Tracking down the allergens

Monday, December 1, 2008

From the time I was 10 years old until I was about 15, I was plagued with two seemingly unrelated physical ailments. One was a rash that covered my inner arms from my wrist to just above my elbow. It was horribly itchy and I often scratched at it until it bled. I wore long sleeves a LOT.

The other was migraine headaches. From what I know now, they were “classic migraines” – the type that begin with a vision disturbance similar to what happens when a camera flash nails you directly in the eye. White spots clouding my entire field of vision. I knew when this happened, a crushing headache was in my immediate future. There was nothing I could do to get rid of it except to go to bed and sleep for 4 or 5 hours straight – and pray my head wouldn’t explode before I could wake up.

Both of these things disappeared around the same time and didn’t rear their ugly heads again until about five years ago. The rash on my arms has moved, in a much lesser form, to my back – still itchy, but I never scratch it until it bleeds. Mostly because I can’t reach the itchiest parts. And the migraines? Just the vision disturbance now, mercifully no longer followed by the headache, but sometimes accompanied by numbness in different areas of my face. My doctor said it was a “headacheless migraine.” I never heard of such a thing. But he’s the doctor and he would know, right? There was no discussion as to what may trigger them.

Hmmm. Puberty and menopause? I have long assumed they were hormonally related and didn’t really give it much thought – unless I was temporarily blinded, or acting like a bear, trying to rub my itchy back against a tree. Well, not a real tree. A metaphorical tree, if you will.

Two years ago I was diagnosed with a dairy allergy. Specifically, an allergy to casein, a milk protein. When the doctor told me that, I could have cried. He said some people actually DO cry when he relays the bad news. No cheese? Ever? Well, just shoot me now. So, in the way I have of justifying anything so that I can continue to do whatever the hell I want to do, I call this allergy a “sensitivity” because it isn’t life threatening. And I continue to eat it.

And my back gets itchier and itchier.

The vision disturbances, by far more unsettling than the itchy back, were a tougher nut to crack. Which is kind of a pun, considering what is to follow. The first time I was able to connect the migraine to food was after I had eaten mixed nuts. Because it was almost immediate. Unfortunately, there were about 100 different kinds of nuts in there, so I had no idea which one did it. So I laid the blame at the door of the Brazil nut. Because I don’t really like them that much and I don’t eat them too often. So they’d be easy to give up.

About a month ago, I bought Mr. Jelly Belly some walnuts. For the Omega 3’s. He’s allergic to fish (not that he’d eat it anyway) and he won’t touch flaxseed, so we thought it would be the best way for him to get the Omega 3’s in. Except I started eating them. About an ounce every day. And I got a migraine. Every day. Well, you don’t have to be Einstein to figure out that connection. So no more walnuts for me.

Yesterday, my daughter, who was home from school for Thanksgiving, made some white chocolate macadamia cookies and left them sitting out - right where I could see them. Although I had warned her if she made them to immediately put them in ziplock bags and hide them in her room. Because I am trying to stay away from sugar and those are my favorite cookies. Oh. And because I have no willpower.

So I ate two of them. Result? Immediate migraine. Add macadamia nuts to the list. So I looked up “tree nuts” because I have heard they are a pretty common allergen and I was wondering if I was allergic to ALL of them.

Fortunately, I don’t think so. I ate almonds the other day and was fine. And I don’t recall a problem with either cashews or pistachios. Although I’d deny it if I did (they’re my favorites). Which leave pecans, which MAY be a problem. I don’t eat those very often, either, and don’t recall the last time I had one. But I’ll put them on the list anyway.

I’m hoping the nuts are the only triggers. I guess we’ll see. (Dear God, don't let it be caffeine.) But my next project is wheat, because I’m also convinced I have a sensitivity in that area. I’ve been in denial, but the way my body reacts whenever I eat wheat makes me think it may be a problem. That will be a tough one, but when I was mostly off all flour products, I really did feel a whole lot better. And I could totally live without the constant bloat.

So for one week, and one week only, I am going to see what happens when I become:

Sugar-free
Dairy-free
Wheat-free
Oatmeal-free

I only added the oatmeal to the list because this is as good a time as any to break that particular obsession.

I’ve written menus that I think I can live with for the week and I’ll start tomorrow as soon as I can drag myself to the grocery store. Wish me luck. I’ll let you know how it goes.

7 comments:

midlife mommy said...

I know, I'm such a cynic, but what CAN you eat?

You know, call me crazy, but that is what made me into such an obsessive breast feeder. I'd read (and been told in a breast feeding class) that doing it might be my daughter's best shot at avoiding allergies. Even though it was miserable at first (and that word doesn't begin to describe it), the fact that she might get to escape the allergy hell was the only thing that kept me going. (I have the respiratory kind, not the food kind, and I graduated to mild asthma as well in my 30's.)

So far, we're lucky -- no allergies.

Mrs. Jelly Belly said...

Lots of things! All meats and seafood, fruits, vegetables, eggs, rice, potatoes, PUMPKIN, non-dairy butter, milk and coffee cream, pumpernickel and rye bread and so on. I will try to remember this list when I am feeling deprived.

I also didn't have any respiratory allergies until I was over 30. Odd, huh? Let's hope your daughter stays allergy-free.

MomToTwo said...

You are a stronger woman than I. I hope that you can find the triggers, though. Have you seen the magazine Clean Eating? I get it and was looking through it today at ballet. I think you would like it.

Mrs. Jelly Belly said...

I have heard of that magazine, but I haven't seen it. I will check the grocery store for it and pick it up tonight. Thanks!

Cyndi said...

Good luck with your taste-free week. LOL. I have never been able to figure out what my migraine trigger is, but fortunately they are infinitely milder and more rare now than when I was younger. Looking forward to hearing how you feel this week.

Mrs. Jelly Belly said...

"taste-free" - ha ha! A funny thing happened already today. I had a Lipton Cup-a-soup (spring vegetable) in the afternoon because I was kind of hungry and hadn't gone shopping yet. Did not even THINK about the teeny tiny noodles in there. Immediate and painful bloat. Yes, I think wheat may definitely be a problem...

heather said...

Hi!
My son is allergic to soy, peanIuts, eggs,wheat and dairy. I started a website www.spewdfree.com to help other people who suffer from food allergies. I thought SPEWD Free might be helpful to you because all of the recipes on our website are free of soy, peanuts, eggs,wheat and dairy.
Thanks,
Heather