A grandmother who suffers a rare condition has to play Russian roulette with food – because the wrong choice could KILL her.
Betty Kent, 72, was forced to turn vegetarian and give up her favourite meals after she was diagnosed with salicylate sensitivity.
The condition means the grandmother-of-two is allergic to salicylate which is naturally occurring in many fruit and vegetables as well as in processed meats.
Betty’s allergy even affects what type of make up she can use and there is only one brand of lipstick she does not have a reaction to.
There is no way Betty can have a diet and lifestyle that is completely free of salicylate so she is left trying to keep the levels of the chemical in her body as low as possible.
If the Betty has too much salicylate in her body at any time she risks going into anaphylactic shock – where the air passage becomes restricted.
The mother-of-two says each mealtime has become a game of Russian roulette as she continues to discover which foods she is allergic to.
Betty, who was diagnosed with the allergy 13-years ago, said: “I have to keep my salicylate levels as low as possible. The problem is you never know what level of salicylate you have in your body.
“The next thing I eat could be fairly high in salicylate and it could throw me over the edge and I’d go into anaphylactic shock.
“If I’m not careful, I could die. It’s like playing Russian roulette with food.”
She added: “I used to love Strawberries and I really miss being able to eat them.
“Any berries are a no go for me. Pears and red apples can be safe for me to eat – but I have to peel them.
“I do manage to have a healthy diet as over the years with research and trial and error I have built up a list of safe foods.”
Betty was finally diagnosed in 2000 two years after medics started probing allergic reactions to food and a wasp sting and has since adapted her lifestyle.
She cannot fly or holiday abroad as she needs to be within half-an-hour’s drive of a hospital in case she has an allergic reaction.
She is also allergic to the painkillers aspirin and penicillin and venom from wasp and bee stings as well as many other drugs.
Betty, who lives with her husband Roger, 77, in Heacham, Norfolk, added: “I can’t spontaneously stop for a pub lunch if I fancy it, or have lunch with my friends.
“I do get angry and fed up, but it’s something I’ve learned to live with.”
Salicylates are chemicals found naturally in plants and in many pain relief medication such as aspirin.
Problems with salicylates is not uncommon and salicylates are in most plants. Processed meats are full of additives and they do have a relationship to salicylates. There are different kinds of salicylates and the levels can be different based on whether they are cooked, raw, peeled, etc. Some react to low levels, some high, visa versa.
I wonder if she has contacted the Feingold Association – support group for those (children & adultsl) with sensitities to food dyes, etc. and salicylates. The website is http://www.feingold.org
Other good resources are:
I wonder if Betty has had an aspirin challenge to diagnose if she is truly salicylate sensitive? I was diagnosed by an over zealous consultant at an NHS anaphylaxis clinic and placed on a low salicylate diet for 13 months (unsupervised by a dietician, I might add), and ended up very, very ill. I am still trying to work through the devastation to my heslth, which may now be permanent. The problem has turned out not to be salicylates in foods (it very rarely is), but that I am what is known as a ‘histamine releaser’. This can happen due to high stress levels, hormones, eating too many high histamine foods – tomates, chocolate, drinking coffee etc. My advise is, for heaven’s sake BE CAREFUL and don’t jump into an overly restricted diet or lifestyle. Even Allergy UK do not advise a low salicylate diet, and as in all sensitivities – you should only stick to restrictions for a limited period and then re challenge gradually, aiming to build up a tolerance ( this is NOT the same for true allergies such as those to peanuts and shellfish – these are specific, life threatening allergies to specific foods). I think Betty needs to continue her search for what is causing her to experience anaphylaxis (which I have also suffered from), as salicylates in food rarely cause an immediate anaphylactic reaction (aspirin is different as it doesn’t have the same chemical structure as most naturally occurring salicylates).
Hello Concerned! Thank you for sharing your story. Would you mind sharing how you found out you were a “histamine releaser”? Also, since there is not a particular food you are avoiding, what do you do to avoid allergic reactions? Thank you!