If you have a food allergy, and the numbers are increasing both here and across the globe, then a time of the year that promotes eating and lots of socialising is going to throw up even more challenges than usual.
Abstinence as a principle is often misunderstood, usually by people who have no need to abstain. But if you do, and in the case of food allergies it’s from certain foods, then the implications of getting it wrong can be at best, highly uncomfortable and the worse case scenarios can be fatal. If you end up in hospital food allergy treatments can take time to work.
Food allergies and food intolerance needs to be taken seriously so to help you and keep you safe over the holiday season, we’ve compiled some techniques that, if followed, should ensure your health at this time of the year. It’s also good to be in touch with your food allergy specialist for some insights in how to avoid certain foods at this time of year.
People have the best of intentions and they don’t want see you to come to any harm but ignorance on their part is not going to make you any less ill. You may, for example, eat your mother’s pudding every year and she prepares it with your food allergen or intolerance in mind.
But this year she’s seen something that will give it a bit of a zing and she forgets to mention it to you. She’s had a cursory glance at the ingredients and it hasn’t spelt the allergen out so it must be fine … Right? Wrong. Your trained eye would have picked up that it’s laden with the allergen that makes you sick but your mum doesn’t deal with the problem every day.
Ask the question, you might find out something really important.
Take a dish that you know you can eat
Make out your a stickler for never showing up empty handed. We all have relatives or friends who would sooner not arrive than arrive empty handed, so become one of them.
The advantages are obvious. One is your health and the other is you won’t go hungry. Once you’ve made all the relevant enquiries of other people’s food and confirmed there are other dishes that are allergen free then you will most likely end up with a nice variety to choose from.
Don’t forget cross contamination
This is often the time when you really feel like a narc. It’s also the time when people who don’t understand your allergy and the consequences of consuming your particular allergen might think you’re taking this thing just a little bit too far.
But cross contamination is real and it occurs with food processors, utensils and anything else that can be double up in the preparation or cooking process.
To be honest, cross contamination is probably out of your control. Same as before, people have the best of intentions but their ignorance doesn’t make you any less ill.
If you can’t see the ingredients label or you don’t understand it, then don’t consume it
This applies to ingredients labels or the lack thereof ! We all love the homemade jams and pickles and the other delicacies that we purchase from markets; the same with cottage industry products that are quaint and very often delectable.
Unfortunately, such products are off limits to people who suffer from food allergies if they don’t have the correct ingredients listings. The lack of an ingredients list means you are depending on the memory of the person who produced it, if you are that lucky, and their knowledge of the ingredients with the ingredients. Too risky don’t do it.
In the case of an ingredient that is listed but unfamiliar the same applies. If you don’t understand it or if it’s too difficult to read don’t consume it.
FINALLY and most importantly. Never leave home without your epipen.
Dr Peter Dobie is a food allergy doctor in Sydney. He takes a holistic approach to treating a variety of chronic and complex illnesses, as well as providing preventive medical care. Dr Dobie has clinics in Bondi and Pymble.