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Why I had to give up my favorite candy bar in the world

By: Kyle Caton

I can remember the first timethat I noticed having a reaction to food. It was August 2015 after having a fewhandful of walnuts that I noticed my mouth start to itch and almost feel likeit was burning.

Ironically enough, this was alsothe first week that I started working for the marketing department here atTexan Allergy & Sinus Center. I had recently moved into a new house, so Ididn’t have a lot of pots and pans unpacked yet. I decided to just pick upsomething to eat at work in the morning. So, I grabbed a Lunchable or two, apint of chocolate milk, and decided that a big container of walnuts would benice to snack on throughout the week.

Funny enough, I distinctlyremember thinking to myself, “Hmm I haven’t had walnuts in a while. These willbe great.”

Going back to when I first noticedthe itching sensation in my mouth, I was in the back of a car heading to ashoot for work with two of my coworkers. My mouth started itching and gettingreally uncomfortable, and the panic voice in the back of my head started tospeak up. Naturally as part-time hypochondriac, my brain went to the worst. DidI just develop a horribly rapid gum disease? Is this what gingivitis is? Ishould’ve listened to my dentist about flossing more!

As the panic settled in, I triedto keep a cool composure with my two brand new coworkers that just added me totheir team. I think I did okay because nobody mentioned anything.

Once we were out of the car and manytrips to the water fountain, I started to rack my brain about what could begoing on. I finally landed on the walnuts as my lead suspect. Someexperimenting 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 knewabout foodallergies or intolerances and this was a time before we even treated ortested for food allergies at Texan Allergy & Sinus Center.

When it clicked in my head aboutthe walnuts, I just kind of blurted out loud, “I think I’m allergic towalnuts.”

My co-worker next to me looked atthe comically large container of walnuts that I brought in that morning andjust said, “You just bought like a gallon of those!” We both just startedlaughing at my unfortunate timing.

Over time I did more research onfood allergies due to my condition and our inclusion of food allergy testing andtreatment to the clinic. I quickly learned what I had was a food intoleranceand not an allergy. Essentially this means that my body has a reaction to acertain food, but it’s not very serious. Intolerances can affect small thingslike itchy mouth, small breakouts, and digestive problems.

Food allergies are much lesscommon than intolerances and can be incredibly severe to the point where theycan be lethal. This is why we have programs like OIT to getpatients with these allergies to a point where their life isn’t threatened by acandy bar.

For me, having an intolerance towalnuts was no big deal. I stuck to trail mix as my go-to snack and asked forno walnuts on the dessert that I get at restaurants.

My second run in with food intolerances

The second time I ran into a foodintolerance was much more heartbreaking. As I mentioned earlier, I chosetraditional 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 somesoreness in my mouth towards the end of the work day. For the most part Iplayed it off and figured it was seasonal allergies or a cold. But thesesymptoms didn’t go away, so I did the same deducing method I did with mywalnuts that led to the trail mix. It was the only constant I was consuming andsome basic experimenting confirmed my suspicions – I had an intolerance tosomething 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 ofthat. However, I didn’t know what in it was causing my allergy. It wasn’t untila day where I packed 3 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches when I learned whothe guilty party was.

Honestly, I was devastated.Peanut butter is one my favorite things in the world and you just can’t have agood trail mix that doesn’t have peanuts. Heck, PayDay is my favorite candybar! That’s like 90% peanut product.

So where do I go from here? Embracing thealternatives

Avoidance and taking allergymedication became my tools to solving this problem. I’m definitely eating a lotless peanuts and anytime I want to splurge on a PayDay day or PBJ, I take ageneric antihistamine before.

I’ve also learned about amazingalternatives for snacks like almond butter and oatmeal. I wouldn’t say an almond butter andjelly sandwich is superior to a PBJ (nor does it quite roll of the tongue), butit’s still a solid sandwich. And almond butter is much better in shakes sothat’s nice.

All in all, developing these foodintolerances caught me off guard, but overall led to me having a more healthconscious lifestyle. Developing intolerances is more common than I thought andluckily we live in a time where there are alternatives to everything.