Thursday, January 17, 2013
The Food Allergy Bitch Manifesto
So today's post is the Food Allergy Bitch Manifesto. These are things I believe, that I write about constantly, where my opinions are not likely to change. If you disagree strongly with most of these then you're probably not going to like me or what I write very much!
1. Don't call your or your child's condition an allergy if it doesn't conform to the clinical definition of allergy. A food allergy means something specific to doctors. A food allergy involves the immune system. Part of the reason the term has become so meaningless over the last 20 years is that people who have food intolerances, or who even just don't like a particular food, have appropriated the term.
I am never going to be o.k. with that. This kind of truthiness affects our children. People discount the life-threatening nature of their condition because others are using the term inappropriately. If you come to my web page or Facebook page and comment in this way, I am going to call you out on it, every time. Which brings us to...
2. Follow the money and consider the source accordingly. There are a lot of people in this industry who are making money off of frightened food allergy parents. A LOT.
I have seen several examples over the last year of situations where I think money played too great an influence. An advocate with a busy support group who set up a PayPal account for donations to defray the costs of her personal health situation. A new food allergy foundation whose only purpose seems to be to collect cash, without any promise as to how it will be used. Advocates who also just happen to sell bracelets, or advice, or books. Advocates who have so intermingled their personal and professional lives that their child outgrowing an allergy is something that can't be publicly admitted.
No they're not all corrupt, but monetary motivators should definitely be factored in when evaluating a source of food allergy advice.
3. Be respectful of allergies, not reverent about them. Allergies are something to be managed, not worshiped. There is no "true believer" way of dealing with them, no right words, no absolute truths. The truth is that researchers know little and moms often know even less.
It's so easy for habit to become dogma before we even know it. The next thing we know, we're eviscerating some poor fellow mother on a chat board because — gasp! — she doesn't follow the (sometimes crazy) rules we've created for ourselves.
4. Don't surround yourself solely with what makes you comfortable. It is completely possible with the advent of the internet to build oneself a fantasy sand castle of thought. If you don't like what someone says to you, only visit sites that tell you what you do like to hear. Or, better yet, find or even create a community of people who only reinforce what you already believe.
There's a huge danger with the internet. Anyone can be a publisher or a community organizer. Anyone can say whatever they want to say. That's why we've seen such a rise in conspiracy theorists: it is now literally possible to find someone else who believes what you believe, no matter how crazy it is.
I guarantee you — what you think about food allergies is not what your family, or friends, or teachers, think. Yes, they may be wrong in many aspects of their thinking, but you are not likely to completely change their thinking through education. They, too, have built sand castles. There's value in hearing and understanding other competing viewpoints.
Conflict is good. We should always be questioning. Too much time with "Mirror, mirror, on the wall" never ends well.
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