Newly diagnosed with a food allergy? If you’re new to this, it can feel overwhelming. Let me be the first to tell you, it will be okay. You’ve totally got this.
I totally know how you feel because I’ve been there. Hi, I’m Laura and I’m currently living with 70+ food allergies, more environmental allergies than I can count, and severe asthma and PCOS. To read more about Living Beyond Allergies, you can read our About page.
The crazy thing is that you and I are not the only ones dealing with allergies.
Food allergies affect around 32 million Americans and one out of every 13 children are now living with food allergies. That equals about 2 in every classroom! They are becoming more common than ever and more cultural awareness happens every day.
For more information on your specific allergies and food intolerances:
What is a Food Allergy?
A food allergy happens when the body’s immune system thinks that a specific food (a peanut for example) is a harmful substance and attacks.
These reactions can be very serious and life threatening. Please, if you have been diagnosed with a food allergy, do your best to avoid the allergy for the rest of your life. There is no cure for food allergies at this time, but scientists are working on developing new medicine. Till then, avoidance is the only way to keep you or your loved one safe.
Food Allergies vs Food Intolerance
Food allergies are not the same as food intolerances, though they are often confused. Let’s break down the differences between the two!
Allergies involve your immune system attacking your own body in response to a perceived threat. They can range in severity from mild (hives) to severe (death by anaphylaxis).
Intolerances involve the digestion system and the inability to properly digest a food. While they can make you feel something awful as you sit on a toilet, they are not life threatening. Two of the most common intolerances are milk and gluten.
Symptoms of Food Allergies
Symptoms of food allergies can vary from person to person and can range in severity from one allergy to another in the same person. My reaction to eggplants causes a very different reaction than when I encounter a peanut or shellfish!
Some common reactions are hives, rashes, swollen lips, difficulty breathing, and anaphylaxis.
An anaphylactic reaction is the most severe and life-threatening of all allergy reactions. This is even more so in those with asthma. Symptoms include: Difficulty breathing, constriction of the throat, swelling of the lips and tongue, reduced blood pressure, gastrointestinal symptoms, and fainting.
In the even of an anaphylactic reaction, call 911 (for the US) or your dedicated emergency line immediately.
Amount Before Reaction?
This varies from person to person but even trace amounts can cause severe reactions. These are not only limited to what is consumed, but also touch and smell can trigger reactions.
Hold up and stop! I’m getting overwhelmed again.
Deep breathing. Remember that you don’t have to understand food allergies all in one sitting or before you go to make dinner. If you just got home from the allergist and need to make dinner, let me recommend one of my favorite simple meals:
Roast a sweet potato in the oven at 400 degrees for about an hour. Remember to prick the potato so it doesn’t explode! Throw some broccoli in a pot to steam. Add butter (or earth balance if allergic to milk!) to both, a little salt and pepper. Dip in hummus or ketchup. Did you know that by adding butter to the sweet potato it has all the essential amino acids of protein a human needs? This quick meal will get you through till you get to the grocery store. Speaking of, let’s talk shopping.
Learning to Read Labels
Flipping food over and reading the labels is about to become your new cardio. No matter how many times I have eaten a food in the past, I ALWAYS will read the label to check for changes in manufacturing. Sure it adds a few extra minutes to my grocery shopping. But, this is the only way I can ensure my safety when it comes to eating food that is not produce and that I have not prepared myself.
Labeling for food allergies improves each year. In the U.S., the Food Allergen Labeling Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) was passed in 2004 to label all food products made with 8 common allergens if they were included in the food. The 8 allergens labeled are: milk, egg, fish, crustacean shell fish, tree nuts, wheat, peanuts and soybeans.
In December of 2014, the EU passed a law stating that the top 14 allergens were to be labeled on all foods products they serve and sell. The 14 allergens labeled are: cereals containing gluten, crustaceans, eggs, fish, peanuts, soya, milk, nuts (tree nuts), celery, mustard, sesame, Sulphur dioxide (sulphites), lupin, and molluscs.
Talking to Your Family About Food Allergies
When changing a diet to avoid food allergies, communication with friends and family is important. Especially as holidays, birthdays, and other celebrations occur, it can be difficult to sit things out for fear of reaction to allergens.
Begin by telling your friends and family that you have an allergy and that you are unable to eat this food. This includes anything made with the food. For example, if you love carrot cake, you can not simply scrape off the walnuts on the sides and eat it as the oils from the nuts have contaminated the entire cake.
Some family or friends may have difficulty understanding that even tiny amounts can cause harm to your body. Remember that you are protecting yourself by avoiding these foods and are doing the right thing.
For a full article on surviving the holidays with food allergies, click here!
Testing for Food Allergies
If you think that you or your loved one has outgrown an allergy and want to test at home, STOP! Testing for food allergies is extremely dangerous as severe reactions can occur. It is advised you only test under the supervision of a doctor.
Here to Help
As you are starting your food allergy journey, either for yourself or your loved one, it can feel isolating and overwhelming. My mission is to provide you with support, knowing that you are not alone, there is someone else out there who is living a similar path.
I also want to state that while I have been living with allergies for 33 years, I am not a doctor or health care provider and none of the materials that I provide should be used in substitution for advice from your medical doctor. A good allergist can be a great asset to your team for learning to live with allergies. Work with them to discover the best path for you.
Some websites that I use to keep informed are the following:
What Comes Next?
Hopefully you feel a little more empowered as you begin your food allergy journey. Allergies not only affect what we eat, but also what we put on our bodies, how we clean our homes, and how we live our lives. Jump to any section you wish to continue reading, or go straight to more food articles and learn how to make some yummy things. 🙂
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