Food Allergies can Wreak Havoc in your Life


Fish Market
A great article in Sunday’s business pages featured a local health food store that convinced me I’m not alone, but part of a growing number of people who have become allergic to the food they eat.

I grew up in a dairy state and thrived on ice cream, milk and creamy soups and pastas. Now, after all these years, I’m suddenly lactose intolerant. First I had a miserable bout of gastritis and irritable syndrome including acid reflux which lasted for about three years. To make a long story short, I had my diseased gall bladder removed, but it didn’t end my stomach issues.

Suffering from vomiting and diarrhea, I went through a process of elimination and discovered I couldn’t eat anything dairy, except small amounts of sharp cheddar. And I had severe reactions to soy products which eliminated a huge swathe of dietary choices. The problem is sometimes I have those problems even without eating those foods so there may be other suspicious culprits I haven’t detected yet.

Why am I sharing this diatribe? Because “Food allergies are on the rise,” and you may have the same problem. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study released in 2013, food allergies among children increased by nearly 50 percent between 1997 and 2011.



“The estimated number of adults with food allergies is nearly 15 million.” With Thanksgiving and the holidays coming up, many people (me included) are worried that there may be an ingredient in their food that could cause them to be ill. People are becoming more aware of what they eat and how it affects them.

GMO Genetically Modified Organisms is a term many are learning about and the hidden dangers that may only become known in the future. Over the last 10-15 years, more and more foods, including milk products, have been modified and changed which may account for why I was able to tolerate it before, and not currently.

Other foods such as soy, corn and wheat have been modified so farmers can produce more and at a faster rate. When I discovered my soy allergy, I began reading labels. I learned that instead of raising prices, producers are adding soy flour and soy oil to baked goods. Even my grocery bakery that I never had to worry about before has begun using these additives.


If you’re having problems with acid reflux and cramping or pain, start a process of elimination and find out which foods are bothering you. It’s well worth the effort. You may have other bothersome symptoms that could be linked to food allergies. I was having spells of dizziness and sometimes migraines. I have completely eliminated these symptoms that were probably linked to food allergies.

Below is a link that lists all the GMO foods you need to be concerned about. Eliminating most of these items from your diet could bring you some relief if you’re suffering from the effects of any of these foods.

Link “Green America”

Would Tides by any other Name Smell so Stinky?


What is coarse, toxic, sweeps up marine life in its wake and kills? If you guessed a broom, we’re done here. If you answered pollution, you’re close. If you said red tides, you’re dead on. Never heard of this menacing algae? Let me introduce you.

Every summer at the height of tourist season, a tangle of brownish algae and dead fish cascades onto the Gulf Coast’s pristine beaches; the stink is overwhelming. My mother used to say “That’s enough to gag a maggot.” What makes these algae such a menace? They produce one of the deadliest toxins known to man.


“Beach Buddies” 16×20 mixed media on canvas

These harmful algal blooms or HABS wreak havoc on local fishing industries to the tune of $82 million each year. The toxins effect the central nervous system of fish, killing them in vast numbers; limiting the quantities of fresh fish that fisheries depend on. Toxins also may poison shellfish like clams, oysters, and mussels, and make the humans who eat them sick.

The red tide masses effect marine ecosystems in a number of ways. Dense blooms can block sunlight that benefit good algae and sea grasses needed for food. Wildlife and marine mammals like seabirds, manatees, turtles and dolphins may get sick or even die. Humans may suffer severe respiratory or skin ailments. In addition to that, red tides are downright unsightly.

My first reaction to walking on the beach after a red tide wash up was repulsion. Hundreds of stinky dead fish trapped in strange-looking seaweed covered the white sand driving me and many other tourists back to our hotels. Like them, I wanted to know what this stuff was, what it did, and how we could stop it.

Sea Swirls

“Sea Swirls” 24×18 acrylic on canvas

Red tides are composed of microscopic algae known as dinoflagellates; their scientific name: karenia brevis. The algal cells are asexual. They produce simply by dividing. To complicate matters, each cell is capable of movement via two flagella that propels them through the water. There is no brainwork involved in this confluence or joining of forces. They drift with the water’s ebb and flow, bumping together to form large clumps or “blooms” as their numbers increase.

What makes dinoflagellates different from other microscopic algae? At least two things: their rapid growth and their toxicity both of which raise more questions than answers. Why do these organisms suddenly explode into a massive growing binge? What triggers this growth and why does it produce toxins in some algae and not in others?

Biologists and scientists believe pollution of our waterways may be the leading factor. Pesticides, fertilizers and chemicals are washed into surrounding rivers and lakes and eventually find their way into the sea. At the mouth of these inlets and tributaries, red tides get their first burst of growth which certainly points to pollution as the cause.

But there’s a catch: red tides are not a new phenomenon. Fish kills from deadly algae were recorded in 1840 and as long ago as the Spanish explorers who wrote about them in their logs. After years of red tides research, there is still no conclusive evidence or link to pollution. Like many quirks of nature, the trigger may be from natural causes or a series of events that are little understood.

Sea Nymph

“Sea Nymph” 24 x 18 acrylic on canvas

The Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) in Florida conducts Red Tide Reports on a regular basis during critical growing periods. Using satellite imagery, high levels of chlorophyll are monitored for possible resurgence of red tides. With the help of modern technology, experts record the size, rate of growth, and location of these HABS.

FWRI works in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) under the supervision of the U.S. Department of Commerce. NOAA’s goal is to “provide the tools to prevent, control, or mitigate the occurrence of HABS.” Because red algae can be found in almost any waterway, research labs are positioned worldwide.

If you would like information about red tides in your own locale, go to

What is the missing component that explains why red tides grow faster and wilder during certain times of the year? Is pollution the cause as some suggest? Or is it increased water temperature that naturally encourages the growth of most algae? Until the mystery is solved, Gulf residents and vacationers around the globe must continue to endure the irritation, the blight and the stink of red tides.

The Brazilian Pepper Tree Saga

Berry Picking Time 16 x 20 oil on canvas

Berry Picking Time 16 x 20 oil on canvas

The Brazilian-pepper tree, alias Christmas-berry tree or Florida Holly, is an attractive shrub that sprouts red berries part of the year, grows tall, and spreads wide. When I first moved to Florida, I enjoyed watching the wide variety of birds that fluttered in their branches. So when the landscape crew attacked them with machetes and axes, I was enraged. Had we come to this in our obsession for perfectly trimmed hedges and weed free lawns, I thought?

Yes, I would later acknowledge, the Brazilian-pepper bushes were beginning to take over the hedgerow, and their absence meant that I could now see the field behind where cows grazed with cattle egret; but what about the birds? Hadn’t the pepper’s branches been food and refuge for the brown thrashers, the cardinals, the northern bobwhites and robins, the local mocking birds?

Before I launched into assault mode, I did some reading and investigating; turns out, that attractive Brazilian pepper is considered “one of the worst exotic pest plants” in the State of Florida. Wouldn’t you know!

Brought here from Brazil in the 1800s, the plant was used as an ornamental for its beautiful red berries and shiny green leaves. Deceivingly charming, the plant is part of the poison ivy, oak and sumac family that many people are allergic to. When crushed, the leaves smell like turpentine and can irritate the skin, nose and lungs. No wonder my allergies had flared up in Florida.

Birds also become drunk from eating the fermented berries and may harm themselves by flying into windows or oncoming traffic. Migrating birds are especially vulnerable as they devour the tempting red berries to restore body fat.

Why is the plant so prolific? Bingo: “the pepper grows well in poor soil and shade,” and spreads wildly when the conditions for growth are optimum – plenty of sunshine, plenty of rain. Birds and raccoons find the berries delicious and spread the seeds through their guano and scat.

How is that a threat to Florida?

  • The pepper tree shades out native plants
  • The pepper destroys foraging areas for herons, egrets and other water birds
  • The pepper’s roots get so thoroughly tangled up with mangrove roots that it’s impossible to uproot them

The beautiful Brazilian-pepper is on Florida’s “do not plant” list, and its “sale is against the law.” And I thought it was a harmless shrub; if looks could kill.

Today I smile as I walk past the hedgerow. Young leaves are sprouting, filling in naked branches replenished by sun and space. The peppers are sprawled out behind them; roots exposed, leaves withering, on their last gasp. Sadly, a few yards south, a fence with a stand of pepper trees grows rampant; the property of another developer who will eventually face the removal of this encroaching invader.