The other night I was watching Deadliest Catch. In one scene, the captain’s girlfriend was cooking dinner for the crew. One of the crewmen said he was allergic to milk. Hearing this, the cook laughed and added milk to the meal she was preparing. The crew member became sick and when the cook found out, she laughed.

I was so angry when I saw that. I have food allergies and to see someone show such blatant disregard for another person’s health and deliberately feed a person food that would make that person sick was pathetic.

For most of my childhood, I complained of stomachaches and not feeling well. I was never taken seriously, usually being laughed at and dismissed as “the family’s little hypochondriac”. By the time I reached adulthood, I did not know what it was like not to have a chronic stomachache, ulcers and discomfort. When I would complain to my doctors they dismissed the problem or advised me to take anti-anxiety or anti-depressants. None believed my complaints were anything but psychological.

Only once did a doctor offer a different approach. She tested me for h-pylori, believing that to be the cause of my chronic ulcers. It wasn’t, but it was nice to have someone finally believe there was something wrong.

Several years ago another doctor did listen to me, right down to every meal I was eating during the day. He knew the problem, celiac disease, more commonly known as wheat gluten allergy. Since eliminating wheat from my diet, I no longer have a chronic stomachache. I don’t have acid burning my stomach and throat. It is a welcome relief, but I do miss so much of what I used to be able to eat, pasta and pastry most.

My family and friends all know of my allergy and still insist I eat foods I’m allergic to. Their usual comments are “Just take a taste.” What will one bite hurt?” “Oh, you won’t get that sick.” “It’ll be worth it.” These comments are stupid and upsetting. It is precisely these comments and attitudes that have kept me from attending any family holiday since my diagnosis. The sad truth of the matter is I do not trust anyone to not have gluten in what they are serving.

You cannot tell a person has food allergies by looking at them. It is not something they can ignore for one meal. It is never okay to “Just eat this one thing”. In many cases the allergic reaction is becoming sick, but it others, the allergy is so severe anaphylactic shock and death can result. As I watched that scene in Deadliest Catch I couldn’t help but wonder if that dingbat would have been laughing and giggling about feeding the crewmen milk if his allergic reaction had been anaphylaxis. Would she have giggled if her willful ignorance had cost that man his life?

Despite my constantly telling my family and friends all the things I can’t eat, they still try and entice me to eat what will make me sick. Food allergies are very real and serious. Those who do not have them need to understand this. For those who don’t have food allergies, before you feed a person with allergies what they are allergic to, or tell them “it will be okay, just this once”, ask yourself this, do you really want to feed a person a toxin that will not only sicken that person, but could cost them their life?

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