Food Allergy: Treatment Options
As some of you already know, I am going through treatment for my multiple life-threatening food allergies. The treatment I am doing is TIP, which often gets confused with OIT and other treatment options. In this blog post, I will provide a brief summary of all the current options available for managing food allergies.
Please keep in mind that this blog post only provides an overall summary of information, as I am not a medical professional. All the information in this post is based on my own research and personal experience. Always discuss all options with a board-certified allergist, but it's also important to do your own research and seek multiple opinions! This blog post is meant to help clear up some of the confusion that many of my followers have about what treatment I am currently enrolled in and how it differs from other options.
*This blog post does not contain any medical advice, it only provides information.*
The 5 Options When It Comes To Managing Food Allergies:
Option 1: AVOIDANCE
Avoidance consists of diligently avoiding the food (or foods) that you are allergic to, ensuring that anything you eat does not contain the allergen or is not cross-contaminated with the allergen. The person is at risk for allergic reactions and must always carry epinephrine and other medications.
Option 2: Peanut/Dairy Patch Trials
The peanut and dairy patches are currently available through pharmaceutical trials. This consists of a patch that is placed on the skin for long periods of time and the goal is to desensitize the patient to the allergen through the skin. It is only available for peanuts and for dairy. From what I have read/heard/saw, the patches are safe yet not effective. I have seen pictures of children with rashes due to the patch. I personally have never tried the patch myself.
Option 3: Clinical Trial OIT (oral immunotherapy)
Oral immunotherapy, commonly known as OIT, is a desensitization process where small amounts of the food the patient is allergic to is given in very small doses that increase over time. When it comes to clinical trials, there is limited enrollment, making it difficult to get in. In order to enroll, a food challenge is required, meaning that the patient will need to eat the food they are allergic to and experience anaphylaxis, despite obvious history of life-threatening reactions to the food. Once you are enrolled and the initial allergic reaction gets recorded, the patient is then placed into either the treatment group or the placebo group (meaning the patient doesn't receive treatment at all). After a set number of months, all patients then do another food challenge where they eat enough of the food to cause an allergic reaction, and the difference between the allergic reactions during the first and second food challenges is recorded. Clinical trials are usually only limited to one specific food.
Option 4: Private Practice OIT (oral immunotherapy)
Oral immunotherapy, commonly known as OIT, is a desensitization process where small amounts of the food the patient is allergic to is given in very small doses that increase over time. Private practice OIT is a little bit more flexible than clinical trial OIT as many centers treat more than just one food, and there is no limited enrollment (although there way be a waitlist). The cost of private practice OIT ranges significantly, and it really depends on which doctor you see. There is no "standard" protocol, and each doctor provides the treatment in a slightly different manner. I have personally heard of various allergic reactions, some being anaphylactic, that have happened during dosing in OIT. Again, it greatly depends on which doctor you go to. Some doctors only treat peanuts, while others treat almost all foods. Some doctors have higher rates of allergic reactions than others. Each food typically takes a few months on average. If you seek private practice OIT, a question that should always be asked is what is the end goal. This is because different doctors have different end goals. Some doctors will treat the patient until they are clear from cross-contamination, but will not go further than that, while some doctors treat the patient to a higher degree. When it comes to eligibility, many doctors will not treat patients who have other conditions such as EoE or asthma. As for age, some doctors start as young as 12 months old, while other doctors start only at 5 years old.
Option 5: The Tolerance Induction Program (TIP)
The Tolerance Induction Program is a protocol that treats all food allergies, as well as all environmental allergies. TIP targets the immune system as a whole, which is why there are no eligibility restrictions (besides age), meaning even if the patient has other conditions such as EoE or asthma, they can still enroll and will still be treated. Allergic reactions during treatment are almost unheard of, and the goal of TIP is to free eat every single food. Each food takes an average of 6-8 weeks to treat, while some foods such as wheat, dairy, eggs and peanuts usually take slightly longer, depending on how allergic the patient is. Once you "graduate" from the program, you can eat anything you want, whenever you want, without having to read labels or tell anyone that you have food allergies. The program was founded by Dr. Randhawa, and he is the only doctor who offers this protocol. This treatment is available at the Southern California Food Allergy Clinic in Long Beach, and since there is only one location, many patients fly in from all over the country and even around the world to seek this treatment. There is a waitlist of about one year, and they only treat children up to age 21 for now (you must be 21 or younger at the first appointment, but then you wil continue to be treated for as long as it takes). The cost varies on whether or not you have insurance, although there are out of pocket costs even for those who are insured. For more information on costs or how to sign up for the waitlist, you can go to: https://socalfoodallergy.org/
I am currently doing the Tolerance Induction Program as it personally seems like the safest and most effective treatment. To hear Dr. Randhawa talk more about the different treatment options and to learn more about his program, you can watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_NQPPP37l4&t=6s
*Disclaimer: this post is not sponsored by SoCal Food Allergy or by Dr. Randhawa in any way. I am sharing my own opinions and my own story because I truly want to help the millions of children and adults around the world with food allergies by providing information and raising awareness.