Food for thought and the future

March 24, 2020

Once she arrived at the hospital, panic ensued inside of her. What if I die right now? I didn’t get to say goodbye to my friends or family.

It felt like her head was going to explode into a million pieces. Just then, she heard the news from the nurse; she was going to be okay.

Food allergies are a growing health problem with the rate of affected people doubling approximately every 10 years. Several organizations are researching and testing various technologies to find new therapies to manage or prevent reactions.

Meanwhile, Riya Parlikar has been trying to minimize her immune system’s severe response to wheat for the past two years by introducing the allergen into her diet slowly over time, a process called desensitization.

The challenge during this process is gauging how much of the allergen can be ingested without triggering a severe response. 

“During desensitization treatment, Riya went to a birthday party, had two slices of pizza instead of one, and she had the worst reaction ever since her body didn’t know what was going on,” Viru Parlikar said.

While desensitization can help short term, there is still no cure for allergies that are long-term. However, the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma Research at Stanford University hopes to change that; they are looking to develop a lasting cure by identifying the underlying immune mechanisms that cause allergies in the first place.

Their goal is to help get rid of people’s fear of foods they are allergic to. They run trials that result in one being able to eat small pieces of food without having an allergic reaction.

“At the end of the study we will do a real-world peanut trial, where they will consume a real peanut product, and the kid or adult will get to eat the food that they are allergic to and get over their fear,” said Dr. Meng Chen, a clinical assistant professor for the Sean N. Parker Center. 

Through their treatments, they can help people get over their anxiety surrounding certain foods.

For Riya Parlikar, she believes that kids should learn about food allergies at school to help get rid of their anxieties and create a safer environment overall for kids with allergies.

“Kids at school with or without food allergies should both be educated on food allergies so that everyone will know how to deal with them,” Riya Parlikar said.

While there are many difficulties for kids, or anyone, with food allergies, as a whole, society is becoming better at helping those people. To learn more about food allergies, go to FARE.

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