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Be Suspicious of Everything
Unfortunately, living with a severe food allergy means you must always be suspicious. Whether your allergy is ingestion, contact, airborne, or a combo of the three, it’s not an easy journey. To make matters worse, the people we should be able to trust can sometimes give us the wrong information (which I must believe is non-malicious). I’ve had to go through this problem, and I’ve had to learn the hard way to be suspicious. For example, I was told by a grocer that their pineapples were not gassed (ripening gasses are usually ethanol/corn-based), and were grown naturally. When I called headquarters, I was told the opposite.
For the sake of our health, we can’t take everything at face value, yet it would be nice if we could.
Here’s the kicker… Depending on the severity of your allergy, you have to be suspicious of your loved ones too. Unless you trust them with your life (or personally provided them with ingredients) you may need to decline to eat food prepared by others. Personally, I have to decline water in addition to food.
I’m not saying you have to be a hobbit, I mean, a hermit. Rather, find safe ways to be around those you want to spend time with. That way, you can leave the suspicion at home. Alternatively, invite them over to your house for non-food get-together.
In all honesty, I wish someone would have told me this a year ago. It would have saved me from a lot of physical pain. In addition to my personal struggles, I once watched someone (allergic to beef) break out in hives after cooking their “safe” food on a grill. The previous user hadn’t cleaned the grill after using it, and none of us thought to be suspicious.
The bottom line is that it’s overwhelming to live with food allergies. Yet, we all manage to find our stride and start to thrive. It doesn’t come overnight, and that’s OK. In the past few years I’ve seen a budding community come together to share inspiration and advice. Be sure you find your tribe of people who have similar struggles, be it online or in person. You’ll find that just by having a few people in your life that truly get it, the journey seems easier. Also, be sure to keep a food journal. If you’re new to allergies, keep it daily, religiously. If you’re a pro, be sure to take notes anytime you introduce a new product into your diet.
Think About Sponges
So, this may not seem like a big deal. If you have a dishwasher, then this may not even apply to you. However, sponges aren’t clean, and they love to hoard allergens. If you live in a house where there are multiple allergies, or even single allergies, you need to designate which sponge will clean which items. Now, this assumes that you haven’t eliminated the allergen from the house all together. There are times when only one person has a dairy allergy, and no one else does. Well, have different sponges, preferably of different colors so people know what’s safe and what’s not. Now, the level of sensitivity will also determine if this step is necessary. In our house, it’s an absolute must.
There are lots of little ways to arrange the kitchen to be more helpful to those with an allergy. Keep a separate pile of dishes for them, especially if you don’t have a dishwasher. Also keep a separate dish towel for them to use when in the kitchen.
If you are in an extreme case like our house (the house of allergies as we like to call it) you should invest in separate cookware. For example, we have 2 toaster ovens (we hate microwaves). This allows the people with dairy and gluten issues to steer clear of allergens. We also have separate cookware in my case where my food is prepared in dedicated items.
Each kitchen is different. You will have to assess where you’re at. However, sometimes there’s this nagging symptom that won’t go away, and sometimes it’s from cross-contamination.