Learning to cope with food allergies

The Sensitive Foodie Kitchen. Pictures by Polina Schapova
The Sensitive Foodie Kitchen. Pictures by Polina Schapova

A Mid Sussex resident and nurse talks to Alex Jenkins about how changing her diet changed her life.

For Karen Lee eating was not a pleasurable experience – in fact it was a very painful one.

The Sensitive Foodie Kitchen. Pictures by Polina Schapova

The Sensitive Foodie Kitchen. Pictures by Polina Schapova

Yet a dramatic change in diet, which saw her shun dairy and yeast and change her diet to be wholefood plant based, completely changed her life.

“I had always grown up with lots of headaches and stomach problems,” explains the ITU nurse. “I grew up taking aspirin and milk of magnesium and I thought it was normal.

“But I started to question it when I had my own children as they did not have headaches.”

Then in 2008 it all came to a head when she became vegetarian, to support her daughter, and her migraines intensified.

“I thought ‘I need to get this sorted out’,” Karen says. “I went down the investigation route and did not get any help from anyone and was told by my GP to take Ibuprofen.

“I was always on a diet because I was always slightly over weight,” she goes to explain.

“I was never skinny, I was always trying every diet out there.

“I had been on Carol Vorderman’s detox diet where I cut out everything except fruit and vegetables, rice and grains.

“I felt so much better so I thought there was something in what I was eating that made me feel bad.”

In the end Karen resorted to paying for a food allergy test at YorkTest Laboratories.

The tests showed her chronic headaches and migraines were triggered by an intolerance to dairy and yeast.

With that knowledge Karen cut out these ingredients, learning new recipes to ensure her meals still remained varied and tasty.

Then two years later Karen faced another big change in her life as her husband got a 
job in India and the family moved there for three years.

“While I was there, I studied nutritional medicine and also met a great woman called Dr Nandita Shah who teaches a course called Peas vs. Pills,” reveals the mother-of-two.

“It is all about using food to help improve health and reverse chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure.”

When the family moved back to the UK and settled in Burgess Hill Karen returned to her day job as an ITU nurse.

However, she also set up The Sensitive Foodie Kitchen, named after a blog she started while in India called The Sensitive Foodie.

The Sensitive Foodie Kitchen is all about eating healthy food that tastes delicious, with Karen giving talks and cooking demonstrations at her home based on eating a wholefood plant based diet.

“So often the concept around diets is about giving up and doing without,” says 46-year-old Karen.

“My way of thinking is to eat more and gain great enjoyment out of it.

“The recipes are packed full of nutrients that our bodies all love and help people to feel great, gain energy and even reverse some underlying chronic health problems.”

It is clear that changing her diet has completely revolutionised Karen’s life.

“I feel great,” Karen agrees. “I have so much more energy and I never have to be on a diet anymore. I lost weight and have not put it back on so I am in my natural form now.

“I used to be a size 12/14 and now I am a size 8/10. People who have known me for the last few years cannot believe I was much bigger.”

The cooking demonstrations at Karen’s home last for four hours and cater for up to five people.

The session includes learning a couple of starters or side dishes, two main meals and a dessert.

During the demonstration Karen will occasionally involve participants in the cooking and she talks through the thinking behind each dish.

The sessions offer people the chance to learn how to work around their food intolerances and helps give them support, hints and tips.

Three hour taster sessions cost £35 per person while the full four hour sessions cost £45.

Karen is also running a one off supperclub on Thursday, June 25.

The evening event will include four courses, costs £22.50 per person and will take place at Jane’s Place, 26 St Leonards Road, Hove.

For the full list of prices and what each option includes, call Karen on 07969 984997 or visit here

This article was taken from the June edition of etc, your free, monthly lifestyle magazine. For one of Karen’s recipes and for more stories like this, visit here