Living with Food Allergies

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Understanding how to handle food allergies can be challenging, especially when a person is allergic to everyday items like eggs or wheat. Food allergies can range from the slightly annoying to the life-threatening. Some people find food allergies by accident, via anaphylactic shock, while others learn from a visit to an allergist.

Familiarizing yourself with the symptoms of anaphylactic shock is especially important if you or someone you know has moderate to severe food allergies, as anaphylactic shock can be fatal. Common signs from are listed below for your reference:

Anaphylactic shock
* Abdominal pain or cramping
* Abnormal (high-pitched) breathing sounds
* Anxiety
* Confusion
* Cough
* Diarrhea
* Difficulty breathing
* Fainting, light-headedness, dizziness
* Hives, itchiness
* Nasal congestion
* Nausea, vomiting
* Sensation of feeling the heart beat (palpitations)
* Skin redness
* Slurred speech
* Wheezing

If you or someone you know may be experiencing anaphylactic shock, call 911 immediately!

The most common food allergies include: dairy, eggs, peanut, or wheat. Lactose and wheat intolerance are not necessarily allergies, but will be treated as such for the content of this post, which will focus on how to avoid some of these common allergens. There are many children who eventually grow out of their allergies, but learning to manage them in the meantime is still a challenge.

So, what options are left to you when you are allergic to these everyday items? What are you supposed to do when eating out? How do you protect your children? What is left to prepare for dinner? As always, you are going to have to take the time to educate yourself.

As a vegetarian, I have a lot of practice researching restaurants ahead of time and asking for substitutions. Thanks to the beauty of the Internet, you can typically research restaurant options online. Start out by searching your your restaurant online and look for a menu. This way, you can view a menu before ever stepping foot in the door. If the menu is not detailed enough and you still have concerns, or there is no menu available online, call the restaurant and explain the allergy. Ask the restaurant if they are able to make the proper accommodations. Most restaurants are very gracious and will do what they can to accommodate your needs, if they have the resources.

Dairy – Lactose Intolerance or Milk Allergy

If you are lactose intolerant and you absolutely do not want to give up dairy, you can try some of the products to see if they work for you. Lactaid in pill form contains the lactase enzyme, which might help your body digest the milk and prevent you from getting that horrible stomach ache. Lactaid also produces a milk, so you could skip the pills.

Luckily for those with lactose intolerance or a milk allergies, there are many options aside from regular dairy. Soy, rice, almond, or coconut milk are just some examples. Many of these can be substituted for any way that you would use milk – in cereal, in baking, etc. As we discussed in a previous blog, each of these milks have different tastes, so which one(s) taste “good” depend on you. My personal favorite is almond milk, which I use on cereal and in fruit smoothies. Coconut milk is very creamy and makes a delicious sauce.

If you are reading labels and come across “vegan” foods, know that these are safe to eat. Vegans do not eat any animal products or byproducts, so these products will certainly not contain milk.

Eggs

Avoiding eggs is a huge challenge! Eggs seem to be a part of nearly everything – most breakfast fare, baked goods, and more. Eggs are often found in salad dressings, candy (especially those with a soft/chewy center), and foods fried in batters.

Sometimes reading labels isn’t enough, so you will likely need to ask about the use of eggs. Bakery bread and pies are an example where there might not be eggs listed in the ingredients, but it is likely that egg is brushed on before baking to help give the bread or pie a glossy, finished look. If your allergy is severe, this small amount of egg is enough to send you to the hospital.

Again, anything labeled “vegan” is safe to eat – it will not contain dairy OR eggs.

Mayonnaise is an example of something NOT to eat because it contains eggs; however, the brand is vegan and tastes delicious! Vegenaise also makes sour cream, cream cheese, and salad dressings – all of which are egg, dairy, and wheat and gluten free.

When cooking, you can buy commercial egg replacers. These come in the form of a powder that you mix with water. You can also use homemade versions of egg replacers. recommends the following substitutions for your everyday needs (each one replaces one egg):

* 1 teaspoon baking powder + 1 tablespoon liquid + 1 tablespoon vinegar
* 1 teaspoon yeast dissolved in ¼ cup warm water
* 1½ tablespoons water + 1½ tablespoons oil + 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1 packet gelatin + 2 tablespoons warm water (don’t mix until ready to use)
* 1 tablespoon pureed fruit such as apricots or bananas

If you are ever in doubt about the contents of a food item – ASK. Ask the restaurant, ask the grocery store, ask the baker, or call the product help line and ask. Eventually, you will familiarize yourself with what’s safe and what’s not, so hang in there and good luck handling those pesky allergies.

To read more about common food allergies:

Would you like to learn more about food allergies? Would you like to see recipes that avoid certain allergens? If so, please leave us a comment and let us know!

Related posts:

  1. Food Additive No-no’s: Trans Fats, Artificial Sweeteners, and MSG
  2. Vegetarianism: Eating Healthy with a Vegetarian Lifestyle
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