Can You Live With a Corn Allergy Without Going Crazy
Someone commented that a Christmas without Corn sounded rather boring. I must be honest. I wasn't sure exactly what to think of that at first. After all, to me (a corn intolerant individual), it's exciting to realize that there are ways to navigate the holidays. Safely. Without doubling over or going to bed with a bucket and a heating pad.
Diagnosis with any allergy, or intolerance, or medical condition means changing your lifestyle to some degree. For some, the adaptations may be minimal. For others, they're insurmountable. I've had people tell me that they wouldn't put up with the restrictions put on our family. They'd tell the doctor no. They just wouldn't tolerate these kinds of allergies.
Allergic to corn? That sounds easy. Avoid a list of over a hundred different potential corn derivatives? Not possible. They'd give up. They'd insist upon a cure. They'd deal with the symptoms.
I must admit, this thought is tempting. Give up? Force the doctor to come up with a cure? Hmmm. Unfortunately, there are no cures for food allergies. Not yet, anyway. And corn allergies and intolerances are one of the fastest rising allergens in the United States (according to some statistics). The only known treatment is total avoidance.
Living life without corn doesn't mean it's a life sentence of water and crusts of bread. (In fact, there may be corn derivatives in either the bread or the water...So don't rely on them.) Life without corn may not be carefree. But it's still just as rich and rewarding as life with corn. Maybe even more so.
Since discovering a corn allergy, I've learned that there is much more to life than eating. I don't have to share others meals, although I miss it sometimes. I've learned a lot more about what goes into the food supply, and that awareness changes the choices I make. Maybe I don't like knowing how many different preservatives and fillers and chemicals are in our food supply. But awareness helps me to avoid those items, not just for myself but for my children.
Being aware of what we eat has also helped us to make healthier choices. Allergy free eating is not by definition healthy. It's just safe for the allergic individual. Knowing what's in the food we eat makes me take a step back and say "Wait a minute. Do I really want my family eating this?" Sometimes, it's not the allergy that makes me say no. The allergy has simply raised my awareness. Without a corn allergy, I wouldn't know that food colorings are often petroleum based. Now that I know, it's a lot easier to avoid a bunch of preprocessed foods. They're full of corn...and other things I don't want anyways.
My food isn't necessarily bland or unappealing. After all, I can use chocolate and spices. I bake regularly. And when we run out of cookies, I don't 'just pick up another box'. It requires actual assembly and baking. The effort often sends us to the fridge in search of sliced apples. Maybe not nearly as exciting as Oreos. But they are an awful lot healthier.
Social In-casts, Not Outcasts
Food and socializing sometimes go hand in hand. Food is a natural ice breaker. And you can't always hide your decision not to eat.
Sure, sometimes you can. Grab a plate, wrinkle up a napkin on top and wander around. People will think you've finished off your appetizers and are thinking of returning for seconds. Or careful wording can make it sound like you're in between snacking. But more often than not, it seems, the topic of food and allergies arises and questions follow. It feels like you've become an outcast.
But food doesn't have to be the center of every get together. Birthday parties include games and gifts, gatherings are designed to be social events not eat-and-leave, and there are non-food avenues to explore. You can go hiking. You can visit the theatre. There are open houses, city tours, and museums that are all food free (or mostly so). Maybe corn allergy is affecting your ability to explore local restaurants, but not your local city. And if you have kids, don't think that the limited edible options are really going to cramp your style. Playgrounds and libraries require no food to fit in. (Libraries prefer you not eat in them anyway) And there's no rule saying your kids can't enjoy the museum. You may just end up nurturing an appreciation for cultural arts in your kids.
You Find Out Who Your Friends Are
When you're diagnosed with a life altering condition, whether it's a corn allergy or something else, you really do find out who your friends are. Which people in your life will be supportive and which ones will roll their eyes, call you a drama queen and walk away.
There are those who will either include you, or carefully overlook that water bottle you tote along everywhere and there are those who will insist on serving you coffee or tea and spend every five or ten minutes harping on whether or not you drink it and whether or not you need to lose weight. There are those who will still invite you to the park, and those who will suggest their kids not bother inviting yours to the next party since they "can't eat anything anyway". There will always be those who offer to include a fruit plate next to the main meal, and those who insist your dietary limitations are too much. Some will even jump back and forth, so you never know what kind of support to expect.
Living with a corn allergy makes life different. But just because my life doesn't fit the image the media portrays as ideal (out for coffee, restaurant meals, spur of the moment vacations...) doesn't mean it's boring or unfulfilling.
It's like going to Italy, and being sidetracked to Holland. Sure, I could spend the trip griping about the sidetrip. I won't see the vineyards or the Colosseum. But if I spend all my time grieving for Italy, I'll miss the tulips and the architecture and the cultural experience Holland has to offer.
I might have a corn allergy. It means I have to plan ahead for food, and avoid popcorn and air fresheners. It doesn't mean my life is boring.
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