It’s easy enough to control food when you’re at home, but eating out is a mine field and I’m often asked how I cope. I’m lucky that my reactions haven’t so far caused immediate and life-threatening throat swelling and I know that some of you aren’t so fortunate, so I can only tell you what I do which I’m not suggesting will work for everyone.
I’m not truly allergic to anything apart from alcohol, so I luckily don’t go into anaphylactic shock after eating any one particular food. Histamine is my issue, and as I’ve mentioned before I look at histamine like a bucket – I’m always going to have some histamine in my bucket, but so long as it stays under half full I can cope with the mild symptoms this produces. The more full my bucket is, however, the worse the symptoms get and it then might only take one high histamine food to overflow my bucket and send me into an anaphylactoid reaction.
How full my bucket is depends on many factors, however, not just food. Am I having my period? Am I under stress? Am I particularly exhausted? Am I being subjected to huge temperature fluctuations, eg. going from a hot house to the snowy outdoors? All of which I need to take into account when deciding how high my histamine levels might be on any one day.
Here is how I navigate eating out:
- If I know I’m going to have to eat food which isn’t freshly prepared I’ll dose up on some anti-histamine before-hand. You’d be surprised how much this helps.
- I eat out most weekends. I go to a cafe where the food is all fresh, locally produced and mostly made on the premises and I choose the lowest histamine foods available. This weekend, for example, I had sweet potato soup with home-made bread. Yes, the bread contains yeast which I shouldn’t be having but 2 slices per week isn’t going to cause me any significant problems (providing I’ve been following my usual low histamine diet the rest of the time). Last week, however, the soup choice was tomato so that was a definite no-no and I just had a plain scone with butter, followed by a mug of warm milk and some treacle flap-jack. I still make mistakes though. I was invited by some friends to lunch in a lovely hotel last month where I chose a mediterranean vegetable panini with coleslaw and salad. It was delicious, but within 30 minutes of eating it my brain just went to mush, my whole body felt like lead and all I wanted to do was go to sleep. I’ve eaten paninis before with no problems whatsoever, so I can only conclude there was something in the vegetables that didn’t agree with me or that the panini wasn’t freshly made. So I suffered for the rest of the day but thankfully the reaction wasn’t anaphylactic in nature and wasn’t going to kill me.
- If I’ve been invited to someone else’s home to eat I have two choices: I can speak to the host beforehand and decide between us on a menu I know I’m relatively OK with; or I can take my own meal. The host will be someone who, you would hope, likes you enough to’ve invited you for dinner so should be willing to work with you on the best solution. After all, it looks bad for them if you pass out or swell up after eating something they’ve cooked 😉
- I do indulge in the odd high histamine food on special occasions. I’ll sneak a mince pie or an occasional chocolate, but as long as I don’t go berserk (like eating the entire tube of Pringles!) I seem to get away with it. It’s not as difficult as you might think to avoid eating lots of crap over Christmas. I remember what it was like to feel horrendously ill the entire time and I simply don’t want to spend another holiday in bed feeling like death warmed up, so if missing out on the Bombay Mix is what it takes for me to feel relatively well and be able to join in the festivities like a normal human being then that’s fine by me.
The holidays, where you’re suddenly expected to join in and act like everyone else, can be tough. Be selfish and do what works for you. If all else fails, invite people round to your house where you can control the food environment – if you’re too exhausted to host ask your guests to bring a dish (they know you’re sick and truly won’t mind) or do what I do and order a finger buffet courtesy of Tesco.com which then gets delivered to my door. With some planning ahead it is possible to make safe food choices yet still enjoy the festivities and have a great time 🙂