Can you imagine what it would be like to be allergic to not just one, but many foods? This is the daily reality for people living with Eosinophilic Gastrointestinal Disorders (EGID). August 7-13th is National EOS Awareness Week, which hopes to increase understanding and raise funds to support research into EGID. The highlight of the week is the Top 8 Challenge Day on Monday 8th of August. The day challenges participants to remove the top 8 food allergens (so that’s egg, shellfish, milk, wheat, fish, peanuts, tree nuts and soy) from their diet for a day or even a meal.
Never heard of Eosinophilic Gastrointestinal Disorders before? Well, you are probably not alone. EGID is a complex chronic illness that occurs when there is an accumulation of eosinophils (a white blood cell) somewhere in the gastrointestinal tract1. Eosinophils usually fight infection in the body, but an accumulation where they shouldn’t be, like in EGID, can cause inflammation and damage to the gut2.
Eosinophils generally react to food or airborne allergens, like pollens2. This reaction causes an allergic response resulting in symptoms that can make the sufferer very ill. People with EGID can experience symptoms such as severe heartburn, vomiting, choking on food and food sticking to the throat while being swallowed1. Given the complexity of the condition, treatment by a number of specialists is usually needed. This can include a gastroenterologist, an allergist or immunologist, a paediatrician and a dietitian.
There is no cure for EGID. Treatment can involve a number of different elements, such as medications and changes to the diet1. Many people with EGID will be recommended to follow an elimination diet to help manage the symptoms. This means removing the top 8 food allergens from their diet, which is where the idea for the Top 8 Challenge came from. While this diet can help manage the symptoms, it does not completely fix the problem. Those with EGID face an ongoing struggle to identify foods which trigger symptoms, because sometimes they can be allergic to less common foods that would not be considered to cause an allergic reaction.
For those living with EGID there is support available through the Australian charity ausEE, who runs the Top 8 Challenge and EOS awareness week. You can find more information, including links to their Facebook page and support forums, at http://www.ausee.org/.
While research into EGID is ongoing, more is needed1. You can help by getting involved with the Top 8 Challenge or making a donation. Find out how on the Top 8 challenge website http://www.top8challenge.com/. Those living with EGID face the challenges of following an elimination diet on a daily basis. Are you ready to take the challenge?
- ASCIA 2014. Eosinophilic Oesophagitis. Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy. Viewed 28 July 2016. http://www.allergy.org.au/patients/food-other-adverse-reactions/eosinophilic-oesophagitis
- ausEE Inc. 2016. What is EGID?. ausEE Inc. Viewed 28 July 2016. http://www.ausee.org/whatisegid.htm