During the summer of 2008, I started getting the weirdest feeling in my mouth whenever I would eat my beloved PBJs or when I snacked on pistachios (which was often!). Having eaten tree nuts and peanuts all my life without having any issues, I brushed it off as something strange but harmless. I worked at Origins, a natural skincare company, and was using their amazing products which contained sweet almond oils as emulsifiers and macadamia nut oil in some cleansers. Suddenly, my skin was breaking out in large bumps that looked hive-like instead of acne-like. What the heck?!
Cut to that October, when I was at the Origins National Sales Conference at the Ritz Carlton in Dallas. After a long first day of meetings, I was in a friend's hotel room waiting for dinner. While she reapplied her makeup, I reached into our company-given goodie bag and pulled out the organic trail mix. After 4 nickel-sized pieces of trail mix which contained a clump of dried fruit, a pistachio, and an almond painted in a cashew oil, I felt my throat close. My friend looked at me in panic and tried to get me to call an ambulance. Stupidly, I just drove myself home...in a state of full anaphylaxis.
I survived my first food allergy attack, but stayed sick for several days. My doctor referred me to an allergist and I got tested the next week, once the steroid shots had worn off, so my test reading would be accurate. My friend who witnessed the reaction came with me so she could give the allergist a lot of details. To my shock, I was allergic to not only all types of tree nuts, but also peanuts, which are a legume and not in the nut family! My doctor told me that it's not too common for an adult to get such allergies; it's usually children who are stricken, and they're able to come out of it later in life. Then he gave me the grim news: I was only going to get worse, so get used to not eating foods I've eaten my whole life.
I've gone 8 years without almonds, cashews, walnuts, pistachios, pecans, hazelnuts, and peanuts. You never know how many foods contain allergens until you're forced not to eat them! Eight years of avoiding restaurants, birthday parties, and learning to cook gourmet meals at home has been an eye-opener. Last week I decided to test my allergist's theory on the symptoms worsening, and we were pleased by my scores:
No longer am I allergic to pecans, hazelnuts, or Brazil nuts! As you can see, I'm still allergic to the others, and most deathly allergic to pistachios. But the recovery of the other 3 are unusual and go to show that food allergies are extremely mysterious. While I'm not an expert on the subject, it seems like a lot of allergists aren't either; theories and hypotheses still surround the topic. Why do allergies arrive and leave? That's still a mystery!
From my experience, I can tell you with certainty what symptoms to regard:
1. Natural and organic body lotions, face creams, and hair products suddenly giving you hives. Look for a common denominator ingredient and do patch tests on yourself to determine if you're having an allergy to the product. (Having worked in the skincare industry for so long, I can tell you this is a challenge for most consumers. People say "I'm allergic to everything" but haven't gone to the doctor to find out the absolutes. Not healthy and possibly fatal!)
2. If you have a weird, tingly or itchy feeling in your mouth or throat, you are allergic to the natural ingredient in the product. (Notice how I keep saying "natural"? The chances of the processed item or the preservative causing a reaction is almost nil, because man-made products aren't ones your body will have an innate defense mechanism against.)
3. Sneezing, coughing, and itchy eyes within a half hour of eating an offending food could also indicate an allergy to it.
4. Obvious anaphylactic reactions include the hives, throat swelling, difficulty breathing, swelling shut of the eyes, and stomach cramps.
And other than this 20 minute itchiness during the test, it's super easy and painless to find out what you're allergic to! There isn't a lot of data behind the theories, but we know that many children born after 1998 have severe food allergies. This strange phenomena isn't limited to just children, as is my case, so being mindful with your food consumption is your first defense for your health. Know what you're putting into your body and how your body is reacting to it. Not only is it nutritious and mindful, but it could potentially save your life.
Till next time,
Dallas Farmer Gal