Interview with Vesanto Melina (English)

deutsch castellano (November 2009)
Vesanto Melina is a registered dietitian from Canada. She is co-author of many books on vegetarian and vegan nutrition (including “Becoming Vegan”), some of which have been translated into French, Portuguese and Chinese. Her website is

1) Since when have you been vegan?
I have been vegan for 16 years.

2) What made you become vegan?
My sympathy for the plight of animals in the factory farming system.

3) One of your books is called "Food Allergy Survival Guide". Could you tell us what allergies are? What's the difference between a food allergy, an intolerance to a food and a food sensitivity?
Reactions to food can be experienced in many different parts of our body and range from mild irritation to life threatening anaphylactic responses. In the "Food Allergy Survival Guide" by Jo Stepaniak and Vesanto Melina (published by Healthy Living Publications) we distinguish between food allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities. The accepted scientific meanings of these words are given here.

Food allergy is the reaction of the body's immune system to a food or food ingredient that it recognizes as “foreign.”

Food intolerance is an adverse reaction to a food, food ingredient, or additive that does not involve the immune system. It typically involves the digestive system.

Food sensitivity includes both intolerance and allergy.

Specific foods can cause or contribute to symptoms of arthritis, asthma, ADHD, candida, celiac disease, dermatitis, depression, digestive disorders, fatigue, migraines, and other conditions.

4) More and more people are diagnosed with having allergies. I think that some of the tests that e.g. alternative practitioners use are not always very accurate. How do we really know if we have an allergy?
With an elimination diet, in other words, how to eliminate suspect foods and follow a diet free of the top allergens for a trial period. The "Food Allergy Survival Guide" contains an entire chapter on diagnosing food sensitivities, including specific directions on how to create an elimination diet.

5) Is there any way we could, with improving overall health, get rid of a previous allergy?
 For some people and for certain foods, avoiding a food that triggers reactions for 2 to 10 years can lead the body to "forget" its reaction. This is unlikely to be the case with fish, shellfish, or peanuts, and such reintroduction should never be attempted by people who are likely to have anaphylactic reactions. Improving the health of the gastrointestinal tract may lessen some food intolerance reactions.

6) Is it correct, that common allergens like e.g. dairy can trigger allergies, not just to dairy, but also to other foods?

7) Gluten (wheat protein) has a bad reputation with some people. For people, who are not allergic to gluten, is there any reason to avoid gluten?

[Vesanto Melina's presentation on allergies at the IVU-congress in Dresden, Germany, in 2008: youtube]