A Word from Mr. Stone

    I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss something that is very important to my family and I. Food allergies. As some of you might know my son, Hunter, has been moderately allergic to milk and cheese since he was born. He cannot have any milk or cheese products. Imagine never being able to eat ice cream and pizza or even to know what they taste like. As a parent imagine telling your child that they cannot have what all the other children love to eat.

    When most people hear about food allergies they tend to take it very lightly, believing that those suffering from food allergies only experience minor discomfort or upset stomachs and that it is nothing to concern them. Unfortunately this is not the case. Food allergies are different from food intolerance. A food intolerance means that your body has trouble digesting a certain type of food and will typically result in an upset stomach or diarrhea. However, a food allergy means that your immune system recognizes certain food proteins as a threat and attempts to protect the body. The resulting chemical imbalance causes reactions that range in severity from mild reactions, like hives, to moderate reactions, including vomiting and shortness of breath, to severe reactions which include anaphylaxis shock and even death.

    Over the past 8 to 10 years the number of people suffering from food allergies has dramatically increased and it is now estimated that approximately 12 million Americans suffer from some sort of food allergy. A large percentage of those 12 million people are young children like my son. Another alarming trend in food allergies is that more and more people young and old are finding that they are sadly allergic to foods that they have eaten all their lives.

    At this point most people think that food allergies are still not a big deal. Just don't eat the foods that you are allergic to. Well it goes way, way beyond this. Most food products are made from a multitude of ingredients most of which we cannot pronounce. Many of these unpronounceable ingredients are themselves a combination of still other ingredients. So those with food allergies need to read the ingredient labels very carefully to see if it contains the allergens to which they are allergic to. They also need to be aware of all of the different forms, and there are several, in which the allergen may appear. In addition, food products that may not contain a specific allergen might still be produced on equipment that makes other products which contain that allergen. In these cases traces of the allergen can be found in the product that supposedly did not contain the allergen. These traces can be enough to trigger allergic reactions in some people. In some cases the person does not even need to ingest the allergen. For example in rare cases just having particles of the allergen in the air (i.e. smelling it) can be enough to trigger a reaction.

    Food allergies are a growing concern for everyone and there is much that can be done to help those suffering from food allergies. For example on September 15th my family and I participated in an annual walk in Chicago for the FAAN organization (Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network). This walk was held to raise awareness of food allergies and to raise funds for research. By far the most beneficial thing that anyone could do is to educate themselves on food allergies so that they can understand what living with a food allergy is like. Additionally, simple things like washing your hands or wiping off your table after you eat to remove allergens can help keep others safe. Please join my family in helping to protect others with food allergies.

Doug Stone


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