Opinion

Things You Should Never Say to a Person With Food Allergies

What not to say to people with food allergies

About 5 years ago, I discovered that I have food allergies. It sucks, however it’s now a part of my life.

I can tell when I eat foods I’m not supposed to, even when I get ’poisoned’ by accidental ingestion of something. Symptoms range from itchy/runny nose, itchy throat, phlegm, stomachache, headache, fatigue – or sometimes just a general feeling or lousiness.

Since I’ve had food allergies, I’ve heard all sorts of comments from friends, family members, coworkers and the like. While I love all of these people, there are times I just want to bang my head against the wall with what I hear. Instead, I just smile.

So if you know someone with food allergies, take a quick read and be sure to NOT say these to them. Ever. Ever ever. Or if you have food allergies, feel free to share with people you know.

However you LOOK fine…

I may have a beautiful exterior, however my interior can hurt when I eat foods I’m not supposed to. Sometimes I wish I would break out in a rash or something so I could show people ‘SEEEEE. See what these foods do to me?!?’ However I can’t. And who wants a rash anyway?

So while I look fine, that doesn’t mean I feel fine.

Oh eat just a little, you’ll be fine…

Nope. Doesn’t work that way. Well, I guess it depends. So let me explain:

If someone has a food intolerance, that means they just don’t digest the food well. A common example of this is lactose intolerance. People with lactose intolerance lack the lactase enzyme to properly digest lactose (the sugar in milk). So, all that undigested lactose makes it way down the GI tract until our GI bacteria find it and then its all-you-can-eat buffet for them, and bloating yuckiness for the person.

Some people with healthy habits and a little food intolerance CAN eat a little bit and do okay, because they might make a little bit of the digestive enzyme. However if they eat too much, they don’t have enough enzyme to properly break all of the food down and they end up feeling ill. Some people may lack the enzyme altogether (or have another reason why they don’t break down/digest the food well). It really depends on the person, and each person will know exactly how much they can eat.

For instance, I used to not be able to eat any gluten without feeling a huge pile of crap (and why the recipes on this blog are gluten free) because I had a gluten intolerance and wasn’t able to break it down well. However, after a few years, I have been able to slowly introduce gluten back into my diet and in small amounts – I do ok! It just depends on the person.

A food allergy on the other hand is when someone has an allergic reaction to food. Think sniffing a flower and then sneezing, except on the inside of your body. Even the teensiest bit, like a milligram of food (like a milligram of pollen), can cause an allergic reaction in people.

Except we are not sneezing out the allergen, we are stuck with it inside our body and our body wreaks havoc. Food allergies are to the protein in foods. So people are allergic to the protein in peanuts, soy, milk, wheat etc. Allergies very rarely go away.

An example of this is Celiac disease, which is when someone has an allergic reaction to gluten, the protein found in wheat, barley and rye. We all have tiny little villi in our GI tract that helps absorb food. They stick straight up like little fingers and wave around sucking up broken down food particles in your intestines.

People with Celiac’s that eat gluten will have an allergic response, and as a side effect of that response, their little villi will flatten. No biggs right? Wrong. Once villi are flattened they no longer can absorb nutrients and people with Celiac can develop vitamin and mineral deficiencies. And this is besides the stomach cramps and diarrhea. All from eating a little bit of gluten.

With food allergies, even a teensy bit is too much. Depending on the severity of the allergy, there is no okay amount for food allergies.

I believe it’s all in your head…

It’s not. I promise you. No one in their right mind would take foods out of their diet if they didn’t have to (or in the case of vegetarians/vegans, have a moral/ethical reason not to).

I could NEVER do that – I love food too much…

Oh this one is what makes me want to bang my head against a wall. Because the truth is, I love food too! Of course I love food, who doesn’t love food? I love all sorts of food: sweet-fatty foods like cookies and cupcakes, salty crispy foods like chips and crackers, wood fired pizza, straight up fat like bacon (if you know me, you know I love me some bacon), straight up sweet like licorice and jelly beans, savory foods, spicy foods, you name it – I probably love it. Unless it has capers, then may they be thrown into a fire and die an awful death. However other than capers, I love food!

The truth is, this isn’t about loving food. This is about being and feeling well. Eating something yummy last minutes, the side effects from that yummy food lasts hours, if not days. It’s just not worth it.

It’s not that someone with food allergies despises cookies and cupcakes and bread and cheese and peanut butter etc., it’s that they feel SO awful from eating it, they are forced to not eat it (or in case of severe allergies, they could DIE from eating it). If you felt the same way from eating these foods, I promise you – you would stop eating them too.

So that’s it for my rant. For those who have food allergies/intolerances, what have people said to you that you think people should know NOT to say??

Glen Forsyth

About the Author

When not on his motorcycle exploring, you can find Glen reading about exploring on motorcycles. He also pens words in between motorcycle dreams.