Allow me to introduce you to Amy. Her story of food allergies and the journey to find out what was making her sick, is an interesting one. Now, I will let Amy tell you for herself.
Why No One Figured Out Food Was Making Me Sick
Five minutes. That’s all it took for golf ball-sized hail to destroy the four gorgeous pots of flowers I’d just set out on the patio. In two days our extended family was gathering for a dinner party to celebrate a wedding; I’d have to scurry to find more flowers. What a waste of time and money.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that the hail had also completely destroyed our roof along with many windows as well as the siding of our house. I’d be spending the entire summer dealing with the insurance company and contractors. Losing those flowers were small potatoes.
Sometimes we focus on the little things and entirely miss the big picture.
This is exactly what happened when I started getting sick in my thirties. The doctors focused on each of my symptoms—from vertigo to chronic pain– entirely missing the symptoms were all a part of the same illness.
The first doctor said my blood pressure was high and put me on meds. The second one told me my iron was low but brushed it off to a poor diet. Another doctor said the pain in my chest was GERD and prescribed meds. A dietitian told me I was malnourished and gave me a diet to follow. A gastroenterologist gave me meds for IBS. Another gastroenterologist told me to go eat fried foods and if I got sick, I most likely needed my gallbladder removed. A gynecologist told me I needed a total hysterectomy.
Each time I got a diagnosis, I let out a sigh of relief. At least it wasn’t cancer.
Still, something wasn’t adding up. After all these tests and procedures, followed by a hysterectomy and gall bladder surgery, my symptoms worsened. In fact, I became so exhausted I couldn’t get out of bed. Everything I ate made me run to the bathroom. I couldn’t remember what year it was, or how long I’d been married. Pain shot through my entire body. My legs caved when I walked up the stairs. My eyesight weakened, and I kept developing weird skin lesions. I itched all over.
I’d about given up when I saw an advertisement in our local paper for a food allergy blood test. Not one doctor had suggested food might be causing my symptoms—even though I now know reactions to food can cause all the symptoms I experienced.
When the blood test came back, I argued with the pharmacy that something must have gone wrong in the lab—I couldn’t possibly be allergic to that many foods!
So I went to a board-certified allergist for skin-prick testing. He confirmed I was allergic to myriad foods, including dairy, soy, eggs, corn, wheat, vanilla, nutmeg and asparagus.
I’d received negative results for celiac disease years earlier, but a new doctor ran a genetic test and confirmed celiac disease. Turns out I have both genes for celiac disease; either one parent has both genes, like me, or each carries one gene. An endoscopy also revealed I have eosinophilic esophagitis, which explained why food often got stuck on the way down.
At first, I found it hard to believe food could make me so sick. I was an adult—adults don’t develop food allergies! But as soon as I started eliminating certain foods, my health improved—immensely!
The prescribed painkillers for chronic pain and the antibiotics that followed all those procedures and surgeries in all likelihood contributed to a leaky gut and resulting food allergies and celiac disease. Certainly they didn’t help. Nor did the gluten-filled saltines I kept eating for an upset stomach!
I’ve learned a valuable lesson: Pay attention to the details, but look at the big picture. While each doctor had his or her theory for the cause of a symptom, my instinct was that all my symptoms were part of a bigger problem. I’ve since learned celiac disease can have over 300 symptoms!
It took some time, but the flowers I thought had been destroyed by the hail eventually grew back. They don’t look quite as pretty as when I brought them home, but they are getting stronger and healthier.
Just like me.