Students change eating habits, accomodate diet restrictions

Aggie Kruse

When senior Charlotte Coover has dinner at a friend’s house, she forces herself to reject the typical pizza staple and settles for a salad instead. What appears to be a strict diet regimen is actually a compensation for gluten allergies, an intolerance of wheat and flour. Coover is one of many teens afflicted with food allergies that considerably impact their daily lives.

“I just found out about the allergies last March,” Coover said. “I discovered I had them because I continued to feel sick and get the hiccups after I ate bread. Now I try to eat mostly gluten-free foods, but it’s hard when I go out and have to tell friends I’m allergic to two main food ingredients.”

Food allergies are immune system responses involving the production of antibodies that attack the “invading” food proteins, according to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network. This mistaken reaction triggers the release of chemicals such as histamine, resulting in a range of symptoms from hives to chest pain.

“I noticed when I was eight that I would get horrible migraines after eating mac and cheese or sourdough,” junior Jordan Carter said. “I found out that I was allergic to cheddar cheese, sourdough and peanuts. Now I’ve gotten used to avoiding these foods, I can pack my own sun-butter sandwich, for instance — but it’s still very difficult in restaurant situations.”

Approximately 12 million Americans suffer from food allergies, with food allergies among those younger than 18 growing more prevalent with an 18 percent increase in cases from 1997 to 2007, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

“It’s been much easier to buy gluten-free foods since a lot more people are finding out they are allergic to gluten, and stores and restaurants are realizing this,” Coover said.
No lasting cure exists for food allergies, and those afflicted must exercise caution with food choices while educating others about their actions during social outings.

“My mother is incredibly allergic to olive oil and gluten,” Carter said, “but people often think she is on a diet or something when she doesn’t eat the food at restaurants. They could be a bit more understanding in some situations. People with allergies aren’t trying to be annoying, but I also know it’s frustrating for everyone.”

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