We have a lot of patients who deal with multiple food allergies. This can be a very challenging thing to live with, especially when the food allergies consist of common, everyday foods such as gluten, corn or dairy. Although finding out that you have multiple food allergies can be incredibly stressful and life-altering, once you learn how to manage it, it can become routine and just another part of life.
Multiple food allergies can manifest in many different ways. Most of the time, people are diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or other nondescript stomach problems. Sometimes it can be a more serious condition such as celiac disease, crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, or IgA nephropathy. They can even present as non-digestive symptoms including headaches, fatigue, difficulty concentrating or skin rashes.
When a person finds out that they have multiple allergies or sensitivities to foods, it can come as a shock. These foods usually have to be completely eliminated from the diet or severely reduced, depending on the condition or symptom. When allergic to common foods such as gluten, dairy, soy, corn, or yeast, it can be challenging to find foods that you can eat and adjusting your eating habits or patterns to fit this new lifestyle. For kids, it can be especially hard in that children are often attached to certain foods (especially ones they are allergic to), and it can be difficult to get them to try new or otherwise “exotic” foods.
Here are some basic tips to help you manage multiple food allergies:
Most people feel burdened when they have to give up certain foods they are used to eating. When we work with patients that have multiple food allergies, we like to turn the focus on a more positive aspect of being creative. We like to think of it as a new food adventure – one in which you now get to try foods or recipes that you have never eaten before, or have always wanted to try but never have. Make it a point to try one new food a week, and incorporate that into a meal that you have never had before. Shop around for alternatives to the things that are missing in your diet, and try a new one every week to find ones that you like. With kids, bringing them into the kitchen with you to explore new dishes can be a fun and enticing way to get them to change their eating behaviors. Getting the whole family involved in meals as well can take the strain off of feeling singled out, especially if only one person in the family is dealing with multiple food allergies. This can lead to new ideas and collaborative creativity for all members of the family.
Prepare, prepare, prepare
Humans are creatures of habit. We like our comfort foods, and we know what things we like to have on hand for when we are hungry. Whether it is a quick snack, a late night meal, or some comfort food and a good movie, we already have it programmed into our mind what we want to go for in these instances. When those go-to foods are things you are allergic to, it can be disheartening when you reach for that thing and it’s no longer safe. This is where preparation comes in handy. If you take some time out every week to prepare meals or snacks ahead of time, you will always have something available to help fill the void. This is especially important in the beginning when our bodies and minds are adjusting to a new concept. This is also nice for working families, who may not hav time to cook dinner or lunches last minute. If you already have food prepared in advance, then you don’t have to think about it later when you are tired, hungry and already stressed out.
Eliminating foods from your diet can be a stressful event. Most of the time, people can get cravings for that food, or they will feel very hungry even though they have already eaten (another type of craving). Sometimes symptoms can get worse before they start to get better, and although this is temporary, it can be an unpleasant situation. The key is to stay positive. Continue to remind yourself that you are taking appropriate steps to better health, and that the pay-off in the long run will be worth it. Usually the first few weeks are the hardest, but most people find that after that they feel increasingly better, happier and content. They no longer have the symptoms that were plaguing them for years, and their vitality skyrockets. Try to make this the focus as you transcend through this difficult phase, and it will help you get through the hard parts.
If you have been diagnosed with multiple food allergies, or think that this might be affecting you, call our office today to set up a free 10 minute consultation with one of our physicians.