Allergies everywhere! Or maybe not?

Photo credit: sweenpole2001

Here is a topic that has been getting a little play in the news lately. This week, I decided to focus my health column on food allergies.

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?!

5 responses to this post.

  1. I never had allergy problems until I came to DC. Now, everyone in the office is asking me if I have a cold. Damn you, pollen!


  2. I really loved this post. I have a gluten INTOLERANCE. I have never officially been a diagnosed celiac, as allergy testing is very expensive, but I discovered that I feel better when I don’t eat gluten so I avoid it. My friends don’t understand that an intolerance doesn’t mean it will kill me if I have a bite. When we are out at restaurants they make me tell the waiter instead of deciding for myself from the menu, and the chef and managers normally freak out because in a kitchen everything may be contaminated. I think it is SO important to educate people on the differences between allergies and intolerance and knowing how to handle each of them. People hear “you can’t eat something” and immediately think you will go into shock. I always feel terrible that people think I am allergic to things and then act like I am not too concerned about it, because I feel that it is detrimental to how they will react when someone really does have a serious allergy and needs to be incredibly careful.


  3. I’m not allergic to anything, but my body does respond better to some foods than to others. I do think a lot of people are hypochondriacs when it comes to allergies, but it goes without saying that different foods work better for different people!


  4. when i was little i used to claim i was lactose intolerant simply beacuse i hated milk. that didn’t work with my parents but it got me out of drinking tons of the stuff everywhere else lol. nowadays i won’t lie about that, but i still hate milk! i’ve found that dairy contributes to skin problems for me too, although i know dairy improves some people’s skin. every body is different, and i think if you know what works for you and you omit something for a valid reason (not just for weight loss or something) then it’s perfectly ok to skip the stuff without needing a formal allergy diagnosis ya know?


    • Absolutely, I agree. That is sort of the message I tried to convey in my column, that picky eating should be something you embrace if it helps you to make decisions that leave you feeling better. And I think that applies not even in situations of food intolerance. Like, I know I will feel awful after eating a bunch of fried food, so I avoid it for that reason, etc.

      By the way, I’m so glad to see you are better and home. Best of luck catching up with school, love!


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