Saturday, 30 June 2007

Life with Food Sensitivities: Nuttier Than A Nut

I found out about most of my food sensitivities completely by mistake.

I thought I was a happy, healthy 35 year old with no food allergy (sensitivity) issues whatsoever.

However, I had a son who had been ill for three years (recurrent virals and failure to thrive). No professional medical person in all the different 'specialties' that we went to see, seemed to know what to do with him. Thankfully our pediatrician kept saying the words "Celiac Disease". (Even though the pediatric gastroenterologist ruled it out without a single test - I now know that it is not possible to just 'look' at a person and be able to tell if they have celiac disease.)

And so finally, to get her off my back about food, I concocted a total elimination diet for my family.
(I didn't want her to just shift to another food if wheat/gluten turned up no reaction.)

The reason we did it as a family is because my partner and I felt that:

1) children are led primarily by example;
2) it was easier for me to cook the same thing for everyone and
3) since food issues seem to be, generally speaking, inherited, it just made sense to have everyone go through the process and be done with it.

I must say, we did not expect to find anything at all. We had been eating only homemade, wholewheat bread, did not consume food colour or flavours everyday. Allowed pop and chips only on weekends, etc. On my side of our extended family, we were considered health nuts.

Well, long story short, to our complete surprise, we found tonnes of reactions! We trialled each one at least three times... some, completely by mistake, only realizing the mistake after someone had a reaction. (It became habit to root through the garbage for the package of our 'newest' food to look at the ingredient list.)

So, my son, who was one of the most health-challenged children in our pediatrician's office, became one of the healthiest... and I.... Well, my life has taken such an unexpected turn for the better that my family now thinks I am even nuttier than the health nut that I was! (Even some ground pepper has wheat that is used as a declumper, which I react to... so I don't use pre-ground pepper unless I can look at the ingredient list of the container that it came in.)

Here are the symptoms that I lost, that I had previously thought were just 'my life' and to be accepted:

Asthma (adult onset in my case)

Chronic daily headaches


(Canker) sores

Joint pain

Chronic fatigue

Sleep issues

Mood issues
(depression related)

Sore throats

Chronic infections
(some of which would require surgery in order to 'get rid of' the infected tissue)

(generally located on my bum cheeks - tmi I know, but they're so common yet unnecessary that it is worth mentioning)


Menstruation (
long and heavy: 7 to 10 days full heavy; now: approx. 4 days and medium to light)

(improvement may be contributed to less brain fog - really not sure but trials really showed enormous improvement- many less "Pardon me?"s)

Weight loss
(Not that I needed to lose enough to drive me toward a calorie restrictive diet. Nursing and 18 month old, I eat an enormous amount of calories per day and am of the mind that what I lost was water retention due to eating foods that were toxic to my system. I went from 5'4", 135 lbs to 110 lbs - no calorie counting because I'm just not a calorie counter by nature... After the fact, I actually did count up what I eat in a day and find that I eat far more calories than most people.)

Energy improvements (enormous:
possibly due to loss of brain fog, extra 'water weight', better absorption of nutrients, ???)

So, let them think I'm nuttier than a nut! My quality of life, five years later at over 40, is SO much better (healthier/feeling good/getting things done) that I really could care less what anyone else thinks of my eating practices!

Thank goodness for our, very stubborn pediatrician!


Will said...

Congratulations on getting this all sorted out! Yes it is best to let family and friend comments slide when you make these sorts of changes. Usually the results will speak for themselves. Then a few of the people around you will take note on their own and try to improve their diet and health. At that point they are open to accepting your help and experience.

I am fortunate to like healthy food and to be healthy myself. But, once in a while I read something like what your wrote and wonder... Am I as healthy as I could be? Or, am I just used to the way I am, unaware of improvements that might be made by trying something new.

I have to always remember to use my own yardstick for how I look and feel. If I use most of the people I encounter in everyday life as a measuring stick, I look great and might get lazy about it!

I really believe that if you surround yourself with people you want to be more like and you will more like the person you want to be.

KimS said...

Hi Will,

Thanks for your comment.

All of the symptoms that I spoke of (except the headaches), really were so minor that I appeared to be quite healthy.

I do hope that this posts makes people question whether they too, might have 'small' symptoms that they have just learned to ignore or minimize due to societal acceptance.

Honestly, even the small things, are an enormous relief to be rid of. Five years later and I would never go back to eating gluten!

PJ said...

Glad you figured it out, especially for the sake of your adorable son!

When I was 22-24 I gained a massive amount of weight (over 200 lbs in less than 2 years). It was only gradual after that but by around the year 2000, when I went into the hospital for chronic untreated asthma infections (and resultingly, super low oxygen), I was over 500#. They couldn't get around to finding a scale to weigh me; I was too fat, they figured that was enough to know. I calculate that based on later weight loss and going to the local grain elevator to get weighed with the big trucks.

Some years ago, since I was huge, as a 'trial' (I didn't really think it would work--I come from a family of huge women who've dieted chronically for decades and they're still fat, and traditional dieting did zip for me, so I figured I was just genetically cursed...) I went on the Atkins diet, for 3 weeks. Back then they didn't have lowcarb food options really (let alone frankenfoods). So mostly I just dropped to meat, eggs, cheese, veggies/salads for a few weeks.

Ten days later my severe nightly acid reflux was gone. My severe asthma (adult onset) was gone. My chronic allergies were gone. My complexion was cleared up. My constant exhaustion was now lots of energy. My memory issues and brain fog were gone. I could wake up in the morning without feeling like I was 20,000 leagues under the sea. I could MOVE and felt limber rather than like an oversized sea otter in mild pain at every point.

I was working over 100 hrs/wk back then and didn't even know how to cook, had almost nothing in my kitchen (lived on boxed, canned, frozen, fast food), and felt I couldn't "deal with" what seemed the impossible expectation that I eat real food. So as a compromise to myself I made an agreement that every paycheck, I would buy something toward eventually doing it right: dishes, cookware, LC food products, spices, books, whatever.

A couple years later I went on the eating plan and lost down to 411. My ex- moved in, my life promptly went back down the toilet, and eventually I was to 467 and could hardly stand for 30 seconds without screaming back pain, could barely walk to the car. One night at 2am, a few days after my 40th birthday, I woke up and realized I was at some critical juncture and I was going to die. It was more a spiritual insight than anything intellectual. I went on lowcarb that moment.

Just over three months later I was down to 395, I'd arranged for my ex to leave again, and my life vastly, vastly, vastly improved.

I haven't really dieted the last 1.5 years. I've eaten LC well about half the time, and eaten badly about half the time, so I'm a few pounds lighter now but not much.

But now, I can go mow the lawn, weed it, rake it, shovel dirt for the garden. I can (barely) walk a mile at the walking park. I can lift weights, do cooking experiments, and go bowling with my kid. My life is drastically different than it was, so much better there is no measure.

And the primary thing that contributed to this, aside from just lowcarb eating, is GETTING OFF GLUTEN. If I eat something with gluten, 12-24 hours later (it's delayed), I have asthma. How much is in direct relation to how much I ate. And when I have asthma, my oxygen level reduces (esp. due to sleep apnea), and the side effects of that are verrrrry bad.

I mentioned I went in the hospital for untreated asthma infections. I'd never had it so why would I suspect that around 33 I'd start getting it? I thought it was chronic bronchitis and my immune system was just depressed. The unbelievable exhaustion and semi- narcolepsy that seriously low oxygen caused did send me to a doctor; he tried to give me prozac instead of treating it as anything physical! (I refused.) In the hospital, the steroid to clear my lungs, a painful IV and some stress sent my heartrate up, which got me assigned a cardiologist. I got my dinner as he came in the room and I said, "Oh my god. What, are they trying to KILL ME?!" and he cracked up. (Unbelievable. It was the diabetic plate. The ADA should just be taken out and shot for the good of society...) I went to see him later and he 'prescribed' the PPLP by the Drs. Eades. I read that and Atkins, and went on Atkins initially.

When I went to my 'respiratory specialist' and told him about my change in diet and how my asthma and allergies literally vanished, he got irate. I told him since he himself had told me the inhalers (3 of them per month, expensive!) were only for symptoms--not a cure--that since my symptoms were gone, why would I use them now??--though I kept one with me in case of emergency. I didn't understand why he was mad at me rather than happy for me. I told my cardiologist about all the symptoms vanishing and he wasn't surprised at all. Then I told him about the other doc and he just smiled fixedly and refused to say a word... he apparently knows the story.

I'm hoping eventually to have the money for for me and my 11 year old daughter as I think she may have a gluten issue as well. It's possible we have dairy issues--I have a mega-craving-addict response to milk--but I don't notice myself reacting to cheese, so I'm not sure.

My boyfriend is celiac so I've done a lot of reading about this. It's really shocking how the better research gets, the more the # of the population estimated to have gluten intolerance in particular, grows.

KimS said...


Thanks for writing in and sharing your story.

I'm very happy for you and the enormous improvements you've achieved with your quality of life!

It makes me very sad when I hear about people who want to try diet alteration as a treatment or therapy rather than drugs.

I have heard stories of women being told that their asthma is because they are not busy enough (stay-at-home Moms) and I have heard stories of people having prescriptions crumpled up and thrown at them after opting to try diet alteration for two weeks rather than going directly on drugs. (And the drug in that particular case was prednisone... nothing to sneeze at.)

Thankfully, for these people, diet alteration did work and they either eliminated their meds altogether or severely reduced them.

Doctors are slowly coming around... but it will take more stories like this to get them to, at least, be more respectful of our individual choices as patients.

Congratulations on being so strong on your own behalf!

And thank you again, for sharing your tremendously inspiring story!

Kind regards,