Suffering from Food Allergies? How to Still Achieve a Healthy Lifestyle!
You’ve probably heard the same advice countless times before: The key to a healthy life is a balanced diet. For food allergy sufferers, the journey towards well-being can be daunting to navigate and can take a significant toll on one’s health, both physically and mentally, if not managed properly. As a food allergy sufferer myself, I often fall short of finding a well-rounded diet plan that fits my restrictions while also safely fulfilling my nutritional needs. The search for healthy recipes and diet programs can become tiresome and overwhelming to stick to when they are not personalized to your own needs and sensitivities. I’ve become exhaustingly disillusioned by my efforts as I can never find the motivation or resources to best support my circumstances and overcome the additional stressors that my allergies bring along with them. The obstacles that accompany those suffering from food allergies are only expanding as their prevalence has increased in children by 50% between 1997 and 2011 (Food Allergy Research & Education). Through a better understanding of the physical and mental implications of food allergies, greater awareness on the extent of their influence can provide sufferers with the support and treatment necessary to strengthen the already strained relationship they have with their own health.
For those who are unfamiliar, you may be wondering “What exactly does having a food allergy entail?” A food allergy is an abnormal immune response by the body triggered by the exposure or ingestion of a food allergen, some of the most common being eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, and wheat (MedlinePlus). The physical effects of an allergic reaction upon the body can be widespread and in even more severe cases, deadly.
Between 1997 and 2013 alone, the number of food allergy anaphylaxis-related deaths increased by an average of 9.7% per year in Australia (Mullins et al.). The only preventative measures currently available for food allergy sufferers are the avoidance or complete removal of certain allergens from their diet. Consumption of those allergens despite sensitivities could pose even further health complications such as “bloating, water retention, and slow metabolism” as the inflammation that results leads to the release of hormones that “negatively affect your insulin and blood sugar levels” causing your body to store excess fat that would have been burned for energy (Action Against Allergy). These restrictions ultimately pose a major obstacle for nutritionists and sufferers alike, as a poor diet results from the lack of these dietary components “essential to life and health, providing us with energy, the building blocks for repair and growth and substances necessary to regulate chemical processes” (Department of Health). These physical impairments upon health are also accompanied by their more underrecognized mental health counterparts, among them being psychosocial impacts such as “depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, being bullied, and an overall poorer quality of life” (Feng & Jea-Hyoun).
Allergies impair not only our diet, but our relationships with ourselves and others, our attitudes and personalities, and our mind-body connection. Fortunately, there are certain practices that can be implemented into our daily routine to still achieve a healthier lifestyle while living with the complex struggles that accompany food allergies.
Rebalance your Diet
By avoiding processed foods and preservatives and substituting them with non-allergen alternatives, you can regain the lost nutrients important for a healthy diet without minimizing the variety of food you can enjoy. Next time you go to the grocery store, look for nutrient and fiber-rich replacements to diversify your food options such as:
- Meat and poultry
- Grains (excluding wheat)
- Legumes (excluding peanuts)
As many companies are beginning to cater to food allergies and provide allergen-free products, be sure to always check nutritional labels to stay informed on what types of foods you are able to incorporate into your diet. Working with a nutritionist to personalize your meal plans around your allergies can also help you stay committed to your goals for the long-term.
Prioritize your Gut Health
Improving your gut health can not only help you regulate your weight but also “provide protection from infection, produce vitamins, and modulate our immune system” as a “dysregulated gut flora” has been linked to “chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, arthritis, allergy, autism, irritable bowel, and chronic fatigue” (Johnston). Good bacteria such as probiotics can keep your gut healthy while simultaneously treat allergies as they have been proven to “boost both the immune and digestive systems” as well as “prevent obesity by moderating appetite and metabolic functions” (Action Against Allergy). Drinks and supplements containing probiotics such as Lactobacillus GG, Clostridia, and L. gasseri can help to rebalance your gut flora and support a healthy and active lifestyle (Vitagene).
By staying mindful of the variety of changes impacting our health within a modern lifestyle, we can manage the types of microbiomes that live in our guts and reduce the severity of food allergies for future generations.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults need 2 1/2 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activities and at least two days of muscle-strengthening exercises each week to improve their overall health and well-being. Exercise can help you to regain that motivation and energy needed to make healthier food choices and continue your journey towards a healthier lifestyle.
Be Safe and Social
As pandemic restrictions begin to lift and restaurants and public spaces reopen their doors to the public, don’t let your own restrictions prevent you from enjoying life to the fullest. Informing your social circle and waiters of your allergens can help to prevent an allergic reaction from occurring and minimize the stress that surrounds your relationship with food. Social interactions are “good for your brain health” as they “promote a sense of safety, belonging and security” (Mercy Medical Center). Making an effort to spend quality time in-person with friends or loved ones can help to better your mental health and support a healthier lifestyle.
Reach out for Support
You don’t have to feel alone in your struggles with food allergies. Interventions such as “educating members of the greater community about food allergies, camps for food allergic children, and support groups for parents” can help raise awareness and provide the support vital to overcome the physical and mental health obstacles that accompany food allergies (Feng & Jea-Hyoun). Talking with an allergist for potential treatment options such as oral immunotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy can also help you to regain that control over your life so that you can feel better and enjoy the activities that your allergies have disrupted. However, if you’re looking for a more natural and holistic approach, then please contact us or book a non-obligation free appointment available below.
Whether you suffer from food allergies yourself or know someone in your life that does, it can be exhausting to prioritize your relationship with your health when the physical and mental toll of this disease continues to weigh down on your life. By incorporating these practices into your life and sharing the facts regarding food allergies, more emphasis can be made towards minimizing the struggles of food allergies upon your holistic health. If you are still unsure and need specific dietary guidance tailored to your personal situation – you can book an appointment with our Clinical Nutritionist below who would be happy to help you along your journey! Everyone deserves the opportunity to achieve a healthier lifestyle and regaining that control over your life is the first step towards attaining that goal.
Blog written by Kaitlyn Piotrowski on 15th June 2021
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- “How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 7 Oct. 2020, www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fphysicalactivity%2Feveryone%2Fguidelines%2Fadults.html
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- “Replacing Lost Nutrients Due to Food Allergies.” Allergychoices, Inc., 29 Oct. 2019, www.allergychoices.com/blog/replacing-lost-nutrients-due-to-food-allergies/
- “The Obesity-Allergy Link.” Action Against Allergy, 16 Jan. 2018, https://actionagainstallergy.org/the-obesity-allergy-link/
- “What Are The Best Probiotics for Allergies?” Vitagene, 11 Mar. 2019, https://vitagene.com/blog/best-probiotics-for-allergies/