Monday, November 17, 2014

Traveling To Europe or Living in Europe With Food Allergies? Well You're In Luck.

I have an obsession with Paris, France. I have no idea why. I've never been there. However, when it came time to pick a language in middle school, I got yelled at by everyone (except for my dad) for choosing French. Of course, I had no idea why.

The fact that my dad had chosen French also made me realize how similar we were and made me wonder over the years, "Why?" My dad is very much an artist at heart so was it an artist thing?

It turns out that being part Filipino with a family who spoke two Filipino dialects, Spanish was kind of a 'cousin' of the language. If I knew Spanish, I'd also know many words in Ilocano. That's why they were mad. When would I ever use French?

So I took the class. And of course in lieu of memorizing the verbs and affinatives, I daydreamed about gorgeous scenery, hot 'copains,' romance and art. While drawing at my desk.



And then, of course, the 'Mademoiselle' professor brought me back to reality with a question that I could not answer, breaking the spell.

All I wanted to do was draw, paint and write. And so that's exactly what I did.





So now I'm not fluent in French. Far from it. In fact, I just started using Duolingo to brush up on the basics I barely remember from high school in my spare time. And now, I better get a move on it because apparently the European Union (EU) seems more aware of food allergies and just might be a bit safer than the USA.

Maya's Infamous Apple Crisp (Gluten-Free, Soy-Free, Peanut-Free, Egg-Free, Dairy-Free)



I call this recipe 'infamous' with good reason. Sure it looks like a hot mess, but never judge a book by its cover! This is what the 13x 9 x 2 inch Pyrex looked like in a matter of fifteen minutes. I kid you not.

I've brought this homemade apple crisp to holiday gatherings and Thanksgiving feasts as my 'safe' food and have survived on it alone. The buckwheat flour and oats help keep you full until you can duck out quickly to eat at home or sneak back to the table 30-45 minutes later for another serving. Don't wait longer than this or else you might find its already disappeared!

There are a few 'tricks' to making the most amazing apple crisp anyone has ever had. The first one is to definitely use Granny Smith apples (the sour green ones). I just didn't happen to have any on hand, so I subbed, which was a bad move. The puckery-sweet taste rounds out the other flavors perfectly and if you use different apples, your tasters might not notice the difference, but you definitely will...especially if this is normally your favorite dessert as it is mine. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween and Food Allergies: My Bittersweet Favorite Holiday

I never had a Halloween growing up.

You might say, "Oh, me either." But the truth is, it wasn't just about the candy or the food and festivities.

My family was Jehovah's Witness and raised me as such. I think I remember the first note sent home about a party in kindergarten, I came home crying because of all the planning going on that I wasn't allowed to participate in; not only for religious reasons but back then, I was one of only two people in an entire school who had anaphylaxis to peanuts. I didn't participate in any holiday projects and the teacher knew to give me an alternate assignment. And when it was someone's birthday, I got extremely uncomfortable and felt guilty, like I was doing something wrong or once again, I was banished to another classroom. I would also end up in the nurses' office every other day from hives and allergic reactions that didn't seem to ever give me a break; either from environmental triggers like pollen or dust or quite possibly from the peanut proteins in the air all over the cafeteria.

I was left out so much, I created my own realities...through my art.


I was born anaphylactic to peanuts and tree-nuts along with bad hives to Red #40 so candy was out of the question. As a young child, I was allergic to almost everything except olive oil, chicken and broccoli. So in a way, keeping me home during Halloween was my family's way of protecting me from not only the candy and food but also from the pain of feeling left out of everything.

Food Allergy Wellness Online Summit November 2014

Many of you may have seen my tweets and Facebook page posts about a particular food allergy summit coming up. Or maybe you haven't because you've been crazy busy sewing costumes, painting teal pumpkins and making teal cupcake icing and turning everything in your world teal in honor of your beloved and to support FARE in its efforts for food allergy awareness. Or maybe you're the one with food allergies just like me.

Well for those of you who don't know, last month I had the honor of speaking at FABlogCon and this November, I'm going to go even more in-depth about what dating with severe food allergies is like. I will answer questions you probably hadn't even considered, based upon my own very personal experiences and tell you about dangers that might not even come from a kiss...

Now if none of that appeals to you or maybe your kiddo is way too young and you're covering your ears going "La, la, la, la," there are ELEVEN other speakers participating in this FREE online summit. And not only that but there are a ton of free gifts. Learn more by clicking the picture below!

http://mayashappyplace.hubpages.com/hub/Food-Allergy-Wellness-Summit-2014

Hopefully you will be listening in on the summit and my interview! I would love to hear your thoughts about it once it is all over so feel free to comment and ask any questions you have below!

Monday, October 20, 2014

ATTN Comedians and Journalists: Peanut Allergies Are NOT Funny or Satire.

I recently came across this article by Alison Stevenson, a comedian, about how food allergies are destroying Halloween in MUNCHIES online 'magazine.'


It reminded me of the scathingly cruel and ignorant article, "Nut Allergies: A Yuppie Invention" written back in 2009 by Joel Stein. Don't bother looking it up. In 2010, he experienced nut allergy first-hand with his son and wrote an apologetic article for Time magazine.


People have to be more careful of the power of karma. And while its sad his son was diagnosed with nut allergies, a part of me is relieved that a journalist like Joel Stein now understands.




So today, I had just woken up and not even had my first cup of coffee. Bad move, Alison Stevenson.

And yes, right now I need those 27 minutes because you hit a nerve.

This is my rebuttal.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Eating Gluten-Free With Food Allergies in Las Vegas

So many of you know recently I had the honor of speaking at the FABlogCon 2014 conference in Las Vegas, Nevada about dating with food allergies.

Maya at the podium talking about her dating experiences
Talking about my experiences in 'Tell Then Kiss'
 After the conference, my mom and I had booked a couple more days at MGM Grand. Little did I know the severely limited options for someone with anaphylactic allergies and a severe soy allergy. Oh and let's not forget my severe gluten intolerance.


  • Can't have eggs unless USDA Organic, tried and tested (due to hives and eczema from soy feed).

  • Can't have bacon unless its Applegate Farms brand (due to hives and eczema from soy or gluten reaction from gluten feed)

  • Can't have dairy (due to mild cumulative allergic itchy, peeling skin reaction and gluten reaction)

  • Can't have olive oil at any restaurants because its usually fake and diluted with vegetable oil or soybean oil. (Read more about this here) unless its USDA Organic or tested and known to be safe.

  • Can't have fruits that are not USDA Organic due to soy waxes on most regular fruits.

  • Can't have drinks due to 'natural flavors' (usually GMO soy)

Can't have...can't have...can't have.....and the list goes on...


I found myself having a breakfast of a Banana Nut Chia Bar and an Americano at Starbucks an hour later, my Amazing Grass with water. YUM. #eyeroll (It was good, until I was forced to eat it daily). I had a gluten reaction early on for 6 out of the 7 days in Vegas and did my best to eat as carefully as I could since this along with an allergic reaction (from the clouds of soy-laden cigarette smoke everywhere and taking Zantac (which contains soy derivatives..but of course I forgot) the two nights leading up to my speaking event had already caused a drop in my immune system along with hand eczema and a bit of mouth eczema.

So I came back having lost about 7 lbs and one dress size. That's my new diet plan. To travel more often.

Female skeleton in a hat and dress which looks like its from the Titanic time period.
Don't I look skinny? I was channeling the Titanic exhibit.

Friday, October 3, 2014

BEST Soy-Free Gluten-Free Chinese Fried Rice EVER!

Since I do have some Asian blood (Filipino), I guess you could say I know good Chinese food. For two decades I was able to eat it without an allergic reaction, until my soy allergy became much worse and I could no longer eat soy sauce or anything made with soy. Because of my experience and passion for Asian cuisine, I am extremely particular with my Chinese food and was incredibly disappointed to visit P.F. Chang's about a year and a half ago (since apparently they print out a menu specifically for you once you tell them your allergies) and all I could eat there was a plate of rice and steamed frozen vegetables which they didn't even bother to put any spices or herbs on (which were....GASP! frozen!) FYI: No decent Chinese place uses frozen vegetables. It was that horrible experience that forced me to figure out my own homemade recipe for one of my favorite dishes, Chinese Fried Rice.

And since coming from Vegas and hearing my mom complain about the Chinese food everywhere she went, I realized its time to share my homemade soy-free gluten-free Chinese Fried Rice recipe with all of you. So I made it tonight....
Maya's Soy-Free Gluten-Free Chinese Fried Rice

Friday, September 26, 2014

FABlogCon 2014



Cheesy arrival at Vegas airport! 
How Jenny and Homa pulled off an entire 'free of the top 8 allergens' weekend with FABlogCon 2014 is beyond me. Well, ok, not actually. They were lucky enough to find South Point Hotel and Casino in Vegas whose food safety manager is truly one of a kind. Keith Norman is a happy, friendly chef who will go through the utmost care to make sure you can eat safely without a reaction.

I talked to him briefly about the stringent precautions he takes for people with single food allergies or people with multiple food allergies.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Superfoods: The Convenient Option For Traveling With Food Allergies

Lately, I have become a permanent fixture at either Starbucks, Barnes and Nobles or Whole Foods. I don't go to places like Panera because I cannot eat there (everything is contaminated with soy or peanuts) and at Starbucks, I only have a menu choice of 1 item....buttered popcorn. I stare longingly into the Boulangerie case hoping that some soy-free, nut-free, gluten-free buttery piece of yummyness, hopefully with chocolate (without soy-lecithin, of course) just magically appears with a magical sound effect of what sounds like a herald of angels singing. Because yes, that would be heaven. Unfortunately, as someone living with a soy allergy in the 2nd largest soy-producing country in the world, I'm in my own version of hell.

Nope. I open my eyes and its still there. Gluten, soy and nuts everywhere.














I'm usually close enough to home that I can go have lunch, but when deadlines loom, I really don't have time to cook or prepare. 

I completely believe that every food or drink you take in is healing or killing your body. As an example, just because someone else can handle eating or drinking dairy, doesn't mean that you will be fine after eating that cheesy Italian food you've been craving.

I think all of us with food-allergies or severe gluten-intolerance can relate to this.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Soy Allergy and Dimethicone Allergy: A Makeup-Artist's Dilemma

Food allergies and eczema affect every aspect of one's life. For people with an allergy to something like soy, you not only have to look out for things you eat or drink, but anything you touch.

I became a makeup-artist soon after high school and continued to work in the cosmetics industry for about thirteen years. During those last few years, the trend of companies using soy as a filler and turning it into everything from crayons to foam carried over into the cosmetics world and soon, soy was turned into many various chemicals used to do practically every conceivable thing under the sun, including binding, preserving, texturizing, thickening and of course as a filler so companies could get more bang for their buck. The list of soy derivatives used for cosmetics and beauty products is literally exhausting and new 'ingredients' are developed and will continue to be for as long as the soy crop continues to be planted and sold for dirt cheap.

Is there silicone in your face products?

Add to this the fact that I am severely allergic to dimethicone and silicone derivatives; a discovery which started back in the late 90s when I first applied the new and exciting Colorstay lipsticks and makeup by Revlon.

Having oily skin, I was their target demographic of a teenager who just didn't want her makeup coming off after 3rd period, but little did I know which ingredient was actually causing the reaction until years later. Over the years, allergic reactions to makeup were hit or miss and my biggest wake-up call to this allergy was when face primers were first introduced to the public.
For those of you who don't know, a primer is a base used before the foundation makeup. The silicone microspheres have a silky, slippery-smooth feel which also softens the look of very fine lines and pores. It is this immediate visual gratification that caused many skincare companies to jump on the silicone bandwagon.The first really well-known silicone-based primer was introduced by Smashbox and many other companies soon followed suit. In hair products, it 'smoothes' down the frayed cuticle giving it a smooth outer surface under a microscope like we used to see in those old Infusium and Pantene ads. People think nothing of using all these products on a daily basis, but are they really safe?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

My Endoscopy Nightmare Part II: Weaning Off Gabapentin

Continued from 'My Endoscopy Nightmare - Part I'

So last month, I went to my neurologist after an emergency ER visit from severe withdrawals after trying to wean off of the Gabapentin too quickly. I was on Gabapentin (aka Neurontin) for a seizure I had during an endoscopy in December. The Gabapentin was literally making my thoughts different and my anger so severe I wasn't myself. Since I am so extremely sensitive to foods, it seems I am extremely sensitive to chemicals and medicines and the Gabapentin was causing severe hostility/anger and depression. None of this happened until I was about 3 months on the medication and being that my doc put me on Prozac around the same time, I had thought all of the anger/aggression/extreme moods was from Prozac, so I weaned off of that. But some of the same symptoms didn't go away, including dark thoughts that I had never experienced before.

Some medications can cause extreme personality changes.


They were so bad they scared me and although I told my doctors, nobody would trace it back to the Gabapentin. But I did. So I went from 900mg to 600 in two days then to 300mg in two days. Very bad idea. I ended up in the ER because of withdrawal symptoms so bad, the nurse who was working with me literally threw the urine cup at me because she thought I was withdrawing from street drugs or alcohol. I'm talking shaking, sweating, severe diarrhea, severe nausea, severe confusion and a feeling of jumping out of your own skin, severe body aches and just couldn't stop crying. They ended up simply giving me an extra pill of Gabapentin and sending me home after they saw all the tests were negative for drugs and alcohol.

The next day, I went to my primary who immediately called my neuro and explained the symptoms.

Natural Supplements and Treatments For Allergies and Eczema

Growing up with eczema and allergies makes you pretty desperate to figure out a way to combat the dreaded itch and skin inflammation. Over the years, I heard suggestions ranging from specific odd-sounding herbs to eating honey or even pieces of honeycomb from a local beekeeper. We all have different physiologies, so the truth is, these remedies may work for some, but not others. I also found some studies associated with some of the more popular ones, so that you can print them out and show them to your doctor.

1. Stinging Nettle

A while ago, I bought Organic Nettle Leaf tea, an herb that someone had once told me they had read helped calm allergic reactions. Stinging Nettle is a prickly herb that is used to treat hay fever, allergies and eczema, along with a host of other ailments. It also helps aid pain from excess uric acid in the joints, so it is very good for arthritis. It will also help aid muscle recovery after a workout, but is also a diuretic so it is important to replenish fluids after drinking. There is also a study I found which confirms it reduces cytokines, the hormone-like protein substances released during an allergic reaction. Cytokines are also responsible for blocking the release of serotonin in the brain (which plays a pivotal role in causing allergy-related depression). Now I'm not a medical professional, but if that's the case, couldn't that mean that taking stinging nettle could not only help aid inflammation, but also improve the mood of those of us having an allergic reaction? Hmm...

Stinging nettle for allergies...does it work?


I had severe eczema on my hands a while back and drank this tea after steeping covered for a few minutes. Within ten minutes after drinking, my itching/hives had calmed down. I also applied the teabag to my rashes although that doesn't seem to work as much as drinking it.

You can also buy stinging nettle in tincture (alcohol drop base) form, in capsule form or dried herb form. Its a good idea if you are particularly sensitive like me, to try the tea first or go for tincture form, which allows you to control the amounts and which usually contains the purest and least amount of ingredients. Dosing instructions are usually included on tincture bottle. Stinging Nettle Blend Extract Liquid, 1 oz, Herb Pharm

Friday, June 27, 2014

5 Rules To Make Gluten-Free Pasta Taste BETTER Than The Real Deal.

As I scan through Pinterest and look at all these amazing recipes, I ponder whether people know some of the tricks I have up my sleeve whenever I cook my gluten-free pasta. Many of you might already know these tricks, but I promise you, after reading this, you and your family won't believe how delicious gluten-free can be.


You will never cook gluten-free pasta the same again.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Be Careful Where You Sit If You Have Severe Food Allergies

This post applies mostly to those who are anaphylactic to anything; never in a million years would I have thought where I sat in a public place would be an issue.

A few months ago, I had an experience that terrified me. Since I could not drive due to a health incident that happened in December, I had family who would drive me to places like the bookstore, Starbucks or Whole Foods, which all have an internet connection which allows me to write.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Spring Allergies and Environmental Allergy Survival

Spring allergies have been kicking me back into bed for the past two months. Every time I spend more than fifteen minutes outside, I have to shower as soon as I get home or else I will face hives, sneezing and itchy eczema on my face later on from my hair which basically becomes a dry Swiffer to the outdoor environment, holding on to grass and tree pollens, then bringing them back into my home and onto whatever furniture I sit or lay on.
With pretty flowers and greenery comes lots of pollen spores!

If I'm already dealing with even a delayed reaction such as to dairy or a soy derivative from a day or two prior, I notice my spring pollen and dust mite allergies are much more sensitive than usual. The reason for this is that allergic reactions are cumulative....meaning that if you add on another allergen for your body to react to while its already flooding histamines into your system, it is much harder for your body to fight, resulting in a much worse reaction than you normally have.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

How Vitamin D Affects Your Immune System

Two months ago, I was told after a visit to my primary care doctor that I was low on vitamin D and needed to take at least 2,000 i.u. of vitamin D.

So I did. Every day.

Yet, I was experiencing bad body aches, extreme fatigue (to the point that I was taking 2-3 hour naps 1-2 times per day), struggling with depression (even on an antidepressant) and drinking coffee like it was my saving grace. The excess caffeine was not only making my skin paper dry; it was giving me extra anxiety and even strange chest pains from time to time which made me go for an EKG and other heart tests which turned up negative.

How much caffeine does it take for you to function each day?


So again to the doctor I went, this time, to run a plethora of tests to try to figure out why I was so sleepy all the time and why these flu-like body aches continued even when I was so careful about not eating gluten.

This time, my doctor ran a slew of tests and cautioned that we might not get an answer for awhile, especially if it was something like Fibromyalgia. But two weeks later I get a call with my results. All bloodwork was normal and I was still vitamin D deficient. How?

The nurse at my doctor's office now advised me to take 5,000 i.u. of Vitamin D per day.


Then something occurred to me. Can vitamin D deficiency cause the body aches that had been plaguing me for months? Could vitamin D deficiency cause depression? And why was I not absorbing the vitamin D I had been taking?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Gluten-Free Diets, Milk Allergy and Arsenic: Should You Be Concerned?

Today, I face the unknown with excitement, because it can only go up from here. Within the past two years I've discovered I have to be completely gluten-free or else suffer with severe fibromyalgia symptoms and stomach problems. I also discovered by accident that I have seizures on a regular basis without even knowing it. And in the past two weeks, I cut out dairy and tested myself for a suspected allergy and lo and behold, ding ding ding! Guess who's allergic to milk, now, too?!

Of course, this is just after perfecting my cheesecake recipe. After teaching myself what lemon zest was, utilizing it and using Enjoy Life Vanilla Graham cookies for the ultimate crust. Go figure.

I already had my eulogy on Twitter for all dairy food last week. Its probably the food group I will miss the most. I practically lived on yogurt, pudding and recipes I discovered on Pinterest. I used it in almost all of my best recipes and the past week has been filled with trying to find edible alternatives for certain dairy products that can replace the actual items almost without noticing.

Goodbye, you beautiful producers of perfection.

                                          
My first try was a soy-free dairy-free mozzarella cheese which I used on my homemade pizza which was an epic fail. I don't like to give bad reviews, so if you ever decide to see if an alternative mozzarella is out there that tastes good...just step away from the dairy aisle. You've been warned.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Can Food Allergies Be Cured?

We all know there is no cure for food allergies...if there were, the whole food allergy community would be on a long line to get it and this blog wouldn't exist.

However, we all did a silent double-take when not too long ago, we heard on the news about a boy with leukemia had a bone marrow transplant which not only got rid of his cancer, but also his anaphylactic peanut allergy as well. I was in the gym at the time and felt like I had won the lottery, calling everyone close to me already weighing the risks of a bone marrow transplant....only to discover later that day that this was not something that doctors were going to carry out as a treatment plan--it was only for cancer patients.

I'm not going to lie, a part of me wished I could get leukemia just so I could get the bone marrow transplant and have an entirely new immune system. To me, that seemed like a sure cure...a tangible treatment. Then I felt really guilty because I know cancer patients need transplants, not me.

Then about two weeks ago, I got my food allergy blood tests back and compared it to my old food allergy test from 2009.

I was shocked, to say the least.

My Endoscopy Nightmare

So December 2, 2013 was a crazy ride to say the least...

I went into the hospital for an upper endoscopy...and no, not for a gluten challenge but to get checked for H. Pylori, ulcers or anything else that might causing the years of stomach problems I've experienced that are controlled by daily stomach medicines.

I didn't do the gluten challenge because I cannot handle the symptoms....

Yet, I had a feeling something was going to happen. The procedure was Monday and I even called endoscopy on Sunday evening to cancel the procedure but nobody picked up.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

My Book, 'Invisible Disability'

I know I have been M.I.A. for a number of reasons. I've been writing my baby. 

I thought I bared my soul on my blog quite a few times...apparently not. There is nothing quite like writing words that you know someone somewhere is going to hold in their hands and quietly hear in the pit of their soul.

I know when I'm holding a book, I immerse myself into it like it is my life....and for those blissful, tormenting and sometimes terrifying hours, it is. And when its over, a part of me feels like it dies right along with that last page.