Today's blog post is a guest post written by Harper Reid- a freelance writer based in New Zealand. Harper approached me, asking if she could share her thoughts on seasonal allergies and what some may be able to do to improve them. Since I am all about sharing, feel free to leave a comment about what has or has not worked for you.
Photo Credit: Alexandru Tudorache via Unsplash under License
There's no worse springtime experience than being excited to see flowers bloom and dusting off swimsuits for the summer ahead, only to start sniffling every time you so much as glance outside. If you suffer from seasonal allergies every year, you may be interested in knowing how nature can help you cope with these pesky occurrences.
If you have allergies that are more serious than the occasional bout of hay fever, you should see a doctor for medical advice. But if your allergies aren't significant, you may want to try the following natural tips to boost your immune system.
Make a change in your diet & lifestyle- eat more natural foods As the old saying goes, you are what you eat. This is especially true for people who struggle with recurring allergies. Eating unhealthy food means that your body isn't getting the nourishment that it needs, which means it cannot protect you properly.
Try to eat natural, organic foods and avoid processed foods as much as possible. The same goes for exercise: if you don't look after your body by way of exercise, it won't be as strong as it could be or function as well as necessary to resist allergens. Try an hour of exercise at least three or four times a week. You may notice a difference in the severity of your allergy symptoms as you grow stronger and healthier.
Photo Credit: silviarita via Pixabay under CC0 Creative Commons License
Improve your gut health If you need more reasons to change your diet to something more natural, there is a popular theory that gut health (by way of immune system) is inextricably linked to seasonal allergies. While this idea requires more research, many allergy sufferers have reported a decrease in allergy symptoms after making changes, so it may be worth looking into gut-friendly diet options if you find your seasonal allergies especially difficult.
The theory states that to improve your gut health, you must reduce inflammation in your gut. Limit your dairy intake if it causes you problems and avoid eating foods with too many preservatives or sugar. When your gut is healthier, your immune system will function more smoothly. Natural foods win again!
Build up your immune system by spending time outdoors The best defense against pesky pollen is to boost your immune system. Spending time in nature is good for everyone in the family for a multitude of reasons- including that it may be able to help reduce allergy symptoms.
If you're having trouble getting the kids off the couch and into the great outdoors, why not choose a fun family bonding activity to motivate them? You might like to try going for hikes together or spending a day picnicking and playing outdoor sports.
Photo Credit: Micah Hallahan via Unsplash under License
There are plenty of benefits to reconnecting with nature too: decreased anxiety levels and a better chance at getting your daily dose of Vitamin D to name just a few. If you're outside, try walking or running barefoot to strengthen your immune system and to connect with your beautiful natural surroundings. If you can improve your immune system's functionality, you will likely have reduced allergy symptoms when spring next rolls around- and having quality time with the family is a great bonus!
Nature is really a miracle. If you listen to your body and make productive changes, you will be a step closer to banishing those irritating allergies for good. Remember, these tips are for people suffering minor seasonal allergies- if you are suffering from more serious allergies, always consult with a doctor.
Harper Reid is a freelance writer from Auckland, New Zealand who enjoys relaxing out in nature. On sunny days, she can often be found meditating in her backyard or going on hiking trips with friends. Check out more of Harper's work on Tumblr.
I have been a long time event geek; I love going to them, I love meeting people and talking to them, I love finding out about new products and seeing products that I have known about as well. Although I don't mind traveling to events, I was so excited to hear that this year the Gluten and Allergen Free Wellness Event was hosting an event in my area of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Even better, I was asked to be an event speaker and a vendor in addition to being a blogger team member. A lot of hats to wear but I was more than willing to wear them all with pride and to do the best that I could do for the attendees. More importantly, one of my favorite things to do is to share while I am at the event because just as I am stoked about being able to sample items and bring home a bag o'swag, I feel that it is just as nice to reciprocate and have something to give back. Call it an extra smile on someones face or that look of yum while they are tasting a new item- whatever it is, I am all about sharing.
Sharing is another form of support and even comfort within the food allergy community.I know that we tend to say "Why is everything always about food?!" but this is just life. Food is involved in so many areas of our lives, why should having food allergies limit what we can eat? Yes, stay away from the foods that are allergen triggers but do not stay away from foods just for the sake of staying away from food. Embrace food. Just embrace the right foods and embrace the expanding circle of how you find those safe foods. The Gluten and Allergen Free Wellness Event offers just that (Really I'm just an added bonus, lol).
First, There Was Food The blogger team always meets the night before the event to eat, be merry and get a chance to meet the other bloggers. I enjoy this ritual because once you are at the event and it's go time, I find it's difficult to find the bloggers let alone have enough time to speak with them while also speaking with the event vendors. And I am always up for a nice dinner out. This year's was hosted at Midtown Cafe & Dessertery. I am happy to report that Midtown Cafe offers a gluten free menu and our waitress went above and beyond in making sure to check, double check and repeat everyones allergens and menu options. I got to catch up with Tarah aka Allergic Traveler and a newbie Chelsea Jones - Gluten Free Chelsea. Chelsea had a bunch of questions and braved my sense of humor so you know she is a good egg. (....egg! Is she also allergic to eggs?!)
Then There Were Samples The Gluten and Allergen Free Wellness Event gives each attendee a bag upon registration for their samples and the entire event is a type of "I'm going to just wander through and eat this, and this, and maybe this...but oh, look at what they have!" My table was filled with giveaways from wonderful companies that also wanted to partake in the sharing so anyone who stopped to say hello had multiple samples to eat as well as take home items. More thank you's going out to SunButter, The Greater Knead, TummyDrops, Gluten Free & More Magazine, MadeGood Foods, SeabuckWonders and Free2b Foods. Attendees were truly so excited to be able to enjoy samples as well as having so many items to bring home with them. NutriDaughter manned the sample area and at one point told me that she "Feels so adult, like I work for The Greater Knead." I enjoyed watching the smiles appear on everyone's face when so many of them said "I can eat all of this!" Again- food, it's what life is all about. Enjoy it.
There Were Slides I was thrilled to share my presentation on "Food Allergies Going Beyond the Box". My discussion covered how I have found different ways to use allergy-friendly products other than as directed on the package. This included how to reuse the box itself, budgeting tips and how to turn food flops into delicious recipes that your family will eat while you are not wasting the food that you thought was damaged. With so many other presenters at the event, I was honored to share my knowledge of how to use your foods.
There Were Smiles I know that so many people tend to say Come find me, say hello. I love to meet all of you! but honestly- I truly mean it. I understand that I would not be who and where I am without those who have become a part of my journey. I know that each and every person that takes the time to read my blog or check out my social media pages is a part of why I am able to journey onward. So when someone who has been a page follower for many years shows up at the Winston Salem Gluten and Allergen Free Wellness Event, you know that I am going to be the person who is giving out hugs. I had the honor of finally getting to meet Darlene after knowing her virtually for years. She has been an amazing page member, has taken the time to share her personal stories and tips with others and I am truly blessed to have been able to speak with her in person. These people are my stepping stones, these people are my reasons to get up every day and continue to help in any way that I can and these are people that I am proud to call my extended family.
I am an event geek, plain and simple. I love meeting people, vendors and allergy-friendly products, hearing presentations and the samples....I admittedly hoard samples. But why? For those of you who have never been to an event that caters to those with food allergies, let me show you my world of blogging, eating and product hoarding (I say hoard but it's really taking new product home to try them, stashing some for future sharing and giveaways and a few..well, more than a few for my family). Picture this and then join me on June 2nd at the Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event. You will notice the handy dandy giveaway link below because I have six tickets to giveaway to entice you even more.
Get Your Swag On Did I mention the swag? Wait...you don't know what swag is?! Ok, swag is a bag of free samples that you get when you check in at the event. So for a very budget-friendly Saturday ($10 adults, Children under 13 FREE and $8 for Seniors & Military with ID at the door) you immediately get a nice bag of goodies that you will also use to place other samples or items that you can purchase at the event. How is this sounding to you so far? Think about it- going to an event where you can bring the entire family, get free stuff, sample and eat while you walk through and find out about products that you may not even know existed. I'd say it's a win-win. Here's what you need to know-
Why Am I So Excited About This Event? Although I am an event geek, I am also picky about not wanting to travel too far so when I heard that this year's Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event is going to be in my hometown of Winston-Salem I felt like an event geek gone to heaven! Grab a pen and paper (ugh, it's the year 2018 Nutrimom nobody except you still writes things down!) or take a screenshot then visit the official website for complete details. I recommend that you consider ordering your tickets online to avoid standing in long line the day of the event. Event geek tip: long lines means you will not be one of the first to get the vendor samples and if you have kids, they don't like to wait either...just saying. OR chance it, enter my ticket giveaway below and see if you get a free ticket before you purchase them. Either way, I know all of the vendors will be excited to see you and speak with you.
Did I Mention That I Am Sharing Too? Not only am I honored to be a part of the event blogger team again but I will also have a vendor table and I will be presenting at this event. You may say How the heck are you going to do all of this Nutrimom and why? Simple- because I love sharing. I blog about the event because I want everyone to know why they should be there to learn more and stress less. I will have a vendor table because I love meeting everyone in person, I love sharing and I love helping. My table will offer information about me, what I do, how to order my ebook The Stepping Stones To Food Allergies and samples supplied by some of my favorite companies and products who also love to share. Samples will include SunButter, back issues of Gluten Free & More Magazine, MadeGood Foods, The Greater Knead, free2b Foods SunCups, full size SeaBuckWonders facial cleanser and TummyDrops (thanks to all of the wonderful companies who sent product to share!) I will be presenting at 12:30 - 1:00 PM "Food Allergies: Going Beyond the Box" because I want to show everyone that allergy-friendly products are more than just as directed on the box (I'd give you a hint but I think you should come by and sit in on it for the full effect).
Ready To Enter For A Chance to Win Tickets?! There are just a few rules I need you to read but then click away. Don't forget to share with others...maybe if they win, they will give you some of their swag.
My Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event ticket giveaway will begin on Tuesday May 22nd and end at Midnight Thursday May 24th EST
Entries will be through Rafflecopter but sharing this blog link is always appreciated
None of anyone's entry information will be shared, spammed or sold because that is never what I am about
6 Winners (each will get 1 entry ticket) will be chosen randomly via Rafflecopter
Winners MUST be attending the Winston-Salem Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event
Tickets are non transferable
Winners will be notified via email and will pick up their tickets at the event at the Will Call booth (yay, no standing in line!)
Neither I nor the Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event assume any responsibility for any finger cramping during the contest entry process
Don't Forget to Wear Red Shoes! As part of my must to share and help, I have pledged to donate $1 to Red Sneakers For Oakley for each unique photo that an event attendee snaps and shares with me at the Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event. You MUST attend the Winston-Salem event and you MUST tag Red Sneakers For Oakley and me so we can reshare for even more awareness. Do you have to wear red sneakers? Nope. Any red shoe will do- even red socks. Get creative (but keep it family-friendly).
Stop at my booth, find me, take a photo with me and let's help our food allergy community together.
How do you share your thoughts on allergies and asthma?
May is the month to stretch your wings and reach out to those who may not understand that life is so very precious. Some may not understand that one moment can change a life forever. Some may think that waiting to use a medication will not make a difference. Some may not know that everywhere, people are dying because the proper knowledge was not given to them. Each of us is different and each of us finds a way to reach out with our own voice. Making your allergy voice heard can be anything- a tweet, an article, attending an event or even distributing information that will help others understand the importance of being vigilant for safety's sake. There is no such thing as too large or too small- the important thing is to find a way and do it.
This May, I was invited to attend the Asthma Bloggers Summit hosted by the Allergy & Asthma Network. This summit was an amazing day that compiled food allergy and asthma bloggers mixed with representatives from AstraZeneca, The Chest Foundation, Regeneron, Sanofi and Allergy & Asthma Network (of course). With a laid back discussion, the day included the introduction of new resources available through the Allergy & Asthma Network, a Q&A on social media pointers but more importantly our thoughts, opinions and personal accounts were included in the discussions. I felt that capturing each person's different experiences makes for a well-rounded, upfront discussion and brainstorming session that fuels nothing but the overwhelming need to help even more. Don't get me wrong, it's ok to be told things but when you are asked light bulbs go off, people begin to scribble and you can feel the increased advocacy in the room. Sharing within a no judgment zone is an amazing feeling. The empowerment that was held inside that room is an incredible energy that sent me back home pumped up and full of I can conquer the world ambition.
I Mentioned New Resources I am all about sharing new resources- the more we have at our fingertips, the more all of us can learn from each other and teach others. The Allergy & Asthma Network brought us up to speed about three great places that we can go to for asthma.
Asthma: Take Action. Take Control A partnership with The Chest Foundation, this site shares info graphs, patient testimonials, an asthma control quiz, asthma severity assessment tool, downloadable fact sheets and a postcard size info card that you can share with others.
Be the Boss of Your Asthma If you ever needed to know or share facts about your asthma, this is another place to get what you need. Downloadable fact sheet, doctor visit checklist, Severe Eosinophilic Asthma (S.E.A.) information and guide to managing symptoms of S.E.A. accompanied by videos with leading asthma doctors helps you get a step up on your life with asthma.
E-Asthma Bunches of information on how to check if your asthma could be Eosinophilic asthma (a type of severe asthma) which can increase inflammation in the lungs. The site's "What? Who? How?" approach consists of a short video describing how eosinophils effect the lungs, what and who you should do and see for a diagnosis, a doctor's checklist and lung questionnaire to better the understanding of your diagnosis with your doctor.
With so many difficulties between trying to correctly describe your symptoms to a doctor mixed with the fear that sometimes accompanies a physician visit, all of these can be used alone or together to get you ready and proactive for your health.
Yup, I Admittedly Fangirled I describe food allergy support as "a vast, never-ending place where people from all over the world meet. This is a family that you never knew existed and that you didn't think would ever be a part of your life". Am I the only one who feels this way? I am amazed every single day by the support that our community gives to each other while asking for nothing in return. So when I started to look over the other name tags of who else was going to be at the Summit, I did geek out just a little bit. Summits where you finally get to meet another blogger that you have known virtually for years is like running into a rock star in the food allergy world. These people that you correspond with, that you ask advice from and share your life with are finally there, in front of you and you can have a conversation beyond your computer screen. Call me a geek, I will proudly own it. (I may or may not have silently stalked Kortney, waiting to see her reaction.) To view all of my Summit photos, click here.
But It Gets Even Better This summit was followed by the yearly Allergy & Asthma Day Capitol Hill. What does this mean? Attendees heard some pretty powerful testimonials before we were offered tips and highlights of what we could discuss with our state's Congressional leaders. We heard from Luca Ingrassia- a 10 year old boy who suffered an anaphylactic reaction on an airplane. This brave boy's most moving statement was "If a 10 year old knows the risks, an airline should." We also heard from Drushane TeeHee, the mother who's spreading awareness on the side effects of Singulair (montelukast sodium) which caused her son to take his own life. Although the side effects may not happen to everyone that take it, I urge you to read this article, be very aware and share with others. Drushane's story left many of us, including myself, teary-eyed but so very grateful that she was brave enough to share her son's story to help others.
Then We Hit the Pavement Yes, we all went to Congress and spoke to our state's representatives. I have never been so excited, afraid, tired, exhilarated and proud all in the same day. The topics that all of us fought to urge Congress to support and pass included access to care, step therapy, disease management, medication access, telemedicine, affordable medications and treatments, asthma and allergy program funding, health equality, food product labeling, cross-contact and USP797. Amidst the maze of Washington, D.C. were hopeful hearts, voices that were sharing concern and personal stories of themselves and others to let Congress understand how important our causes are to us and everyone else in our community and beyond. I proudly sported my red sneakers in support of the Debbs family which also proves that you can be a voice even without saying a word.
I want to thank the Allergy & Asthma Network for including me at this wonderful experience with so many other amazing people in addition to their sponsors that made this possible. This little blogger girl from North Carolina felt amazed at all of the people who supported each other but also I amazed myself by being a part of all of this when I never would have seen myself doing this. I am filled with even more hope than before, I have gained new food allergy family members and most of all, I find myself asking "What do I do now?" If I had an answer, that would be the end of my story and I refuse to stop where I am.
What is Pay It Forward Day? Simply put, "Pay It Forward Day is a global initiative that exists to make a difference by creating a huge ripple of kindness felt across the world." as seen at PayItForwardDay.com. With the help of Lisha Vannoy, Guidance Counselor at Thomas Jefferson Middle School, ten anonymous families got these surprise bags with the following items:
That, in itself, is an incredible bag of items that would definitely feed a family well. But the way I see it, if we are going to help, go big or go home! It seems that all of the companies that donated the rest of the food items felt the same way. In addition to the food from Lowes Foods, these families also got each of these in their bag:
Each bag also had a letter attached, describing the Pay It Forward movement and who donated items to each of their families. This may seem like a small drop in the pond for those who need help but just as the Pay It Forward Day site explains, it is a ripple effect. Giving back is never just a small thing, especially to those who got all of these extras when they may have needed it most and not expected to have it. I am hoping to be a part of this movement again - will you?
This is Oakley Debbs. Although I never met Oakley, I consider him and his family to be the most amazing people that walk the earth. Oakley's life was stopped short due to an anaphylactic reaction. He was not my son and his family is not related to me but I consider them to be a part of my family. You see, as a food allergy mother to a son who is allergic to peanuts, eggs, shellfish and watermelon I can almost feel the terror and helplessness of losing a child. I say almost because, although it touches my heart so closely, I can never truly know how this feels. The Debbs family has lost a son and I have not. I would not be able to lift myself up if this happened to my son. The fact that this family is allowing their strength to be the strength for others is a super power. Their dedication to educate others, provide comfort for others and to share with others keeps Oakley alive within all of our hearts and minds. Many of us are asked If you died tomorrow, would you have accomplished something amazing during your life? But how many people can actually answer that what is even more important is what you accomplish AFTER your life. "This child of mine, he was a rock star, he was a good, good kid. And always in my heart of hearts, I knew that he would make a difference in his life, I just didn't know it would be after he passed away. So that's a big part of my driving force- the legacy of Oakley." - Merrill Debbs, Oakley's mom and co-founder of Red Sneakers For Oakley.
The Only Angel in Shoes Oakley's family uses the memory of Oakley's habit of wearing red shoes as a symbol of support and awareness. They saw a need for our food allergy community and rose to our side so that our families would be safer. How many unnecessary deaths have been caused by an anaphylactic reaction that could have most likely been prevented if food allergies were explained a bit more? How many times have you heard a person commenting "I was never told this would happen so quickly' or "I didn't know the label said it contained an allergen"- unless the people that you are interacting with every day have the correct knowledge about how to prevent a reaction, they will not understand how to save more lives. There is no assuming. There is no time to assume. There is only education, support and preparedness. Food allergies are so often pushed into the background because it is an invisible disease- until it's not. The power of the color of a pair of shoes makes us all more visible and when we are visible, people open their eyes. It's a small step but it's a beginning and we need to continue.
"Red is the Color of Extremes. It's the color of passionate love, seduction, violence, danger, anger and adventure. Our prehistoric ancestors saw red as the color of fire and blood- energy and primal forces - most of red's symbolism today arises from its powerful associations in the past." (at Colormatters.com ) I think this accurately depicts life with food allergies as well as the growing strength within our community. We choose power, we choose energy and we choose to be extreme because we know that is what will help save more lives. Oakley's spirit truly drives us. And because food allergies have different extremes themselves, I wanted to share some of the touching testimonials on RedSneakers.org in hopes that anyone reading this will understand that they are not alone.
"I just wanted to let you know of yet another life you and Oakley have saved."
"And because of that we will never forget Oakley..."
Our community needs more support because not all of us are as strong as the Debbs family. Sometimes, we need to laugh, cry, scream, run or just say nothing because it's what we need to do to be able to cope. Regardless of what you need, I wanted to share this resource with all of you so that you can reach out to them if you need them. You know I am always here to help in any way that I can but sometimes, I am not enough for someone and I am ok with that. I don't have all of the answers, most of us don't. The important thing to remember is to ask for help.
Thank you for what you do for all of us, each and every day. I applaud your bravery and I admire your willingness to help rather than hurt. I have shared "Food allergy support; this is a vast, never-ending place where people from all over the world meet. This is a family that you never knew existed and that you didn't think would ever be a part of your life." I am so very grateful to have you as part of my family even before I knew that I needed you ~
You all know that I share openly and honestly. I've stated that with ALL products, allergy-friendly or not, there are good products and there are just plain crappy products. Life is too short to eat crappy products, right? And bread....oh my goodness, if I could have just one thing that tasted exactly like my foods before food allergies, I would say bread. So simple but so very true. We all know- even Oprah loves it. Then a few weeks ago, I was asked if I wanted to try a loaf of Bloomfield Farms Gluten Free White Sandwich Bread. I agreed but honestly, the words Vegan bread kind of scare me whenever I see them. I tend to immediately picture something that's heavy, seedy and healthy but just not something that I would continue to eat on a daily basis. But oh my Bloomfield Farms- you ROCKED my bread world!
Smell This may seem weird but I the first thing that I do with any food is smell it. Let's face it, if you open a package and the smell turns you off no matter how good it tastes, how would you even share it then? "Yeah, I tried this and it smells really weird but here, taste it."....uh, not gonna fly. Luckily, the smell was the very first thing that I noticed when I opened my loaf. Do you remember making sandwiches when you were little and there was that nice bread smell? I am happy to share that it's tucked into every loaf of Bloomfield Farms.
The BEST SunButter & jelly I've had in awhile!
Texture Unlike many other allergy-friendly bread products, their White Sandwich Bread is soft just like regular bread and it's moist but not soggy. (For those of you new to Vegan or gluten free breads, this is a huge thing to overcome with these products. Usually, most of them are either firmer than what you had hoped or are kind of gummy.) Even their crust is good! Oh my...my mouth is watering just thinking about it! Seriously! Plus- no after taste, just bread taste.
Grilled vs. a Plain Sammie Ok, I admit making a simple SunButter & jelly sandwich was heavenly with this bread. Seriously. To conduct a thorough product review, I wanted to savor Bloomfield Farms in all forms. Because being able to have a sandwich that you can pack and go and it still stays soft and moist is amazing. I wanted to see how these slices held up to grilling. Testing areas included seeing if the bread became too hard or chewy upon grilling and if the taste changed at all (again, bread with icky after taste is off-putting). The verdict? OH.MY.GAWH Bloomfield Farms...can you come live next door to me so I can live on your bread?! You remember how I mentioned the crust was even good- when it's grilled, it's similar to crusty Italian bread but slightly crispy with a bit of a tenderness on the inside. Oooohhh....I am drooling on my keyboard again. I told you I like bread.
Toasted Yes, I toasted it too. You make think this step was not relevant since I grilled it but a good bread tester knows some of us just prefer a piece of toast. Toasting these bad boys gave me similar results as grilling which surprised me a bit. The bread still stayed crispy yet tender on the inside.
The Ultimate Bread Test This is a biggie. One factor that is utterly important, especially when you (most likely) have to mail order a product and know you cannot use it up as long as it will last- freezing. How many times have you put your allergy-friendly products into the freezer only to have them crumble, fall apart upon using them or just get plain gross and stale? Bloomfield Farms passed the freezing test with flying colors. I tried freezing it, then toasting it first. I also froze it, then thawed it in the fridge and prepared it as a packable sandwich. BOTH turned out with the same results- the bread was STILL soft and tasted great. This is like miracle bread. I know I must sound corny right now but come on fellow foodies, you totally get me right?
Frozen & prepared- STILL amazing!
The Only Downside There is always some kind of downside, no matter how large or small, right? But this is a good downside...does that make sense? The only way to get a loaf of Bloomfield Farms Gluten Free White Sandwich Bread is to order it. MOST often, they are sold out but after trying it, this is completely understandable. For convenience sake, click here to see if you can buy some now. If you are on their website, you must find the photo of the bread in the slider pictures and click on it to order it. You will notice that Bloomfield Farms also offers baking mixes but I didn't get to try those.
Ingredients Because that is always one of the most important things! Water, modified tapioca starch, white rice flour, potato starch, corn starch, palm oil, evaporated cane juice, contains less than 2% of each of the following: millet flour, dried yeast (yeast, sorbitan monostearate), modified cellulose, canola oil, sea salt, sorghum flour, xanthan gum, guar gum, rice bran extract, cultured dextrose, calcium sulfate, enzymes, ascorbic acid. Bloomfield Farms is Certified gluten free from the Celiac Support Association, made in a dedicated gluten and nut free facility and is free of wheat, soy, nut, egg and dairy.
A huge HUGE bready, carby happy blogger hug to Bloomfield Farms for sending this loaf of love to me (please feel free to send me any and all extras, leftovers/rejects). To find out more visit them at thebloomfielfarms.com and give them a follow on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
*Never any compensation except for the products themselves to review as all of my reviews are always honest
One blogger's opinion FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) for those with food allergies, this has been a name that has been part of many aspects of the food allergy world. We have seen them praised on social media for all of their help, they have held walks and donated to food allergy research but (yes, there is a but) in my opinion, there is another side to this organization. For a long time, I bit my tongue because I felt it may make me seem unprofessional to air my differences. Then it occurred to me- I don't need FARE to like me, I just need them to do their job correctly and help my fellow food allergy families.
I'm Not Bitter, I'm Flat Out Angry With the recent announcement of James Baker stepping down, thoughts that I've had pushed way down for a long time came back to life. I'd like to say that this article is purely based on my experiences and those that I have spoken with that will remain anonymous. When I see injustice out in the open and nobody feels safe speaking up, it makes me angry. I have spoken with food allergy parents, persons that have had dealings one way or another with this organization directly and indirectly, doctors that have helped them and yes, I am one of them as well. Has FARE done some good for food allergies? Of course but the way that people were treated is not the standard that they should continue to bring going forward. My purpose of this article is not to bash them but hopefully to let them know that they are not doing the best job that they can do for us. From what I have heard and been told, it is my opinon that the majority of the food allergy community does not feel that the organization is working in the best light of our community and that the end of the current CEO should bring to the surface multiple areas that need to be and should be fixed before going forward if FARE truly wants to make a difference. All of the people that you have been talking down to, all of the people that have been met with anger and negativity, all of the people that felt intimidated not to work with other organizations while working with you and all of the countless volunteers that get paid nothing NOTHING to help your organization that don't even get a pat on the back are all of the people that you are failing. The saddest thing about all of this is that it's discussed often within the food allergy community but your organization has become so unapproachable that nobody can tell you this. Volunteers that have spoken up have been abruptly released from their services directly after wards. People have contacted your support staff when they needed direction for their walks or events and got no support, not even a pleasant hello. I have even been told that speakers that were scheduled to speak at one event had to cancel because it was frowned upon due to a conflict of interest with FARE. This baffles me- the last time I checked, our food allergy community was supposed to rally together to build a stronger community. These actions are quite the opposite. It's not me- it is, in fact, you FARE.
Is Anyone Else Looking at Numbers?! When people hear the term "Non-Profit", they assume that the organization doesn't make much money for themselves but instead, gives most of their profits to their cause, right? To be specific, the dictionary describes a non-profit as "not established for the purpose of making a profit; not entered into for money." This being said, we assume that all of those walks, events, dinners, etc. are bringing in a bunch of money for food allergy research and education which it did, yay! This being said (again) what do you think a CEO of a non-profit would be making for an annual salary? Wait for it......
Not bad for a non-profit, huh? And this in addition to his $225,000 salary as seen on UMSalary.info
I could be stretching my thoughts but isn't this kind of how the whole Epigate thing started? That's a lot of money and FARE you can argue that I don't understand the logistics, what money was made and donated versus salaries and overhead and blah, blah,blah but in the end, it is my opinion that our community is seeing a number that seems far too large for a non-profit employee to be bringing home. It seems that this is a number that means more money in his pocket and less toward the purpose you started out to serve. Does Mr. Baker deserve to get paid for his time- absolutely but holy cow FARE.... I am just shaking my head. FARE's 2016 Form 990 can be seen here but seeing $225,000 and thinking about all of those volunteers not getting paid for their time just doesn't add up morally to me.
Just to prove that I do my research here is a wonderful and precise article on this very topic shared on ThoughtCo. which points fingers at other non-profit CEO's not doing their organizations justice. In the same breath, if you try to tell me it's not uncommon for this salary range to be the norm, let me also quote from the same article just so you know I am not just spitting out useless information "the lowest paid President/CEO/Commissioner was The Salvation Army's Commissioner Todd Bassett who receives a salary of only $13,000 per year (plus housing) for managing the $2 billion organization.That means about $0.93 per dollar earned goes back out to local charity causes."
Time Travel Let's backtrack for just a moment to my personal experience. I hosted a FARE Walk back in 2013. Bear with me as some of this may sound catty but this is not a bitching session, just a very honest session. Did I have help from the coordinators before or the day of the event? Nope. In fact, my coordinator showed up 2 hours late and did nothing. Did FARE include our walk in their social media and mailing- nope. I was later told it was because it was such a new walk that other larger walks took precedence. Regardless of all of the negative crap that happened before, during and after I fulfilled my obligations to my community- we had an amazing day and I did manage to raise just $150 shy of $10,000 which (from what I was told) is seen as an acceptable amount for a first time walk. And as soon as it was done and I was exhausted, I already had plans on how to make the following year bigger and better. Not for myself, not even for FARE but for my community because they are the reason we rally together and support each other.
The next year did not happen. Unbeknownst to me, FARE had decided to remove me as Walk Chair and replace me with a corporate donor that they felt would bring in more money. They also informed me that they were including a new team member that happened to be a local person that I shall not name who called FARE and told them malicious, horrible untruths (read here) and yet, FARE found this person to be the type of person that they wanted representing them. So you see FARE, I was angry for a long, long time but I got over it. I didn't want to make waves or ruffle feathers and I chalked it up to a bunch of bad decisions that were made on your part. I forgot and moved on. Until I began to hear many, many others describing similar grievances.... It's not me- it is, in fact, you FARE.
So FARE, the ball is in your court and all of us are waiting to see how you advance. I'm sure most won't feel comfortable stepping forward to you but I'm putting everything out there for you to chew on. I will send you positive thoughts in hopes that you will emerge a better organization and take us all by surprise this time.
Back in 2013, I was approached by Valerie Johnston of Healthline who offered to write a guest post for my blog. Because of my own personal battles of difficult-to-diagnose symptoms and years of consulting with so many others that had similar things happen with their health, I felt Valerie's share of The Strong Link Between Allergies and Hormones was a perfect fit to try to explain why some of us need to take our health one step further for answers. As she so perfectly put it "Because the immune system and the hormone system are pretty closely related, when one changes, so does the other." Some of you may scoff and I've had a ton of people tell me that there is no evidence that foods and hormones are linked but as I tell them- there IS proof. I have and am living it. I have counseled people who are living it.
Then, I came across an article by Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS "The Definitive Guide to Foods For Hormone Health". It's one of those articles that you read and shake your head in agreement and then want to share it, screaming from the rooftops See?! I told you so!!! for those who are skeptical. I get that not everyone can understand when it doesn't happen to them but in the very least, be kind enough and open-minded enough to listen and consider what happens to others because some day, it may be you needing answers like these. And regardless of how you may have dismissed us before, we will be waiting to listen and help you when you need it. Still unsure of what I mean? Let me share a few excerpts from Dr. Axe's article:
"In some cases, medications might mask the symptoms of hormonal problems and not address the underlying cause." Why is this important? Because when your body is not functioning well, it also begins to become hypersensitive to other things, such as medications. Often this leads to a new set of symptoms that are difficult to identify.
"If your diet doesn't supply enough energy or "materials" to make all the hormones you need, it'll prioritize production of stress hormones first because they're essential for survival." This was a dead-ringer for me personally... two years, $10,000 of unnecessary medical bills, procedures and prescriptions because doctors kept telling me it was stress. Never be afraid to question anything that you feel is not in your best interest.
"When the immune system is overactive due to high stress levels, genetics, or an inflammatory diet, you may develop autoimmune reactions as your body attacks its own tissue or glands." This statement alone is all the proof that I need for those who tell me food intolerances are not a real thing. As I've stated before just because food intolerances are not life-threatening, it doesn't mean they are not life-altering.
Now is the part when most of us read the article but say I can't do this, it's too difficult and I get it- I was one of those people too. Luckily Dr. Axe includes the foods that should be on your shopping list, tips on healthy eating and sample menu ideas for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks (very similar to my food allergy consults- great minds think alike!). Not only is this helpful but it's crucial- the foods that you put into your body can literally be what makes you feel better or worse. If you feed yourself the inflammatory foods, your body will not get well. The truth is- when we don't feel well and we aren't getting answers quickly enough, we need someone to point us in the right direction. Especially when we are at the point of being stressed, easy is the best thing until our body equalizes and we can think a bit more clearly again.
How does a restaurant keep their customers with food allergies safe and happy?
They listen to Chef Keith Norman
I had the honor of reading a preview of Chef Keith Norman's book due to be published soon titled Allergen Awareness A Chef''s Perspective ... it's so new, I can't even share the cover! Beginning with his very first sentence "The reality that a life can be lost by eating a certain food item should be motivation enough for training, advocacy and spreading awareness." I knew he put his heart and soul into it. Although Keith's book is written as an amazing manual for food allergy safety, it's so much more than that. Keith shares some of his own family life including heart-warming tidbits about Big Ma and a toe... I could tell you, but you will have to grab a copy and find out.
Who This Book is Written For Although Keith's book contains bunches of chef/dining/waitstaff information, I feel this book is also a wonderful guide for anyone having to learn about food allergies and safe food preparation. No kitchen, group or staff is too big or too small to have such a precise understanding of down-to-earth information coupled with cross-contamination tactics that may surprise you. Keith keeps everything in simple steps so that everyone can utilize his years of experience within the food allergy community.
Why You Need This Book
He includes testimonials from parents as well as others that he has worked alongside and all share how much dedication Keith gives to keeping all of his customers safe and well fed
Chef Keith has an impressive list of food memberships, awards and recognitions that clearly prove his dedication
Offers scenarios for customer and waiter situations (this includes how to say no to a customer)
Step by step instructions for procedures as well as signage
Samples of banquet and catering allergen guest lists as a starting point for allergy newbies
Even more crucial allergy safety information that will get any kitchen ready to feed safely
What I Love About This Book Many of us can get confused with all of the food allergy information that we need to learn and can easily make a mistake without thinking about it. For instance, Chef Keith takes the precautions list a step further away from the kitchen. When you travel or when you have a food allergic guest, do you also consider the spreading of allergens in areas such as the waitstaff, concession stands, front desk or valet? Keith points out that our kitchens can be ready for safety but unless everyone is on board, that valet who was snacking on nuts and then shook your hand could mean the end of a stay before it's even begun.
My Favorite Quotes Throughout his book, Chef Keith uses statements that are so very strong but also so very specific and to the point- with food allergies, this is an absolute must. For anyone to understand how to keep someone safe with food allergies, there needs to be a perfect mixture of compassion, professionalism and a touch of subtlety. This book touches on all of those points. As a parent of a child with multiple food allergies, I read his book and found myself continuously nodding my head wishing more people could be in this mindset. Some of my personal favorites include
"One allergen affects the entire family and every friend."
"We have created a heart centered culture, an environment, a safe place for food allergic guests."
"Treat all allergies the same- a mushroom allergy should be handled the same way a peanut allergy is handled."
"Proactive is not a reactive approach."
Final Thoughts I will admit, I am personally biased. I met Chef Kieth a few years back and I admittedly knew he was just the type of person that always wanted a hug and to feed everyone safely. I have never seen him give anything less than 100% and anyone who is meeting him for the first time will absolutely feel the exact same way. If you are a person with food allergies or a parent of a child with food allergies, connect with him and you will understand. If you are an organization or a dining facility that is in need of guidance without flaw, contact him and he will exceed your expectations. You can find Keith on Twitter as well as LinkedIn and if you are in Las Vegas, stop in and see him at the South Point Hotel and Casino. One thing is for sure- Keith will keep you safe but he will also make sure you are in his heart for life.