How To Live A Normal Life After Being Diagnosed With Food Allergy Or Intolerance
Having to avoid certain foods, whether it’s due to an allergy or intolerance, is a challenge for a lot of people. Yes, it’s a huge step forward to finally have a clear idea of what has been causing your symptoms. But at the same time, restricting ingredients or entire food groups can be a tiring task. Unlike dieting, being diagnosed with an allergy means that you will have to make certain changes for the rest of your life. For some people, these changes can even mean a difference between life and death, creating overwhelming stress around something as seemingly banal as food. But the good news is, it’s entirely possible to live a normal life after being diagnosed. Yes, there will be an inevitable adaptive period, but after a couple of months, things will become easier – almost second nature.
So, if you or someone you love has recently been diagnosed with a food allergy or intolerance, take the following steps to normalize your newfound routine as soon as possible.
Learn the basics
The first thing you’ll need to become familiar with is the nature of your allergy or intolerance. Make sure that you have the answers to the following questions: What ingredients is it caused by? Do you have to avoid entire macronutrient food groups or certain micronutrients?
What are the symptoms of a reaction? How are reactions treated? Do you require medication or an EpiPen? Once you’ve got a handle on these facts, it’s recommended that you share the basics with family members, friends, and even coworkers. This way, they’ll be prepared for a worst-case scenario, knowing how to react to get you help as soon as possible.
Even if your allergy isn’t life-threatening, it’s still important that the people around you know about it. If nothing else, it will allow you to avoid social situations that could put you at risk, make you feel uncomfortable, or cause a flare-up.
How to read labels
The thing about shopping for food is that there’s a lot of information that is readily available. But, you will need to know exactly where to look. Food labels can be an excellent source of information, as long as you know how to use them.
When doing your weekly shopping, take the time to read the full label. If you have been diagnosed with an allergy, you will probably have a list of ingredients to avoid. In some cases, such as severe nut allergies, you’ll have to ensure that the products you’re purchasing don’t contain traces of these allergens.
Be prepared to go through an adjustment period. This might mean restricting your meals in order to prevent a reaction, but as you become more familiar with your allergy/intolerance, you’ll be able to make more versatile choices. You’ll also find that in just a short period of time, you’ll develop a list of groceries that are safe for you to buy, so you won’t have to spend as much time doing your weekly shopping.
Pitfalls to avoid
Unfortunately, there will still be some challenges, especially during the initial adjustment period.
Be prepared for the fact that you might have to stop eating out and ordering from restaurants unless you can be absolutely positive that your dietary needs will be met. The good news is that most places won’t mind making changes to a recipe to cater to your needs. But you’ll also need to become very vocal about what ingredients you can’t have.
Furthermore, be aware of the fact that certain allergens can be hidden in unexpected places. Your supplements are a great example of this, as they often use artificial colors, as well as fillers, including soy or lactose. Nonetheless, there are ways to avoid ingesting these substances, so you can still get all the essential micronutrients your body requires without putting your health at risk.
Start tracking your nutrition and symptoms
To get back to normal life as quickly as possible, take active steps that will help you get a better grip on your newfound situation. There are numerous useful tools for tracking meals, including a multitude of smartphone apps. But, there is also the good old method of using pen and paper.
For example, if you already keep a calendar or have a bullet journal, you can get into the habit of writing down the foods that you eat during the course of a day. Combine this practice with writing down any symptoms, and you’ll quickly find that you’ll have a written guide on what foods you should be avoiding.
Tracking is also a good method for those who still haven’t been diagnosed, but feel like there might be something that’s causing their body damage. Are you constantly feeling under the weather? Maybe you’re experiencing joint pain? Or you’re dealing with breakouts? Any of these symptoms could be caused by nutrition, so keeping a journal may prove to be a great way to identify the underlying causes.
Dealing with anxiety and psychological pressure
For some people, finding the right foods to eat won’t be as stressful as dealing with the anxiety and psychological pressures of having a diagnosed allergy or intolerance.
If you’re currently going through such a period, try to create a support system around yourself. Without question, this should include your primary care physician, who will be the one to turn to with any medical questions. You should also consider finding a therapist who has experience in dealing with this sort of challenge. Having someone to turn to if you’re feeling afraid or overwhelmed is the single best way to work through traumatic experiences.
Another thing to do is to look for positives. Yes, you might not be allowed to have your favorite foods anymore, but now that you know to avoid them, you won’t have to suffer through painful or uncomfortable symptoms. And who knows, maybe your food intolerance diagnosis leads you to discover a new hobby such as cooking or gardening?
Nutrition can be challenging, even for those who have no diagnosed food allergies. Still, don’t despair – your situation surely is a challenge, but it’s not something you can’t get through.
Yes, you’ll need to do a bit of learning, and you might have to start paying closer attention to your meals. But in the end, you’ll find that the effort is well worth it. After all, taking good care of your body will make you feel great, both physically and mentally, giving you the time and energy to focus on the things that make you the happiest.
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