If you’ve been hanging out at DDD for a while you may have notice that all of my recipes are free of gluten, eggs, soy and for the most part dairy free. Some of you may even hang out here just because of those recipes (and I am so appreciative of that!). But there is a reason why I put the time and effort into creating allergy-friendly recipes and I thought it was about time I share my story with you!
May is National Celiac/Gluten Awareness Month and this week is also Food Allergy Awareness Week. I wanted to write this post to not only take part in these celebrations but also to inspire others who are struggling and may not know the answer just yet, because if it wasn’t for a friend who shared her story with me I may still be searching for an answer to my health problems.
Before I dive in, let me just say that I am not an expert on this issue. This is just my personal experience.
Warning: Lots of text below and very few pictures.
For as far back as I can remember I ALWAYS struggled with stomach aches. Always. I don’t think I can remember a day when my stomach didn’t hurt. When I was little I remember telling my mom that I had several different types of stomach aches, there were the achy ones, the crampy ones, the stabbing ones, and just about every other kind. She looked just as confused as all the doctors did and I’m pretty sure they all thought I was making it up. And it wasn’t just stomach aches either, I always had headaches and a lot of other issues.
Fast forward to when I was about 10. It was during this time of my life when I discovered that I got sick every time I ate fried foods. Bingo. Fried foods are often made with eggs, wheat AND soy. No wonder why I got sick. But at that time food allergies/sensitivities were not even a thought and my mom and I just thought fried foods were just too rich for me to digest. So I guess we were on the right track. Kind of. And from that time on I didn’t touch anything fried…. until I went to college but that’s another story.
Throughout my life I learned to live with all of my health issues. The stomach pains, the headaches, the feeling that I looked 4 months pregnant because of how bad my stomach hurt. I learned to live with that fact that I never really felt normal but at the same time I really didn’t know any different. At one point I was diagnosed with IBS. While I am no expert on the issue, I personally think it’s just a cop-out for when they can’t find anything else wrong with you.
The next big turning point came when I was a senior in high school and I had an ovarian cyst rupture. (If that wasn’t enough for an 18-year-old, it ruptured while I was cheerleading during the half time show at the Orange Bowl. Awesome.) One cyst turned into two which turned into three and before I knew it these ‘episodes’ just became a routine. Go to the doctor, get pain pills, and rest until I felt better than start it all over again. So after the 3rd one I stopped going to the doctor and just learned to take care of myself. But after a while the episodes were getting worse and more frequent so I went to get them checked out and to my surprise there were no ovarian cysts. Nothing showed up on the ultra sound. I was more confused than ever.
Now that I knew the pain and discomfort I was feeling was not coming from a cyst, I found myself showing up at the doctor every few months with horrible stomach issues. My husband even rushed me to the ER once because I thought I was having an appendicitis. I tried everything, went to different specialists and took a million tests and everything came up negative. Every time the doctors would ask where it hurt I just said everywhere. Stabbing here, cramping there, aching here and I got blank stares. Can I tell you how horrible it makes you feel when no doctor can figure out what’s wrong with you? You start to think you might actually be crazy.
And then my life changed forever. I was 23 and working at a public relations agency in Seattle when I met Megan. Megan and I became friends and like all girls we discussed anything and everything. I knew Megan had food allergies but it wasn’t until she told me her story did a light go off in my head. It was as if she was telling me my own life story. We had extremely similar symptoms and health issues. Could it be that this whole time I was just allergic to what I was eating? Megan suggested I go get tested and at that point I had tried everything else so what was I going to lose?
It took me a few months to make an appointment and to this day I don’t know why I waited so long. I went to a natural path where they ran a food allergen blood test. I remember praying that the test showed SOMETHING. When I sat down and read my results I wanted to cry. This test just proved I wasn’t crazy, there really was something going on with my body. I was so excited to find out that I was off the charts for gluten, eggs, yeast, soy and bananas ( I also tested positive for asparagus, cranberries and pineapple but I have worked those back into my diet with no issues).
If you are curious if I have Celiac, I honestly don’t know and never will know. You have to have gluten in your diet for an extended period of time in order for the results to be accurate. Celiac or not, I won’t change my eating habits so it’s not worth it to eat gluten for a month. However, since finding out about my gluten-intolerance I have learned that I have cousins on both sides of my family with Celiac and I have experienced rare health issues as a child that can result from Celiac. But the answer to the question is still unknown.
The second I found out about my food allergies I stopped eating everything that showed up on the test and I felt instantly better. But just five days after cleansing myself from these foods my husband and I celebrated our 1st wedding anniversary. I had waited all year to bring out our wedding cake and share that special moment with my husband. After all it’s an American tradition. So I set aside all of my food issues, gave a toast to my husband and enjoyed the cake… for all of about 5 minutes. The rest of the night and the entire next day I was curled up in fetal position and felt awful. It was that moment that I KNEW I couldn’t eat these foods and I have been completely clean ever since.
Over the past 4 years there have been few occasions when things have slipped into my food either through cross contamination or me being careless about reading a label. And now I can tell exactly what food I consumed by how I feel, because every food affects me differently (that’s where all of those different stomach aches come in).
Gluten/Wheat: Lower abdominal pain, bloating, irritability, extreme fatigue, headaches (pretty much how you feel your 1st trimester of pregnancy). It’s as if you have the flu almost.
Soy: My throat now gets tight when I eat soy so I can tell instantly.
Eggs: Extreme nausea and I feel like I’m having an appendicitis, there is no other way to describe it.
The day I found out about my food allergies/sensitivities was one of the best days of my life. For the past (almost) 4 years I have never felt better. I have more energy that I have ever had before, I have virtually no headaches, and no stomach issues. I honestly don’t know how I survived all of those years.
I know this was probably the longest post ever in the history of DDD but I hope some of you can relate or I’ve inspired some of you to get tested. I owe everything to my friend Megan and I hope to pay it forward one day. I also left a lot of details out of this post (shocking I know) but if you have any questions about my experience shoot me an email, I’d be happy to chat taryn(at)designdininganddiapers(dot)com.