The Peaceful Feast


How Did I Get Here?

We all know the smart thing to do when you are sick is to go to the doctor. We all know to seek expert advice, but who to turn to when these experts fail?

My entire life has been plagued with mysterious ailments and illnesses. Some of these are definitely food related, others are environmental, and the source of others is still unknown. For decades now, doctor after doctor has been unable to pinpoint the cause of all these strange sufferings.

Infancy: Colic and an aversion to eggs, according to mom, who herself was lactose intolerant and allergic to mangoes. I occaisonally get itchy when I eat citrus. My dad was allergic to shellfish. I can’t handle scallops myself.

Early childhood to early adulthood: Allergy-related eczema of the hands and feet. Had weekly shots for several years but the shots ended even though the allergic reaction was in force. Doctor told my mom that I was having an auto-immune response to a number of environmental irritants. Food allergies were never considered. He told my mother to see to it that I marry “a rich man” so that I can hire people to clean (expose themselves to chemicals) for me. Hold on a minute …. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA …. Okay, I am back. Well, we see how that worked out considering that I am both poor and unmarried, but now there’s non-toxic cleaning products, so that’s .. uh … good, I guess. Just kidding. No really, that’s great. If you have got to do your own cleaning chemical free is the way to go.

Age 10: Trichotillomania (compulsive hair pulling): This is considered a psychiatric disorder along the Obsessive-Compulsive spectrum, but like many other mental health issues, there is some evidence of physical basis to hair pulling. John Kender believes that this disorder may be caused by an allergy to a common yeast found on the skin and in the gut. Kender is not a medical expert but he is a hair puller who devised an anti-yeast diet that he, and many others, claim is a cure for trichotillomania. I haven’t tried this diet so I can’t vouch for its efficacy but here’s a link in case you are interested.

Age 16 — 40: Clinical depression with anxiety. Another mental health issue with roots, some say, in physical health. Depression and anxiety is associated with carbohydrate cravings, which can pack on the pounds. Some carbohydrates are allergens, like wheat, corn, and potatoes, which can create a response from the body, including abrupt changes in mood.

Adult depression and anxiety has been linked to childhood allergies. Many celiac sufferers have been misdiagnosed initially as suffering from depression instead of a gluten sensitivity.

Lifelong: Hypothyroid: Diagnosed at 40 and guess what? Celiac and hypothyroidism are connected.

Age 20 — Irritable Bowel Syndrome: I actually started suffering from this around my mid-teens. Wheat and dairy are implicated in IBS. I’ve also suffered IBS very badly after eating semolina pasta and marinara sauce.

Age 40 — Painful Bladder Syndrome: This is the working diagnosis for what initially was thought to be bladder cancer. Inflamed cells fooled cytology tests into thinking that the inflammation was cancer. My urologist made the wheat/gluten connection to these symptoms and suggested the celiac panel. The panel results came back mixed. Based on my doctor’s recommendation, I’ve been off gluten since October ’09.

A common theme throughout the years is that these are all ailments that correspond highly to food/environmental allergies, yet only in the case of my childhood eczema and the painful bladder syndrome were allergies ever considered a cause of illness. So much for the so-called experts. No wonder Americans are going online looking for cures for what ails them. No wonder alternative healing is a multi-billion dollar industry. Yet, when people overhear me muttering to myself trying to figure out what’s going on inside, I hear words and phrase like “neurotic”, “self-absorbed”, “overly sensitive”, etc.

Oh, poor me. I’m a wee bit self-pitying today after writing an inventory of these health challenges. Well, at least with the gluten sensitivity diagnosis, better late than never. We’ll see how I feel after 6 months gluten-free.