Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter

From Killer to Cure

Yael Schuster

Can eating a food your body finds toxic actually save your life? Outlandish as it sounds, this breakthrough therapy is gaining traction across the allergy world.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The unpredictability of food allergies, particularly with certain allergens, such as peanuts, can be vexing; even with a history of 30 mild reactions, one cannot predict the severity of the 31st. It’s like living next door to a sleeping monster: You know from experience that you’ll probably make it safely past him, but there’s always the chance he’ll wake up and pounce with ferocity. Ninety percent of food allergies are caused by the top eight allergenic foods: cow’s milk, eggs, soy, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, and fish. While some of these, such as eggs and cow’s milk, are usually outgrown by adulthood, others, such as peanuts and shellfish, tend to persist. In the allergy clinic ofDr.YitzhakKatz at Assaf Harofeh Medical Center, southeast ofTelAviv, the air is perceptibly charged. It is the heady thrill that comes with breaking barriers, with blazing a trail toward a future that is better and safer for many.  It’s here that patients like Avi come to eradicate the danger to their lives. They’re immersed in the fledgling field of oral immunotherapy (OIT), and its potential to revolutionize the allergy world is dramatic. A revolution would certainly be welcome, in a discipline that has seen an astounding 50 percent increase in food allergies between 1997 and 2011, with no clear understanding why. An estimated 15 million people in the US have food allergies today, including one in 13 children, or about two children per classroom. Allergies is an area of medicine that, even in 2014, has many questions but frustratingly few answers: There is no treatment other than avoidance; diagnostic blood and skin tests show both false positives and false negatives; there is no way to predict who will outgrow it; and no way to know whose mild allergy will become severe without warning. “Almost all those who come to us have severe allergies, with a history of anaphylactic reactions. After a course of treatment, 90 percent of our patients can tolerate portion-sized amounts of food they’ve been previously allergic to,”Dr.Katz states. His clinic is the only place in Israel that provides OIT. It is available in the US and Europe, although it’s largely considered experimental, and almost always done in a hospital setting due to the risk involved.

To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.

The Fortunes of War
Rabbi Moshe Grylak We’re still feeling the fallout of the First World War
Some Lessons, But Few Portents
Yonoson Rosenblum What the midterms tell us about 2020
Vote of Confidence
Eyan Kobre Why I tuned in to the liberal radio station
5 out of 10
Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin Top 5 Moments of the Kinus
Day in the Life
Rachel Bachrach Chaim White of KC Kosher Co-op
When Less is More
Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman How a good edit enhances a manuscript
It’s My Job
Jacob L. Freedman “Will you force me to take meds?”
They’re Still Playing My Song?
Riki Goldstein Yitzy Bald’s Yerav Na
Yisroel Werdyger Can’t Stop Singing
Riki Goldstein Ahrele Samet’s Loi Luni
Double Chords of Hope
Riki Goldstein You never know how far your music can go
Will Dedi Have the Last Laugh?
Dovid N. Golding Dedi and Ding go way back
Battle of the Budge
Faigy Peritzman Using stubbornness to grow in ruchniyus
The Challenging Child
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Strategies for raising the difficult child
Bucking the Trend
Sara Eisemann If I skip sem, will I get a good shidduch?
The Musician: Part 1
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer "If she can't read she'll be handicapped for life!"