My passion is food. My other passion is Celiac Disease Advocacy, and the study of allergies and autoimmune disease. When I am not working, I volunteer as an Outreach Coordinator for the DC Metro Celiac Organization in Washington DC. It wasn’t until two years ago that I finally discovered that I had been suffering from a gluten intolerance. Recurring symptoms included: headaches, extreme fatigue, bloating, itchy rash, and rapid weight gain.
In this past year, I also found out through a devastating anaphylaxis attack where I ended up in the ER room, I am allergic to tree nuts, soy, and all pitted fruit ( apples, mangos, kiwi, pears, apricots etc.).
I got to a point in my life where I knew I needed to take charge over the gluten intolerance as well as my numerous food allergies, before it took charge of me. That sudden motivation to take charge of my life, has made me so much more passionate about food and cooking than ever before! I now realize that it is imperative to not only know what you are eating, but also to possess a positive and wholesome relationship with food. Many people who suffer from allergies or types of intolerance know that these are two very different entity’s.
Celiac Disease is not an allergy, it’s an autoimmune disease that affects many components of the body, in the form of not being able to process the specific food ingredient. It is also largely genetic, which is carried on my mother’s side. For example, in someone like myself every time I ate gluten I would have a high white blood cell count and a weakened immune system. I was sick constantly and had a rash and severe lower back pain since the age on twelve that would come sporadically. I was diagnosed as having ring worm, a humidity rash, and eczema. Finally my last year of college, i couldn’t take it anymore and did my own research. Shortly after my aunt was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, which was mistaken for many years as a shellfish allergy. I started eating gluten-free. Within 4 months I had lost 20 pounds, no longer had severe fatigue that would knock me out after I ate something, and my rash was nowhere to be found. The back pain was associated with constipation as a result of not being able to process gluten. I have eaten this way for the past 2 or so years and have never felt healthier or stronger.
An allergy is where your body attacks the specific food item once it enters the body, treating it as an imposter. Your body can react in a number of ways, whether that is breaking out into hives, or so severe that you can’t breathe. Most of my food allergies have developed in the past two years. First was a hive break out to penicillin. Unfortunately sometimes allergies can get more severe in reaction. On August 11th, 2014 I was eating a Think Thin Gluten Free White Chocolate bar and within in 10 mins my eyelids, face, neck, chest, and scalp had turned completely red and itchy. Next was the wheezing, coughing, and the inability to grasp a complete breath. I laid down thinking that would help, but then came this panic (which I know now is what they call “the feeling of doom”). At that point my sister said we need to go to the hospital. I was never prescribed an Epipen since my allergies weren’t severe enough yet. I took two Benadryl, thinking well it can only help the situation. I was seen in the ER, given some strong antihistamines and told to go see an allergist.
my allergist and I dissected the ingredients of the bar that caused the anaphylaxis and did a number of skin and breathing tests. I wish we could have tested for everything, but as a young professional I could only afford the necessary tests. There is a sense of relief when you find out what your allergic to and know what to avoid. Having a severe allergic reaction is something that is hard to explain and only people who have had it happen to them will understand but it was a life changing event that has developed my life passion and made me a stronger person.
Both can be treated by staying away from the food item or ingredient that is causing the intolerance. intolerance and allergies effect not only the person but also the families. Come join me on my adventure through DC, where you will learn that eating food can be a spiritual, emotional, and cultural experience to ultimately discover your true self.