Saturday, October 18, 2014

Food Woes

Remember earlier this year when I did a food elimination diet and took out gluten, dairy and just about every food on the planet (exaggeration)? I'm not sure if I wrote all about it. Sorry this is going to be long.

It started after the 22 day migraine in November. I saw an integrative medicine Dr who ordered a whole bunch of blood work including IgG food sensitivities. This is actually a bit controversial. Some people think these tests aren't accurate or meaningful, but other people, well, do. Just an explanation of IgG. So there are basically 2 types of food allergies or sensitivities. IgE sensitivities are true allergy, causing a histamine response when the food is consumed (to one extent or another): rash, anaphylactic response, itchy mouth/throat, etc are responses to true food allergies. IgG on the other hand is a delayed response sensitivity. Here's where it gets tricky. It can be the cause of a host of ailments (depending on who you talk to), from eczema, gut problems, to behavior issues, inflammation in the body, etc. From what you read, some people seem to think IgG sensitivities can cause just about anything. And thus, by removing IgG sensitivity foods, you can heal and cure just about anything. Well, you do your own research and come to your own conclusions. This was our experience.

In November I tested high for Milk, Wheat, Egg and Gluten. My C-Reactive Protein was also abnormally high (this is an inflammation marker. They typically use it as a gauge for risk of a "cardiovascular event." There is some controversy about that as well. But at any rate, it shows how much inflammation in the body.)  So, my integrative med Dr recommended I go off of these food I am supposedly sensitive to and see if I noticed a change in any of my major symptoms: migraine, Trigeminal Neuralgia, fatigue, depression. Because food sensitivities could be causing inflammation and inflammation could be causing problems. Seemed logical.

During this time, my neurologist recommended I try a Low Tyramine Migraine Diet. Foods high in tyramine can be migraine triggers. This included all the other stuff I listed in my post in Jan - MSG, nitrates, fermented foods, citrus, nuts, pickles, olives, hydrolyzed yeast, cheese etc.
So I figured it'd be worth a try and went off of all of that. Just a note here: MSG is in just about everything processed in any way. Even things that say MSG free typically have a MSG derived ingredient, it's just more sneakily labeled. This was the most challenging - aside from the gluten and dairy.

So, I was going to do a 2 month trial of going off all these foods then have my blood work retested. What happened was I kind of stopped eating. This wasn't healthy, but I was so overwhelmed by trying to find things I could eat. I may have been unusually overwhelmed because I was in constant pain, and so fatigued I would rarely get out of bed. The thought of trying to find food seemed to be too much. There was probably some depression thrown in there too. It was just so discouraging. I had limited my diet to a few staples - oatmeal for breakfast (but did you know not even all oatmeal is gluten free?!), chips and salsa, Izze fruit drinks, popcorn, some gluten free breads and snacks, some fruits and vegetables. But if it wasn't readily available to eat, I basically did not have the motivation, energy, or capability to make it. I hurt too much and I just felt like crap. And eating the same foods all the time got really old, really fast. The result was basically no change in my pain symptoms or energy, and significant increase in depression. I had lost some weight, but only because I wasn't eating much at all. I laid in bed most of the time crying and sleeping. It was not good.

Coincidentally, Samuel also had IgG food testing done at around this same time. He went off dairy and gluten as well to see if we could get his nose and sinus issues cleared up. There was a possibility it could also help with his ADHD and behavior issues. So we were in it together. He had a hard time too, especially being around food and treats at school. It's just not something you want to put a kid through if you really don't have to.

Part of the problem with all of this is how subjective the results can be. Was his nose any better for those 2 months, or did it just coincide with not having a cold? Was my pain even slightly better and I just didn't notice? Was anything worth this?

I had my restesting done in February. My IgG antibodies were down, which was to be expected since the foods weren't in my system, but my C Reactive Protein was also down a lot. This could have several reasons though. It could be because I had eliminated the offending foods possibly causing inflammation. It could be because I had been supplementing Vit D, which had also been low, and plays a role in C Reactive Protein. It could have simply been because I lost a few pounds, period. That can also play a role. Or, maybe I had some kind of low grade infection causing inflammation the first time. Who knows. But my Dr agreed that if I hadn't seen any improvement of symptoms, it probably wasn't worth it to stay off of all those foods. He suggested giving it another month, then reintroducing the foods, which I did. Pain didn't increase when I reintroduced the foods either, so that was that I thought.

We reintroduced Samuel too, but Zac and I disagree on whether we noticed any significant difference or not. Another problematic issue was that it was then March and his seasonal allergies were starting up again, so it complicated what we were seeing and dealing with, as far as his nasal symptoms. Ugh.

But that's where we left it. We all started happily eating food again. I had felt so incredibly deprived that I probably took my food freedom a little too far and very quickly gained back the weight I had lost. Eating "normally" and not moving much at all is not a good combo for anyone in that regard, I suppose.
Fast forward 7 months to now, almost a year later. I went to see my primary Dr for a physical check up. Over the summer my blood pressure had started to get pretty high, but my Drs thought it could be from an increase in one of my meds. So I had gotten off it (slowly) and I wanted to check to make sure it was better. Gratefully it was! But my cholesterol was also borderline high. My C Reactive Protein was also back up high again. Darnit.  He recommends a pretty strict vegan (no animal products) diet to help with cholesterol and C Reactive Protein. Umm. Well.... I'm not sure I'm willing to commit to that, actually. But it's possible milk, gluten and eggs could have made a difference.

Then, Samuel had skin prick allergy testing, and along with just about every growing thing, he also tested positive for Soy, Corn, and Milk. Now, as Zac likes to point out, it's very possible to test false positive for food allergies on a skin prick test. Or just not have any allergy symptoms to that food. So just because you test positive doesn't necessarily mean you  *need* to avoid it. When he was tested at about the same age, he tested positive for almost every food. But there are only a couple that actually cause him symptoms. Even those, he eats occasionally and just deals with the symptoms, itchy throat mainly. So. Samuel's Dr recommends going off of all the IgE allergic foods from the skin prick test, as well as eliminate his IgG sensitivity foods (which would add gluten/wheat to the list), see if any symptoms improve, then add them back in gradually, one at a time to see if any symptoms return.

And here we are again. Do I eliminate milk, gluten and eggs again with the thought that it might lower my CRP again (assuming that's what made the difference the first time)? Or just try to lose weight, lower my cholesterol (with somewhat more lax means than strict vegan), start back up on my Vit D vitamins, and hope that makes a difference? Does any of it even matter?

I know things can be happening in the body that don't cause symptoms but are still damaging. That's what niggles my brain in all of this. But it's so hard when you don't see or feel any difference at all when making significant and difficult changes. I don't know if I can maintain it when I don't see any differences in pain or anything. And I know people are able to make drastic changes in diet when it is necessary. People do it all the time. I know it can be done. But most of the time, for weight loss, it seems like moderate changes are more sustainable. I think you have to be able to know that what you are doing it absolutely necessary and it makes a difference and you can live with that.

And do we make Samuel go off all those things again and see what happens? I think we need to at least try it and see. But I am dreading it. Just dreading the entire process. Maybe I need to change my attitude. We are doing allergy drops for him too. He just hasn't had a clear nose probably his entire life and I can't help but think it affects his speech. He's had speech and behavior issues since he was a year old. He deserves to be healthy and happy. We need to figure out what that means for him.
It must also be said that Zac is the primary cook in our family, since I have been bed bound for so long before, and it is difficult to ask him to change our entire diet drastically for something he does not 100% agree with and believe in. I don't know if I have it in me to fight for it. I'm not the one who has to completely adjust the shopping and meal planning and cooking. So we have to be on the same page, 100%. We're not there yet.

So, I'd love to hear your thoughts, advice, sympathy, anything at all.
We haven't decided to start anything yet. I'm just letting it all get absorbed. All this information. And trying not to become paralyzed by it all....
Thanks for reading, friends....

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