The Real Food Guide

Living with food restrictions from a teen’s perspective

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Living with Food Restrictions from a Teen's PerspectiveEditor’s Note: Please welcome Erica Brahan of Edible Attitudes. I’ve written in the past about food intolerance symptoms and how the source of symptoms can be lessened with an elimination diet. It’s one thing to see the symptoms listed, and it’s another thing to read how they impact an individual – especially a growing, active teenager. If your child is experiencing food sensitivities or food allergies and feel alone in their need to eat a restrictive diet, I encourage you to pick up a copy of Erica’s book (now in it’s second edition), “A Teenager’s Perspective on Food Restrictions: A Practical Guide to Keep You from Going Crazy“. Hopefully, Erica’s story will inspire you or your child to take an active role in healing and thriving with food restrictions.

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Three years ago I had developed tendonitis in both knees and elbows, multiple fingers, left wrist, and right bicep. My forearms burned from what felt like constant sore muscles; my fingers felt stiff and hurt to bend. I couldn’t lift my arm to my shoulder without a deep stabbing pain. I cried after climbing two flights of stairs. Everyday was painful and playing sports only made it worse. I was 15 years old.

Later that year, my mom offered to take me to her functional medicine doctor. I was instructed to remove gluten, dairy, corn, soy, sugar, and MSG from my already moderately healthy diet. The adjustment was difficult on me personally because I felt alone and it was hard to explain to others why I was doing this but I was desperate for a turnaround. That turnaround wouldn’t come for almost another two years though.

If I were to say that this journey was easy and that making adjustments to my diet wasn’t a big deal then I would be lying. Big time. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t fun. But I’d do it again.

Although I struggled, especially through the first year and a half, I learned to thrive and not just survive with my “limited” diet.

My life was slowing down right in front of me. I traded in running for physical therapy. Being a softball catcher was both my favorite activity and the most painful one for my body. I honestly thought my body would fall apart by the end of my high school career and there was no way I would be able to play in college. My dreams of traveling the world were slipping away when I had to will myself to stand back up after bending down to pick something up.

Eating a restrictive diet freed me. Taking responsibility for my health and making the necessary sacrifices completely changed my life. I got my life back and I began to thrive with my food restrictions.

The reality for a child or teenager with food restrictions does contain several struggles and sacrifices but that is not the end of the story. It’s not about surviving food allergies or sensitivities, it about thriving with them. Life doesn’t stop and wait for you. It keeps going and while dealing with food issues may change your lifestyle, they don’t have to stop you from living.

As you going through your journey, you will learn how to cope mentally with your health problems. You will learn how maintain your social life and what does and doesn’t work. You will find friends who although may not understand what you are going through can support you. And besides taking your life back, you will likely learn many lessons about perseverance, discipline, and motivation that you may not have learned without these challenges.

I kept preserving, even when I wanted to quit and just over a year ago I removed salicylates from my diet and only ate 20 foods for four months. After struggling with joint inflammation for five years and making changes to my diet for over a year and a half, the tendonitis disappeared after only three weeks of removing salicylates.

I’m 18 now and three weeks away from graduating high school. I still have other health problems and eat a restrictive diet but I’ve gotten many foods back also. There are times when I still struggle with what I’m going through but I’m not on a crazy rollercoaster anymore. The low points aren’t as long any more and the high points, the good times, last longer. I’ve learned to thrive and not just survive and because of this, I have my life back.

If you are a teenager, or have a teen, dealing with health related food restrictions and are looking for practical advice on topics like how to maintain a social life, go to school, and stay motivated then you should check out my book! I cover all those topics and much, much more in A Teenager’s Perspective on Food Restrictions: A Practical Guide to Keep from Going Crazy.

Not a teen but want to read more of my story? You can also find that in my book!


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Erica Brahan is the blogger behind Edible Attitudes and a high school senior who loves to travel and play softball. She enjoys jamming to the car radio, having movie marathons, and acting crazy with her friends. Erica is very excited for her future and plans on majoring in Intercultural Studies and Spanish in college.

Make sure to check out her Teens With Food Restrictions Facebook Group.

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May 20 |

2 thoughts on “Living with food restrictions from a teen’s perspective

  1. Lois says:

    What finally brought about the turnaround that didn’t come until almost two years later? I ask because my son is experiencing something similar, even after removing all of the offending foods.

    Thank you.

    • Erica Brahan says:

      Hi Lois! Just over a year ago I tried to reintroduce fruits and nuts but I have a big acne flare up and more joint inflammation return. I was then tested for a salicylate (a naturally occurring chemical in food) sensitivity which came back positive. When I had removed all foods with moderate to high levels of salicylates was when I was limited to only 20 foods. What I had done up until that point had helped to heal my digestive system and body but nearly everything I ate contained salicylates. It took two years because we had no idea what those foods were doing to my body. Once I removed those foods, my body finally was able to dump all the salicylates it had stored and my symptoms began clear up. Since then, I have been able to get almost all those foods back also!

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