Friday, July 29, 2016

I really am ALLERGIC TO WATER (Coconut water filters)

Out of all the substances on the planet, one would think water is the safest for people with allergies.  Not so if you are someone who is allergic to coconut.

In the distant past I remember getting an email or two from readers who asked me about the safety of coconut carbon filters.  I always replied with a big, honest "Sorry, I have NO IDEA what you are talking about."  Logically, a water filter is supposed to filter, not add stuff to the water, right?

Then I had an experience of my own.

I went to my allergy doctor about a year ago for an annual check up.  The kind of little check-in where he refills the epi -pen and steroid prescriptions,etc.  I happened to mention to him that it almost always felt like I had a lump in my throat.  When I swallowed, it felt like something was catching. . . and sometimes my throat itched a little bit.  I thought it was probably unrelated to allergies, but had him look.  He said he DEFINITELY thought it was allergy related.  It went away whenever I took zyrtec, after all.  He had me do some exploring to try and see what it was, but we couldn't identify any brand new allergies, and he doubted it was environmental because of how it manifested in in a condition called Eosinophilic (ee-uh-sin-uh-fil-ik) esophagitis.

After a few months it subsided on its own and I didn't figure out the cause. . . until I realized. . .

Several months ago, we had a water leak in our kitchen.  We had to unhook all our relatively new marvelous reverse osmosis water system and start drinking regular tapwater for a few months until we reconstructed our damaged walls and cabinets, etc.  During that time I had no allergic problems at all.  The lump in my throat went away.  When our reverse osmosis was freshly installed again along with all  its brand new filters I took a long drink from a tall glass of water.  I hadn't eaten anything for a long time before or after.  There it was, my throat was itching.

My husband contacted the manufacturer of the water filters because he has actually worked on water purification systems for a few of his projects as an engineer.  He knew that the best filters in the business, used to purify water for medical-grade soaps and liquid medications, were all coconut based.  But I didn't think that our home would have such a filter.  It turned out that it did.  Not only that, but the filter company is used to responding to questions about coconut allergies! Our upgrade to an excellent reverse osmosis system included an upgrade to serious coconut fibers.

As it turns out, the company does have a fix.  Unfortunately, you have to bypass the final filter that adjusts the actual taste of the water to avoid the one that has coconut. But, the manufacturer was awesome and sent us the little T-shaped part for free.

I am very allergic to coconut, but I never thought I was sensitive enough to react to the minute particles that might find their way into water from a coconut carbon filter!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

If I'm allergic to coconut, am I allergic to BABASSU?

Many people have asked the question, "If I am allergic to coconut, then how likely am I to be allergic to _________".    Fill the blank with things like palm oil, dates, babassu oil, or even pineapple.  We start to fear anything that grows on a palm-ish looking tree.

Well, it depends.  Let's do a little elementary taxonomy lesson before I tell you about my personal experience.

All living things are grouped into categories.  This method of grouping is called taxonomy.

When we talk about foods and anything that grows, it is all in the plant kingdom (plantae).  There are a zillion different kinds of plants, and out of those there are tons that we eat.  Botatnists can map them out into smaller and smaller groups depending on their genetic makeup.

For example, you may have heard that potatoes, eggplant, and tomatoes are all in the nightshade family (Solanaceae).  It is extremely rare to be allergic to all nightshades.  (As an unrelated side note, nightshade intolerance is more common.)

Different tree nuts are all in the same family and class, but are different orders.  Yet, busy allergists commonly mix all the nuts together into "tree nuts" and tell patients to avoid all of them.  People who are allergic to one tree nut are very commonly allergic to one or more others.

Palm is a family called Arecaceae.  Try spelling that without looking!  Coconut is in this palm family along with things like date palms, which are in a different genus.

Let's now compare Coconut (Cocos Nucifera) vs. Babassu (Attalea Speciosa).  They are not only in the same order, but are in the same subfamily and tribe, which aren't shown on my chart but are specific subcategories that come before genus.  Babassu is basically coconut's closest plant relative.

Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) is in the center, Attalea Speciosa (Babassu) is right above it!

I have been sent several samples by three different unrelated companies to try products with babassu oil.  Two of them claim "coconut free!" on their websites.  However, I have had powerful allergic reactions to them every time.  However, I do not have reactions to many products containing palm oil, which is also in the same genus and tribe.  Palm oil is tricky because it can be sourced from all different kinds of palms.  I have occasionally reacted if I eat a product with a lot of it.  I would never attempt to eat hearts of palm.  No thank you.

In summary:
YES, if you are allergic to coconut you will most likely be allergic to babassu.
It is somewhat likely you will react to palm.
It is unlikely that you will be allergic to dates.

You absolutely should not be allergic to pineapple unless it's an unrelated allergy.

I welcome feedback from people who are actual botanists, of course!  My knowledge of nomenclature is admittedly primitive.