Today, I’m talking with Whitney Block, co-founder of National Allergy Center, a food allergy private practice that specializes in food allergy treatment and training your body to tolerate foods that you are allergic to.
Whitney hails from the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma Research at Stanford University. This center is directed by Dr. Kari Nadeau, one of the nation’s foremost experts in allergy and asthma.
I first met Whitney back in 2014 at Stanford when I brought my 2 food allergic kids in for an OIT clinical trial consultation. She and the entire team safely guided our family through the OIT journey.
Fast forward five years, both of my children have graduated from the food allergy OIT trials with tremendous success and are in maintenance mode. Life is so much better now!
FOOD ALLERGY TREATMENT PRIVATE PRACTICE
Lucky for everyone, National Allergy Center (NAC) has been making food allergy treatment available to everyone in their private practice since 2017. NAC is centrally located in California and serves the entire San Francisco bay area. They have also just opened a new location in Burbank, California. The National Allergy Center is not affiliated with Stanford University.
In this interview, we talk about how National Allergy Center’s immunotherapy program treats food allergies.
Let’s dive into our interview.Q&A - National Allergy Center specializes in training your body to tolerate allergic foods. #foodallergy Click To Tweet
Q: Congratulations, it looks like that National Allergy Center has expanded.
A: Yes, we are open at 369 Main Street, Ste. 200 in Redwood City, CA on Tuesday and Wednesday. Then we just opened another location in Burbank at 3808 W. Riverside Drive, Burbank on Fridays so far but we will open more days as the demand grows.
Q. What is OIT and is it safe?
A. OIT stands for oral immunotherapy. OIT is the process by which a food allergic person eats gradually increasing doses of the allergen to reach a state of desensitization. It has been shown in numerous research studies that this process, if done appropriately, can be safe and effective.
Q: What is the E.A.T.I.T.® Program?
A: Effective Advanced Targeted Immunotherapy designed to give you the freedom to safely eat what you want. We break this down into three easy steps. The first step is to work with all the tools that we can to determine your actual allergies, as opposed to intolerances or sensitives. The second step is to design your customized action plan to get you to your goals. With a peanut allergy, some people’s goal might be to be “bite proof” which would be us getting to a maintenance goal of just a few peanuts, while others might be free eating which would be a much higher peanut maintenance goal. The third step would be maintain your goal and enjoy your new found free life, safely eat whatever you like!
Q. How is the E.A.T.I.T.® Program different than OIT?
A: OIT is an integral part of the E.A.T. I.T.® Program but the program is much more customizable and targeted. The E.A.T.I.T.® Program can tackle multiple allergens at the same time and possibly use enhancing medications (like Xolair) as they are effective in the acceleration in desensitization of food allergens. The program is designed to get people safely to their goal as quickly as possible.
Q: Do you use Xolair?
A: Yes, we can use Xolair, we’ve found it to be incredibly effective. But not all patients use Xolair.
Q: Let’s remind people what Xolair is:
A: Xolair is a medication that has FDA breakthrough status and is used to safely accelerate the desensitization process.
Q. Is everyone a good candidate for the E.A.T. I.T.® Program?
A. No, the E.A.T. I.T.® Program is definitely not for everyone. In particular, it is definitely not suited for anyone with uncontrolled asthma or active eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE). In addition it is necessary for the patient and family to be compliant with dosing protocols and instructions. That being said- having EoE does not necessarily exclude you from treatment- you will have to do things differently and that is where we work with you. This is something that we will explore on an individual basis in our first consultation.
Q. How long does it take to complete the E.A.T.I.T.® Program?
A. The length of time of the build-up phase of the E.A.T.I.T.® Program depends on which/how many allergens are included in treatment, what the agreed upon maintenance dose is, does treatment include Xolair or not, and how the dose is tolerated. Typically the build-up phase of the E.A.T. I.T.® Program with Xolair takes about 2-7 months; the build-up phase of E.A.T. I.T.® Program without Xolair takes 6-12 months.
Q: Is OIT a cure for food allergies, is the E.A.T.I.T.® Program a cure?
A: No, sadly- we have no “cure” for food allergies. That being said OIT is incredibly effective and there are many good things on the horizon. Until then, OIT is safe and effective if done correctly. The E.A.T.I.T.® Program is specially designed to get people to their eating goal with minimal side effects, but no it is not a cure.
Q: How can people expect their lives to change after completing the E.A.T.I.T.® Program?
A: I hear many things but some of the most common is the freedom to eat foods that “may contain” or “made in a facility that also processes” the allergen- as long as they don’t actually contain your allergen, you are free to consume these! This makes grocery shopping easier, this makes eating out easier and as we all know that food allergies are a family matter- this can really ease lots of anxiety and stress around food. I never get tired of hearing these stories and getting pictures from parents of kids doing kid things that parents never thought their kid would be able to do because of food allergies. I am still learning from my patients all the ways their lives are better.
Q: What foods are eligible for the E.A.T.I.T.® Program?
A. The most common foods people ask me about are: peanut, milk, egg, wheat, soy, cashew, pistachio, walnut, pecan, almond, hazelnut, macadamia nut, brazil nut, pine nut, sesame, sunflower seed, shellfish, white fish, and pink fish. Less common foods include oat, barley, rye, chickpea, coconut, chia seed, and flax seed. If there are other foods not previously listed, that patients are curious about I’d be open to considering them and developing a plan to achieve the patient’s goals.
Q. Will doses have to be taken forever?
A. No one knows the answer to this question right now. More research needs to be done to determine what the best maintenance dose is, how often it needs to be taken and for how long. I always tell my patients that they should have it in their minds that they’ll be taking their maintenance dose for a long time and if it’s discovered that it can be shorter than expected they will probably be happy. One thing people have not heard a lot about are other dosing regimens that are in clinical trial- for some people twice weekly or even weekly maintenance might be okay once they have been in maintenance for a long period of time. I have seen this done and I can’t say everyone will get there, but for some it could be down the road.
Q: Does the National Allergy Center accept insurance?
A: Yes, we are in-network with most PPO’s. Contact us to discuss individual plans.
Q: How do people get started?
A: Go to NationalAllergyCenter.com and get on the waitlist. We’ll get in touch with you and set up a consultation where we will walk you through the process. In the meantime, we have a FAQ section on the website and we are working on our Youtube Channel to answer some of the questions that I get most commonly.
If you’re interested in being pro-active with your or your child’s food allergies, contacting National Allergy Center may be the best thing you can do!Q&A with National Allergy Center about Immunotherapy at www.AllergicPrincess.com #foodallergy Click To Tweet
For further reading:
- Read how Oral Immunotherapy (OIT) changed our life.
- Stanford’s research and clinical trials: Sean N. Parker Center website.
- Food allergy research: FARE website.
- Clinical Predictors of Allergic Side Effects During Peanut Oral Immunotherapy
- What Happens to Food Allergies After Treatment with Oral Immunotherapy?
Have any success stories or concerns about food allergy treatment? Share in the comments below.
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