The science of food allergies has come a long way and continues to evolve. Such advances have increased the number of people identified with food allergies. It’s easier than ever to figure out what may not be agreeing with you.
Due to the increased prevalence of food allergy-related diagnoses, there has also been a rise in awareness. Consumers allergic to what they need for nutrition are demanding alternatives. Companies in the business of food and society at large are responding.
If you suffer from food allergies, just avoiding one food, like strawberries or shellfish, may not be enough. You may require constant vigilance to avoid a minor or even a deadly reaction. Here are five ways to better manage your food allergies and not let them interfere with your life.
1. Identify Hypoallergenic Foods
If you are allergic to a certain food, you will undoubtedly attempt to avoid it at all costs. You will probably look for something you aren’t allergic to as a replacement for it in your diet. However, those alternatives could also contain allergens.
Hypoallergenic foods are those that are unlikely to cause any allergic reactions in anyone. So if you’re looking for a cow’s milk replacement for your smoothie, you may want to avoid soy milk. That’s because, for all its hype, soy is one of the more allergenic ingredients there is.
Instead, use a hypoallergenic product like pea protein milk. It delivers the amino acid and micronutrient punch, digestibility, and smooth texture of soy. But unlike soy, almond, and cow’s milk, pea protein milk isn’t a common allergen.
Because there is an increasing demand for them, hypoallergenic foods are becoming more readily available. You may need to hunt a little harder, but your diet is easier to manage once you track them down.
2. Be a Voracious Reader
Knowledge is power in virtually any situation. In the case of food allergies, the power of information could be literally a lifesaver. Fortunately, there’s plenty of intel available to those who take advantage of it.
To manage your food allergies, be a label reader. The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) labeling requirements leave the guesswork out of what’s in what you’re consuming. Nutrients, sugars, additives, and the potential for cross-contamination in production are mandatory disclosures.
Make no assumptions just because you’ve read the label before. Companies are always changing ingredients to make products healthier, improve their taste, or give them longer shelf lives. They’re required to maintain up-to-date labeling to keep consumers informed.
3. Recognize That You’re Not Alone
In a world of cast iron stomachs and all-you-can-eat buffets, you may feel alone with your food allergy. But here are a couple of facts that counter that perception. In the U.S., 32 million people suffer from food allergies. And every three minutes, a food allergy is responsible for sending someone to a hospital emergency room.
There are a lot of other people who have to make sure they don’t eat something they shouldn’t. Take advantage of that fact to help you manage your food allergies.
Make sure you consult a professional so your allergies can be accurately diagnosed. Visit with your doctor or a registered dietician about ways to avoid what you’re allergic to while not compromising nutrition. Listen, watch, or read about others living with the same challenges to find new solutions.
You don’t have to feel as though no one understands what it’s like to have food allergies. There’s also no need to reinvent the wheel to manage yours. Learn from fellow allergy sufferers, and others will learn from you in return.
4. Create Safe Spaces
Particularly if you have a food allergy that can be life-threatening, safe spaces are critical. To help manage your allergies, you need some safe spaces to eat, even if that means creating them for yourself. Start with your own kitchen.
Develop habits in your kitchen that will help you avoid cross-contamination, and make sure everyone practices them. Frequent handwashing and thorough cleaning of surfaces, utensils, pans, and dishes aren’t just virus-fighting measures. They may prohibit cross-contamination of foods you can eat by those you can’t.
Inform restaurant staff about food allergies when eating out and ask them about the likelihood of cross-contamination in their kitchen. Many restaurants have implemented safe practices when it comes to more common allergies. If their practices meet your standards, enjoy your meal, and make repeat visits. If not, head for the door and don’t risk an allergic reaction.
5. Always Be Prepared
The problem with a food allergy is that you never really know for sure what will happen until you consume something. Managing your food allergies also means managing your response if you have a reaction. You should always be prepared for the worst.
First, you must be aware of the symptoms of an allergic reaction to food. This means knowing more than what you’ve learned from personal experience. You have to know what reactions are possible so you can recognize novel ones right away.
Second, if you have a reaction, you must have what you need to respond to it readily at hand. Carry instructions in the event of a reaction so others can read them if necessary. If you require medication, such as an EpiPen or antihistamines, always have two doses with you.
Wearing a medical ID bracelet or having allergy information accessible on your smartphone may not help you manage your allergies. What it will do, though, is help others manage your allergic reaction emergency. Boy Scouts aren’t the only people who always need to be prepared.
Your food allergies can’t be cured. But with a few smart moves, you might be able to manage them better. And that can make all the difference in your world.