WHAT YOU CAN LEARN FROM MY FOOD JOURNEY
This is a particularly personal post for me. It’s about you being empowered. So I will gladly share. It seems like so many others are going through the same things I have been experiencing. I grew up eating everything. Except for a mild family history of lactose intolerance, I enjoyed all food. I gravitated toward the healthy, but pizza and sandwiches were fair game. About 5 years ago, my body raised the white flag. Without boring you with details, suddenly and for the first time in my life, my body was reacting to specific foods I ate. I was depleted of energy and ranged from mildly nauseous to keeled over every day for 2 years. It took the next 2 years to figure out what those triggers were. By the process of the elimination diet, I was able to pinpoint the foods that my body was rejecting. Haven’t you heard this story before?
Allergies, food intolerances, EpiPens…if you just felt a wave of anxiety, take a deep breath and read on. I’ll be gentle. Because of how prolific stories like mine have become, terms are interchanged and widely misused. It might confuse you. Here are some definitions and action steps to help you respond in a real life event.
Food Intolerances vs Allergy
The main differentiating factor between a food intolerance and an allergy is that an allergy is a total body immune reaction that can be life-threatening. An intolerance is digestive in nature. Though other symptoms can appear, the root is digestive. Typically, a food allergy appears within seconds or minutes while an intolerance is slower to appear, making it even harder to trace.
A true allergy triggers the presence of specific immune antibodies to fight the food ingested. The body identifies the food as foreign and attacks it. This can be definitively tested. Without the presence of the specific immune response, any other unpleasant symptoms to food and substances are characterized as a food intolerance.
Symptoms to Watch
GI Symptoms (including cramping, bloating, diarrhea, nausea, mouth ulcers)
Skin Rashes (including eczema, dermatitis, hives)
Respiratory Symptoms (like wheezing, asthma, throat irritation, nasal congestion, cough, sinusitis)
Raised Red Skin/Hives
***Difficulty Breathing ***
Swelling in the face/tongue
Symptoms of shock:
Pale and Grayish Skin
Acts restless, agitated, or confused
Cold/clammy to touch
Did you notice that many of the symptoms appear to overlap? It’s true. This is true for many things about the body. We have to pay attention to details and record patterns. Here are a few action steps you can take:
Without any life-threatening symptoms (Difficulty Breathing/Signs of Shock)
1. Test It Talk to your physician or your child’s pediatrician as soon as you detect any of the symptoms above. Allergy testing will help you move forward with clarity. There is skin testing and blood testing for allergies.
2. Track It Keep a diary of all food ingested and all symptoms you observe. Make sure to have times and as much specific information as you observe. It might seem like it’s not that helpful, but sometimes the information that seems irrelevant at the time ends up being a missing link in the greater puzzle.
3. Eliminate It I’m sad that the third point doesn’t start with a “T”, but the correct steps are better than the best alliteration. I write this point with extreme caution, but want to pass this tip on. Only do this if you are supervised by your doctor or health professional. The elimination diet will have you remove certain foods in a systematic order, one at a time. These are foods that you and your provider suspect might be causing symptoms. You will, again keep a diary of the outcomes and repeat until you have some conclusive results. There are some typical culprits that you will likely start with including:
In the Presence of Life-threatening symptoms (Difficulty Breathing/Signs of Shock)
1. Administer the EpiPen The EpiPen is a prescription. Use it at the first signs of allergic reaction. You will inject the victim on the side of their thigh between the hip and the knee. You should see relief in breathing within a few minutes. Sometimes, the prescription is written for you to give a second EpiPen within an allotted time if there is no relief. Always call 911 when administering the EpiPen.
2. If you don’t have an EpiPen Call 911 and standby, watching for symptoms of shock. If they are demonstrating signs of shock (read above), bring them down to the floor to lie down, cover them with a blanket and WATCH. If they need CPR, give CPR. I’ve explained the main principles of CPR in my eBook: Super Simple CPR.Click here for your free eBook!
Can you just get an EpiPen for Standby?
If you’re reading this article, it means that you are a diligent, proactive parent who wants to be prepared for the children. So, can you proactively get an EpiPen? Yes and no. I’ve called the manufacturer after hearing parents wonder why they can’t just have one on standby. This is their answer. EpiPens are prescriptions. You can technically get one if your doctor prescribes one for your child. It is difficult to find a doctor or provider that would prescribe one, but you can always ask. Another thing to keep in mind, typically the first exposure to an allergen is milder than subsequent exposures. This is a little warning sign. A sigh of relief. Take it seriously and follow-up with testing.
Of course there are other allergens apart from food that can cause a severe reaction. We just skimmed the surface of food here. What is your experience with food intolerances and allergies? It’s a process for me still. I’ve found that I have food intolerances and not allergies. These foods include the classics like eggs, wheat/grains, dairy…and it’s a pretty long list:( Our friend’s daughter is allergic to the red food dye. The symptoms were so diffuse, but we’re so glad they were able to pinpoint it.
What foods are trouble for you or your kids? What symptoms do you notice? Leave a comment, we can all help each other!
Share this with your friends and empower them!
Gonzales, L., Lynch, M., & Bork, S. (Eds.). (2011). Heartsaver First Aid CPR AED Student Workbook Health & Safety. United States of America: First American Heart Association Printing.