Nine million adults in the United States have been diagnosed with food allergies. Let's be clear, food allergies are totally different than environmental allergies. Food allergies are an autoimmune disorder that impacts a person’s whole body. Food Allergics cannot pop a pill before or after they eat something they are allergic to.
In medical science more and more adults are being diagnosed with multiple food allergies than ever before, says an Allergist in Atlanta, the CEO of FARE and many other medical researchers. "We don't know why there is an increase, only that there is,' says John Lehr who is FARE's CEO. New research dollars are being devoted to this but in the meantime those with food allergies and those serving food need to be better educated on how to manage food allergies properly.
Some have been managing food allergies since they were children and can manage their lives "normally." Others feel totally lost when they leave the allergist office. Everything they grew up eating, shopped in groceries stores for or ate out in restaurants is suddenly different and has to be carefully scrutinized.
Often doctors put newly diagnosed food allergic patients out on the street after being diagnosed with a piece of paper that says, "You are allergic to this ___ ____ ____ ," and bid them farewell. Until we live the life of a multiple food allergic, we will never understand how it really is to live in a world where food is everywhere.
It's not a lifestyle choice we make. In fact it's something many of us wish we would not have. Food Allergic adults and children experience anger, depression and isolation, but living free of those foods equally makes us feel better, we are no longer vomiting, suffering from eczema, hives, itching, scratching or worse being run to the emergency room because our throats are swelling up and our chest feels like it will explode. See more about food allergy vs. food intolerance.
There is very little support for the food allergic adult. There is very little advocacy. Even the organizations who claim to support the food allergic have very few people who are actively running the organization who have food allergies. The president of FARE has a nephew but the nephew doesn't live with him and he doesn't have to go through the daily challenges, just as the doctors and nurses don't. They say things like, "The food industry is doing a great job supporting the food allergy community but the food allergic adults don't feel that way at all, when they struggle with multiple food allergies daily." Many claim they are often starving and feel like they are not able to consume enough to sustain throughout the day because they can't find safe food in their busy lives.
The children's food allergy support groups are all for parents. They are really tough to get involved with, as well. They are so protective of their children (as they should be). If you don't have a child with food allergies in their specific region, they will band together and kick you out. It's very sad in fact, because their children will grow up and become adults and have to find areas of support as well. A few women spoke confidentially about their experience with the Atlanta and Nashville allergy support groups doing this. "It's as if they are just there to complain, they know it all, they don't want help and they won't allow anyone to post about what THEY don't want to hear about, even though it helps others," one young woman reported.
The Food Allergy Gal organization put together a weekly support group just for adults with food allergies, struggling to find ways to cope with new or old diagnosis. They will meet like minded individuals, struggling with the same challenges and ban together to find solutions that work for them. They share resources and information and each person has a chance to ask for a certain topic to be discussed.
Additionally, Food Allergy Gal set up Food Allergy Coaches across the globe that people can work with to help navigate them through the initial phases of being diagnosed. The hope is that the 9 million adults with food allergies will be able to create meals, shop and dine out safely specific to their needs with ease and comfort.
The AllerSmartMenu program is designed to help food establishments (restaurants, schools, food trucks, hospitals) including food manufactures become more food allergy aware and friendly to these adults and children as specified in the 2013 Federal Code. Nutritionist will confidentially admit that there is very little in school written on food allergies and they would like better information. Unless one has studied food allergies for a long time or managed them in daily life, it is very difficult to obtain information that is accurate, especially as we learn more about them with research.
Even adults need the love and support of fellow humans through understanding, compassion and solutions. Please help support them by carefully listen to them when they come into the restaurants and eat outside of their own kitchens. Help them by labeling food properly in easy to read formats and consider talking to a professional about leaving out some of the common allergens to make prepared foods.