She will have suffered for many months before words are put to her ailments. At 20, Jenna Gestetner, a student from Los Angeles, USA, learned that she had an immune disease in March 2021.

Unfortunately for the young woman, her new condition is accompanied by multiple restrictions, including food. Now she can only eat eight specific foods and drink glucose water.

A rare syndrome

Her first pains, Jenna felt them when she was a child. “I was always the little girl who had problems and it always felt like an excuse,” she commented in the Daily Mail. “Eventually I just stopped telling people something was wrong,” she added. It will take until March 2021 for Jenna’s illness to be diagnosed. The young woman has mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS).

Various and severe ailments

Triggered by mast cells in the body, a type of white blood cell found everywhere including the skin, lungs, intestines and near blood vessels, MCAS prompts cells to attack even harmless substances. Everything is thus considered as toxins. This disease causing stomach cramps, bloating and nausea after eating, can also trigger hives, low blood pressure, breathing difficulties or severe diarrhea after exposure to an allergen.

A shocking diagnosis

To counter the ailments of MCAS, antihistamines and aspirin are usually recommended. However, doctors then work with patients to determine what is causing these types of allergic symptoms. Of unknown cause, MCAS may be related to another disease or an obvious cause. “My parents were aware of my difficulties but they didn’t know all the details” indicated Jenna. “When they found out about the diagnosis, it shocked them,” she added.

Eight Foods Only

Fortunately, Jenna can count on the support of her family and friends, for whom she keeps a cupboard full of snacks such as candy, crisps, sauces, or popcorn. Indeed, the young woman is now limited to glucose water and eight foods: turkey, fish, zucchini, cucumber, green beans, olive oil, salt and lime. Disappointed at not being able to go to a restaurant with friends, Jenna has to eat six times a day to make sure she gets enough nutrients.

socially excluded

“Over the years, I’ve gotten much more used to the way I have to eat. Food is social so I often feel left out,” she lamented. “I can’t eat with my friends but I have found my own ways to be included, whether by bringing my own food or eating before going out,” she slipped. Now Jenna is trying to stabilize her illness with medication so she can enjoy more food. “Having a chronic disease doesn’t always mean you have a medical device or life-threatening allergic reactions,” she commented. “People have invisible illnesses that you wouldn’t be aware of from an outside perspective,” she concluded.

Allergic to almost everything she can only eat eight foods


Maria T.
Maria T.

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