousands of proteins in the diet have been
        found to be food allergens. FDA's principal concern regarding allergencity is that proteins transferred from one food
        source to another, as is possible with recombinant DNA and protoplast fusion techniques, might confer on food from
        the host plant the allergenic properties of food from the donor plant. Thus, for example, the introduction of a gene
        that encodes a peanut allergen into corn might make that variety of corn newly allergenic to people ordinarily allergic
        to peanuts.
        And that this was necessary:
        Labeling of foods newly containing a known or
        suspect allergen may be needed to inform consumers of such potential.
        Statement of Policy: Foods Derived from New Plant Varieties
        Friday, May 29, 1992 by Food & Drug Administrations, HHS
        57 FR 22984-01, 1992 WL 112827 (F.R.) File: 57 FR 22984WL--New Plant Varieties.pdf


        And still, 22 years later, no labels. Not only that, but we have to pay more to buy food that we understand to be safe.

        The federal government has completely failed us.

        © grover

        Join Muppets Against Mitt! Go to to join now. This message brought to you by the number 2012 and the letters B and O.

        by grover on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 03:46:10 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  So, to follow up my rant, (3+ / 0-)

          I don't buy organic everything. I can't afford to. But anything that seems likely to be genetically modified with the stuff I'm allergic to, that's what I buy organic.

          That includes things that are easily bruised going to market (tomatoes, peaches), grains and seeds to make them Round-up resistant.

          I don't know if it makes any sense what I'm doing. But I'd rather risk buying lettuce that's dripping with pesticides than a tomato x peanut hybrid.

          © grover

          Join Muppets Against Mitt! Go to to join now. This message brought to you by the number 2012 and the letters B and O.

          by grover on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 03:54:17 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Hookworm? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Involuntary Exile, allergywoman

        Seriously. .  

        Renewable energy brings national global security.     

        by Calamity Jean on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 04:03:47 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Have you had all these allergies your whole life? (0+ / 0-)

        Or have new allergies been added over time?

        Clearly, your immune system is out of control.  Have you ever heard about this or read this in Time Magazine?  Not that I'm in any way suggesting this type of therapy, but I certainly can understand why some people have tried it.

        When one's misery makes one's life hardly bearable one becomes willing to try nearly anything to alleviate the suffering.  That's why I filter my water and eat not merely natural but certified organic foods. (Natural food is an almost meaningless term.) Yes, organic is more expensive than ordinary food, but I'm spending a whole lot less on doctor visits and medication, so overall it's a wash, not to mention that my quality of life has dramatically improved. Maybe your medical bills aren't as large as mine were so you're not yet at the point where you can financially justify the change in diet. But you don't need to buy organic to eliminate soy and corn for two weeks to see if you feel better.

        Granted, it takes a lot of work to eliminate corn and soy, but my mother who has celiac disease eliminated all grains (including rice, though it doesn't contain gluten) and all soy from her diet years ago. She eats a lot of fruits and vegetables; her primary starch is potatoes; she drinks goats milk and makes yogurt and smoothies from it; she eats organically grown chicken and eggs from a farmer she knows personally; she eats red meat only occasionally; she eats virtually nothing that comes canned, frozen, boxed or wrapped in cellophane - the exceptions being tinned Norwegian sardines and frozen wild caught fish. My mother is eighty-two years old, lives alone, cooks for herself and is sharp as a tack.  She rarely sees a doctor and takes no medication of any kind.  Oh, and she spends less than $200 per month for all her food needs. (Actually, she says it's usually about $150 per month except for the months she buys seasonal produce in bulk and freezes it.)  It may not be easy, but it can be done.

        The thing that stands in the way of most of us changing what we eat and the way we eat it is our food preferences. It's very difficult to overcome them. That's why so many of us are obese, and it's why it took a year of total misery before I followed my physician's advice and changed my diet.

        Best of luck to you as you continue to seek answers.  May you find a solution that gives you a better quality of life.

        "Some folks rob you with a six-gun, some rob you with a fountain pen." - Woody Guthrie

        by Involuntary Exile on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 04:31:00 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  More directly: Bull. Fucking. Shit. (0+ / 0-)

          Don't you gods-damned well dare tell me what to eat. I know my body and you fucking don't. I mistakenly thought I was allergic to soy at one point and it was the most miserable time in my life. Adding it back into my diet was the BEST diet choice I EVER made!

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