When I think about food allergies, I think about a lot; the way life changes, the constant observation, and questions that come with every little spot on our son’s face or belly, or it could be the frustration & anxiety that food brings. Through all of that & more, 3 words pop into my head each time… tough, confusing, & expensive. That’s exactly what a food allergy is, especially multiple food allergies. Tough. Confusing. Expensive.
Why tough? Tough because dealing with food allergies (in our case with a preschooler) is an ongoing battle to find clean foods he can eat that eliminate all his allergens, & in some cases, potential allergens. It’s tough because food is such a big part of our lives. Parties, birthdays, anniversaries, & holidays all revolve around, or in some part involve, food. Our son has only gone to a handful of birthday parties & a few holiday parties at school & every time we have to take special food for him. At 3 years old, he doesn’t quite understand that the colorful cake everyone else is eating will make him very sick. So rather than risk him having a reaction, many times we don’t let him go. It’s a hard choice, a tough choice, but another in a series of many.
Have you ever read a food label? Do you know there are multiple names for milk or eggs? If so, you know exactly why those labels are so confusing. I sure didn’t know all that when I was handed a stack of papers cataloging all the names I needed to look out for after his diagnosis. Here’s an example of some of the names that are used:
Milk: also known as casein, caseinates, ghee, hydrolysates, whey, lactalbumin, lactose, lactolose, renent….& that’s the short list.
Eggs: albumin, globulin, livetin, lysozyme, ovalbumin, ovovitellin, sillici, albuminate, vitelin.
Soy: miso, natto, okara, tamari, tempeh, tofu, yuba,
Wheat: bran, bulgar, couscous, durum, flour, germ, graham, malt, matzo, triticum, semolina, spelt, tabbouleh, vital gluten.
Peanuts: arachic oil, beer nuts, earth nuts, goober peas, ground nuts, hypogaeic acid, monkey nuts.
Tree Nuts: almond, brazil, cashew, coconut, hazelnut, hickory, macadamia, pecan, pine nut.
Confused yet? And these are just the allergies our family deals with.
Thankfully, in 2006, companies who process food became required to label the potential allergen in clear, bold type; but that’s food producers. Restaurants, bakeries, farmers, etc don’t fall under this same jurisdiction. That also doesn’t account for the many food recalls that happen everyday. Just this week there have already been two national level food recalls; one for soy & one for peanuts. Both of which were allergen contamination. Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, you realize foods you don’t expect to have allergens in them in fact do. I’ll never forget the day I turned over the dried onion powder & realized it had milk in it. What?!
Whew this one is a doozy. It is wonderful to find companies like Vans & Enjoy Life that make allergy eating easier, but $5 for a box of 12 cookies is a small kick in the gut. Yes, you can make the cookies on your own. Yes, you could eliminate cookies all together. But….do you want to? To find clean foods that haven’t been made with the offenders or cross-contaminated is not easy & it is not cheap. The alternative is meat, fruit, & vegetables which get expensive in their own right.
About a year ago, a friend of mine commented on how expensive gluten-free bread was. I let out a laugh & told her “you are talking to the wrong girl about expensive food”. My definition of expensive is much different from it used to be. Now I actually buy a $8 loaf of bread (that is double the price of regular bread for those of you that live in a more expensive area) because if I want my son to have bread, I don’t have much of a choice.
In addition to the food is the health care. An allergy doctor is considered a specialist; specialists usually come with a higher co-pay, plus I see my son’s allergist a lot more than his primary care doctor. Those co-pays really begin to add up. Let’s not even begin to dig into medications to deal with the ailments that often accompany food allergies.
It is really difficult for someone who doesn’t have to deal with food allergies or sensitivities to understand what those of us who go through this daily have to deal with. It can be hard to share a meal with us, much less go to a restaurant with us. I get it! But just remember the next time your friend is stressed out about grocery shopping or making dinner, there is much more involved than filling a belly. BUT, I would love to know your thoughts on food allergies, people with food allergies, or any questions you may have. Please comment below or find me on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. I look forward to hearing from you!!!!
thx & love,
**the alternative names for the allergies were found on Kids With Food Allergies