Hi, I’m Tina Pico, and here’s my story.
I’ve struggled with allergies for as long as I can remember. As a kid, my allergies and asthma kept me from playing in the leaves, running the mile in gym class, enjoying the flowers in springtime, and, overall, living a normal life. I tried all of the allergy medicines, but nothing seemed to help.
In high school, I started noticing an itchy mouth when I ate fresh fruits, and my lips swelled up for the first time. I was told to just avoid fruit. I finally started seeing an allergist and my first full allergy test was in 2012. Not surprisingly, I was allergic to a majority of what was tested, and the only treatment they offered me was years of allergy shots or relocating to a city or within one mile of the ocean (pollen levels are lowest there).
What was surprising, however, was that the test showed a serious peanut allergy. How could that be? I had eaten peanuts and peanut butter and never noticed a mouth reaction. I wrote it off as a false test and continued on in my ways.
The worst of it.
My allergies got worse. My eyes swelled shut after eating raw hummus, and I developed severe eczema on my hands, inner elbows, eyelids, lips, and nipples. I looked awful and I dreaded going to work everyday and interacting with people who I knew were staring at my uncomfortable red, patchy, flaky skin. I went to a dermatologist who prescribed me topical steroids, but offered me no solutions.
Journey to veganism.
In 2014, after being vegetarian for 5 years, I decided to take the plunge into veganism after watching Forks Over Knives on Netflix. I had gone vegan for the planet, but I noticed immediate drastic improvements in my health. The eczema on my face and nipples cleared up, I could eat fresh fruit again with no reaction, my sometimes debilitating acid reflux disappeared, I felt lighter, had more energy. And to think all I had to do was give up dairy and eggs! Why hadn’t my allergist recommended this all along?
I was feeling great! I was working out 5 days a week, hiking (in nature!) every weekend, cooking delicious vegan meals, saving money on food and medical expenses, but there was still one thing bothering me, I couldn’t figure out why I still had eczema on my hands and arms. I decided to find a new allergist in 2016. I got a whole new allergy test done and talked to my allergist about how going vegan had helped me so much. She wasn’t surprised. She said that the 6 most inflammatory foods are wheat, corn, soy, dairy, eggs, and peanuts. Since I had cut out dairy and eggs, my inflammation levels had dropped, so I was able to tolerate things that had previously bothered me, like trees, fresh fruits, and grasses, since my system was no longer over loaded with inflammation. She recommended that I also cut back on wheat, corn, and soy to see even more improvement.
I got the results of my second allergy test back, and this time peanuts and tree nuts showed up as severe food allergies. I decided to take the test results seriously this time. I cut nuts out of my life that same day and haven’t eaten them since. Within a week of giving up tree nuts and peanuts, my eczema completely cleared, and I haven’t had any major flare ups since.
The best of it.
Allergies have always played a large part in my life. Allergies influenced me to go to university for environmental engineering after reading an article about how climate change is associated with increased rates of asthma in children. Allergies influenced me to live and promote a vegan lifestyle after noticing the positive impact the diet had on my health. And allergies influenced me to start this blog in order to help others live a healthy, fulfilling, and allergy-friendly life. Going vegan and avoiding nuts has allowed me to live my best life, and I hope that you can take something away from this site in order to be your best self too.