Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Why I'm Here, aka My Crappy Genes

At this point, I'm rather surprised I'm not allergic to water.  Allergic? Yes, but thankfully (so far) none of my food allergies causes an anaphylactic reaction. So am I really allergic? Doesn't that just mean I'm just "sensitive?"  No, and I think after reading on you'll discover why.

My journey seemed to start after my mom's death almost a year ago.  She was only 74. Now I know that it may not seem young to some folks, but this was a woman who spent most of her later years as a "healthy" vegetarian who had no vices.  She never drank or smoked.  But she did battle these annoying things like fibromyalgia, arthritis that they kept saying was, then wasn't, then was rheumatoid arthritis, and diarrhea.  Lots and lots of pooping.  We call it "the Hershey Squirts."  (And yes, now you know how gentle and delicate a soul I am.)

Mom took a lot of crap from us (pun only partially intended) over her chronic, and we thought perhaps a bit neurotic, need for being close to a bathroom.  She even bought a big old Chevy van because she kept a port a potty in the back.  Yup.  That bad.

That was the way it was from I'm guessing sometime in the 1980's, but it could have been before that. All I remember was that it just seemed to get worse.  She went to doctor after doctor.  It's rheumatoid arthritis.  No wait, scratch that, is lupus.  No wait! It's fibromyalgia.  Or maybe it's nerves!  I couldn't keep up with the diagnosis du jour.

She just couldn't catch a break.  She got remarried in the late 90's and started square dancing.  Until she couldn't do that anymore.  Now comes the neuropathy and the leg braces, cane and walker.  And finally. FINALLY.  A diagnosis.

Celiac disease.  Aka the Hershey Squirt disease.

So now, in her mid to late 60's she finds out she is severely allergic to gluten.  Oh, and by the way, all that healthy vegetarian food she ate, things like GLUTEN PATTIES? Yeah, that just sped it all right along.

Little did anyone know...even the doctors, that pooping wasn't really the problem.  All those years of being allergic to gluten did some serious internal damage.  The more I learn, I have no doubt that is what contributed in large part to not just the neuropathy, fibromyalgia and arthritis, but also to the heart attack she suffered in 2007 at the age of 68.  Damaged heart valve.

So she had a new valve put in, then that night gets rushed in for a second surgery due to internal bleeding.  Have you ever heard about patients who undergo surgery that aren't fully "out"? Yep.  Her too.  She felt and heard everything for that second surgery.  The doctor didn't believe her until she told him what he said during that time.

It was during that hospital stay where I realized how bad her celiac disease was, and it also was when I realized that no one knew what it was.  We would order no gluten meals for her to find they put a dinner roll on her plate.  It was incessant.  We couldn't keep the gluten away from her.  We had to take over and bring in food for her so she wouldn't continue to be poisoned as she was after eating yogurt with hidden gluten.

So that was what gluten did to my mom.   5 years later she died.  From a $%&*! cold.

Now sometime after my mom found out about her celiac, I thought I should get tested because I inherited some insanely craptacular genes.  I too had irritable bowel, but also wondered about this rash I've never been able to get rid of since the mid 90's.  I took the blood test and it was negative.  I opted not to get the biopsy.

But after she died, I realized there was probably a time in her life where she didn't have celiac, but the gluten was getting her there.  So I found a doctor, a naturopath, who specialized in food allergies.  He tested me for nearly 200 foods.  And then he dropped the mother of all bombs.

I am allergic to: All dairy of any shape or form, beef, peanuts, almonds, avocado, red grapes, sunflower seeds, kidney beans, navy/white beans, zucchini, brewers yeast, eggs, garlic, black olives, chili powder, turmeric, alfalfa, summer squash, and oh yeah, gluten/wheat and all that comes with it (spelt, triticale, and rye).  Oddly enough, I'm not allergic to barley, yet it has gluten so I've been told not to eat it.

Out of all of that, one would think I'd be most allergic to wheat, but actually I'm off the charts most allergic to eggs and garlic.

I was mostly being tested out of precaution and because I knew I suffered the Hershey Squirts like my mom, plus that whole rash thing.  Oh - and that rash on my back?  Yeah, that took over 15 years to get a diagnosis of eczema, as well.

What I came to find out was that the exhaustion I had been feeling wasn't just me being lazy.  The headaches  and congestion I had been having which caused me to set up a pharmaceutical line up on my console at work, not really hayfever.  I finally got a diagnosis as well.  Chronic fatigue and Leaky Gut Syndrome.  

That is just the beginning.  I have had a ton of minor but annoying problems over the years that have sent me to the doctor for answers that I never got.  And looking back with the knowledge I have now, I realize I was always allergic to garlic and probably eggs as well.  But because I don't have an anaphylactic reaction to any of these things, it was never caught.  It was a rash.  It was itchy hives.  It was hayfever.  It was laziness.  It was all in my head.  

As they say, hindsight is 20/20.  And now that I have some answers it is like all the pieces of the puzzle are starting to fall in place.  

On a closing note, I will say that I was the world's biggest skeptic about going to a naturopath prior to all of this.  Eat this herb, drink this nasty oil....not for me.  I'll take something in a pretty package that goes down easy, thankyouverymuch.  I'm still not wearing Birkenstock's or wearing hemp, but I will say that my views have been incredibly altered over the course of the last 9 months.  You will hear me rant about GMO's and processed foods in the future.  This coming from the former customer of the month at McDonald's.

And you will frequently hear me being grateful that coffee is, indeed, gluten free.

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