Reducing Food Allergy Related Anxiety
As a Registered Dietitian with food allergies myself, I often find that the anxiety around food
that typically accompanies food allergies is often times overlooked. Because so many people
seem to have food allergies, there is a general sense of ambivalence that can come from the
general public, friends, and even extended family members since they do not witness the dayto-day struggles of someone with food allergies, and may have never actually witnessed an adverse reaction.
Unfortunately, studies have shown that there is an enormous amount of stress and anxiety that
is put both on the individual with the food allergy and the family around them. In fact, one study
showed that children living with a peanut allergy, when compared to children with Type 1
Diabetes had a lower quality of life. The study found that while both sets of children needed to
be cautious about what they ate, the children with peanut allergies feared an adverse event and
had more anxiety around day-to-day eating, especially when meals were taking place away from
This makes it easy for people with food allergies to want to control every part of the
environment they are eating in. But, because food is absolutely everywhere, it can feel as
though maintaining this control and a safe environment is nearly impossible. Unfortunately, part
of that desire to control every food related encounter is part of the problem when it comes to
food allergy related anxiety, and most of the time does more harm than good.
So what can be done to help reduce stress and anxiety associated with food allergies?
• Educate Yourself and Others: Know what you or your child’s allergens are, what
common forms they can hide in, and the most common risks for cross-contamination is
a great place to start. Once you feel comfortable with this information compile it into an
easy to read document that you can give to friends and family members to have on
hand. This will help you feel more comfortable around food when friends/family
members are cooking, and if you are a parents of a child with food allergies, it will help
you feel more confident in your child’s safety when they are under someone else’s
• Use Stress Reduction Techniques: Use techniques like mindful breathing, and problem
solving to help reduce your stress/anxiety in the moment when it arises. Simply taking
three deep, slow breathes can help calm your mind, while focusing on all the things you
do have within your control can help you feel safer and more relaxed.
• Maintain A Positive Attitude: Thinking negatively and feeling sorry for yourself (or your
child) really is not going to help anyone. Instead focus on all the wonderful foods that
you/your child can eat safely. Remember that food allergies thankfully can be managed,
and that people are capable of living incredibly normal, healthy, happy lives everyday
while living with food allergies.
• Have An Emergency Plan: To reduce anxiety around an adverse exposure it is important
to focus on what you can control, and come up with an emergency plan. Think through
what would happen if you or your child were to be exposed to a food allergen. What are
the steps that you would follow? What steps can you write down for friends/family
members/teachers to follow? When you begin to feel stressed or anxious work through
your plan and focus on everything that you have within your control. This emergency
plan is there to help keep you or your child safe if ever exposed to a food allergen.
Knowing it well can help reduce any anxiety about not being able to handle the situation
if it arose.
While food allergies may not be the most fun thing in the world to have to manage, it is
important to remember that they are manageable, and so is your (or your child’s anxiety). By
starting with these four steps you will quickly be on your way to living a less anxious life around
food, and feeling more confident in your ability to manage you or your child’s food allergies