Why Food Allergies Are a Disability

Imagine every time you ate a meal, you had to deal with the possibility that what you were eating could make you very sick at best or possibly kill you at worst.

That’s what it’s like for many of us that live with food allergies.

I have been diagnosed with multiple food allergies, sensitivities and something called histamine intolerance. Histamine intolerance is a disorder in which your body cannot break down histamine properly, so you have to stick to eating foods that are low in histamines, otherwise, your body is overloaded with histamine and you become very ill.

Eating out is never really a possibility because you can’t really be sure how the food was prepared and if the waiter/waitress has taken your “food allergy ordering speech” seriously. Going to visit family or friends becomes an ordeal where you have to have prepared meals and snacks on hand. And holidays can be extremely stressful having to cook all special foods for yourself. You have tell your host that it’s not personal and there is nothing wrong with their cooking. Sometimes they insist on making something for you that’s allergy friendly. The problem is, they really don’t know exactly how to prepare it and one innocent mistake could cause you to become violently ill. It’s all very anxiety producing.

Food allergies are a disability. There have been many times where I got sick and had to take high doses of Benadryl. I was left exhausted and “hung over” the next day, forcing me to cancel plans. It makes you unreliable. You never know how you will feel or how your body will react to the food you eat, even when you are taking the proper precautions to avoid your allergens.

I remember one occasion when I bought gluten-free cookies. They were oatmeal raisin. Well, that day I found out the hard way that I am allergic to grapes. My mouth was on fire, I was dizzy and couldn’t breathe and I was red from head to toe, like I had gotten bad sunburn. My mother dialed 911 as I was on the verge of passing out. Next thing I know EMTs were injecting me with needles and I was in the hospital. All that for a f**king cookie! 

Other allergies like chemical sensitivities, allergies to dog/cat hair, allergies to perfumes, etc. —  they can make traveling a nightmare. Will someone be wearing heavy perfume on the flight? Will there be a dog on board? You can’t visit your friend at their house because she just got a cat, so you have to get a hotel room. And not just any hotel room. It has to have a kitchen so you can cook your meals. 

These allergies affect every detail of our day-to-day living, and everything must be planned in advance because eating is something you must do daily, so it’s pretty unavoidable.

Eating the wrong thing can cause severe digestive distress, nausea, painful bloating, vomiting, dizziness, rashes, shortness of breath, fast heartbeat and feeling you might pass out. Sounds like fun, right?

Food allergies are disabling and can really ruin a person’s life. If you know someone who has a food allergy or multiple allergies, please don’t make them feel like they are being dramatic, faking it or making it all up in their head. They’re not trying to be difficult. They’re just trying to stay well. It’s a horrible way to live. Show compassion and understanding.

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Lead photo by Thinkstock Images

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