Traveling with food allergies is difficult. This is the story of discovering a new food allergy.
I have been intolerant of gluten for years now but I have mostly gotten used to that with travels. Even fast food chains have options. With an intolerance I can survive with a little cross contamination so Chipolte, PF Chang, Pei Wei, Five Guys, and many others become options even if they are not ideal. That said, I still usually just stick to finding a Whole Foods Market within an hour drive and a hotel with a fridge. That has worked out OK.
But this year I have had an increase in travel along with an increase in coming home feeling not so good. It was time to figure out the root cause and I had a few hypothesis:
1. Was I being careful enough about eating gluten free and/or am I becoming more sensitive to cross contamination?
2. Since more of my "not well" feelings are related to breathing and asthma, perhaps I am just becoming more sensitive to the chemical cleaners in hotels and planes. I also find more problems with students and fellow travelers wearing cologne or perfumes. These have always bothered me some individually and when they add up it can be very uncomfortable.
3. Was there another food allergy causing a problem?
At the beginning of July I had a few weeks in a row at home. This was a chance for a "cleanse" and an elimination diet. From my ND, I occasionally follow a fruit/nut/egg diet for three days as jump start back into healthier eating habits (and it works as a cleanse). This time I expanded that so that after the three days, I gradually added other items back into my diet and no more than one category per day. I started with salads and other raw veggies. A few days later I added in plain grilled chicken and pork.
From other sources, I knew that it is common for those with gluten intolerance to also have issues with other grains (corn) or proteins (casein). I decided to focus on dairy as being a possible problem and went an entire 2 weeks without any dairy. But I was also avoiding grains - rice and any of the gluten free breads - for the first week then had fresh corn on the cob and no apparent issues. Finally, after a full 2 weeks and still following my instinct of a casein intolerance, I had some very tasty cheddar cheese. Within 2 hours I was having asthma issues which continued into the next morning. No more cheese for me.
After three months of no dairy I find that locating safe food on the road is harder but I am not having anywhere near the asthma problems I was having earlier in the year. I can even tolerate a fellow traveler with cologne much better - or at least recover much quicker once I can get away from the person. I have also found that I can tolerate small amounts of butter since I have accidentally eaten some veggies cooked in butter when visiting family. Finally, since I refused to miss out on the full experience of a family lobster bake, I discovered that I can also handle a quality ghee that is labeled as lactose and casein free.
Family members are slowly remembering not to offer me cheese and to cook in oil instead of butter when they know I will be around. The Paleo craze has made it easy to find new or alternate recipes for cooking at home. My travels continue to take me to Whole Foods Market but with a lot more raw salads and a lot less hot bar goodies. Many places have gluten free but fewer have dairy free menus. In addition many gluten free options are not dairy free and many dairy free options are not gluten free. I have found variety and success at a few places so far: