ALLERGIES & ANAPHYLAXIS: One Woman’s Life & How She Copes

This interview is about a woman named Yasmine Galenorn.  I initially met her through twitter when I came upon pictures of her before allergies and after.  

I was so shocked and stunned that an allergy could cause those reactions, she looked like she had been jumped in a back alley.  Her allergies are numerous, over 15 to date, and range from garlic, gluten & peanuts, to bleach, dairy & dust.

A few weeks ago I posted some before and after pictures of my belly on gluten, not the prettiest of sites but people need to see the reality of what millions go through daily.  That is exactly how Yasmine feels through her own pictures she has included.

So lets get into it and meet Yasmine:

I know you have many allergies, can you tell me what they are and when you first figured it out until now?

 

I’ve had allergies from birth. My mother couldn’t breast feed me due to health issues, so I was put on milk from birth and began to lose weight and was projectile vomiting every time they fed me, so the doctor put me on a non-dairy formula and told them to stop giving me milk. They did till I got a little older, then they ignored his orders.

In my teens I was diagnosed with allergies to wheat, rye, barley, yeast, and dairy (as well as a host of other allergies). My stepfather, who was abusive, continued to insist I eat the foods I was allergic to. I was constantly sick with bronchitis and chronic lung issues. And my mother putting me on fad diet after fad diet didn’t help my metabolism either. My body was severely screwed up by the time I left home.

Ever since then, my life has been a series of health issues due to allergies and sensitivities—I also have a number of food sensitivities and intolerances. Besides skin tests, blood tests, etc., I’ve done the elimination diet—over a period of four-five months, because tests weren’t showing the full scope of what was wrong with me. And I have to say, that was the most accurate portrayal for me of my issues.

At this point, between the allergies and intolerances, I’m off of: gluten, all dairy—both cow and goat, yeast, oranges, garlic, onions, leeks, chives, peanuts, peppers, black pepper, nutmeg, ginger, sesame, fresh pineapple. Sugar inflames my joints, too, so I eat practically none of that.

I’m also low carb (with the exception of a couple holidays a year) because when I switched over to gluten free flours, my blood sugar, which had always been normal, went ballistic and I slipped into mild type 2 diabetes. Through strict diet control—almost no starch/sugar/fruit, I’ve normalized my blood sugar entirely without medication.

I have to be cautious of medications because I have reactions to a number of them. Any NSAIDS trigger my asthma, which means no pain meds for the past 20 years.

Then, a year ago, I ended up having two anaphylactic reactions—face swelling more than throat—within two weeks. We couldn’t pinpoint the trigger. Since yes, I was eating a few of the foods that I wasn’t supposed to, my doctor put a strict moratorium on anything I’m allergic and intolerant to.

I was so scared by those episodes, and by the fact that I’ve been ordered to carry an Epipen at all times now.  I’ve been very strict since then.

How do you cope with having so many allergies?

By remembering it could always be worse, by the fact that I’m a very good cook and so make delicious food even on a restricted diet (my assistant Marc calls me a ‘mad scientist’ in the kitchen), and by the simple realization that it is what it is.

My husband is a Type 1 diabetic, he has to cope with that issue. I have to cope with this one. There’s no good in denying it, though for years I did because of my background.

What is the most difficult part about being allergic to so many things?

Eating out. I have a very hectic schedule and there are only a couple restaurants in the city that I trust. They know me by now, and I make a habit of carrying homemade allergy cards just in case. Also, it took me awhile to process the realization that my allergies have now turned to the dangerous side, and that a little of the wrong thing could kill me.

Also, getting people who don’t understand to accept that this is a serious problem, not just some aversion to food. Hell, most of the food I’m allergic to I like. A lot. And I miss it.

What happens when you have an attack? Are the attacks different depending on what it is you are allergic to?

Yes, the anaphylactic reactions had my face ballooning up and I looked like I’d been beaten to a pulp. I could see it on peoples’ faces when I went into stores—they looked at me like they wanted to call the cops. I wanted to shout, “No, my husband didn’t beat the crap out of me!”

Once in awhile I also get bloody eyes—totally bloodshot red. Asthma is another problem related to several of my intolerances, severe gastric distress, feeling spacey, scared, and disoriented is another. For my non-food related allergies—itching and my skin being hypersensitive (especially to wool).

I actually do much better with the makeup that’s more chemically oriented than ‘natural products’. One time I decided to move over to organic/natural cosmetics and within 24 hours had a solid case of hives. I never did that again. I get hives on my face—especially little bumps—a lot. Also blisters and sores inside my mouth.

How often to do you find yourself having an attack?

Depends on how hard I’ve been working—if my stress levels are very high, I’m more prone to them (and I am always under a lot of work stress). And of course, if I accidentally ingest something without realizing it. So it varies, really. My asthma is also sensitive to bleach, cold, and some household cleaners, etc..

What are some of your favorite foods that you can eat?

Tomatoes—my fave food in the world and YAY—I can still eat them. Steak, lobster, chocolate (dark, dairy free), raspberries, apples. Those are ones I relish. I also make a lot of low-carb pumpkin treats. And espresso—I drink a LOT of almond milk lattes. I’m grateful that nuts are not on the forbidden list except for peanuts (which cause asthma and stomach distress).  I bake with a lot of almond meal, coconut flour, and hazelnut meal.

Since you cook so much and are a writer, are there plans for a cookbook in the future?

Unfortunately no, though I post recipes on my FB, and then my forums, quite a bit. Also on my blog…but in my forums they won’t get lost. Writing a cookbook is very labor intensive, and since I write three novels a year, I just don’t have the time that it takes. A number of my readers have been asking for one, but it’s not feasible.

What advice can you give people who are living with allergies?

Treat them seriously. My stepfather kept telling me they were all in my head (he was a very abusive man in many, many ways) and I grew up not really believing that I truly had a problem. I knew I did from the way I felt but I kept hearing his voice in my head, and so I didn’t take myself seriously and therefore, others didn’t either.

Also, realize the actual food ‘allergies’ are only ONE food issue you can have, and intolerances and conditions like celiac can be just as serious and just as painful. Chronic inflammation from food sensitivities can lead to long term serious health issues.

Till recently, the medical community didn’t take them seriously and some doctors still pooh-pooh them, which pisses me off to no end. Trust your body—if a food seems to be causing a problem, don’t just pop an antacid and keep eating it. Find out—do research, go to a naturopath or someone who will listen to you.

I used to be on 20-30 Tums a day just to barely function and when the number of those went up, I began to realize that maybe that wasn’t normal, and maybe I did have some serious food issues that I’d better pay attention to.

And for your own sake, don’t mess around. And don’t let friends and family intimidate you into eating things that are going to hurt you. Yes, it sucks to have a limited diet. But dying due to anaphylaxis? Even worse. Or ending up malnourished due to eating gluten when you shouldn’t? Far worse. Think of the long-term, not short term want.

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself… What you do, where you live, etc

Well, here’s the bio I use in my books that pretty much describes me, sans the food allergy issues 🙂

New York TimesPublishers Weekly, and USA Today bestselling author Yasmine Galenorn writes urban fantasy for Berkley: both the Otherworld Series and the Indigo Court Series, and will soon be writing a spinoff of Otherworld, called the Fly By Night Series.  In the past, she wrote mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime, and nonfiction metaphysical books.  She is the 2011 Career Achievement Award Winner in Urban Fantasy, given by RT Magazine. Yasmine has been in the Craft for 33+ years, is a shamanic witch, and describes her life as a blend of teacups and tattoos.  She lives in Kirkland WA with her husband Samwise and their cats.

How did you pick the specific type of genre you write about?

I’ve always gravitated to the paranormal—all my life, both in reality and in my fiction writing. It was a natural step to move into urban fantasy and a good fit for my interests and voice.

What is your blog and how to people find out more about you?

My blog is at: www.galenorn.com/Blog and I’m very active (via my assistant Marc) on my Facebook page: www.facebook.com/AuthorYasmineGalenorn…I’m also on Twitter but I warn people in advance: on Twitter I’m volatile, not always G/PG rated, opinionated, and I like to play in the dark. 😉

If there is anything more you would like to add…

Here’s the worst reactions I’ve had. It’s the jpg I finally put up on my Facebook page and my blog to make people realize what some forms of anaphylactic reactions can take. It’s what happens when food turns to poison on you. It’s not pretty…but it’s what happened to me a year ago.

 

Now—I carry my Epipen and I keep one by the bed. Now, I take my allergies seriously, and I don’t let anybody brow beat me into ‘just a little’…I put my health first.

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Thank you again, I know this will help lots of folks and you’re brave for putting yourself and your pics out there.

Thanks Kirsten. It WAS hard to put those pictures out because they look so horrible, but you know what? That’s what can happen, and I finally decided to bite the bullet and do it. It’s been nice getting to know you. Thank YOU for all the work you—and all the other allergy and GF bloggers out there are doing to get the word out.


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  1. Reply

    awesome post. having several allergies myself that have created some permanent health problems. It has made me realize that perhaps I need to take them more seriously, after all I won’t get any younger.

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Hi, I’m Kirsten

Kirsten is a Registered Dietician in training and a Gluten Free Nutrition Consultant. She has a Bachelors from Illinois State and is working on her Masters in Nutrition at Metropolitan State University in Denver, CO. After graduation she will continue her clinical training and Registered Dietician certification.

Her goal is to provide a path for healthy living to individuals who are seeking a tailored made lifestyle specific to them another needs. Kirsten believes that everyone is different and no one diet can work for everyone, which is why fad diets rarely work for the long haul.

Kirsten also works to make the lives easier and healthier for those with Celiac disease through education and specific tools that have helped her navigate celiac and the gluten free lifestyle maze.

Living the gluten free lifestyle is not an easy one and can be very overwhelming: from testing to grocery shopping, to eating out and deglutening your own household, I am here to walk you through the process from beginning to end. With tips, tricks, humor, healthy recipes and sometimes just an understanding ear, I will guide you seamlessly through.

I was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2010, so I understand completely the trials and tribulations of living the gluten free lifestyle. Please contact me for more information @ glutenfreegal1@gmail.com

 

 

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