Adult-Onset Food Allergies Are A Thing — It Happened To Me

Adult-Onset Food Allergies Are A Thing — I Know Because It Happened To Me

February 7, 2021 Updated March 12, 2021

Allergy tests in laboratory
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I’ve always been very lucky (although I didn’t realize it until recently) in that I’ve been able to eat just about anything without so much as a tinge of heartburn.

I mean, if I eat a shit-ton of chocolate after 7:00 p.m. I have funky dreams, but that’s something I can put up with in my life. A chocolate lava cake is worth having a few moments of my life where I think I’m pulling dried leaves and dirt out of my mouth, or my teeth won’t stop falling out.

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However, my ability to eat whatever I wanted with little consequence came to a crashing end a few months ago when I discovered I was allergic to eggs. One week I ate eggs three times and went along my merry way. Then, a week later I got takeout with my boyfriend at our favorite breakfast place and ordered what I’d been eating there for over a year: a three-egg omelette with spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, and veggie sausage. 

I went from feeling off, to having my mouth filled with saliva and feeling like I couldn’t swallow, to having blurred vision and being in so much pain I couldn’t stand up in under forty-five minutes of eating.

I ended up retching so hard it felt like another person was coming out of me. I won’t go into detail about that part, but let’s just say I had no idea you could throw up in such a powerful way. I was sore for a week. It happened that suddenly — no exaggeration.

At first I assumed it was just food poisoning and went on to have an egg sandwich a week later, but the same thing happened. I felt the exact same way, but as soon as I got sick and the food was out of my body, I was fine. (Except for the feeling that I’d almost cracked a rib.)

A week later, I made some delicious cookies, and while at that point I had an inkling it might be the eggs that were making me sick, I thought, Just eating one cookie won’t hurt me. There are only two eggs in this recipe.

Well, my friends — it did hurt me. Very much. And it keeps on hurting, because I can no longer go rogue and buy whatever I want including my favorite baked goods, ice cream, salad dressing — you name it — at the grocery store. I have to check the ingredients on everything. The days of ordering breakfast with my boo at our favorite place are gone. Unless I just want to eat the limp veggies by themselves, which is a hard pass.

We are in the middle of a pandemic, and baked goods and comforting breakfasts (good-bye french toast, pancakes, and all the breads) are out the window. It was one of the things that was keeping me together. 

I was definitely in denial at first. How could I have a food allergy or intolerance at 45 years old after going my whole life without being allergic to a damn thing?

But the truth is, you aren’t always born with a food allergy. They can creep up on you as you age like fine lines, gray pubic hair, and mysterious shoulder pain. Not only do we get to navigate the uncharted map of perimenopause, our bodies will also fuck us up by power-puking out of the blue if we’ve eat something one Sunday that we’ve been eating our whole lives. It’s truly a joy!

According to Harvard Health, only 4% of adults have a food allergy. “Even those who begin life with the most common food allergies — to milk, eggs, wheat, and soy — are likely to outgrow them by the time they enter kindergarten.” Research published in JAMA found that almost half of all adults who had food allergies had at least one allergy develop in adulthood — i.e., adult-onset food allergies.

Some other bad news about late-onset food allergies is that you are likely to have them for the rest of your life.. “A food allergy that first rears its head in adulthood isn’t likely to go away,” Harvard Health explains.

If you eat something you’re allergic to, even if you’ve never had a problem before, your body will let you know, and it’s important to pay attention. As Harvard Health describes it, “You usually know you’re allergic to a food within minutes of eating it. The reaction may range from a mild response — such as itching or swelling around the mouth — to anaphylaxis. But it’s also unpredictable: a person who is allergic to a food may have a mild reaction one time and full-blown anaphylaxis the next.”

But why does this happen later in life? 

Carolina Hormone And Health reports that for women, an increase in allergy symptoms might be related to menopause: “Scientists have known for decades that allergic reactions caused by histamines can change depending on hormone fluctuations caused by a normal menstrual cycle. In other words, the level of histamine – a hormone that is triggered by allergens and binds to receptors that cause symptoms like itching and swelling – in your body is directly related to the amount of estrogen your body is creating.”

So, going through menopause or perimenopause can most definitely have an effect since “your body contains frequently fluctuating levels of estrogen that then lead to spikes in the production of histamine,” explains CHH.

Even if you don’t develop food allergies as you age, you may develop certain intolerances. It’s not fun, and let’s face it, no one wants to have yet another thing taken away from them just because they are reaching middle life. 

However, it’s important to be aware and pay attention to what you’re putting into your body and how it makes you feel. No one wants to be in pain that can be avoided. And please, call your doctor if you are having trouble breathing, breaking out in hives, or violently vomiting on a regular basis. Adult-onset food allergies can be life-threatening if you don’t stay away from whatever it is you are allergic to.

I’m living proof that you can go your whole life eating something a few days a week and develop a violent allergic reaction to it literally overnight. 

While giving up certain food is definitely a pain in the butt, it’s worth it. The sooner you know, the sooner you can avoid the foods giving you problems and find alternatives. 

But damn, I’m going to miss those eggs.