I feel it’s time for an upbeat (and lengthy) update about my food allergies.
Last night I received a(nother) comment on my “PSA: Wash your quinoa” post from last fall (a.k.a. the incident that lead to my discovery that my GI issues might be related to food allergies). It was from a person who had a strong opinion about food allergies; somebody who, like me, felt compelled to leave that strong opinion in a comment, and then in follow-up discussions with the author of the blog post. This time, though, the author of the blog post happened to be me. It’s quite enthralling talking to somebody who, so much like myself, feels she is 100% correct in what she’s preaching.
This is when I finally realized that nobody (even doctors) has all of the answers or is correct 100% of the time. So, I guess this is an apology for all the times I’ve defended my opinion so boldly in comments, emails, etc. Except all those times I was defending civil rights of any form — I *am* 1,000% right about those things.
Anyway, if that person is reading this, I hope she doesn’t take offense. I don’t agree with everything she said, but her thoughts did prompt me to write this update as a follow-up to the quinoa incident since it is such a popular read.
When I wrote the quinoa post, I had no idea what food allergies entailed. It was my first experience with a potential allergy. I thought that all food allergies lead to anaphylaxis, which is the reaction seen most commonly in the media. This is not the case, or so I’ve been told by my allergist, my general practitioner, my chiropractor, and my naturopath.
Everybody’s allergic reactions are different. From what I understand, allergies occur when your body mistakenly thinks a protein you’ve ingested (or has entered your body in other ways, in the case of seasonal and topical allergies) is something dangerous. Your immune system reacts and sends out histamines to block the protein. These reactions can range from being itchy, feeling sick to your stomach, having stomach cramps, forming hives, having trouble breathing, and even death.
There are two schools on how to deal with food allergies (unlike seasonal allergies, there are not shots): 1) avoid avoid avoid; and 2) rotate them into your diet (if they are MILD food allergies / intolerances).
So last time I talked about food allergies, I revealed a mile-long list of allergens. Not all (or many) of these give me a strong reaction. The only ones I am very concerned about are quinoa (thankfully it’s not a common ingredient in things) and tomatoes (lamesauce) — these were the only ones my allergist was concerned with as well. He was also very concerned about not freaking me out about having all these food allergies. I did the skin prick test and had a whole host of reactions to different things. Most were mild. He said that it’s likely I’ll be able to eat those foods again if I rotate them out and watch my symptoms. He was not concerned that I would go into anaphylaxis with anything, except maybe quinoa. He said to avoid quinoa altogether, avoid the big ones for a while, and avoid the mild ones for a few weeks, then start adding some of them back in to see if I have any reactions.
That was opinion #1. I went to a naturopath for opinion #2.
I realize some (or maybe most) of you don’t believe in natural healing. I do. I believe that we put a ton of crap into our system to treat symptoms of something that might be inherently wrong with us, thus, causing more harm than good, though some of the symptoms may go away at first. My food allergies started when I abused NSAIDS (because my doctor said I could take a shit-ton of ibuprofen for whatever I needed it for … so thanks for that — no longer see that doc, but I think that goes without saying). I put holes in my gut which allowed undigested food to get into my blood — an easy way to develop food allergies. Nobody else in my family is allergic to food. Just me. So, I thought I’d give this naturopath thing a shot because since I’ve seen every other specialist about the GI issues in the last 10 years, I’m open to just about anything.
The naturopath I saw has a background in medicine. He’s a pharmacist by training. So he’s not a crunchy granola hippie that thinks natural is better just because it is, dammit. He also refers people to specialists and other doctors when necessary. He agreed with my allergist, but added that if I were to avoid ALL those allergens I would likely develop MORE food allergies to the limited foods that I can eat, and then what will I be left with? So he prescribed a regimen to help heal my gut which will hopefully make it so most (and hopefully all — except quinoa, because I’m seriously never eating that again) of these allergens tolerable again.
That was last Monday. I’ve not changed my diet much, other than being very mindful of rotating things out. He liked my idea of “intuitive eating” which means, to me, picking nutrient dense foods that (hopefully) don’t make me sick, and eating when I’m hungry. I am supposed to avoid pork, refined sugar, caffeine (though he explained that’s mainly on the list for those who don’t drink a lot of water, and I do, so my daily tea habit isn’t an issue), milk (and rotate dairy out every few days), and any processed junk. He had on the list to avoid my allergens, but we talked about avoiding the bigger ones, and keeping track of how I’m feeling while eating the mild ones. If they seem detrimental to healing, I am to cut them out.
I’ve also been prescribed supplements, which are helping me in other ways besides just GI healing. Remember when I said there’s something inherently wrong with us sometimes and we need to get past just treating symptoms? I’m not going to list the supplements out for you because I don’t want people thinking that this is a guide for “how to get rid of your food allergies”. It’s not. This is how I *might* get past *my* food allergies.
Here’s where I’ll echo what my reader from yesterday said: Don’t mess with food allergies. If you have a food allergy, see an allergist or another doctor — and get a couple opinions because allergies are tricky. DO NOT eat an allergen unless you’ve been instructed by a reputable doctor or specialist to do so and are under supervision. I would NEVER recommend eating any allergen that you’ve had severe (quinoa) reactions (quinoa) to (quinoa). Symptoms range from itching … to DEATH. So don’t mess with it.
But — for me — so far, so good with the healing. I think. So how can I tell if my gut is healing? Well, I’m not sick all the time. When I am sick, it’s less pain and more of the … um … flushing of the system. I have more energy. I’m waking up less at night (soon I’ll be waking up even less because somebody — I won’t name names — won’t be snoring next to me). I’m having regular trips to the bathroom (anybody who suffers from even mild irregularity is mentally fist-bumping me right now). I’ve been able to eat some of my mild allergens without any problem (nut butter … hello, fine old chap!).
I’m liking where this is going. So, I’m going to keep at it for now.
Have you had any experience with food allergies? GI issues? Feel free to share (and yes, we can totally talk about poo on my blog).