Wednesday, February 4, 2015

My Allergy Story

That pie looks good doesn't it?  I can make it for my family but, I can't eat it.  I am what my Doctor calls "highly allergic." Today I am going to tell you my allergy story so it might help anyone out there that is going through the same thing and it will also be a page I can refer back to when I post allergy friendly recipes on the blog or talk about alternative ways to live healthy.  
Allergies are as personal for each person as their DNA is different.  What I am allergic to may not relate to you but the experience I had may resonate with a lot of you. 
I was 45 eating a standard American diet with a mix of grains, dairy, processed food, and really anything I wanted.  I was overweight had high blood pressure and was going down a path a lot of people are on every day.  My body had a different idea of what I needed to be doing and I slowly became "highly allergic."  It started with dairy.  Any dairy caused me to have an earache.  I tried everything to keep eating it.  I ate it sparingly and then took an antihistamine to decrease the symptoms.  That worked for a year.  Then the next spring rolled around, three almost four years ago now, and I had an adverse reaction to the high blood pressure medicine I was taking.  I had numbness on the right side of my face and a sharp pain in my head.  I went to my family Doctor and he just switched me to another med.  I took it like I always had, popping pills it was the norm right? But, not this time.  My heart rate shot up to 150 and my blood pressure was 240/120.  My heart was pounding and I went to the E-room.  It was an adverse reaction to the drug.  So what does modern medicine do?  They treated an allergic reaction to a drug with more drugs.  How was I not surprised by this? They put me on Prednisone, which was almost worse than the adverse reaction to the blood pressure drug.  If you have ever been on Prednisone you'll know what I mean; it will shoot your heart rate up and your blood pressure as well as making you nervous for the whole course of taking the drug.  Treating the symptoms was not the answer, but I hadn't learned my lesson yet.  

I continued that year to have an adverse reaction to an antibiotic that was prescribed for some other problem I had. I had taken antibiotics all of my life.  I didn't question it even after what I had been through already this year.  So what happened?  Another adverse reaction.  My heart rate shot up to 150, B/P again 240/120.  I went to the E-room again, this time they gave me nothing.  I told them the last time this had happened it only lasted the length of time the drug was in my system. I went home and after the 12 hours the drug was meant to last, it wore off and I was fine.  I had during the course of all this started to lose weight and I was off of the high blood pressure medicine. When you lose enough weight your blood pressure goes back to normal.  I also gave up eating dairy and had realized that the numbness on the right side of my face and the sharp pain that I associated with the first allergic reaction was in fact a wheat allergy, ( see: The Wheat Belly)  so, I also gave up eating wheat. 
 At this point in the story you need to know that I am a registered nurse.  I was trained in CCU/ICU right out of school and I worked there briefly.  I went on to work in 0bstetrics and gynecology the longest because that was the happiest place to work in the hospital. 
Now back to the allergies, up to this point I have been paying a lot more attention to what I eat.  I am writing what I eat in a food journal and keeping track of it but, I was still not finished with my discovery of how allergic I was.  Always, always trying to find a way to make a cookie I could eat.  I had the hardest time giving up the cookie, especially the chocolate chip cookie.  I was making a chocolate chip cookie and using maybe pecans in it. I had started trying the Paleo diet.  They use a lot of tree nuts in this diet.  Then one night I lay down to go to sleep and I can't relax or catch my breath, my heart rate is very irregular, and fast.   I once again go to the E-room.  I am in atrial fib.  Now this is a full blown cardiac emergency.  Albeit one you can live through but, I had been trained to take care of this and I knew what kind of trouble I was in lying on the table.  It is always much worse to know what they are doing when you are lying on the table and you have done it to other people!  The ER staff was excellent and the Doctor never left my side, but they had to get my heart rate back to a normal sinus rhythm. They pushed three different drugs through my IV and the third drug finally brought my heart rate down nice and slowly and quietly I converted back into a normal sinus rhythm.  I stayed 2 days in ICU and then I was discharged and went straight to my family physician.  He decided it was time to send me to a cardiologist and an allergist.  They never did decide what triggered my a-fib.  I had it one more time for a brief period 9 months later.  Once again I had eaten tree nuts, but until then I had not considered my self so allergic that this could have been the cause. ( The tree nuts could have been cross reacting with my tree nut pollen allergy, my body thought I was eating the tree pollen.)  I also had not had any iodine in my diet for awhile.  I had stopped using iodized salt and I was eating nothing but pure fresh food with no preservatives including iodine.  I could never get any Doctor to agree with me that not having enough iodine in my body could cause a-fib, they used to prescribe iodine to treat a-fib before we had the government make it mandatory to put iodine in our salt.  I thought I would get enough from the food I ate, but unless you are eating a diet high in seaweed or seafood there is absolutely no way to get enough iodine in your diet.  It is necessary for the balance of hormones and your body simply can't function without it.  So don't throw out that box of iodized salt just yet unless you are getting enough iodine in your diet from other sources. This is a great video on iodine: Everything You Need to Know About Iodine.  This video is an hour long but, this guy knows what he is talking about. 

It also turns out that I am allergic to several environmental allergens but, I am not allergic to a single food!  Why can't I eat food?  That is a good question.  I also have Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS for short).  OAS is a type of food allergy that is an allergic reaction confined to the lips, mouth, and throat, normally seen in people with hay fever or asthma.  Even though I don't test positive for a single food with a blood drawn RAST test.  I can't eat dairy, any grains, soy, tree nuts, coconut, chicken, or pork.  I am allergic to mold so that is probably why I have adverse reactions to antibiotics, they are made from mold.  So my body will think I am giving it a foreign invader (mold) in large doses when I take an antibiotic, thus the adverse reaction.  
I have been keeping a food diary and logging my reactions to food for almost 4 years now.  The worst times of the year for me are spring and fall because I am allergic to 2 tree pollens and ragweed.  When they are in bloom my list of foods I can eat gets really small.  My body has a heightened immune response when the pollens I am allergic to are in bloom and it will take any food that is cross reactive with that pollen and my body thinks I am eating the pollen directly, and once again a adverse reaction is possible.  It might be as simple as a hive or my throat could start getting tight. Benadryl is my go to drug, it is the strongest antihistamine.  I take it in the children's sugar free, dye-free liquid, and it works right away at reducing the swelling.  
So why am I telling you all of this?
Funny thing is that I have for years read a lot of books on the right way to eat.  I have read every diet book, lifestyle book, and every fad book out there.  I had searched for the "way to eat" for years.  I have with this allergy experience discovered the "way to eat."  It will work for anyone suffering with an autoimmune problem.  There are more than 80 types of autoimmune disorders and allergies fit in the description of this.  An autoimmune disorder occurs when the body's immune system attacks and destroys healthy body tissue by mistake. Source: Autoimmune disorders
I did not go out searching for this book on how to eat. My body showed me it was the only way to eat because it will not let me eat any other way!  
So what is it this time?  What new diet, what new magic fruit, what new regimen are we supposed to eat to be healthy?
The answer was in this TED talk by Dr. Terry Whals.   I don't remember how I came across it.  I found it and began watching it and I was impressed that she went from a tilt-recline wheel chair to walking and competing in marathons after being progressively disabled by MS.  Multiple sclerosis isn't a disease you get well from, it is a progressive debilitating autoimmune disease.  I am watching the video and the funny thing is...pause that, back up.... wait a minute.....this woman is eating exactly all I can eat!  Whoa!  Allergies are autoimmune too.  This is what you are supposed to eat, if you have an autoimmune disease.  There are over 80 autoimmune diseases!  Almost everyone I know has some form of autoimmune disease!   This is how to eat!  I have lived it and it works!! I know.  
Here is her website: Dr. Terry Whals
I also forgot to mention she is a M.D. 
How does she eat?
She has a formula for it and if followed you will get the proper nutrients and your body will thrive.
I don't take any supplements.  I have tried several types and brands and no matter which ones I try I get an earache.  Your body will absorb the nutrients better from the actual food but as you will see, you have to eat a lot of it.  The formula is in this video.  You do have to eat a lot of vegetables to get the nutrition from the food.  Her plan includes 9 cups of veggies/fruits a day.  I probably don't eat all of that but I never skimp on the dark leafy greens, I have to have them to get my calcium (calcium is very important!).  The only thing I do different from this is I do eat the white potato.  I believe it is important to get some carbs for hormone production, brain function, and energy.  I have arthritis and if I eat white potatoes they do not bother me. They are reported to give people more pain when they have arthritis.  I can not see this in my case.
I highly recommend her book for a complete description of the way to eat.  I don't eat the tree nuts or the coconut so the Paleo plan can be very limiting for me, but Dr. Whals really has the nutrients mapped out and this is a good way to eat and thrive while getting your nutrients.    
So how have I been doing? It has been almost 4 years since the first run to the E-room and I had my labs done last fall and they were perfect.  I have lost a lot of weight, I work out, I am on no medicine at all, and most of the time I feel as good as I did at 30.  If I eat sugar I feel my age!  I might make a clean eating chocolate pudding with a little honey around Christmas or my birthday, but otherwise I can't eat the old way.  My body will not let me.
I am going to write more about the health discoveries I have made and share some alternative ways to navigate common colds, flu, etc.  The body is an incredible system capable of healing itself without much intervention, especially if you are in optimum health, eat right, and exercise. 
I just had the stomach flu, ha ha, right before posting this.  I had the easiest time of it in the family.  Everyone else got much sicker!    

*This is my experience with my health problems.  I am offering my example to share a lifestyle that I have found works for me.  I am not a medical Doctor or in any way am telling you how to eat for your specific circumstance. Please see your medical Doctor for any concerns you have.

Resources:
This is the best food/pollen cross reaction chart I have found to date.
Food Seasonal Allergy Cross-Reaction Chart

A good Botanical Food Family List is a must with OAS. 
Food Family List

How to Read a Food Label (Labels can be tricky.)
Tips for Avoiding Your Allergen Sheet

A Good Description of Oral Allergy Syndrome

If you have OAS, here is a great site to track the pollen levels in your area so you know when the pollen has waned and you can eat again.
Pollen Allergy Forecast

Another link for pollen tracking:
Natural Allergy Bureau

Dr. Terry Whals: Author of The Whals Protocol

Sherry

9 comments:

Laurel Stephens said...

Thank you for posting your story! I'm still on a journey to find what works for me on my way to good health, and every story I read helps me on my way. Thank you, and I wish you great health!

Donna Wilkes said...

Thank you for sharing all the info and the personal experiences. I am highly allergic to corn which is considered to be food safe for all products. Even the insides of frozen food bags are coated with corn. Often the carrier for medications are corn-related and are never listed on ingredient lists. I fought for years with my doctors telling them the drugs I took for my diabetes was making my glucose levels higher. Finally my cardiologist saw the light and has me on a grain-free, low carb diet which seems to be working. I will be checking out the links you have provided.

Pura Vida said...

Wow, some really scary moments for you. My confession. ..I have not been to the doctor in years and years, except yesterday to get an injection in my knee joint..I had finally had enough potions that didn't help, so glad to find my blood pressure was great...weight not so much

Jodijmo said...

OMG.....I feel like your talking straight to me. My story is much like yours, suffering through allergies, food intolerances, autoimmune thyroid (Thyroidectomy october. 2013) at the age of 45, and celiac disease to name a few.i'
I've been wanting to try the Wahl's Protocol, thank you for the reminder.....:)

God will get us through this.....he always does!!!!

Jodi from NE Ohio

Ruth W said...

Very interesting...I have been allergic all my life...starting at birth...and have been on one form of antihistamine or another all of my life. I have food allergies (which don't show up on all the tests but I know when I eat them), enviornmental allergies and hay fever...trees, grasses, pollens, etc. One allergist told me it's like a glass...if it's filled with allergens by pollens or enviornmentals, the less allergenic foods can be tolerated before the glass is full and you slop over into a bad attack. I can eat best in winter...But your post has got me thinking about what more I can/need to do. Thanks so much!
Ruth

The Farmers Daughter said...

And I thought I was the only one with multiple food allergies! I had all but given up on being healthy or being able to eat anything without a reaction a couple of years ago. I have fibromyalgia and was developing hypoglycemia, high blood pressure, and other problems that food seemed to affect. Every time I ate, I'd want to cry because of the pain, stopped up ears, headaches, etc. I, too, tried every diet known to man. Then a blogging friend shared with me that she was on the Alkaline Diet with a few tweaks. I began researching it. Convinced this might help, I tried it. It did! I lost 25 pounds without trying and blood work was back to normal. It's been 2 years. I still have days of fibro flares and I have found foods I didn't react to before suddenly causing me problems. But for the most part, I feel and look much younger than my 65 years! I look forward to your future posts and recipes. It's so good to know I'm not alone in this!
Farmhouse Hugs!!!

Janet Garon said...

Very informative Sherry. I am super sensitive to msg and aspartame. Forms of msg are in just about every packaged food item you buy. Unfortunately our FDA allows them to hide the name and use another so the consumer doesn't know. You know if you have thyroid issues you would feel the effects of soy and tree nuts as well. I am hypothyroid with high antibodies and am very sensitive to foods that affect my thyroid. Peanuts, soy, a lot of leafy greens affect me because they are goitrogens. Even cooked I have to be careful.

Judith @ Lavender Cottage said...

An interesting post Sherry that I've pinned for reference to read the links supplied. It's amazing what our bodies go through, often without the correct diagnosis.
For me, it was swollen wrists, knees and ankles for a couple of years before getting help. My GP sent me to every specialist she thought could help me and after seeing several, she could only shrug her shoulders and say she didn't know what was wrong.
I took the plunge financially to see a naturopath Dr. who, after listening to my symptoms etc. knew right away that I had a build up of toxins in my body which will accumulate in the joints.
With his help and a changed diet, I'm in much better shape.
Thank you for sharing what you've been through, I'm sure someone else reading this may come to the conclusion that they recognize the same things happening to them.

Deborah Montgomery said...

Sorry you had to go through such frightening experiences, but the good thing is you eventually found out how to best take care of yourself. I am not allergic, but I am trying to eat healthier, so I will check out these resources. Thank you.

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