Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Food: When is it an Allergy and When is it a Sensitivity?

There is MUCH controversy in the medical field about allergies and sensitivities to foods. Some doctors feel that there is a clear distinction between an intolerance to food and an allergy. Others have used the two terms as a unified definition.

An allergy, to me, is defined as having a severe reaction almost immediately after coming into contact with something. For instance, I'm allergic to the drug penicillin because I go into anaphylaxis within the first minute of consuming it. My entire body, not just my throat, will swell up. I had this reaction at the age of 3 so if I were to try it now, I could possible die within seconds. I have a similar reaction to blue cheese, a component of penicillin.

A sensitivity is a much broader term to me. A sensitivity could be an upset stomach a couple of hours after eating dairy or red meat. Or a headache from drinking a glass of red wine. But again, I only consider these a sensitivity if they happen while digestion is occurring.

Some doctors may disagree with me when I say that people can very well have an allergy to food and NOT get the classic hives rash or anaphylaxis. I do believe that allergies can cause bloating, gas, skin rashes that are not hive-like, migraines, hot flashes, panic attacks, or even nausea if they occur within a few minutes after consumption of the food.

I believe this because I feel these symptoms almost instantly after I consume wheat. The only difference to these symptoms vs. anaphylaxis, is that anaphylaxis will go away with an epinephrine injection. But if you are allergic to wheat, your symptoms will not go away unless you stop consuming wheat for about 2 weeks.

I tried to go gluten-free a while back to see if wheat was causing my eczema to flare. I was doing okay with it in the beginning. I was very diligent about reading labels and I changed everything including my toothpaste. But once the kids went back to school I found myself slipping into old habits and wheat wound up becoming part of my diet again, especially if I was on the go. I'd deal with a few skin outbreaks from time to time, but it was bearable, or so I thought.

After a while though, I started noticing some other symptoms. My stomach would bloat within minutes of eating wheat and it got to a point where I had been wearing only yoga pants because those were the only comfortable pants I owned. I started to itch within minutes of eating wheat and I found that I would also get panic attacks right after, too. Long term problems that I faced was all-over weight bloat. I went up three dress sizes to be exact, but I didn't put on a lot of pounds at the scale. I've only put on a whooping 5 pounds of weight since Olivia's birth which brought me up to a grand total weight of 127 pounds. Yet, size 6 jeans, the size I was at 122 pounds, were too tight around my mid-section.

I also became extremely tired. I had no strength to lift pots or pans from the stove, I couldn't vacuum, mop a floor, or even carry my purse for a few short minutes without feeling extremely fatigued. My body would want to go to bed by 8pm, and if I could, I would fall asleep at that time and not wake up until 5:30 am. But once I woke up, I was still tired and very stiff. My hands and feet started to develop Raynard's Syndrome. I would have poor circulation in my lower extremities, and I started to develop hot flashes and a change in my cycle.

At first I dismissed these things as a Fibro Flare and nothing more. I was dealing with a lot of stress in my life so I assumed my flares were a direct result of my stress, but once this flare started to last for months where it was going onto almost a year, I thought maybe there might be something else to this. I wasn't exactly certain if I truly had a wheat allergy. I thought if I could have a little, I wasn't actually allergic and I was being pretty careful and only consuming really small amounts of it because I didn't want to develop severe skin eczema again.

And then my daughters started to get tired and have muscle fatigue too. The youngest also developed stomach issues and skin rashes that mysteriously came and went quickly. We, of course, went to their doctor to see what it could be. But we were all baffled and started to think we should monitor for Fibromyalgia in them.

After a few weeks of fighting with my daughters to get them up for school, I really wanted to pull my hair out. It seemed that their symptoms were getting worse by the minute. And then a Dr. Oz show aired giving you 5 tell-tale signs of having a wheat allergy. As I listened, I not only realized that I had all 5, but my kids, husband, and grandmother seemed to have most of them too!

After that show that aired on Feb 18, 2014, my whole family and I started to go gluten free and I can't begin to tell you the almost immediate change that has occurred! You can see a link to Part 1 of Dr. Oz 5 Signs here:

http://www.doctoroz.com/episode/5-hidden-signs-you-have-gluten-allergy

And part 2 is here:

http://www.doctoroz.com/episode/5-hidden-signs-you-have-gluten-allergy?video_id=3221669178001

After one week we are all experiencing less fatigue. None of us have a problem getting up in the morning. My grandmother has less swelling in her legs and is actually able to stand up with less pain after being basically bedridden for the past 6 years. My Raynard's syndrome, Fibromyalgia pain, and panic attacks have decreased significantly. I have not felt this little pain in at least 3-4 years and at that time I was seeing a Chiropractor to relieve a good majority of the pain. And my hot flashes have stopped too. My husband has shed almost 10 pounds this week alone and his arthritis pain is easing up.

Now, having said all of this, I do not believe that wheat is the only reason for my Fibromyalgia. I believe I will still have it even if I stay wheat free, but I know this will keep me from flaring as much. There are many sites to help you decide what to do if you have an allergy to wheat or gluten. One that I recommend is Dr. Mark Hyman. You can read his blog here:

http://drhyman.com/blog/2011/03/17/gluten-what-you-dont-know-might-kill-you/

Another thing you can try is eliminating wheat from your diet for 2 weeks and see if any of your symptoms clear up. If they do, you probably have an allergy. At that point you can try and reintroduce wheat back into your diet to truly see if wheat is the problem, or stay away from it all together.

Either way, it is your health, and I wish you the best of luck in your wheat free journey! You should, however, consult a doctor if you decide that you need to go gluten free. It may just be a food allergy due to Fibromyalgia, but it could also be Celiac, a much more serious issue.

My journey of getting tested for Celiac will start soon. And I'll keep you all updated on my progress ;)! I'll also from time to time post some delicious meal creations that I've come up with in my gluten free adventures. Till then!

Stay fabulous!
Love and friendship,

Kimberley

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