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.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Bread Pudding That Tastes Even Better Than The 'Bad' Version!

I've had this tremendous craving for bread pudding recently and since I consider myself a bit of a foodie (hence the gym membership) I had to find a bread pudding recipe I could alter and build upon.

So here it is. Its a classic Betty Crocker recipe that I altered to be gluten-free soy-free and nut-free. If you don't tell people its gluten-free and somewhat healthier, they will never notice. Shhhh ;)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Best Soy-Free Gluten-Free Chopped Salad Ever!!!

So as some of you know, I was a huge fan of Cheesecake Factory food...that is, until I couldn't eat it.

Even if I tell them all my allergies and severe sensitivity to gluten, I get a severe gluten reaction for the entire week, which is probably due to the dairy or meat in the food that is not grass-fed. Sometimes I still get a small allergic reaction depending on what I order. As you can imagine, this is more trouble than its worth, so I decided to take it upon myself and go Pinterest recipe-hunting for copycats that I could do at home.

Yesterday, I made a copycat of the Cheesecake Factory Chopped Salad, with a few alterations
for my gluten sensitivity and severe soy allergy.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Serious News: AAFA Study Sheds Light on 'Anaphylaxis In America'

I will get to the base of this study in a moment, but first I would like to ask--how many people realistically know what anaphylaxis is? Does the average American know the symptoms or just shrug off food allergies like a myth or old wives' tale? Peanut allergy and nut allergies are about as common as the name 'John' in schools nowadays....but what about anaphylaxis to corn or steak? Yes, the same deadly reaction can and does occur with rarer foods and even environmental triggers such as cat dander or dust mites. Some anaphylaxis reactions can and do occur without any known exposure or warning, such as during exercise or strenuous activity.

Now as seemingly rare as nut allergies are, we rarely hear about other deadly food allergies in the real world, do we? Unless we are active among the food allergy community or working at an educational institution, hearing about deadly soy allergy or milk allergy is akin to seeing a ghost.

That being said, the facts show that anaphylaxis is much more common than you think.

Peanuts Follow Me...

Unfortunately, not all vending machines are only filled with drinks.
...I swear they do. Everywhere I go, it is like I'm destined to come face to face with that traumatic waft of peanut wreaking anxiety I can't seem to get away from.

I started taking a pastel portrait class with an amazing professor three weeks ago. At the second class, I SWEAR I smelled peanuts, but thought it was my OCD-level anxiety getting the better of me. I looked around after coming back from the break but could not find the culprit. I had mild hives that day but attributed it to my environmental ragweed allergy.

The third week, everything went smoothly until I was at the vending machine outside the classroom and saw a bag of peanut-filled trail mix in the machine. I think I had a mild heart attack and had to take a few deep breaths because I now knew what I smelled was not my imagination.