I’m An Adult Now – Steam Cleaners

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One of the important parts of adulting is knowing the how, when and why of keeping things clean. When I recently posted to Facebook about steam cleaning my sofa I got an incredulous reply from a friend exclaiming that they didn’t even know you could do such a thing, and please would I explain how.

So let’s start with the fact that all fabric things around your house get dirty. Or at least dusty. Here at House O’ Fits, things such as curtains, throw cushion covers, table runners and bed spreads get laundered on a quarterly basis. I use the change of season (solstices and equinoxes) as my calendar guide. Linens that are more delicate or harder to dry, especially if they don’t come in direct contact with skin/hair or pets (things such as pillows, feather duvets and feather or wool mattress pads) generally get washed annually. (Yes, I said washed… I totally wash my feather linens and put them in a dryer – they turn out fine.)

But what about carpets, rugs or fabric-covered furniture?

Dudes, these should also be cleaned. Not constantly, but at least somewhat regularly.

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Perfum(ing) 2

perfume gas mask

If you watched CBC’s The National last night you might have caught my 15 seconds of fame as I was interviewed for a piece about perfume and perfume allergies.

Unfortunately due to a miscommunication on the specific topic and my own failure to research the correct issue, very little of what I said in the interview was used, and what did get used was out of context.

When the producer originally contacted me, I was told the piece was about a new law in the European Union that would force perfume companies to list the ingredients on the labels. In fact, the piece was about a move by the EU to ban certain (natural) ingredients that have been in perfume for decades and are thought to be the cause of an increased number of allergic reactions to perfume products.

So when Aaron Saltzman asked me if I though the ban was a good idea, and I near-shouted “Absolutely!”, I was wrong.

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Crazy Acorn Lady – Making Life Difficult for the Rest of Us

It read like an April Fool’s Day joke. Yesterday, the Toronto Star ran a story about a Woodbridge woman who wanted oak trees near her sons’ school cut down because her two boys are allergic to tree nuts.

The obvious rebuttals come to mind:

– acorns are not food, there’s no plausible reason for teenaged boys to be eating them
– they’re teenagers, not toddlers, and if allergic, should know enough to avoid oak trees during acorn season
– um… don’t roll around under oak trees?

On one hand, you’ve gotta feel really sorry for her kids who have enough stress dealing with real allergens (the article says they’re allergic to peanuts and their school – indoors – is nut-free), and now have to deal with being the spawn of crazy acorn lady.

But there’s also the risk now that the very real concerns regarding allergies – both of her kids and the rest of us – won’t be taken seriously because of the over-reaction and helicopter parenting of one woman who made the news.

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Is ADHD Caused By Food?

I read this piece on Civil Eats with great interest. It discusses a study that links ADHD in children in with the consumption of processed foods.

There are a multitude of credible scientific studies to indicate that diet plays a large role in the development of ADHD. One study found that the depletion of zinc and copper in children was more prevalent in children with ADHD. Another study found that one particular dye acts as a “central excitatory agent able to induce hyperkinetic behavior.” And yet another study suggests that the combination of various common food additives appears to have a neurotoxic effect—pointing to the important fact that while low levels of individual food additives may be regarded as safe for human consumption, we must also consider the combined effects of the vast array of food additives that are now prevalent in our food supply.

This is interesting because back when I was first diagnosed with allergies, as well as multiple chemical sensitivity, I read plenty of books, studies and articles that linked ADHD to chemical exposure. Not necessarily in food, although food was certainly an important medium of transfer.

Having said that, I have a friend with a child who has ADHD. She relates knowing that her son had the illness only a few weeks after he was born, based on watching him in his crib. It may have been that her diet while she was pregnant was high in processed foods, but I think it’s more likely that children are born with ADHD and that the symptoms can be made worse by exposure to the chemicals in processed foods.

But it’s certainly a reasonable excuse to ensure kids get a wholesome diet of real food, grown as organically as possible.

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Moo Juice – Not the Magic Food You Think It Is

I’m kind of boggled to see this article about milk and calcium on a mainstream media website. For years, pretty much everyone has fallen in line with the dairy-industry-promoted tagline “milk does a body good”. But there has been lots of proof, for years, that milk, in fact, doesn’t do a body good at all and that the animal fat proteins in milk outweigh the good you get from the calcium.

I came across this same information years ago when I was diagnosed with a dairy allergy and started researching the dairy industry to maybe try and find out why (as I was also diagnosed with some chemical sensitivities, the doctor wasn’t sure if the allergy was the milk protein casein, or something else like antibiotics that might be in the milk). I came across lots of articles and studies touting the party line of milk being such a wonderful food. But in almost every case, the piece could be traced back to the dairy industry, which, it must be noted, have a HUGE vested interest in wanting people to equate their product with good health.

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Patio, No

I have a question for restaurant owners everywhere.

If your restaurant has a patio (or even if it doesn’t), why is it necessary to have your front windows and doors open on a hot day? Is it because you assume that everyone loves sitting on the patio, and by opening doors or installing big garage-style windows that open to the street that customers seated indoors will feel like they’re on that patio? Or is it just a way to get around running the air conditioning?

Because not everyone wants to sit outside.

Greg and I went out for lunch today. We arrived at our destination to find that the place had all the windows and doors open, and that it was actually hotter inside than outside on the patio, where there was at least a breeze.

I’m currently balancing on a very thin precipice with my allergies. Six weeks in and having tried three different medications, I’m finally at a point where I can actually go outside to get from point A to point B, but sitting for an hour or more in air full of astronomical amounts of mold spores is really not fun.

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Hanging in the Garden at the Drake

I’m back! We broke down and bought an air purifier and it’s reduced my crazy mold allergy symptoms by about 90%. Definitely working better than any of the meds I was taking. Well, until this morning when it was cool and 14C and we opened the windows to let the cool, “fresh” air in, which of course was full of mold spores. In any case, I haven’t been venturing outside much but one of the things I did do a couple of weeks ago when the mold count was low was to head over to the Drake Hotel (1150 Queen Street West) for their annual garden party.

The garden is actually behind a storefront a few doors down where the Drake has their General Store and ice cream shops. So we got there by heading down a back alleyway. It had rained earlier (rather a torrential downpour) so things started a bit late, but once the rain subsided, it was a decent night.

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(Per)Fuming

Articles in all the major papers today, telling the world what many of us already knew – perfumes are toxic.

The testing showed that each fragrance contains, on average, 14 chemicals that are not listed on the product label. In total, nearly 40 undisclosed chemicals were found in the 17 products tested. The products contained a total of 91 chemicals, some identified on labels and some not. Of those, only 19 have ever been reviewed by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review, a review body of the cosmetics industry.

The kicker, of course, for people with “sensitivity” to perfume is that we can’t even get a legal diagnosis of “allergic” because perfume companies are not required to list all of those ingredients. Without a list, doctors can’t isolate the individual ingredients, and to ascertain an allergic reaction, each ingredient would have to be tested. Even then, knowing you’re allergic to, say, lilial, doesn’t really help if it’s out there in the chemical soup that people shroud themselves in.

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Probiotics Revisited

It’s been a couple of years since I posted my rant about probiotic claims on yogurt containers. Recently, Dannon/Danone settled out of court rather than face a lawsuit that would make the research they based their product on public. In Europe, the Food and Safety Association has rejected health claims on packaging outright.

One science food writer believes that companies will rally and come up with better research and better strains of probiotics, becuase they actually do a lot of good. Marion Nestle would like to see the US take on a similar approach that the EU has and ban health claims on products completely – her point: foods are not drugs and we shouldn’t be treating them as such.

One other thing that I don’t see addressed by anyone…

Dannon is working hard to get an approved health claim from the European Standards Agency which annoyingly wants to see some science behind health claims before approving them. Dannon has now added a tomato extract to its yogurts with the idea that this substance, which appears to help deal with diarrhea, will strengthen its bid for a health claim.

Tomatoes are an allergy trigger for a lot of people. Just as adding fish oil to bread so it can be enriched with Omega 3 could trigger allergic reactions in people sensitive to fish, might we begin to see reactions to products with tomato extract added? This all seems a desperate attempt to confuse and mislead consumers into believing that they can buy a tub of yogurt instead of visiting a doctor or taking real medicine.

And of course, as even Dannon’s research made clear, the probiotics don’t work as well as the company is claiming they do. Add to that all the sugar and flavourings most people need to make yogurt palatable, and you might as well be eating candy. Plain, unadulterated yogurt contains natural probiotics that can (maybe) be beneficial to your health. Don’t be fooled by the hype and the pretty package.

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When Your Food Makes You Swell Up and Fall Down

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There’s nothing more delightful than an ice cream cone on a warm summer evening. Strolling along and licking at a scoop of chocolate gelato as the sun sets is one of the season’s great pleasures – a pleasure unknown to anyone with a life-threatening dairy allergy, where the joy of a cold treat can swiftly be cut short by having your throat swell up and your breathing cut off.

 

Anaphylaxis is the most severe reaction to a food allergy, and the most dangerous, but even milder reactions can cause discomfort and frustration. Allergy-sufferers who experience severe, life-threatening reactions from common food allergens such as peanuts, shellfish, eggs or dairy often carry a device called an Epi-pen which contains an antidote that can be used if they accidentally ingest a food they’re allergic to. But while the Epi-pen will save the life of a person suffering from anaphylactic shock, there is no ongoing treatments for food allergies as there are for other allergens such as mold or dust where weekly injections of the allergen can be administered to build up resistance. Avoidance is the only real option for people who find that certain foods make them sick.

 

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Proscuittotarian

I’ve fallen off the wagon. I blame Greg – he fell first and dragged me down with him.

I did make a resolution that I would “sample” things when I had the chance, just for the sake of expanding my palate and increasing my knowledge about food. I’ve been doing that when the opportunity arose, but with little enthusiasm; the proscuitto and salami I had at the Green Link event didn’t wow me, the burger Greg ate last week grossed me out (I spit out the tiny bite I tried), and the massive brontosaurus-sized ribs he ate for lunch on Saturday made me think that I had maybe just lost the taste for meat. I got them down and it wasn’t gross, but it wasn’t a pleasant taste – just kind of… dank. Maybe that’s why ribs need so much sauce – to cover up the yukky grey taste.

Then we wandered into St. Lawrence Market and a nice man handed me free proscuitto.

I always had this running joke that I’d like to be a proscuittotarian. Pescetarians are folks who eat fish, but are otherwise vegetarian, pollo-vegetarians eat chicken. I wanted to be able to eat proscuitto. And somehow I always knew that proscuitto would be my downfall.

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Bug Juice

We’ve known for years that the term “natural” when it comes to food is a dubious one. Technically, everything is “natural”, even chemical additives – hey, they started as something found in nature. Any savvy food shopper knows that “natural” as a marketing term is meaningless.

But what about when it comes to the ingredient list? “Natural” flavours and colours don’t necessarily mean that they’ve come naturally from the product at hand, and synthetic colors haven’t necessarily been cooked up in a lab – strawberry candies don’t contain any actual strawberries. But what makes those candy strawberries red?

Bugs. Pretty little red bugs. C’mon. Bugs are natural. Although on ingredients lists, you’ll often find cochineal extract listed simply as “synthetic color”, the product itself is made from dried female cochineal beetles, a tiny insect that lives on cactus plants in Central and South America.

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Cheese Please!

There is a theory when it comes to treating allergies that if you give the patient tiny little bits of the item they are allergic to over a period of time, they will eventually be able to tolerate those allergens. This works mostly with treatable allergens such as dust and mold. The sad thing about food allergies is that no serum has yet been created (they’re close with peanuts). Your only option is one the allergist glibly refers to as “avoidance”.

I’m pretty good about avoidance, for the most part. I eat the plasticy soy cheese, drink soy milk, soy sour cream, etc. I can be satisfied with soy alternatives for some foods, and I’m more than happy to not be supporting the mainstream dairy industry. But there is no soy-based replacement for really beautiful artisanal cheese.

Thus, there are times when you just have to look Death in the face and say, “Fuck you, Death! I am eating this brie!”, and be willing to live (or not) with the consequences.

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