Updated: Oct 13, 2020
Anywhere you look you’ll likely see something that has to do with water, a substance that is supposed to be one of the defining factors of life. For me, however, all water does is make my life much more difficult if not completely unbearable at times.
There are so many foods I cannot eat, however I have zero food allergies. That’s not a typo, I technically have no food allergies or intolerances. I’ve gone through the bloodwork and had doctors double and triple check my test results, but on paper… I am not genetically allergic to any foods.
So how can I present physical reactions to eating certain foods but also not show any allergies to those same foods in my bloodwork and extensive allergy tests? It’s all thanks to a rare condition called Aquagenic Urticaria—in simple terms it means water allergy. This condition makes me allergic to water, sweat, saliva and tears.
On top of Aquagenic Urticaria already being an extremely rare condition, I have one of the rarest forms of it too! Most people with this condition only have external symptoms, meaning they can’t easily shower or be in the rain, but they can drink as much water as they want to! I am not most people. I have this condition both externally and internally. I cannot drink a tall glass of water, enjoy a big salad, or eat juicy watermelon on a hot summer day. Now this is where my “food allergies” come into play.
I have incredibly vivid memories of when I was a child (I am now 22) where I would begrudgingly eat my vegetables at dinner, forcefully shove mouthfuls of a salad down my throat, and choke down glasses of water even though my stomach felt like it was going to explode. You may ask why would I put myself through something like that? Well because before my family and I were aware I had an actual medical problem, I thought this was all super normal, so I didn’t tell anyone about the physical pain I was in.
I would think to myself, “all kids hate vegetables!” and “people say water keeps you from overeating, it’s probably because after you drink it your stomach hurts too much to eat!” It all made sense to my young, growing brain. Once I was 10 years old and diagnosed with Aquagenic Urticaria, we still thought this was only an external problem! I could happily skip showers, but I would still eat an apple and not question why my gums were bleeding or why my stomach was cramping in pain. Again, my young brain just assumed this is how it felt for everyone and maybe this was why I saw children characteristically not liking fruits and vegetables in tv shows and movies!
Now in my twenties I finally understand what’s going on with my body. I avoid high water content foods, and only drink whole milk to stay hydrated; I make sure that if I want to eat some fruit one day, I have to buffer my stomach with carbs and proteins first (although it still hurts a bit); I take a handful of medications every day to help reduce the pain; and the best part of all, I have found a community to share my experiences with on my Instagram account @livingwaterless.
My symptoms have finally all been heard, explained and validated, and now I adjust my diet around my allergies… except I can’t resist eating a box of strawberries from time to time!