Quite a few years ago I wrote an article called “I'm Special Not Odd” and it was about dealing with allergies and specifically food allergies that I have. The title was from a conversation with a parent about her son and his allergies when she said he was odd. To me having food allergies isn't odd, because so many people have them and I said to her, that he wasn't odd, he was special.
You see, for me dealing with my food allergies has been a challenge because I was 35 when I was first handed an auto-injector (Epi-Pen) and was told it was something that I was going to have to deal with for the rest of my life. What I didn't realize was that the first food allergy wasn't going to be the only food allergy that I was going to end up with. Now I go out and eat and if it is a new restaurant it becomes the challenge of asking all the various questions to make sure that I am going to be safe eating. My allergies are shellfish, pineapple, raspberries and cottonseed so of course not a lot of the common allergies that people seem to understand. OK, the shellfish is one of the top 10 food allergies but the rest aren't so they are harder to deal with when eating out.
Pineapple was something that I loved to eat growing up and now I have to totally avoid it. I have discovered that pineapple is used in quite a few barbeque sauces as a sweetener. Now I didn't think of that until eating some ribs and wondering why my mouth was getting very itching. After asking we discovered that the restaurant had changed their brand of barbeque sauce and their new one had pineapple in it. Yes I learned the hard way where pineapple could be found.
Raspberries are something that I also loved growing up and we even had raspberries bushes out the backyard which I loved. The bushes were actually planted so that I could go out during the summer and have berries ready to eat. Well, now I can look at all those raspberry bushes that people have and know that I just have to avoid them for the rest of my life.
Shellfish was something that I found out the hard way and it was by eating wings at a restaurant and the kitchen had used the same tongs to pick up my wings as they had used for some shrimp. Yes cross-contamination was how I discovered the shellfish allergy. We traveled down the east coast quite a few times while I was growing up and one of my favourite foods was scallops when we were visiting my aunt and uncle. Now, I can look at all the shellfish and seafood and avoid it because I don't want to have the allergic reaction.
Cottonseed was the challenging one to find because it hasn't been very well identified in a lot of food. I have finally found out that it is in some oils and even some steak seasonings so a challenge to find. I have had to find that one the hard way sometimes but at least now I have figured out where it is used most of the time and just avoid those foods. No seasoning on steaks when eating out and only eat fried foods if it is a known oil and no shellfish is fried in it. Well, since starting to write this blog I found out that even some peanut butter has cottonseed oil in it. Now the search starts again for me to find food I can eat.
So see, I am special and not odd really. I just have some challenges that other people don't have but I have learned how to deal with them. I know that there are still chances of developing other food allergies but I just have to watch what I eat and ask a lot of questions when we are out at a restaurant.