Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Food: Why Hath Though Forsaken Me?

Was it really less than three days ago that I wrote about my experience with food sensitivity testing (see here) ordered by my ENT physician and my plan to try some new diet modifications based on the results?  It seems that my body or more aptly my immune system has a different plan in mind and food sensitivities will have to take a back burner for the present time to deal with some unexpected and severe food allergy problems.

I already have serious diagnosed Type I food allergies, the most challenging being to onions and the whole onion family, but the list also includes tomatoes and most tropical fruits.  (The onion family ends up being used in everything making it hard to trace.) Over the last 2 plus years I thought that I had gotten these food allergies under control gosh, darn it!  Cooking my own food, paying careful attention to ingredients, and only eating at a handful of restaurants where the chef and wait staff are willing to take the extra steps so there was no cross contamination in my food.

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About a month ago, my husband and I went out to eat with another couple (an activity that has become a new treat since my autoimmune disease symptoms have improved over the last few months) and, lo and behold, my cheeks and lips started swelling. My cheeks felt tight and stretched out and I definitely started to look like a chipmunk.  This from a plain piece of grilled fish. Of course, it had to be a work dinner for my husband when this happened--need I mention the first work related dinner I had been able to attend with him in 3 years. Since I was eating plain fish I assumed there must have been some cross-contamination with onion or one of the other foods in the onion family.  I took benedryl and had my epi-pen in my purse at the ready, but, thankfully, the benedryl worked. I thought that was the end of that.

Unfortunately, it has since become clear that I was entering a whole new chapter of my allergy challenges. Welcoming back my throat-swelling has not exactly been like finding a long lost friend. I am most likely now allergic to something new, making the last several days a roller coaster.  I have again had swelling on multiple occasions, even when preparing meals at home or eating foods that are part of my usual diet. Clearly new foods are wreaking havoc but I am having a hard time figuring out what could be the cause. When my usual breakfast this morning led to another one of these swelling episodes, I knew that I needed to go to the allergist office to start to try to figure out what might be the new allergenic culprit(s).

While we are trying testing to isolate the new problem, we have yet to reach any clear conclusions on the cause of my new allergies. (I'll spare the details but because I'm on steroids, testing and getting clear results is more complex than normal.) In the meantime, since I am now so reactive and we don't know why I have been put back on an elimination diet.  I have had to do this in the past and it is no fun. You slowly add each new food one by one back into your diet, record what you eat daily, and note every allergic reaction. This approach means not eating foods with multiple ingredients, like cookies or breads from the grocery store, because if you do have an allergic reaction it is then impossible to parse out which ingredient is the cause. As I said, no fun.

Being so allergically activated is challenging (and dangerous) in its own right, but making matters worse is that treatment options are limited by my autoimmune disease...while at the same time the reactions themselves put me more at risk for an autoimmune flare. Because I have Sjogren's syndrome, anti-histamines make my dry eyes and dry mouth much worse and also increase my ear pain (related to my eustachian tube dysfunction).  This is the delicate balance that my allergist and I are trying to piece through together. I wish it felt more like science than trial and error.

While my autoimmune disease is what has materially changed the quality of my daily life, I know first-hand that allergies can be life threatening.  Where does that leave me?  At the moment, trying to get my recovery back on track.  Just when my autoimmune symptoms were under control enough that I could begin to socialize and start participating in the world again, my allergy symptoms decided not to cooperate.  I don't have an easy solution. I would like to find a creative way to distract my immune system from attacking the wrong things.  Could I teach it to meditate? Yoga perhaps? Or maybe long distance running.  Anything to distract it from attacking me...and the food I love.


6 comments:

  1. If you teach your Autoimmune Disease to meditate, please let me know how you did it :)

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    1. I certainly will! It would be miraculous;).

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  2. How distressing to have to deal with so many allergies. It can make you feel like you'd better off in a plastic bubble (well, that's how I feel at times anyway). I hope you find what is setting of your allergies soon.

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    1. Lol. I actually often tell my husband I need to live in a bubble. Completely understand how you feel.

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  3. It is so hard when the answers aren't forthcoming in situations like this. Hang in there.

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    1. That is so true. I used to think medical issues where clear cut with easy answers before AI disease and allergies. Now, I have had to accept a bit more ambiguity.

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