Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Not So Safe Safety Bubble

If you have allergies, try as you might to forget them in your day to day, you can't. I think if you have been living an allergy-free lifestyle for a number of years, it becomes part of your every day life. In our little gluten free, lactose free home and bubble, cross contamination is not much of a thought. Also if you are lucky to have a partner who is super supportive and hyper-aware of your allergies, then you forget that the rest of the world has gluten and lactose everywhere, and in everything.

I had family visit over the summer and I was reminded of how gluten and lactose free my bubble really is. We had bought some beautiful locally made artisan bread, which I ate when I was eating gluten. But simple things like using a common cutting board to cut the bread, using the common butter and knife for cutting, and then to not properly cleaning everything off. Even wiping off the knife with the common dish towel and putting it away. Ack! Simple things, really, not even a big deal, unless you have a celiac disease. They meant no harm, and probably weren't even aware, but what was evident to me, is that they don't live in an gluten free home. And man, was it obvious, just how gluten free my home is! And for the record, A, is not gluten free, and there is gluten in my house. He just has gone through my struggle with me, watched me suffer and is so keenly aware of cross contamination, that sometimes I take for granted how conscious he is. <3 <3 (He wins a gold star for sure!)

Even with my dogs, both of whom, have allergies, it too, has become part of our bubble of safety. It is just a part of life. Narrowing down dog allergies is a tricky, long process. (Read my collection of posts about that process here.) There is sooo much that goes into dog kibble. So much bad stuff and fillers, that it has taken quite some time to figure out both of their allergies. Addi, our golden boxer (half boxer, half golden retriever) is allergic to gluten and chicken meal. Oliver, our French bulldog, is allergic to pretty much everything (it's a Frenchie thing): gluten, dairy, eggs, cheese, beef, chicken, duck, any red meat really, on top of his environmental allergies to everything and skin issues, his list is epic!

So what does he eat you might be wondering....after much time, trial and tribulation we landed on Orijen food. It is a very clean (and very expensive) kibble. And the only flavor he can eat is the Six Fish. Another thing that we learned along the way, is often there are multiple kinds of protein in dog food, which can cause allergy flare ups, finding a single protein food is very, very hard. The ratio of protein to carbs to fats, is also a very important factor. Most standard dog foods have too high a percentage of carbs in them. He also takes a daily plant sterol and probiotics. He gets no handouts and only the occasional treat. I know you're thinking, poor guy! But honestly he is a much happier and healthier dog now, than when we got him 2 years ago. If you look at the post from January 18, 2015, you can see just how red and swollen he was when we got him. And now...look at how handsome and healthy and not red he is! Cutie! <3

Our household is a very allergy conscious home, and the doggies and I are grateful. And yet we are reminded how sensitive that daily balance is. We maintain the balance without effort, but when we travelled for Thanksgiving, the balance was knocked off. Our poor little Oli, had a pretty nasty reaction to a combination of things. To no fault of my mom, who watched after them. It was just evident that Addi, Oli and I live on a delicate tight rope of allergies, that doesn't take much to fall off, even when you are actively trying. Even a simple trip to the gas pump, where they offer your dogs treats, has to be an announcement of your allergies. Dog mom panic, "Don't burst the safety bubble!"

That is what is so frustrating, is when you are actively trying and yet you have an allergy attack. If you live with allergies you probably have a similar allergy-free bubble, where your house is safe, your immediate friends and family know and are as accommodating as possible, and you have your favorite restaurants because they are cautious and can accommodate your allergies. You learn to relax a little. To breathe. And trust that your allergy-free bubble is safe. And then you get symptoms! :'(

Right now, I am having respiratory problems. I can't catch my breath, I am wheezing, and my breath is shallow. It's even effecting my sleep. Not fun. There is no glaringly obvious reason for my respiratory problems, which is my first sign of contamination, except the other night. We went out to one of our favorite restaurants, which has long been on the safe list, and yet the other night it wasn't. Something that we have ordered many times before came with breadcrumbs on this time!! Whaaa? Never before, and now all of a sudden?! Annd they skimped on the bacon! Whatthe*$5*grumble grumble! I didn't pay much attention either. I am used to them being safe. I was talking with the bartender and watching the game, until A pointed it out (again <3 him!), he leans over and asks if those are breadcrumbs, and on close inspection they were. Well shit!

So even when you think you are safe, you are not. Lesson learned, always, Always ask questions when you are eating out. And never assume that because it is a restaurant on your safe list, and you've gotten the dish before, that it will stay that way. Things change, restaurants change, heck for all I know if was a new chef! I just get a sad mopey face and am reminded that again my safety bubble is not as safe as I believe.

For people with allergies the holidays are particularly hard. There is so many social events and opportunities for cross contamination. From Thanksgiving on, try as you might, the likelihood of some cross contamination is likely. Unless you are a hermit and don't socialize, or maybe, you are lucky, and have friends and family that are allergy-aware. I am surprised by my current allergy breathing symptoms, but at the same time I guess I shouldn't be. The time of year and a more unusual diet, for me at least, with some likely cross contamination, boom, symptoms. It sucks, because you want to just enjoy the festiveness of the season and eat all the yummies (that you think are safe) around you. You can't. And it is really unfortunate timing too. Christmas festivities are within a few days and really I need to go on a strict cleanse to get rid of whatever is backed up in my body causing my respiratory problems. Bah humbug! 

As much as I want to ignore my symptoms, not being able to breathe is really, really scary. And if I think about it, I am also having digestive issues and not so good poops. So obviously it is all connected. The signs are there, my body is telling me, and now I have to help it out. Part of the process of discovering, managing and living with food allergies is learning your body's symptoms. They are there, however subtle, your body always has a way of saying, "hey that's not working for me," you just have to learn the signs. And once you do, and you figure out your trigger, the symptoms become more obvious, even in the slightest onset.

Good luck throughout your remaining holiday festiveness. I hope you are able to navigate and stay symptom free. And I know, because you are like me, you are hyper-vigilant about cross contamination, but be wary of your vigilance slipping. I think we all want to relax and trust and believe what we know to be, will stay the same, but unfortunately it doesn't. If you have lived allergen free for a long time, and you do have contamination, the likelihood of horrendous symptoms will be less, but still be on the lookout for the more mild symptoms. They are there. Always be on the lookout for daggers that are going to poke your safe, allergy-free bubble.

1 comment:

  1. This is a fantastic post! Great title and images of your dog and the bubble. Waitstaff needs to always be patient with "picky" diners. Their life could be on the line.