“What are you allergic to?” Street conversation #3

“Everything and anything”. 

At this point, the person I am talking to goes one of two ways. One group says “That must be hard.”. It’s usually a pretty clear conversation ender. If they say “What? Do you have food allergies, or environmental stuff, or meds. Or???”

“Yes.” “Actually, it’s probably; easier to tell you what I’m NOT allergic to than what I am. THere are about 5 foods on my safe list at the moment.” 

I get a very wide range of responses to that. Incredulity is common. Surprise is fine. Disbelief is okay- most of the time. Dismissal makes me PO’d. I’ve had doctors dismiss what I say my entire life. It got old a LONG time ago. And its a pretty sensitive button. The conversation usually either ends, or gets much longer at this point. If a bench is nearby- we might even sit down. 

THe ‘answer’ to this question changes on a daily basis. Today, if I am on full meds, I can eat the following foods with reasonable certainly of not having an anaphylactic reaction:

wheat (only hard-cooked- crackers, cookies etc are best. )

Butter and cheese (only mild firm cheeses such as cheddar, jack, mozzarella).  Max two servings per day. 

Commercially made baked goods such as muffins and loaf cake-max one per day (I have a few theories as to why ic can’t eatthe homemade ones- I’ll save that for another day).

Berries (Only in the few weeks they are in season. Max one serving/day)

Oranges (max one per day, have to be organic)

Non-GMO corn

Chocolate. (Very brand specific.)

Almonds (max I serving/day. Kinda going in and out out right now). 

I can also eat refined sugar, suphite free molasses (in very small quantities), and canola oil.

There is almost an inevitable “You can eat wheat and dairy?!? I would have thought…”

“Yes. I know it sounds odd, but I live on cheese and crackers. I can eat an almond croissant from Starbuck’s. Oh, what I’d do for a burger and fries, and a fruit salad.” 

Yeah. I couldn’t eat dairy for almost a decade. But now, it is one of my safest foods. I lived on miniwheats, milk and ice cream for 6 months at one point… Hence why I encourage people to not cut things out of their diets as a matter of course. Removing foods from one’s diet without re-visiting and checking if it is having an effect, I think it’s foolhardy. I’d be in big trouble if I couldn’t do wheat or dairy. 

If I’m in a playful mood, I follow that with “I can also go into anaphylaxis from environmental allergens, like dust.”. I’ve had one person say “Oh… that makes sense.”- my current internist. Every body else either doesn’t understand (usually cabbies who are picking up English- ‘epi-pen’ seems to be understood by most people. Pantomime gets the rest), or is utterly incredulous. “You have to take an epi-pen because you got too much dust!?!” 

“Yup. Pollen, cooking smells, mold, etc etc. can all cause ana in me.” 

I love that I live in a very crunchy city. People here are very open to learning, and embrace alternative medicine. Some of them go a bit too far… and sometimes the advice they give can be very entertaining. To this day, my favourite is the woman who told me to lie directly on soil, and it would cure my allergies. I’ll save the full story for another day. 

I should note that as the conversation turns go on, fewerand fewer people are still engaged. I try to err on the side of not intruding or being pushy, but I have a bad feeling that I can’t help myself sometimes. I’m SO obvious, maybe I should hand out pamphlets… In any case, at this point… People who have a fair amount of medical knowledge, and /or understand allergies start to ask all sorts of symptom questions, “Do you have x reactions?” “Are they intolerances, or allergies?” “Do they change over time?” “How do you manage cooking for your family?”. People who don’t mostly look very confused. Regardless of their background knowledge, the next question from almost all of them is “Have you had this your whole life?”. 

Yes. And No. Conversation #4, comin’ soon. 

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