Are you or do you know someone who is Gluten Free, Nut Free, Egg Free, Soy Free, everything or anything Free? Listed below are some suggestion to open you to a deeper understanding of what it is like living with food restrictions and to perhaps help you tolerate the intolerant!
I was sitting in a café this morning having a quiet cup of tea, when I overheard a customer on the next table chatting to her friends. She was an older lady and was talking about how she was discovering that a certain food she had been eating, was now becoming very problematic for her. Now I didn’t interrupt, nor did I want to pry into her conversation, but what struck me as interesting was when she said ” I never wanted to be one of those people, who claimed I can’t eat this or that, but sadly, now I am!”
Why did this strike me as interesting?
Well, my daughter and I live with intolerances,I coach people on how to best manage allergies and intolerances and let’s face it, we all know at least one person who lives with some kind of food restriction but is there still a misunderstanding or confusion as to what this means and what it is like for the person living with these restrictions?
I know I have faced all sort of responses, some sympathetic, some concerned, some even feel sorry for me, but I have been made to feel ‘inconvenient’ and difficult. I don’t wish to offend or moan here, that is not the purpose of this post. What I would like to do is help people to gain a deeper understanding and perhaps, when you are having a guest over for dinner with restrictions or dining out with them, you may think twice before labelling them as difficult, fussy or even inconvenient.
I have listed below a few things that might help you gain a clearer understanding of what it like for those people.
- Firstly, For most people this is not a choice! People who live with restrictions don’t wake up one morning and say, “oh, I think I might just make my life a little more challenging, especially when eating out!” Yes, there are some people who do choose to eliminate certain foods because they think it is perhaps better for them or they simply feel better without these food in their life but for the majority, it is not a choice. It can simply be a matter of life or death for some, but for others it can mean skin reactions, feeling unwell, suffering digestive distress amongst many other symptoms.
- If they consume the offending food, there are consequences. I often get asked by lots of people, especially when out “what would happen to you if you ate Gluten?” I find when I explain the symptoms that I usually experience, they often become more understanding, but I have experienced doubt or cynicism. There are different symptoms and reactions depending on the severity of food intolerance or allergy. This chart shows you the symptoms that can occur.
- What is the difference between an intolerance and allergy? The differences can be complex but again here is a chart to show you the basic differences. The symptoms for mild to moderate food allergy or intolerance may sometimes be similar, but food intolerance do not cause severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis). Food intolerance has been associated with asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
- Can you develop food allergies and intolerances or do you have to be born with it?Most food allergies start in childhood, but they can develop at any time of life. Some adults develop an allergy to a food they used to eat with no problem. Sometimes a child outgrows a food allergy only to have it reappear in adulthood.If you have a food allergy, you’ll need to avoid the offending food. An allergic reaction can quickly put your immune system into a state of emergency, affecting numerous organs in your body. Untreated Intolerances can have a long term effect on your gut as your body has trouble digesting the food correctly. This sets up inflammation and disrupts bodily functions, leading onto inflammatory related diseases.Symptoms of food sensitivity tend to be those we ‘put up with’ on a daily basis: itching skin, mild to severe diarrhea, coughing, tiredness, mouth ulcers, stomach bloating, stiff joints or back ache and headache But with corrected diet, symptoms evaporate and the body can heal.
- Don’t think they are missing out. I know some people feel this way, especially when it comes to children but this is one strategy I have adapted when I was coming to terms with my food restrictions. I always said to myself and others, I’m not missing out or feeling deprived- my body, brain and overall health is so much better off without it, therefore I’m lucky that I know that these foods are what makes me feel unwell. For some this may not resonate, but if we say to kids for example, ‘oh you poor thing, your missing out’ it only makes them think they are being deprived, but if we said ‘isn’t it great you can eliminate the food that makes you sick and you feel better?”, then maybe they could see the positive side of this restrictions.
If you suspect you or anyone you know is suffering from food intolerances or allergy, its best to seek medical advice from a dietician or nutritionist, naturopath or Doctor.
I hope this post has helped you gain a better understanding of what it is like living with food issues. ‘Those’ people as the lady in in the café put it, are not trying to be difficult, so perhaps, let us tolerate the intolerant a little more!