an honest conversation about food allergies

I always feel hesitant when talking about my food issues. as the rise of Celiac awareness happened, so did the gluten free diet fad and a backlash from those who think that gluten intolerance is imaginary. having never been formally diagnosed, it doesn't sound very convincing when I tell people "I know" that gluten upsets my system.

about 5 years ago when I thought that gluten might be a problem for me, I started cutting it out of my diet. and almost immediately felt so much better. I struggled to stick with it consistently though. I would have a bad day: pizza. we'd all go out for drinks and someone bought a round: beers. there was a birthday in the office: cake. I was traveling for work and my hosts ordered in lunch: sandwich. someone offered me something I shouldn't really eat and I felt rude saying no: you get the idea.

over time though, my issues worsened and I had to be more and more strict. last summer I took a sip of beer and immediately wanted to vomit. a bite of a sandwich turned into gut-stabbing pain in 5 minutes. I ate some cheeze its and had a headache for 3 days. someone accidentally gave me spiced rum instead of plain and I couldn't even keep water down the next day.

the symptoms of Celiacs or gluten intolerance aren't pretty. it's not just headaches, mood swings, acid reflux and stomach pains. it's digestive issues like bloating, gas, nausea, painful cramping, vomiting, indigestion and diarrhea. depending on what and how much you eat, these things can happen anywhere from instantaneously to over the following few days.

so the reason why I've never been tested? the only way to officially know if you have Celiacs or gluten intolerance, is to eat the gluten equivalent of four slices of bread per day for three whole months. then you have a blood test followed by intestinal biopsy.

going through that kind of torture just to confirm something that I already know - my body does not like to eat gluten - just didn't seem worth it.

earlier this week I mentioned that I was awaiting results of some allergy testing. because that's the way things seem to work - I got a call from the doctor's office about half an hour after hitting "publish."

it's taken me a few days to come to grips with my results. five new things have been added to my "can not eat" list: avocados. eggs. peanuts. almonds. pineapple.

wheat did show up in the testing, but not at a high enough level to be deemed an allergy. I admit I was kindof hoping it would, so I could have some kind of validation about my condition. but the IgE and IgG tests are for allergies and not intolerances. these test are also not 100% accurate. crab was the only shellfish to show up - and I've had pretty serious reactions to shrimp and lobster. only goat's milk was listed as an allergy, and yet I know my body doesn't handle any cow-based dairy well either.

it was all too easy to have a negative reaction to this. in fact, I went through all 5 stages of grief. anger: when I wanted to punch the doctor in the face because it felt like he was telling me my issues weren't real. bargaining: when I tried to recall all my past reactions to gluten and see if I had eggs or avocado at the same time. denial: when I ate the cheeze-its [hence the 3 day headache.] depression: a lot of inconsolable crying into a [gluten free] martini.

and then acceptance: when I reminded myself that I know my own body. that I've had years of experience and knowledge gained from reactions to gluten and dairy and shellfish. and that the real point of me doing this test was to see what else was causing trouble for my system.

so it was time to make a plan. I had to get serious about avoiding all gluten and dairy. no more occasional cheating with regular soy sauce. no more cheese and no more butter. and thanks to my new allergies - no more almond milk, mayo, peanut butter, guacamole, omelettes, or macarons.

the bad news is that this makes eating out in Taiwan, and also during our travels, just that much more difficult. [honestly just eating in general.]

the good news is that these newly discovered allergies are not severe or life-threatening [no hives or anaphylactic shock] and that if I cut them out of my diet for 3 to 6 months, I may be able to eat them again without problems. the other good news is that I've found rice milk and flaxmeal to use as substitutes, and it turns out that most of my allergies fall within the top 8 most common items [and there are a ton of food blogs out there with allergen-friendly recipes.]

so I've cut everything out, started writing down everything I eat and any symptoms I have, and did an extensive pinterest search for vegan, gluten and nut free desserts. while I'm not exactly thrilled with these results... it could have been much worse. I'm just thankful there are still things that I love that aren't banned. mostly: potato chips, wine, coffee, and kittens. [not for eating, obviously.]

do you have any food allergies or intolerances? how do you deal with them - and are there any great allergy-friendly resources out there?

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