June 25, 2011

The Allergy Interviews - Peadar Ó Guilín - Dairy Free

Peadar Ó Guilín
Database Administrator by day, Science-Fiction Writer by night!
On a more realistic note, Peadar works part-time for a large computer company and has published two books, The Inferior (2007) and The Deserter(2011) which have had international success. Peadar is currently working on his third book which will complete the trilogy. When he’s not fixing giant computers or writing he is singing in the kitchen while chopping onions!

What are you allergic/intolerant to?
I am intolerant to all kinds of dairy products.

What are your reactions?
Short-term reactions include indigestion and IBS [Irritable Bowel Syndrome]. In the longer term, I tend to get arthritis, psoriasis and headaches.

How long have you had, or have known about your food allergies/intolerances?
I've been suffering from some of the symptoms for years, but I ignored them. Indigestion is unpleasant, but when you see a million ads for Rennies etc. on TV, the tendency is to think of tummy troubles as a natural part of life that affects everybody sooner or later. However, over years, the indigestion worsened and acquired a few friends along the way. By the time I was in my mid-thirties (early forties now), I was on various medications to control it and suffering attacks of IBS after nearly every meal. Even then, I thought it was all somehow “normal”.
Around the same time, minor aches started affecting my joints. Two years ago, these aches rapidly got worse, to the point where I could barely walk and couldn't even cross my legs. At that point, I became afraid I would soon lose the ability to walk.

How did you discover your sensitivities, or what prompted the diagnosis?
Like a lot of people in my position, I tried to get help from several doctors. I had my blood and my stomach and my colon checked out, but nothing showed up in the tests. It was very frustrating and at no point did anybody suggest to me that it might be something I was eating. So, of course, I turned to the internet, where an army of crackpots is always waiting to fill the medical void with their theories.
In the end, I tried the York Test. It's a blood test that searches for anti-bodes to various food proteins. I wasn't 100% convinced by the science behind it (and still amn't!), but when it came back with dairy as by far and away the worst culprit, I decided to give it three months to see how I got on.
My symptoms didn't clear up immediately, but I kept a thorough diary of everything I ate and how I was feeling from day to day. By the end of the trial period, there had been very noticeable improvements. After six months, my IBS was gone, indigestion was rare – as opposed to a constant companion – and the arthritis had lessened to the point where I could play football again.

Do you find it difficult to stick to your diet? And if so why?
No. My only difficulties occur when I eat out. That was, and continues to be very hard. However, if you're sick enough, you can stay off anything!

What is your favourite food?
Cheese, ice cream, cake :)

What do you miss the most?
See above.

What do your friends and/or family think of your food allergies or how do they deal with them?
Everybody has been very supportive. One of my family members has a lot of the same symptoms I had and has followed me into Undairyville. It worked out really well for her too, I'm happy to say.

Where is your favourite (food allergy friendly) place to eat?
Cornucopia is brilliant[Ed. note: Yes it is!! & it's located on Wicklow St, Dublin 2]. I love it.

Do you or have you ever broken your diet?
I don't break it on purpose, but accidents do happen to people like me who like to eat out.

How does it feel?
It's usually no more serious than a bit of indigestion. As I said before, my short-term symptoms tend to be mild. It's the build-up that I fear and I haven't allowed that to happen again. Yet.

Have you learnt anything about yourself since abstaining from your problem/danger foods?
Just what everybody learns: the things I thought I needed... I really didn't.

If you could give advice to people with food allergies or potential food allergies what would it be?
Learn to enjoy cooking. Play some nice music while you do it. Sing along. Chop some onions.

What is the best source of information and/or help that you have found?
- I enjoy this site, of course! [Ed. note: Thanks!!]I also use the HappyCow website to find vegan restaurants and they have a handy application for android phones that will search near you for safe places to eat.
- The Cornucopia Cookbook is wonderful.
- I also love wandering around the Asia Market in Dublin looking for inspiration. There's always something new – amazing or disgusting, you won't know 'til you've tried it.

Can you share with us one of your worst, best and/or funniest experiences living with food allergies?
I only wish I had a funny story to recount! Mostly, I bore the living daylights out of people whenever talk of eating comes up, or health, or cakes. The foodstuff is bad enough, but it would be a great idea if I also gave up talking about dairy.

Would you like to share a quick and easy food allergy-friendly recipe?!
I have no great recipes of my own, but I love stealing from other people. I make the meal below on a regular basis, these days. It's gorgeous:

If you would like to take part in The Allergy Interviews or The Vegan/Vegetarian/Raw Interviews you can contact me by leaving a comment below or by emailing me at: aurea.conroy@gmail.com
I’d love to hear from you either way! And enjoy the rest of your weekend – come on sun!

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