Posts Tagged ‘allergies’

Celebrating One Year!

February 27th, 2011
Celebrating One Year GFree

Celebrating One Year Gluten-Free

On February 25, my family went out to Arni’s to celebrate my one year anniversary of when I went gluten-free. I’m sure that last year around this time I was probably thinking I would never eat pizza again, but just this past month one of my favorite restaurants started serving up a GFree Pizza that is actually pretty tasty. Frankly, I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate this life-changing event!

When I cut gluten out of my diet last year, my health improved significantly. While it was a difficult diet to follow in the beginning, the rewards of doing so were practically immediate. Withing three days of adhering to a strict gluten-free diet, the inflammation in my body began to recede and I had more energy than I’d experienced within the past four years. I remember crying in front of the butter at the grocery store, wondering if the “natural flavor” in the generic butter meant it might contain gluten. The possibility of something as simple as butter containing gluten was overwhelming to me at the time. I quickly found it easier to avoid processed foods altogether, with food labels that require a chemistry degree to decipher, and stick to whole foods that I cooked at home. I think by doing this that I also eliminated many chemicals and preservatives that my body was reacting to as well.

At one point I noticed that I was getting nauseous eating baby carrots. My doctor didn’t think I was allergic to carrots, and he suggested I try eating organic carrots to see if I had the same reaction. I tried the organic carrots and was able to eat them just fine. So from then on I started buying organic products whenever they were available. This also has helped eliminate my exposure to toxic chemicals and has reduced some of my symptoms.

About two years ago, even before I cut out the gluten, I swore off Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) and artificial sweeteners. Doing this really helped alleviate some awful migraine headaches. So I must say that it isn’t just through avoiding gluten-full foods that I have reduced my Fibromyalgia symptoms, but it has been a process of eliminating my exposure to variety of triggers. However, I believe that going gluten-free has had the most significant impact on the overall improvement of my health thus far.

Going gluten-free has certainly improved my health over this past year. I have lost about 45 pounds without counting calories. I didn’t concern myself with counting calories or tracking fat intake because it was such a challenge just to make sure that I wasn’t ingesting gluten. I’m not sure my body knew what to do with all the chemicals in the processed foods. Possibly my liver couldn’t process things fast enough, so maybe it just manufactured fat and shoved the chemicals into the fat cells thinking it would get to that later. Also, a skin rash I’ve had on my arms since my early teen years has almost completely vanished. How interesting that the rash originally appeared around the same time I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). I have fewer problems with my digestion now, although I still suffer from reflux. I cannot seem to stop taking the Protonix, a proton pump inhibitor, that I have been taking for over four years.

I am still having occasional flare-ups, and so I’m trying to figure out what some of my other triggers might possibly be. On my list of suspects are corn, soy, chocolate, cinnamon, nutmeg, and probably vinegar.  The last four are known to be  high in histamine or produce large amounts of histamine in the body. I have horrible reactions to cinnamon and nutmeg; my arms get stiff and heavy, with numbness and tingling in the mouth, accompanied by persistent coughing and fatigue. Chocolate seems to make my skin crawl, and I’ve always attributed this to the caffeine. Cinnamon and nutmeg are high in benzoates, and I know I have reacted to a salad dressing that has had sodium benzoate as a preservative.

I’ve been reading Dealing with Food Allergies by Janice Vickerstaff, and apparently it is possible to have an intolerance to benzoates. She also discusses the possibility of developing a histamine intolerance caused by a deficiency of two enzymes, diamin oxidase (DAO) and histamine methyltransferase (HMT). Histamine tolerance may also be reduced by autoimmune diseases and medications, such as antidepressants. Since histamine is responsible for triggering the immune response, it becomes difficult to distinguish between a reaction due to an allergy, or a reaction that has resulted from high levels of histamine in the system. Without the proper enzymes to break down histamine, it can build up in the body. One way to cope with reactions due to histamine toxicity is to modify your diet and eat foods that are naturally low in histamine, and foods that do not trigger a release of histamine to the body.  Dr. Vickerstaff recommends trying a histamine-restricted diet for a period of four weeks to see if it will alleviate symptoms.

Low Histamine Diet

I think that it is worth a shot to see if my remaining symptoms will subside. I’ve seen many fibromates talking about how they avoid the deadly nightshades. I think that it is interesting that these are also high in histamine and should be avoided on this diet. I’ll make sure to post if this also makes a difference.

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Feeling Crumby

April 17th, 2010

Ever since Easter I haven’t been feeling my best, which is a bummer because I was starting to feel so good. I got the stomach flu before Easter, which was viral because my husband was sick 24 hours after me. I think my recovery was especially slow, because I was glutined around the same time.

When I started feeling back to normal, I went to my first holiday dinner gluten free. It was hard not to eat my mom’s homemade rolls, but she went above and beyond to accommodate my new diet. I overindulged in gluten free sweets, with some candy that may be gluten free but has additives that have possibly caused my fibro to flare.

On the way back from West Virginia we stopped at Wendy’s, which is a gluten free friendly fast food chain where I got the casear salad sans croutons. Everything was going great until 15 minutes after eating my salad my throat started to swell up and I started coughing trying to get my breath. The salad dressing was gluten-free but listed anchovies on the ingredients….maybe another food sensitivity? My allergist tested for this a year ago and I had no reactions at all for my skin test! If it wasn’t the anchovies, what was it?

The weather has been absolutely beautiful here in central Indiana, and I have been doing my best to enjoy it, but I am in quite a lot of pain again. Nature is blooming and my nose is dripping, but I don’t have allergies! The funny thing is taking an antihistamine seems to help with what seem to be allergic reactions I am having, but it makes my fibro pain worse. WHY? I’ve been so sick this school year, that I have used up all my sick time and can not get in to see the allergist until school is out for the summer.

Besides the allergies, I am growing more and more concerned about cross contamination exposure to gluten. In Elizabeth Hasselbeck’s book The G-Free Diet, she says that one small crumb of bread can make a gluten-sensitive individual sick for days. I’m surprised by this, but maybe it is true. My husband’s toast crumbs travel and I make my salad on the same counter. When I am packing up my salad for lunch in the morning what if a crumb lands on it? Is this why I am feeling sick?

Hasselbeck also talks about how she is always washing her hands after preparing food for her family that is not gfree. Today my son had a regular hot dog, cheetos, and a cookie for lunch (not his typical food). I had to touch the hot dog bun to throw it away, cut up his hot dog, and help him get his cookie out of a baggie. Then I snacked on a Larabar. Did I make myself sick?

So my goal for this week is to designate a gluten-free counter in my kitchen and keep it spotless! I wash my hands frequently, but sometimes I don’t think about washing my hands again after preparing my son’s food. There is so much to learn with this new way of living, but hopefully it will be worth it.

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Good-Bye Dr. Du

April 9th, 2010

Well I went to see my neurologist, Dr. Du, yesterday and told him about my success with going gluten-free. He didn’t seem all that surprised that a food allergy or intolerance could manifest into Restless Leg Syndrome and Fibromyalgia. I told him that I have been sleeping better and have more energy since going gluten-free.

He was very pleased with my progress and said that I didn’t need to see him again unless my condition worsened for some reason. I tried to get him to explain why an allergy or food intolerance can affect the central nervous system, but all he would say is that “It just happens.” He went on to tell me that he was at a conference earlier this week about Fibromyalgia and they didn’t even mention Gluten.

I was frustrated that another doctor could not explain to me why I have Fibro. My GP is always telling me that doctors have just figured out how the heart works and it is just a pump (albeit a very important one). The human body is very intricate and there is much to be studied. It is easy to be angry with doctors, but I just think they don’t understand what is going on either. They can make educated guesses but ultimately they are trained to figure out the best way to manage our pain.

Call for Research
I read an article the other day that talked about the importance of pain management because there is no treatment for Fibromyalgia. When discussing treatments that implies that there is a cure and the medical community currently seems to believe that there is no cure for Fibromyalgia.

Obviously there needs to be more research done regarding Fibromyalgia and food intolerances. The first time I saw my allergist he told me that he was surprised that my skin tests were negative. I had no allergies. He said that it is common for people with Fibromyalgia to have a multitude of allergies. After being a month gluten free I have reduced my Fibro symptoms by half. I’ve been able to stop taking two medications and I am weening off of my Lyrica. I know I am not a doctor, but I think there might be a connection here.

Family History
While I was saying good-bye to Dr. Du I talked to him a little bit about my family background. I have a mother and a maternal grandmother that have also been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia at one point in their lives. Along with my grandma, many of her daughters have thyroid issues. One of my aunts has Crohn’s disease and has had part of her intestines removed. Of course GERD is common in my family and my grandmother has even been hospitalized for bleeding ulcers. Don’t you think they might feel better going gluten-free? I told Dr. Du I can’t convince my mother to give up her bread. He encouraged me to keep trying.

Maybe there is a relationship between all of these symptoms, but we need trained doctors to help get to the root of the problem. What we don’t need are doctors that will just give us some drugs to help with the pain and mask the problem. Luckily I seemed to have caught my food intolerance early enough that maybe I won’t have to have part of my intestines removed like my Aunt Glenda.

The Fibromyalgia conference my neurologist went to didn’t even mention Gluten. Dr. Du wasn’t surprised to hear about my success, but Gluten doesn’t even seem to be on their radar. Hopefully he will share my story with some of his colleagues and help educate his peers. What else can we do to advocate for ourselves?

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Nitrates, Gluten or Both?

April 1st, 2010

The thought of going on a strict elimination diet and slowly adding things back in, one by one is crossing my mind now. After avoiding gluten for over a month, aside for a few incidents of getting glutenized (a.k.a. glutened), I have finally felt some relief from my fibro pain.

In going gluten free I have naturally avoided things like pepperoni pizza and lunch meat that have fillers. When I went to Pizza Hut on Wednesday for a class field trip I sat and watched a couple of my sixth grade students stuff themselves with pepperoni pan pizza. They each managed to eat four breadsticks and eight slices of pizza. I warned them about the bus ride home repeatedly, but they continued shoveling it in. I can’t believe the stomachs of 12 year old boys. Corbin will surely eat us out of house and home.

Alas, I just smelled the pizza, carried in my own salad dressing and requested a side of pepperoni for my salad, while sipping my unsweetened tea. My reaction to my lunch was this, intense heartburn, my arms felt like they were on fire, and I started feeling the muscle aches all over. This is not my typical reaction to being “glutened”. Normally when I am accidentally exposed to gluten I have intense stomach pain, followed by constipation for about 3 days, bloating, swelling of my joints and itching skin. Sometimes I’ve noticed a swollen tongue. I know this sounds like an allergy, but I went to the allergist and he found I had none. I suppose my spring and fall sinus infections are just imagined. I was diagnosed with non-allergic rhinitis (which has gone away since going gluten-free), given a prescription for Flonase and sent on my way. I never used the Flonase by the way, so I can’t tell you if it helped. What has helped was going gluten-free.

My search for the root cause of my Fibromyalgia definitely is pointing to gluten, but my fibro flared up when I ate the pepperoni and drank tea in a slightly different way. Maybe it has been a combo of the nitrates in lunchmeats and the gluten in bread that has been making me so sick. What else do I need to avoid? I’m re-reading this article on WebMD about the 7 Foods to Avoid for Fibro. Caffeine is also listed as a trigger and I do notice a prickly sensation when I drink tea or coffee, almost like my skin is crawling. So I am back to the drawing board a bit.

The next big challenge is my first holiday dinner gluten-free. Think I can celebrate Easter without getting glutened? We will see. Maybe the Easter bunny will bring me some gluten-free candy.

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