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Outta my way, food allergies

U.S. gold medal swimmer Dana Vollmer can_t let anything drain her energy. Here, why she_s primed to come out ahead at the Summer Olympics.

Linda Childers

Provided by HealthMonitor

Dana Vollmer thrives in water. She began swimming as a
toddler, and most recently, the 24-year-old Texas native won a total of three medals, two gold and one silver, in the 2011 World Aquatics Championships in Shanghai. After smashing the national record in the 100-meter butterfly semifinals, Dana won gold in the final with a time of 56.87.
Although she's proven she's a force to be reckoned with, few fans realized the physical distress she began experiencing a few years ago. Dana, who battled back and shoulder injuries in the past, also started suffering unexplained stomachaches'three times they were so severe she landed in the emergency room. "The doctors weren't sure what was causing the pain," says Dana. "They figured that nerves and stress were affecting my stomach.'
Then last fall, Dana started experiencing overwhelming fatigue after competing in a swim meet. "I could make it through only the first hour of practice, and then I had no energy," she says.
Despite undergoing a battery of blood tests, doctors had trouble pinpointing the root cause of Dana's stomach pain and low energy. Worried that her swimming career would be compromised, Dana got in touch with nutritionist Anita Nall-Richesson, the former Olympic breaststroker. Anita immediately understood Dana's plight, having been challenged by her own series of "mystery illnesses" during her time as an Olympic swimmer. After testing her, Anita confirmed that Dana had a host of food allergies, including to eggs and gluten.
Dana made dramatic changes to her diet. Gradually, her strength returned and she amped up her training. Today, she's feeling stronger than ever. Last summer, she married professional swimmer Andrew Grant, and has been training for the upcoming Olympics near her home in Berkeley, CA. Dana shares her strategies for staying strong, fit and energized despite a sensitivity to gluten.

Look for the
unusual suspects.
Keep a food diary'include what you eat, when you eat it, and if and when any symptoms arise'to uncover your triggers, and don't assume "healthy" stuff is safe. "I used to eat a lot of eggs and breakfast burritos thinking they were a healthy way to start the day," says Dana. "Looking back, I can now see where my intolerance to eggs was causing my symptoms."

Find tasty swaps
for your faves.
'The hardest food for me to give up was pasta," says Dana. "I started training in the era where carbo-loading was common, so it was second-nature to enjoy a large bowl of pasta the night before a swim meet'even though I now realize the gluten in the pasta caused my stomach pains." Today, Dana's found other sources of healthy carbs to consume before a swim meet. "I've grown to love quinoa and brown rice, and I've found a bakery that makes a gluten-free, egg-free pizza crust'I swear it tastes like normal pizza!'

Make "smart"
menu choices.
Dana relies on smartphone apps, like Allergyeats, free for the iPhone and Android, which allow her to scan restaurant menus ahead of time. "I love PF Chang's because they have a gluten-free menu," says Dana. "One of my favorite dishes is their gluten-free Mongolian Beef.'

Tote safe snacks.
Dana admits that constantly traveling to compete against the world's best makes it tough to manage her diet. "It's not like you can always grab something at the airport. A lot of times teams will go to sandwich shops and different things'so it can be challenging. Often, I'll bring food." Nuts, trail mix and baked corn tortilla chips are good options.
Allergy Anxiety Loss of Strength Pain Shoulder Pain Stomach Pain Stress Fatigue Lose Weight Upset Stomach

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