Time to stop reading blogs and start writing

September 25, 2009

Kids with peanut allergies? There’s a blog for that.

Gluten-free? Yup, a blog for that.

Lactose Intolerant? Uh huh, you get the picture.

I’ve been reading blogs for awhile now hoping to land on one where the author’s story was a little closer to mine. Not that my story is unique, I’m sure not, but of the 11,000,000 people suffering from food allergies in the U.S. I have yet to meet someone with exactly the same combination of food allergies as me.

I always knew I had allergies. To long haired cats and short haired dogs. To pollen and ragweed and all the usual “hayfever” suspects. And then about 5 years ago it dawned on me that I had those hayfever symptoms in the dead of winter. While taking prescription antihistamines. In fact, I had those symptoms 365 days a year. And I had been having those symptoms 365 days a year for 15 years at least. And I had never seen an allergist.

I was living in Michigan at the time and my doctor referred me to an allergist. Before the first appointment, the office sent me a 10+ page questionnaire about medial history, known allergies, symptoms,etc. There wasn’t a single question that I didn’t answer in the affirmative. Was your formula changed as a baby? Yes. Do you have itchy watery eyes? Yes. Did you have eczema as a child? Ick! But yes. And so on. If you have allergies then you know the fun that comes from that first visit to the allergist’s office to “test”  for them. To discover what you’re allergic to, a nurse does a small needle stick with a bit of allergen in it and then measures your skin reaction to it. They do this anywhere from 20-50 (or more) times with various plants, molds, dusts, etc. The only thing I didn’t have a positive (and positive here is not good) reaction to was the liquid solution that all of the allergens are combined with for the injections. The doctor came in the room, looked at my arms and my chart and said he’d never seen someone with so many allergies who wasn’t also allergic to food and so he ordered a blood test to check the five most common allergens: milk, wheat, corn, soy, and eggs. And three weeks later the results came back and my hitting streak was alive and well as the blood work showed varying levels of reaction to all.

And then the fun really begins because it’s not enough for your blood work to show an allergy you have to do a food challenge to confirm allergic symptoms in response to each food. And to do that you have to go on the caveman diet. Which is exactly what it sounds like. If a caveman couldn’t eat it (because it didn’t exist) then you can’t eat it. No processed foods. All natural. All the time. You do this for 4 or 5 days and then one at a time reintroduce the foods you think you’re allergic to and chart your symptoms. I won’t bore you with the gory details. The food challenge was indeed challenging and in the end confirmed allergies to milk, wheat, corn, and soy. I managed to eat 6 eggs in a day without measurable symptoms so I kept it in my diet but from that day forward I have done my best to avoid milk, wheat, corn, and soy.

When people hear I’m allergic to milk, wheat, corn, and soy they always have the same two questions—

What are your symptoms?

I feel very fortunate that I do not have anaphylactic reactions that require me to carry an epi-pen or the like. My allergies are NOT life threatening. The symptoms I have are interesting because most of them are like your standard hay fever symptoms which is why I’m sure I never made the connection between what I was eating and a runny nose or itchy eyes because I always had them. Turns out milk makes my nose run + bloat + upset stomach. Wheat gives me chest congestion (sometimes in the form of chest crackles) + sluggishness + bloat + inflamation. Corn gives me nasal congestion. And soy makes my eyes itch.

It’s no surprise that in my former life I could never eat hot crispy beef at my favorite chinese restaurant with my mouth closed because I was congested instantly. I never liked milk or cheese. Lasagna always gave me an upset stomach. And so on.

and What do you eat?

Here’s the funny part. I eat like you would eat if you had lived in the 1950’s or 1960’s or even into the 1970’s. I buy almost no processed foods. I eat meat and fish and fruits and vegetables. I eat potatoes and rice. And cheese made from goat milk or sheep milk. And I drink white wine and rum and gluten-free beer. And thankfully because it is not the 1950’s or 1960’s or 1970’s I can find substitutes for just about anything my friends have in their kitchens. It doesn’t taste exactly the same and it costs more (A LOT more) but I have not wasted away to nothing by eliminating milk, wheat, corn, and soy from my diet.


2 Responses to “Time to stop reading blogs and start writing”

  1. Suzanne Douglas Says:

    Hi Liz,
    Thank you so much for your blog!!
    My daughter and I are both intolerant to gluten and corn and avoid soy, just because everything I’ve read about it.
    I noticed your comment about white wine and wanted to mention what I’ve learned about wines. I’ve found that the barrels they use for white wine are usually dusted with wheat flour as part of the process. The red wine is not treated, however. Hope this helps.
    Kind regards,
    Suzanne Douglas

    • Liz Says:

      Hi Suzanne. That’s really interesting. I haven’t had any noticeable problems with white wine but can’t do red. Not sure what gets me in it but not pleasant. Stick to hard cider when I can 🙂

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