That is how I felt when I got my food allergies test results back this week. I might be exaggerating a little bit, but it is totally how I felt, because the items I were sensitive to, are pretty major.
First, lets clear something up, food allergy and food sensitivity are two different things. An allergy means “if I eat this I am going to die,” but a sensitivity means “Oh, I really don’t feel well, but I don’t know why” — at least this is how my doctor explained it to me in the most simplest terms. The problem, as he explained, is that with sensitivities, many people don’t take them seriously, they stay in your system for at least 21 days after they are introduced, can be hard to pinpoint and if you have a multiple ones, it can cause your body to just keep fighting itself resulting in inflammation and all the other not-so lovely problems — you know, all the symptoms I have had for years, but couldn’t pinpoint it.
As I’ve explained in previous posts, I haven’t felt well for years. We have traced it back to starting about 10 years ago when career-wise, I was working for a national cable television news network, and personal life-wise my mom had gotten really sick and we found out she was going to have to spend the rest of her time in a nursing home. It was when I seemed to be allergic to everything, too, which resulted in rounds and rounds of allergy shots, and a diagnosis of asthma.
I stopped eating red meat in high school, chicken after college and fish about four years ago. Dairy about two years ago and I’ve thought for a while I had a gluten problem.
So a vegan, gluten-free diet was what I have been trying to follow, with a few cheats here and there. You know, when you go to a special brewery or a friend makes a really great homemade pizza. But, I still felt like shit. Absolutely 100 percent frustrating. Eating all this healthy stuff and still being miserable, can’t lose weight and having no engergy.
Enter my new doctor who sent me for food allergy tests. They break down the tests into items in red – which you are highly allergic to and should never eat again and yellow, which you do have a reaction to but not as severely. These are you are supposed to eliminate for 21 days and then try reintroducing them slowly to see how you feel.
Then there is the green bar — this means they are “OK” foods, but if the bar is close to the yellow, that means there is potential for their to be an allergy. So basically, the smaller the green bar the better.
Here is my simple red and yellow lists.
Yup, there is the wheat and cow’s milk dairy, which we suspected. But, there is also millet — a gluten-free grain that is in every gluten-free veggie burger and bread in my freezer.
Raspberries? Blueberries? Almonds? All a staple in my diet.
Zucchini? Green peas? Mushrooms? Cucumbers? Cane sugar? I grow zucchini, mushrooms are always in my fridge, pea protein is in everything from my vegan butter to my vegan cheese and protein shakes, I make cucumber water all the time and cane sugar is in pretty much everything!
Corn? I eat non-GMO popcorn all the time as a “healthy” snack. And, chips and salsa are another “healthy” alternative. Oh, and fresh sweet corn from the farmers market? Yup, picked it up on my weekly trip.
So now, lets look at the green list. If you go by percentages, I am pretty much over the 50 percent mark on the things I thought were good for me such as, eggplant, broccoli, pistachios. Actually, I am over the 50 percent mark on most foods. It’s kind of crazy. It’s also a deep, dark, black hole that you can get lost in.
Trust me. I know. The night I got my results back I sat up for hours reading and researching all of it. In addition to my doctor, I spent a half hour on the phone with one of the lab technicians at the company going over my results so that I could fully understand them.
Also on my list? potassium nitrite – something that is in a lot of processed foods, as well as a fertilizer used in many plants. Hmmm, this might explain why when I experimented and ate only organic fruits and vegetables for a week last year I felt amazing.
While this is all a bit overwhelming, and I will admit I am freaking out a little, I want to feel better so I can navigate this, I am happy to finally have answers. But, it’s really complicated. For example, millet, corn and wheat are all on my lists, which could mean that other grains such as rice could also cause a problem, but that test was in the green. Or, fructose is on my list, which for this test means high fructose corn syrup, and not items such as honey, which I tested pretty low green.
So, how does one navigate this? How do you not put so many equations into the experiment?
First step, according to my doctor, is to eliminate everything in the red and yellow for 21 days. The customized plan that comes with the test is much stricter, but my doctor want sot try this instead, because he wants it to also be manageable.
This may sound silly, but I feel dumb. Yes, I am an animal lover, but I also turned to vegetarianism and veganism to be healthier and feel better. Instead, all I have been doing is making my body fight itself, and made myself feel worse. Many of the things I thought were healthy, were in fact not, for me. It has turned my internal world upside-down a bit. Things that I thought I would never eat again, I may need to start adding back in. And things I loved, like a corn taco, which was gluten-free and I thought “healthy” will need to eliminate.
This is certainly going to be an adventure. I would love to hear about your experiences with any of this. Have you had food allergies? Were you a vegetarian who ended up being more unhealthy than healthy?