column logo Alithea Athans

When I was diagnosed with cold agglutinin disease (CAD), I was unaware of the role allergies could play in managing my rare disease. CAD is a rare form of autoimmune hemolytic anemia. The cold is what kicks off the compliment pathway and causes my immune system to attack and prematurely destroy my red blood cells.

I do all I can to avoid the cold while also aiding my autoimmune system by eating well. At my last primary care appointment, it was discovered that I have vitamin D deficiency. It makes perfect sense as I avoid the outdoors for half of the year, as it is just not warm enough in the Northeast.

As I work hard to eat healthily and try to keep inflammation under control, I decided that Jell-O was a great idea. Gelatin is a simple way to protect cells in my body and can support the health of my digestive system, bones, skin, and joints, and it has calcium.

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That was a big mistake. I keep forgetting that my body has changed. Things that have never been an issue have now become an issue. The problem is unless I go to an allergist I am at the mercy of trial and error.

Read about HCP resources for CAD

After eating Jell-O, I had an allergic reaction within 30 minutes. I became very itchy, my head hurt, and I started to feel weak and unwell. I was shocked and thought maybe it was the red dye in it. Fast forward 2 weeks, I found out about the vitamin D deficiency. I bought the lowest dosage just to make sure I wouldn’t feel sick, as some vitamins have bothered me in the past. I had the same exact symptoms as I did with the Jell-O but worse.

I met with my hematologist and we agreed that I must have an allergy to gelatin. What I didn’t realize is they do sell vitamin D in regular tablet form, and it should be safe to take that.

These occurrences left me with a lot of questions. Why do I suddenly have so many allergy issues? Can it just be age? Hormonal changes? Or does it have something to do with my CAD?

There are many studies done on allergies and autoimmune diseases. Most speak to how autoimmune disease can mistakenly attack your tissues. When allergies enter the picture, your body goes on the offense, flagging everyday common things like gelatin, peanuts, pollen, etc. as dangerous. Of course, both stem from the immune system.

In my research, I didn’t find any connection that had a direct correlation between CAD and allergies other than they are similar responses by your immune system. However, I did find that people with vitamin D deficiency have an increased risk of asthma and allergy symptoms.