July 28, 2016

Living an Active Lifestyle with Food Allergies

By Smitha Arons

My name is Smitha and I have an embarrassingly large amount of allergies.  I am not kidding.  Read my medical chart.  Olive trees, cats, grass – every type, wheat and the one that pains me most – peanuts.  And it’s not like this was an allergy I was diagnosed with my whole life.  Let me tell you about my path to diagnosis.

I was born in India, South India.  That means my primary staple carb was rice.  We had crepes made out of rice, ate breakfast on rice vermicelli and ate rice with our curries for dinner.  The main nut was cashews.  Cashews were used to thicken sauces and were used as snacks.  Even after we moved to the United States, we ate the same way.  Even when I went to college, I was the kid that ordered sandwiches “hold the bread please.”  I was eating sandwiches and hamburgers protein style before low carb was a thing.  I convinced myself I didn’t like peanut butter because I never ate that way.

In fact, until I met my peanut butter and chocolate loving husband, I didn’t even eat a peanut filled candy bar.  I thought peanut butter cups were “gross.”  Snickers Bars?  Forget it!  But he loves those combos.  In fact, one of his favorite snacks is plain peanuts out of a jar!  And slowly but surely, I allowed the peanuts in the house.  We got married, had kids and fed them peanut butter sandwiches.  I still didn’t eat peanuts but I provided them and shopped for them.

Running with SD Mom - Smitha Arons

Move forward to 2013.  I got a wild hair and decided to start running.  First a Couch to 5K.  Then a 10K.  Then a Half Marathon (or 20).  Then a FULL Marathon (or 3).  Now while I was running the Half Marathon and training for them, I could eat a bar or a banana before the race and have plenty of fuel to see me through.  Then I decided to run a full marathon.  However, when running 15-20 mile training runs, a banana before the race won’t do.  So I googled it.  What is the best way?  How do you prep your body for that kind of endurance?  Toast with peanut butter of course!  Perfect mix of carbs and protein. Light but hearty!  So that is what I ate every morning before a long run.  Before a run of anything more than 6+ miles.  

But it was ugly.  I would look 6 months pregnant by the end of the run.  I would have cramping pain that I attributed to the endurance challenge.  I would be out of breath.  In fact, my first marathon was the Phoenix Marathon.  Guess what I ate?  Bagel and nut butter!  Peanut butter!  Any wonder I had an asthma attack at Mile 14?  When I got back to San Diego, I decided to find out what was happening.  I underwent every test you can imagine.  CT scan, MRI, stool samples (gross I know) and allergy testing.  FINALLY!  The answer!  A peanut and wheat allergy!  CRUD!  How does a runner get up and out of bed with out that magic peanut butter?  

Running with SD Mom - Smitha Arons

Another time my friend Kristin came to the rescue.  I noticed she was using this thing called SunButter.  What is SunButter and how could it help me?  So of course I went back to Google.  Turns out it is a nut butter.  But not really.  The best way to describe it is as a seed butter.  Made entirely out of sunflower seeds.  And it is not just for me allergic to peanuts, it is for almost everyone who is allergic to anything.  It is free of Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Milk, Eggs, Wheat, Fish, Shellfish and Soy (free from the top 8 food allergens).  What that means is that I can eat it and LOVE it!  And I love it!  And it has changed my running.  I can now eat a piece of gluten free toast and SunButter and have all the energy I need to power a long run.  I can carry a jar of SunButter with me to out of town races.  It has changed my pre-race strategy for the butter (I meant to type better but I think this is good and perfectly conveys what I want to say).  No more bloat after a race.  No more intense abdominal pain during a race.

I have made a lot of changes in my diet.  But the one thing I NEVER miss anymore is peanut butter.  I made SunButter Cups (recipe coming soon), SunButter Pad Thai, SunButter smoothies and so much more.  It is a perfect replacement.  Don’t call it a substitute.  It is a replacement meaning you aren’t missing anything but allergens by switching.  It is amazing and has the same exact nutrients!

So thank you SunButter for saving my gut!  I have a good feeling about you!  

Smitha Arons, author of the blog, Running with SD Mom, is an active mom who shares her love for running and loving in San Diego, while managing numerous food allergies. Check out her blog for inspiration, recipes, and tips for living with food allergies.

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