Why I had to give up my favorite candy bar in the world
By: Kyle Caton
I can remember the first time that I noticed having a reaction to food. It was August 2015 after having a few handful of walnuts that I noticed my mouth start to itch and almost feel like it was burning.
Ironically enough, this was also the first week that I started working for the marketing department here at Texan Allergy & Sinus Center. I had recently moved into a new house, so I didn’t have a lot of pots and pans unpacked yet. I decided to just pick up something to eat at work in the morning. So, I grabbed a Lunchable or two, a pint of chocolate milk, and decided that a big container of walnuts would be nice to snack on throughout the week.
Funny enough, I distinctly remember thinking to myself, “Hmm I haven’t had walnuts in a while. These will be great.”
Going back to when I first noticed the itching sensation in my mouth, I was in the back of a car heading to a shoot for work with two of my coworkers. My mouth started itching and getting really uncomfortable, and the panic voice in the back of my head started to speak up. Naturally as part-time hypochondriac, my brain went to the worst. Did I just develop a horribly rapid gum disease? Is this what gingivitis is? I should’ve listened to my dentist about flossing more!
As the panic settled in, I tried to keep a cool composure with my two brand new coworkers that just added me to their team. I think I did okay because nobody mentioned anything.
Once we were out of the car and many trips to the water fountain, I started to rack my brain about what could be going on. I finally landed on the walnuts as my lead suspect. Some experimenting when I got back to my desk confirmed my theory. Case closed.
So, I’m allergic to walnuts, now what?
Avoidance is really all I knew about food allergies or intolerances and this was a time before we even treated or tested for food allergies at Texan Allergy & Sinus Center.
When it clicked in my head about the walnuts, I just kind of blurted out loud, “I think I’m allergic to walnuts.”
My co-worker next to me looked at the comically large container of walnuts that I brought in that morning and just said, “You just bought like a gallon of those!” We both just started laughing at my unfortunate timing.
Over time I did more research on food allergies due to my condition and our inclusion of food allergy testing and treatment to the clinic. I quickly learned what I had was a food intolerance and not an allergy. Essentially this means that my body has a reaction to a certain food, but it’s not very serious. Intolerances can affect small things like itchy mouth, small breakouts, and digestive problems.
Food allergies are much less common than intolerances and can be incredibly severe to the point where they can be lethal. This is why we have programs like OIT to get patients with these allergies to a point where their life isn’t threatened by a candy bar.
For me, having an intolerance to walnuts was no big deal. I stuck to trail mix as my go-to snack and asked for no walnuts on the dessert that I get at restaurants.
My second run in with food intolerances
The second time I ran into a food intolerance was much more heartbreaking. As I mentioned earlier, I chose traditional style trail mix (M&Ms, raisins, cashews, peanuts, and almonds) as my snack of choice throughout the workday. About six months ago, I noticed I was feeling pretty awful and had some soreness in my mouth towards the end of the work day. For the most part I played it off and figured it was seasonal allergies or a cold. But these symptoms didn’t go away, so I did the same deducing method I did with my walnuts that led to the trail mix. It was the only constant I was consuming and some basic experimenting confirmed my suspicions – I had an intolerance to something in my trail mix.
So I gave the rest of my (again) comically large bag of trail mix to a friend and decided to steer clear of that. However, I didn’t know what in it was causing my allergy. It wasn’t until a day where I packed 3 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches when I learned who the guilty party was.
Honestly, I was devastated. Peanut butter is one my favorite things in the world and you just can’t have a good trail mix that doesn’t have peanuts. Heck, PayDay is my favorite candy bar! That’s like 90% peanut product.
So where do I go from here? Embracing the alternatives
Avoidance and taking allergy medication became my tools to solving this problem. I’m definitely eating a lot less peanuts and anytime I want to splurge on a PayDay day or PBJ, I take a generic antihistamine before.
I’ve also learned about amazing alternatives for snacks like almond butter and oatmeal. I wouldn’t say an almond butter and jelly sandwich is superior to a PBJ (nor does it quite roll of the tongue), but it’s still a solid sandwich. And almond butter is much better in shakes so that’s nice.
All in all, developing these food intolerances caught me off guard, but overall led to me having a more health conscious lifestyle. Developing intolerances is more common than I thought and luckily we live in a time where there are alternatives to everything.