I’m a barely 40-something, married with no children, professional. I work full-time, and enjoy cooking but have difficultly managing anything spectacular during the week. My husband often works very late nights and it is often just me for dinner. I like to make huge vats of soups, stews, chili, or casseroles, or thing that can be frozen in a single serving container and then nuked for lunch or dinner. And I love(d) to eat out.
About twelve years ago, I was having a great deal of difficulty with my asthma. I was having attacks that I could not trace to my normal allergic triggers (every freaking animal with fur, perfume, smoke, pollen, etc.), so I was tested for food allergies. At that time, they found that I was allergic to hazelnuts, scallops and milk. Hazelnuts I could deal with. Who cares if you never have another hazelnut? Scallops and milk products were another story. Through trial and error, not to mention being a stubborn idiot, I realized that as long as I didn’t eat milk and scallops in the same week, and as long as I didn’t have more than a cup or two of milk a week, I wouldn’t have an asthma attack. So I kept eating dairy and scallops but just planned it well. Or so I thought.
Fast forward ten years. I was exhausted. I had joint and muscle pain, flu-like symptoms, swelling in my face and feet, inexplicable rashes, severe intestinal and digestive distress, and my mind was foggy. After a few months of this (yes, I know, but I was hoping it would just go away) I went to the doctor. I was tested for Lyme disease, lupus, leukemia, tuberculosis, etc., but they didn’t find anything. I was told that it might be a virus and just to go home and wait a month. Yeah. Right. In discussing what I should do next with a friend, she suggested that some of the reactions sounded like a food allergy. I looked up food allergies on WebMD and it sounded like a possible fit. The article discussed doing an elimination diet and then adding things back in slowly. Again, being an idiot, doing an elimination diet sounded like too much freaking hassle. So I decided to just test the food allergy theory by cutting out things that I had already tested positive for way back in 2000. Now I had cut the hazelnuts out back in 2000, and I didn’t eat scallops enough for them to be the cause of the continuous problem I was having, so I picked dairy. I cut all dairy from my diet and I was fine in a week. Again, being stubborn, I tried eating an ice cream at the end of the second week. My face and feet swelled up within an hour and my face and hands turned blotchy red. Six hours later, I had severe intestinal distress, and the next day I was exhausted and felt like I had the flu. Needless to say, I was ticked off. I didn’t want to give up dairy, but after that, I didn’t really feel like I had a choice if I wanted my normal life back. So I went on the dairy free wagon.
Fast forward another year. I started noticing that I was having some symptoms that were similar to my milk allergy reactions, when I knew that I hadn’t had a milk exposure. So I decided to get allergy testing (the scratch test) which resulted in my testing positive for milk, eggs, almonds, coconut, hazelnuts, crabs, scallops, and clams. I was not too freaking happy about this, since I’d been using almond milk as my milk replacement and coconut milk creamer as my half & half replacement for my coffee. And the coconut milk ice cream was so much better than the soy. I did a challenge for the eggs to see if I could tolerate them in baked goods, but no, of course not. And then, I tried to use flax seed as an egg replacement and had a huge reaction to it. Although I have not tested positive for flax, I don’t need someone to tell me I’m allergic to avoid it at this point.
So now I’ve been forced to learn to cook without the things I love, and figure out how to eat out without eating things that will make me ill.
Edited to Add: Due to recent developments (see my post on Visit to the Allergist, that’s a bad, crazy day), I’ve confirmed three more allergies through elimination and challenges:
I passed the challenges for the following, so I don’t believe that I’m allergic, but will continue to keep an eye on them:
Since posting the above, I had a serious reaction to sunflower oil on October 8, 2013. I’m pretty sure it was the sunflower oil, as that was the only new variable in the food I ate. It was a really bad reaction, enough so that I probably should have epi-ed myself and gone to the hospital. Again, do not follow my idiot example. In any case, it was bad enough that I’m adding to the allergic list with no further verification or challenge. I just don’t dare to eat it again.
Since posting the above again, I’ve had a couple of suspicious reactions in the last two months (hives, minor facial swelling, and some minor digestive distress) after eating sesame. Last night (May 2, 2014) I screwed up and forgot about the sesame seeds on the outside of the sushi. After my mouth getting tingly and itchy and feeling like my lips and tongue got a bit swollen, and how swollen my face was this morning, I’m ready to suck it up and call it. Hello, food allergy number 14.
Since posting the above again, I challenged turkey and duck. I failed turkey, but passed duck. Apparently turkey is either cross reactive with chicken or too closely related to chicken, as chicken and turkey are both in the Phasianidae family. Since I passed duck, I want to try goose, since they are both in the Anatidae family. I have a goose in my freezer, I just haven’t had a chance to challenge it yet. Here’s hoping I have two options.
Also since posting the above, on June 9, 2015, I had an anaphylactic reaction to what turned out to be eggplant. I had to use my Epi-pen, and the paramedics had to be called, and I had to be taken out of my job on a stretcher. Yay. I had made the dish myself, as the previous summer I had eaten ten pounds of eggplant and I had been fine, but I hadn’t eaten any since last summer. Since there were tomatoes, onions, celery, zucchini, summer squash and red pepper flakes in the dish, I needed to verify that none of those caused the reaction. The reaction was bad–from first bite to collapsing in the hall trying to meet the paramedics in the lobby was about ten minutes. Now that I’ve verified that none of the other ingredients of the dish were a problem, I’m adding eggplant to the list. I’m not going to do a further challenge, because it’s just not worth the risk given the severity of the reaction and the minimal place eggplant has in my diet. Hello, food allergy number 15.
MY CURRENT LIST
- dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt, butter)
As I finish the elimination and challenges, I’ll update this post. Cross your fingers for me.