The grieving process for food allergies....
So you just found out you have a food allergy?
**This is not for those with an anaphylactic reaction. My experience, my families experience and most of the people I know have severe digestive symptoms, an autoimmune response and a myriad of other uncomfortable symptoms. But not so severe as to have an anaphylactic response.**
So my theory and I talk to people all the time about this, there are stages of grief and denial that we all go through!! A bit about my story before getting into my theory….
At birth I was allergic to dairy and my mom had trouble cutting it out of her own diet, so I ended up growing up on soy formula, which I loved (until an age much too old to still be drinking formula- ha ha, no shame). I was allergic to that until around age 2 then I was able to eat everything until I got married, when I was 22. My husband, oh so sweetly pointed out to me that some of my symptoms, were, well….”not how it should be.” So I told him my history and we decided I’d cut out dairy again, at age 23.
At age 24, I was still having severe digestive issues, so they did a colonoscopy on me, and praise God found nothing ‘wrong’ but I did test positive for an allergy to not only dairy but also egg! “What I’m allergic to eggs? I eat eggs every morning, hhhmmmm…..maybe that’s why I feel so horrible all the time?”
I went on to cut out eggs and went through the following stages of grief and denial but felt amazing when I wasn’t eating them, which was very revealing as to how I COULD feel if I was diligent.
At 28 years old, my husband and I had just moved back from living abroad for two year in the middle east and I was again having severe digestive issues and my family thought I had a parasite, which totally freaked me out, so I went to the doctor quickly!! They ran blood tests, stool tests and pregnancy tests…..and before the doctor even got the results she told me “it’s unlikely anything will come back on your allergy tests so you probably just have irritable bowel syndrome” which was so not what I wanted to hear. All of you with IBS, I’m sorry, I think that’s worse than having allergies, because you don’t KNOW what triggers it, so you’re constantly living in suspense. But I guess I was lucky, my test came back as allergic to FOUR THINGS, malt, wheat, barley and rye….which basically means gluten, so I was thrilled!!
Continuing on with my journey, at age 29 when my firstborn was 2 months old, she had severe symtpoms and was diagnosed with a dairy and soy allergy. So in order to keep nursing I cut soy out of my diet.
So currently, in 2018, at age 32, I’m not eating gluten, dairy, egg or soy. We keep no soy in our house, however I do eat it on occasion when I’m out, since I’m no longer nursing my firstborn and the only dairy I eat is goat or sheep milks, because with an allergen, it has a different protein in it than cow’s milk does. (But that’s for another blog post).
Now onto the stages, and just a quick note, I'm not shy at discussing in more specific detail my symptoms (I just would rather not post for the entire internet community to read), if you wanting to chat about that, just shoot me an e-mail and I'd be happy to share the gross details!
Stage 1- “FINALLY”
You might find yourself saying….
“I have felt so crappy for so long and I’m grateful to finally know what is causing the problems! I’m going to cut these pesky triggers out completely and I’m going to have fun doing it. I’m going to learn new recipes, try new things and I know I’ll be fueling my body so well.”
Proceed to do well for 1 to 2 weeks.
You will slip up on accident too, things that you’ll be shocked have your allergen in them, and that’s ok. I really believe that’s all part of the learning process, but you’ll get it down and you’ll get so good at reading labels!
Stage 2- “I’m sure I’ll do fine with it now”
This stage usually occurs after 2-3 months of doing relatively well at cutting out that food.
“I really miss eating *insert favorite treat that is now no longer allowed.* I think I’ll just have one bite of my friends *treat* and I’m sure I’ll be fine.”
Two hours - 2 days later
“On my goodness, I feel horrible, that *treat* really did a number on me, now I KNOW I can’t eat it.”
Does well for another 2 weeks, then repeats the above scenario for another 3-6 months depending on severity of symptoms, reaction and stubbornness.
This is the stage where people really are in denial, and are struggling to maintain this new lifestyle change. It’s all part of the process, hopefully after brief periods without your allergen, you’ll WANT to feel that good and you’ll realize that it’s worth it to continue on this path. This is the phase where I basically taught myself how to cook! I remember, living on Maui when I found out about my egg and dairy allergy and missing cinnamon rolls so badly that I learned to make them myself without dairy or eggs, that was a task, when you barely know how to cook.
Stage 3- “Getting serious”
“Well, I’ve ‘tested’ this allergen/sensitivity so many times that I KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that I can’t eat it anymore. I’m so proud of myself for going 2 years without that food.”
At this stage you also get so diligent as to NOT trust restaurant staff, unless they convince you they’re knowledgeable, NEVER eat at potlucks and start educating close friends and family on how to feed you.
Stage 4- “Oh, honey.”
Watching others go through stages 1-3 for themselves, or going through them again for yourself with a NEW allergen.