The Beginning

I guess it's always best to start at the beginning ... if I knew where that was!

I can't exactly tell you the beginning because I have always had "stomach issues," as my parents called it. My stomach was often upset or uncomfortable and I have always had (prepare for graphic information) toggling severe constipation/diarrhea and mucous in my stool.

So, I don't know exactly when the symptoms began, but I can tell you how I started to heal.

Like I said, I had always experienced discomfort, but when I was 14, I began to experience digestive issues and severe pain. It was August of 1997 and I was about to start my very first day of High School. I was under a lot of stress, I felt like I was carrying the world. I was starting at a new school and had recently been accepted into Honors courses. I had never had summer homework in my life and didn't know if what I was doing was correct, but I had done my best. I was stressed at learning a new building, trying to navigate my way around, having to meet new people (which I have never been good at), having to be judged by new people, having to take 2 different buses to school and 3 back since I was going to a magnet school in another area of town, having to submit work to teachers I'd never met and possibly be embarrassed by having everything I did over the summer be wrong. The first day was a huge blur - I was just trying to make it. What I do remember, though, is the pain. I felt like I had a cheese grater scraping the insides of my stomach. I remember coming home and just falling onto my bed and forcing myself to go to sleep. I was exhausted from not getting enough sleep, from the craziness from the day, and from fighting the pain. I just wanted to be in an unconscious state so I didn't have to feel it for a while.

I still think that to this day (I'm now 25), that was the worst that I've ever felt.

I had good days, bad days, and worse days. I was always afraid of having to get up and run to the bathroom in the middle of class, or worst, a test. How to explain to a teacher that this was an emergency when I wasn't bleeding, vomiting, or even breaking out into hives? It was the day-to-day unknowns that were the worst.

After a couple of months of listening to my complaining, my parents finally took me to see our general doctor about my issue. He was stumped and said he had to go check on something. He did some research, came back into the office and asked me a lot of questions about my symptoms and about my lifestyle (did I get good grades, what type of stuff did I eat for lunch, did I have many friends, etc.). He finally told me I had Irritable Bowl Syndrome. He said that it was a fairly new disorder having been known previously as Spastic Colon. He said that there was no cure, but that all I had to do was identify the triggers, then avoid them. It seemed easy enough ... or so I thought! I tried for years to figure it out. I got in several fights with my father who thought I should have figured them out by now and was still dealing with constant discomfort, pain and embarrassment. But it wasn't that easy. I really did try to figure it out, but the only food I could pinpoint was pork. Whenever I had bacon or a ham sandwich or a BLT (mmmmm .... my favorite! er, WAS my favorite ...), I would immediately have what I called "Stomach Grumbling." So, when I went to college, I slowly started to phase it out. In a year or two, I was completely pork free, but still having issues. I knew pork was one of the triggers, but there had to be others, that I couldn't quite pinpoint. As the years moved on, I started to develop more issues. In 2005, I started getting severe fatigue episodes. It was again a stressful time in my life. I was graduating from college, planning a wedding and was on Weight Watchers to try to loose a bit of weight for that beautiful white satin gown. My soon-to-be husband pointed out that the fatigue was probably from a quick drop in calories, and I just brushed it off thinking my body would eventually "adjust." The fatigue did lessen over time, but I would still get "shut downs" where I would just get so tired and just sort of involuntarily go into a deep sleep. I would be slightly woken to a semi-conscious state, but not really able to wake up fully for a few hours (like 2-5). I talked to my doctor about it, who also chalked it up to stress, "that time of the month" and other non-worrying things. Then, in early 2007, I started to develop a rash on my elbows. My general doctor as well as an allergist and dermatologist said it was just plain non-allergic eczema and to just put some cream on it and I'd be fine.

Then, in January 2008. I decide to talk to a Naturopath. Since July 2007, I had been experience extreme pressure and a "full" feeling in my ear. This Naturopath had cured a friend of mine from a parasite after 2 years of seeing lots of doctors who couldn't identify what was wrong with him. I figured that if she could cure him, maybe she could help me with my ear. (My ear is a whole different story that is irrelevant to this blog, but lets just say that my ear to this day, August 2008, it is still not quite right, but is much better.) Anyway, my Naturopath asked me to write down every and any "not normal" symptom I was experiencing. I asked her to define normal because I knew that I had some issues that were not normal to others, but that had always been "normal" to my body. She asked me to write down anything and everything I could think of because any of it could tell her a bit more about my body. So, I tell her everything. My ear, my stomach, the fatigue, the rash, my bowel issues, everything ... in great detail ... in detail that I probably won't gross you out with. So, in the midst of running tests to discover what was wrong with my ear, my Naturopath discovered that I had several food intolerances. She said Gluten, Dairy, Soy, Yeast, Walnuts and Pork (she also said chocolate, but I've since gone back to it ... I am a woman, after all!) were all very bad for my body. She wanted me to immediately cut these foods out of my diet for a month to see how I would feel. I agreed to do so and that is how this all started ...

I'm not going to lie, the whole process was very, very difficult - for me and my gluten and dairy loving husband. I was so upset that I actually cried the first night (which, to those who know me, that means something as I am NOT a crier!) ... but I'll save all that for another post. The emotions, the shock ... those alone could take up a whole blog. I will share them with you, but not now.

What I want to convey right now is that after 24 years of pain, discomfort, embarrassment, confusion, explanations (albeit wrong ones!), lack of explanations, wonder and anxiety were all cleared up by simply removing 6 foods from my diet. Okay maybe "simply" wasn't the right word ... nothing about this is simple. But, I feel more "normal" than I have in my whole life, so I'm thinking that it is all worth it!

My goal with this blog is to share this transition with you. I have learned so much in the past 6 months of this journey - about food, about my body, and about myself. I want to encourage those going through similar experiences, share my knowledge and lessons, and maybe even provide a little bit of comfort.

This is my Six Food Intolerance Life!



Vittoria said...

I've traveled a similar road, only my biggest thing was making excuses for my skin. Doctor after doctor brushed off my issues and I had to (very slowly) figure things out for myself. I am transitioning from gluten free to grain free right now.

Best of luck.


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