Since I was young, I’ve had excema and I thought I’d tried everything to get it under control, from oatmeal baths to steroid creams. My parents put me to bed with Benadryl, hoping to keep me from itching in my sleep. Nothing worked.
Nothing, that is, until I stopped eating dairy. It was a miracle of miracles! After 20-odd years of struggling, it cleared up in days.
My husband is lactose-intolerant. People joke we must have met on a dating site for people with food allergies (which coincidentally, there is). After he spent years of fighting sickness with no answers from the doctor, we decided to eliminate wheat from our diet.
Now his energy levels are higher than they’ve ever been. He’d considered retiring from competing, but now he’s stoked for another season of bike racing.
For all of our celebrating, there are definitely some challenges that come along with these intolerances. I like to think we’re pretty ingenuitive in coming up with solutions or work-arounds to make many of these problems. Check ’em out:
- Accept all substitutes. If you look around at all the miracles on this planet, you can see that the earth favors multiplicity. Consider the lilies … no seriously, think about all the flowers. Not only are there hundreds, thousands, but just think of all the ones that are purple.By this logic, we can assume that there is almost always a substitution to that cream cheese smothered bagel you’re pining over or that creamy home made lasagna you’re craving. It just might take a little creativity. I use cashew cheese sauce in my lasagna recipe along with rice noodles. Check out some of my substitution recipes or just use Google.
You’d be amazed at the number of people with food allergies/intolerances who have already climbed that Everest for you, so no need to do it again. Just plug in the words “gluten-free dairy-free” (or whatever your allergy happens to be) and “bagel” or whatever you’re craving. Tada! Or add “substitute.” As in “cream cheese substitute.”
- Scope out your local health foods store. I know, sometimes it’s over priced. Maybe it feels intimidating. But if you start getting to know your local health food shop, you may find a lot of things you can eat, some of which are already prepared or even frozen.Now, I’m not advocating a life of frozen entrees, but let’s be real for a minute. Who doesn’t have those days where you’re totally zonked and you just need something fast and easy? With diet restrictions, this is often a too-bad-so-sad scenario, unless you’re willing to get takeout, which can pose its own headaches.
At the my local health food shop, I’ve found gluten-free, dairy-free frozen pizza (a guilty pleasure I’d been missing) along with pastas and other boxed dinners. Oh, and don’t forget to check out the deli and bakery. A joy of pre-made items that could bring tears to your eyes could be waiting. So spend some time there. Some stores will even help you pick things out if you ask.
- Get smart. There are loads of apps out there for your smart phone or tablet, so there’s bound to be a few that could make managing your allergies easier. If you’re planning on going out to eat, try AllergyEats, which is free for iPhone and Android, or iCanEatOnTheGo Gluten & Allergen Free for iPhone.If you’re cooking at home and you’re not a substitute guru, check out the Cook It Allergy Free app and website. You can customize recipes to your specific allergy and gets loads of tips on how to cook for a specific allergy. This is a great place to direct someone who wants to have you over for dinner.
- Be prepared. Speaking of visiting friends for dinner, there is always a danger of accidental poisoning, as my friend likes to call it. No one wants to limit their social life, but it can be tough with dietary restrictions.My husband and I found that it’s best to know what’s cooking in advance. Talk to the host and offer to bring the dishes that would normally have your allergens in it. For instance, at Thanksgiving, I brought mashed potatoes, homemade rolls and pie, all deliciously gluten and dairy free. The host can focus on working his or her magic (remember to send them to Cook It Allergy Free if you’re worried) while you do yours.
Of course there are always times when you’re not able to eat a dish, despite your host’s best intentions. Eating around the meal is an obvious choice but packing a little protein just in case will help take the edge off.
Throw some almonds (or nuts you’re not allergic to) or protein bars in the grocery bag you bring over so your host won’t have to scramble to find you an appropriate snack and you don’t have to spend the evening hungry.
Food intolerances can seem overwhelming or unfair at times, and I’ve definitely had my fair share of mini-meltdowns, read:”But I need a Dairy Queen blizzard!” But if you consider how much good you’re doing your body, and you learn to adapt, they can be little more than an occasional nuisance.
Follow these tips and check out other tips online. How about you? Do you suffer from any intolerances or live with someone who does? What are your tips?
Rebecca Watson is a writer, fierce optimist, and cooking enthusiast.