I have been living with allergies my entire life. I am allergic to foods, chemicals, and inhalants (i.e. tree pollen, ragweed, etc.). My symptoms range from hay fever (stuffy nose, watery eyes, sneezing, sore throat), to gut problems (you know what I mean…), to fatigue & migraines. At age 6, I was tested with the standard “prick” test for everything and diagnosed with allergies to trees, molds, dust, you name it. But, doctors still said I had no food allergies. My dad purchased the book “Is This Your Child”, due to the picture of the sick kid on the back who looked just like me. This book taught my mom about food sensitivities and the elimination diet. She cut common food allergens out of my diet and trialed them one by one – a new one each week. If I had a reaction, it was removed from my diet. Avoidance – that was supposedly the answer. No cheese for Kendrah, no corn, no bread, no candy. It was super fun. But my mom and dad helped me to find things I could replace great foods with: dairy free chocolate, soy pizzas, yeast free breads. It worked. I boycotted for a while and only ate 3 meals a day out of stubbornness (I was sure I was being punished for something), but I grew to enjoy these foods too. In middle school, my mom was driving me home one day and asked if I wanted to stop at Wendy’s. I was BEYOND THRILLED. I ate those nuggets and fries like it was my last day on earth. And guess what? Avoidance worked. Apparently I did, in fact “grow out” of my food allergies. Once I hit college, I went WILD (not party wild guys – this is all about the food!). I ate everything – pizza, fried chicken, cheesecake on a stick. And I was fine. For a while.
Then it started up again: the daily headaches, daily nausea, daily sore throat and congestion, frequent colds & daily hay fever. I started to get sick at least once every two months (if not more). I would develop a cough that wouldn’t go away for 4 to 6 months. That’s when I started to realize something was wrong. I remembered these problems but it took almost 3 years for me to catch on that I had been healthy and I forgot what that feeling was like. A coworker at Riverside Hospital (when I was interning as a graduate student) was getting a blood test to check for food allergies and it hit me like a mack truck – I knew it was food that was bothering me again.
I got the blood test! And guess what? It was food allergies. I was given the following list:
This sucked. It royally sucked. I won’t sugar coat it. BUT – I was told if I eliminated everything and added it all back in via small increments, I could trick my immune system into forgetting the antibodies. SOLD. I did the elimination diet and I felt SO MUCH BETTER. For almost an entire year I lived life at 100%, no headaches, no nausea, no hay fever (except in the fall minimally due to outdoor allergies), and no colds. Yep, you heard me – I didn’t catch a cold for a whole year. But I started to add things back in – chocolate was first (of course), then foods with questionable ingredients (“natural flavors”, “citric acid”, etc. – can be from corn). And I started to get sick again. After three months of that I tightened up – decided my body just wasn’t ready. But then, even with avoidance, I wasn’t getting better again. Stuck at feeling 75%, I started eliminating things that my gut (literally and figuratively) told me were harmful to me. I found when I challenged these items I had, in fact, developed the following new allergies:
- Peppers (any kind)
- All Dairy products (cheese, milk, butter, cream, etc.)
Now – this is getting ridiculous. I didn’t know what to do. On top of that, I cut these items out and was still only feeling 90%. THEN the migraines began. I had had these before but didn’t realize they were migraines. After months of various testing, my neurologist diagnosed me with Vestibular Migraines becuase my primary symptom was vertigo. Vertigo is like an aura for me. The room spins periodically, then I start to get tingling in my face and/or extremities, and then I get a raging headache that no medication can battle. These have gotten SIGNIFICANTLY better as I’ve decreased stress in my life. I am fortunate enough to now have a job that allows me to do this with wonderfully understanding co-workers and managers. But don’t get me wrong – I’ve missed one day of work in a year and a half. I suffer through the pain, but that doesn’t always make for a very good therapist.
Back to the point – I began to realize that avoidance wasn’t working anymore. I sought out various treatments – rotation diets, enzyme therapy, accupressure therapy. But they all seemed to much of a hassle or too expensive. The rotation diet was obnoxious and ridiculous – I didn’t even have enough workable foods in my diet to rotate food families every four days! More on rotation diets later…Then I finally pursued an appointment with Dr. John Boyles at Dayton ENT. I expected to go through a plethora of testing all over again and came prepared with my story, previous paperwork, and as much evidence as I could muster on paper that I did, indeed, have food sensitivities.
Guess what happened? Dr. Boyles listened to me. And he looked at me and said:
“Well, further allergy testing is pointless, you’re simply developing new allergies and are at risk for becoming universally allergic. We should just move forward with treatment.”
Now, I was taken aback by that whole “universally allergic” thing, but I was so shocked that he wanted to start me on a treatment that might actually help me that I was speechless. After he walked out of the room, I cried. I hate crying, but this was a lot to take in.
The nurse took my information and scheduled me for a conference that afternoon about the Low Dose Allergen (LDA) Therapy that Dr. Boyles was prescribing. This was in August of 2013 – the day I found hope again.
Today on October 18th, 2013, I received my first treatment, but more on the LDA treatment process next time.
- Food Allergies vs. Food Sensitivities (kuintegrativepediatrics.wordpress.com)
- Elimination Diet (dietarytheories.wordpress.com)
- Robyn O’Brien about food allergy (henriekevandendriessche.wordpress.com)
- “Food Allergies… (lorihenely.wordpress.com)