Paralympic Champion on Adapting to Gluten Free Life

We spoke to Paralympic Champion Chris Hunt Skelley about his recent coeliac diagnosis. He shares what he has learned about living life gluten free.

The rise in ‘severe’ allergies associated with gel and acrylic nails

Navigating the Allergic Risks and Chemical Complexities of Gel Manicures In the ever-evolving world of beauty, self-care and of course self-expression, nail enhancements have gained increasing popularity. Allowing us to adorn our fingertips with intricate designs and vibrant colours, gel and acrylic nails, two of the most sought-after nail enhancements, offer long-lasting results and creative possibilities. However, beneath their glamorous façade lies a potential hazard for ‘severe’ long and short term allergies. I’ve stopped my fortnightly manicure with immediate effect in favour of natural nails. Below, I’ll tell you why. What ACTUALLY are Gel and Acrylic Nails?Gel and acrylic nails have transformed the way people beautify their hands, providing a durable and polished appearance that can last for weeks. Gel nails are made by applying layers of a special gel formula onto the natural nail and then curing it under UV or LED light. Acrylic nails, on the other hand, are created using a mixture of liquid monomer and powdered polymer that forms a durable substance when it dries. The Allergy ConundrumWhile gel and acrylic nails offer polished and long lasting results, a growing concern within the beauty industry is the potential for allergic reactions. Allergies to the chemicals found in nail products can result in discomfort, itching, redness, swelling, and in severe cases, blistering and infection. Some individuals may experience an allergic reaction upon the initial application, while others may develop an allergy over time due to repeated exposure. Some dermatologists are even claiming that these beloved gel polishes might be triggering profound and life-altering allergies. The spotlight of blame falls on at-home manicure kits and inadequately trained nail technicians. Common Allergens and ChemicalsTwo primary culprits linked to allergic reactions in gel and acrylic nail products are methacrylate compounds and acrylate compounds. Methacrylates are commonly found in nail primers, while acrylates are used in nail adhesives and topcoats. When these compounds come into contact with the skin, they can trigger an immune response, leading to allergic symptoms. In addition to methacrylates and acrylates, other potentially problematic chemicals include toluene, formaldehyde, and dibutyl phthalate (DBP), which are commonly found in nail polishes and some gel systems. These chemicals have been associated with skin and respiratory irritation, and long-term exposure may pose more serious health risks. Prevention and PrecautionsTo minimise the risk of developing allergies and other adverse reactions from gel and acrylic nails, there are several steps you can take: The Path ForwardAs the demand for nail enhancements continues to rise, so does the need for awareness about the potential dangers they can harbour. Beauty enthusiasts should be equipped with knowledge about the chemicals present in nail products, along with the signs of allergic reactions. By making informed decisions and practising proper aftercare, we can enjoy the beauty and creativity that gel and acrylic nails offer while minimising the risks they pose to our health. I have ditched the gels for good. I’m not against them and they make my life a lot easier, but, I’m more in favour of a more natural look these days.I recently discovered some amazing products that give that manicured look without the risk, and I want to share them with you!

Can gluten sensitivity cause mood swings?

Everyone experiences mood swings from time to time. But if they’re happening frequently, there could be an underlying issue. What causes mood swings?Most commonly, mood swings are triggered by changes in our lives that cause stress. However, other causes can include: How does gluten sensitivity affect the mind?Gluten sensitivity is a digestive disorder. Studies on its impact on the mind are not conclusive. However, there are three possible ways in which gluten sensitivity can have an impact on mentalwellbeing. An American website reports research that showed patients who struggled with gluten-causedmood issues such as anxiety and depression only had digestive system symptoms 13 percent ofthe time. This may be why mood disorders related to gluten sensitivity are significantly under-diagnosed. How can people with gluten sensitivities reduce mood swings?A recent study confirmed that gluten elimination may be an effective treatment strategyfor mood disorders in individuals with gluten-related disorders. The information contained in this article is for informational purposes and not intended as a substitute for advice from your GP.

Coeliac Disease and Mental Health

Is your diet affecting your mental health? It is important to shine a light on the impact of coeliac disease on mental health for many different reasons. Firstly, undiagnosed coeliac disease is associated with depression and anxiety. Many people suffer with debilitating symptoms for years until they get a diagnosis (it takes on average 13 years to get one). Many also struggle with digesting food, which evidently impacts their relationship with food. I have even seen people get misdiagnosed with an eating disorder due to not wanting to eat food when the actual cause was having coeliac disease – gluten was making them so sick they did not want to eat at all. For those diagnosed with coeliac disease, mental health can still be significantly impacted. We know that the more restrictive a diet is, the more it impacts mental health because people have to behave differently in social situations around food as well as being constantly vigilant. Since less than a crumb of gluten can cause symptoms and damage the small intestine of people living with coeliac disease, they have to constantly check food labels for gluten, be vigilant at home about gluten cross-contact (even things like not putting gluten-free bread in the same toaster as others at home), and ask questions about how food is prepared when eating out. Evidently, this also applies when travelling, visiting friends and family, or attending special events like weddings. We have a lot of research that highlights the burden of living with coeliac disease because people need to follow this strict gluten-free diet for life, and there is no other treatment for their condition. This is why it is so important to acknowledge that the diagnosis can come with frustration, negative emotions, and feelings of being left out. But it’s essential to understand that a lot of this can be improved with the right support from both psychologists and dietitians with adequate expertise in coeliac disease because they can make your diet more inclusive while also improving your mental wellness.

Allergy Mums Offer Life-Saving Allergy Training To Schools As Childhood Cases Rise

STARTING school is naturally both an exciting and daunting milestone for children and their families. However, the common concerns many parents feel as their kids enter the playground in September can reach a whole new level when a child has a life-threatening food allergy. Sadly, kids’ food allergies are on the rise, with up to two pupils in every UK classroom now affected, according to charity, Allergy UK. The nurturing environment of the reception classroom can seem like a minefield of terrifying unknowns to parents – especially if their child has multiple food allergies. The thought of leaving them exposed to the risk of a reaction can be a living nightmare – what’s more, experts are claiming that the fear of an attack and feeling different to friends can have a huge impact on a child’s mental well-being. Fellow allergy mums and businesswomen, Kirsty Dingwall and Natalie Hopkins, both understand these challenges only too well. Their own personal allergy journeys are the driving forces behind their companies, and they are now supporting schools, with a FREE, nationwide allergy training course, launching in Back-to-School week. Kirsty is the founder of the top-14-allergen-free biscuit brand, Angelic. Her son Joshua had multiple food allergies from a young age, and Angelic was born out of her frustration at the lack of safe and inclusive snacking options that allergy parents could rely on. This insight led to Kirsty recently launching Angelic Safetylicious Squares into Sainsbury’s and Ocado – the first ‘School-Safe’ biscuit specifically developed for kids’ lunchboxes that meets the allergy-free policies many schools are putting in place. “Many ‘Free From’ products only omit one or two allergens and often feature a ‘May Contain’ warning, which isn’t worth the risk if you have a serious food allergy – we felt this all rather missed the point for the consumer,” said Kirsty. “Complete trust in the food your child is eating is everything and having such limited choices can make children feel isolated and different, so I set out to change that with a top-14- allergen-free biscuit that kids can enjoy in their school lunchbox – just like the snacks their friends are eating.” Natalie’s seven-year-old daughter, Ella, has life-threatening allergies to dairy, peanuts and pine nuts. She is the inspiration behind The Allergy Badge – Natalie’s medically approved training business that provides allergy awareness and auto-injector training to both corporate and education sectors. Like Kirsty’s Angelic Safetylicious Squares range, The Allergy Badge also addresses the mental impact of allergies, as well as the physical. “Feeling included as a child is a huge part of my training in education,” says Natalie. “I think the mental health side of things is often missed with children with allergies. Our phrase is keeping kids with allergies awesome, which I really believe the training and allergy awareness contributes too.” Angelic will be funding the monthly training to support all members of staff in schools and to promote safer snacking and inclusivity across school communities. “We don’t just want to educate the teachers, we want to support lunchtime supervisors, after-school club staff and kitchen staff,” said Natalie. “Allergy care needs a school-wide approach. We should never just be relying on one single person knowing how to treat someone having an allergic reaction or how to put the preventative processes in place to keep them safe.” Understanding and managing the psychological impact of allergies is something experts believe is critical to keeping children safe and happy in school. Dr Jose Costa, a leading Consultant Paediatrician who specialises in allergies, is seeing increasing cases of ‘food bullying’ where children are singled out by their peers for being different – and in some instances attacked with the food they are allergic to. Dr Costa’s 14 year old son, Wei, also has multiple life-threatening food allergies, which prompted him to start his own business with insulated allergy bags for allergy medication, Allerpack, thus improving its safety of delivery, due to the prevention of medication degradation. Dr Costa believes that supporting a more inclusive environment for children with allergies will promote a safer, more accepting one, and he is urging schools to register for the free course. “Many schools default to approaches that isolate pupils with allergies in the interests of safety – for example, children eating on their own in separate rooms at lunchtime – however, it is important to balance risk with a child’s social well-being or we potentially face bullying and feelings of loneliness, on top of the allergy itself,” said Dr Costa. “One of my patients had over 20 food allergies and a rare – potentially fatal condition called Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, where the individual experiences repeated episodes of the symptoms of anaphylaxis. He was pelted with allergen food by the other children at his school.” “With the right tools and information, schools can feel supported to promote a system of inclusion to protect these children from their allergies and nurture their social development.” Starting in September, the online course will cover life-saving information around food allergies. School staff can also learn how to administer auto-injectors, recognise the symptoms of an allergic reaction, how to put processes in place to keep people with allergies safe, whilst supporting their mental health and well-being. Schools across the UK are already benefitting from the training and endorsing the support it provides. Speaking about the impact of food allergy management on schools, Pam Davey, Head of Bawnmore Community Infant School, in Rugby, said: “There are many challenges facing schools, including staff training needs, safety vs inclusion, support from the wider parental body and a general lack of education and awareness in the community.” Pam agrees that managing the balance of safety and inclusion is vitally important and the training of staff is crucial to enable this. “Whilst children with allergies need to be kept safe, it is also imperative for their mental health that they don’t feel excluded,” she said. “It should be possible to include children with allergies in all activities including parties, … [Read more…]

How schools can support students with food allergies

On average 1 to 2 pupils in every class of 30 will have a food allergy and 20% of the most serious allergic reactions happen in school. So, supporting pupils with food allergies is really important and should be seen as a whole school responsibility.  How pupils feel about their allergies and how confident they feel about managing them at school will depend on a number of factors. For example, young people with less common allergens, which are unlikely to crop up in school meals, may feel more relaxed at school than pupils who are allergic to common foods such as milk or egg. The age of the pupils will play a large part too, as will their experience of having allergic reactions in the past. Learn about food allergies and take them seriously Make sure you understand how food allergies differ to food intolerances or dietary choices and how serious they can be. If someone with an allergy eats just a trace of the wrong food it can make them very ill, so people with allergies must completely avoid the foods they are allergic to. Living with this serious medical condition adds an extra mental and emotional burden, which pupils with allergies have to cope with all the time. They may feel more anxious than others around mealtimes and have medication they need to manage.  Teach all pupils about food allergies As well as talks and assemblies explaining what food allergies are and how serious they can be, consider other ways to teach all pupils about allergies. For example, during a food tech lesson or cooking class, why not check the ingredients’ label for allergens, as well as nutritional information. Explaining why some ingredients appear in bold may lead to a deeper discussion about food allergies and why people with allergies must completely avoid certain foods.  Bullying Research has shown that children with food allergies are twice as likely to be bullied as those without. Look out for your pupils with allergies and take opportunities to educate all students about this serious medical condition to build empathy. You may need to consider carefully how to do this without singling out or adding to the stigma felt by students with allergies.  Have a stash of safe snacks or offer alternatives for rewards and celebrations If your school allows foods to be brought in to celebrate birthdays or festivals, consider offering everyone in the class treats which are safe for your pupils with allergies. Inclusion is hugely important and will help build confidence in both your students and their parents or carers. Some schools don’t allow food treats and allow students to choose a class book to read or a class game to play instead. Skill-up Make sure you and your colleagues are trained to recognise and treat allergic reactions, including how to administer potentially life-saving adrenaline. It’s not good enough to have a handful of staff members who know how to use an EpiPen because you never know when or where a serious allergic reaction will happen. Sometimes people with no prior history of allergies will suffer anaphylaxis, so you need to be prepared. Pupils and their parents will feel more confident and better supported if they know you know how to respond in an emergency. You can watch The Allergy Team’s training videos here. Manage mental health Every now and then check in with your pupils with food allergies and ask how they are coping. If you notice they are anxious around mealtimes, speak to them and/or their parents and carers. Be alert to upcoming trips and events and how your pupils with allergies might be feeling, and make sure you champion inclusion so all pupils can enjoy all aspects of school life. Exclude the food not the child Most activities should be safe for children with food allergies or adapted with ease. For example, if you are baking a cake in a cooking or food tech class and you have a pupil with an egg allergy, why not get the whole class to make an egg free cake. Where inclusive alternatives aren’t possible, consider changing the activity rather than asking the child to sit out. Feeling part of daily school life is important for everyone. More about Sarah Knight and The Allergy Team: Sarah is the mother of two boys with multiple food allergies. She set up The Allergy Team to support other families and to improve education and awareness about this chronic medical condition.  As well as offering free meet ups for parents and carers, The Allergy Team holds expert Q&As and has a website packed with information about living with allergies. The Allergy Team also works with schools to keep pupils safer and offers training and consulting to businesses.

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