Food of My Dreams

I stuff fistfuls  of potato chips into my mouth.

Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.

“It’s four in the morning,” my husband says. “Are you eating chips?”

I swallow and look  down at the half-empty bag of Cape Cod Waffle Chips sitting between us in bed. Baffled, I set them on my nightstand, pull up the blanket, and go back to sleep.

When I enter the kitchen in the morning, my husband’s head is inside the refrigerator.

“I think you ate last night’s sausages,” he says.

My husband tends to be a bit OCD. He freaks out when a sock goes missing and the drink glasses aren’t ordered by size. I ignore him and make coffee.

“My sausages are gone,” he announces again.

Now I’m peeved that he’s making such a big deal about leftovers which are most likely behind the carton of eggs. I am not a morning  person.

I march over to the fridge and  pull out the drawer where I stored the baggy of sausages from last night’s meal. But only half  a sausage, the half that was somewhat burnt, remains. I’d put two and half links in there last night. I am sure of it.

“That’s weird . . . ”

Then I remember the predawn chip episode.

“Oh my God, I think I was sleep-walking and sleep-eating! Have I ever done that before?”

“Not that I know of.”  Content that he’s made his point, my  husband picks up the morning paper.

The sausages in question were grilled last evening for my husband. While they are gluten-free, the corn ingredients tend to make me ill.  I prefer Boulder brand sausages or chicken sausages from Al Fresco.

Evidently, I’m not that discriminating about brands or ingredients when I’m asleep, nor do I care whether the sausages are warm or cold.

Dream Food

At first, I’m embarrassed by my late-night munchies. Then it hits me.

I’ve deprived myself so much these last six or so years — passing on slices of birthday cake and Christmas cookies, avoiding crackers and cheese plates during cocktail parties, skipping on the movie popcorn but smelling it throughout the entire movie, sipping my water while the rest of the table chews on warm bread lathered in butter — why wouldn’t I raid the refrigerator or the pantry in a unconscious state?

In fact, why has it taken me so long?

I’ve woken in a sweat from dreams where I’ve eaten an entire chocolate cake with vanilla whipped cream frosting — I’m not only allergic to dairy and eggs and gluten but also vanilla. Still, I’ve never eaten in my sleep. Or even walked in my sleep.

I saw a TV show once about overweight people who have to lock up their food to keep them from eating in the middle of the night. Has my celiac disease and multiple food allergies created some sort of sleep-related eating disorder? Will my husband have to start padlocking his full-of-gluten-and-allergens food before heading off to bed?

After a quick Internet search, I discover that some people who are on diets may unconsciously eat at night. Eliminating gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, corn and so many other foods could certainly be called an extreme diet. That particular night I went to bed hungry because there’d been little for me to eat at a social event and once home I didn’t want to consume the extra calories before bed. With that in mind, it doesn’t seem all that odd that I  raided the kitchen at 4 a.m.

The funny thing is I could have grabbed some peanut M&Ms or some leftover pizza or even a brownie that was sitting on the kitchen counter. But I didn’t. I chose gluten-free sausages and gluten-free chips. I’m so accustomed to avoiding foods that will make me sick, I’ll even avoid them in my sleep.

The chocolate cake with vanilla whipped cream will remain in my dreams.

Food of My Dreams” first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

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Don’t forget to sign up for the Food Allergy Wellness Summit! Read all about this free online event here.

Food Allergies & Celiac Disease: Tips for Coping at Work

Coping with Food Restrictions at Work

My oldest son just celebrated a birthday. Having graduated from college last May, he is now working his first real job in an office setting and living on his own. I laughed when he said, “Birthdays just aren’t as much fun when you’re a grownup.”

No matter how old you are, birthdays aren’t as much fun when you have to pass on the birthday cake, too. College Grad is allergic to dairy and eggs. Of course, there are plenty of treats he can eat, but the office is small and they are evidently unaware of the nearby allergy-friendly and vegan-friendly bakery with cupcakes like the one below.

cupcake

A few years ago, for a short time, I worked in an office. I didn’t know back then that food was making me sick. I’d buy a sandwich on wheat bread or bring one from home and spend the rest of the day doubled over. Fortunately, the company allowed me to work at home often, but I became so focused on figuring out what was wrong with me, I resigned. My husband likes to say I quite my job to be a blogger.

That experience, and now having a son with allergies in the working world, has made me empathetic to those who must manage food restrictions among co-workers who don’t alway understand. Even my younger son in college experiences challenges managing his celiac disease while interning for companies. Both sons developed allergies and celiac disease as young adults, so they had to learn to speak up for themselves; a teacher or a parent wasn’t always there to ensure their  food safety. Still, when you’re young and interning or starting your first job, it’s not easy to ask your manager to wipe the cookie crumbs off the counter or explain to the company CEO why you can’t eat the cheese pizza he just bought for the staff.

One of my friends, a project manager who developed anaphylactic reactions in her thirties, told me how she had to train her staff to use an epipen.  Can you imagine? Who wants to stick a needle in their boss’s thigh? A man I recently met shared how uncomfortable it is to have a reaction among co-workers and be the center of attention. He worried that others would view him as weak.

Whether you’ve grown up with food restrictions or reactions are new, you must learn to speak up for yourself and be proactive in managing your dietary needs. Christina Griffin, who blogs at Bubble Girl Happily, and Alice Enevoldsen have written a terrific guide Managing Food Allergies in the Workplace.  This manual is for both food-allergic folks and for their employers. FARE also has useful information.

My sons and I would love to hear your stories and workplace tips.Coping with Food Restrictions at Work first appeared on Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

Erica Brahan, a high school senior writes honestly about living life with food restrictions

Food Restrictions: A Teen’s Survival Guide

I’ve been feeling pretty cool lately because quite a few high school and college kids following me on Instagram and Twitter.

Wait! It  just dawned on me that I hide my face behind a lemon with sunglasses. So maybe the girls think I’m actually a hot hipster guy and the guys think I’m one of those size-2 cross-fit smoothie-drinking girls. But then again, if I was a size-2 cross-fit girl I wouldn’t be using a lemon’s mug shot, would I?

None the less, it sure makes me feel good when people my kids’ ages want to see the photos of food I post or the info I tweet. I was super flattered when a high school senior named Erica Brahan asked me to review an e-book she wrote called  A Teenager’s Perspective on Food Restrictions: A Practical Guide to Keep from Going Crazy.

Poor Erica probably thought I’d never actually review it because I’ve been crazy busy with my social media addiction. But when I finally opened the pages of Erica’s e-book, I was hooked.

A Teen's Perspective on Food Restrictions

Erica has an upbeat attitude about life with multiple food restrictions, yet she doesn’t sugarcoat the very real challenges young adults like her face. While food restrictions are difficult at any age, fitting in is especially important to high school and college students. Erica writes,  “When eating other than the standard American diet, teens stand out and may be labeled as different or not normal. When you don’t fit in there is typically a desire to find others like you, but there is not usually a strong and united support system for teens with food restrictions.”

To help teens deal with food allergies, celiac disease, or other special diets needed for health problems, Erica asks readers to answer probing questions such as What are my dreams? Is my current health preventing me from achieving them?  She then provides concrete ways to overcome obstacles.  Among topics discussed are friends who don’t understand, dating difficulties, eating in school cafeterias, and choosing colleges. Readers can also find support and encouragement from others’ stories.

While A Teenager’s Perspective on Food Restrictions is aimed at young adults, parents and other family members as well as teachers and counselors can learn from Erica’s experiences and honest writing.  You can purchase her book at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, or from her website.

Other Resources for Teens (and Their Parents)

Erica’s blog: Edible Attitudes

Gluten Away (a teenager’s blog about celiac disease)

Teens with Food Restrictions Facebook Group

FARE Resources for Teens

Food Allergies and Anti-Bullying

Celiac Disease and College

Managing Food Allergies at College

Help My Teenager has Coeliac Disease! 

On Twitter: @teenallergies, @celiacteen, @coeliacteens

Please let me know about any other resources for teens and young adults.

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Food Restrictions: A Teen’s Survival Guide first appeared on Adventures of an Allergic Foodie

Researchers Discover Cause of Eosinophilic Esophagitis

FROM FARE: Researchers discover cause of Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE). This means that new treatments may be just around the corner. Findings also help researchers understand other eosinophilic disorders and allergies in general. Very exciting news.

Researchers report that they have discovered the cause of eosinophilic eophagitis (EoE), a hard-to-treat food allergy. In EoE, large numbers of white blood cells, known as eosinophils, accumulate in the lining of the esophagus (the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach), causing chronic inflammation. Led by a team at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, investigators have found a new genetic and molecular pathway in the esophagus. This discovery, reported online today in Nature Genetics, opens the door to new therapies for EoE, which has been diagnosed in a growing number of children and adults over the past decade.

The study found that EoE is triggered by the interplay between epithelial cells, which help form the lining of the esophagus, and a gene called CAPN14. When the epithelial cells are exposed to an immune hormone called interleukin 13 (IL-13), which is known to play a role in EoE, they cause…

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TSA Took My Lunch! Airports and Food Allergies

As I watched TSA swab my jar of peanutbutter, I thought back to the good old days–not the days before Sept 11 when airplane security was less rigorous, but back to the good old days when I didn’t have food allergies and celiac disease.  My biggest concern before becoming An Allergic Foodie was what shoes to pack. Now, I begin hyperventilating while making an airline reservation. What will I eat it? Where will I eat? What if I have a reaction? Should I just stay home with the dog?

I made many ignorant mistakes in my early days of traveling through airports with allergies.  Let me share a few.

Mistake #1. “Surely, I’ll find something in the airport to eat.”

Wrong. I’ve wandered through some of the largest airports in the U.S. and come up with zilch. Too many times I’ve drooled over my husband’s burger or pizza slice while eating a bag of potato chips and an overripe banana. On occasion I’ve hit the jackpot and found a restaurant with a menu I can eat off, but this is like finding a four-leaf clover in a field of dandelions.

Now I always carry a lunchbox with me and keep it by my side as if it’s full of diamonds. The plastic salad bowls with built-in ice packs are great for chicken salad and quinoa salad. I fill snack-sized bags with carrots, sliced peppers, and apple slices to replace the standard airplane pretzels.

Snacks for the airplane

Mistake #2:  “Peanutbutter is not a liquid.”

My husband travels every week for business and he even thought peanutbutter wouldn’t count as a liquid.  But it did.  Because it was the only protein I had with me, we allowed TSA to swab a spoonful. Now I know that if  I want to take peanutbutter, or applesauce, or yogurt, it must be under 3.4 ounces and placed in a plastic bag.

Mistake #3: “I’m starving! I’ll take a chance.”

It was midnight and there was only one restaurant open. Having to use sign language wasn’t making me feel too confident that the waiter understood “no dairy, no soy, no wheat.”  In retrospect, being hungry for another few hours would have been better than what happened next.

Mistake #4: “It’s a short trip; I’ll eat when I get there.”

Yeah, how many of your short trips have turned into 12-hour ordeals? And being irritable from low blood sugar and a grumbling stomach does not help one negotiate with the ticket agent. Don’t just bring one ham sandwich on gluten-free bread–bring two.  Statistically, you can pretty  much count on a flight being delayed.

United Snackpack

Snackpack from United Airlines: The only food An Allergic Foodie could eat was the hummus

Mistake #5:  “I ordered a special meal.”

We were going to Italy and I ordered a gluten-free/lactose-free meal, thinking there’d be something I could eat. What I didn’t know is that airlines can only put one code in for a meal: GFML for gluten-free meal and NLML for non-lactose meal.  There may have been a vegan option too, but those always scare me because I’m allergic to tofu (soy).

Somehow I got neither meal–maybe the two codes cancelled each other out? The flight attendants felt horrible and kept bringing me apples and bananas.  Fortunately, I had frozen some allergy-free turkey and ham with me that I nibbled on throughout the long flight. Beware:  You’ll have to throw away any food you take with you when you enter another country so eat it before you get off the plane.

Mistake #6: “Sure, I’ll have a second glass of wine.”

Hey, I got upgraded and the wine was free. I just couldn’t eat any of the foods in the snack pack. Actually the hummus was allergen-free for me, but my seat mate gave me the evil eye when I tried squirting it into my mouth. Eating wine on an empty stomach is never a good idea.

I’ve been traveling for six years now with food restrictions and it has gotten easier. Airports are offering healthier options including gluten-free menus, though I’m not sure how confident I am about the service folks being aware of  cross-contamination issues. Allergy-friendly snacks have started appearing in the convenience stores, too.

At the recent Food Allergy Research and Education conference, I had the opportunity to hear Kim Koeller of  Allergy Free Passport, share some tips for airline travel, staying in hotels and dining out with dietary restrictions.  She says, “There are three keys to safe travel and dining out: education, communication, and preparation.”

To learn more about traveling safely with celiac disease and food allergies, visit Kim’s website: Allergy Free Passport and check out her popular series “Let’s Eat Out Around the World Gluten and Allergy Free.”

TSA Took My Lunch! Airports and Food Allergies first appeared on Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

Happy Hug a Blogger Day!

An Allergic Foodie Gets a Facelift

I blog for one reason–and one reason only–to help people.

When I discovered I had celiac disease and multiple food allergies and eosinophilic esophagitis–all in the same year!–I felt incredibly alone with myriad questions. How would I prepare meals for a family who ate EVERYTHING when I couldn’t eat ANYTHING? Would I ever be able to eat in a restaurant safely? What about travel? What would I say to friends who invited me over to dinner?

And the biggest question of all: WHAT WILL I EAT?

An Allergic Foodie Admits Mistakes

 

Two years ago, I turned to blogging because I needed to voice my fears, frustrations and foibles. I also hoped that maybe, just maybe, some kind soul out there with similar issues  would write back and tell me everything would be okay.

Both happened.

I found a safe place to vent–and do so often!–and I met other food-allergic folk like me. I even attended a conference for Food Allergy Bloggers. I’ve received and given hundreds of virtual hugs.

I am no longer alone . . . and I’ve found a purpose.

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Still, blogging is time-consuming. Learning how to make a “Pin-It” button is exasperating! Will someone teach me please? If you want to make money blogging, you’ve got to put even more hours in. Then there’s all the social media required to promote your blog and gain readers. Social media sucks the minutes out of your day like my vacuum would if someone powered it on.  How did I know I’d become addicted to Instagram? When I returned a lovely necklace my husband gave me so I could get a new camera with Wi-Fi capability.

 

Instagram

 

After your readership grows,  your mailbox fills with requests to review products. This is not a bad thing. I’ve learned about allergy-friendly foods and cookbooks I might never have discovered on my own. By readers’ responses, they like learning about these products, too. They especially like the giveaways!

A side note to marketing gurus: If you are going to send me a gluten-free product, check my allergies. I am an allergic foodie–not a gluten-free foodie.

Here’s the ugly side of product reviews.  Sometimes when you give a “bad” review, you get slammed. Read what happened to Gluten Dude. If bloggers can’t be truthful, what’s the point of blogging at all?

At some point, a blogger looks around at the piles of paperwork, laundry and dishes and says, “Maybe I should do something this morning besides writing a post.”

Or the blogger’s partner says, “Maybe you should do something this morning besides writing a post.”

So you sit down your iPad or iPhone or walk away from your computer.. . but wait! Was that the ding of a new message? It’s an unfamiliar name–a message from a follower thanking you for your latest post!

Your heart leaps.

We bloggers want to know we are making a difference. It’s what sustains us. Especially those of us who are doing this for free.

The other day a friend with a soy allergy told me on the phone how my post on soy-free eggs allowed her to enjoy eggs again. Then she mentioned her husband who is gluten intolerant liked my post Breaking up with Dr. Oz. I’m glad she couldn’t see the happy jiggle I did . . .  or the dishes in my sink and the laundry on my floor.

Because of her kind words and the kind words of so many readers, I once again set aside the book I’ve been writing for the last five years and wrote this post.  I even gave Adventures of An Allergic Foodie a facelift; after two years, she looked a little tired.

It’s not really “Hug a Blogger Day.” I made that up.

But go ahead–hug a blogger anyway.

Happy Hug a Blogger Day! originally appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.