How Chocolate Betrayed Me

So today, I’m going to tell you about the time that one of my favorite things in the world, chocolate, betrayed me. As my luck would have it, a really nice gesture by my boyfriend — sending me flowers and chocolates before finals turned into an impromptu trip to the Engemann Urgent Care Center. You guessed it…we both forgot to check the ingredients on the box and assumed that the other person had done the due diligence. This is something I never pictured myself saying but, half way through the box of chocolates, in a grand Gob Bluth fashion, I had realized I made a HUGE mistake. As much as I wish I could say that my experience is super rare and uncommon, food allergies actually affect as many as 17 million Americans and that number continues to grow.

On the most basic level, a food allergy is a pain in the ass. I constantly need to check food labels to make sure there is no “processing in a factory that contains nuts”, repeatedly need to ask waiters, chefs, bartenders and the like to make sure nothing I order comes anywhere near peanuts and as my parents would say, ALWAYS make sure I have an EpiPen on me. On a more serious level, allergic reactions are a life threatening pain in the ass that supposedly get worse with each encounter and can be ridiculously painful. After you’ve suffered a couple reactions, you begin to wonder if there’s any way to make it stop. According to new innovations in science and technology, there actually might be a way to fight back against whatever bad luck someone might have had at birth when it comes to peanuts, shellfish, or dairy.

When you think about how to treat food allergies the last thing that probably comes to mind is directly exposing someone to the allergen that could potentially be fatal but Dr. Kari Nadeau, associate professor of allergies and immunology at Stanford University School of Medicine, begs to differ. Many doctors and allergists alike believe that “oral immunotherapy” might be the key to making food allergies a little bit less lethal and a little bit more bearable. In her studies at Stanford, Dr. Nadeau “developed a special oral immunotherapy treatment to eradicate reactions like anaphylaxis in allergic patients”. One study found in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology believes that gradually giving patients increasing doses of a liquid containing peanut powder could help an individual build up a tolerance. While the jury is still out on whether or not these “desensitization” techniques actually offer life-long results, many people who suffer from these allergies think that under medical supervision, these trials are worth a shot.

For me, when I weigh my options of looking like a total nutcase (pun intended) badgering everyone about the contents of a given menu item or potentially becoming resistant to peanuts, I would choose to roll the dice and jump at this opportunity because it’s a hell of a lot better than the alternative.