Jessica Gray Schipp was first diagnosed with multiple food allergies in 2010. Having no idea how to start navigating her new life, she created a one-stop resource to help manage the dangerous complications of food allergies.
AllergyBites: What foods are you allergic to?
Jessica Gray Schipp: Gluten, wheat, oats, eggs, corn, soy, shellfish.
AB: Can you describe the first time you truly understood you had food allergies because they impacted your life in a meaningful way?
JGS: Bloomington, Indiana – 11.1.2012: I am either dying of cancer or I have food allergies. My body had stopped working. The doctors didn’t know what to do. They just continued prescribing steroids and antibiotics. It was here that I realized my only choice was to change my food. My life as I had always known it would never be the same. This is what I looked like.
I’d been seeing dermatologists, allergists, gastroenterologists, specialists for everything I could think of, trying to find a reason I was experiencing a plethora of miserable symptoms. During that time, I got several food allergy screenings. I did both blood testing and skin prick testing and the results indicated allergies to everything, including non-food items. Using the results of those screenings, I finally started an oral food challenge (the elimination diet) while living with my mom, who happens to be a Nurse Practitioner.
AB: Why did you choose to do an elimination diet?
JGS: Research shows that there is a very high rate of false positives with the food allergy screenings we have today. The best way to really determine what sits well with your body is through elimination. I know it is hard and something most people want to avoid (I myself avoided it for a couple of years). It took being desperate for an answer and deathly sick to get there, but it changed my life. I started by eliminating the foods that triggered the highest responses.
Many symptoms lifted, but I was still left with hives so I began to dig deeper, removing corn and soy, and the entire top 8. I used a symptom tracker and journaled all my foods, and patterns began to emerge. Eventually, I was able to add most foods back into my diet and it was quickly noticeable if they were problematic. I had so many food allergies that I wanted to have them tattooed on my arm. I mentioned this once to an elderly lady, who turned to me and said, “Oh honey, just get a card.” So, I did.
AB: What are your thoughts on learning about your food allergies later in life?
JSG: While it wasn’t until later in life that I learned so much of my miserable symptoms were related to multiple food allergies, I am actually grateful I got to spend childhood feeling normal around food. As an adult, it has been a big learning curve to understand how much life changes with food allergies.
AB: What’s the #1 tip you’d like to share with other parents trying to keep their little ones safe?
JGS: Help them live normal lives. Learn to make the foods they loved before they were allergic to them. Teach them to enjoy cooking. Give your kids a sense of confidence rather than shame, encouraging them to help others by sharing their stories. Make sure teachers are aware of the allergies and make sure your kids (once old enough) know the severity of them because, in a school setting, even the best teachers can’t keep tabs on all 30 students at all times. Make sure they carry their EpiPen on them, and that their best friends know how to use it.
AB: Any tips for young adults navigating life with food allergies?
JGS: Being different isn’t so bad. It feels like it sometimes but one day it will be what makes you who you are. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for my food allergies. They became a strength. The hard stuff is the good stuff, it helps us grow. Never be ashamed.
AB: What were your biggest challenges as a ‘food-allergic kid’? Now that you’re all grown up, have those challenges evolved?
JGS: I spent much of my childhood with puffy eyes and tissues in my pockets. As a kid, my one confirmed allergy was shellfish. Just having to be conscious of food and what is in it is challenging. It takes extra brain power and an awareness most people don’t understand. I think, now that I am grown up, the challenge is helping others understand what I can eat, and showing them there are options other than a salad. I hate the salad.
AB: How often do you eat out?
JGS: Relatively often, but I do so carefully at places I trust, and I ask lots of questions.
AB: Where are your go-to SAFE eating spots?
AB: Can you tell me why Chipotle makes you feel safe?
JGS: Chipotle uses simple whole-foods based ingredients and they are very open about where they source them from.
AB: Tell me about #AllergicToEverything.
JGS: When I began my journey, there was no go-to, one-stop resource for building a life around multiple food allergies. Instead, there were blogs and books and recipes for singular food allergies or for singular health issues. Mixing and matching and trials and errors became a way of life. The research was unending.
One day, a couple of years ago, my friend Phil came over for dinner and asked about the recipe. Without much thought, I pulled out the notebook I had started keeping. I’d been recreating my favorite foods for about three years at that point. He looked at me and said, “Jess, you should publish this.” Two years later, running with that advice, I am finally doing just that.
#AllergicToEverything® is a cookbook and lifestyle guide for people with food allergies and the people who love them. #AllergicToEverything® was created for people with food allergies, but the book’s benefits extend to everyone! The recipes are whole-foods based and delicious.
#AllergicToEverything® recipes are free from gluten, wheat, corn, oats, eggs, shellfish, sesame, and soy. The recipes are tailored to be flexible, including modifications for a diet and lifestyle free of the top 8 major food allergens identified in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which are responsible for approximately 90% of food allergic reactions. Whether you are allergic to salmon or are a vegetarian, you will find that the recipes are easily adaptable to your dietary restrictions. #AllergicToEverything® also excludes from its recipes chemical additives, food preservatives, and artificial flavors, which for many people are increasingly identified as a problem.
AB: You started a Kickstarter campaign to fund the first print-run of #AllergicToEverything®. What do you hope to achieve in publishing this book?
JGS: I wrote #AllergicToEverything® over the last six years working on recipes in my kitchen. I embarked on my journey as a person with multiple food allergies in the hope that by helping myself, I would one day be able to help others with the same allergy issues.
Simply put, I want to make others’ journeys easier than mine was. No one should have to spend five hours trying to figure out how to make a muffin.
This book honors my grandmother’s teaching legacy and gives me the opportunity to pay it forward for the ever-expanding and often overlooked community of food allergy collectors who don’t have a cooking resource like this one.
The Kickstarter campaign runs through June 17th.
Friendly. Supportive. Encouraging.
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