Friday, April 22, 2011

Food Awareness: Carrageenan

As you all know, I am very aware of and have become pretty particular about what I eat.

I try to follow Michael Pollan's advice of only eating foods with ingredients you can pronounce and know where it came from. To avoid "edible food-like substances".  Just because you can eat it, doesn't mean you should, nor that it is good for you.

But it is extremely hard to truly avoid all that stuff! Exhausting even. I have to be alert at all times and remember hundreds (thousands?) of little details!  This is especially hard when I don't have control of what's to eat (restaurants, potlucks, etc).

I do definitely notice a positive difference when I am eating cleaner and usually notice when I try to sneak something in. (guinea pig that I am these days)

Last night, dh and I finished a tub of ice cream together since the kids were gone...and my throat itched all night! Ugh!  I also found it a little difficult to get a full breath, though I wouldn't call it wheezing.

Obviously, my guard was down. Especially since I have finally revived from the salad dressing incident on Monday.  How quickly one forgets.... *sigh*

I read the ice cream label this morning--there is carrageenan, locust bean gum and guar gum(soy) in the ice cream. Should have read it before I ate it, huh? (I so wish our local grocer carried the Haagen-Dazs 5...maybe I should request it.) I have suspected Carrageenan before and faithfully avoid it in half 'n half  and other dairy products(so hard to find half 'n half w/o it!) ...didn't think about it in the ice cream last night, as I've had small portions here and there w/o any noticeable problems. So, it's probably a proportional thing....I did have a full bowl last night...

I did a little research this morning and it turns out Carrageenan is pretty harsh on the gut. That same gut that I am going Gluten- and Nightshade-free to try to get some healing action going on.

Apparently, there are two types of Carrageenan. One type is undegraded (food grade) and the other is degraded (hydrolyzed with acid) and is not food grade. Although undegraded Carrageenan is GRAS(generally regarded as safe) by the FDA(who you all know I don't 100% trust...), according to this article, Joanne Tobacman, a teacher of clinical internal medicine at the University of Iowa College of Internal Medicine, has found evidence in human trials that may show that carrageenan is not as safe as we once thought.

Quoted from the above article:
Dr. Tobacman shared studies that demonstrate that digestive enzymes and bacterial action convert high weight carrageenans to dangerous low molecular weight carrageenans and poligeenans in the human gut. These carrageenans have been linked to various human cancers and digestive disorders. Again, Tobacman's evidence and conclusions are based upon human tissue samples, not animal studies.

 So, yeah, something good to note for those who have digestive issues.  And my digestive enzymes probably didn't do me any favors last night with the ice cream/Carrageenan.

One real bummer is that Carrageenan doesn't always have to be labeled if it is in foods/products. So it's hard to avoid it completely.

I actually took 2 Benadryl last night in hopes of sleeping through the itch that began within an hour of eating the ice cream...but it didn't help...which really leads me to believe that in this case it's not a histamine issue, it's a gut issue.  Or maybe it's just a LOT of histamine and the Benadryl couldn't suppress it all. Not sure...

I think it's really weird that I get these itchy throat reactions when things irritate my gut.


Nikki said...

my throat closes, but my airway doesnt. my body just literally wont let me swallow. its considered less severe that way. *rolls eyes*
i dont have anyphlaxis, and im not celiac, but allergic to everything. But how do I let people know its IMPORTANT, if all they see me do is breathe less and shut down mentally. I got hurt years ago, so everyone already expects me to be weird

Tanya said...

You know, in the last year or so I have these sporadic "throat doesn't want to swallow something" experiences. Like there is a stopper mid-way or something, and yet I can still breathe. So, I guess it's a digestive system response then, eh? Lukewarm broth, like those last few sips from a bowl of soup, is one of the worst offenders, and I'm not sure why.

Nikki said...

I think its a temperature thing. by then it is more lukewarm, and i always have a really hard time with room-temperature/slightly warmer food. didnt think about that until now, actually.
there is something called EOS- im sure we would know, and the doctors would figure it out (right.)
but the allergic cells live in the throat rather than the windpipe, and these kids (or whomever has it) just stop accepting solid food- to the point that the body stops them from eating. they usually need a gastric tube, and obviously I'm not that severe, but I think my body is giving me a warning.
"I ask for assistance to slow, so I may know, and grow"
my body knows if I want that last bite or not, I just have to listen.

which is so much harder when youre in pain! I know there have been times in my life that I dont eat during the day, because
1) my body does better with eating after dark. something with the sun. its very consistent.
2) I know that by the time i DO feed it, its probably so hungry for nutrients it doesnt react.
I havent tried to play with that one so much, it just happens. Especially since taking my antinausea meds and antianxiety meds means I get a nice big dose of corn with breakfast and dinner

If you ever get something stuck in your esophagus but not your windpipe...(if you have a "stopper" feeling, it might not be a bad idea to have the info about EOS ready, as there are families who sit all night in the ER with their six year old, who can talk and breathe, but has a piece of steak halfway between his mouth and stomach, and they are waiting for daylight for a doctor to remove it.
some docs havent heard of it, but especially with corn allergies, I would not be surprised if some of our bodies have triggered a slight version for us to keep us safe.

there are VERY large ranges in EOS. Some people cant even absorb the nutrients from the gastric tubes, so it affects families differently.

hopefully its carageenan! :) But I think the other info is helpful.. happens to me sometimes, and I know to try to relax, and slow.