Natural MD Radio: How One Momma is Tackling Children’s Food Allergies with Robyn O’Brien

Allergies weren’t discussed at all in medical literature until the 19th century the England, and they initially only affected the wealthy because they didn’t get dirty or have contact with soil or animals and stayed indoors. Can you believe it was considered a status symbol to have allergies?

These days, the growing rate of allergic and inflammatory conditions in children is scary. Food allergies affect 1 in 12 children under 4. The Center for Disease Control estimates nearly a 20% increase in food allergies since the 1990s. Plus there are a lot of conditions that are associated with food allergies like eczema, asthma and autoimmunity that are on the rise.

Today I’m lucky to have my friend and colleague Robyn O’Brien talking with me about food, food allergies, and her own journey as a food activist mom. She triggered quite a reaction in the industry when she asked the question, “Are we allergic to food or what has been done to it?” She’s been called the Erin Brockovich of food, and has helped lead a food awakening amongst consumers, corporations, and organizations for ten years. Listen in as Robyn shares her story and some small steps you can take to make important dietary changes in your own household.

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“As I really studied Martin Luther King Jr., that’s when I landed on the fact that this was truly a human rights movement and that this is so much bigger than any one of us.” – Robyn O'Brien

Show Notes:

  • Why Robin used to be the typical American consumer
  • What happened when her child had an allergic reaction
  • How her child’s allergy made her doubt her skills as a mom
  • Why it’s important to find a pediatrician with a deep understanding of integrative medicine
  • It’s ok to break up with your doctor
  • How she decided to share her knowledge
  • The baby steps she took to make the changes in the beginning
  • How she found her voice to spread the message

“Every family, regardless of income, regardless of socioeconomic status or what your zip code is, should have access to clean and safe food.” – Robyn O'Brien

  • Why she presented this information as a give instead of something scary
  • The personal nature of food
  • The generational tug of war around eating
  • Why you have to have compassion for the people you’re educating
  • The intuition that children have around food
  • What changes you can make in your kitchen
  • The value of empowering your children in the kitchen

5 Changes Your Family Can Make:

  1. Believe in yourself
  2. Eat less fake food
  3. Remove artificial dyes
  4. Find organic produce where you can
  5. Give yourself permission to do one thing at a time

“As we’ve gone in and tried to maximize profit and maximize efficiency, we traded health.” – Robyn O'Brien

Links Mentioned:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Website

“Food is social, it can be religious in some situations, it’s definitely economic, it is so much more than just food.” – Robyn O'Brien

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There is so much to connect with in this wonderful presentation. One of the issues that really resonates with me today is Robyn's discussion of how we help guide and improve the food habits of our families and friends. It's one thing I really struggle with. I want them all to ditch the junk and eat super cleanly too. She spoke with such sensitivity about that. It is so easy to become preachy and semingly offensive in the desire to have people know what we know and immediately make the changes we "know" are important for optimum health and indeed to simply eat safely! When you're so passionate about this stuff it's hard not to be the "food police." It can even be difficult when hosting people in our own home. Do you respect the food preferences of your guests and provide some "nasty" items or ingredients you wouldn't dream of putting past your own lips, but you know they love? Or do you simply say, this is the kind of food we prepare in our home? My husband has been more strongly in the former camp, but I'm the cook so usually get the last say. However, I have mellowed a bit on the issue. At the same time, I feel it's a good opportunity to expose friends and family to new ingredients and healthier ways of preparing food whilst trying not to offend in any way about their own eating habits. So thank you Robyn for your insights and caution to approach that more gradually whilst still remaining totally optimistic that change WILL happen.


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Just an FYI - my son has food allergies and we have always eaten organic. I would say, about 80% - 90%. So, I am not sure i agree with your theory. I personally believe pollution is more likely the cause of food allergies in a backhanded way (I am sure you know that there is a link between asthma and food allergies). Also, I feel it is important to give my son regular snacks, so we know he has no reaction if he were to eat them, for instance, as a party. All the best, Andrea


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    Hi Andrea, I think pollution is one of the biggest triggers -- and since most foods most of us got as children were polluted, and we pass on those toxins to our kids, it's complex. In my Allergy Epidemic course I have an entire section devoted to environmental pollution.


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Megan P-K

Thank you for this interview! It was a refresher I really needed! I'm also 10 years into being a mom of two children with anaphylactic food allergies, and I so relate to so much of Robyn's story (made me cry remembering those first challenging years!), and also her approach to figuring out how to share information with compassion (we now have an amazing relationship with our kids' school!). This interview (and the post about Minneapolis Parks & Rec) also motivated me to start a conversation with our neighborhood association about using RoundUp in our neighborhood, something I've been wanting to do for a long time. Gulp. One step at a time... Much gratitude for all you both do. <3


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    Megan Liebmann

    Hi Megan, This is Megan from Aviva's team. Thank you so much for your message and for the incredible work that you do! Your message is powerful and I know for a fact that both Robyn and Aviva are thankful you are helping them spread the message as well. <3 Megan- Aviva Romm Nutritionist