IT'S FOOD ALLERGY AWARENESS WEEK
Last night I dreamed I was eating strawberries. Last night I dreamed I was eating ripe, red, luscious strawberries... and spitting most of them out for fear of
an allergic reaction. I remember how I felt in my dream. If I ingested a small portion and had an allergic reaction, I could manage that. If I ate a whole handful of strawberries it could put me over the edge. It’s always the “if” that makes it tough for me. I have a healthy relationship with food for the most part. I like variety, spice, healthy, wholesome, seasonal, well-prepared and multi-ethnic foods. I am not a calorie counter or a body shamer. I have been down that road and I feel I have a very solid, natural loving relationship with regard to eating and my body. That said, I am allergic to a lot of things. A lot, a lot of things! This creates a growing fear of food and the way certain ones may affect me. Anybody who loves me lives with me or has dined with me knows that simply sitting down to a plate of food and conversation can be daunting and anxiety-inducing at times. I am not picky, not fussy, adventurous by nature and have almost always been willing to try things. I even ate chopped liver as a kid, and other Sunday “appetizing” like baked salmon, whitefish salad and things that would send some children spinning. Somewhere along the line, I developed both environmental allergies and severe food allergies. I have speculated about the onset but nobody will ever really know what brought them on. My mother had food allergies for years. And then she didn't. So they are mysterious and can come and go at any time. The trick is to track them down. Imagine you've eaten a plate of food with fifteen different ingredients and subsequently had an adverse reaction. This can be daunting, especially if the allergens are many. I have done food diaries, elimination diets and all sorts of detective work. It's quite a job. Take it from me. I have had several very severe allergic reactions to food. I have Epi-ed myself at a gas station in Newark, in the ER during triage, and had my husband do the deed in our living room. I have had first responders in our home, had panic attacks in restaurants and been to HUMC ER more times than I like to admit, though not very recently, thankfully. I stash Claritin redi-tabs and Benydrls in the pockets of my jeans, coats and if I am out at a wedding, dinner or event of any kind with a small fashionable little clutch bag you can bet it has a credit card, license, lipstick, compact and is mostly stuffed with EpiPens and antihistamines, just in case! The “just in case” factor has taken me down a few pegs as I am a free spirit by nature and this kinda thing makes free-spiritedness tricky. I remind myself that “I” am not my food allergies. Don’t want to jinx myself here but I am a healthy, happy camper and a superconscious eater. I don’t get sick often. The foods I do eat are mostly very healthy. I don’t eat dairy, soy, eggs, (allergic to all) or much sugar. I am decaffeinated, gluten-free and I take good vitamins and supplements. I meditate, get exercise, sleep deeply and practice gratitude daily. Loving relationships, creativity and the power of music are hace been healing elixirs for me. Since these allergies have cropped up and only gotten worse over the last several years, I am constantly in a position where I need to do food challenges, which is trying a particular food by itself (not clouded by any other foods) and waiting to see if a reaction occurs. Not the most fun way to spend an afternoon. I have done nut challenges in my allergist's office. No nuts for me! And I am yet to do challenges at home for corn, chickpeas, mushrooms, stone fruits and strawberries.... It’s never a good day for an allergic reaction and to be dazed and confused after taking four antihistamines, which just by chance happened yesterday after eating an avocado. Excuse me while I add the beloved avocado to the “not safe” list. Adios Guacamole! I am not trying to elicit pity. I loathe it, It embarrasses me so. I know I am lucky every day and that people are grappling with far worse things. I carry business cards with a lengthy list of my allergies that I can hand out at restaurants or show to be people if necessary. The cards currently need to be updated to include mangos, coconuts, dates, tomatoes, basil and everything in the Balsam of Peru category which is another story altogether and sadlry now... avocado. I have written before about food allergies. It has conviluted my world and stressed me out, but also made me extremely sensitive to challenges others face and it's even been the catalyst for my becoming a certified integrative nutrition health coach and to start doing wellness workshops and corporate lunch and learns to help people navigate health and wellness as a whole. I do go for allergy shots almost every week. Eight shots a week. Mostly because I am hoping we can get a dog. My son really wants a dog and we frankly we all really want a dog. Sadly I am allergic to dogs too. I am hoping I have amassed enough shots to be less reactive. I'll report back on that. As you can likely tell, allergy awareness is something I am passionate about. I speak about this and I cook lots of allergy-friendly recipes that I have concocted over time. I would never want a pity party but I do hope that foods continue to have safer labels, that menus in restaurants become more and more explicit and that people are trained to know what ingredients go into foods and that we all start to consider the additives and allergens that can go into packaged foods, fast foods and even “quality” foods in finer restaurants. We are not meant to ingest much of the garbage that winds up in foods. Being “allergic” to things has made me incredibly mindful of how we nourish ourselves. I encourage you to notice the signs your body sends you and to look out for your loved ones, especially children who may not be able to articulate exactly what is happening at times. Tell people you are with what you are dealing with so that someone might help you if you are struggling. Don't be embarresed or too proud. Life is precious. If something does not feel right after you eat a food you might have a sensitivity or even a food allergy. It’s important to understand the difference and to be ready to take action should a true allergic reaction occur. Some are milder than others. Allergic reactions can come in many forms like hives, dizziness, sinus pressure, itching, and even trouble breathing. Serious allergies can be life-threatening so it’s important to take this stuff seriously. Right now the suggested method of operation is to abstain from the food in question. If you or someone you know is struggling with this I highly recommend seeing a good allergist/immunologist. I am happy to help if you would like to reach out.
As we are realizing more than ever during this COVID-19 crisis our lives truly depend on each other. We are in this together. Stay safe, stay healthy, stay nourished and remember to always listen to your body and don’t forget to listen to your heart’s intuition while you are at it. It will lead the way! Blessings to you! xo Stacie