Monday, August 15, 2011

Things I don't like to Talk About, Topic 1: Food allergies

My mom is allergic to corn. I talk about it all the time because it’s rare and people need to know this can happen to them, and why it’s happening. My mom, in her 50’s, suddenly became allergic to corn. Technically, it’s a food “intolerance” because she gets hives, headaches and such, but she doesn’t go into anaphylactic shock. At least so far. But she does wear a medic alert bracelet because most common medicines have some form of corn in them. Even a simple saline drip or aspirin can contain small amounts. Also vitamins, antihistamines, and most food. And the ingredient list won’t say, “corn”. It’ll say “natural flavors”, “vegetable oil”, or any number of extremely common ingredients that one would never know is made, or can be made, from corn. She has to be extremely careful, clear on communicating in restaurants, and constantly calls food companies to try and find out if she can get a more detailed list of ingredients when they’re vague on packaging.
 I said she developed this later in life. She grew up eating corn and everything else. One day, when I was young, she shucked a lot of corn, ate some, and had accidentally rubbed her eye. Shortly after, her mouth and eye swelled up to look like the elephant man and it was crystal clear what she was allergic to. She feels, that because corn is in everything, that she and millions more people will eventually become resistant to it. Allergies are sometimes thought of as a type of autoimmune trigger that your body starts to fight  trace pathogens that are in your system. Homeopathy and vaccinations are similar principles And my friend, corn is constantly in YOUR system.  That”s why I believe food allergies are becoming a lot more common, and/or a lot more recognized.
  Unless I know someone else I’m talking to has food allergies, I generally try to avoid talking about mine. About 9 years ago I got tested and realized that I was intolerant to a ton of foods. And I realized pretty quickly that I always had been.
 For example, chocolate. I love chocolate. I love the flavor. I don’t need a candy bar. But I grew up on Ovaltine, hot chocolate, chocolate ice cream, shakes and brownies. I probably had a little cocoa powder every day of my life. Until I realized that the constant, intense, depression I had my whole life…was from chocolate. Yup. I get severe nightmares, crying fits, pimples, and a lot more sudden and uncontrollable reactions to chocolate.
 Also wheat. Wheat’s in everything too. Hidden. The same as corn. You name it, it may have wheat in it. (Wheat allergy is similar to a Gluten intolerance or Celiac disease. All wheat has gluten, but not all gluten is wheat). Luckily, trace amounts don’t bother me, unless I have it every day. But if I ate a bran muffin, I might end up in the hospital.
 I also have issues with cow’s milk, some nuts, some fruits, some beef, some pork, some spices, eggs, and lobster (one of my favorites). So that means a regular pizza slice with pepperoni could make me incredibly sick, for days. I get headaches, stomach trauma, dark circles under my eyes, congestion, depression, and anxiety (that’s a common, and relatively unpublicized reaction to Gluten). Sounds fun doesn’t it?!
 Every morning as a kid, I got pretty stomach ill. I was having panic attacks without knowing it. But it happened every single morning before going to school. My mom thought it might be caused by food, and tried to make my breakfast “simple” by giving me a piece of toast with butter, Ovaltine with milk and a raw egg. If you read the above paragraphs, you’ll see that’s basically everything I’m allergic too. She didn’t know any better. No one knew what it was.
 But we know now.
 I don’t talk about it much because, 1) I don’t really like talking about myself, especially in any way that sounds like a, “poor me” scenario or whining. 2) It's sort of embarrassing to me for some reason. And 3) I don’t want people to worry about me when choosing a place to eat, or what to make. But that does present problems.
 Now, I find more and more that people are gluten free, or lactose intolerant, or avoiding high mercury fish, or or or. And then, I’m eager to share all my research and some of my favorite food finds or recipes.
 Gluten Free living has become cache. I don’t understand that. Choosing to be Gluten Free is not a fun, easy, or healthy lifestyle choice. It’s a huge pain in the neck. If you’re NOT intolerant to gluten, there’s simply no reason to avoid it. It’s not healthier and it definitely will NOT help you lose weight. Most of the “gluten free” products you see are a lot higher in calories than their normal equivalent, and certainly most are a lot lighter in taste, although that’s changing.
 What’s my point to come-out-of-the-food allergy closet? I want YOU to pay attention to your food. I want you to pay attention to the food industry. Do not buy engineered food. Do not eat things that aren’t ACTUALLY food. Do not eat products with corn and wheat and milk and soy (the most common hidden ingredients) every single day. Or you too may someday be on the hunt for gluten free, dairy free, taste free pizza with twice the calories of a normal slice.
 For a resource guide, check the LINKS page of, where I put a lot of my favorite links to order GF food. And Living Without Magazine, which helps people with food allergies live a more normal lifestyle.
 Education is power. And you are what you eat.
Be well. Tamar