Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Food Allergy Misdiagnosis and Misinformed Doctors

For most people who have suffered for years only to find out later that a food allergy or corn allergy is the culprit of nearly all their suffering, there is a always a combination of two things that keep them from the correct diagnosis.

Misdiagnosis and Ignorant Doctors.

For many of the allergy symptoms there are "diseases" that doctors can diagnose them as having, and medications to give to help alleviate those symptoms. Often in these diseases, the medications are variants of steroids or anti-histamines, which help the allergic reaction which further the likelihood of the misdiagnosis. Some medications in these diseases merely manage the appearance of symptoms, such as anti-diarrheal, anti-nausea, anti-reflux, mood stabilizers.

Because there are a multitude of symptoms that come with allergic reactions, you can have a food allergy and never have your throat close or get hives. Unfortunately, many doctors are still misinformed about this and think that unless you get a clear case of hives or your throat closes shut, you can't possibly have a food allergy.

We've talked on this blog before, several times, about how tests are not the end-all-be-all of food allergy diagnosis. The most accurate tests are not 100% accurate.

What is 100% accurate if you're paying attention and you know all the symptoms that can be linked to food allergy reactions and watch for them, is the double blind food allergy intake test.  Where the patient is given food with their allergen in it, and again food without their allergen in it, and the person giving it to them doesn't know which food contains their allergen and which doesn't, nor does the patient.

Unfortunately, even in these cases.. with some doctors.. not all symptoms of allergic reaction are included by the doctor for medical diagnosis. 

The most common symptoms that I run across that are almost always missed as a food allergy reaction, especially in infants and children:

Failure to Thrive
Fear of Food
Distended/Bloated Belly
Digestive problems
Ear Infections
Sinus Infections
Trouble Swallowing
Asthmatic issues
ADD/Austism behavioral or developmental problems

Recently, on our favorite corn-free forum, Delphi Forums - Avoiding Corn, there was a posting by a woman whose child has suffered needlessly for which she has tried in desperation to find a solution. [Read her full story here]

Her son went through the first year of his life with severe reflux, and failure to thrive. He wouldn't eat and developed an oral aversion, so the doctors put in a feeding tube to force feed him to keep him alive. His parents worked to train him to eat, but being so happy that he was actually eating, they didn't notice that he would only eat because that was what he was trained to do. (Much like training a child to eat pennies or an abused child being trained to accept the abuse.)

Reading her story was heart-wrenching for me, as I completely understand her child's predicament, and how well-meaning efforts to make him live were in reality the equivalent of the most cruel torture. As an infant, he tried in every way at his disposal to tell them that it was the food that was the problem, but no one understood.

She later stumbled into the discovery that her child was allergic to corn, as her attempts to give the child actual corn resulted in hives.  So she decided to remove corn products from his diet to test it, and saw him vastly improve in days and actually seek out food on his own.

Yet despite the improvement from avoidance, and his health worsening upon reintroduction of the food, his current doctor refuses to believe that corn is the problem. Because the doctor was trained to believe the (not always accurate) allergy tests, instead of the improvement in the patient.

We've become a nation more afraid that children won't get proper nutrition than we are for the child's actual health. Vegans remove foods successfully. Vegetarians do it successfully. People with peanut, seafood, milk, egg, wheat. and other allergies do it successfully. Yet there is this fear.

Luckily, with the advances in diagnosing Celiac and gluten-intolerance, doctors are more ready and able to look to foods as the culprit. Unfortunately, unless the tests back up the food challenge results, many doctors still consider removing any one food from a child's diet as bad parenting.

The problem is that there is really no one person to blame. It's how our doctors are being taught. The information or lack of it that they get about food allergies, often sponsored by the food companies themselves. Parents rely on their doctors to be experts, and want to believe that they can trust them to find the correct solution.

It's really a little known perfect storm.


Michelle said...

Nice article!
Keep it up, Michelle

Becca said...

Great article. We often recommend food allergy testing or food elimination from diets to friends with "mystery" ailments. Living corn free is sometimes difficult but we are so much healthier as a result.