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Thursday, February 22, 2024

My experience with food allergies

Adult allergies are more common than you think

 

By JENA TUFAIL — jjtufail@ucdavis.edu

 

I never really knew what food allergies were. Growing up in an ethnic household, saying you were allergic to something was seen as a myth. To be fair, I understand why that is; where my parents and grandparents grew up, there was no such thing as “allergy tests” — or even doctors unless it was an emergency. 

But in my junior year of high school, I started having some problems. After a few years of random symptoms, my doctor advised me to visit an allergist, and to my surprise, I tested positive for over 30 food allergies. My diagnosis meant I would have to change my diet in every form, including cutting out all the foods I loved and grew up with.

I am not alone with my late-onset allergies. Around 26 million people, or 10% of the U.S. population, have adult allergies. 

Instead of slowly eliminating the foods I’m allergic to from my diet, I stopped eating them all together within a week. During the pandemic, this transition, although difficult, was made easier by the lack of temptations. I began to notice many improvements after cutting out foods such as wheat, rice, tree nuts and more. My allergies had always caused me problems, from rashes to brain fog, and I started feeling healthier than I ever had before. 

My mother was very supportive throughout the entire process of changing my diet and adapting to the foods I was allergic to. We brainstormed meal ideas, found snacks I could eat and did anything that would make it easier for me throughout my college experience. For years, it almost seemed easy. 

However, there were many downsides to being allergic to so many foods. It was always hard to go out with friends and family and having to hope there was something on the menu I could eat. Coming up with on-the-go meals was also hard, especially as a student.  

In the past year, however, I felt like cutting out my allergies started to do nothing for me. Having issues be eliminated for years, only for them to come back in different forms, was disheartening. This year, I decided to go back to an allergist and found out I only tested positive for tree nuts and shellfish allergies.

I had never known that some allergies have the ability to go away completely after a period of time. For years, I believed I would have had to continue living with my new lifestyle. Considering the advice of my allergist this year, I’ve slowly started reintroducing foods into my diet again that I haven’t eaten in years. It has been quite an interesting experience, and I have (thankfully) not begun reacting again. 

I am very fortunate that my food allergies disappeared after some time, and I recognize that many do not have this same experience. My family and I now know the importance and the difficulties of having food allergies and how very real they are. I wish the best for others who are going through the same experience. 

 

Written by: Jena Tufail — jjtufail@ucdavis.edu

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