allergy-corner: the new lifestyle

This is my story which gives you a little insight into what I’ve dealt with over the years when it comes to allergies and the newly acquired food intolerance and allergies. It’s like I’m allergic to all the good things in life, well mostly my favorite foods. But I’ve found it’s all about trail and error, things I like and don’t like and what I recommend. I’ve complied information about food allergies and site information that I’ve found most helpful. Different forums, blogs, and publications that you can join. I’ve also provided some online stores where you can purchase some of the things that are hard to find in a location near you.

Where to begin? Let’s see, since I was a baby I’ve suffered from eczema, allergies, asthma, pretty much the whole shebang. I’ve been on the never ending goose chase trying to treat my eczema and allergies. For years, my doctors pretty much played medicine roulette when it came to these two things, I was always trying new medications and creams, but nothing was working. I continued to have horrible flare ups as a child my eczema was everywhere on my wrists, crease of my elbows and knees and on my neck and face. As I’ve gotten older, the areas that still remain an issue are my face, neck and crease of my elbows…you know where everyone can see it, I’ve always been self-conscious of it, but there’s really nothing I can do about it. And my allergies, goodness my eyes would constantly be red (and no it wasn’t from smoking something haha), swell up, water, itch, and get to the point that they would seal shut with this gooey film, talk about nasty-real hot I know. I felt as if I had a head cold year round, with the congestion, sneezing and whatever else that came along, it took so much energy out of me. The one thing my mom found when I was younger that gave me the most relief, which I highly recommend, is Benadryl: Allergy Dye-Free LIQUI-GELS, let me tell ya they are my savior sometimes. It doesn’t make you drowsy and I was able to take 1-2 tablets at a time depending on the severity of my symptoms. It was pretty much the only thing that was able to control my eczema and allergies at the same time.

After living like that for 20 years, I finally had enough. My sophomore year in college I decided I needed to get allergy tested, which I found my allergies and eczema were directly related to one another. I first noticed a food allergy after my sophomore year homecoming at Ohio University, I broke out in eczema on my face after a fun filled day of drinking, eating, etc…needless to say someone said I might be allergic to beer. I said there’s no way, I’ve not had a problem until now, but sure enough I am. Then a couple months later I had an incident when I ate Michigan Cherries, which I’d been eating since I was a child, my throat and tongue started to itch and my lips began to swell, just call me Angelina Jolie.

The night before my allergy testing, I had another incident with this same reaction. I was out-to-eat with my family at our favorite Chinese restaurant, Fulin’s. Not even thinking I immediately took a Benadryl, disregarding my appointment in the morning.  So let’s skip ahead to the appointment, since I took an antihistamine instead of doing a skin test they took a blood test. My results came back for an exuberant amount of allergies and confirmation on a few food allergies. I found out I had a high/moderate allergy to maize and a moderate allergy to wheat and peanuts. But for some reason it didn’t register with me about the maize, because honestly who calls it that, it’s corn. So I started immediately on allergy shots, getting 3 shots twice a week, then hitting my maintenance and going once a week, to biweekly, and currently  getting 3 allergy shots once a month. I’ve been on them for 3 years which I’ve noticed a tremendous difference, they’ve helped with clearing up my allergy symptoms. I no longer have the daily aggravated eyes, or congestion, but I still get the occasional flare up when it’s that time of the season. However, my body seem to be fighting the shots, which is the process of injecting the allergens into the body to help build a tolerance, by breaking out in eczema instead of an asthma attack, which I guess is better but I’m still not a fan.

So I really didn’t do any major lifestyle changes until June 2010. I didn’t think I was having reactions to the food needless to say I was wrong. It got to the point that any time I would have a beer I would break out in eczema, so I cut out everything except for Woodchuck, a cider beer, and the occasional Irish Car Bomb because those were my favorite. But in October 2010, I couldn’t even drink those any more, my body literally rejected them, so my love for Grey Goose Vodka Tonics began. I really tried to watch my intake of wheat since it seemed to be the main culprit. The guy I was dating at the time loved beer, problem was, I noticed after he drank one and kissed me, just from it being on his breath and lips it caused me to break out in eczema on my face and neck. After that ended, I wasn’t directly exposed to beer for months, and I noticed my eczema was considerably getting worse again. So I started to watch my intake of peanuts which was extremely difficult for me because peanut butter is one of my favorite things. Keep in mind I completely forgot about the maize/corn.

So in July 2011, I had a check up with my Allergist, Allergy & Asthma Associates of Middle Tennessee, and I mentioned I thought my food allergies were further developing and getting worse. I asked to be tested again for a lot of things and gluten. My allergist explained that typically it’s rare for adults to develop food allergies, normally you get them as a child and grow out of them. Sure enough I would be that small percentage to develop them as an adult, which of course I could have always had them as a child and now I’m more conscious of them. So she read over my test results from my previous  test, and she said maize, frankly I didn’t remember that from my initial test. So I said, “wait you mean I can’t have corn?,” she said, ” well yes, but not things like cornstarch, corn flour, high fructose corn syrup, etc.” and it hit me, I eat popcorn all the time. It used to be my ritual after school, I come home, pop a bag of popcorn and do my homework, it’s one of my favorite snacks. So all of the problems I was having before I was now putting it together that it’s the corn and wheat that are giving me most of my problems. So I went on and did a skin test this time and another blood test for more food allergies. Her question to me, so what do you think you are allergic to? – Sorry but that’s what you are supposed to tell me! I explained that I wasn’t sure because my eczema was always present but I could have flare ups a few hours later or the next day. Of course we couldn’t test for everything so I narrowed down the list to the main things in my diet, along with cherries and gluten. But she said typically they don’t test for gluten and that I should have my primary physician at Family Wellness Group,  run a Celiac profile which I did. So on the skin test she retested for my initial food allergies and other grains. Weird thing was my test results showed that I was negative for wheat and peanuts but that I was allergic to Almonds. Well heck what does that mean, it contradicts my previous results! She explained that it could be a false negative and typically the blood tests are more accurate. So I’ve now added almonds and cherries to my food allergies. My allergist gave me some sites and told me to do my homework before my follow-up appointment in 2 weeks. I did a ton of research, like hours and when I went in for my follow-up appointment after my allergy testing, my Doctor was shocked at all the information I found, she said typically people don’t look into it. Funny thing was both of my doctors made copies of all the information I found to give to other patients that suffer from the same allergens, the information I found.  But I was gun-ho about it, if it was going to make me feel better, I was all about researching and making necessary lifestyle changes. As I was leaving the appointment my results came in and I tested positive for Celiac’s Disease, however the only way to be 100% sure is for the GI doctor to do an endoscopy of your small intestines, to see if the villi are damaged…so that appointment is next week, kind of hoping I don’t have that. Learning this new information my doctor set up me up with a nutritionist at Vanderbilt Medical to help me find somethings I can eat and to get more information on Celiac’s Disease and my other food allergies. I found that I wasn’t the only one, a good handful of my friends where dealing with the gluten intolerance, so I was able to get some helpful information from them as well.

I began to make some serious changes and started my transition into the MFGF, tree nut and cherry-free lifestyle. It was not easy by any means, Gluten and Corn are pretty much in everything, they are a staple in our society’s diet. In my hours spent on research I made lists of ingredients that are safe and what to avoid, lets just say the avoid list is much longer than the safe list and where you can find them. Check out those lists here. I found that there isn’t a lot of information on maize allergies because it’s not very common, go figure, just because it says Gluten-Free doesn’t mean I can eat it! Literally after learning this new information I went through all of my snacks at work; I was allergic to everything except for the oatmeal, so I gave all of my food away. I went to Kroger for lunch since I couldn’t eat anything I brought. Let me tell you I was frustrated with reading labels and finding I couldn’t eat it, so I came back with clementines, edamame, and tapioca pudding, real filling right? So seeing that I pretty much couldn’t eat anything I went to my local Barnes and Nobles to find a few allergy-free & gluten-free cookbooks and let me tell you that took a while, I ended up with a few kids cookbooks because I knew there would be dishes I’d like. With the right substitutions I’m still able to eat all of my favorite dishes and I’ve found some more I like! Check out my post on my favorite recipes!

The first couple of weeks I spent literally hours at different grocery stores trying to find food I can eat, I didn’t come back with much. I had the most success at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and the Organic section at my local Kroger Marketplace. Living the GF lifestyle, involves constantly being aware, cooking and hesitant to what you eat out. Luckily, GF is becoming more recognized and restaurants are accommodating and making GF options! Check out my post on GF & Allergy apps, there are some great tools in there to help you eat out.  So as I was processing and in the shower where I do a lot of my thinking, it dawned on me; I bet all of my allergens are in the products, cosmetics, and medications I use, sure enough I was allergic to at least a few things in all of them. Boy I wish I was wrong, as you can see replacing those things all at once is kind of expensive, but I found some great products and brands.-Check out my GFMF Cosmetics post for personal & household products!  So my medications, I looked up the ingredients, I was allergic to multiple things in all of them, and here’s the kicker I’m even allergic to my allergy medication, kind of beats the purpose right? But I talked to my doctor and there really isn’t anything I can substitute them for so she said to still take them. Then I thought about it and I went and checked the liquor cabinet…as heartwreching as it was, I’m allergic to Grey Goose, it’s distilled French wheat, supposedly I can still drink it since it’s distilled but I don’t want to take the chance so I’ve switched to Belvedere. Check out my alcohol post to see which ones are safe!

A couple of days later, I went to get my hair done, of course I was venting and she directed me to a little cafe in her parking lot that was all GF food! I talked to the owner and she suffered from Celiac’s Disease as well. I explained to her all the difficultly I was having trying to find food, and I explained that I had a corn allergy as well, and you know what she said, her mom does too! So she gave me her contact information and I spoke with her and got a lot of insight. It’s great to know that I’m not the only one suffering from Celiac’s and a Corn allergy. She gave me some great sites and apps to use for when I’m grocery shopping and eating out!- Check out my GF & Allergy Apps

If you are going through this same kind of transition, I just want you to know that it does get easier as time goes on but the few months or so can be tough. Believe me I still get tempted to eat a cheeseburger every now and again, I just pay for it later.

Okay so that brings me up-to-date. Yes, medical mess, but thank goodness for research, technology and medical advances, or I’d be one lost puppy! 🙂 I hope you are able to find some helpful information!

Please provide feedback and if you have questions, I’ll do my best to answer them or research the information!

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14 responses to “allergy-corner: the new lifestyle

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