Friday Feature: The Food Allergy Coach

Meet Kim Hopkins, founder of Food Sensitivity Resources, a website dedicated to helping people live full lives despite having food allergies, intolerance, and sensitivities. Learn about Kim and how she coaches people with food issues through our interview below.

What is your food allergy background?

I thank my nephew. He has autism, and was really the "whistle-blower" in our family regarding food challenges and their effects. It was through my sister's research on his behalf that we all learned about our own food challenges.

I have always suffered from environmental allergies, asthma, and being overweight. At one point, I was prescribed two inhalers, two nasal sprays, two allergy pills, and three weekly allergy shots! As a kid, I can remember leaving school via ambulance several times because I could not breathe. I had chronic sinus infections that would return as soon as my course of antibiotics was finished.

In 2001, I had both a primary care doctor and an allergist. When I told them that I was experiencing scary symptoms after eating, they both said a version of "well, next time you need blood work done, we'll check for food allergies." Not good enough. Needless to say, that's the last time I saw both of them.

I educated myself and did an elimination diet on my own. I found that foods containing gluten were the culprit. This was later confirmed by conclusive testing: Celiac Disease. Once my body began to recover, I no longer needed the inhalers, nasal sprays, allergy shots - I was just using one allergy medication.

Flash forward a few years - I was managing the gluten issue beautifully but began experiencing unpleasant symptoms. My holistic doctor made many suggestions. When nothing improved, she said, "do some research." ...and off I went, determined to get myself well. I discovered information about Candida and the work of Dr. Crook. I literally cried when I read his book because I knew I had found answers - finally! I embarked on another elimination diet and found that I needed to add sugar, cherries, peanuts, and tree nuts to the list of things to avoid. Soon after these discoveries, I kicked my one allergy medication to the curb - 15 years of taking something to help with allergy symptoms and now I needed nothing! It was quite liberating! This began a new chapter of getting educated and adjusting - I have a sneaking suspicion that it won't be my last...

What are you passionate about in the food allergy field?

I am passionate about education and proper diagnoses. I meet many people who are experiencing poor health effects that can likely be traced back to food sensitivities. I want to help spread the word about the symptoms and what to do. I am a big proponent of the elimination diet to help discover hidden food sensitivities because I have seen people recover from complex symptoms by figuring out which foods they need to avoid.

I also want to continue the quest to make this world an easier place for those with food challenges to live a full life. This includes targeting the food service industry, schools, work places, recreational activities, getting involved in advocacy activities to promote and fund name it!

You are certified in the "Practical Application of Food Allergy Guidelines"? Can you tell us more about this certification?

To obtain certification, I completed a course that covered information about food allergies, symptoms, testing, and their relationship to common health conditions. Other topics included dietary restrictions by food allergy type and recommended substitutions, chemicals in food supply that can cause reactions, meal planning guidelines, as well as emergency planning guidelines. I believe that having this foundation of knowledge assists me with my personal coaching and consultation practice.

What else are you working on in the food allergy area?

I have formalized my efforts to assist others coping with food challenges by creating a website, Food Sensitivity Resources. Through FSR, I offer personal coaching for individuals and families, which can include phone calls, face to face meetings, food shopping trips, cooking together, practice with advocating for yourself at restaurants, emotional support...whatever is needed to assist with making necessary dietary adjustments as easy as possible. I also offer consultation to schools and businesses to help them to "get it" so they can better serve the growing population of people with food challenges.

Recently, I began a blog, The Food Allergy Coach, to help pass on up-to-date information in this rapidly changing field, and to share my continued personal journey of discovering food sensitivities and restoring good health.

Ultimately, I would like to replicate what only one other community in the world (in Germany) has done: create an entire community that is allergy-friendly and market this to attract both tourism and new residents.

What are your favorite food allergy friendly food staples?

I would say plain, organic yogurt - I eat it just about every day. I try to be good about always having cut up fresh veggies on hand. I make my own sausage patties, which I devour any time of day. Sweet potatoes in any form - roasted, french fries, chips - so yummy! My #1 favorite treat right now is Luna & Larry's coconut-based ice cream made with agave nectar....YUM! For baking with rice flour, I have found the best brand to be Authentic Foods Brown Rice Four Superfine. It is finely ground, which makes the texture perfectly undetectable as being gluten free.

What are some of your other interests/hobbies?

I love going to the gym, taking walks, riding bikes, and playing tennis. I am a voracious reader. I am fortunate to live near the beach, so I try to get there for some peace and quiet as often as I can. My husband and I are both major foodies - we enjoy cooking, baking, and entertaining friends and family.

Check out Kim's site at Food Sensitivity Resources. Kim also writes a blog as the Food Allergy Coach.

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