While the spread of the coronavirus has captured health headlines throughout the world, a more silent crisis of food allergies has also been on the rise in the U.S., and Bay Area-based Latitude Food Allergy Care has dedicated itself to caring for patients dealing with food hypersensitivity.
To help fight food allergies and serve patients in the Tri-Valley and greater East Bay, Latitude recently opened a new care clinic in San Ramon, offering patients the opportunity to assess, treat and even possibly prevent food allergies and the often dangerous reactions to them.
"Millions of people are desperate for answers to their food allergy questions," said Kimberley Yates Grosso, founder and CEO of Latitude. "Our team set out to transform food allergy care by providing a place where patients and their families could finally make sense of their food allergies and find solutions with full support from food allergy experts and clinicians."
"As members of the food allergy community ourselves, we know that specialized care is not only necessary but life-changing, and we are committed to making it accessible to all those who need it," she added.
Founded in 2018 by Bay Area parents of children with food allergies, Latitude is unique in that, while most general allergists can provide care to patients suffering from food allergies, their clinical team is led by board-certified allergists who have specified expertise focusing in on the treatment of food hypersensitivity.
"Patients come to Latitude searching for answers to their food allergies, with many having had no choice but to avoid foods their entire lives," said Tessa Grosso, a community adviser at Latitude and a patient advocate for food allergy treatment. "As a food allergic patient myself, it is truly exciting to live the rest of my life with the ability to eat freely, and to create the same possibilities for other children, teenagers and adults in the food allergy community."
Latitude has four clinics throughout the Bay Area located in San Francisco, Los Gatos/San Jose, Redwood City and now San Ramon, which have remained open for virtual and in-person visits.
One of the top ways Latitude provides care, according to co-founder Debbie Taback, is first and foremost ensuring that patients have an accurate diagnosis of what their allergies actually are.
Through a combination of skin and blood tests, clinicians can get an accurate diagnosis of the allergens that affect a patient. Then once an accurate diagnosis is reached, patients can sit down with allergists to create a treatment plan that best suits them.
"A lot of the time people come in and they say 'I'm allergic to this list of 20 foods' and we do the hard work with them to really determine what people are allergic to. Because oftentimes, and especially for young adults who may have been told something as a child, maybe these things that they have been avoiding for years and years may be fine," Taback told the Weekly.
In some cases, Latitude can help even desensitize patients to their allergies to severely minimize or even remove symptoms that can result from exposure to allergens.
Herself a mother of three children who have suffered from various types of food allergies, Taback said her eldest daughter was diagnosed with an allergy to sesame that she was desensitized to through a practice called oral immunotherapy.
Oral immunotherapy is an innovative process based on evidence-based protocols from Stanford University, the University of California San Francisco, Baylor University and other leading research institutions that includes exposing patients to small doses of their allergies, helping patients build a tolerance and reducing the symptoms of accidental exposure to their allergies.
"(My daughter is) kind of an anomaly because at the 5-1/2-year mark after her treatment, she's now completely tested out of her allergy. She's no longer allergic to sesame," Taback said.
"With the desensitization process, the goal is to retrain the immune system to recognize the food as something safe. You do this in a very slow, monitored way and you progress from very very small amounts up to maybe a whole nut or several whole nuts (for patients with nut allergies)," Taback added.
The new San Ramon clinic is led by East Bay clinical director Tina L.R. Dominguez (PA-C, MMS).
The demand for organizations dedicated to treatment of food allergies has only grown, according to Taback, who said that the rates of food allergies reported among people has grown to epidemic proportions over the past decade.
"Allergies rates have absolutely increased over the past decade and are on a trajectory to continue to increase unless changes are made," Taback said.
"There are some new guidelines that make sure babies are exposed to potentially allergenic foods at a very young age, whereas 10 years ago the advice was don't give babies these allergenic foods until they are 3. Well those guidelines have turned upside down because we are trying to stem that tide of this epidemic of food allergies," she added.