Anxieties and Allergens; Is there a link?

As most of you know I suffer with anxieties and I also have an intolerance to both gluten and dairy. In my case I think that there is a link between the two, but I wanted to find out whether there is a link for others.

Now when I say allergy, I also mean auto immune diseases and intolerance's.

I created a survey and sent it out to a number of different people to fill out and I had such a lovely response, so thanks guys and girls!

I have provided you with graphs containing the results of my questionnaire and although it doesn't have the largest number of responses, I really feel that it gives across a good portrayal of a lot of peoples feelings. 

If you have any questions about anything I have written please feel free to message and ask. 

How long have you been diagnosed for?

This question also lumps in how long have you been diagnosed or have you been free from the specific allergen.

So as you can see most of the people that participated in this survey were 'recently' diagnosed. However, we do have a good mix of long term allergen sufferers. 

How often do you worry about what is in your food?

This could be anywhere so whether your at home, you are going out for a meal, going to a friends house or party etc. 

As you can see 46 people said that they worry about what is in their food all of the time. This means that the majority of people surveyed feel worried when they eat. I admit I am one of those people! It's hard to be relaxed when you have to constantly think about what you are consuming. 

Do you find it difficult finding options to suit your needs?

I think that most people can agree with this. the amount of times I've been out for dinner and didn't want a salad or a jacket potato, but that was the only gluten free options available. There is a law that at least one meal in every restaurant should be gluten free, but this law should be that it isn't just potatoes and salad! 

Do you find yourself feeling anxious when going out for dinner? If yes, why?

Some of the most popular responses to this question were:

"Worried about cross contamination"
"I don't trust the staff or establishment to give me the right information or ensure it is allergen free"
"I've been ill before, puts me off going out again"
"I'm scared of getting the wrong food"
"I'm worried people will think I'm just being the awkward or fussy one"
"What if there is nothing there that I can eat?"
"I have no control over the food I'm being given" 

This is an understandable answer to be honest. Going to the supermarket and having to look at the ingredients in every single item you pick up is going to make you a little paranoid. I also found that as soon as I was diagnosed I got so paranoid, I would check and double check everything I ate and would always double check with waiters and waitresses when ordering food. It was making me insane and I can imagine just how frustrating how this was for everyone I went out with... 

What situation makes you feel the most anxious? 

Friends can either be really understanding or they can think being gluten free, lactose intolerant or allergic to eggs as a phase. So I totally understand why a lot of people have anxieties when they go to friends houses. Luckily I have friends who are now really understanding and even if it is just some salad and chicken that is made for me, I'm really grateful. 
As for eating at restaurants, I would say over the past few years the view on allergies in restaurants has got a lot better. The fact that the law has changed so establishments must be able to state what every ingredient is in their food and what allergens are present is so much more convenient. It may not get rid of that horrible anxiety feeling, but it definitely gives you more room to breathe. 

Would you say your anxieties have got worse since diagnosis? If yes, why?

Some of the popular responses from this question are:

"Worried I'll have a reaction to something at a social event/date"
"Wanting to stay healthy"
"I never cared what I ate before, but now I worry about everything"
"In case accidents happen"
"It affects my job if I am unwell at work"
"I don't want to be awkward in front of other people, sometimes it's better to not turn up rather than 'seek attention' 
"Constant worrying about cross contamination"
"Can't go on 'care free' trips anymore"
"Constantly having to bring attention to yourself at restaurants and at other people's homes"
"Stress, sadness and embarrassment"

Now that last comment really got to me. You have an allergy, that is not anything to be embarrassed about. It has taken me years to get myself to a point where I am not embarrassed about asking for an allergen menu or asking someone if this is 'safe'. I would much rather them think I am being a little bit picky that eat something wrong and spend days and days feeling ill. 
I honestly do believe that anxieties have a massive connection to allergies. There is not a day that goes by that you cannot walk into somewhere and just eat whatever you want, you do have to always be aware, and it can be stressful. You just have to learn to manage your anxieties. I find that if I am prepared and have a little snack in my bag as a back up, then I am not as worried because I have things to fall back on. And trust me if you are worried when you go out then talk to the staff and explain your situation. You won't be the first person to ask them about the food and you definitely will not be the last! 

Do you have any tips to help ease the anxiety related to allergy's/intolerance's?

"Plan and prepare"
"Do your research" 
"Go to accredited restaurants" 
"Brings snacks just in case" 
"If you don't trust the establishment then don't risk it"
"Carry remedies just in case (Tablets, peppermint tea etc)"
"Be very clear with your waiter/waitress about what your allergy is"

These are all some really good tips! If you have any others that you think would be useful for people then please feel free to leave them in the comments below! 

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