Uncovering a Food Allergy to Wheat
Sherri | 46 | Colonial Heights, Virginia, USA
Hi, my name is Sherri and I am allergic to wheat.
I smile when I type this because it sounds like I’m introducing myself at a 12-step recovery program meeting. But I was an addict, not to drugs or alcohol, to wheat.
I have been on a journey for over 20 years to discover what was “wrong” with me. Years before it all began with a debilitating depression in the 8th grade that kept me from attending school and almost got my Mom arrested. After I graduated, I began noticing more and more stiff, black facial hairs and started piling on more and more pounds.
In my 20’s, I sobbed as I learned I had fertility problem called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. (I was blessed to conceive twins with the help of medication!). I started to suffer from chronic sinus infections and hives after I gave birth. I was exhausted all of the time! I was later diagnosed hypoglycemic.
My diet was atrocious! I loved fast food—Doritos, soda, Little Debbie snack cakes. When I cooked it was pasta of course—and I always wanted more. More of the bad stuff, never more veggies or plain meats!
In the late 1990’s, I remember the nurse calling me with blood test results stressing that I needed to get an Epi-pen because my IG-e levels were extremely high. They didn’t know what I was so allergic to so they sent me to an allergist.
The allergist performed the standard scratch test on my back. I reacted to everything he checked me for. He then asked if he could photograph my skin. He took a blunt instrument that looked like a tongue depressor and lightly rubbed it down my inner arm. The skin kept its “mark” for too long, he said, and wrote dermatographism or "skin writing” on my chart. That doctor signed me up for allergy shots but didn’t do a food allergy test.
Fast forward to 2005. I had gained more weight. My sister was sure that I had sleep apnea because I snored so badly. I decided to low-carb diet AGAIN. I’d had success with it before but my cravings always got the best of me and I’d go back to eating all those high carb foods.
This time something clicked inside me. After a few weeks of eating right and losing weight, I noticed something else. My hives were gone! Thankfully for the internet, I had learned about the elimination diet and how to check to see if you are allergic to a certain food by eliminating it for a month or two and then reintroducing it. I remember the day I reintroduced wheat. I had taken a chicken sandwich to work. I was alone for my lunch break and after a few bites I felt this pressure build in my chest. I started belching and was swallowing a lot. I ran to the bathroom and lost my lunch! My esophagus now had a condition called Eosinophilic Esophagitis that I believe was triggered by an allergy to wheat. The hives returned shortly after.
I was scared. I believed I finally had my answer, but how overwhelming it was to think about all of the foods that contained wheat! I didn’t even know, then, that soy sauce had it and so many other foods. Who knew.
I started that day on a path that has changed my life! There weren’t that many gluten-free prepared foods in my local grocery stores. It took me a long time to find acceptable replacements for pasta, bread and desserts.
Today, I am healthy! I’ve lost over 50 pounds but still have a ways to go. I’m grateful that I’ve found almond flour and coconut flour for easy, high-protein breakfasts and desserts. I’m amazed at all of the gluten-free blogs and prepared foods that have cropped up.
Last year, to confirm my allergy to wheat, I reintroduced it back into my diet. Sadly, the hives returned and I will not try it again. I can also report to you that the items I tried smelled bad to me! I can barely stand to walk down the bread aisle in the grocery store. I guess it’s my body's way of reminding me that bread just isn't good for me!
My life has changed dramatically since 2005. We eat pretty simply now and I believe more healthy. I occasionally get glutened and experience flu like symptoms but it's so rare that it took my husband and me a day or two to figure it out! I haven't had a depressive episode or a sinus infection since being wheat-free, I've remarried (my first husband couldn't deal with my depression) AND I am a grandmother!!! So much to celebrate!
As a footnote: Since I self-diagnosed my allergy, my doctor re-checked my IG-e levels a couple of years ago after being gluten-free for some time. The levels were in normal range once again! My other health problems, I believe, were brought on by my allergy. Depression, chronic sinus infections and hives are known symptoms. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is often treated nutritionally by eliminating wheat and milk. These conditions have never been confirmed by a doctor as being caused by wheat. My own personal disclaimer.
Making the Switch, spotlights everyday people journeying on to better health and well-being by choosing pure food over processed. For some, it has been gradual. For others it was a complete about-face.
Putting the modified diet focus of this blog aside, Making the Switch is open to all. The point being to bring personal stories to light that encourage young and old to get back into the kitchen to cook real food. As Jamie Oliver puts it, “make only a few small changes and magical things will happen.” Whether it’s weight loss, improvements in a child's behavior or the regaining of health, magical things will happen.
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