I finally got back the results of the second round of allergy tests on Friday. There are two really common ways to test for allergies with a blood test: IgG and IgE (click here for more info on the difference). My naturopath wanted to test the IgG responses I have to foods. The results of my IgE tests taken back in July influenced the removal of eggs, wheat, soybean, corn, and a few other things from my diet. Thankfully though, I was able to bring back some nuts. I had cut nuts out for years, but those allergies lessened enough for me to bring them back, eaten in moderation and roation. Hooray! How I missed them, and how I love them now. Almond butter, yum yum.
Anyway, back to the new results. Not as great as I had hoped. As it happens, I responded to 36 foods from a list of 115. As I look at this list, I realized that so many of these foods are foods I really ate in excess over a year ago (chili pepper, eggs, tomatoes, wheat and brewer's yeast), or really started eating a whole lot more of recently after cutting out so many things from my diet (green beans, asparagus, sweet potato). Some of them I have always avoided because I know they make me feel icky or I just don't like them - like cantaloupe, bananas, or kidney beans. The spices are all spices I love and have used regularly. But some stuff really threw me - all the citrus fruits? My favorite food on earth, the beautiful sweet potato? PUMPKIN? It makes me wonder if that includes pumpkin seeds too, which would be a tragic loss. It probably does. Damn. How are two of the foods taht are considered the least allergic and part of the Failsafe diet that allergists put people on things that I am actually allergic to? And why do I have to love both of them so darn much?!?!?!
Here's the grand new list, and what my naturopath is recommending I do.
All if these items were reactive at a +1 level (lowest) unless otherwise noted, testing for IgG response.
Those with * I need to cut out for 6 months because I eat them often (2-3x/week or more) or I am very reactive
Those with ^ I need to cut out for 3 months because I eat them occasionally (less than 2-3x/week)
All others I should only eat 1-2 times/week or, ideally, less often or never. Some of those things I haven’t eaten in a long time (banana, sesame, cantaloupe, etc) and it should stay that way if I can live without them.
Asparagus^, Avocado^, Banana, Green Bean^, Kidney Bean, Pinto Bean, Yellow Wax Bean, Cantaloupe, Chilli Pepper^, Cinnamon^, Clove^, Cranberry, Egg Yolk (+2)*, Egg White (+3)*, Eggplant, Ginger*, Grapefruit, Lemon*, Lime*, Nutmeg^, Oat^, Orange, Oregano^, Pineapple (+4)*, Sweet Potato*, White Potato, Pumpkin^, Radish, Sage^, Sesame, Snapper, Tangerine, Tomato, Wheat (+2)*, Yam*, Yeast, Baker’s (+2)* Yeast, Brewer’s (+3)*
I guess all those weekend Bloody Mary and beer chaser breakfasts of scrambled eggs and hash browns that I ate in profusion during Spring, Summer, and Fall 2007 may have done a number on my system (in more ways than one!). Especially when I consider that as last year went on, my health seemed to get worse...and worse...and worse. And I imagine that things I ate regularly while my intestines were all jacked up will cause my body to respond as well, even good foods like grapefruit, asparagus, and sweet potatoes.
Looking at the list, some things really made sense to me, and totally clicked. I had some ah-ha moments that helped to explain why I felt so terrible some days. For example, this could explain why I felt shitty last week Friday, when I had tasty homemade gluten-free spiced ginger oatbran muffins, sweet potatoes, avocado, and ginger tea all on the same day. The day before I ate green bean and pumpkin curry. Hmn. I guess it was a food hangover.
After we went through the list and her recommendations, I sat in her office and cried for about 45 minutes. My mind was totally flooded with fear, anger, concern. I knew what this woudl mean, because I've done it all before already. Relearning how to cook - once again. Relearning how to feel satisfaction without flavors and textures that I love - once again. Learning how to work with an even FURTHER limited repetoire - once again. Learning how to simplify recipes to fit with a semi-rotational diet. Divorcing myself from current favorite dishes, tricks, and ingredients, and learning to substitute, change, and alter - once again. Making tasty baked goods just keeps getting harder and harder...
This on top of the restrictions due to Candida and my persistent bacterial vaginosis - no vinegar, no sugar, no fruit, no gluten, no caffeine. Thankfully, I have reintroduced small amounts of goat and sheep yogurt and cheese lately, and that seems to be okay. Every now and again, I'm allowed a little agave nectar. And fruit may be able to come back soon. I'm no longer needing to take the Micro Defense supplement (helped kill candida and parasites), which is great, because that stuff always gave me crazy die-off reactions. And overall, I truly am noticing massive improvements in the way I feel. So, I continue. More Caproyl, more probiotics, more vitamins, more L-Glutamine, more of the Bach Flower homeopathic remedies to ease my mind, deepen my sleep, and counteract the negative effects the Gardasil vaccine had on me (click here for more on that).
In January, I am going to do a detox at my naturopath's suggestion, and we are going to add a few things to it to help purge heavy metals from the two Gardisil vaccinations I received (that vaccine is hell on wheels) and facilitate intestinal healing even more. The good thing about this is that most of the reponses are really low level, which means that they should - hopefully - be able to lessen, as long as I cut them out and encourage more healing of the old pesky leaky gut situation. She is confident that I will be able to reintroduce many of them, it is just a matter of removing them for a while. Oh, and surviving through it in the meantime without losing more weight, and with a sense of peace and patience. Big sigh...
I have three main negative feelings that start creeping in to my brain: fear, anger, grief.
I'm scared that for some reason, these allergies won't heal and I'll have to cut these foods out forever. I'm scared of becoming allergic to foods that I eat now. And I'm scared that I will forever have to live outside the realm of anything even close to normal as far as food goes that doing the kind of spontaneous, adventurous, and exploratory travel and lifestyle choices I'd like to make just won't be able to happen because I won't be able to find anything to eat. I've carried enough rice cakes, produce, cans of beans, knives, can openers, and cloth napkins in my bag to know how to whip up a good meal on the go. But you can only bring so much food with out in a backpack or on a car trip or on an airplane, and it involves preparation and pre-planning. And without refrigeration, things do start going funky after a while...
Sometimes I feel angry at my body. I feel angry at whatever circumstances led to this existence. Sometimes I feel angry with myself, like I feel like I did something WRONG to make this happen, even though I know that isn't true. Other times I just get frustrated with general existence, and want to turn my back on the life I live now and get a new one. While I know I need to love my body, and that negative feelings hinder the healing process, every once and a while, I just get pissed off. And I think that is okay, as long as I can recognize those feelings, brush them away, and replace them with positive, healing energy. Often easier said than done. Having a sense of humor helps. There really is something so absurd and almost comical about being so terribly tempted by a friggin' sweet potato and now needing to turn it down the way a heart patient needs to turn down a Big Mac, or an alcoholic needs to turn down a drink, or a sex addict needs to turn down a really hot one-night-stand.
Above all, I miss being a normal 26-year-old. I miss going out to Sunday brunch with my friends. I miss being able to accept an invitation for lunch or dinner. I miss going out for coffee or a drink with a date. I miss being on-the-go, grab food somewhere along the way without thinking about it, and do whatever when the opportunity arises. I miss holiday baking, one of my favorite things to do. I miss trying out new recipes without having to make 8 million adjustments. I miss feeling strong all day long without that dreaded low-blood-sugar drop that I fight with now. I miss my menstrual cycle, still absent since March. I miss having a brain that isn't pre-occupied with food, how I'm feeling, and what tomorrow will bring.
While this is a healing process, it is also a grieving process. But, then I remind myself that it could be worse. I have all my mental faculties, I have all my limbs, I can take care of myself, go to work, hang out with friends, and do the things I love. This isn't a terminal disease. This won't kill me. In fact, these changes I am making will ensure a longer, healthier life than I would have ever known before. And for that, I am thankful.
It helps to see some of those positive effects in my body already. I absolutely do not miss the lifelong, persistent stomach aches that have now faded. I cannot clearly communicate how BIG that is for me. I do not miss the crazy alternating constipation and diarrhea that has now regulated. I do not miss the dry, bleeding cracked hands that have healed. I do not miss the painful, deep acne that has been replaced by clear, smooth skin that I always envied and never thought I would have. I do not miss the uncomfortable, itchy random hives that plagued me for years, coming and going as they pleased, or the seemingly random dry, swelling tongue, forcing me to take Benedryl often. I do not miss the awful sinus problems and seasonal allergies that I did not have to deal with this summer and fall for the first time since childhood (TRULY AMAZING). I do not miss the excess weight I always carried that has melted off (although, adding back another 5-10 pounds on my bones probably would be a good thing at this point...especially because I'm an awfully tall girl, winter in Minnesota is awfully cold, and I tend to think some junk in the trunk is a good thing).
As they say, nothing tastes as good as feeling good feels. And as I've found, I agree. But that doesn't soothe the heartache and sense of loss I feel for what aspects of my life I loved and appreciated and wish I had back.
But life is change. Life is impermanence. And I am a firm believer that 99% of the time, change is good. Great, in fact. It keeps you on your toes, keeps you sharp, keeps you thinking. I know that all of this is happening for a reason, and is allowing me to become healthier, stronger, and more in-tune with my body, mind, and spirit. I have gained a new knowledge of myself, increased patience, a new sense of balance and moderation, and an appreciation for health that I never fully understood before. I have learned to fully sink into grief, feel anger, sit in frustration, and come out the other side stronger. I have found new kinds of satisfaction in small things. I have learned so much, and through this experience, have found a renewed passion for the healing arts, inspiring me to go back to school for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. And when I am a practitioner someday, I will be able to offer a point-of-view, support, and knowledge that I wish I had offered to me more often. The only way to get through this is with faith, patience, self loving-kindess, and the knowledge that as my life has changed from what it was, it will continue to change from what it is, and that these restrictions are probably not permanent. Sure. I've lost some foods along the way, but what I've gained will fill me longer than any food ever could.
So, one big cleansing breath later, the journey continues. I need to get my internet up and running reliably at home so I can write more often, because I feel that putting my words out there will help me get through this experience. It is cathartic. And perhaps it will be helpful to others. I know I have found peace and understanding through this process by reading the words of many other brave women; perhaps someone can find that in mine.