Almost 4 years ago, after several lab tests came back normal, I submitted to a food allergy test. I wanted to know why, at my relatively young age of 42, I had a constellation of irritating symptoms that made me feel old. I was exhausted in the middle of the afternoon, my joints (particularly in my hands) ached every morning and the dark circles under my eyes had taken on a life of their own. I was unwilling to accept that these symptoms were simply inevitable and natural side effects of the aging process.
When I sat down with my doctor after the blood test, he asked me, “What do you think came back on your test?” I told him, “I’m pretty sure eggs are a problem. Possibly wheat and dairy too.” Bingo. I nailed all of the items that came back as allergies on the test. There were also a few items that came back as “sensitivities” that were surprises to me: coffee (YES, COFFEE!!!!!) and cucumbers.
After I exclaimed, “I’ll never be able to eat cake again!!”, he explained to me an elimination diet created for me by the lab that ran my tests. It was rigorous and restrictive, but I was willing to give it all I had to see if it made a difference. The short version is, WOW, did it make a difference. And I lost 22 pounds in the first 3 months of that elimination diet, without too much suffering. Oh, and I have eaten cake again…granted, not the usual wheat/dairy/egg laden cakes of old, but tasty substitutes that did not leave me dissatisfied.
To be clear, I am not a medical doctor. What I’m sharing here is based on my own experience of this journey. That said, I don’t think that my symptoms were uncommon. When I found this list of symptoms on the Nourishing Meals website, I was stupefied that no one else suggested that I might have food allergies. Consider for a moment that the foods you consume may be causing chronic allergic reactions in your body, that lead to inflammation that manifests in myriad ways. For me, I had almost no acute symptoms (except, by the time I did the test I had terrible stomach cramps almost immediately after eating eggs).
I was glad to find some great resources early in my journey. The Nourishing Meals website, was truly a life-saver for me. I also bought both of their cookbooks, which made the transition much less painful. I read food labels very carefully and became aware of unsuspecting ingredients that might cause me trouble. I found a helpful reference in Living Without magazine, which I kept on my refrigerator for identifying sources of gluten in food. My mother-in-law sent me a subscription to Gluten Free Living magazine, which came in handy. Mostly, I found a ton of information and inspiration through blogs from others who had also discovered food allergies, or even celiac disease. The Gluten Free Goddess blog was one of my go-to resources, replete with not only recipes but also great general resources for food elimination diets.
Lastly, in pulling together this short piece I came across this great article, titled Things I Wished I Knew When First Going Gluten and Dairy Free. I know this can be overwhelming, but there are a lot of great resources. If you’re feeling like you don’t know where to start, stop into the Co-op and ask for me, Mary Veerkamp. I’d be happy to answer your questions as best I can, or point you toward a good resource. Good luck!