The Complications of Crohn's Disease and Food Allergies
Last updated: April 2023
I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease (CD) in 2011. I was 21 years old, and before the diagnosis, I was never sick a day in my life. I also never dealt with food allergies or any adverse consequences to a type of food. My relationship with food was always positive; I adored eating, socializing, and savoring the flavors and how food brings cultures together.
Developing food allergies after Crohn's Disease
After my CD diagnosis in 2011, I also developed severe food allergies. Interestingly with time, some of them have let up, and I can tolerate small portions of those foods without a reaction now. But a pesky food allergy that developed and has stayed strong is to wheat. If I ingest wheat or gluten, I experience a terrible reaction that can even last days.
What is causing my symptoms?
It is frustrating that sometimes it is hard to distinguish a Crohn's Disease flare from a food allergy flare. To me, the symptoms are extremely similar, and navigating both conditions can be tricky.
For example, severe Crohn's flares are typically marked by fever, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, mouth sores, joint pain, and eye inflammation - to name a few. And my wheat allergies result in similar symptoms, such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, chills, and sweats. So sometimes, determining the cause of my symptoms can be tricky. Is it Crohn's, or did I accidentally expose myself to wheat?
A frustrating dilemma to manage
I bring up this dilemma in hopes that if you experience a similar situation as mine, you know you aren't alone. If you have a medical condition in addition to your allergies, navigating the 2 can be challenging. Knowing how to treat the symptoms can suddenly become complicated. For example, in my case, I need to contemplate if I should increase the dosage of my medication to manage Crohn's Disease or if I need to focus on what I ate and figure out if I was exposed to wheat. It can be quite intricate to figure out.
Make treating your symptoms a priority
Overall, I think it is essential to understand that sometimes we can't figure it out. I know that might seem pessimistic, but I'm just being honest. When knowing what caused the reaction seems impossible, the best thing to do is to focus on treating the symptoms to feel better in the moment.
Sometimes the clarity comes after the fact, and you can move forward with more wisdom, but it doesn't help to beat yourself up trying to find out the cause sometimes.
Is it allergies or something else?
So my advice would be to focus on healing from the flare by using the tools you know, and then once you feel better, take the time to journal out meals and see if an allergy was at play rather than your medical condition or vice versa.
Do you also experience a medical condition in addition to allergies? Do they share similar symptoms? How do you manage?
How often do you connect with others who have food allergies?