Food allergies and Africa

Sorry this post is late guys I’ve been finding it hard to write this post even though I have been wanting to write it. The problem I’ve been having is trying not to make this post seem like I’m moaning or come across as bitching about my time in Ghana, as I was still lucky enough to go and have an amazing time. However, I have a peanut allergy which meant that to be able to go GHEI put in certain rules that I had to follow to ensure that I did not have a reaction whilst I was out there. Now, this is the most sensible thing that they could have done yet it was also one of the hardest things that I’ve had to go through. The rules that were put in place were:

1. I had to take ALL my own food out with me;
2. I could not eat anything other than want I brought with me;
3. I had to take 3 epi-pens out there.

Some of you maybe wondering why I was going at all if I have a food allergy such as the one to peanuts. Well, this is because my allergy isn’t going to kill me if I’m in the same area/ room as peanuts and neither do traces of peanuts. The traces may make me feel slightly under the whether but a piriton or two and I’m fine. Yet, if I eat a couple of peanuts or more I will go into shock. So I can completely understand why GHEI gave me the restriction that I had; however, seeing as there are things that I can do to ensure that I don’t have a reaction – such as washing fruit before eating it – the restrictions were hard.

A few of my friends, when they found out about the restrictions on my food, asked me how I was going to eat for the time I was out there and if any of you are wondering I will tell you. So my diet consisted of protein shakes; instant noodles and pasta; a couple of the camping ready-made meals; snack bars; and cereal. I was also having vitamin tables for the days I didn’t have a protein shake. After about a week a few of the other girls were wishing that they could eat the food I had whilst I was wishing I could eat the food they had. GHEI does recommend that all their volunteers take snacks out with them to keep them going throughout the day as they only provide lunch and dinner so all the girls did have their own food with them. Yet, they had been put under the restrict of no peanuts as well. This I think was one of the things that bothered me as well as not having ‘real food’. I can understand them not wanting any meals that involved peanuts on the menu as I had to prepare my food in the same kitchen area. However, the diet that the other girls were on did lack protein as one of them was a vegetarian so they were lacking a lot in this source of food for the girls. The reason why it bothered me was that I had said multiple times that I only have a reaction when I EAT peanuts so I felt sorry for them. Plus, all the girls were sharing the food they had brought with them, which I couldn’t do – well not eat what they offered me due to the agreement I had sign to do with the restrictions.

If you are wondering why I said ‘real food’ this is because I tend to make all my main meals from the scratch – even whilst being at uni – so my diet does tend to have a lot of fresh fruit and veg in it. I’m not saying that I’m a super healthy person as I’m not, but not having this type of food in my diet did effect my mood and energy levels a lot. I really wished I had taken a lot of dried fruit out with me – and I would recommend that to anyone going to somewhere like Ghana even if you are having food provided for you. Also, I had only packed enough protein shakes for the days that we were travelling and one other day. This was a BIG MISTAKE. My diet in Ghana basically was all carbs and nothing but carbs. Let’s just say that in my final year as a student I didn’t eat a single pot noodle – not even during the final deadline week and exam periods. Before I left I was wondering how many protein shakes to take with me (I brought the ones in individual packs). I had decided only to have them when I was travelling because they are easy to make anywhere so whilst the others were dining somewhere I could sit and have a drink with them and have had a meal before or after we left. Let in my head even though I was having meal replacement protein shakes, before I left, I had decided this wouldn’t be as good as being able to eat a meal instead of drink. Oh how wrong I was. The days I had protein shakes I was in a better mood and my energy levels were higher just because I had something that wasn’t all carbs in my body. I was allowed to buy drinks so I did along with the other girls go and buy milo – a premixed vitamin drink. So when I was starting to feel rather unwell, mainly in the form of tidiness, I did have something to keep me going. The other girls were having this for similar reasons. A few of them had wished that they had protein shakes with them too. So along with the dried fruit I would recommend taking protein shakes with you.

The times when I had low energy levels and feeling under the whether as my body wasn’t getting all the things it needed did put a downer on my time. By the end of the trip all the other girls couldn’t wait to get home so they could have homely food and to get back to other things they were missing – probably being able to have a lie in. All I wanted was to be able to have some food that wasn’t all carbs. The plane food on my fight home was probably the best plane food I have ever had; however, I remember leaving half of it as it was standard dry plane food. But after having loads of carbs for a month and nothing else the dry chicken in the spice sauce tasted amazing. But apart from the issue with the food I didn’t want to leave I loved my time and wanted to stay longer.

Looking back now even though I know how hard it was and I felt like I was missing out on things, especially on what looked like amazing fruit, I do understand the reasons for such tight restriction. The main one being that we were 3 hours away from a hospital – that why I had to take so many epi-pens. But, it does mean that I can’t go and live out in Ghana or any other part of Africa to work with companies such as GHEI long term – which completely sucks.

Anyway, that’s all for this post. I will try to put the next post up on Wednesday if I have time to write it.

Let me know what you think.

Maria.

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Author: MariaGrace93

Graduate of International Politics enjoys traveling and playing sport namely rugby

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