Allergies and intolerances, it not all just physical you know

A tale of two sides….

When people say that they have an allergy or intolerant to a certain food what’s your
first thoughts?
Swollen, rashy and itchy skin?
Breathing issues?
Being attached to a toilet for the foreseeable future?
Well you’re not wrong, these are some physical symptoms of allergies and
intolerances which need to be known and understood as they can affect people’s
lives dramatically as some can be life threatening. But what I’ve found is that many
people don’t consider the affect allergies and intolerances can have on a person’s
mental health wellbeing.
There has been research conducted regarding the correlation between food allergies
and the effect on someone’s mental health. Many of the studies completed state a
dramatic reduction and sometimes a disappearance in mental health issues like
anxiety, depression and ADHD when the participates stop consuming the foods that
they believe are causing and allergic reaction. It has also been discovered that allergies
and intolerances can change the levels of certain hormones like histamine and
serotonin within the body, thus affecting our mental wellbeing.

Would you be willing to give up certain foods to better your

mental health?

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The social norms….

What I would like to talk about however is the effect allergies and intolerances have
on our mental health and wellbeing from the external perspective.
Trying to remain the happy bunny you are whilst also being that person who always
eats a different meal to everyone else, the person who everyone else has to take
into consideration when going out for a meal or preparing one or the person who
can’t just go to a friend’s for a cup of tea can be a challenge.
However, I understand I have allergies and intolerances, there just part of what makes me, me. But still I find myself feeling sad, annoyed, let down at times by the thought of the same old meal at a restaurant and the “sorry I can’t I’m allergic” conversations.
There’s nothing I find more draining on my happiness than sitting in a restaurant looking at the menu whilst hearing everyone else talking choice and I’m limited to 1 maybe 2 choices if I’m lucky.
Apart from my restaurant happiness rating I have started to a notice newer feeling recently entering my mind space associated with my restrictions, anxiety.

The naughty little friend on your shoulder….

I’m noticing the more sociable I become the more anxious I feel surrounding dining
out; weirdly though it’s not due to the fact I might only be able to have 1 choice of
meal or that I may have a reaction to something I’ll eat but the fact I might not be
able to eat at all in some places which means everyone moving restaurants just
because of me.
Anxiety can cause a range of both physical and mental symptoms:
  • Feeling on edge
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Stomach ache
  • Feeling sick
  • Headaches
  • Dry mouth
Now combine anxiety with the pressure of a  restrictive meal choice and it’s an uncomfortable situation to find yourself in.

If anxiety is my dinner partner, frustration is my lunch buddy….

I love to be out and about roaming the earth in search of goodies and fantasticals.
But when you’re out and about, hungry and there’s limited choices everywhere,
shopping for lunch on the go or snacks can be utterly frustrating. Never have I ever
had to use my creative juices as much since I’ve become gluten allergic. Although the
thought of having to once again up and leave a restaurant due to lack of choices
anxiety provoking, the frustration and annoyance of not being able to grab a quick
sandwich or pre-cooked pasta snack from the local shop is draining. I have found that many of the local shops do have a gluten free/dairy free section however, they tend to be 3 quarters cakes and biscuits and the rest bread and cereal or snack meals that
require hot water.

And relax….

As a qualified nurse I can advise and guide others with techniques to help
reduce their anxiety and re-focus on tasks at hand, from distraction techniques to
planning tasks ahead of time.
One technique I’ve found so far that help’s reduce my anxiety is menu planning.
Technology has become my new best friend when It comes to forward planning as
almost everywhere you can eat has a web page or social media page to peruse.
Normally if we are planning a meal out I will ask where everyone is thinking about
going then research the heck out of the menu. If the menu isn’t as informative as
needed I will call the restaurant and ask to speak to a manager.
Top tip time: Tell the manager when you call that you will be dining there that day
so they know someone with particular food requirements coming. So when you
arrive at the restaurant there pre-planned and ready to go!!
And for on the go lunches meal planning is also an option, knowing your local shops
you can research their choices. However, be aware some of the websites are hard to
search for “on the go” foods and not all shops provide the full range shown on the
websites. But here are a few I have visited:
  • Boots
  • Waitrose
  • Subway
  • Asda
  • Marks and Spencers
I wouldn’t like to lie to you and say that all my tips of the trade work when it comes to
anxiety and frustration, but there a good place to start. Meal prepping is an active
way to plan your day so there’s hopefully no unwanted surprises but don’t be to
shocked if there is; as understanding allergies and intolerances are new to the eatery

Give them time they’ll understand our individual coolness one day!

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