Our Equal Eats Equalizers series tells the story behind the incredible people creating a positive impact for the free from community. Today we are thrilled to profile Lisa Bolton from @allergyunlimited.
What is your personal connection to the free from community?
Hi, my personal connection is that I have two children who are part of this community. I have a son who's nearly 14, who developed or was diagnosed with food allergies at six months, with anaphylaxis to dairy and egg and also allergies to house dust mites. He also had very, very, severe eczema which once we removed the allergens from his diet, that then healed but then he went on to have viral wheeze which developed into severe asthma. And that's triggered by a lot of airborne allergens and he has bad hay fever. Also Oral Allergy Syndrome to hazelnut and birch pollen, so he's on antihistamines all year round and nasal sprays to combat that and then in November 2020 he was diagnosed with having EOE. Which is very hard to say, it's Eosinophilic Esophagitis which is related to allergies but not always. So he now has to avoid soya, as we found that to be a trigger for EOE and causes an inflamed esophagus and can cause further health problems. And then also in November 2020 my daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease. We have quite a big connection to the community.
What made you start advocating for the free from community?
I've been doing it for nearly four years now. We had to adapt all our recipes, because I have to cook everything from scratch when you have these sort of allergies, so I adapted everything. People kept saying to me that you should share them because they might help somebody, and then my daughter got into Instagram and she said why don't we do it on there. At the time I had come down with Bell's Palsy. So I was kind of bedridden for a couple of weeks. So we used to sit in the evenings and she taught me how to use Instagram. I started off with recipes and just wanting to help anyone that was going through the same thing as us and trying if we could to support or help one person because when we started out there 13 years ago, there was nothing and there wasn't any social media and I didn't know anybody with allergies, so we just wanted to try and do it and it has kind of blossomed from there.
What is your unique offering to the free from community?
We started off originally with the recipes and found our feet, and initially I didn't really want to do anything personal as I'm quite shy and I didn't want to put my face on, or my children’s, but it's grown from there and I've met so many amazing people and got so much support. Now, I tend to share recipes still, review any products that we find that we like and I'm very passionate about supporting businesses and organizations that are making a difference within the community because I want my children to have as normal a life as possible and it to be inclusive. I'm very passionate about supporting other allergy people in the community.
What advice would you give to someone that's just starting out on their free from journey?It does definitely get easier. It's so overwhelming to start with and your whole life changes and you think you're not going to be able to cope, but it does get easier. There are challenges and curveballs that come along the way, but you will be able to deal with them. And you will be able to go out and live a life like you did before. You just have to get your confidence up, get used to what you're doing and use the support that's out there. Get online, talk to some people because everyone is so welcoming and so helpful. And secondly, I would say trust your gut feeling, you know your child better than anybody and if you feel that there's something wrong, there is. Sadly, not a lot has changed in the last 13 years, it is still difficult to get a diagnosis but there are people out there to support you and help you and know that you are not being an overprotective or a fussy Mom. If you think something's wrong then it usually is.
That is solid advice, especially trusting your gut.
Yeah, absolutely. With going into restaurants, initially we were quite embarrassed and we used to feel awkward and we're making a fuss. But now if it doesn't feel right as soon as I walk in, then I'm gonna walk out again, I'm not gonna stay there. I trust my gut. And if it's not right it’s not right. Like you say you can apply it to so many different situations and if you know, you know.
Where can people connect with you, learn more and be part of your wonderful community?
Oh, thank you, I'm just on Instagram. So @allergyunlimited. Yeah, we share posts a couple of times a week but I'm always on, so, I'm always happy if you message me, lots of people have done you know, I'm happy to give any advice, obviously I'm not medically trained, but I'm happy to support you or just be a friendly ear to listen, to tell you that it's all going to be okay.
Allergy Unlimited. I can say it's a wonderful resource, just to get that support and validation of your feelings and challenges and also the recipes to which I look forward to trying more. So thank you so much, Lisa, for joining us today. And congratulations on everything that you've done for the free from community. It's appreciated.