I’m a 30-something single professional who works full-time Monday through Friday, and part-time teaching about one term a year. By the time I get home most nights, I am tired and hungry, but I really want food, not snacks, to eat. I grew up in a household where family dinner was a nightly, unnamed thing — we just called it dinner, and it wasn’t a special event. My mother had a pretty standard, midwestern menu plan, though she’s a better cook than many — meat, two veg, potatoes, and usually dessert.
I’ve never cooked like that — it makes way too many dishes for one person. So I’ve always been relatively experimental in the kitchen — most of my best dishes come from “use up everything in the fridge before it goes bad” moments of motivation, but those rarely result in anything one could call a “recipe.”
I stopped eating dairy years ago after a diagnosis of lactose intolerance. It was hard at first, but then it became an adventure. I experimented, got good at substitutions and trying new things. I learned vegan baking and experimented with vegan foods.
But when I was diagnosed with a boatload of new food sensitivities/maybe full allergies, the bottom fell out for me. Most of these foods don’t seem to kill me, or even send me to the hospital, but so many of them made me wish for death — if only I could get out of the bathroom first, or find the energy. I trudged towards “better health” with all the joie de vivre of your average teenager on a family vacation. Cooking is somehow less fun when it becomes mandatory.
Since my diagnosis was food “sensitivity,” not allergy, I did hold out some hope that time away would reduce the sensitivities. It didn’t. I am more inclined to believe the theories that posit that sensitivity is one end of the immune response continuum — with anaphylaxis at the far end, and a lot of grey area in between.
What I do know for sure, from direct experience, is that I am functional when I do not eat these foods. When I do eat them, the severity of symptoms varies from mild indigestion (soy) to a week’s worth of feeling ill and head-fogged (gluten).
For the technically-inclined, my diagnosis of lactose intolerance (severe: complete intolerance) was made through a breath-gas test that likely has a scientific name I’m too lazy to go look up. The sensitivities were diagnosed through IgG blood tests and confirmed through elimination diet and food challenges.
I was tested for celiac disease only after I had been put on a gluten-free diet, due to bad information and incomplete communications between my health care providers. My tests came back negative, but the results are and remain inconclusive because I had already stopped consuming gluten. I have not had the gene test done because my doctors admit they do not know how to read the results and my insurance will not cover it.
MY LIST, loosely in order of severity
- gluten (wheat, barley, rye, etc.)
- dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt, butter)
- soy (this is my mildest allergy, and I do tolerate small amounts of gluten-free tamari when I am stable)
- pineapple (never food challenged)
- banana (never food challenged)