This is a guest blog post by Marisa McStravick.
Up until the summer before my freshman year of college, I truly had what my dad calls, an “Irish stomach made of steel.” I always had a strong and healthy appetite. For example, after a hard swim practice, I’d have a grilled cheese sandwich, eat a full dinner my mom prepared, and then have some ice cream for dessert. My parents used to joke that I had the appetite of a growing boy and that I was very lucky to have been blessed with my mother’s revved metabolism.
My parents became concerned when one day I started losing weight rapidly and was no longer hungry for my mom’s meatloaf. It took a while, but I soon began to notice a trend. I was becoming sick after eating. After almost every meal I would get so fatigued that I would literary have to crawl into bed. After discovering food was the culprit, I began avoiding food almost entirely. No more pizza with friends after school, hiding from whosever birthday cake we were celebrating at work, and trying to keep busy during lunch hours in the cafeteria.
I should inform you that this was all happening during Mary Kate Olsen’s public battle with anorexia and while Nicole Richie was famously making tabloid headlines for shrinking to an unhealthy size. My sudden and huge weight loss was not going over so well at home or at school.
“Marisa, we’re worried about you,” I remember my mom saying to me as she and my father sat me down at the kitchen table one evening.
“I just don’t feel well after eating,” I said, knowing that I sounded like the poster girl for an eating disorder.
“If you don’t start eating, we’re sending you to a counselor,” my father said firmly.
Often thought of as a childhood problem, food allergies are more commonly occurring at any point in a person’s life. Incidents of adult onset food allergies are rising at an alarming rate in adults. Some individuals who develop food allergies as adults have experienced some sort of allergy earlier in life, such as eczema, hay fever, or seasonal allergies. However, in other instances, individuals with adult onset food allergies have no history of allergies or sensitivities at all regarding food.
The problem with adult onset food allergies is that their symptoms are frequently overlooked because most adults don’t even realize that they can develop food allergies later in life. When adults with symptoms do reach out to doctors, their specific food allergy can be hard to diagnose and identify.
Had I know that my symptoms were caused by increasingly worsening food allergies, I would have never gone for two years continuing to eat the way I did. And eventually the continual aggravation I was causing my body caught up to me and my symptoms worsened. One particular afternoon, towards the end of my freshman year of college, I was sitting at my desk typing away. I slurped down a bowl of chicken noodle soup and some crackers when boom…
The next thing I knew, I woke up with my head on my keyboard. It was 1:30am.
“What happened?” I thought to myself. I felt terrible and got into bed, not waking up until late the next day.
Scenarios like this persisted and then worsened quickly. Fatigue turned into passing out, my upset stomach turned into the complete swelling of my abdomen, face, throat, and tongue and I even started to develop painful hives all over my body.
These very long and very uncomfortable experiences came to an end when doctors finally diagnosed me with having Celiac’s disease as well as a sulfite allergy. My sulfite allergy requires me to avoid preservatives, meaning no artificial flavors, high fructose corn syrup, or a plethora of other additives found in foods. This has been especially difficult because preservatives happen to be in just about everything these days.
In order to prevent an allergic reaction I eat clean, real food, and try to eat 100% organic as much as possible. My Celiac’s diagnosis requires me to avoid gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. These are grains that are found in many everyday foods, so that has been a challenge for me when it comes to eating as well.
Developing these food allergies have not only changed what I eat, but they have also changed my entire perspective on food as a whole. Since being diagnosed, I have developed an enthusiasm and passion for finding out about the best and healthiest foods to put into our bodies. Of course, when I enter the grocery store I scrutinize food labels for my allergies. But I also take into consideration how much nutrition the foods I purchase pack. It’s important for families to load up on good-for-you-foods so that everyone can remain their healthiest. What I’ve found during my many food adventures, is that even foods I once thought were “healthy” contain added preservatives that no one should put in their bodies. “Healthy” foods like hummus, yogurt, even protein bars, can contain high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors, outrageous amounts of sugar, and other ingredients that are best to avoid. It’s important to read nutrition labels to avoid bringing some of these not so nice ingredients into your homes and most importantly your bellies.
Another not so healthy habit that I know many people do is skipping breakfast. Never a good idea! Below is a fast and healthy omelet recipe I make often during the warm weather that is sure to please anyone in the morning hours and keep them energized until lunch. It’s colorful enough to cheer up a child on their way to school and a fun alternative for adults who usually have cereal or toast. Most importantly it’s packed with nutrients and good-for-you ingredients. Enjoy!
A Fruit-Filled Omelet (serves one):
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 avocado
- 3 nice-sized strawberries
- 1 Tbsp. of goat cheese
- Drizzle of Agave Nectar (optional)
In a small bowl, crack the two eggs and whisk together with a tablespoon of water or milk until completely blended. Next, slice up the avocados and strawberries. In a non-stick skillet set at a heat setting just above medium, pour in the egg mixture and let cook until the base is set. Arrange the cut up fruit over the soft top of the omelet and sprinkle on the goat cheese. Loosen the omelet in the pan with a spatula and carefully fold in half. Slide the omelet onto a serving plate and drizzle with a tiny bit of agave nectar for a sweet addition. Yum!
Marisa McStravick is a 22-year-old journalism graduate from Drexel University in Philadelphia. Her adult onset allergies have turned her to a foodie. She writes about her dining out adventures for the online magazine Tablematters.com and provides yummy recipes, nutritional tidbits, and healthy habits on here blog I’m Allergic.