This post is an excerpt of an interview with my husband. Dean wanted to share his experiences living with and loving someone with food allergies. Watch for a future post where Dean will share tips and tricks for living with a family member who has food allergies.
What was your life like prior to meeting your wife who has food allergies?
I never knew anyone with a food allergy prior to meeting my wife. My whole life I’ve been able to eat anything I’ve wanted, everything I’ve wanted, without limits or restrictions.
When/How did you learn of your wife’s food allergy?
When I first met Gina I thought she was just snobby or picky about what she ate. It sort of annoyed me. I just didn’t understand why she couldn’t eat certain foods. Prior to her being diagnosed officially with food allergies, we were on our honeymoon. It was the morning of our flight home and we stopped at an outdoor cafe for breakfast. She ordered pancakes, explaining to the server that she could not have any dairy in the pancakes. Apparently the chef and the server did not understand that buttermilk contains milk . They also did not understand that cooking food on the grill that was buttered would be a problem. After about 20 minutes I saw my wife doubled over in pain. This continued at the airport along with wheezing and difficulty breathing. The airline took pity on us and upgraded us to first-class seats. Thinking back I should have used her Epi-Pen and injected her.
A couple of years later my wife’s issues kept reoccurring and actually got worse. Her face swelled up,she had hives, her eyes were swollen, she was having a lot of trouble breathing and actually seeing because her eyes were so swollen. The ophthalmologist took one look at her and said “you have a food allergy. I don’t know what you’re allergic to but you need to get tested.” She did, and milk popped up immediately. Since that point in time we have been a no dairy household.
What has been your evolution in understanding food allergies?
Initially, I did not understand food allergies. After seeing how sick she’d get, I got educated and learned that food allergies are no joke. My wife’s health changed for the better once she was diagnosed and she got dairy 100% out of her diet. I truly understand now that people with food allergies eat the way they do so that they can live. When you live with someone who has a food allergy, you really have to educate yourself as to their food allergy and how to keep your loved ones safe.
What changes have you personally had to make in order to live with someone with food allergies?
I pay attention to labels and menus. I read every label for every food product that comes into our house. I pay close attention to restaurant menus. I’ve learned about cross-contamination and how important it is to keep dairy products away from anything that my wife would eat or come into contact with.
At times I’ve even been angry when restaurant servers bring her a salad and tell her to just pick the cheese off. I feel badly and really upset when people are rude to my wife.
Are there any benefits to living with someone who has a food allergy?
Actually there are! I’ve discovered so many new foods that I probably would never have tried had I not had a wife with food allergies, especially allergies to dairy products. I can now say I love tofu! Gina creates tofu dishes in very unique ways. I’ve also learned to try new foods like quinoa, and I’ve come to have a greater appreciation for vegetables. There are really so many unique foods to eat that don’t contain dairy. I love my wife’s Vegan Mac and Cheese and at the holidays she makes an outstanding dairy free lasagna. I’ve discovered that food tastes better when it is not loaded down with cheese and all sorts of milk products. I can actually taste the food now as it really should taste!
Another huge benefit has been my discovery of Walt Disney World! We took a trip to Disney several years ago and have been going back several times each year since. We even joined the Disney Vacation Club! Why? One reason is because Disney goes out of its way to accommodate people with food allergies. Gina eats everything in sight when she’s at Disney because she actually can. The chefs will customize the menu for her food allergy and create meals that are unique and safe. I have tried so many unique foods at Disney and it makes me smile to see how happy Gina is eating there.
Any tips that you can offer to other people living with someone who has food allergies?
One important tip is to make sure you understand that people with food allergies are not picky or fussy eaters. That is so important. People with food allergies eat the way they do because they have to in order to live.
Another tip I would offer is to always plan out everything you do whether it’s going to a new or old favorite restaurant, getting together with friends where food will be served, going on vacation, or trying a new food item. It is so important to plan ahead.
More of Dean’s Tips will be shared in a later blog posting so stay tuned!
Do you live with someone with a food allergy? Share your advice in our Comments section.