Fear of Food


I’m happy to say I’ve surmounted a few challenges in my life—travelled to interesting places, climbed a few mountains, started my own business, worked in a foreign country alone—all things I thought were pretty difficult at the time. But they all seem chicken feed in comparison to the challenge I find myself faced with lately—an allergy diet.

Let me tell you about it. For quite a few years I’ve been plagued with various stomach problems. No need for details. But I was beginning to wonder if stomach cramps were just something I’d have to learn to live with, when a friend recommended an allergy specialist. Not just any allergy specialist, but one experienced and qualified enough to not only decifer my allergies through a series of blood tests, but to prescribe a course of treatment that would fix them.

Well, a couple of appointments later I have learnt I have the classic symptoms, and I’m allergic to a number of foods. And here they are kids—wheat, grains, dairy, nuts, soya and nitrites (processed meats). And, I hasten to add, this is a mild allergy problem. You could also be allergic, should you be so unlucky, to eggs, yeast, fruits, sulphites (things like onion and garlic), msg and glutamates; not to mention any number of inhalants from the lawn to mould to the family dog.

Apparently, it’s a symptom of modern life. In the case of foods, there are so many chemicals in everything, and so many foods used in other foods (look at a few labels and be shocked at how many things contain wheat), that our systems are going haywire.

For me, unaccustomed as I am to denying myself much of anything in the food department, it has been a hell of a shock, which I’m only just starting to adjust to after two weeks of truly monumental whinging. I’ve found myself always thinking about food, having to plan all my meals again, searching out foods I’m allowed to eat and rejoicing when anything passes the test (Smith’s Crisps are only potato, oil and salt. Hallelujah!) Living without beer, however, is hell.

There are some advantages to this whole life upset. I’m learning to cook again, and we save a lot money on takeaway. My palate is becoming re-educated to enjoy the most basic foods again—ye olde meat and three veg back on the plate instead of Indian curries, Thai food, gourmet pizzas. And I’m learning the many virtues of herbs.

The real good news is, with luck and strict discipline, the diet will only last thirteen weeks. If all goes well an allergy vaccine I’m taking will build up an immunity and I’ll be able to reintroduce all those things that we all take for granted. Not to mention live a life free of stomach cramps. But I’m telling you now though, when finally I get the all-clear, I know the first thing I’ll be tucking into with gusto.

A big bowl of the chocolatiest, nuttiest ice-cream I can find.

9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. anaglyph
    Apr 20, 2006 @ 18:50:51

    I was on that diet once. Six weeks that seemed like an eternity. In the end, I don’t think it was an allergy at all for me, but instead, the thing I have come to believe is the cause of most problems in our lives: stress.
    I’ve found that the more I reduce stress, the better everything goes. Including my stomach…

  2. UniversalHead
    Apr 20, 2006 @ 19:31:24

    Well, that bolsters my resolve! The diet didn’t help you at all?
    I think has to be the thing for me though, as stress levels aren’t that high for me the last couple of years. And I figure if thirteen weeks of incredible inconvenience is all I have to pay to be free of these allergies the rest of my life, it’s worth a shot.

  3. anaglyph
    Apr 21, 2006 @ 16:40:20

    I have to say that in fact the diet didn’t help me at all. I didn’t feel better at the end of it, and the problems (which in my case were stomach cramps, tiredness and general lack of verve) were still there.
    It was an interesting experience, because you do get to scrutinize your food very carefully, (and realize how difficult it is to eat out…) but in the end all the symptoms went away when I took a long break.
    But heck, in your case, it may be the allergies. Who can say. You’ll have a better idea at the end of your ordeal!

  4. Denny
    Apr 21, 2006 @ 23:26:38

    I would love to know what drugs he put you on Peter. I’ve been through absolute hell the past 4 years looking for the source of my severe allergies. I frequently break out in hives, have a perpetually stuffed nose, swollen & numb tongue/lips, breathing problems, sleep apnea, painful itching eye sockets, eczema, nausea and the list goes on. Good allergists here are hard to find and most of the time these issues are seen as “fringe medicine”. I’m pretty much at my wits end beyond continually shifting my diet to find the smoking gun.

  5. steelbuddha
    Apr 22, 2006 @ 08:07:16

    Sounds like a horror, but a short-lived one at least. Best of luck!

  6. UniversalHead
    Apr 22, 2006 @ 11:30:18

    Denny: Sounds like you’re the perfect candidate! From what I’ve heard this guy I’m seeing is pretty rare here too – apparently there are only five or so doctors in Australia experienced and qualified enough to even request these blood tests let alone read them. As for what he put me on, I have no idea what’s in the allergy vaccine, though I’m taking various vitamins as well, no doubt to make up for what I’m missing in my diet. I’d strongly suggest no self-medication though, but keep hunting for an expert.
    However continually shifting your diet won’t work, as I’m told the cells that correct your immune system are on a 12 or 14 week cycle. Also, the effects from food you’ve eaten aren’t apparent for about five days, and effects may come from long term buildup of a particular food and then eating a bit more that ‘tips you over the edge’.
    In other words, you can’t do it yourself very successfully, though until you find someone you probably can’t go too far wrong if you cut down on wheat, nuts and dairy, which seem the most common problem causes.
    Anyway, hunt down an expert. I’ll definitely keep you posted here on my progress and we’ll see if this approach works or not (for me anyway)!
    Steelbuddha: Thanks mate!

  7. UniversalHead
    Apr 22, 2006 @ 11:32:34

    And by the way Denny, you could definitely benefit from Anaglyph’s advice about cutting down on stress too! Especially since your recent computer problems … very sorry to hear about that. Time to switch to a Mac my friend (and back up on DVD!
    BTW, I once accidently trashed a lot of crucial work and took the hard disc to a retrieval shop and they managed to get back quite a bit of it – may be the solution for you.

  8. Rod
    Jul 26, 2006 @ 07:30:19

    Hi there – can you tell me more about the allergy vaccine you’re taking? My son has many allergies and I would love to try a vaccine on him if possible…

  9. UniversalHead
    Jul 26, 2006 @ 09:42:34

    I’ve been meaning to write a follow-up to this post. I will soon, but in brief, I don’t know anything about the vaccine, unfortunately. I finished the first 14 weeks of the diet a couple of weeks ago and decided to suspend further treatment as I was still getting the original symptoms. Obviously something else is responsible for my complaints. While the course was inconclusive for me, I have friends for whom it has been a big success.