Saturday, February 19, 2011

Have you always been allergic?

The most common question that is asked usually right behind "What are your symptoms?" or the alternate "What made you want to get tested?" which is basically the same question.

And so, I don't really recall having any problems digesting any of my allergens (wheat, beef, caraway, ginger, mustard, scallop) before I was 18 or so. When I was very young I had eczema, a classic sign of food allergy but I think that it's only been associated with food allergies in the last 10-15 years. My eczema cleared up, I think on it's own as I aged. It usually appeared behind my ears.

When I was 18 I went to college where I lived on cafeteria food and things I occasionally cooked in a shared kitchen. I don't really remember what all I ate but I do remember they had build your own pizza options and lots of cereal all the time. Since that's what I remember the most clearly, that's probably what I mostly ate.

At 19 I moved to TX and into my own apartment. My budget was very tight and since it was just me, I typically ate a lot of salads, very little meat and sometimes cereal. On the weekends I'd often cook up one big dish of something and eat it during the week but my diet consisted of very little bread or baked goods. I'd occasionally buy a cheap loaf of white bread b/c I find this to be the BEST for grilled cheese sandwiches.

I can distinctly remember going with a friend to his family home where his mother ground her own wheat and baked a lot. I can also remember having terrible stomach cramps, bloating and gas while there. I associated it to the (fresh ground) whole wheat which I rarely ate b/c as stated before I bought very little bread and only the cheap white stuff rarely.

One time I went with co-workers to the Olive Garden where I ate the endless soup, salad & bread sticks and gorged myself senseless (back then it was $4 at lunch). I was in such pain and agony that I had to go home early from work, something I never did because, at the time I didn't have paid time off. It was horrible the pain was unbearable. I attributed it to the ice burg lettuce that was exclusively used at that time.

I got married at a few weeks shy of 24. David's income was far greater than mine and his appetite and food consumption much more varied and much larger quantities than mine. I'd gotten in the habit of grocery shopping less than every 2 weeks. With David I was finding that I needed to buy 3-4 times what I was used to purchasing. He loved that I could cook and bake. He loved that he could say "I feel like fresh bread" and he'd come home and it'd be there warm waiting with a home cooked meal. He delighted in the fact that out of all the women he had known he'd married the one that could cook anything and bake everything. And so I did. I cooked and baked a lot. And started gaining weight. Which I attributed to:
A) being happy
B) meals being intimate and social rather than quick and necessary
C) the wider variety and bigger consumption.
All of the above was probably true but I think, now, there was more going on.

About 18 months ago David was diagnosed as allergic to corn & soy so we eliminated everything from our house with either of those ingredients. We switched to 100% organic whole wheat pastas, cereals, flours, crackers, pretzels and so on. I packed on the weight. Which I attributed to stress and anxiety. I struggled with depression and exhaustion. Again I dismissed these indications as stress or how hot it is here in Houston all the time. My gut became unpredictable. I'd have about 5 seconds between "I have to go" and getting to the bathroom. The pain and bloating was uncomfortable and the gas was embarrassing. As the indications stacked up I ignored what I have suspected for some time - I was allergic to wheat. I didn't want the inconvenience or complications. If one is just allergic to wheat there are many, many gluten free options that are fantastic. Baking mixes, snacks, cereals and so on but for us they aren't an option because all of it contains corn or soy. David is so sensitive to corn that I don't bring anything in the house that has any amount of corn in it. Cross contamination is a big concern when there are trace amounts of corn so I rarely bring anything that even contains ingredients derived from corn into our home. Eliminating wheat just seemed overwhelming.

Here's the deal though. Looking at things I loved like yeast donuts makes my cheeks flush and my gut twinge now. I remember the pain and discomfort I was experiencing and I don't even want it. It took David over a year to get to this point and I'm so thankful I am already here. It makes it so much easier to simply stick to wheat free, beef free, mustard free and so on eating.

So go get tested. It's not that complicated. It's worth the hassle and after four days my energy is returning and my belly is settling. I'm not nearly at the energy level when I was in my 20's and working full time w/extra hours and taking classes at night and swimming every morning but I had the energy (and desire) to clean out my truck and sweep the garage. Lately it's been all I can do to keep up w/the house and laundry. Weekends were for sitting on my tush re-cooping from the house cleaning and the long weeks of cooking and laundry and my part time care giving job.

1 comment:

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