To be completely honest, living with food allergies really isn’t all that bad. As I mentioned in a previous post, Food Allergies: A Blessing in Disguise, allergies have made me much more conscious of what I eat and have really helped me make the transition to clean eating. That being said, I’m looking forward to the day when a cure for allergies is widely available and I don’t have to be paranoid every time I go to a restaurant or try a new food. Not only that, but there are some little things that people do that really get my goat. I thought I would take a moment to share some of them with my non-allergic readers so that you get a better understanding of how we feel. As far as any readers who do have experience with food allergies, I’d love it if you would comment below with your thoughts, ideas, insights, or personal pet peeves.
Plural noun. A word used to classify people who try to get others to eat more even when they refuse for any given reason.
Food-pushers are most often the mothering/grandma type of people. You know who I’m talking about. The people at any sort of social gathering who say, “Here try this!” or “Did you get enough to eat?”or “Make sure to go back for seconds!” These people may not even be family members, but rather a friend or a co-worker. Of course food-pushers always have good intentions. It’s just that if you have food allergies, those good intentions could have major repercussions. Moral of the story is, if you know someone has food allergies, NEVER encourage/force that person to eat something he/she is uncomfortable with. And if you don’t know whether or not someone has allergies, just don’t push them to eat if they don’t want to. Chances are, if someone has allergies, he/she might feel awkward saying so and would rather politely turn down food and move on.
2. Using Allergies as an Excuse
Few things bother me more than when someone uses “allergies” as an excuse to getting out of eating something they don’t like. For instance, someone might say, “I can’t eat that. I’m allergic to Brussels sprouts,” when we all know they just don’t like Brussels sprouts. Of course this person is just joking around, but allergies are actually very serious and if they knew what it was like to actually have to live with this serious, sometimes life-threatening, condition, they would realize that this is no place for fooling around and can be very offensive to people who do have allergies.
3. Allergy vs. Intolerance
These days, there is so much confusion surrounding terms like allergies, intolerance, sensitivity, etc. I plan to write a specific post on this topic to help clear up some confusion because it really bothers me when people throw around these terms without knowing what they mean. Without going into too much depth, a food allergy is an autoimmune disorder and can range in severity from something as minor as hives to something as life-threatening as anaphylaxis. There can also be gastrointestinal reactions in certain types of allergies which can get confused with an intolerance. The main thing is that allergies have to do with the immune system and everyone reacts differently.
Food intolerance is quite a different matter and can also range from a mild sensitivity where the food makes someone feel a little sick to something extremely serious like celiac disease (a severe gluten intolerance). Even though symptoms may be similar to allergies in the GI cases, the main difference is that sensitivities have to do with the digestive system–not the immune system. Hopefully that clears up a little confusion, but like I said, I will go deeper into this topic in another post.
4. “So what do you eat?”
A common question whenever someone hears just how many allergies I have. It’s less of a pet-peeve and more funny actually. As it turns out, there are way more things that I can eat than things I can’t. It’s just a matter of being extra careful when eating anything I didn’t make.
I also get asked how I survive without baked goods. Then I just have to laugh because as you all know, I find plenty of ways around the egg barrier. Honestly, if one day I can eat eggs, I don’t think I’ll start to bake with them. It’s easy enough to do without and if I used eggs, the batter wouldn’t be safe to eat… 🙂
5. When Someone Insists Something is Safe
Going along with the “food-pusher” idea is when someone insists that food is safe even when you know it might not be and have to awkwardly explain that it’s not while trying not to sound rude or accusing.
For instance, you go to a gathering and your friend says she made something specially without said allergen and thus you can eat it. Well that’s wonderful and a very nice gesture. However, how was that prepared? Was there cross-contamination? Are you sure you didn’t forget about my nut allergy and use almond milk instead of dairy? Or add some almond extract for flavor? That looks like a creamy sauce…are you sure there aren’t eggs? These are just a few of the questions running through my paranoid mind as I try to get out of this terribly uncomfortable situation. Even if after asking all sorts of questions, it may still seem supposedly “safe”, but I still wouldn’t feel comfortable eating it and don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings when they made something just for me.
Moral of the story, never insist something is safe for someone. You never know and even if it is, it’s never okay to make someone uncomfortable. It’s fine to offer things to food-allergic people when you have something “safe”, but don’t be offended if they turn it down. I can’t speak for everyone with allergies, but personally, I trust no one. It’s not something to take offense to, it’s just me in survival mode and trying to avoid a trip to the hospital. That being said, I still appreciate good-intentions and people trying to help and be nice–sometimes it just ends up being a really awkward situation of me trying to be safe while also not hurting anyone’s feelings.
Okay, so living with allergies isn’t as horrible as it may seem. By taking the proper precautions, most issues can be avoided altogether. I just want to raise awareness and help others understand what to do and what not to do to keep the food allergic population safe and comfortable. Food is a very social aspect to cultures across the world, and not being able to take part makes life a little awkward (this is the main reason why I like to avoid some gatherings). There are always explanations needed when I’d rather not answer questions and I don’t like the extra attention I get from all of it. It’s best to not press people with questions and not force anyone into anything–allergies or not.
I hope that helps clear up any confusion and as always feel free to comment with questions, thoughts or personal insights on the topic!