by June Ramey
My journey into the world of food allergies began 9 years ago when I got a desperate phone call from my daughter, asking me to move in with her, my 6-year-old grandson, and her new husband, Bob. Within six months of their marriage, he had become increasingly ill with numerous ailments never fully diagnosed. She dearly needed another pair of hands with a driver's license.
As we researched Bob's bewildering symptoms to find ways to give him a better quality of life, we began with gradual changes. Good quality vitamins and probiotics were our first line of defense, and we then moved on to eliminate soy and gluten from our diet. We determined early on that any changes we made, would be for the whole family, as we were all in this together.
Bob's health improved a bit, and my daughter, Kris, noticed she began feeling better also. We continued to eliminate other common allergens, such as artificial sugars, ginger, peanuts, and tree nuts, and saw added success. However, it was too little too late, and shortly after that, Bob's health declined and he died.
Although Kris wasn't officially diagnosed until a couple years later, we knew she had Celiac Disease, IBS, and candida, a yeast overgrowth in her body. We continued on the diet and just when we thought we had Kris back on track and healing, her health took another turn. Through testing, we discovered we had to eliminate tomatoes, anything fermented, fruit, condiments, dairy, natural sugars, and yeast.
At this point, there were no packaged foods we could open for a quick meal, and we quickly learned the joys of cooking from scratch with fresh ingredients and herbs. With the elimination of each new allergen, all our favorite recipes had to be reworked with substitute ingredients. Especially in baked goods, when you have to replace more than a couple key ingredients, nothing turns out the way you expect it to. We fed the garbage disposal a lot, and joyfully celebrated the successes. We documented all the recipes that worked, and went on to design new dishes to give us a greater variety of foods.
Realizing there had to be a lot of other people who were struggling with multiple food allergies, we contacted a publisher. At the end of four years, we had published a 400-page cookbook called Celiac Creations For Multiple Food Allergies: How To Survive When Your Food Is Killing You.
As Kris' list of allergies increased, we noticed a correlating increase in the cost of our grocery bill. We considered ourselves blessed to be able to afford the great food, but wondered how people who are less fortunate, manage to feed themselves and their families. When I was asked to join the Board of Directors for S.A.F.E. Food Pantry, I saw an opportunity to make a real difference in a greatly underserved community, by helping to establish a food pantry that specifically addresses the dual problem of food allergies and food insecurity.
Food allergies are on the rise, and due to the increased cost of allergy-friendly foods, there will be more requests for safe foods from food pantries all over the U.S. We are establishing partnerships, raising awareness of this increased need on our local level, and invite interested people from all walks of life to join with us in whatever way they can to promote this important work.
June Ramey serves as the Board Secretary for the S.A.F.E. Food Pantry. She and her daughter, Kris Dzagan, co-authors of Celiac Creations for Multiple Food Allergies: How To Survive When Your Food Is Killing You will be speaking at this Sunday's Food for Thought session. Click here for more information or to RSVP for our free educational session.
The S.A.F.E. Food Pantry is an all-volunteer, 501(c)(3) organization based in Howard County, Maryland.