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Ban Foods for Entire Family, or Just Allergic Kids? 11/25/2011 - In solidarity with family members who have food allergies, many families enforce a voluntary ban on the food or foods in question. But is that an that a safe and advisable practice?

A leading dietitian claims that people who avoid foods to which they are not allergic may have problems if they attempt to reintroduce those foods later on in life. Dietitian Arlene Normand says that banning food for those without allergies is not healthy, and could lead to later health complications. Normand specifically claims that that banning foods for the whole family, just because a family member has allergies to those foods, may leave one at risk for developing sensitivities when those foods are reintroduced later.

Photo: Sandwich with gluten-free bread. CC--rmkoske"You should not avoid any food because you can sensitize the body to that food," she said. "This could lead to an intolerance when you reintroduce the food. She cites wheat as another example, saying that people who "take wheat and gluten out of their diet suffer from bloating when they reintroduce bread." However, a number of prominent voice in the medical community strongly disagree with Normand.

Many allergy specialists say there is no evidence to support that claim. Royal Prince Alfred Hospital allergy specialist Dr Robert Loblay flatly disputed Normand's claim. "There is no evidence to suggest that avoiding a food can predispose an individual to an intolerance," he Loblay. While he supported high risk allergy families eliminating foods such as gluten, milk or nuts, he said it can be difficult to enforce a total ban.

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For example, Dr Loblay says that it's fine to ban gluten for convenience when someone in the family has celiac disease. However, he says, there's no sound evidence that other people in the family should avoid eating foods containing gluten, or that they will suffer once they reintroduce it into their own diets. Alyson Kakakios of The Children's Hospital Westmead agrees that it's fine for families to place blanket bans on foods for the sake of one family member.

"If one child has a cow's milk allergy, parents are in a bit of a dilemma about whether they should have cheese, yoghurt and cow's milk in the house because the risk is that the child will mistakenly drink or eat some," she said. "But that risk has to be counterbalanced against removing or excluding whole food groups from the other children and family members who are not allergic." So, what's the verdict on blanket bans of allergens for the whole family?

Of course, everyone should weigh their own personal factors into the mix, but the current scientific thinking says that such bans are optional, and that there will likely be no increased risk of allergy if or when a banned food is reintroduced to someone who is merely avoiding the food, but not allergic to it to begin with.

One exception on overall bans might be in those cases where allergies can be life-threatening. Exposure to certain allergens, such as nuts, can have severe consequences for people who are allergic, and an outright family ban might be easy and provide a great amount of relief all around. Anaphylaxis Australia president Maria Said agrees, saying "I would encourage parents to remove the allergen from the house if it is something that can be easily removed. It's much less stressful if you don't have the fear of your child having an anaphylactic fit."

Otherwise, don't worry. Ban or don't ban depending on your family needs. Just make sure you're replacing any nutrients you might be losing out on by avoiding the banned foods. There is currently no solid scientific evidence to suggest that people who avoid foods would have any problems if they ate those foods many years later.

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8 Responses:

Heather Twist
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said this on
26 Nov 2011 2:20:28 AM PST
Kudos for both sides of the argument, but you missed a major point. In the average household, it is VERY HARD to prevent cross-contamination. I never really got "over" gluten issues until I banned the stuff from the house...even the pets. I routinely got "glutened" from holding my kid's hands after they ate it.

Also, even though no one else reacts as much as I do, their health got a whole lot better after we went GF. There really isn't a "need" for gluten in the diet, any more than there is a "need" to smoke cigarettes.

Another thing is that if one kid or parent reacts to gluten, there's a pretty good chance other family members do too. It's a lot easier to grow up eating a different cuisine, than to change diets after you are 25 or 30 or 35.

( Author)
said this on
26 Nov 2011 2:12:19 PM PST
Most celiac won't experience this level of sensitivity, and the actual rate of direct relatives who will also have CD is around 10%.

khughes - celiac
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said this on
28 Nov 2011 8:32:24 PM PST
Please cite your reference for your statement, "Most celiac (celiacs?!) won't experience this level of sensitivity." and good luck to those celiacs having to share toasters and pans and dishes with those in your family sticking things with gluten all over them. Good grief!!! Show some love for goodness sakes. That's cruel.

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said this on
28 Nov 2011 10:27:09 AM PST
I did not go entirely gluten-free in my house despite my daughter's diagnosis (at age 8). I wanted her to learn from the beginning how to deal with other food in the house, how to avoid the cross contamination and so on. I also needed her to learn that when she moves on to college and/or an apartment that the world won't revolve around her 'allergy' and that she'll need to know how to handle it. We all eat the gluten free pasta just because it's easier than fixing too separate meals, but I also stock regular bread, etc. We've been successful for four years now, but it does take a lot of work and the decision should be up to those who will be doing the work.

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said this on
28 Nov 2011 4:13:54 PM PST
Ahhhhh, good to know! I wondered about the reintroduction after a food ban if the person didn't have the allergy. Thanks!!!

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said this on
28 Nov 2011 6:00:52 PM PST
Two of our family members have celiac disease. The other two do not. I felt strongly that my husband and daughter's home should be a place where they never have to worry about being glutened. So our home is completely gluten free. Outside of our house, my younger daughter and I eat foods with gluten. This compromise seems to work really well and respects everyone involved.

khughes - celiac
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said this on
28 Nov 2011 8:25:17 PM PST
Um.. celiac disease is NOT an allergy at all. Like the first comment, we had to remove ALL gluten from the entire house before my antibodies were reduced. If you are breathing it in or absorbing it through any mucous membrane and you have this AUTO-IMMUNE DISEASE, you can get sick. This article is very poorly researched and, therefore, poorly written and even includes errors in its sentences. And I personally think a nutritionist who believes people can suddenly develop an auto-immune disease or allergy or sensitivity from going a long time without eating something is so unbelievably uneducated that they should not be quoted or receiving any sort of media attention!! It's like saying if you never do drugs or eat sugar, you may not respond well to it when you try it. Whatever. Please HELP others to better understand Celiac Disease and gluten intolerance and stop this type of utter nonsense. Our family members that do not have the same issues can eat whatever they want at restaurants or when at school or at friends' houses. And guess what?! My husband had no idea he was gluten intolerant until we all went gluten free and he would eat gluten out during lunch breaks and have major intestinal issues. Have you even seen the stats that 1 in 133 likely have this issue, but only 1 out of 3 who have a gluten intolerance are properly diagnosed??? This is a serious issue for Americans who aren't being given correct information. It is seriously maddening.

W. Clements
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said this on
05 Aug 2014 11:25:33 PM PST
Celiac is definitely autoimmune, not an allergy. Get tested for it before you stop eating wheat, or it invalidates the blood tests. The number of people being diagnosed in the US is actually 1 in 250. Northern Europe has the highest rate, with Finland being the 1 in 133.

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Why wouldn't it be gluten-free? whiskey is gluten-free. Wine is gluten-free.

Have you been tested for a stomach ulcer? That's what the pain sounds like to me. You can also get pain in your stomach from too much gas. Another possibility is GERD.