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LEHI — Pollen, bee stings and peanuts are all common allergies, but 19-year-old Alex Visker's issues are far more severe. He's allergic to food.
From a very young age, allergies were Alex's worst enemy. He recalled an incident when he was being babysat by his neighbors and had an encounter with peanuts.
"I turned bright red, and had hives from head to toe," he said.
As the years passed, Alex got worse.
"I have pages of allergies," he said.
With every month, more and more foods made Alex sick.
"When I was the most sick, I was literally in bed, curled up staring at the wall for hours," said Alex.
His mom, Jodie Visker, was desperate to find help.
"We probably went to 10, 12 different specialists," Jodie said.
None seemed to have any answers. Some even told Alex it was all in his head.
"'We're thinking maybe this psychiatrist would be a really good idea for you,'" said Alex, recalling what one doctor told him.
His condition took a serious toll on his life.
"We figured he missed over 300 days of high school," said Jodie.
Diet after diet, Alex tried anything to help him feel better. Eventually, he came to the realization that he is, quite simply, allergic to food.
"It has been a very long and frustrating road," said Alex.
The family kitchen is stocked, but every single item could make him violently ill.
"Every now and then, he'll try something, just to see if his body's calmed down enough to have something, but nothing at this point," said Jodie.
Doctors believe Alex may have a form of what's called Mast Cell Activation Disorder.
"A lot of people you hear about, they're down to like four or five foods," said Jodie. "We don't know of anyone else who can't eat any foods at all."
All Alex is able to "eat" are bottles of hypoallergenic powdered nutrients. Akin to baby formula, he pours it directly into his stomach, via a permanent feeding tube in his abdomen.
I don't want other people feeling bad because I can't eat. Doesn't mean I have to take the joy out of everyone else's life with that.
"I have two different sizes of blender bottles that I use, just depending on how hungry I am," he said.
Alex describes himself as a "food lover." So while he certainly misses the tastes, he doesn't want to stop anyone else from enjoying their meals. He even sits at the table with his family during dinner.
"I don't want other people feeling bad because I can't eat," he said. "Doesn't mean I have to take the joy out of everyone else's life with that."
But Alex has found a unique way to cope. Believe it or not, it's cooking.
"I can't have it, and it's there all the time," he said, while cooking an omelet for his brother. "And so it was like, 'I'm going to conquer this.'"
Alex's story went viral after being featured in an article on KSL.com last month, being picked up by websites like People.com. Alex says he's seen it on over a hundred different sites, translated into 18 different languages.
"Overall, (it) has been a fantastic experience for me," he said, despite feeling some frustration at misinformation that's crept into his story as it spread.
Through all this newfound attention, Alex has made some new friends on Facebook, and joined a mast cell group. He's been able to talk with people from all over the world, and discussed his issues at length with a number of individuals who have similar problems.
"It has been an amazing experience to talk with those people and sympathize, empathize and give advice," said Alex.
Despite missing so many days, Alex still managed to graduate high school. He's planning to take college courses online in the hopes of finding a job in the computer field, which would allow him to work from home. He can experience strong reactions to certain odors, so he's found it difficult to keep a job. Alex has set up a GoFundMe account* to help him save for college. *KSL.com does not assure that the monies deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit to the account, you should consult your own advisors and otherwise proceed at your own risk.