Part 2: “Conquering Food Allergies: My Journey to Food Freedom” by Evan Upatham

Welcome back to my blog, where I continue to share my “food freedom” journey! After conquering one nut after another, I faced my toughest challenge yet: peanuts.

Peanuts have always been my biggest nuisance. As an extremely popular ingredient, they were
the culprit behind most of my allergic reactions. Plus, peanuts are what I am most allergic to, as
proven by my off-the-chart allergy levels. In short, it came as no surprise to me when I started
struggling with my peanut dosage.

My first reaction from food dosing at home looked like this. I was relaxing on my bed when
suddenly, I felt an unusual sensation creeping over my skin. At first, I noticed a slight itchiness,
but soon, a rash began to spread across my entire body. I called my parents over, who were able
to give me some medicine to stop the reaction from getting any worse.

The following morning, my family and I phoned the SoCal Food Allergy Institute. They
explained that hiccups resulting from challenge foods were common, but could be overcome
with time. The allergy clinic then asked me questions to find out why my reaction might have
occurred. It was instructed that I avoid doing anything that could raise my heart rate such as
physical activity or hot showers close to peanut dosing. This helped mitigate my reactions for the
time being.

Not everything goes as planned in the allergy program. While Dr. Randhawa and his team are
adept at analyzing patient data, our bodies’ responses are sometimes still variable and hard to
predict (especially mine). As my peanut dosing progressed to higher doses, I started having more
allergic reactions, though fortunately, none of them required the use of an EpiPen. Soon, it was
clear that my treatment plan needed to be changed accordingly.

After another phone call with the allergy institute, I underwent another blood draw to figure out
the next move. Despite my lab results indicating a significant decrease in my peanut levels, they
remained mildly high. I was discouraged by both these and the fact my expected two-year allergy
journey was nearing four. Achieving “food freedom” suddenly appeared distant, and quitting
seemed tempting.

However, I couldn’t shake the reasons that initiated this journey. I couldn’t bear the thought of
returning to square one, especially since I was so close to finishing the program. Plus, the SoCal
Food Allergy Institute assured me that I could reach remission with the help of an adjusted
dosing plan. After realizing the support system I had around me between my family and Dr
Randhawa’s team, I decided I would complete the allergy program, one peanut at a time.

My decision paid off. Over time, my body began to accept the increasing doses, making my
allergic reactions less frequent. Before I knew it, I was on 20 peanuts, then 32 peanuts, then 40. I
also had more blood draws, which showed tremendous progress. It seemed like I finally got over
the hump. The doctors, who were tracking my progress, seemed to think so too. After 2 years of
eating peanuts, they approved my final challenge: 52 peanuts.

In July 2023, I went into the Long Beach Clinic for what was hopefully my last challenge visit. I
did my routine height, weight, and blood pressure check before the doctors came in with a huge
stack of peanut M&Ms. One by one, I ate all 52 peanuts. I remember my stomach feeling like it
was going to burst, but I managed to finish them all. With my belly full, I did the exercise test
and then sat back on the patient’s bed to be monitored. I anxiously awaited a reaction, but none
came. That day, I became 1 of 8,000 to have completed the allergy program! The doctors gave
me the all-clear, and I walked out of the clinic greeted by cheers, a goodie bag, and of course, a
huge packet of Reese’s Pieces.

Now that I’m in remission, I realize how far I’ve come. From being deathly allergic to peanuts to
now eating 52 of them in nuts! Literally. I am extremely grateful for what the allergy program
has done for me. “Food freedom” once seemed like a myth, but it is now my reality. And if I can
do it, anyone can!

Thank you for reading! Until next time.