“First we eat, then we do everything else.”
Eating disorder recovery can be challenging and the added stress of managing allergies and intolerances can make it even more difficult. When someone has a food allergy or intolerance, their relationship with food is inevitably disrupted. Food freedom, a concept the eating disorder community promotes, may seem impossible to achieve if you have a food allergy or intolerance.
To start, it may be helpful to review the difference between an allergy and an intolerance. An allergy is an immune system response, while an intolerance is a digestive response. The most common food allergies are peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, milk, eggs, soy, and wheat. Common food intolerances include dairy (lactose) and gluten. Symptoms of a food allergy may include rash, hives, shortness of breath, chest pain, and anaphylaxis. Symptoms of food intolerance include nausea, stomach pain, gas, cramps, bloating, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Pro-tip: the best treatment for those with lactose intolerance is to take Lactaid before meals. However, if you have a milk allergy you should avoid dairy altogether!
To confuse matters more, stress (especially digestive stress such as those that individuals with eating disorders encounter) exacerbates these symptoms even more. GI distress is common as your body is healing from an eating disorder.
Sometimes, claiming an undiagnosed food allergy or intolerance is a way to justify restrictive food behaviors.
While it is understandable to believe that you are allergic or intolerant to a specific food after experiencing adverse GI effects, the issue often stems from other sources than the actual food. For example, a bodies lack of exposure to that food, the overall stress on the body or the decreased production of necessary enzymes may create symptoms that mimic food intolerance.
Many times, the best course of action may be continued exposure (as uncomfortable as it may be) and find other ways to decrease overall stress on the body. Supplements may help ease discomfort as well as finding ways to lower stress in your body like breathing practices or yoga.
Be sure to think deeply about your intentions for avoiding certain food groups to assure they are coming from a healthy place and not your ED. In general, it is recommended that those in ED recovery not avoid any food groups unless absolutely necessary, as this may exacerbate the eating disorder.
If you suspect you have an allergy or intolerance it is best to get tested as soon as possible. If tests indicate you are allergic or intolerant of a certain food group, you should work with your individual RD to assure that you find adequate substitutes for those foods to make up for any nutrients that may be lost. There are plenty of options for those with special dietary needs. Being aware of them is the best way to assure your nutritional needs are safely met, and can make navigating ED recovery much easier. Below you can find a list of my favorite alternative brands as well as a simple and delicious gluten-free, dairy-free pasta recipe.
Bread: Udi’s, Canyon Bakehouse, Glutino, Schar, Katz
Pasta: Banza, Ancient Harvest, La Veneziane, Jovial, Barilla
Cereals: Honey Bunches of Oats, Rice Krispies, Vans, Honey Nut Cheerios
Granola: Purely Elizabeth, KIND, Udi’s
Crackers: Mary’s, Simple Mills, Glutino, Blue Diamond
Cookies: Tate’s, Simple Mills, Glutino, Schar
Milk: Almond Breeze, Silk, Oatlay, Ripple
Yogurt: Kite Hill, Forager, So Delicious, Daiya
Cheese: Daiya, Miyokos, Kite Hill, Follow Your Heart
Butter: Earth Balance, Miyokos
Meat: Morningstar, Quorn, Boca, Field Roast, Gardein, Beyond Meat
Eggs: Follow Your Heart, Just Egg
Luna Bars (only the S’more and Lemon Zest flavors!)
Clif Bar Crunch (only the Chocolate Chip flavor!)
KIND Breakfast Bars (only the Honey Oat flavor!)
Don’t Go Nuts
Rotini Pesto with Tomatoes (gluten-free and dairy-free)
Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 15 min
o One box of Banza rotini
o One 8 oz. tub of Trader Joe’s Vegan Kale Cashew Pesto
o Cherry tomatoes (about 10-15)
Bring roughly 8 cups of salted water to a rolling boil.
Add the full box of Banza, stir immediately.
Cook to desired firmness (about 6-8 minutes) stirring occasionally.
While the pasta is cooking, wash and cut the cherry tomatoes into halves.
Strain and rinse the pasta.
Stir in the full tub of pesto sauce and toss in cherry tomatoes. Serve warm.