A WOMAN who is allergic to almost everything and can only eat five foods says it takes her just three minutes to shop.
She found that she was eliminating food products her diet was the only thing that helped her suffering from childhood.
Now, Jenna can only eat turkey, mahi-mahi, cucumber, green beans, and squash, as well as olive oil, lime, and glucose.
She was officially diagnosed with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS) in March 2021 after seeing a specialist who ran a series of blood and urine tests.
Mast cells play a key role in the immune system, responsible for releasing mediators that cause allergy symptoms.
Jenna said, “With MCAS, mast cells release mediators in response to things that are normally harmless. It’s rare, but more common than people think.
“However, it affects people in different ways, so the treatment is very different for everyone. My restricted diet is the result of years of tracking my symptoms and working out what makes me feel better.”
Finally getting a diagnosis, she says it’s “liberating” because she can now name the issues that have affected her for years.
Not knowing what was causing her problems, she said she felt frustrated and was struggling to stay positive.
Jenna added: “I was always a troubled kid and it always sounded like an excuse. Eventually I just stopped telling people that something was wrong.
“My parents knew about my struggle but they didn’t know all the details – when they found out when I was diagnosed it shocked them. I’m very lucky that my family supports me and helps me get the support I need.”
3 MINUTES GROCERY STORE
While she described grocery shopping as a “mixed-up experience” and often gets frustrated that she still can’t find anything new to try, Jenna added that it means her trip to the store only takes about three minutes, making it very convenient.
Although she can’t eat it, Jenna keeps a cupboard full of snacks for her friends to eat when they come over, including candy, popcorn, chips, dips and condiments.
Her condition also means she can’t eat out.
Jenna said, “Over the years, I’ve become much more used to how I need to eat. Eating is social, so I often feel left out when I can’t eat with my friends, but I’ve found my own ways to be included, whether that’s bringing my own food or eating before going out.’
Jenna’s long-term goal is to stabilize her mast cells with medication so she can expand her diet, but in the meantime she will continue to follow a restricted diet and work with her doctors to minimize symptoms and reduce the impact of MCAS on her life.
Jenna is a full-time student at USC studying art, technology and business innovation and is passionate about healthcare innovation.
SHARE YOUR LIFE ON SOCIAL MEDIA
She shares her health further social networks sites TikTok, Instagram and YouTube @jennaxhealth and hopes that sharing her story will help raise awareness of people living with issues you may not see or hear.
Jenna said, “Diet is only part of it health and health is subjective. I want to be able to make other people feel validated. There is so much written about health on the internet, but what is good for one person is not always good for another.
“Having a chronic condition doesn’t always mean you have a medical device or life-threatening allergic reactions; people have invisible illnesses that you wouldn’t know about from an outside perspective. Those who face these challenges can still live a normal life – there are just extra things they need to consider when traveling or even leaving the house.
“It’s about living life to the fullest within the parameters of your health. I’m just trying to find out what healthy means to me.”
Formerly a gymnast Natasha Coateswho also suffers from MCAS, revealed that she has allergic reactions to her own tears, hair growth, weather changes, food and digestion.
As the hair grows, painful blisters and burns appear on the scalp.
When she cries, the tears cause a red rash on her face, and some foods can be good one day and almost kill her the next.