Monday, January 10, 2011

On being "impressively allergic"...

Let me start by saying that last night at about 10:00 p.m. I realized I had already failed at one of my goals. Blogging 3 times a week. And at that point I wasn't going to go hit up a coffeeshop and steal some internet just to have not failed. I'll try to make up for it this week though. Moving on...

For those of you who have known me for awhile, you know that for quite some time (i.e. YEARS) I have been dealing with some seemingly undiagnosable stomach issues. I will spare you any descriptions of the symptoms I'm having. But know that they can be unpleasant. I've been to many doctors and gone through many tests and a diagnosis seems to be quite out of reach.

The interesting thing is that overall the doctors I have been to don't get too worked up about it. I don't blame them. Whatever it is, it's clearly not killing me. I on the other hand am pretty much tired of it. Stomach issues always hit at the most inopportune moments. Well, really when is it an opportune moment to have gas. Sorry...I meant to spare you the details but I just had to throw that out there. The gas isn't even as much of an issue for me as just the general pain and nauseous feelings at some point every day.

I'm over it, to say the least. And when my tummy doctor told me last year the next step was going to be a colonoscopy, I took matters into my own hands. I wasn't playing around anymore. People kept telling me that the procedure itself was not a big deal and I get that. Truly. The hiney probe really made no difference to me because I was going to be down for the count during that. The 48 hour cleansing process beforehand? No thank you. You can keep your colonoscopy.

My doc told me she really didn't think it was a food allergy related issue but I had a nagging feeling I needed to check the possibility and to be honest, I didn't feel like I was given a good reason about why she felt confident ruling it out.

So, I cancelled the colonoscopy and made an appointment instead with an allergist. He was/is a bit weird. Can't lie. Apparently that's common to allergy doctors. Whatever. Man knows what he's doing.

After an initial appointment I was scheduled for an allergy test. I had been suspecting that I was maybe allergic to chocolate and already knew I was allergic to cats. So I figured I'd walk out with a positive reaction to the cocoa bean and a precscription for eye drops.

For those of you who don't know how allergy tests are done, let me give you a quick run down. They had me lay on my stomach and then wrote the numbers 1-45 all down my back. They test for inhalants first (trees, grasses, mold) and see which ones you react to. If you react to any of those on your back you are "severely allergic." For those that you don't react to on your back, they do a shot in your arm to see if you are "mildly allergic."

After giving you little scratches on your back of each inhalant, they wait 15 minutes and then if you have any reaction, they measure the size of the welt.

Well, my friends, after 60 seconds the girl who was administering my test said, "Oh my God. Uh...you're definitely allergic."

"Really? To what?"

"Everything."

I had a positive, severe reaction to 30 of the inhalants she tested me for. The few that were leftover, she tested by giving me a shot on my arm. I was "mildly allergic" to five of those. If you'd like a comprehensive list...

trees: mountain cedar~e. red cedar~pinchot juniper~live oak~american elm~fall elm~pecan~cottonwood~arizona ash~grasses: bermuda grass~johnson grass~perennial rye~weeds: short ragweed~giant ragweed~western ragweed~true marsh~careless weed~redroot pigweed~lambs quarter~common cocklebur~misc: orris root~pyrethrum~ molds: cladosporium~helminthosporium~epicoccum~fusarium~pullularia pullulans~spodylocladium atrovirens~environmentals: cockroach~mite farinae~mite pteronyssinus~cat hair~cat pelt~dog dander

I knew I had my suspicions about those dang pullularia pullulans and I'm glad to know to stay away from those cursed helminthosporiums. (Insert massive eye roll here).

Obviously, I have no idea what any of this meant other than that I was clearly allergic to God's creation.

After amazing everyone with my superhuman allergic powers on the inhalants, we moved onto the good stuff. I was convinced I was going to get my answer for all these years of stomach sadness.

Again, I was numbered down the back, this time 1-51 and she had to be a bit more uh, creative, in finding spots where I was not still welted up from the previous test.

Sure enough after administering all of them the girl said, "Wow."

"Am I allergic to chocolate?"

"Yes."

"I knew it!"

"And...everything else."

"Crap."

Now here's the thing about food allergy tests. There is only a 50% chance that a positive reaction is accurate. So all of the things I had a positive reaction to, I may be allergic to...and I may not. If you'd like a comprehensive list of my positive food reactions...

almond~string beans~cerevisiae~cabbage~celery~chicken~chocolate (BINGO)~barley~egg yolks~egg white~garlic~hops~oat~pea~peanut~pecan~potato~rice~onion~soy~tomato~wheat~ cottonseed~flaxseed~acacia gum~tragacanth~sesame seed~catfish

After discovering all of these reactions this girl pumped me with some medication (just so I didn't go into anaphylactic shock right there on their table) and said, "Well girl, I gotta tell ya, you are impressively allergic."

So glad I impressed someone.

"So what am I supposed to eat?"

"I don't know. Dirt?"

"But it's full of pollen."

"Oh yeah. Okay, I got nuthin."

The doctor came in and informed me that I was an "excellent candidate" for allergy shots and that he was recommending I start with them at 3 times a week.

"Okay that's fine whatever. What about all these food allergies? Don't you think at least one of them is accurate and is causing my stomach problems?"

"It is a good possibility."

"So what am I supposed to do?"

"Well, normally I tell people to take everything that they're allergic to out of their diet and gradually reintroduce stuff until they find the culprit."

"Soooooo...?"

"I'm not sure what to tell you."

(insert my dumb look)

"I'll give you a website to check out and I guess just take out certain groups of food. But you have to take them out for 2-3 weeks at a time to get an accurate idea of whether or not they're affecting you."

"Fantastic. So I'll be allergy testing myself for roughly the next year."

To make a long story longer, I did go to the website and found out that different foods cause different symptoms so a few of the things I had a reaction to I can almost rule out because I'm not experiencing those symptoms. But one of the major stomach issue foods is wheat. I had tested negative for celiac disease so I assumed I was in the clear there. (Whew. What would a life without bread and cake be!?) False. Celiac and wheat allergy are not the same thing. News to me. I may very well be allergic to wheat.

So for the next 2-3 weeks I will be gluten/wheat free. I will be one of those health food aisle lovin', Central Market shoppin' weird Austinites who can't consume wheat flour.

I'll keep you posted on my journey.

For now, let me just say...these things don't happen to normal people.

2 comments:

Miss La said...

Ohmygoodnessgracious!! Uh, I'll pray for you, and I don't know much else to say other than good luck! I've discovered I like Cinnamon Chex, and they're now gluten free (yay, you can live off cereal, I know).... :)

That, and I'm just glad I'm not the only one still who has to go to coffee shop and other places to tap into Wi-Fi...

Jen said...

Haha! You are definitely NOT the only one sweet friend. Now, WE may be the only ones. But you're not alone. So far I have been adamant about not having internet in my living space although I gotta be honest...my discovery of Skype has made it insanely tempting.