Food allergies are a serious matter. Food allergies can become a transformative force in one’s life, they can be painfully annoying and just, well, painful–as they have been for rather well-known food bloggers like Veggie Girl (who suffers from Crohn’s disease and has dairy, egg, gluten, shellfish & soy allergies) and Gluten-Free Girl (who has Celiac disease). The fortunate reality is that food allergies are not all that common. However, they are becoming more common than they have been in the past. I think it is because of this that we are finding more people claiming food allergies that they don’t really have. It’s like people feel tired, have a pain or stomachache and immediately WebMD it to find that those could be symptoms of a food allergy, and then they self-diagnose and try to shape their life around something that isn’t even the culprit.
On the other hand, I know that there are people who see the awareness and recognition for food allergies growing and are taking advantage of it while dining out. I have heard of people claiming to be “allergic to gluten” just because they are trying to eat less bread and carbohydrates. This kind of talk is detrimental to people with legitimate food allergies and takes away from the seriousness of the condition. If you don’t want cheese on your sandwich, just say you don’t want cheese–you have that right as a customer. But don’t try to add some umph to your demand by claiming to be allergic.
My central message with this column was to tell people to get tested if they suspect they might be allergic to a food, because that is the only way you will ever be able to know for sure. And dealing with a food allergy doesn’t have to control your life, but if you are aware of it, avoiding it will definitely improve your quality of life. Also, if you don’t technically have an allergy, but still notice a correlation between certain mild symptoms and certain foods you have eaten, it is likely you have a food intolerance. There is a difference. Food allergies are more life threatening, though not always—it really depends on the individual. Allergy symptoms come on more immediately and have more intense reactions, while intolerances are more mild, and come on an hour or so after eating.
Are you allergic or intolerant of any foods? Do you think it’s right to claim a food allergy you have never actually tested positive for?
I write this post a couple hours after finally deciding to kick these seasonal allergies in the butt with some Zyrtec! (It feels like it might be working…) The pollen is AWFUL this year! Anyone else struggling?!