Meet the young woman who is allergic to ALL food – and even the smell of her favourite dinner can knock her unconscious.
Lauren Wittering, 20, used to love going out for meals and drinks with her pals, eating out at carveries and going for fish and chips with her family.
But four years ago she started to come out in hives, faint or get a racing heart rate when she ate soy or dairy.
Virtually overnight, her reactions intensified and now she is allergic to ALL foods – as well as alcohol, smoke and perfume.
She’s even allergic to alcohol hand sanitiser – making the pandemic a tricky time – so when people simply open a tube next to her, she struggles to breathe and can collapse.
Her allergy – caused by a condition called mast cell activation syndrome – means she has to wear a mask whenever she goes out the house, to stop her smelling anything.
Desperate Lauren has lost a staggering FIVE stone in two years, plummeting to a tiny size six and weighing just six and a half stone.
She recently even developed an allergy to the feeding tube which went into her stomach – so now she’s fed through a tube that goes into her heart.
Lauren, from Kettering, Northamptonshire, said: “I loved food so much and now I can’t even be near it – just the smell of food will send me into anaphylaxis.
“If I come into contact with something I am allergic to, hives will quickly appear and cover my entire body.
“My breathing will deteriorate, I will fall unconscious, my stats will start to drop, my heart rate will go really high and I can have full on anaphylaxis where I need adrenaline.
“I haven’t eaten food in over a year, I lost five stone in the past two years and suffered from malnutrition.
“I used to love roast dinners with loads of Yorkshire puddings – I just loved food and you don’t realise how much food is part of your social life until you can’t eat.”
Lauren started to show symptoms of MCAS during her A levels after she came out in hives when coming into contact with alcohol based solutions in school chemistry classes.
Despite frequent visits to the nurse and fainting in exams, Lauren achieved three A*s in her first year before she was forced to leave the school due to her health.
She was admitted into hospital for six months where she was finally diagnosed with MCAS and found she was suffering allergic reactions to alcohol, smoke, perfume and most foods.
After being diagnosed, Lauren’s family even realised she had become allergic to the fur of her pet dog, Hallie, and after nine years together, they had to send the dog away to live with her father in Spain.
Mast cell activation syndrome is a condition where a patient’s mast cells are overly triggered by unusual substances, resulting in allergic reactions and anaphylaxis.
Lauren said: “If someone were to pump alcohol gel across the corridor from me and I would breathe in the smell, I would go into anaphylaxis.
“The first food things were anything with soy in it – soy was the major thing – and then we started to realise dairy affected me too and then I lost more and more foods.
“For about a year, I had five foods I could eat – chicken, rice, potato, carrots and broccoli.
“I just rotated those foods round and round with no reactions but then pretty much overnight, I became anaphylactic to all those foods so I couldn’t eat anything.”
After becoming allergic to all food, Lauren was admitted into hospital again and stayed there for two months with a feeding tube that went into her intestines.
Despite being given the most hypoallergenic feeding tube available, Lauren has now even become allergic to that after using it for the past year.
She now survives on an intravenous central line where all of the nutrients she needs to live goes directly into the main vessel of her heart.
She has a special allergy mask that filters out allergens to allow her to go out in public, but still experiences issues if a smell is particularly strong.
She said: “Just before lockdown, my mum and I went to an outdoor shopping village.
“We’d had a great day, it was all fine and then in the last shop, a woman just opened a hand sanitiser next to me and I immediately had anaphylaxis.
“You can’t predict what is going to happen or how people are going to react but I still go out because you still have to be able to live a life around the condition.”
As well as MCAS, Lauren also suffers from a connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome as well as Postural tachycardia syndrome.
Incredibly, she has kept a positive attitude and hopes to return to education with dreams of becoming a dietitian after being inspired by those who have helped her.
She said: “When it started, it was really scary, but I think I’m just used to it now.
“I’m awaiting a trial of a miracle drug that has just come over from America. I’m hoping that that drug might maybe one day help me get some food back as I loved food.
“It’s amazing that my feeding tube exists because it literally is my life line now.
“Since I’ve been unwell, I’ve become really interested in diatetics. I find it so amazing that you can be fed through your veins and that can keep you alive.
“I’ve got really interested in that and like my mum said, if I was able to do it, I’d have the empathy for other people as well as I’ve been through it myself.”