Woman with rare syndrome is allergic to everything but these four foods

Amy Francis-Smith had allergies so severe she could only eat four foods. (SWNS)
Amy Francis-Smith had allergies so severe she could only eat four foods. (SWNS)

A woman was diagnosed with a rare condition that left her allergic to all foods bar four.

Amy Francis-Smith, now 32, began experiencing severe and unexpected allergic reactions to food and other everyday items in 2015.

She first realised something was wrong when she started reacting every time she ate lemon or peanuts. However, it was when she had some tomatoes that she went into anaphylactic shock.

This quickly led to more severe reactions, and at one point she suffered from reactions 50 days in a row.

Eventually, she could only stomach four foods — beef, pears, courgettes and rice — which left her ‘malnourished’ with her ‘ribs sticking out’.

"I had malnutrition as I was only able to eat beef, pears, courgette and rice for at least six months," Francis-Smith, senior architect and inclusive design specialist, from Leicester, explains.

"It ended up being a gamble every time I ate anything. It was very much a case of finding out what I could and couldn't eat. It was the start of a very terrifying few years."

Amy was diagnosed with mast cell activation syndrome in 2017. (SWNS)
Amy was diagnosed with mast cell activation syndrome in 2017. (SWNS)

Along with food, Francis-Smith also discovered that she was "allergic" to everyday items such as carbonated water, public transport, air fresheners, and even hot and cold weather.

"If something had such a strong fragrance and someone sprayed it, I couldn't be in the house that day," she adds. "I had to wear face masks before Covid made them cool."

It wasn’t until two years later, in 2017, that Francis-Smith was diagnosed with mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS), which can cause someone to have severe, repeated allergic reactions.

Francis-Smith was also diagnosed with Crohn's disease and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, the latter of which is a group of hereditary disorders that affect the connective tissues of the body.

"I was referred to allergy clinics but I was being told that I wasn't allergic and I was making it up," she explains.

"A&E staff thought I might be poisoning myself on purpose or having a mental health crisis. But if I ate something, I'd end up in hospital, so it was real. When you finally get that diagnosis it's weirdly a big relief that you weren't going insane.

"Mast cells are all over your body – for whatever reason mine had become activated. They release chemicals which cause swelling, rashes and breathing issues. It meant that it affected every single organ.

"My liver wasn't working - my spleen, my bladder was screwed. I had heart issues, my hair was falling out, my teeth were eroding quicker than they should have been. My feet and hands had neuropathy."

Slowly, after her diagnosis and a lot of trial and error, Francis-Smith was able to re-introduce more food into her diet.

Amy has slowly reintroduced foods and works as an architect. (SWNS)
Amy has slowly reintroduced foods and works as an architect. (SWNS)

"I was supported by my parents and my partner,” she says. "It spared me time to research, listen to podcasts, read books, blogs and search for different types of supplements or treatments.

"It's meant that through a lot of experimentation, trialling nutrition, stress reduction and reducing inflammation, I was eventually able to complete my masters in architecture and have a bit of money coming in.

"I'm gradually adding in more foods and gaining more strength. I've never been better. I don't think I've ever had this level of health in my life before."

It is currently unknown how many people in the UK are affected by MCAS as there is not enough data on the condition and it is a difficult condition to diagnose.

MCAS is thought to be caused by an episodic release of inflammatory mediators from the body's mast cells, or following recurrent episodes of anaphylaxis.

Additional reporting by SWNS.

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