22 January 2015

Waiving the magic wand

Every week for almost a year we've been connecting a very unique group of people from coast to coast in the United States via phone. We've developed a sub-culture in our disease. The online forum now has about 280 members. Each week 4-9 of us hop on a call to discuss various topics related to adult onset food allergy disease. 

The last couple of weeks we've discussed two great topics. 
The first was: 
"In a perfect world, if anything was possible, what tools would you like to see to better help navigate food allergies." 

Of course finding a cure is the first one for all us, but apart from that here is what the group asked for:

1. Better labeling: Because the majority of adults with food allergies have things that are not on the 8 required to b
in the US, we would just like all labeling on all products to be listed in plain language. So if there is orange in shampoo, can the ingredients just say, "Orange" please?!

2. Better educated food staff: Everyone thinks they know about food allergies but when the person with food allergies asks for help and boldly WRONG statements are being made it can turn into an ugly illness for the food allergic that lasts for weeks. All we are asking for is that every person in the food industry have proper, certified training on food allergies with some type of regular update required. It's knowing what questions to ask, knowing what to look for and how to assess safe or unsafe with confidence that is key. Some states mandate food allergy training. The federal government even mandates it but if the state doesn't agree to it or isn't checking to make sure there is at least one certified food allergy manager onsite at all times, it's worthless. 

In a perfect world, if you could waive a magic wand; what solutions would you put in place to help better manage allergic living? 

Here is the reality about finding a cure for Food Allergy Disease:  Health related non-profit organizations for things like Brain Tumor cures, Cancer, Heart Disease and Kidney disease get 10 times the amount of funding that organizations that support Food Allergies do. 
I hate to be a pessimistic person but I don't see us finding a cure in my lifetime. 
If they can't figure out cancer, heart disease and kidney disease with all that money, then I kind of don't think they are going to figure out Food Allergy disease anytime soon. It's far more mysterious than people think it is, actually. Especially because kids can outgrow it whereas adults can grow into it. I just ask that we create better tools to help navigate so we can stay positive, productive citizens of the world who don't continue to get sick and have reactions that can take us out for weeks at a time. 

Our second topic was: 
"What tools do you use in your daily life to better help you manage food allergies." 
Stay tuned for the next blog post to hear what tools may help you. You can also sign up to receive email alerts. 

If you know of a restaurant group that you'd like to see get trained, please refer them to one of our resources in Food Allergy Training & Management, there are now a handful of companies offering this service. Contact info@foodallergygal.com for more details.

15 December 2014

Overcoming Fear in Food Allergic Living

To a multiple food allergic person, finding safe foods or places to eat is like going on a scavenger hunt for a California license plate in Georgia. They are out there but it's not a frequent, easy find.

I try to never give up the hunt. I alway find new places and most of the time I am willing to ask, "Do you have any special menus?" or "What's in your product? How is it made?" "Can you cater to someone with 15 allergens?" "What's new and unique about your place? Have you thought about becoming a food allergy certified restaurant?" The questions provoke thought and let owners and managers know people are looking. Don't give up.

I walked over to a new local market to meet a neighborhood friend for lunch. The market is in a great spot, nestled just off the Atlanta Beltline between O4W and Inman Park. It's taken awhile to get up and running but there were all sorts of fabulous speciality shops inside with a very upscale "food court." But not the kind of food court you would find inside of a mall. The kind where every shop is different, unique and a little bit higher end. No 'Hot Dog on a Stick' kind of places. There are mostly local business owners, many of whom are getting their start now.

The clean, modern lines of the building represent a certain level of much needed hygiene that is important to me in my shopping/eating experience.

The food adventurer in me wants to go try everything. The food allergic side of me proceeds with great caution and is only mildly hopeful I will find something good to eat.

I walk thru this beautifully eclectic building that was once a warehouse and then converted to a movie studio that now resembles a 1920's old factory complete with conveyor belts and stumble across a butcher, a florist, a chocolatier, a soap maker, a pastry shop and a handful of restaurants. "This is how I like to shop," says the gal who hates to shop. 

I can actually go to a place like this, ask the questions I need to and get answers without them having to phone into corporate or them coming back to me saying, "sorry we can't." I can actually make a soap, a lotion and a conditioner that is safe for me, right here in my own backyard without setting up a chemistry shop at home.

A few doors down I see chocolate. I am willing to take the risk because a few times before in my life I've actually found smaller chocolatiers making simply good chocolate that is safe. And BINGO, there it was XOColATL. Finally a safe chocolate bar with just two ingredients but with hints of apricot and cherry on the back end. Life was getting better by the second.

As I round the corner, my friend points out the owner of the Spotted Trotter, the butcher shop located at the front and I run into the owner of the Luminary as well. They are all very engaged in running their businesses, but everyone is greeted with a smile.

Popping up on the backside was a BBQ spot, a mediterranean shop and then:
"Fred's Meat and Bread," caught my attention. 

I loved the simplicity of the name. I watched as the food came out of the large open window that was counter height so I could still see them preparing. (This also helps bring a level of comfort to me. I like to see what's happening in the kitchen).

The meals were simple and fresh and looked super delicious. I would not call this "health food" even for a second, as it was American burgers with a global influence, from a vietnamese to italian twist. But I certainly needed a healthy dose of food that day- so to me it was "healthful."

I asked, as I took a seat at the counter, "Do you think you can create something for me with these food allergies?," as I pulled out the long list. My main concern was where was the bread from and did it have dairy, soy or sesame in it?  Of course it's only responsible to go thru the entire list of allergens with them, just in case, but honestly the chances were slim that other allergens would be present.

My dining partner was actually more concerned than I was, which was somewhat refreshing, as he took care to ask about everything from the Ketchup to the pickles (which usually I have no issue with). "Fred" reported back that the buns were made onsite and did contain dairy and sesame, which made me not want a burger as badly but he convinced me to go bunless and order the fries because the burger was delicious made of 3 kinds of meat.

He had me at 3 kinds of meat and french fries, so I ordered. Despite not being able to have a bun and really go for the "Fred's Meat and Bread specials-" it was the best burger I'd had in ATL...

I left perfectly satisfied and eager to further explore the Krog Street Market further in future, knowing I may have stumbled on a place where I could actually enjoy the goods being produced.

As multiple food allergics we often fear and dread going outside of our homes on food adventures. In fact many of us have let fear itself consume us therefore we deny ourselves these social experiences.

I'm not insensitive to this at all. I have personally experienced anaphylaxis shock more than once in my life. I know it can be scary. I have also been sick for weeks because I was fed or consumed something that ended up being unsafe. It's a yucky, angry feeling of betrayal sometimes.

I also know I have an Epi Pen and prescription antihistamines and lotions in case an allergic reaction should start.

I refuse to live a bubble, because that's just not living at all.

I want to live my life and go explore still, even if that means I have to take a food break and run home to feed myself or pack safe snacks from home, it's worth trying because you never know what good you may stumble upon.

We must find it in ourselves to not allow the fear to consume us but instead use that same "OCD" paranoid skill and apply it to being prepared. It's okay to be ready when you need to be, I recommend it in fact, but don't let this disease control you. You be in control of your thoughts, choices and decisions and reactions but go explore. Live your life. It's totally worth it, in the end. I would rather say that I did something than I thought of something.

25 November 2014

"Sticks & Stones"

by Lauren Pechacek

Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me.  - Oh really?!

The words we speak to ourselves can often be the words that hurt us the most.

I remember coming home from the doctor with my list of “can’t have” foods.

I stood in front of pantry with bitter determination, thinking, “how bad could this possibly be?”

Several grocery bags later, an empty pantry, refrigerator, and icebox...I realized that this was bad.
Reading labels opened up a whole new world...my pesky allergens were in EVERYTHING!

What was I going to eat? What was I supposed to do when I craved the things I was allergic too? I had to literally change my mind about good, “healthy food.” These things I could no longer have were not inherently bad or evil, but my body's response to them was. How was I going to change my entire diet...overnight?

I confess, like many adults struggling with food allergies, I did not handle it well.

My “adjustment” was radical. I ate very little in the first few weeks. All of my go-to recipes were no longer safe.
Eating out was definitely not an option. In all of this, I struggled not to just have a little of (the offensive food).

I began telling myself, “I can’t have that, it will kill me.”
Was this a true statement?
Well, yes it was. But in my effort to keep myself safe from my own desires and cravings, cross-contact, and a host of other terrifying scenarios, I began building an unscalable wall around me, in my own mind.

Years ago I made the decision to stop watching CSI, Criminal Minds, and NCIS. I found my mind overwhelmed with fear. I would always drive around a bit before parking my car, envisioning one of the many episodes where a serial killer was hiding behind a bush. Although the possibility of someone attacking me is not impossible, it was certainly not something I needed occupying my thoughts all the time.

So, several years after receiving my “list” a few trips to the hospital and the “list” growing, I had to make another decision. Is having a reaction a possibility? Absolutely. Do I need to be constantly telling myself “That will kill me.” No. The goal is to stay safe and healthy.

While I was staying safe, I was making myself unhealthy. So from freedom to the snares of bondage, I think I have found a balance in my words.

I now say, “I can’t have that, but I can have this.” Now, it is less fear based, and more about my choice, “This makes me sick but this does not.”

I know it is popular to refer to our food allergies as “life-threatening” and there are times and places that is needed. But, not in our heads and our hearts.

I know the reality of my food allergies. I know what it means to use an Epi-Pen, several times over. I also know what it is to live in a self-made hell of fear. Dwelling on all the possibilities of what could go wrong, dealing with the aftermath of reaction when you have been so careful.

I get it. But, instead of surrounding our minds with forty-foot walls fifteen feet deep, topped with barbed-wired and broken glass bottles, maybe we could change it out for a little white picket fence? One you can see over and through. ? One that allows us the you freedom to think creatively about living and flourishing with your food allergies?

What words are you speaking to yourself? Are they helpful or hurtful? Do you feel walled-in? Would you like to stay safe and also be healthy? Maybe consider writing down the words you speak to yourself. What could you change them to?

We can’t change the reality of food allergies, but we can certainly change how we view and interact with them. 

Lauren is owner of Flourish with Food Allergies, a certified AllerCoach firm based out of Houston, Texas. You can personally connect with Lauren at facoachtx@gmail.com

12 November 2014

We Are what We Eat

As a food allergic we are focused as much on what we can eat as we are on what we can't eat.

Our lives often are consumed by staying alive and staying well. It's all about what we put in our bodies.  After all, one particle per million could send us into a deadly disaster and/or make us ridiculously sick for a very long time. (Not fun!) This is good reason to feel a little obsessed about food.

I've read 1000's of  stories now on the "hell" of being newly diagnosed with over 8 different allergies- many related to just foods. Some people have been diagnosed with over 32 food allergies.

Where we eat, where we travel, who we date, who we socialize with, how we socialize, where we work, how we work, when we cook, where we cook, where we shop... have all become a focused part of this giant picture we now call life as a food allergic.

The saying, "We are what we eat," hits me today as I think about what I am NOT due to food allergies. In my case I am not a salmon, a ginger, a peanut, a nut at all, a vanilla, a coffee, a banana, a cranberry, a soybean, an orange, lemon or lime or latex or milk.

So what am I?

If you could describe yourself as a food or beverage what would you be?

One of my favorite jobs ever is being a chef/cook.  I love to put together new foods and appeal to appetites. I love finding myself in the food itself. I love putting together new challenging menus. While I was always a food lover, the cooking but didn't hit me until I was much older. In my younger years it was baking, because baking was a family affair. Then something changed within me.

I had been exposed to some of the greatest chefs growing up. My food life was expansive by the time I was 18. I had eaten more foods than most people will ever eat in a lifetime.  I was spoiled but didn't know it. My family owned a produce business and restaurants were some of our best clients. My first fine dining experiences were often in the back of the kitchen after delivering produce and a long hard, dirty day of work. Some chefs were kind enough to give me a full tasting menus. I never knew how good I had it until I find out that wasn't the "norm."

When food allergies struck me in my early 20's for the first time, I had to step up in my own kitchen. The more food allergies I developed and the more severe they became, the better my chef skills became. I was not going to sacrifice good food and great flavors just because of this new disease. I would overcome.

If I am what I eat.

Today I am beef, mushroom, potato with fresh chopped basil and a few red beets. Tomorrow I may be a tomato, basil eggplant. Sometimes I am just a pork chop- but a good pork chop with a side of fresh applesauce and a little salt and pepper.

If I am what I eat.
Then I am fresh, rich, colorful, packed with flavor individual.

We talk about not letting our disease be us in our support groups. We talk about focusing on what we can eat. We talk about positive affirmations but as I write down how I eat and what I eat, I find a lot of truth to how it mimics my life.

I don't think for longer than even a week, I've lived a vanilla life.

The moral of the story is to love your food. Celebrate what you are putting in your body. Value it because food is the stuff that fuels our body but generally the experience around food (cooking, socializing, serving) is what fuels our soul.

If all you have is a box of Kraft Mac N cheese... spice it up with a little pepper and add a little green garnish. Serve it a beautiful non-plastic bowl and use real silverware. Sit down at the table. Turn on some music. Light a candle. Pick a flower from a garden and place it on the table. Then with every bite savor that moment in your food. It changes your perspective entirely.

Love yourself enough to feed yourself well. You deserve it.

29 October 2014

What's all this teal pumpkin stuff about?

Holiday season is officially in full swing. For 220 million people worldwide, this can be one of the most challenging times in our lives. Especially for those diagnosed with multiple food allergies (kids and adults alike).

While Halloween technically celebrates the day of the dead, food (candy) is the most important prize. This is a holiday we somehow made into our own based on Mexico's Dia de los Muertos. We dress up in costumes, knock on strangers doors and encourage our children to beg for candy. A proper American Tradition now though.

We also celebrate the fall (autumn) season with pumpkins, fall leaves, hot cider and apple harvest in preparation of Thanksgiving by "harvesting" them and bringing them at home to further ripen on our front porch before we carve them or make pie out of them.

But things are changing in our society now. The rise of food allergies as well as the larger transparent food movement, has people thinking twice about giving our little "beggars" food (candy). We surely wouldn't want them sick because of something we dished out.
Cooper (FA Kid) in California shows off her Teal Pumpkin. 

A woman (Ms. Becky Basalone) in Tennessee came up with an iconic symbol this Halloween called the "Teal Pumpkin Project." Every cause has a color. Somehow Food Allergies got teal. (Although in food service the color to signify an allergen free meal is purple).

Becky decided to send a signal to all the Food Allergic kids and parents by painting a teal pumpkin and placing it on the front porch. This signals to families of food allergics that this house will give away non-food treats (pencils, pens, bracelets, erasers, spider rings, etc).

The movement has spread across the United States and has been reported being seen in UK and Canada. I was recently on a few calls where people knew nothing about food allergies and this subject came up, "I was wondering what all these blue pumpkins were all about."

If you'd like to participate in the 'blue' or Teal pumpkin project and let people know, click here.
How to participate:
1. Paint a pumpkin Teal
2. Grab some non-food items a (trick vs. treat)
3. List your house as a Safe for F.A. kids house, here. 

At Food Allergy Gal, we recommend baking/making special treats at home.
That means having a super fabulous, awesome meal at home that is made Free of Allergens (for that person) first. Perhaps make it ghost and goblin themed. Then have special treats ready that can be packed for trick or treating. (Rice Crispy Treats made with safe alternatives, Muffins, Dried Fruit, Pie Bites) 

Everyone is going to be reaching in and grabbing a little treat from time to time, so carry some "safe treats" with you as you go from door to door.

Enjoy those spider rings and pens and pencils and if candy is collected- donate it to the soldiers if you don't feel safe. 

Until you walk the day in the life of a multiple food allergic person, you may not know the pain we face with this season. Social functions include food everywhere that can make us extremely ill for weeks and/or kill us if aren't treated with epi right away. It's great to have people who actually care about us (food allergics) too.

Learn more about #tealpumpkinproject 

A Halloween Meal Plan Idea:

1.Beef back ribs (to resemble human ribs) Braise them in a balsamic vinegar and brown sugar rub and brushes them with homemade barbecue sauce before grilling them

2. Fried Cabbage Salad (to resemble fried worms) Add shredded cabbage, onions, carrots with rice vinegar, olive oil, teaspoon of sugar to sauté pan and heat it up until just a bit on the crispy side and then top off with some dried seaweed. 

3. Roasted Fingerling Potatoes (to resemble fingers) Wash potatoes and place on baking sheet. Drizzle salt, pepper and olive oil. Heat over to 425 degrees F. Roast for 20 minutes. Sprinkle Rosemary or Chives for color on top

4. Pumpkin Flan for dessert (this can be made with Rice Milk and dairy, soy free butter)  (Add 3/4 cup of whole pumpkin blend) Click here, for unmodified recipe. 

5. Tasty Drink (Adult version here): 1/4 cup water, 3 cups of pear or apple juice, 4 tablespoons of cinnamon, (optional 1 cup of whiskey) (Mix in a martini shaker and pour over ice) or warm over low heat in a sauce pan or crock pot and serve warm. 

13 October 2014

Allergy Wellness Summit Coming Up

Some of us are brand new to food allergies and some of us have been dealing with them for what seems like an eternity, either way lots of questions continue to pop up.

What's real?

What's a myth?

How do I tell Grandma I can't eat her famous apple pie anymore because of my food allergies?

Is spending $8 on a loaf of Gluten-Free bread really helping me feel better? 

Where does cross-contact happen? 

Whatever your concerns are, they’ll be covered in the Food Allergy Wellness: Powerful Paths to Courageous Living with Food Allergies Summit from November 3rd to 6th. 

During 12 interviews airing over four days, 12 experts share their tips for the many aspects of living with food allergies. 

Click here sign up today and get the tele-summit for Free.  Join Food Allergy Gal and 11 other all-star experts in this huge knowledge transfer!

Remember you must sign up before November 3rd to get it for Free! 

Don't worry about missing it, get it added to your calendar with a reminder- just click "Join" on Facebook.

If you have any trouble just e-mail: foodallergygal@icloud.com

12 October 2014

Navigating life post diagnosis

Even as Food Allergy Gal,  I often find myself frustrated, irritated, hopeless, and depressed about living life with multiple, late onset food allergies. I've been diagnosed with not only food allergies, but seasonal allergies and environmental allergies for 12+ years now.  If that's not bad enough, I also have to live on a healthy kidney diet for 20 years, (not something I like to throw into the mix when speaking in public.)

People outside of food allergy world, think they understand food allergies. I recently tried to help someone get a speciality caterer to host a 50 person party and the food world said, "anyone should be able to do that, they don't need to be specialized." YIKES! This is why I created Food Allergy Gal to begin with. It's really not that easy and not that simple to understand.

I spend countless amounts of hours reading labels- not just on food products but on soap, shampoo, conditioner, face wash, lotion, medications, vitamins. I also have to watch cross reactivity constantly.

Sometimes it's just a little bit of support, a little understanding and some "right now solutions" to my immediate problem that make all the difference in the world. You know someone to help me quickly identify what I can have and what I can't, someone who can cook or shop with me that knows what they are doing, someone who can relate to me, someone who will help me navigate. So.....

I got tired of waiting for the solution...

I heard, met, saw, spoke to those who left jobs for their kids who were severely allergic. I heard the cries from the adults trying to keep their jobs with severe allergic reactions. I wanted to create solutions while we wait for the cure, because goodness knows.... if it's taking this long to find a cure for cancer, it may take a lot longer to find one for food allergies.

I created a program called AllerCoach. See FARE is too busy and often unable to provide real support, right now to those who don't have HUGE federal cases going on. When I first called them, I knew I had a problem but I didn't even know where to start or what to ask for. They don't have time to figure that stuff out. They also don't make a habit of employing those with multiple food allergies. They hire training non-profit professionals who work on fundraising, board meetings, in politics and legal. They hire people from other non-profits and depend on volunteers for the Food Allergy experience (who already devote a LOT of time and often get burned out quickly.)

I wanted to help others start businesses with a purpose and a passion that had experiences managing food allergies already and could help others 1:1 daily if needed. Real people, real world, real experience to navigate the daily live challenges we all face.

So if you need support in your community- our certified AllerCoaches can help.

Allercoaches are not doctors. They will not diagnose you. These are people who are trained to help you talk to doctors and bring the right information. (They may even go with you to the doctor's office).

Allercoahes are not expert trained culinary professionals but they sure know their way around the kitchen and a grocery store (online and in small towns). They will help guide you to safe and unsafe products for your specific needs. Assist with menu development that works with you may be comfortable cooking already.  They will help you prepare a safe kitchen and help you avoid obstacles you may not think about.

AllerCoaches are not quacks selling any product. They are 100% service based. They can't cure food allergies or offer you some magic potion to take. AllerCoaches are kind of like hospice for food allergic living people. They are guides, teachers, practical thinkers, PRO assistance, aids, support, etc.

Find an Allercoach near you: Contact us. Become an AllerCoach, click here.

During 12 interviews airing over four days, 12 experts share their tips for the many aspects of living with food allergies. Click here sign up today and get the tele-summit for Free.  Join Food Allergy Gal and 11 other all-star experts in this huge knowledge transfer!

29 September 2014

Smell good, Feel Good. (Recipe included)

It's Autumn. My favorite time of the year. I love whipping out my boots, scarves and starting the layered look that will be on me for at least 6 months. Of course as a food lover, I equally love all my warm and full flavored, sweet and savory foods.

This summer I developed a brand new allergen, now making over 15+ foods that my body wants to freak out about. #darnfoodallergies

While giving up coffee was a big blow to my normal daily 6 AM and 10 PM routine, it is an even bigger blow to my pour a cup of hot coffee and take a walk in the cool autumn night walks routine. While green tea and honey are ok, my appetite for something better is starting to kick in.

As I glanced around a new market we've opened in Atlanta and saw the selections of organic produce, I started to 'invent' some new warm fall recipes.

The nice part of this recipe is that while I am working in my busy day, I can take a 10 minute break (sometimes) and whip this up, pop it in the oven and set the "bake time" button timer that stops when it reaches it's time.

Cinnamon Baked Apples & Pears

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes


2 large firm apples
2 large pears
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup maple syrup
10  large pitted dates (remove pits) cut into quarters
1/4 cup finely toasted, puffed quinoa
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground clove
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons of soy, dairy free earth balance


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Cut apples & pears in halves  (remove core with a small pairing knife)
Sprinkle with apple cider vinegar
Place apples in glass baking dish
Mix other ingredients into a large mixing cup and pour over top of apples
Place foil over the apples

Bake for 35 minutes

Remove and serve in small serving bowls as a dessert or sweet side dish goes great with chicken or pork.

This cold day treat that makes the house smell good and is totally gluten free, wheat free, dairy free, egg free, nut free, peanut free, soy free... but to the non-allergic, don't tell anyone. Just make it up and let them enjoy the flavor.

If you have a great "allerfriendly" recipe you would like to write about or have published, please submit to Food Allergy Gal, foodallergygal@icloud.com

02 August 2014

Traveling with Severe Food Allergies

By: Christina Griffin 

First of all, I would like to thank Food Allergy Gal, Lara, for inviting me to be a guest writer for this article. I too am a Food Allergy Gal, with multiple food allergies.

I admit I have not traveled all over the world since my food allergies diagnosis in 2010 but I have acquired some skills in this area traveling both by car and plane.

As with anything related to food allergies like dining, socializing, school or work, you learn and learn quickly. So many things come into play when planning a trip across the world or across your state. Sometimes just thinking about it causes me to spontaneously nap! Although, it is very tiring and a lot of work to plan a trip, it’s worth it so you can be safe and have fun without much worry. I have a few tips that hopefully will help you in planning your next trip.

I have found the planning stage to be the most stressful. Asserting yourself is important here. Let all of your reservation agents know you have severe and life threatening food allergies. Here are some tips to help you in your planning stage.

Plan out restaurants you find that may be safe to eat at. Traveling in Europe or other countries, you can actually speak with your hotel to find accommodating restaurants. If you are traveling in the U.S. here is a fabulous resource.  www.allergyeats.com .

Find a safe and convenient place to rest your head and possibly cook your meals can be challenging. Be sure to tell them you are food allergic. You can request a refrigerator for your hotel room for medicine, as our food is medicine. If you tell them it’s for medicine most will provide one at no cost. Some accommodation ideas with kitchens:

Tip 1: When I am flying, I am sure to pack a crib sheet in my carry on, yes a baby crib sheet, it fits perfectly on the airplane seats as a cover.

Tip 2: I also pack moist wipes or baby wipes to wipe down surfaces like the arm rests and tables. And of course your hands before you eat.

Your medicine is just as important to pack on your carry on, be sure to have enough on hand for your flight and pack it all in a large Ziploc to go through security. Tip 3: Do not put your epi-pens through the scanners as it could lessen the effectiveness of them.

Food is very important when you have to fly and cannot eat the airplane meals.

  1. When you make your reservation, please tell the airline and your steward/ stewardess when you board, that you have food allergies.
  2.  Pack enough to get you through the wait at the airport plus the flight. Some suggestions of food to take are fruits and vegetables with dip, crackers, cheese sticks, pepperoni sticks, chips, hummus, cooked bacon, sun butter and jelly sandwich, cookies are just some ideas. 
Tip 4: Under ADA law (American with Disabilities Act), you can bring ice packs to keep food cold. If security gives you any trouble with this or your medicine make sure to tell them confidently, under ADA law you are to carry your medicine/ food and ask to speak to a supervisor. Usually that statement will stop them in their tracks and they will let you through without any further problems.

I hope some of these tips are useful to you all.  If you are traveling this year, be sure to be safe, speak up, but most of all have fun! Thank you again for having me as a guest on Food Allergy Gal. Happy traveling!

About the author: 

Christina is the author of the blog, Bubble Girl: Surviving Sjogren's and Food Allergies. She enjoys trips with her family, walks with her dogs, reading, writing and cooking.You can find Christina at  her blog www.bubblegirlhappily.blogspot.com and on Facebook as Bubble Girl

Do you have an interesting story, tip or product you'd like to write about on FoodAllergyGal.com? Contact Us. 

25 July 2014

Food Allergy Ironies

I grew up in an agricultural zone. My life was lemons, limes, oranges, strawberries, avocados, bagging tree nuts and basically living off the land. While I had medical issues growing up, no one ever said, "allergy or asthma" to me.

Today, my children are primarily city kids, although the first few months of my son's life, he lived on that same ranch I grew up on. Both children visited our ranch often and spent lots of days with chickens, cats, dogs, dirt, dust, grasses, and fruits.

Our family business was running farmer's markets, delivering produce to commercial kitchens, having roadside fruit stands and a little work behind the scenes in restaurants, bakeries and cafes. Our primary products for sale to the public were hydroponically grown tomatoes from a few years before Luke was born until last year. Before that it was lemons, oranges, strawberries and avocados primarily.

Luke, my son, has always been a bit more picky of eater since I weened him from breastfeeding when he was 6 months old.  He is 15 years old now and up until a few months ago, he had never had an noticeable issues with breathing, swallowing or digestive. He is also a very level headed, even tempered young man.

Liah, my daughter, is 12 years old. She was born in Denver, CO. I breastfed her as well. Liah will eat almost everything now and has zero issues with allergies except one medication that was used to help her sleep at one time. Most of her life has been in the city or at the beach. Oh, something I will say is that Liah was a difficult pregnancy and I had to take lots of antibiotics via IV while pregnant with her. Six days after she was born, she and I came home from the hospital together. She lived in an incubator after birth due to complications. She has been very healthy and thriving ever since. She is an exemplarily student and athlete.

Now the Irony. 

I prepared a family meal one late afternoon in Georgia. Just after departing from the table, Luke came outside and said he wasn't feeling well. I looked at him and observed for a moment but within moments he made a dash for the bathroom and began vomiting.  His hands and feet began to go numb, then he had trouble breathing and red splotches came and went over the core of his body. I reached for my epi pen while dialing the paramedics, just in case. While the paramedics tried to convince me this was not an allergic reaction, but rather an anxiety attack he was having, the ER confirmed it was anaphylaxis shock and promptly prescribed an epi pen.

I began a food log immediately and monitored all the input and output of food and activities constantly for the next week including that day, we thought we may have narrowed it down to watermelon, raw tomato, or avocado and some ragweed or grass allergy.

The blood test results came back a few days ago. Guess what?
Luke is allergic to raw tomato and like his mom he also carries the peanut, soy & sesame seed allergy. But his highest rated allergen was grass.

That day of his allergic reaction, the pollen count was high and his seasonal allergies which weren't diagnosed at that time, were kicking off. He ate watermelon, tomato, wheat and corn products (all things he was allergic to at the same time plus his outdoor allergies were in full effect). It created a perfect storm for his anaphylaxis reaction. I suggested that he may have seasonal allergen cross reactive syndrome going on. The nurse practitioner didn't seemed too thrilled that I knew what that was.

I was 22 when I first found out about my food allergies, after suffering serious prolonged illnesses. The first two were peanut and tree nuts (things I was eating a lot of then.)  A similar situation to Luke's had happened to me in my 30's. I was marinating a large salmon with fresh squeezed orange after eating hummus and crackers. I has already experienced two seizure like episodes that week and found myself having a hard time breathing that afternoon while cooking. (Within 2 days I was tested and diagnosed with orange, salmon, cranberry, banana, sesame seed, vanilla, ginger allergy)

Again about 16 months later, even with the warnings from my doc to avoid legumes due to my peanut allergy being so severe, I was still eating some soy and having some really crazy reactions. It ended up that despite my best efforts to switch to oat milk- it was both oat and soy bothering me. (Now I have over 14 food allergies)

 The things I am allergic to today are the very things I ate daily and grew up with. Suddenly my body decided it didn't want to process those things any longer.

While Luke's allergist recommended I not take him off the foods he tested positive for, because he may not be reacting to them, my allergist in California recommended I not only stop eating these foods but also avoid cross reactive foods.

Luke is having breathing difficulty daily and now has an inhaler, daily allergy pills, an epi pen and a prescription for another anti-histamine. He refuses to cut out the foods he is allergic to. What he doesn't know is at least when he eats at home, he will not have peanuts, sesame or soy. What I can't control is what he eats outside of the home. Since he has a job and money of his own, he has free will to purchase foods I won't buy. (We just had another vomiting & breathing difficulty incident this week- 2nd ingredient in what he bought was high fructose corn syrup.) Yes, he has a corn allergy. No more corn for Luke. Another doc told him when 2 or more body systems are affected, it's time to use Epi.

He would rather use the inhaler and test his luck daily than give up foods to feel better. (Even though
his mom is Food Allergy Gal.) While I have devoted most of my daily life to education, awareness, better living, better cooking with multiple food and environmental allergies for myself and others. It doesn't seem he wants to admit there is a problem and help himself.

I find that it is very ironic that both of us have lived in rural areas, been exposed to lots of germs, traveled internationally to over 6 countries and throughout most of the United States. Both of us have been immunized, both of us have eaten a variety of foods. We were both born in the same hospital, one floor apart in fact. We were both breastfed. So all these theories on food allergies really disturb me, because they don't fit.

There has got to be better explanations and more links to this autoimmune disorder called food allergies. Certainly there is a link with seasonal, environmental, chemical, medications and food allergies and that's becoming more and more known today. But what's the catch here?

We need more allergist and immunologist to work together including their staff members, ask better questions to patients, record information, report information, share information to find the patterns.

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