This weekend my blog is in the Mail on Sunday!
The last time I featured in the Daily Mail was in the ‘woman is couch potato’ article about exercise induced anaphylaxis… I still get people mentioning this article to me, even people from China have seen it!
However this week I have been speaking to the rather lovely Alice Smellie. I had to google her just to make sure she WAS actually real (I’m so suspicious). She is completely real and normally writes about health and fashion, amongst other things and is charming, friendly and very kind about my blog (*alarm bells*). Having read some of Alice’s work it is always well researched, well written and not sensationalist in any way. She also writes for InStyle, Brides Magazine and the Daily Telegraph.
So, if you want to see What Allergy? blog featured in the Mail on Sunday it was featured on Sunday 16th November 2014, in the main newspaper bit in the Health section. It’s a proud moment to buy a main stream newspaper and find yourself featured 😉
I’m feeling very proud.
However the same week, I read Michelle Berriedale-Johnsons’s blog.
“Trotting out the old ‘self diagnosis food fad’ story yet again”
It’s not the first time the Daily Mail have written about this and it makes my blood run cold.
I really have had enough of bad journalism about allergies and intolerances and people’s attitudes in general to what they rather flippantly brand ‘fussy eaters. We are NOT fussy eaters. This is NOT a lifestyle choice. I carry two adrenaline auto-injectors everywhere because I fear the day when I have my next anaphylactic reaction, because the chances are that I will. People make mistakes, I make mistakes, as you’ll know if you read this blog. Cross contamination happens, no one wants or intends it to but that’s just life. We cannot live in a bubble. I have recently burst my bubble and I’m not ready to sneak back inside it.
But this attitude towards those of us with allergies and intolerances actually puts lives at risk. When most people you meet think you are ‘just being fussy’ is it any wonder they don’t take extra care to help you stay safe? Is it any wonder they believe a little bit won’t kill you? Is it any wonder there is so much bad press when so called TV doctors who are ‘experts’ go public in this way?
The reason so many people ‘self diagnose’ is that they KNOW the food is affecting them, but it is so hard to get an allergy referral and diagnosis. You have to practically drop down with anaphylaxis to get taken seriously. The NHS allergy services are practically on their knees trying to cope with the referrals and patients they do have.
To get any help with food intolerances is infinitely more difficult – and many don’t find an understanding doctor or nutritionist who can help them through the grueling process of an elimination diet. I have both food allergies and intolerances and whilst the allergies are very frightening the food intolerances give me far more ongoing pain and discomfort. Certain foods cause my eczema to flare up; living with permanent eczema is NOT something I would recommend. It seriously affects your quality of life, self confidence, sleep deprivation, attitudes to your skin, the way you look. It hurts! Stomach cramps, bloating, flatulence are also unsociable and can be crippling.
If cutting out a food means someone is free from these symptoms then why shouldn’t they ‘claim’ the label they so rightly want to have. Why shouldn’t they tell others, because finding out what causes your health problems is like a holy grail. It’s a light bulb moment. You can then move on, working out how to live, cook and avoid that food. It’s important to seek medical advice and find a recommended nutritionist if you suspect you have food intolerances; an elimination diet is really the only sure fire way of diagnosing one.
People probably do feel better when they begin to think more carefully about what they eat in general and choose healthier products but that doesn’t mean that most people who think they have allergies are just being fussy.
So Daily Mail. I am disappointed. I don’t want to read this rubbish. Are you brave enough to respond and comment on here? I doubt it.
I am hoping that Dr Ranj Singh, a paediatrician and TV doctor has perhaps been misquoted as there is some sense in the article. It isn’t healthy to cut out whole food groups if you are not substituting your diet with healthy foods to replace the lost nutrients and minerals. And yes, we know that having food tests done isn’t always proof that you have an ‘allergy’. Food intolerances are not possible to diagnose with a blood test but jeez, can we not be more tolerant of those who have or even think they have a food intolerance? Why do we have to make the leap that ‘most’ people who think they have a food allergy or intolerance are just paranoid? Why?
Dr Ranj Singh says: “While around 30 per cent of adults think that they are allergic to some type of food, in reality, it’s likely to be closer to 2 per cent.” Well done Ranj, 2% is the correct statistic for the number of people diagnosed with allergies in the UK, we know this already so not really a useful thing to say. The number of people with food intolerances is about 40%. We do get the two terms mixed up but both groups of people are ill if they eat that food so why shouldn’t they be at liberty to avoid it as they so choose? Why are ridiculed for doing so?
It is one of the only conditions that it seems acceptable to lambast and attack in this way. Would you accuse 40% of disabled people on disability allowance of just being lazy? As I write this a realise that many disabled people are having to go through rigorous processes to prove just this but you get my point.
We can’t eat certain foods. Big deal. Get over it. We have to live with it so why do people find it so hard to accept? Having allergies is quite normal, having disabilities is just every day life for those people who are born with them so why can’t we be a more tolerant nation?
Dr Ranj Singh, I suggest you take a more holistic view with your patients and help them find a nutritionist to discover if they a food intolerance. Help them! Don’t go on TV and to the tabloids branding them as ‘paranoid’. With a doctor like that it’s no wonder they are paranoid. I have been there, banging my head against that brick wall. Covered in eczema and knowing that when I cut it out dairy for instance, my eczema goes away. No, my doctor wouldn’t listen to me either. He told me, “No, you have peanut allergy, you cannot be allergic to anything else.” But when I did eat anything with dairy in it the eczema came back. Having spent a lifetime struggling with eczema I wanted him to learn with me, so maybe he could help other patients with chronic eczema. But no. It wasn’t to be. GPs struggle with conditions like eczema and allergies because they are complex but they are not in our minds, they are real, life limiting and pretty horrible to live with so we could do without all the raised eyebrows and stupid comments. With Dr Ranj Singh raising his voice about his pet subject I doubt things will get easier any time soon.
However perhaps I should be more calm about this. From my own experience with the Daily Mail, and since I am such a couch potato and cannot even walk up the stairs let alone use a treadmill without breaking out in hives (this is what the Daily Mail said about me, not my words, see link above if you missed it) there is every chance that there is a shred of Dr Ranj’s actual words and the rest has been written and made up by yet another uneducated Daily Mail Journalist. If it was all the work of Ranj then sorry Daily Mail for the slur, but shame on you Dr Ranj.
Just this week the lovely Michelle and myself had a conversation with a confused chef who asked us whether most people who say they can’t eat wheat are just having a problem because the kind of bread most of us eat has no goodness left in it, is highly processed, too much yeast etc. etc. A view other chefs have voiced, including Paul Hollywood who has seen the wrath of gluten free tweeters when his words were taken out of context. I guess there is some truth in that – we have built an industry around cheap, highly processed bread. We are a nation that relies on bread for breakfast and lunch and often tea too. But where is the connection that just because someone chooses to cut out gluten and wheat that those of us with an allergy to it are just being fussy?
Why can’t celebrities cut out gluten? If it makes them feel better why not?
You cannot dictate what people eat. It’s up to us to understand what we put on our dinner plates and I do live by the ethos, you are what you eat. The healthier, simpler and less processed my diet is the better I feel.
But lets get back to the main point here for moment. MY BLOG, WHAT ALLERGY IS BEING FEATURED IN THE MAIL ON SUNDAY as the first Health blog in a new column written by Alice Smellie – now I don’t want to blow my own trumpet or anything but it’s still pretty cool. Not every day you get into the papers.
If you want to read the Daily Mail article ‘Most people who think they have a food allergy or intolerance are just paranoid’: Doctor says many of us are on a ‘self-diagnosed food fad’
OK rant over.
Great rant, Ruth! Agree with everything you said. Two things occurred to me when I read that DM article and Michelle’s and Alex’s posts on it: we have to say ‘allergy’ half the time instead of intolerance because otherwise no-one in the medical field listens as they don’t use the terms properly, which then spills out into the general public. It is not the general public’s fault that they are using the terms interchangeably; it is medicine’s.
I KNOW the technical difference and am always at pains to use the right terms but, especially in this digital information age, you have to use the word ‘allergy’ because no-one would ever find the information they are seeking because they use that word, so it all feeds off itself, if you see what I mean. Also, to be honest, the word intolerance conjures up something sort-of not serious; like you’ve just chosen to avoid it for a bit or something which, as you say, is FAR from the truth. Who the hell would choose this condition?!
I am finding the same with having to use the term Gluten Related Disorders and NCGS (non-coeliac gluten sensitivity) too; no-one looks for those terms yet so you have to use myriad terms including gluten intolerance to make sure your info is found and people get the info and help they seek!
Which brings me onto my second, more succinct, point: anyone who describes coeliac disease as an ‘allergy’ clearly knows diddly-squat about the subject as it is an autoimmune disease, not an allergy. End of respect right there.
Oh when I hear people saying the have a gluten allergy… drive me mad. Can you have a gluten allergy? You can have a wheat allergy, you can be coeliac… I’m pretty sure you could this basic stuff out on wikipedia, if not on all our lovely blogs. But it’s far easier to just make stuff up. I know what you mean about confusion too. Allergy is used to describe anything from hayfever to anaphylaxis so it’s really not a useful word… but we are where we are and we can only do what we can do. I love a good rant.
Nicola Neal says
Great rant Ruth. More ranting required I think. I am with you in the blood boiling camp. I don’t think there is anything that is more toxic and bad for health than the Daily Mail itself. The quality of the writing is poor, the facts are often wrong and the scary thing is, judging by the comments, is that an awful lot of people fall for this nonsense. I guess that is why blogging has become so important. The real voices need to be heard. Keep ranting – you know I will too!
Thanks Nicola, we should probably not even rise to is, but unless we make a noise they will not learn and will keep printing stuff like this. The Daily Fail never cease to disappoint me. However I will, like the true two faced vain blogger that I am, be buying it this Sunday, just to find myself i print. Got to check they don’t totally shaft me over again 😉
Its annoying that even in today’s age too many people wish to disprove rather than help.
I’ve worked with customers who only wish their food cooked in tesco bottled water, full range of allergies and restricted diets to the strange and bizarre. Sometimes I understand reasonings other times not but NEVER will I say a little bit will be OK.
How on earth such stories ever make papers is beyond me… Don’t tell a customer/patient they are wrong – work with them. How many people were misdiagnosed IBS to be told years later its coeliac disease… Please people open your eyes.
Ruth keep pushing, with more like you perhaps money will finally be made available to help rather than ridicule.
Chris, thanks for the comment. I can see you don’t need convincing. I do feel like maybe we shouldn’t even listen to the sensationalist headlines in the Daily Mail. They always go for the insulting line, making fun of anyone who is different from the norm. Hopefully us educated people, sane, sensitive, understanding types can see through their stories for what they are. Not much more than a dig at a section of the population who never get to have their say. I am quite proud to be a little bit different. Just imagine, if I didn’t have allergies I wouldn’t have this blog – what on earth would I without this blog? heh heh
Apologies to anyone who brought the Mail on Sunday, I don’t think it was in there… did they read this perhaps and take the hump?
Alex Gazzola says
No, they wouldn’t have had time to drop something even if they did get the hump. Probably just bumped it a week – it can happen if they get a last-minute ad booking, or something.
As I wrote the original blog which Michelle referred to in her post, I feel partly responsible for causing all this anger … I did tweet Dr Ranj the link to my post, making the point that I didn’t feel people should be shamed, and asking for his thoughts, but I’ve not had a response.
I probably differ slightly from others who have commented, and your good self Ruth, in that I do think *some* people with self-diagnosed dietary sensitivities are mistaken about them. I don’t believe in the 40% food intolerance figure at all, as the evidence for it is shaky if you scratch the surface – it’s basically self-reporting, not studies.
But I do think these people should be helped, if they want help, not told ‘it’s all in your mind’. It may well be psychological or partly psychological (I hate using the expression ‘all in the mind’), and I don’t feel we should pretend otherwise, but they need to be told in a way that makes it clear that there is no shame if this is the case – that it is just as ‘valid’ as a physiological food allergy or intolerance, and just as important to explore. It’s the accusative tone which the Daily Mail take that I really resent. And doctors should avoid being a part of it.
Thanks Adrian. Well I guess congratulations for having my blog ‘spotted’ but as yet it hasn’t actually appeared… fingers crossed for this weekend…