Thursday, December 11, 2008

Why do I only SOMETIMES have allergic reactions?

The question has come up (thanks, Lara) of why people are allergic to some coconut sometimes, and not other times. Well, coconut allergies seem to be related to skin, in my unscientific opinion.

I've never had huge problems with coconut milk for some reason. I was able
to eat Indian and Thai food and the only problem I had was feeling a little
dizzy and having some phegm. I think that this is because it just slid
right down with soft food, unnoticed by my immune system once it got past my
mouth. If I can get coconut down my throat, it usually doesn't bother me.
My terrible reactions were if I ate something chewy or crunchy that even
gently scraped the inside of my mouth. Weird, huh. For example, I could
eat cool whip on pancakes just fine, but if I mixed it with crispy bacon, I
would end up taking benadryl as my throat closed up.

I used to eat macaroons with just a little congestion,
so I don't know what the deal is with dried coconut. But give me coconut
shrimp and I'm dying. Still, mysterious why it only happens sometimes. It
could have to do with stress levels and health or some thing. I need to go
see if there are any new books in the library, or find an allergist who has
explored these things as much as I'd like!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Sunscreen Alert!

I am a big fan of sunscreen- it keeps us from getting skin cancer and age spots and even wrinkles. It's especially important to cake it on our kids before they go outside.
Now that the weather is getting hot, I was reminded by a reader (thanks, Lara) that sunscreen is a huge issue for coconut-allergic individuals. Here is part of her email:

My son gets free sunscreen at daycare from a melanoma foundation. He broke out in an angry rash everywhere that it touched. The sunscreen turns out to be high quality and "hypo-allergenic", but it's based on coconut oil. -Lara

You would think that sunscreen for babies would be our best bet, since they watch the ingredients in them so carefully, but in actuality, kids' products have even more coconut that you could imagine. Even a super high-end HelioSol that we got from our dermatologist has small amounts of Laurel-y stuff in it.

I use these with no problems (no guarantee that they are perfect for everyone, but it works for me):

Trader Joes sunscreen, and
Badger sunscreen, found at Whole Foods and other small local health food stores for half the price of what whole foods sells it for!

I'm sure there are plenty of others, so just make sure to read labels because sunscreen sticks like glue and I know putting the wrong kind on makes my eyes puffy, my lips swell up, and gives me a huge headache and makes me dizzy. Others will just get a rash, but please be careful!
More than anything, I use hats and shirts that block sun, see the Sunscreen Solutions page.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

COIR- Help! I'm allergic to doormats!

This week was a big DUH moment that proved my theory that coconut will find me no matter where I go! I decided I wanted a new doormat, so I started shopping for them. I wanted an awesome one, so I went to fun import stores and all they have are bristly brown ones with various designs, called "coir". As I'm digging through these, my hands start itching like they are on fire. It wasn't until I started checking prices on the labels that I read that coir is actually coconut husks. As you can imagine, I changed my mind about getting a cute doormat! I'll have to keep you posted on alternatives as it seems that other than a rubber or carpet one, these coconut husk ones are here to stay and very prevalent. These are also called "cocoa mats" and come in full-sized rugs, too.
So, if you're not going around touching them, what is the harm? The fact of the matter is, they flake off tiny coconutty particles all over your house when you rub your feet on them. Then, you'll be wondering, "why am I wheezing when I sweep the floor?" Could it be your doormat?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Questions about allergies to COCONUT OILS

All the information that medical scientists and chemists have regarding allergies is a bunch of theories. I've talked at length with my allergist about some of these things, because I always just want to know WHY my crazy allergy to coconut happened sometime after I was age 28 (I'm 33 now). I've also done a lot of reading. I want to know why I react to some foods so violently sometimes and not at all to other foods that supposedly contain allergins.

One of these mysteries is why I am so terribly allergic to foods that contain coconut OILS. Allergists' theorize that you can't be allergic to oils because it is the proteins in foods that cause the allergic reaction to occur. They've done tons of tests on people who are allergic to peanuts who can safely eat peanut oil, so they say it's extremely rare to be allergic to an oil. It's a little bit confusing.
Well, I have studied coconut just a little bit, and although I'm not a chemist, I think I'm a relatively smart person and have come up with my own theories.

Coconut oil does contain coconut proteins that cause allergic reactions. I'm living proof. And this is probably why: coconut is a cold-press oil. It is processed so minimally, that depending on which manufacturer (they are mostly third-world countries FYI) made it, the purification process probably consisted of letting the coconut particles settle at the bottom of the container and pouring the oil off the top. BINGO- there is no way to chemically or mechanically remove the proteins from coconut oil that wouldn't be too costly for these producers! The difference for other oils, like peanut oil, is that they are heat-pressed and highly processed in a way that removes proteins more thoroughly.

Any insight from other allergic folks is welcome in comments. . .

Watch out for coconut in cereal

I don't think of breakfast cereal as something that usually contains coconut... and I thought I had read this label before I bought it. I guess I didn't read it carefully enough!

I recently bought these Oat n Wheat Bran Swirls at Trader Joes for my husband and 2 year old. My kiddo LOVES them, and until last night I had only tried one or two swirls with no reaction at all. The only reason I don't usually eat them is because I like to eat totally organic and very low sugar, and these are not. They are about the size of a quarter and pretty hard to chew, but they are fun for toddlers. Last night I decided that we were going to munch on them for a bedtime snack and by the time I ate my fourth little piece of cereal, my mouth was itching like crazy. It was just crawling! I glanced at the label at that time and STILL missed that there was coconut in them- I must have stopped after I got to Palm oil, because I thought to myself, "Am I allergic to palm oil, too?" It wasn't until this morning, when I woke up with the roof of my mouth so swollen that I thought my teeth were going to wiggle their way loose, and my eyes were puffy that I went and read the label AGAIN, this time I payed more attention. They've got "Dried Unsulphered Unsweetened Coconut" in them. I totally wasn't expecting it. I should have had some Benadryl before bed, but who knew?

And thus is the life of someone with a coconut allergy. Why on earth have they started putting coconut in random cereals? Aaaagggh!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Hidden Coconut in Ice Cream

Another surprise for someone with a coconut allergy is how many ice creams contain coconut- even if they are totally unrelated to coconut.
I just found out that TWO of my favorite ice creams at Baskin Robbins contain coconut oil- Chocolate Mousse Royale, and Mississippi Mud. I have never had any sort of reaction to these, but did have one to the No Sugar Added Chocolate Chocolate Chip.
Also, many store brands (such as Moose tracks, etc) have coconut or coconut oil in them, so please read labels carefully.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Coconut-based Cleaning Products to avoid

This really kills me. I started buying some "green" or "environmentally friendly" or "non-toxic" cleaning products because I like staying away from harmful chemicals. Guess what? The majority of them are coconut-based and actually give me an asthmatic reaction (wheezing, eyes watering, trouble breathing) when I use them. I can't tell you how disappointed I am because otherwise, I would totally use these products! I don't think that coconut allergies are so rare that flooding the world with more coconut products isn't going to have some consequences. My husband heard about these eco-friendly products and mentioned that we should maybe start using them. I told them they all had coconut in them and he said, "Well, you're not putting them on your body or eating them." But, alas, my reaction to them is scarier than a rash or a stomach ache- they affect my breathing!

Check them out (I'll get pictures up later)- they are ALL COCONUT-BASED:

Furniture polish- "Howard Naturals- Wood Cleaner and Polish" claims on the front to be "natural vegetable-derived ingredients with essential fragrances, Invigorating Sandalwood-Tangerine" but the first two ingredients are soy and coconut oil.

Laundry Detergents-
"Seventh Generation"
Method Brand

Toilet Bowl Cleaners-

Clorox "Green Works"
Seventh Generation "Emerald Cypress and Fir"

General Cleaners
Clorox "Green Works" has a "coconut-based cleaning agent (nonionic surfactant)" for both their all-purpose and glass cleaners.
Even "Simple Green" cleaners give me a terrible reaction, but I can't tell what it is that I'm allergic to in them.

You know, I have a hunch that whatever they are doing to this coconut isn't the best for the environment either if all of us are developing horrible coconut allergies.
My personal method for cleaning is one of prevention: wipe down counter tops and showers right after using them to prevent hard water stains. Also, this is shocking, but if you run a paper towel around in your toilet on the toilet brush, then get out the harder stains with a pumice stone, you can get it to look clean (can't avoid using a little bleach, but you can do without other toxic chemicals). Vinegar does wonders on glass and baking soda is great for scouring tough stains!