It started last Christmas. I felt awful. I had belly cramps, cold sweats, nausea and then I started throwing up. I thought it was the flu or perhaps I'd eaten some bad food. But it didn't get better. The vomiting abated somewhat but the nausea continued. It was worse in the mornings, but if I didn't eat I felt weak and faint if I did manage to eat a few soda crackers it would be a few hours before the nausea abated enough that I could eat real food. This went on and on. All through January and then into February. People wondered if I was pregnant. The test came back negative.
I was exhausted. I was scared and my parents were threatening to send me to the doctor or worse the emergency room. I didn't want to go because I'd had a mysterious flu like this a few years before and had gone to the doctor. He had scratched his head, run some expensive tests and given me anti-nausea pills to help me get back to work. He'd had no clue and I couldn't see what good it would do to consult another doctor except to spend lots of money. I was sure it would pass.
The solution came like many do, not with a blinding epiphany but with slow detective work. Many seemingly unrelated facts formed a pattern that up till now I had been unable to see.
I have known since I was ten or so that when I ate Crisco, canola oil, and vegetable oil I would have cramps, gas and diarrhea. I have no idea how my mom figured this out but she did. I thought that I was very good about avoiding those oils. I used only butter and olive oil when cooking at home and avoided anything that listed canola oil, or vegetable oil as an ingredient.
I believe my first hint was when I got horrible gas after eating a bagel a few months before this illness started. My mom and I thought it was a terrible thing that something like a bagel that generally dose not have any oil in it would set off my 'allergy'. I didn't think too much of it. Then in the middle of February my mom read the ingredient list on the box of Bagel Bites that I had bought to try and tempt my appetite. Canola oil. It was right there on the box. I hadn't checked. I stopped eating them. Soon after that I found the recipe I'd photo copied for the popovers my aunt had made for us all at Christmas. Shortening. When I showed my mom we decided that it was very possible that she had used Crisco, and then we wondered: could my 'allergy' of childhood have gotten a thousand times worse? Could it have mutated into causing vomiting without the diarrhea? And could I without realizing it be consuming the very things that were making it worse?
I started reading labels religiously. All the breads listed soybean oil, I wondered if I had a problem with soybean oil. After all it was a vegetable oil. I stopped eating store bought bread and started eating only bread I made at home. I read the label on the soda crackers: soybean oil, had I been unintentionally making my nausea worse by eating the very thing that caused it in the first place? After three weeks of avoiding all processed foods. (tortillas had shorting. Crackers soybean oil, bread canola oil) I started feeling better. Not just better, amazingly better.
I didn't need a nap in the afternoon. I didn't feel exhausted from waking up in the morning. It was as if I was a different person, a normal person. A person who can go for longer than two hours without eating. Someone who can make it through a whole day and feel tired at the end and get up the next day and do it again without being sick as a dog. It was amazing. Then I made a mistake. I went out for breakfast. Within hours I felt tired, my guts began to cramp, the cold sweat broke out, and I wanted to sit down and cry. It was clear to me that I'd been doing something right. It took two days to start feeling better. My next accident I was not so lucky, it took me five days to recover.
I know that I haven’t been diagnosed. I've done some research and technically what I have is not an allergy. Allergies require the presence of a chemical IgE. The classic signs of the allergic response are hives, itchy skin and/or throat, swelling, wheezing, trouble breathing, and sometimes blocked airways. It's usually triggered within minutes of exposure. What I have seems more like what the medical world is calling a 'non-allergic food hypersensitivity'. There are many reasons why my body could be reacting the way it is. Unless a doctor runs tests I may never know weather my response is due to an inability to digest the oils or because I have a non-IgE immunoglobulan response. Frankly convincing the doctor that I have a problem with oils may be rather expensive and difficult because although many doctors are familiar with allergies now, not as many of them are familiar with non-allergic food hypersensitivity. After convincing them that I do actually have a problem many would probably be unwilling to diagnose it and would simply tell me what I already know: avoid eating the things that make me sick. Therefor I've made the decision to not seek medical assistance with this matter. Perhaps its self diagnosis but you know what? I'm okay with that. Its enough to be healthy.
The other things that I notice since I stopped eating the oils are: reduced muscle aches, my joints used to hurt all the time, this may be related to the fact that I can get more exercise and therefore can create more endorphins so I have a higher pain threshold but it could also just be that they don't hurt all the time. I have fewer yeast infections, and I seem to heal faster from scrapes and bruises, actually I bruise less in general, (I used to be black and blue all the time from barely brushing myself on chairs and furniture) also I'm not as anxious, and my mom says I'm much faster at grasping concepts. I have always had difficulty with learning French but I picked up a French language computer DVD and was doing great with it before I had to return it to the library. I feel more confident about a lot of things.
I've had three screw ups since I figured out that I have this food sensitivity, and each time was when I've eaten food prepared by someone else. Mostly because I have bad habits when I eat out. I'm embarrassed to cause trouble or ask about ingredients. But slowly I'm learning. I've managed to have go out for coffee and ice cream and not get sick. Hopefully I'll eventually be able to go out for dinner. I have great motivation because I like being healthy, but I also like being about to go out and have dinner like other people do.
I'm writing this in the hopes that someone else may read it and feel better about not being alone with their food sensitivity. Or that they might recognize some of the symptoms and be motivated to check and see if this is their problem. Its not really on the general doctors radar at this time. Sure they check for the big ones: dairy, glutain, and corn, but there are others that I was surprised by: fructose sensitivity, and salicylate sensitivity (salicylate occurs naturally in many fruits, vegetables, spices, nuts, teas, wine, aspirin and coffees.)
But there are many that they don't check for and the symptoms are often vague and brushed off as malingering, laziness, or hormones (fatigue, migraines, muscle aches, acne, eczema, mood changes, rashes, constipation.) Complicating matters the symptoms which vary depending on the amount and duration of exposure can appear anywhere up to 48 hours after exposure. It can take several weeks for the body to start healing after long term exposure. So sometimes there won't be an immediate difference when the food is not longer in your diet. But its not impossible to figure it out, just difficult. They say that all the worth while things in life are.