The Irony of Food Allergies and Being a Food Blogger

For the past two months I have been having problems with food allergy symptoms; tingling and numbness, swelling, rash, problems swallowing, problems breathing. What a nightmare!

At first it was a reaction to taro root. For those of you who do not know what taro is, it is a tuber and is the primary ingredient in poi, the Hawaiian starch paste. It is also commonly used in vegetable chips. The irony of being allergic to an essentially tasteless food product was not lost on me. Happily it is easy to avoid taro, except taro is used frequently at a lot of Thai and Vietnamese restaurants. I was prepared to mourn the loss of crispy spring rolls at certain places, got my Epi Pen and put it in my handbag and thought the drama was over.

A month later I had enjoyed a lovely quiche Lorraine and a fruit salad at a work breakfast and experienced allergy symptoms. What could it be? The fruit? The eggs? Surely not the bacon?

My mind recoiled in horror. Not. Bacon. Please, let it not be bacon.

After questioning my family about any history of food allergies it came out that my grandmother, the one who had everything you could think of wrong with her, might have had a pork allergy. But she was a hypochondriac so I automatically have discounted anything hereditary from her side. Well except for breast cancer and diabetes type 2, those are real issues that worry me.

A week later, after many phone calls to the doctor, I had started avoiding all ingredients in quiche and fruit salad and was recovering pretty well. Pretty well, that is, until I ate a lemon cupcake. This stupid lemon cupcake made me so ill that I ended up in the emergency room that night. So not fun, let me tell you. Also, the staff and UCSF are awesome, just in case you need to visit an ER theirs is the place to go.

The immunologist’s office is a very busy place, and my testing and consultation will not be completed until mid December.  You do realize what this means, right? What is between now and mid-December?  Thanksgiving.

The horror.  What on earth can I eat that won’t make me sick and/or die between now and then?

So I have been prudent. And I have been taking lots of antihistamines, some of which I have discovered have the effect of drinking 10 cups of coffee an hour.  Some are like taking a quaalude, zonk, out like a light, which can be fine but not at 11 am in the morning.

This past week I was very excited because I made pear custard tarts and bacon blue cornmeal waffles.  It felt great to be cooking again, being able to make food and not be in pain from my shoulder, and most importantly to be able to clean up the kitchen after cooking something.

I did not plan on feeling severe allergy symptoms after eating my own cooking.  The pear tart made me feel like a rabid dog.  I took more antihistamines and tried to ignore the shaking hands and extreme anxiety it gave me.  I went home and threw away the mostly uneaten tart I had made for myself.

Saturday I had a great  fun day out with L___ and we had tater tots, a baby slider and salted caramel shakes.  Delicious!  However I started getting numb and tingly and sore after a few bites.  Was it the ketchup? The mayo? The bun? I really don’t know.  Yesterday I made my beautiful bacon blue cornmeal waffles and tried to ignore the numb and swollen tongue and closing throat feelings I was getting.  Harder to ignore was the itchy face and puffy lips, but I consoled myself with more Benadryl and lip gloss thinking the Hollywood types pay all kinds of money for lips like mine.

I ate a left over waffle at work and just threw it away after 3 bites.  What the hell.

Happily I am not alone.  On Twitter and elsewhere I know many, many people who have food allergies, and found out one or more of them have the same type of allergy I might have, which is called Oral Allergy Syndrome.  Basically severe hay fever can manifest itself into oral allergy symptoms because certain foods have proteins in common with the pollens that cause allergies.  There are also non-oral symptoms which I can’t discuss.   Maybe I have food allergies too, or maybe it’s something else, I really won’t know for months.

What I do know is that not knowing really bites.  I am not really sure exactly what foods I can and cannot eat safely.  I know I can have meat, and cheese and bread and chocolate and coffee and feel okay.  But waffles are made of flour so what does that mean about eating bread?  Fruits are still on my avoid list, and I think I am also going to abstain from eggs for a while.

Begrudgedly I am starting a food journal and am squintingly reading food labels and not eating out very much.  I am taking a few bites and waiting before I can proceed.  I am taking way too many pills and am tired of feeling sick.

It is going to be a sad Thanksgiving.  A gal cannot just live on bacon and turkey.  Or can I?

The irony of being a food blogger and not being able to eat food is keeping me chuckling, but life is not fun right now.

Fingers crossed this gets sorted soon.

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15 responses to “The Irony of Food Allergies and Being a Food Blogger

  1. You poor thing! I hope you get to the bottom of it soon. Maybe an elimination diet is the way to go?

    • The doctor said to just avoid what I know bothers me and then once she has more information we can go from there with a plan. I am impatient however.

  2. Be careful! Its horrible that they cant get test results back till December… this could be life threatening. I only have a peanut and some nuts allergy which isn’t too bad but u can never take these things too seriously. Maybe you can see a new doctor who can help you faster?

    • This was the earliest they could see me at UCSF, and I get the skin testing done in mid-November. She did give me explicit instructions on what to do if I have a hard time breathing or am in dire distress which is helpful. I wish I could see someone quickly and just be done with this but there is such a demand. This doctor has a good reputation. If you hear of anyone please let me know.

  3. This past year I have been in the ER 3 times for some sort of unknown food allergy. While the common denominator seemed to point to fish, my expensive allergy testing all came back negative. I also break out in hideous hives when I peel mirliton squash or butternut squash; but I can eat them with no ill effects. I too carry an epi-pen and enough benadryl to drop a horse and while I’ve slowly introduced tuna and salmon back into my diet I’m mourning my beloved sushi and fresh caught crappie. Since I mainly cook most of my own food and buy all the organic ingredients I can get my hand on, I’ve not had an *episode* since March when I fished w/ Daddy and we ate our catch of crappie. It is scary!!! I do know there is a specific protein related to pork allergies that you can get checked for. Good luck to you!

    • From what I am learning you can have a negative allergy test to a food but still have the Oral Allergy Symptoms from eating it. Isn’t that odd? Also some foods raw can affect you but cooked they are okay, which may explain your hive s from squash and cooked fish. As a dear friend said, it is much better to feel good than to eat things that make you feel ill. But still, I feel your pain, no sushi?

  4. I’ve been too afraid to try sushi yet! I’ve never had trouble w/ it but then again, I never had trouble w/ crappie either. OY

  5. Sorry to hear about what you are going through. I have this strange feeling that the older we get, our bodies start breaking down, and start having issues with certain foods. I noticed recently that if I eat peanut butter (plain, by the spoonfuls) I get itchy. I have friends who have developed allergies in their adult lives as well. Hoping it is only that you need to eliminate a couple things from your diet. Be careful & take care!

  6. I’vebeen going through similar experiences – so frightening and frustrating! Hang in there and keep the Epi pen handy.

  7. I sort of chuckled when I read your blog, in an empathetic way. My children have said “mom whats wrong with your lips”. Last winter I found egg nog made my throat itchy. I made hollandaise for my son and licked the spoon, a little more itchy. By May I went out for a beautiful Birthday dinner in SF and left after the amuse bouche, throwing up the whole way home and covered head to toe in hives. If I had not had antihistamines in my purse I would have had to go straight to the ER, probably should have. I already had an inkling that it was egg. The uncooked yolks in particular. Protein in the yolks when they are not cooked solid is particularly bad. I just avoid eggs in general now. I seem alright if they are not in high concentration and baked in something like cake. My last reaction was dipping calamari in what I thought was tarter, alas an aioli…. thankfully my lips were the only reaction. I have loved cooking my whole life, why at 50 a severe allergy? I shall probably never know. Best of luck narrowing down what your reaction is from, skin testing confirmed mine.

    • I am looking forward (??) to the skin testing next month. I tried an egg today and it was not good. I am currently in mourning for a future without my beloved poachies for breakfast.

  8. Totally sucks what’s happening to you. I think the taro incident set off a whole chain reaction of events inside you. It’s like when people get giardia, some enzyme in their system gets killed off and they become lactose intolerant. Keep us updated and posted as to what the medical community comes up with.

  9. Thinking of you and hoping for some answers for you soon. Good luck

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