It Took 25 Years For Me To Learn I Had Food Allergies

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For as long as I can remember, my stomach has been a haven for pain.

I felt it first thing in the morning, in the middle of the day and it even used to wake me up at night.

It felt like I’d swallowed a boulder. I sounded like a broken record that I didn’t know how to switch off, constantly saying, “mMy stomach hurts.”

I found find myself gorging on foods just to get the feeling to stop. I was hoping to purge the pain one way or another, but nothing ever happened.

My parents took me to doctors who poked and tapped on my belly. The best they could come up with was acid reflux.

I was put on Zantac for a while, and as I got older, the pills continued. I was never without Tums; they were like pink chalky breath mints for me. I never knew when the pain in my stomach would rear its ugly head.

One evening, my family went out to a fancy restaurant for a nice, relaxing dinner.

We’d barley made it through the appetizer before I was balled up on my chair in a fetal position, crying. I kept repeating over and over again, “My stomach hurts.”

Like the mental patients you see on TV rocking back and forth, banging their head against a wall, that’s exactly how I felt.

Dinner had to be boxed up before it was even served. This happened a couple of times.

I can't imagine how my parents felt having a child constantly in pain they couldn't fix . As the years went by, it became a joke between my parents, my boyfriends and eventually even me.

I’d come to accept I’d always be in pain, and I’d just have to live with it. I even stopped saying my stomach hurt. Maybe I was secretly hoping it would go away by itself.

I’ve never been allergic to anything. I was one of those lucky people who lived in the South and didn’t get a massive allergy attack every time spring came.

You’d wake up in the morning and your car would be covered in a blanket of yellow. That’s not mentioned in Ray Charles' “Georgia On My Mind.”

The summer of my junior year in college, it happened. I was driving to campus with my roommate and my face felt a little itchy.

I thought I just needed to put on some moisturizer, but I pulled down the sun visor and looked in the mirror anyway.

My lip seemed a little bigger than normal. Since I never had an allergic reaction before, I was going to do what I’d always done: try to ignore it then joke about it later.

It was my roommate’s decision that probably saved my life. She suggested we go to the emergency room.

In the five minutes it took to get there, the itching had turned to tingling and snaked across to my tongue. When I told the nurse my symptoms, I noticed I had a hard time talking.

In true emergency room fashion, she gave me a form to fill out and stuck me in the waiting room. That’s when I noticed I was having a hard time swallowing.

My mouth was filling up with saliva and I had to tell myself to swallow.

At one point, I considered going to the bathroom to spit in the sink because it was easier than swallowing.

That’s when the panic should have set in. But it didn’t; the hospital gave me a steroid shot, put me on a z-pack and sent me on my way.

Two years and two more reactions later, I was diagnosed with food allergies.

On April Fool’s Day of 2014, I found out I was deathly allergic to spinach (a first for my allergist) and also soy, cantaloupe, sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts and walnuts, although not as severely.

What makes my allergy interesting is not the food itself, but how it’s prepared. For instance, I can eat peanut butter all day long, but raw peanuts will cause a reaction.

I left the allergists with four epinephrine pens: one to have on me at all times, two for home and one for work. Instead of being freaked out, I left feeling validated.

All those years of saying “my tummy hurts” wasn’t just a childish delusion. It was my body telling me something isn’t right.

Many people have food allergies and don’t realize it. It’s not normal to have stomach pain every day. After meals, your stomach should not feel bloated.

Listen to your body, even if no one else believes you or even calls you a hypochondriac.

Your body needs to be taken care of because, in the famous words of Jim Rohn, “It’s the only place you have to live.”