9 Steps to Make Living with Food Allergies Less Stressful
Food allergy or food intolerance are more likely to affect you in childhood, but they may also appear in adult life.
Becoming allergic to a certain food means you will have to eliminate this food completely from your diet. Otherwise, you will experience an allergic reaction every time you are exposed to the food allergen. What makes it even more difficult is that an allergy may develop to a food you used to eat without any problems before. Some people may also develop an allergic reaction to their lifetime favorite foods.
Although there are various alternatives to allergenic foods available on the market, it may be harder for adults to accept these alternatives, as they remember what the real taste of the food is like. Besides, many allergy-friendly products like cookies, snack bars and others that are sold at grocery stores and supermarkets are rather made for children.
If you think you have a food allergy, there are some things you can do to make your allergy-related changes in diet and lifestyle more manageable, and the whole experience – less stressful.
Step 1: Getting Tested for an Allergy
Getting an allergy test is very important, as it helps to identify your trigger and determine the best treatment option.
Some people who experience an allergic reaction after eating certain foods simply decide to avoid these foods in future, instead of submitting themselves to allergy testing. This is a serious mistake, since many allergy-like symptoms may actually be indicating other health conditions.
Thus, a reaction to a common parasite may resemble an allergic reaction to fish. Allergy symptoms that occur after you eat French fries may actually be caused by wheat that was cooked in the same oil as the fries. In addition, people who believe they have a milk allergy may actually be lactose intolerant – a condition treated more easily.
If you have decided to perform an allergy test and are looking an allergist, your family doctor may give you a recommendation.
Step 2: Allergy-Proofing Your Environment
It is a good idea to remove all potentially allergenic items from your kitchen and house in general and thoroughly clean all your cooking utensils, as well as ovens, stove, etc. This will not only help to ease the temptation, but also reduce the risk of cross-contamination.
Certain allergens can also be contained in various cosmetics. Experts recommend that you check the product labels and get rid of those that may cause problems.
If you live with roommates or family members who eat things that are not safe for you, you will likely need to keep your food and preparation areas separated and also have your own pans and utensils.
Step 3: Getting Medical Help If Needed
Different types of food allergies may require different levels of diet and lifestyle restrictions. For instance, if you don’t like seafood in general, having a shellfish allergy won’t cause too much discomfort.
However, if you are allergic to dairy, eggs, nuts and grains, you will have to consider seriously changing your eating habits.
In the beginning, you may need professional help in adjusting to your new diet. You can ask an allergist-immunologist, nutritionist or dietitian to assist you in making your diet nutritionally sound and safe.
Step 4: Finding Safe Alternatives to Food Allergens
Having a food allergy also requires you to replace problem food products with allergen-friendly substitutes.
For those with allergy to milk protein, there are many different dairy-free milk alternatives. If you have wheat allergy or celiac disease, you can use various wheat-free flours found at grocery stores.
Make a research on how available non-allergen foods are at local supermarkets and health-food stores in your city. Besides, you can order a lot of allergy-friendly foods online.
Step 5: Adjusting Your Recipes
Although food allergy does require you to use allergen-free substitutes for the foods triggering your symptoms, it doesn’t mean that you should entirely forget about your lifetime favorite recipes. All you have to do is to learn substitutions for the most common allergy-inducing ingredients and adapt your recipes according to them.
Another option is to use allergy-friendly recipes, which is more comfortable for some people. You can find a lot of various recipes that don’t involve any allergenic ingredients. They may be helpful not only for you, but also for your family or friends.
Step 6: Eating Out Safely
When eating out, you should be especially careful. First, consider sticking to a couple of restaurants that are open to adapt their menu for your allergy needs. Then you may learn more about eating out safely. You can find information for common food allergens on the websites of many chain restaurants.
However, if the restaurant staff doesn’t seem to take your concern seriously, you are better off just leaving the place. Make sure to carry your emergency medication (such as epinephrine auto-injector) every time you leave your house.
Step 7: Managing Allergy-Related Stress
Adapting your diet and lifestyle to your allergic disorder, especially if you are an adult, may cause a lot of stress in the beginning. According to studies, people with food allergies tend to have higher levels of stress.
If you notice that allergy is affecting your quality of life, try to reduce the number of other stress-factors in your life as much as possible. Your doctor may suggest that you begin a stress management program, which can help you improve you mental well-being. Besides, not all programs of this type are necessarily expensive.
Step 8: Finding a Supportive Food Allergy Community
Participating in a food allergy community can also help to manage stress and learn how to live with food allergies. Depending on what you prefer, you can find a support group online or in-person. You can also ask your allergist or family doctor to recommend you one.
Step 9: Finding Balance Between Your Allergy and Work Life
You may want or may not want your co-workers to know about your allergy. Some people fairly prefer not to disclose your personal problems at work. However, if you have a severe food allergy and your doctor prescribed you epinephrine, it may be wise to keep an emergency kit at your workplace and teach at least one of your colleagues how to use the medication, in case of anaphylaxis. It is also a goof idea to keep a bit of allergy-friendly food at work.