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Let’s Talk Food Allergies

A couple of weird things happened yesterday….

First, when I got to work yesterday, my boss asked me if I could work a couple of hours late. Our company as a whole, does this thing once a month or so where they designate a night where everyone stays late to get some certain things done, but our office rarely (ok pretty much never) participates. Well apparently they decided they wanted us to get off our asses take part this month.

No problem, because it means I get off a little early today! DEAL. And it really wasn’t so bad.

And then something else kinda weird happened…

froyo

Oops-I-had-froyo-for-lunch.

Yes. I was craving Panera for lunch, so I ended up stopping in there and getting half of a turkey sandwich and half of a chicken cobb salad.

Weeeeeeell, that new froyo place that I’m in love with that just opened? It is in the same building as Panera. Danger.

I couldn’t resist, plus I had to work late, so I obviously needed it.

Their fresh fruit on the topping bar looked so good, so I went light and just did a small cup of sugar-free vanilla yogurt with fresh strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and mini yogurt chips and graham crackers on top.

Half a sandwich and froyo is better than half a sandwich and salad anyway, plus, now I can eat the salad today.

salad

————————————————

Okay, prepare for some wordiness from yours truly. It is about something I’ve been working on for a while and have gotten quite a few questions about. It definitely has some good info – if you have food allergies (especially to produce, or if you have “oral allergies” you can relate).

**(Also as a disclaimer (AKA “don’t sue me” or “fun killer”) I am not a doctor, physician, allergist, or nutritionist and am not licensed to give medical, allergy, or nutritional advice -  the following information is simply me sharing my own experiences and research).**

So, if you have been following the blog for a while (or read my “Q&A” or “A Foodie At Heart” sections) you may have seen it mentioned that I have some food allergies. If you didn’t see any mention of that, you maybe noticed the lack of some popular foods in my diet.

carrots2

This is because, sadly, I have some food allergies – specifically, to certain fruits and vegetables.

Over the last few years, I have really grown to understand and learn about it more. I have pretty much always had these issues since I was a kid, but never “looked into” it much other than I knew which types of fruits and veggies to avoid.

As I got older, everyone always had suggestions – is it the peel your allergic to? Nope. I could peel it and it doesn’t help. Maybe it was pesticides? I tried organic varieties that didn’t use pesticides, no luck unfortunately.

Whenever I tell people  about my allergies, they always have three main questions:

  • How and when did you figure out you were allergic to certain things?
  • What happens/what type of reaction do you have?
  • Which foods specifically are you allergic to?

Well, I figured it out from trial and error, basically. I never got any allergy tests done because basically I knew what bothered me and I just avoided it and never had issues. I started eating things and having reactions to them. And I have had the issues for as long as I can remember (since childhood).

Luckily, the reactions are pretty mild – mostly in the sense that I can eat a few bites of something and tell if that item is going to bother me or not and if so, I just stop eating it and it will go away after a bit (I usually eat crackers or something after to help “wash away” the itchiness). My mouth, tongue, and throat get really itchy. And luckily, I dont usually have issues with stuff if it is touching - for example I can pick the things I’m allergic to off of a salad and be fine.

Some of the specific foods I am allergic to include these fresh/raw fruits and vegetables: apples, peaches, pears, pineapple, plums, nectarines, kiwi, carrots, celery, cherries, and some nuts (raw peanuts, almonds, walnuts, pistachios). Also, I cant have soy milk – though I havent noticed any other sensitivities to other soy products, and I don’t typically avoid things that contain soy (besides milk).

Pretty crazy huh? I think the two saddest things for me is the apples and carrots – just because they are so common. Those two things also happen to be the worst (meaning most extreme reaction). Some of those things I can actually eat a couple bites of before it bothers me, but if I eat one bite of an apple it is terrible. Or if I peel carrots and then itch my eye, that eye will most likely swell shut. And in my shameful teenage tanning years, I even had one experience where I used a tanning oil that had carrot oil in it and I ended up in the hospital with hives and had to get a Benadryl shot (on my butt, haha)

Anyway, so as I got older, I started trying other things too, to try to broaden my produce selections – sadly with little success. I tried stuff like starfruit, pomegranate, and mangos with no luck there.  Every couple of years or so I have even tried a few bites of things I know I’m allergic to just to see if maybe things have changed (so far nothing has so I have pretty much given up).

peachesedited

So naturally, wanting to learn more, I talked to my doctor about it just a few years ago and there is an official diagnosis (of course there is…) – “Oral Allergy Syndrome” (creative).

There was one thing I knew for sure though – I could eat some of these items in a cooked or processed form. For example, I can eat apple pie, drink apple juice, eat carrots in stew (if they are “mushy”), or eat canned pineapple with no problem-o.

That always seemed so strange to me, until one day (also a few years ago) I was randomly reading a health magazine and came across an article that explained it for me (and couldnt help but wonder why I never heard or knew about this before?).

You know how they say fruits and veggies are typically most nutritious in their raw form? Well studies have shown that those who typically have oral allergies to fresh produce are allergic to a type of protein found in them. When cooked (or processed) this protein is usually “cooked out” of it in the process, thus, allowing me to eat the cooked or processed version reaction-free. (You can read more in detail about that here if you want)

Good to know, right?

Well, then I ended up finding even more information about it that I thought was really interesting (in a nerdy knowledge sort of way).

On top of these issues, I have always had seasonal allergies like tons of other people. Some years I had major seasonal allergies (my dad is the same way). In Alaska it was awful in spring when everything blooms. Up there, there arent many types of trees, so I pretty much had it narrowed down to being very allergic to birch pollen, since that is a tree that is abundant up there.

birchedited

I’m talking allergies where I would wake up with my eyes swelled shut if I had spent a lot of time outside the night before, and if I was outside too long, I’d have to go inside because it was almost impossible for me to breath and I’d have almost an asthma attack (I sound like an awesome kid, I know).

(If you are wondering, this is my first spring outside of Alaska and my allergies are still here, but much more mild! yay!)

Anyway, the new info I found was so interesting to me because it talked about oral food allergies being linked directly to different pollen allergies. I wont get all technical but it has to do with cross-pollination and such.

Here is some of what it says about relation to types of pollens and oral allergies to food (this specific list came from and article at WebMD though the same list appears in many different sources):

  • Ragweed Allergy: bananas, melons (honeydew, cantaloupe, and watermelon), tomatoes, zucchini, sunflower seeds, dandelions, chamomile tea, and echinacea
  • Birch Pollen Allergy: kiwi, apples, pears, peaches, plums, coriander, fennel, parsley, celery, cherries, carrots, hazelnuts, almonds, strawberries
  • Grass Allergy: peaches, celery, tomatoes, melons, and oranges
  • Latex Rubber Allergy: Like pollen allergy, people allergic to latex rubber may react to bananas, avocados, kiwi, chestnut, and papaya

See the birch list? Matches my allergies almost to a T? Interesting stuff.

Point of me sharing all of this? Well besides getting some questions about it from readers, I basically just to give you a glimpse into the fact that it can be tricky to have to avoid certain [popular] foods (picking shredded carrots out of a salad at a restaurant is a pain) and that you should go eat a peach or some baby carrots for me today since I am missin’ out! (kidding…kinda). And also, I know a lot of people/other bloggers suffer from food allergies of some sort and can relate on some kind of level.

——————————————

So – your turn…. tell me:

  • Do you have any food allergies? How do you deal with them? Do you know much about them?
  • If you had the same food allergies I did, which fruit/vegetable do you think you’d miss the most?
  • Do you have seasonal allergies or any other types of allergies? How do you deal with those?
  • Ever eat froyo for lunch? :)
15 Comments Post a comment
  1. I’ve totally eaten froyo for lunch. At least it wasn’t a vat of ice cream. :) I don’t have any food allergies that I know of. But I have tons of other allergies. This time of year is TERRIBLE for me. I’m tired all the time, my face hurts, my eyes get itchy, swollen, and watery, my head hurts all the time, and I just generally feel kinda yucky. Zyrtec is my friend, though. I seriously go through it like candy.

    April 11, 2012
  2. Bless your heart! At least you figured out what it is and know when something bothers you. I don’t have any food allergies at all (that I’m aware of), but if I had yours, I think I would miss apples and nuts the most (and cherries when they’re in peak season).

    I’ve definitely eaten froyo for lunch, and I’ve had it for dinner before too (not in the same day – I don’t think). About once a month I’ll eat froyo for dinner – it’s awesome!

    Have a great day!

    April 11, 2012
  3. I think I’m slightly allergic to pineapple – my mouth starts itching, but I rarely eat it so that’s good. I’m Lactose Intollerant – so while I DO have dairy products, I really limit myself. For example, I do not buy milk (I buy almond milk) and if I have ice cream/froyo/cheese, I ALWAYS eat something else before to “balance” it out. My intolerance was WAY worse when I was in high school then – I even cut dairy completely out for two years and that really seemed to help.

    April 11, 2012
    • dang! see that would be tough because I LOVE cheese. I think Torrance is slightly lactose intolerant. his stomach always bothers him after eating cheesy pasta, or lots of ice cream, etc. though he is in denial!! haha

      April 11, 2012
  4. Holy allergies! That fruit list makes me so sad for you. I guess I’m really lucky that I have none. Or at least none that I know of. My husband is super allergic to most animals and all grass. He has to take an allergy pill before we go to our trainer’s place because she has a dog. And he can’t feed hay to our bunny without putting a mask on. And if he pets her, he has to wash his hands immediately. Otherwise, it’s just a gigantic sneeze fest that he can’t stop. And then it just wears him out and he can’t do anything but nap.

    April 11, 2012
    • man! that is pretty intense he even wears a mask some! Im thankful none of my allergies are too crazy out of control in a dangerous way. Exept for that tanning oil thing, but that was a fluke thing and now I know to check lotions and such

      April 11, 2012
  5. SOOO interesting, thanks for sharing. I had no idea about any of this. I am not allergic to any foods that I know of, although sometimes I wish I were allergic to chocolate. I would totally eat fro-yo for lunch!!

    April 11, 2012
  6. Wow, I had no idea, Andrea! I would be so sad if I couldn’t eat all of those fruits. Such a bummer! :/ But at least you can still eat fro-yo, right??? ;)

    April 11, 2012
  7. I have bad asthma and I’m allergic to dust and pollen. Also if I’m in the same room with a cat for more than 15 minutes, it’s sad news. I am very lucky not to have any food allergies though. But at least you have fro-yo :-)

    April 11, 2012
  8. ooo i’m so thankful not to be allergic to anything. although i pretend to be allergic to seafood when necessary (I HATE IT). i might have fro yo for lunch TOMORROW. there’s this great Dominican style that I love!

    April 12, 2012
  9. Wow, I had no idea that you had so many different kinds of food allergies! I’m allergic to dogs (yes, Popcorn), wheat, and egg whites. It definitely sucks at times, but I respect you so much for not being able to have those raw fruits & veggies and coping with it!

    April 12, 2012
  10. Christy #

    I was just doing some food allergy research before my first appointment with an allergy doctor tomorrow and found this post. Your allergies match mine, pretty much to a T. I have a similar itchy/swelling reaction to apples, peaches, pineapple, carrots, celery, soy milk (but not soy in Chinese/Japanese food or in most packaged food), and maybe others. I’ve had the same reactions since I was a young child. I also have eye/nose/throat seasonal allergies in the spring. Not sure what causes them. The biggest problem I have now (just in the last 4 years or so) is with whole wheat, but bleached/enriched/white wheat is fine. I noticed it first in whole wheat pasta, but recognized it later in whole wheat bread too. I grew up eating whole wheat and it wasn’t a problem, until all of a sudden it was. It causes a horrible reaction with nausea, stomach pains, and let’s just say I’m stuck in the restroom for a few hours. Have you noticed a similar reaction? I’m wondering since our other allergies and reactions match so much. Thanks for sharing. I’ve felt a little silly at times as I’ve been asked the same questions as you and gotten strange looks like, “so you’re just allergic to healthy foods…?” Good to know it’s not just me!

    July 8, 2012
    • Aww man! I’m glad you found this and it maybe helped :)
      I haven’t noticed anything with wheat as of yet! That is very interesting, I wonder if it is somehow related as well? I would love to hear what your doctor had to say if you wouldn’t mind sharing of course.
      It stinks being allergic to so much good stuff doesnt it?!

      July 8, 2012
      • Christy Hall #

        Hey Andrea. Sorry it took me so long to follow up. I did the allergy test right after my first post and it went well. The following foods showed up with an allergic reaction: Almond, Barley, Carrot, Cashew, Hazelnut, Lemon, Peanut, Soybean, and Strawberry. Plus Birch pollen (big time!) and lots of other pollens/weeds/grass/molds.

        It’s strange because I noticed a problem with half of the foods of the list, and there are some things that didn’t swell up with the test that I know I’ve had multiple bad reactions to: whole wheat, flax, apples, peaches…

        Oral Allergy Syndrom was his explanation for the apples and peaches. The only explanation for the whole wheat and flax is that maybe I’m just extra sensitive and it “gets everything moving down there” a little too good, causing nausea, etc.

        One that is still so strange to me is the soybean allergy. Just like you, soy milk was bad news, but soy is in about everything these days and I eat it all the time with no trouble.

        It’s also possible that some items that turned up positive on the allergy list, I’m not actually allergic to, but that it just irritated my skin. Citrus especially commonly does this. So they recommended that I go get blood drawn to have lab tests done.

        I’m glad I went to see the allergist, so that I have a little better understanding, but I was disappointed with the lack of real answers and the things that just didn’t fit with my past allergic reaction experiences.

        A positive from the visit is that I’m now a little less nervous to start trying some foods I avoided before. I’ve avoided all fresh fruits, which is just plain sad, but now I’m adding in a few more things to see how it goes. With my true food allergies, combined with my OAS pollen/food allergies (allergic to most pollens from the test too!), there’s still not many common fruits on the “okay” list.

        So far watermelon and grapes have been my friends. :) More exotic fruits aren’t on the OAS lists, but I also wasn’t tested for them. I guess I’ll just have to get brave to try those if I really want to find some fresh fruits that will sit well with me!

        It’s still frustrating to have to avoid so many yummy, healthy foods, and half the time I think people think I’m just making it up.

        Good luck with your trial and error. :) I’ll post back with the further results I get from the lab test.

        November 15, 2012

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