Guest blog post – Building your Team Janine Flannery, The Allergy Aspect Managing food restrictions requires lots of planning and preparation in all areas of life. After a decade of managing the challenges of my son’s multiple food allergies, and a more recent eosinophilic esophagitis (EOE) diagnosis, I’m reminded often how the power of connection helps me through all of the obstacles. These connections can be anything from a key group of dedicated physicians, a cohort of food allergy moms, or a local restaurant who gets it. I consider them all part of my son’s ‘team’ -- we share a common goal of making life with dietary restrictions easier.
Looking back to when my son was an infant and toddler, the opportunities to connect with other families living with the challenges of food allergies was limited. It was at the dawn of social media and there were few online resources. I did search out support groups and attend meetings regularly which helped immensely, but in the current age of social media and well-attended conferences, the options today are much more plentiful.
Thanks to these available resources I was feeling more empowered with managing my son’s food allergies. However, once he was a tween and was diagnosed with EOE (a disease that causes inflammation in the esophagus requiring further strict food avoidance), I felt a sense of defeat and isolation. Our already small world of food allergy families became even smaller with the EOE diagnosis. I had to pick myself up and start over. I had to become knowledgeable about living with EOE along with managing food allergies, and understand the relationship of oral immunotherapy (OIT) and the small percentage of patients, like my son, who discover EOE through this treatment.
It was isolating and scary navigating a new chronic condition that further limited our son’s list of safe foods. While we were pursuing a bit of food freedom through OIT, we ended up with an even smaller list of safe foods -- the complete opposite of our hopes for our son.
Fast forward five years and we’re back to feeling empowered managing this life of food allergies and EOE. With lots of research, finding excellent physicians, and establishing connections in both the food allergy and EOE communities, we have accumulated the knowledge we so desperately needed and expanded our son’s team even further.
I was inspired to continue to connect with families and organizations I found so very helpful in our journey surrounding dietary restrictions. I started an online presence documenting our experiences and sharing what we have learned called The Allergy Aspect (www.theallergyaspect.com and @theallergyaspect on Instagram and Facebook). I created The Allergy Aspect with hopes of paying it forward.
I’m inspired by others in the food allergy community who continue to give back. Kyle Dine, the founder of Equal Eats, is one of those people who not only supports those living with dietary restrictions but he has had life-long multiple food allergies himself. I recently heard Kyle speak at the FARE 2022 Food Allergy Summit. He shared several stories and lessons learned about food allergy safety from his travels to various worldwide destinations. It’s sharing stories about experiences and how to successfully navigate dining out that empowers others with dietary limitations to live life fully, but safely. He gets it. It is possible.
Do what works for you to bridge the gap from feeling isolated to making connections, feeling empowered and building your own team. Empowerment makes someone feel stronger and more confident in living their life. It means they are considered equal with others, just as Equal Eats was founded on the principle that we all deserve to have an equal seat at the table regardless of dietary restrictions.
Our family continues to gradually become more comfortable dining outside our home with the help of an Equal Eats chef card. We even took our son on his first international trip this summer and brought along Equal Eats for the trip. Equal Eats is part of our son’s team and we are grateful to have them along on our journey!