Illustration: Anastasiia Cherygova.
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When it comes to food intolerances and allergies, most people are familiar with the life-threatening kind that requires an EpiPen. But while some intolerances are not deadly, they can still require drastic changes to your eating habits. 

For years I had all these strange, mild reactions that, while not life threatening, were really uncomfortable and for a long time I had no idea what the cause was.

In the beginning it just felt like I was wearing a really tight turtleneck around me at all times, so much so that I was concerned about my throat closing up. I ended up in the emergency room because it was so uncomfortable, but there was still no sign of anything wrong. It was only months and months later when it occurred to me that maybe I was having a reaction to the foods I was eating.

After visiting my family doctor I was referred to a naturopath, who then gave me a referral for the food intolerance test. At the time I had great health insurance, but even that did not cover the cost of the blood test. It cost me roughly $400, and tested over 200 foods.

I remember tearing up the day I got the results. It was sad to see so many things listed that were causing me health problems. Amongst these food items were wheat, oats, cow dairy, barley, shellfish, mustard, garlic, hazelnuts, berries… the list went on. It finally made sense why I would fall asleep within 20 minutes of eating a bowl of Mini-Wheats.

Suddenly, going out to eat became a struggle since I knew that each meal would be accompanied by a rash, scratchy throat, headache, or stomach ache.

Even the remedy I took to calm my nervous system before a meal, Benadryl, made life more difficult, since it would put me to sleep within the half hour after I was finished eating. It also tastes like Goldschläger or an extreme version of those Cinnamon Hearts candies, and is a little hard on my stomach.

Because of these complications, I tend not to drink alcohol much anymore.

Sometimes I still bite into one of these “forbidden” foods, but it’s inevitably followed up by a bad reaction the next day.

This is just another reason why I decide to eat in more, because I can control the simplicity of a piece of chicken cooked in olive oil, rather than  be exposed to all the fancy restaurant spreads that contain ingredients like mustard or garlic.

These days, I’m really stuck between a rock and hard place when it comes to nutrition. Eating most foods makes me tired, but not eating food is failing to fuel my body and mind, so it’s very difficult to find a happy medium.

When I do go out to a restaurant once in awhile, it would be extremely helpful to have ingredients listed in food dishes, or at least a few dishes that you could pick and choose from simple ingredients.

Needless to say, I tend to carefully grocery shop and stay in rather than eat out.