Posted On April 27, 2011
I remember those little innocent looking peas, rolling around on my plate. Oh, that horrible little pile of peas, just sitting there, taunting me. It felt like we had them every night, and I always whined about how much I hated them and that they "hurt". They first made my mouth itch, and then my throat felt tight, and then it felt like a rock being pushed up and down my chest… youch. Later I learned this was the beginnings of anaphylactic shock- that "rock" I felt pushing through my chest was the feeling of my airway constricting. You see, in my house, we had to eat what was on our plates. I was too young to have the words for what was happening, and my poor mother couldn’t see what was happening, and so this went on for a while. I was frequently in pain at dinner time, and I remember feeling a great deal of stress whenever we were having something I was allergic to. One day, over a bowl of split pea soup, my allergy became evident. In addition to the usual symptoms, my eyes started to swell and I broke out in hives, etc. It was bad, but it also meant my parents were finally able to give me the words for what was happening, and most of all it meant no more peas…
I am sure that I’m allergic to peas, kidney beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), lima beans, and lentils. Those are the only things I’m sure of, because I actually had a reaction to those things in the past. All of these are legumes. However, I’m not allergic to all legumes. I can eat green beans, black beans, pinto beans, soy, peanuts, etc… so there’s really no way for me to know what the connection is. All the other legumes I avoided, because we couldn’t be sure that I’d be okay. I’m very good at avoiding these things, and I haven’t had a reaction in years.
The other night, I went to my friend’s house for dinner. She made this delicious African stew. I was happily munching away when I took a closer look at the beans in it. Turns out, I’d been eating Great Northern beans… I stopped and waited. I felt very stupid for not having filled my Epi-pen prescription. I waited some more. Nothing happened. She felt bad about the misunderstanding, but I felt grateful! She helped me to find another bean I can eat! Sure, it was dangerous, but all is well and I’m really excited to add another legume to my repertoire. A few days later she gave me some awesome hummus that she made with the beans. I started in on it slowly, still feeling unsure. I mean, I can’t eat hummus ever, it’s always made with garbanzos. But again nothing happened, and soon I was dipping my whole finger in it and feeling ridiculously triumphant. Hummus!
It just got me thinking about food allergies, and how I wish we better understood them. What causes this immune response? Can we prevent these allergies? Can we outgrow them? What makes a tiny little green pea so dangerous to one little girl? This has got me thinking about revisiting this whole issue- I’ll be going back to the allergist, and I hope to get more testing done. I did recently find that I can eat the pea plant, and I can eat lentils after they’ve been sprouted. I’m hoping to share this stuff with my allergist and hopefully he can use that information.
What about you guys? Any thoughts on this stuff?