Part 1: “Conquering Food Allergies: My Journey to Food Freedom” by Evan Upatham

Read the first part of the inspiring journey of Evan Upatham, a high school senior from San Diego, who remarkably overcame his severe nut allergies. Evan’s story is a testament to resilience, perseverance, and the transformative power of medical innovation with the Tolerance Induction Program™ (TIP) at Food Allergy Institute (FAI.)

Hi and welcome to the start of my blog! I’m Evan, a current high school senior from San Diego. More importantly, I am thrilled to announce that I’ve recently entered remission! Before I joined the Tolerance Induction Program (TIP), I was severely allergic to all nuts, particularly peanuts. I remember what life was like back then: a culinary minefield. I was always scrutinizing food labels and asking about ingredients. But despite my best efforts, those pesky nuts somehow managed to find their way into my body.

If you’ve ever experienced an allergic reaction, you know the misery that unfolds: the suffocating tightness in your throat, infuriating itch in your mouth, hives everywhere, and other horrible things I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. And with each passing second, my parents were swallowed by anxiety and helplessness, fearing I would slip into anaphylactic shock. My unpredictable reactions ruined what should have been fun moments, like movie nights, family vacations, sleepovers, and more. In short, living with my allergy was far from fun.

Taking measures to avoid these scary allergic episodes was just as agonizing. Sitting alone at the peanut-free table, bringing my own cake to birthdays, and carrying my Epipen everywhere were all too common. And say goodbye to classic treats like PB&J’s or Reeses Pieces – those were nothing more than far-fetched dreams. Between having reactions and trying to avoid them, orienting my life around my nut allergy was a constant physical and emotional battle.

I thought I was going to suffer from my allergy for the rest of my life until I learned about the Food Allergy Institute. I must admit, I was skeptical. I couldn’t fathom how I could go from a deathly allergy to full tolerance. Nevertheless, in 2019, my family and I decided to take a leap of faith and joined the Tolerance Induction Program (TIP).

During my first visit to the Long Beach clinic, I had a blood draw to measure my IgE levels and see how allergic I was to certain foods. I was shocked to discover how high they were, especially for peanuts, which were literally off the charts. However, the doctors still promised me that I could overcome my allergy, and I trusted their word for it.

My first challenge food caught me off guard—a bowl of 64 chickpeas, to which I was barely allergic. How could this possibly help with my nut allergy? As it turns out, chickpeas and peanuts are part of the same “food family” known as legumes. The brilliance lay in gradually introducing my body to chickpeas, familiarizing my immune system with peanut proteins without triggering an allergic reaction. This same concept extends to other common food allergies like soy, milk, eggs, shellfish, gluten, and the list goes on.

  1. The doctors analyze your lab results to create a dosing plan.
  2. Begin by consuming a measured amount of the allergenic food.
  3. Gradually increase the consumed amount, steadily building tolerance.
  4. After consuming a specific amount for a certain period, return to the allergy clinic
    for a “challenge visit.”
  5. Under the doctor’s supervision, eat a higher amount (challenge dose) of the
    allergenic food.
  6. Following consumption, undergo an exercise test to raise your heart rate.
  7. Wait to see if an allergic reaction occurs. If not, congratulations—you’ve
    successfully built tolerance!

Using this formula, I’ve conquered pine nuts, Brazil nuts, macadamias, pecans, hazelnuts,
almonds, pistachios, walnuts, and cashews over the course of two years. That’s a remarkable
array of foods I was once allergic to and no longer have to worry about. Even more inspiring is
the fact that I’ve met fellow patients who’ve triumphed even more food allergies! Just when I
thought I was on the brink of “food freedom,” I encountered a roadblock on my final challenge
food: peanuts…

Read Part 2