25 July 2014

Food Allergy Ironies

I grew up in an agricultural zone. My life was lemons, limes, oranges, strawberries, avocados, bagging tree nuts and basically living off the land. While I had medical issues growing up, no one ever said, "allergy or asthma" to me.

Today, my children are primarily city kids, although the first few months of my son's life, he lived on that same ranch I grew up on. Both children visited our ranch often and spent lots of days with chickens, cats, dogs, dirt, dust, grasses, and fruits.

Our family business was running farmer's markets, delivering produce to commercial kitchens, having roadside fruit stands and a little work behind the scenes in restaurants, bakeries and cafes. Our primary products for sale to the public were hydroponically grown tomatoes from a few years before Luke was born until last year. Before that it was lemons, oranges, strawberries and avocados primarily.

Luke, my son, has always been a bit more picky of eater since I weened him from breastfeeding when he was 6 months old.  He is 15 years old now and up until a few months ago, he had never had an noticeable issues with breathing, swallowing or digestive. He is also a very level headed, even tempered young man.

Liah, my daughter, is 12 years old. She was born in Denver, CO. I breastfed her as well. Liah will eat almost everything now and has zero issues with allergies except one medication that was used to help her sleep at one time. Most of her life has been in the city or at the beach. Oh, something I will say is that Liah was a difficult pregnancy and I had to take lots of antibiotics via IV while pregnant with her. Six days after she was born, she and I came home from the hospital together. She lived in an incubator after birth due to complications. She has been very healthy and thriving ever since. She is an exemplarily student and athlete.

Now the Irony. 

I prepared a family meal one late afternoon in Georgia. Just after departing from the table, Luke came outside and said he wasn't feeling well. I looked at him and observed for a moment but within moments he made a dash for the bathroom and began vomiting.  His hands and feet began to go numb, then he had trouble breathing and red splotches came and went over the core of his body. I reached for my epi pen while dialing the paramedics, just in case. While the paramedics tried to convince me this was not an allergic reaction, but rather an anxiety attack he was having, the ER confirmed it was anaphylaxis shock and promptly prescribed an epi pen.

I began a food log immediately and monitored all the input and output of food and activities constantly for the next week including that day, we thought we may have narrowed it down to watermelon, raw tomato, or avocado and some ragweed or grass allergy.

The blood test results came back a few days ago. Guess what?
Luke is allergic to raw tomato and like his mom he also carries the peanut, soy & sesame seed allergy. But his highest rated allergen was grass.

That day of his allergic reaction, the pollen count was high and his seasonal allergies which weren't diagnosed at that time, were kicking off. He ate watermelon, tomato, wheat and corn products (all things he was allergic to at the same time plus his outdoor allergies were in full effect). It created a perfect storm for his anaphylaxis reaction. I suggested that he may have seasonal allergen cross reactive syndrome going on. The nurse practitioner didn't seemed too thrilled that I knew what that was.

I was 22 when I first found out about my food allergies, after suffering serious prolonged illnesses. The first two were peanut and tree nuts (things I was eating a lot of then.)  A similar situation to Luke's had happened to me in my 30's. I was marinating a large salmon with fresh squeezed orange after eating hummus and crackers. I has already experienced two seizure like episodes that week and found myself having a hard time breathing that afternoon while cooking. (Within 2 days I was tested and diagnosed with orange, salmon, cranberry, banana, sesame seed, vanilla, ginger allergy)

Again about 16 months later, even with the warnings from my doc to avoid legumes due to my peanut allergy being so severe, I was still eating some soy and having some really crazy reactions. It ended up that despite my best efforts to switch to oat milk- it was both oat and soy bothering me. (Now I have over 14 food allergies)

 The things I am allergic to today are the very things I ate daily and grew up with. Suddenly my body decided it didn't want to process those things any longer.

While Luke's allergist recommended I not take him off the foods he tested positive for, because he may not be reacting to them, my allergist in California recommended I not only stop eating these foods but also avoid cross reactive foods.

Luke is having breathing difficulty daily and now has an inhaler, daily allergy pills, an epi pen and a prescription for another anti-histamine. He refuses to cut out the foods he is allergic to. What he doesn't know is at least when he eats at home, he will not have peanuts, sesame or soy. What I can't control is what he eats outside of the home. Since he has a job and money of his own, he has free will to purchase foods I won't buy. (We just had another vomiting & breathing difficulty incident this week- 2nd ingredient in what he bought was high fructose corn syrup.) Yes, he has a corn allergy. No more corn for Luke. Another doc told him when 2 or more body systems are affected, it's time to use Epi.

He would rather use the inhaler and test his luck daily than give up foods to feel better. (Even though
his mom is Food Allergy Gal.) While I have devoted most of my daily life to education, awareness, better living, better cooking with multiple food and environmental allergies for myself and others. It doesn't seem he wants to admit there is a problem and help himself.

I find that it is very ironic that both of us have lived in rural areas, been exposed to lots of germs, traveled internationally to over 6 countries and throughout most of the United States. Both of us have been immunized, both of us have eaten a variety of foods. We were both born in the same hospital, one floor apart in fact. We were both breastfed. So all these theories on food allergies really disturb me, because they don't fit.

There has got to be better explanations and more links to this autoimmune disorder called food allergies. Certainly there is a link with seasonal, environmental, chemical, medications and food allergies and that's becoming more and more known today. But what's the catch here?

We need more allergist and immunologist to work together including their staff members, ask better questions to patients, record information, report information, share information to find the patterns.

Stay connected @Food Allergy Gal on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Share your thoughts and comments with us.


  1. A note about terminology. Autoimmune diseases are characteristic of the immune system attacking part of ones ‘self.' In this case, auto means self. What you describe in this post are immune system reactions to foreign epitopes, not self, therefore they aren’t considered autoimmune disorders.

    1. A food allergy results when the immune system mistakenly targets a harmless food protein – an allergen – as a threat and attacks it (the body).


Thank you for posting your comment on the Food Allergy Gal blog. Please visit Facebook.com/FoodAllergyGal.