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…
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.
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.
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).
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.
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? :)