Musings and Morsels from an Allergic Foodie (1-22-15)

I photographed this morning’s shadows on the snow-covered mountains before I’d even had a cup of coffee. If I waited too long, the sun would shift and the view would change.

Musings and Morsels of an Allergic Foodie (!-22-15)

I’ve been reminded this week to appreciate life’s moments. Life as you know it can change in an instant.

A friend I met through blogging, Kathryn Chastain Treat, passed away a few days before Christmas. Her daughter posted this news on Kathryn’s blog.  Though I’d never met Kathryn in person, she was more of a friend than some people I see daily. We supported each other through emails and Tweets and Facebook posts. I got to know Kathryn and her family while reading  her book, Allergic to Life: My Battle for Survival, Courage, and Hope. She was a vibrant and healthy woman until toxic mold changed her life forever. Learning about how she was forced to live in physical isolation made my food allergies and celiac disease seem silly. However, she never made me feel that way. Kathryn always had a kind word to say. I will miss her.

Kathryn Treat, Author

Kathryn C. Treat, author of Allergic to Life

I encourage you to read Kathryn’s book. You can find it on Amazon.

Book trailer for Allergic to Life

My reviews: Part I and Part II.

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Last week I wrote about the hidden risks of vegetable oil and received many insightful comments. Several readers shared their horrific experiences of anaphylactic reactions when restaurants served them food prepared in the wrong cooking oil. Please don’t just ask what cooking oil the restaurant uses–ask to see the bottle. If the restaurant doesn’t want to show you, leave. Don’t take a chance.

In this same post, I shared my frustration with highly refined soybean oil and soy lecithin being excluded from the FDA’s allergen labeling requirements. Some of you only react to soybean protein, but others of you are highly sensitive like I am. Maya Trimner of Maya’s Happy Place sent me this petition asking the FDA to include all soy derivatives in food and drug allergen labeling.

Anyone with any food allergies understands the consequences of eating the wrong food. Please won’t you sign this petition and share with your followers?

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Enough musing . . . . time for a morsel!

I’ve been wanting to share this new product since our lunch was served in it at the Food Allergy and Celiac Convention last November.

Solvetta: Flat Box-Lunch Box

This lunch box unzips and lays flat, serving as a place mat. As an Allergic Foodie who travels a lot, I love that I can keep my eating surface clean and free of potential allergens. Think about those disgusting airplane trays and the tailgate of your car. I also take my allergen-free meal into fast-food restaurants where my husband eats. Now I don’t have to worry about asking the restaurant folks to wipe down the tables. They especially like doing this when they see I’ve brought my own food. These Flat Box-Lunch Box are great for students, too.

Visit Solvetta’s website to see all the sizes and colors and order yours. I got pink.

In closing, remember to appreciate the moments.

Allergic To Life: An Interview with a Survivor of Toxic Mold Part 2

This is Part 2 of my interview with Kathryn Chastain Treat, the author of Allergic to Life: My Battle for Survival, Courage, and Hope. Part 1 appeared yesterday at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.  

Kathryn, since reading your story about how toxic mold caused your severe allergies, I am much more aware of the chemicals in our lives, such as hairspray, dry cleaner bags, candles. Yesterday, when riding my bike, I passed a lady who must have bathed in perfume. I thought about you, how that perfume could send you to the hospital.  Your book opened my eyes to multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS).  How common is MCS?

MCS is far more common than we realize. There are many who will complain about what happens when they use bleach or when they walk down the cleaning aisle at the grocery store. The thing is that many aren’t listening to the signals their bodies are giving them that these chemically laden cleaners aren’t safe for them. Those with severe drug allergies are in a way part of the MCS community because drugs are made with chemicals. Doctors and many in the medical community are still reluctant to accept that there is such a thing as MCS, so when patients come in complaining of chest pain, asthma, brain fogginess, or muscle fatigue when around chemicals they are labeled as hypochondriac or as having somatoform disorders (mental disorders causing physical symptoms). The numbers will surely climb when, and if, the medical community becomes more learned in this area.

While getting treatment for life-threatening allergies to chemicals, Kathryn Treat had to live in a sterile environment.

While getting treatment for life-threatening allergies to chemicals, Kathryn Treat had to live in a sterile environment.

So what can we as a society do to make a difference in the lives of those with MCS?

As a society we can become better educated about how chemicals affect those with MCS, asthma, and the public in general.  We can lobby for testing of chemicals that are put in cleaners and cosmetics. Unfortunately, as long as the government and manufacturers can say less than 50 percent of the population experience problems, the chemicals will most likely continue to be used.

We can talk with our own doctors and stress the importance of keeping offices and waiting rooms fragrance free–no air fresheners, candles, and no cologne or perfume.  There is nothing worse than going to a medical facility with illness and then being bombarded with unnecessary chemicals.  Finally, we need to be accepting and accommodating of those who suffer with chemical sensitivity.

Kathryn Treat had to throw away many of her belongings because of potential chemical and mold contamination.

Kathryn Treat had to throw away many of her belongings because of potential chemical and mold contamination.

While you had some wonderful doctors, you also encountered some that weren’t, and you had to fight to get workers’ compensation. What advice would you give to someone who has just been diagnosed with a chronic illness such as yours?

My advice to someone newly diagnosed is to seek out doctors and those in the medical profession that understand or are willing to research and think out of the box.  I would also recommend that they research their illness and learn as much as they can about it and find online support groups. The hardest part about chronic illness is learning to accept our new limitations and to ask for help.  It took me a long time to accept that I wasn’t going to be able to do what I had done before. Giving up a lot of my independence and having to have others do things that I used to do was–and still is–extremely difficult.  My advice is to be accepting and to love yourself despite your limitations.  Treat yourself with the same love and compassion you would treat someone else in your shoes.

Anyone coping with chronic illness can benefit from reading your story, Katherine. Thank you for sharing, and I hope your health continues to improve.

Register to win a copy of Kathryn’s memoir at Rafflecopter

For a signed copy (US only), go to Kathryn’s websiteAllergic to Life Book Cover

The book is also available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon

For helpful resources, visit www.kathryntreat.com

This post originally appeared at Adventures of An Allergic Foodie

Allergic to Life: An Interview with a Survivor of Toxic Mold

This is Part 1 of an interview with the author of Allergic to Life: My Battle for Survival, Courage, and Hope. Part 2 appears tomorrow.

Having been allergic to mold since a child, I thought I knew something about mold’s impact on one’s health. Then I read Kathryn Chastain Treat’s recently released memoir, Allergic to Life: My Battle for Survival, Courage, and Hope.

Allergic to Life Book Cover

Treat, an active wife and mother of two daughters, was exposed to toxic mold when she reentered the workforce at age 44. Suddenly, her life was turned upside down. She developed such life-threatening allergies to chemicals and food that she was forced to become a reluctant recluse, only leaving her home for medical treatment.

But Kathryn Chastain Treat is a survivor.  After reading her incredible story, I couldn’t wait to ask her some questions.

Kathryn, you are one of the bravest people I’ve ever met!  Thank you for sharing your story, which is really your family’s story. When you became so ill from multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS) and other health issues, you had to travel out of state for treatments. Your daughters were in high school and college then, and texting, Facebook, Skyping hadn’t been invented. How did you maintain relationships with them?

Amy, it was extremely difficult to maintain a relationship especially when I spent so much time miles away from them. Even when I was home, my younger daughter was a two-and-a-half-hour drive from me, and I couldn’t go into her apartment that she shared with others. I was fortunate that I had always had an extremely close relationship with my daughters. We tried to talk on the weekends when they weren’t in school and I was not in treatment. I sent many notes and letters to them through the mail. It would have been nice to have had access to a computer or if Skype and texting had been available to me. There were so many things I missed because they couldn’t share pictures—their latest haircuts, a fun find, a trip they’d gone on–and I couldn’t help my older daughter choose her wedding dress.

I bet your daughters will always treasure those notes and letters!  Is there any concern that your daughters or grandchildren have a genetic predisposition to develop life-threatening allergies like yours?

It does scare me that my daughters might have the same genetic predisposition and be in the 25 percent of the population that can be made very sick from mold. My older daughter immediately can sense when she goes somewhere that may be moldy, and she leaves. Both daughters are more aware of the dangers of mold and the toxicity of chemicals. My older daughter has three children and tries to be as careful as possible with them; she uses fragrance-free laundry products, steams her tile floors with water only, and prepares most meals from scratch. My oldest granddaughter has a mold allergy so my daughter is careful about where she takes her.

To avoid exposure to chemicals that could cause you to go into anaphylactic shock, your husband built you a safe house–he sounds like a great guy!–and you two lived separately.  Later, he moved into your house.  What was that like, living separately and then sharing a house?

Living apart for seven years was extremely difficult. Part of that time I was out of state and the rest of the time in a house close by. When my husband had a heart attack, he moved in with me so I could care for him. It forced him to give up his belongings, including his vehicle because of possible exposure to mold or chemicals.  Now when he goes out, he must change clothes in the garage and then immediately wash his clothes.

When my husband moved back in with me, we’d been used to living alone and we both had our own way of doing things—it’s still a challenge!  It’s like two individuals marrying later in life and suddenly thrust into a relationship where they must give up some of their idiosyncrasies.

Author Photo

This is Kathryn today.

How often are you able to leave your home now?  I’m curious what your average day is like.

After years of treatment and keeping myself isolated, I am now able to venture into a store for short periods if I wear a charcoal mask. I try to go when the stores are less crowded. If I stay too long, my brain becomes foggy and my chest starts to tighten up. There is a fine balance of how often I can do this or how long I can be out.

My daily routine is so much different from the beginning of my illness. Most days I get up, shower, dress, eat breakfast, then check my emails and take care of business. I separate my supplements out for the day and then figure out what I have energy for doing around the house. Cleaning house now is done in segments throughout the day and throughout the week. I am a list-maker. There is always more on the list than what I can physically or mentally accomplish.

My previous routine was much more time-consuming.  Not only did I have to sort out my supplements, but they had to be done by day on the 4-day rotation I was on because some were food based.  I took daily antigen injections and those had to be given in 4-day rotations.  My food was also eaten in 4-day rotations so I had to figure out my meals based on what day of the rotation I was on.  Then I did sauna therapy every single day (40 minutes) and oxygen therapy (2 hours).  My day was done before I did any housework or got on the computer.

I know all about the dreaded 4-day rotation diet of food and supplements, but adding the injections, oxygen and sauna must have been grueling! Thank you for giving us a glimpse into what life is like for you.

Tomorrow, Kathryn will share more information on multiple chemical sensitivities and what we as a society can do to help.

Register to win a free copy of Allergic to Life!

For a signed copy (US Only) of Allergic to Life, click here.

Allergic to Life is available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon