A woman who suffers from an immunological condition that causes her to suffer hundreds of food allergies can only eat nine things.
Jenna Gestetner has been having reactions to foods that include intense cramping, bloating, nausea and frequent malaise since she was a child.
Over the years, she found eliminating foods from her diet was the only thing that helped.
After years of eliminating allergens, Jenna is now only able eat turkey, mahi mahi, cucumber, green beans, zucchini, olive oil, salt, lime and glucose supplements.
She was officially diagnosed with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS) in March 2021 after travelling across the country to meet with a specialist.
After a series of blood and urine tests, her MCAS was confirmed.
Jenna’s meals are typically spread over six small plates, taken with multiple glucose drinks to ensure she has enough energy and nutrients daily.
Mast cells are a key part of the immune system responsible for releasing the mediators that cause allergy symptoms.
Jenna, from Los Angeles, California, US, said: “With MCAS, mast cells release mediators in response to things that are commonly harmless.
“It is rare, but more common than people think. However, it affects people differently and therefore the treatment is extremely different for everyone.
“My limited diet is a result of years of tracking my symptoms and working out what makes me feel best.”
Having the diagnosis has been “freeing” for Jenna, as she is now able to give a name to issues that have affected her for years.
She recalled feeling frustrated as a child and finding it difficult to stay positive amidst her struggles.
Jenna added: “I was always the kid that had issues and it always sounded like an excuse. Eventually I just stopped telling people that anything was wrong.
“My parents knew about my struggles but they didn’t know all the details - when they found out when I got diagnosed, it shocked them.
“I am very fortunate that my family supports me and helps me get the support I need.”
Grocery shopping has been a ‘mixed experience’ for Jenna as she would often get upset and disappointed that she still wasn’t able to find anything new to try.
However, her limited diet means her shops only take her about three minutes - so it is actually quite convenient.
Although she can’t eat any of it, Jenna keeps a cabinet full of snacks for her friends to enjoy when they come over including candy, popcorn, chips and sauces and seasonings she can’t eat.
She doesn’t eat at restaurants as she’s had numerous reactions whilst dining out, so she prefers the control and confidence she has when making food at home.
Jenna said: “Over the years, I have become way more used to the way I have to eat,
“Food is social so I often feel left out when I am not able to eat with my friends but I have found my own ways of being included, whether that is bringing my own food or eating before I go out.”
The goal for Jenna is to be able to stabilise the mast cells enough with medications so that she can expand her diet.
For now she will continue with her lifestyle and limited diet as she works with doctors to minimise her symptoms and reduce the impact MCAS has on her day-to-day life.
Jenna is a full-time student at USC studying Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation and is very passionate about healthcare innovation.
She shares her health journey on social media sites TikTok, Instagram and Youtube @jennaxhealth.
Jenna’s content revolves around building a platform for herself and showing what life with invisible illnesses is like.
She hopes that sharing her story will help raise awareness about people living with issues that you may not see or hear about.
Jenna said: “Diet is only one part of health and health is subjective.
“I want to be able to make other people feel validated. There is so much online about being healthy, but what is good for one person isn’t always good for another.
“Having a chronic illness doesn’t always mean you have a medical device or life-threatening allergic reactions; people have invisible illnesses that you wouldn’t know about from an outside perspective.
“Those who have these challenges can still live a normal life - there are just extra things they have to consider when travelling or even leaving the house.
“It’s about living your life to the fullest within the parameters of your own health. I’m just trying to find out what healthy means for me.”