Finding healthy alternatives when you have food restrictions can be difficult – but one young mum was left at "death's door" due to severe allergies to nearly every food group in existence.
Summer Carroll, 33, from Alabama, United States, has a diet consisting of only five organic foods – black beans, frozen spinach, frozen blueberries, rolled oats and chicken.
All the foods have to also be from a specific brand Greenwise, which is only available in some parts of the US. If she eats anything else, it will trigger a serious allergic reaction, ending up in anaphylaxis.
Summer's horrific health condition is the result of a tiny bug bite. The condition called Alpha-gal syndrome, which is caught from the bite of a tick, makes people allergic to a particular sugar molecule found in most mammals.
The allergy can also spread to dairy, gelatine as well as any products containing traces of animal products like medication. Even the smell of cooking meats can trigger reactions in some people with Alpha-gal.
For Summer, the onset of the condition was gradual. She said: "My body slowly but surely started rejecting foods one at a time, even the organic ones."
She experienced symptoms like gastrointestinal pain and swelling, hives, dizziness, brain fog, heart palpitations and nausea and much more.
She said: "You could kind of relate it to the worst food poisoning you have ever experienced, times ten, and then just add in all the other symptoms."
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Summer also developed another tick-transmitted disease called Rocky Mountain spotted fever as well as mast cell activation syndrome, which is a condition with excessive allergy-like symptoms.
The young mother's body started rejecting not only foods with no mammalian by-products, but also began reacting badly to chemicals, scents, cigarette smoke, and even cooking fumes.
Her symptoms became so bad at one point that she became malnourished and dehydrated. She ended up weighing just over six stone and sleeping only an hour a day due to the pain – with doctors saying she had only months to live.
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She recalled: "I had cut out all items that could cause an Alpha-gal reaction, but I was still experiencing crazy symptoms. I began to lose the ability to move my joints Extreme neuropathy started to set in – a never-ending, unimaginable burning as if my skin were melting off of my body, that began in my feet, working its way up my legs. I lost my ability to walk."
She added that "every moment and every heartbeat was torture." And though she has found five foods she can eat she says she has to "live life as if I'm trapped inside of a bubble."
The foods she is able to eat has to be from a specific brand – as the same foods from other brands still trigger reactions – available only in the south-eastern states.
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This means Summer cannot travel or leave the state. She also can't go out to public places like shopping malls or go out to eat with friends.
Besides these difficulties, the 33-year-old has also been faced with scepticism about her condition, even from doctors.
She said: "This surgeon looked me in the eyes and said, ‘how much of this is even real?’ The surgeon then proceeded to tell me that he felt this was just all in my head," adding "I’ve been told often that I am too pretty to be sick."
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Summer has also been accidentally prescribed medications that contain animal products "several times."
So, she makes it a point to carefully break down every ingredient as animal by-products can be listed under many different names.
Summer who now treats her symptoms with medical cannabis is able to walk again and regained a bit of former strength.
Though she can only eat five specific foods, she is more than happy just to have a full tummy. She says: "I'm beyond grateful every time I can sit down to my meal and for every second that I'm here to see my family grow."
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