For years I had been a strict vegan—eating only fruits and plants, even eating sprouts and soy cheese with vegan bread. But as time went on, I noticed my throat and mouth felt itchy after eating fresh fruits, vegetables, and tofu.
Soon, it wasn't just the itchiness that affected me. I began noticing bumps forming on the lining of my mouth, the mouth swelling painfully. In some instances, when I ate a lot of fruit, I developed debilitating stomach pain and diarrhea.
Although a few misguided friends blamed it on non-organic foods, what I really had was oral allergy syndrome, or OAS. According to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, OAS is caused by a cross-reaction between certain proteins found in pollen and fruits and vegetables. If you're allergic to pollen, there's a good chance you'll develop OAS. For me, I already knew I had a severe pollen allergy— as a kid, my eyes would literally swell shut during the spring, when pollen is most active.
Although I cannot eat a vegan diet now due to my allergies, I make an effort to eat healthy foods. Because I cannot eat most fruits and vegetables, I must plan out my diet carefully to ensure I am getting enough nutrients. Here are five ways I ensure I eat healthfully while living with oral allergy syndrome.
Eat a Variety of Fruits and Vegetables
I can't eat most fruits or vegetables, but for the ones that don't present an allergic reaction, I try to eat them often. For me, that's bananas, potatoes, berries, pineapple, broccoli, bell peppers, tomatoes, and zucchini. To ensure you're eating enough micronutrients, or the nutrients you need in small quantities to sustain optimal living, it's best to eat a variety of vegetables and fruits everyday, preferably at every meal.
Tell Friends and Family Members
Controlling your symptoms means your friends and family members need to be aware of them as well. Warn others that you have this condition so they do not accidentally feed you meals that can cause an allergic reaction. If you're going to visit someone for dinner, also remind that person of your allergy syndrome. I remind my family of my allergies before I visit—unfortunately they can be forgetful at times.
Try Peeling or Cooking Food
Here's a really odd thing about OAS—most of the time, simply cooking or peeling your food stops the allergic reaction from occurring. It won't work for everybody, but it's best to try. Peeling my food doesn't work for me personally, but thoroughly cooking my vegetables and fruit works.
Get Fiber From Other Sources
Unfortunately, being allergic to most fruits or vegetables has a big disadvantage: a lack of fiber. Both food groups are an excellent source of fiber, so you need to really eat right to ensure you're getting enough. For me, I like to eat plenty of beans and grains rich in fiber.
Ask About a Multivitamin
If you're not able to eat many fruits or vegetables, it's possible you may develop vitamin or nutrient deficiencies. This can only be determined by a doctor; however, feeling sick or worse isn't a reliable sign that you're not getting enough nutrients. If you suspect your diet is deficient in some nutrients, ask a doctor to determine it for you. If you are, you may be prescribed a special multivitamin.
Although it can be difficult to live with OAS, it is not a death sentence, nor is it an excuse to binge on sweets all day. I've managed to live a healthy lifestyle while managing my OAS symptoms, and so can you.