Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Signs You May Have a Food Allergy

For a few years, at least longer than I can pinpoint an exact start, I had been sick. I had never felt "good" and I had always been prone to sickness. Over the past few years, I have experienced more infections than I have ever experienced in my life. I have had five or six urinary tract infections, and most recently, a sinus infection. God only knows how many migraines I have had, certainly more than I can count on all 76 fingers and toes in the house (don't worry, we all have our toes. I have two cats, with 18 toes each). Unbeknownst to me at the time, these illnesses were brought on by the side effects of mild food allergies. I had been eating bread, cereal, peanut butter, hamburgers, pastas, and all sorts of every day staples which contained foods I am now aware I am allergic to. So what are some of the signs you may have a food allergy?

Stuffy Nose.

"How long have you been experiencing these symptoms?" asked the physician, when I was in for what would be my first-ever sinus infection. I didn't know the answer. How long had I had a clogged nose? How long had I had chest congestion?

"Like two months," I lied. I lied because I knew for a fact that my nose had been clogged, and discharging yellow and white colored mucus for a lot longer than two months. I specifically recalled blowing a gross looking yellow booger about six months prior to that. That was the day I was sitting in traffic, on my way to a job interview. I only remember this, because my car stopped running in the middle of an intersection, on my way to the interview. That way the day I received more middle fingers than I can count on 72 toes, as well. That is why I remember the booger. Anyway, I felt like I had developed some sort of allergy to an airborne substance, which lasted through all seasons. It was the allergy from Hell, I guessed, because there was literally nothing I could buy that would stop my nose from running. I had been experiencing sinus pressure for as long as I can remember. I wondered if I was perhaps allergic to my cats. Or maybe mold in my apartment.

No, the mold wasn't good. After we moved to our house, free of mold, the symptoms got a little better. But still not great. I think the mold was just effecting me more than usual because of my over-active sinuses. I'm sure the cats were also effecting me more than usual, too.

As for my sinus infection, I was given a prescription to Flonaise, as well as a big bottle of horse pills, erm, "antibiotics." I took those, and my sinus pressure got a little better. My mucus was becoming normal colored, however, my nose continued to be runny and gross. Aside from killing bacteria, and making my "annoying sinus infection" just an "annoying sinus," the medication did nothing to relieve my symptoms.

As it turns out, sinus and chest congestion is a side effect of an allergy to soy. I never really realized just how much soy I was eating, until I looked at the labels. Here are some strange and surprising things that I ate often, which contained soy ingredients:

  • Mayonnaise, which contains soybean oil. (Best Foods makes a safe Olive Oil mayo)
  • Pizza Sauce, which contains soybean oil. (I just make my own now)
  • Chocolate Chips, which usually contain soy lecithin.
  • Peanut Butter, which contains soybean oil. (Okay, I'm also allergic to peanuts, but you would think they'd use peanut oil.)
  • Fast Food, they pretty much fry all their stuff in soybean oil. I'm also almost positive McDonald's chicken nuggets are actually part-tofu, not 100% chicken. How else would you make chicken spongy?
Lets not forget that all the non-dairy coffee creamers I used on a daily basis contained soy. I loved using the Silk non-dairy creamer in my coffee. It was the only thing that would froth correctly in the espresso machine. It frothed better than real creamer, okay?

Soy, it is everywhere. It was in every meal I ate, and thus in my system on a daily basis. My nose was always runny. If you have forever-sniffles, you may wish to get a food allergy test. A lot of food allergies actually have this reaction; this is just one way the body responds to something 'toxic' in its system.


Yes, I said it: Diarrhea. The runs. The sh*ts. I got it all the time. I don't think I noticed just how often I got it, until I took a job which was 90 miles away from my home. That's a long time in the car. What makes it longer? Diarrhea. Diarrhea, and all it's lovely side effects, such as stinging intestinal pain and sweating. I would get it every day. YOU try sitting in traffic with diarrhea.

Diarrhea is caused by an imbalance of bacteria in the digestive tract. This bacterial imbalance can be caused by a number of things, including food allergies and/or intolerance. Chances are, if you have a food allergy or intolerance, you either have diarrhea or constipation. It is very unlikely that you will have normal bowel movements.

Urinary Tract Infections.

Ladies, I'll be blunt here and state that the anus is literally one inch away from the vagina, which is literally a quarter inch away from the urinary tract. If your kid barfed on the table, would you consider it sanitary after wiping it off with just a paper towel? Nope. The same goes for toilet paper. If you have messy diarrhea, and wipe it up with a paper napkin, it's not clean. Toilet paper does not sanitize. So, the chances that a strain of bacteria doesn't make it into your urinary tract are very small.

If you're sitting in a classroom taking a test, or sitting at your desk on a conference call, or heck, sitting in traffic for 2 1/2 hours...that bacteria is going to THRIVE in your moist, dark, urinary tract environment. Chances are, you'll get a UTI. If you get diarrhea on a daily basis, and you sit on a daily basis, you may get UTIs every couple of months like I did. I would get them a lot, particularly when I travelled. On a plane full of 200 people sharing one tiny toilet, you don't get a lot of chances to pee.

It was when I started carrying Wet Ones in my purse, that I realized something was amiss. I got a lot less Urinary Tract Infections after I started using Wet Ones, however, needing to do that just wasn't normal. It was one of the things that pushed me to finally see a nutritionist.

Stomach Pain.

I would get this slight, tingly, burning feeling, that would start right below my neck, move through my stomach area, and into my intestines. This would get more and more intense, as it got deeper in my body. It wasn't quite pain, but it wasn't quite manageable, either. It was distracting. Tums would do nothing. Pepto would do nothing.

I would get this after eating a Trail Mix, or a Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich. This was a tree nut and peanut thing. This would happen after drinking a cup of coffee (which I later learned was coffee roasted with hazelnut).

This usually beings within 10 minutes of eating the food, and continues on throughout the rest of the day. A few hours after it goes away, irregular bowel movements follows. Even now, if I get this feeling, I will know I ate something which was contaminated with nuts.


Bloating is a tell-tale side effect of food allergies. When you're menstruating, you get bloated because the body retains water. This kind of bloating is different; yes, you are retaining fluids, but not for the right reasons. You are retaining fluids because you are having difficulty digesting something. People who suffer from frequent diarrhea usually have a lot of bloating. And also, part of the "bloating" is caused by inflamed intestines which are struggling to digest a substance.


I was always tired. I hated the morning. If the alarm went off any time before 10am, I would say "f**k morning," instead of "good morning." Yeah, I was tired. Getting out of bed SUCKED. And it didn't matter how late I slept in, I would be equally as drowsy at 11am.

There were days where I would wake up at 7am, have a strong cup of coffee, and still be able to go back to sleep and sleep until after noon. Coffee did nothing. I'd have two or three cups of Joe and still be aching for a nap, even if I had like 10 hours of sleep the night before.

Fatigue is caused by strain in the body. Whether that strain is caused by being sore from going skiing for the first time in years, you have a crooked spine (been there, done that), you have the flu, or you just didn't get enough sleep; you're still straining. You're tired. Your body is exhausted.

When you are constantly struggling to digest a food which you are allergic to, you are constantly strained. You are constantly fatigued. You are in constant need of sleep, the only thing that can replenish your energy when your digestive track is not processing nutrients. It doesn't matter what else you ate, if you ate something you're allergic to, you're going to have a hard time digesting the whole meal.


Every once in a while, within two or three hours of eating, I would get asthma-like symptoms. I would wheeze, and literally be unable to breathe. This would suck while trying to sleep. I literally would not be able to relax and sleep, because I would be straining so hard to breathe that my heart rate would go up. It was like I went for a walk on a brisk autumn morning, yet, I was just trying to sleep. Breathing was exhausting! I would literally shake the box spring in my bed with my breathing. The only thing I could do was sit, and wait. Usually took 1-2 days to go back to normal breathing.

Thing is, I don't have asthma. This was in response to my more severe food allergies, such as sesame, oats, and barley. Up until this point, I have been describing symptoms of mild food allergies. When you get your blood test, the results will come with a table explaining what the numbers mean (keep an eye out for an entry about that, I plan on writing one). There will be a scale of benign, mild, moderate, high, and severe. If you are experiencing unexplainable, sudden, breathing problems, this is most definitely an allergic reaction.

Here's what I do: If you don't want to go to the hospital (IF YOU ARE GASPING FOR AIR, GO TO THE HOSPITAL IMMEDIATELY. Call 911, do not drive yourself. If you can control your breathing enough to get enough air, your body will settle itself within 48 hours) like me, there are things you can do to help ease your breathing. If you go to the hospital, they will give you an anaphylactic shot to relieve the symptoms. If you don't have insurance, this shot and an ER visit can be costly. Additionally, if you are found to have a severe allergy to a food, your physician will prescribe you an allergy pen to carry with you, which serves the same purpose as the shot, but usually is much more potent as you would be self-administering it, away from the care of physicians.

Calm your Breathing:

  • Run a hot shower, and stand or sit in the shower. Ensure your torso is erect, and breathe through your belly. Your abdomen should expand as you inhale, and your belly area should push outward as you exhale. The hot steam acts as a sauna, which opens the sinuses allowing for more oxygen to enter the body.
  • Meditate. If you are familiar with yoga, you know that meditation is required to regulate the breathing, calm the heart, and clear the mind. An easy way to meditate is to lay on your back, with one or both of your legs bent, so your feet are flat on the floor. This ensures the spine is straight, allowing for maximum airflow. Breathe in, focusing on expanding your abdomen as you inhale. Hold for two seconds. Exhale, but do so slowly. Focus on extending your belly upward as you exhale. Controlling the speed at which you breathe will calm your heart rate and calm your body.
  • Limit activity. Don't walk around. Don't go out. Don't go to school or work. When you are in this state, even the slightest amount of physical activity can cause you to become exhausted, and gasping for air. When I just sit there, or lay there, I find that I have little to no trouble breathing. It's when I get up and walk to the kitchen that I start panting and wheezing.


I had a lot of migraines. Sure, there were the normal ones which coincided with my menstrual cycle, but there were also the random ones that would not go away, no matter how many pills I popped, or how much water I drank. I even did the ice and heat therapy. I even saw my chiropractor about them, but to no avail. These were debilitating migraines, which would keep me in bed until 5pm. I would wake up with them, at a normal time, and basically take an 8 hour nap until they went away.

I don't get these so much anymore. I thought about it, and I would get these the morning after drinking a couple of beers, which contain wheat and/or barley. No, it wasn't a hangover. This was the normal 'couple of beers while eating out for dinner' kind of thing. I once had a migraine two days in a row; I felt better in the late evening, then I'd have a beer with dinner, and wake up the next day with the same thing. Turns out, this was a barley brew. Whoops.

Skin Irritation.

I used to get dry, itchy skin all the time. I would get hives on a near-daily basis. Of course, it wasn't until after I was diagnosed with my tree nut allergy that I realized the shampoo I was using had macadamia nuts in it! A lot of soaps and cosmetics use ingredients derived from plants and animals. People with food allergies may find they have a skin sensitivity to products containing that food. I have started using Canus Goat's Milk Soap, which has minimal ingredients in it. Canus is very straight-forward with the ingredients they use in their products, and their products are all-natural, so you won't find any fragrances and additives that may cause irritation. I encourage anyone with sensitive skin to use Canus products, or products from other "natural" cosmetic companies.

Now What do I do?

If you frequently suffer from one or more of the above symptoms, it is very likely you have some sort of food allergy or intolerance. Food allergy tests have come a long way since their implementation, and they are easy as drawing some blood and waiting a couple days for the lab to process the results. Call your doctor your physician; you don't need to go to a nutritionist or an allergist to get an allergy test. They'll send in an order for blood work, which is as easy as sitting in a chair for 90 seconds, staring at the painting on the wall, all the while ignoring that tingling feeling in your arm by humming your favorite song. Nobody wants to get blood work, but believe me when I say, it is so much easier to deal with 90 seconds of discomfort, than it is to deal with a lifetime of pain. Even if it turns out not to be food related, wouldn't you want to know? You don't need to live in pain.

"If you don't have your health, you don't have anything." One of my doctors once told me this. I have no idea who the quote originally belongs to (perhaps him?), but it holds truth. How can you harvest your full potential in anything, if you, yourself, are not living up to your full potential?

If you keep eating things you are allergic to, your allergy to them will get more severe. Your intestines be torn up, and unless you want to end up with a bag on your hip you need to start taking care of yourself NOW. Go! Why are you still reading?

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