Are you familiar with the saying, “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone?” When it comes to things you can no longer eat due to food allergies, sensitivities, or dietary restrictions, that saying is 100% true. Unlike intentional diet changes (keto, whole30, vegan, etc.), the above conditions force you to stop eating your favorite ingredients whether you want to or not. The fleeting enjoyment of having items containing gluten, dairy, eggs, peanuts, seafood, etc. just isn’t worth the aftermath of suffering afterward. In some cases, it can even be life-threatening. Whether the symptoms caused are minor or serious, dealing with any food-related restrictions can be a pain and may seriously affect one’s quality of life.
A New Journey with Food Allergies / Sensitivities
The past year has been a rough one for me. Last March, I suddenly developed several food allergies. Well, to be more accurate, they’re more like food sensitivities or intolerances since they mostly affect my digestive system. I don’t suffer from rashes or more severe reactions like anaphylaxis. I’m sure it’s due to the fact that I turned 38 a few months before and my body was changing (you know, that whole new-cell thing that supposed to happen every seven years). I already had to be careful about corn and seafood but, by themselves, are fairly easy to avoid. Then, I noticed that gluten started to affect me (i.e. bloating). My body probably wasn’t used to it anymore since we usually eat gluten-free at home due to Frans’ celiac disease.
On top of that, I started to get sick whenever I had dairy. It wasn’t just lactose intolerance but all milk-related products, including butter, yogurt, and even things made with goat’s milk, set off internal alarms. Just a bit of shredded cheese would make my stomach go nuts. Even those lactase enzyme pills would do nothing for me. To replace dairy, I started to use soy milk as an alternative. I somehow felt that my Asian genes would protect me from developing any sensitivities to soy. I was wrong. Unfortunately, I soon started to have opposite digestive problems with that. (One stops me up while the other makes me go but they don’t cancel each other out. ? )
This is the kicker for me. I LOVE all things cheesy and creamy like brie, alfredo sauce, and sour cream. Dairy was a high point of joy in my life. So, having to cut that out of my diet has been grueling. Even a year later, I still drool when I see or smell melted cheese… With food sensitivities to gluten, corn, milk, and soy, my life of enjoying food has taken a huge turn for the worse. Plus, those particular allergens are generally used to substitute for each other and have few other worthy alternatives. I’ll share some posts soon with some decent choices for those looking gluten-free, dairy-free, or soy-free foods.
The Emotional Part of Avoiding Allergens
I think one of the harder things to deal with is how others react. When deciding what to eat, the moment I mention food allergies/sensitivities, other people I’m with immediately make a strange face. Unknowingly, their face will contort into a look that screams surprise, pity, disbelief, and irritation at the same time. Sure, everyone has certain foods they don’t like or prefer to avoid. But, when you combine that with foods you can’t eat due to dietary issues, it makes you feel like a big, fat whiner. It’s such an uncomfortable feeling that I often try not to say anything, decline eating right then, or bring my own food.
It’s also very depressing. When seeing the amazing dishes that other people order, ones which almost seem to glisten as the steam, cream, sauce, crispiness, or fluffiness flow out, the plain and bland food I end up getting looks even more tasteless than it already is. The other day, Frans and I were at a Thai restaurant. As he brought out a rice noodle dish, the waiter said, “Here’s your gluten-free Pad Thai.” Basically, it was noodles with egg and broccoli on it, seasoned with some salt and pepper. It was soooooooooo boring! As you can imagine, this can take quite a bit of fun out of traveling too. Afterall, part of the experience when visiting new places is tasting local flavors and dishes.
Adjusting to a Life with Food Allergies / Sensitivities
Now, since my reactions aren’t that severe, I can get away with cheating once in a while. For example, if I’m at a gathering with friends or at a restaurant, I’ll still be careful of what I eat but ultimately I know I’ll pay for it later. But, at most, I’ll be sick for the next day or two but will be fine after that. It’s just that on a day-to-day basis, it’s better to avoid those main allergens so my insides have time to heal. Even then, I still have to compromise with certain ingredients. My list of allergen-free recipes is pretty small so, when I’m really tired, I have to fall back on ones that call for soy (like this gluten-free satay sauce) or butter (dairy-free, soy-free alternatives burn when I broil this garlic pesto salmon).
At one point, though, it seemed like my body was rejecting everything in one way or another. I started to drink a probiotic juice (love this Tropicana Probiotic Strawberry Banana) every morning and that has helped. I still have to stay away from dairy and gluten but my stomach isn’t as mad at me as it used to be on a daily basis. Overall, it’s a new way of life that I’m slowly getting used to. It’s just those dairy products that I constantly miss…
While it is possible to live without eating certain foods, it can be really difficult at first. This is especially true if you’re kind of forced into it. So, if you develop some food allergies or sensitivities, there are ways to change things up so you can find foods you like again. On the other hand, if you hear of someone else suffering from reactions to certain food allergens, try to understand that they’re not just being picky or difficult. For some children and adults, certain allergens can mean an instant trip to the ER. By showing some empathy, it might slightly ease their pain as they longingly watch you bite in a glorious piece of deep dish pizza gushing with endless toppings or a slice of seven-layer ice cream cake smothered in chocolate.