Our friends Dave and Lucrecia came over for dinner on Sunday. I was a little nervous at first because Lucrecia has a ton of food allergies.
She is allergic to dairy, gluten, sugar, spices like pepper, mushrooms, peanuts, pistachios, alcohol and corn.
So rather than keep track of all that I just asked her what she could eat. “Meat, vegetables and potatoes.”
Great! Plus now I have a reason to try out a recipe from The Total Food Allergy Health and Diet Guide by Alexandra Anca, MHSc, RD. I made Lemon Garlic Chicken, minus the pepper. (Here is a link to the recipe: Lemon Garlic Chicken.)
While I was cooking Lucrecia and I got to chatting.
“Did you always have food allergies?” I asked.
“Probably. I always knew something was wrong and related to food, but only got diagnosed recently.”
“How long did it take you to figure it out? What were your symptoms?”
“When I would eat something like pasta I would literally fall asleep at the table in the middle of the conversation. My stomach would expand like a starving child’s. I felt awful all the time and kept getting migraines. I went to six or seven doctors but no one could help me. One doctor said it was all in my mind. Another said it was because I was stressed and gave me medicine for that, but it didn’t help. I went to a neurologist for the migraines and was put on Topamax but I called it ‘Dopamax’ because it made me brain dead.”
“How long were you on that?”
“Four months and it was awful. My migraines went away but so did everything else. I would forget words mid-sentence and Dave hated me on it. They call it the ‘model drug.'”
“Because you lose your appetite, so you lose weight, and you can’t think, so you sound like a dumb model.”
I laugh at this because, well, Lucrecia is a model (but not a dumb one!) She just appeared in the fashion show at Formula One last week.
“So when did you get off the model drug and figure out you had food allergies?”
“One of the side effects of the drug is suicidal thoughts, which I started getting. I would drive my car and think, ‘what would happen if I drove off the road?’ I never had thoughts like that before and called my doctor immediately. She took me off the medication, but I had to taper it down over three weeks otherwise it could cause seizures. It was awful. Finally, I went to an internist who also used holistic treatments.”
“What was that like?”
“Well, holistic treatments sounded like ‘witch doctor’ to me, which is why I was glad she was also a real doctor. The first meeting was two hours long and she asked me about the food I was eating, my lifestyle, any injuries, my family history and she took a lot of blood tests. Turns out I was allergic to all kinds of things: gluten, diary, sugar, alcohol, corn, peanuts.”
“Now that you eliminated that from your diet, how are you feeling?”
“80% of the migraines went away. I feel healthier and have a lot more energy and I’m not on any medications.”
“Is it hard for you to lead a normal life with all your food restrictions?”
“The hardest thing for me to give up was corn. I’m Mexican so it’s in everything. My parents are supportive of my new eating habits, but my grandparents didn’t understand it at first. But after a while they saw how much better I was feeling and they learned to respect it. Now I just eat what I can eat when I’m with them.”
“And really, it’s about the company and not the meal on the plates, right?”
“Right,” she smiles.
“Do you have any websites you would recommend or advice to give to someone who thinks they have food allergies?”
“Elana’s Pantry and The Spunky Coconut have good gluten free and dairy-free recipes. If someone thinks they have food allergies they should get tested and then try an elimination diet, where they take foods out of their diet one at a time to see what they are reacting to.”
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