Thursday, May 03, 2007

A Book Review

Although food allergies are difficult at any age, kids seem to be hit particularly hard. They're young, they're vulnerable. And they aren't in control of their own lives. (well, usually)

As a parent, I worry about how my kids deal with their food restrictions. How do I help them to feel more "normal"? How do I protect them from the insidious "snacks" everyone wants to share? How do I deal with the "but its important to try new things" argument? How do I protect them from a world that doesn't understand food allergies?

One way that I help prepare them is through reading. We've always helped them through difficult times by finding books that they can relate to. There are books about moving, books on starting kindergarten and books about new siblings. But food allergies? There just aren't that many books out there that deal with this troubling subject.

I'm happy to report that we have found a book that my kids, at least, can relate to. It is called Eating Gluten Free with Emily. We read this book to help them understand about Celiac Disease, which I have. But halfway through the first reading my daughter cried out "That's just like me!", referring to the way Emily feels about her food restrictions.

Celiac disease and food allergies are different; Celiac is an autoimmune response which causes intestinal damage when gluten containing foods such as wheat are consumed. A food allergy is an antibody response to foreign food proteins, with a variety of symptoms from rashes, to gastrointestinal to full blown anaphylaxis. However, they both are treated by avoiding the offending foods.

As a short synapsis, in this book, Emily is diagnosed with Celiac disease when she develops diarrhea and a bloated belly. Testing is done through a test she needs to sleep through (an endoscopy) and for her, it is a cut and dried diagnosis, which many of us don't actually get with corn allergies. She talks about what she can still eat, and that she can get other "normal" foods from the health food store. (Again, this is not often true for corn allergies...but we can make good simulations, so the analogy may work for corn allergic kids)

Although Eating Gluten Free with Emily is not specifically corn allergy related; it helps to bolster self esteem by showing that dietary restrictions are just a small part of who you are. They can make you feel different, and can be isolating. But, following your required diet makes you feel better. And, you can still live a full life.

In the end, Emily heads off to camp with a cooler full of safe food; where she meets another kid with Celiac disease. I'm not sure how likely it is for a child to meet another with a corn allergy, but its definately possible. And the message is clear, you are not alone. You can survive, and thrive. A message I need, myself, sometimes.

This and other books about food allergies may be available from your local library, or through Inter Library loan. See your local childrens librarian for more information.

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