Just For Fun is my way of sharing all the little things I like to do... from crafty things to thoughtful things!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

She's baaaaack!

I love fall, I really do.  The crisp air, the leaves changing color, the anticipation of the upcoming holidays... it's all part of my favorite time of year.  For various reasons though, fall also plays an allergy trick on me that lasts all winter long.  It starts insidiously, a little extra sinus pressure, a slowly increasing wheeze, and often ends up as some sort of respiratory infection in January.

Not this year!  This year, my doc has attacked my favorite season with a change in asthma medications and in depth blood testing.  We've discovered that along with allergies I was conscious about, there were a bunch I had not made any connection with.  Most of the previously unidentified allergies are food related.

Avoiding these allergans has brought some challenges that are a constant struggle.  I found there is little readily available information about allergies, especially multiple food allergies.  The reason for this is that allergies are a truly individual thing.  Allergy test results are not an indicator of an actual reaction, i.e. a positive test does not mean you will have a noticeable reaction to that allergan.  Then there are the zillions of different ways your body can react!  Some are quite obviously identifiable like anaphylaxis, and some are not, like a sniffly nose or itchy skin.

Most importantly in regard to food, I've learned that there is a difference between an allergy (an immune system response) and an intolerance (a digestive system response).  The symptoms can sometimes be alike, but the root cause is quite different.  Over the years, I've considered myself intolerant of certain foods, like meat.  I've avoided those foods because I just don't feel good when I eat them.  Recent testing has shown that I am actually allergic to those foods (yes, you can be allergic to meat!). 

It may seem like a fine point, but for me it means that I needed to change my perspective.  Eating a food I usually avoid does not just mean an upset stomach for a few hours (intolerance).  It means my immune system gets charged up and creates general inflammation over my entire body (allergy).  All those little things add up to mean one big constant and chronic, decades old allergic response which is the source of my asthma... and why the asthma continues to worsen as I get older, as the general level of overall inflammation constantly increases.

Test results I received right before Christmas suggested I should avoid wheat, milk, eggs, soy, nuts, and to a lesser degree corn and meat.  ALL of the 'big eight' that account for 90% of all allergic reactions to food!  Added to my previously known allergies to various grains, fruits and vegetables, it made the list of what I could eat rather short.  It also made the usual Christmas feasts difficult to enjoy.  That said, after a few weeks of carefully watching every food, I can honestly say that I feel like a completely different person.  There is something to this food allergy thing!

On the odd chance that you or someone you know also suffers from food allergies, here are some helpful links:
Food Allergy Survival Guide - the BEST book I've found
great list of links!
Allergy Grocer - you can sort by allergan!