Delayed Allergies and Chronic Illness

My understanding is that our understanding of the delayed type allergies are still very limited. And there is no clear medical test for it. Even gluten sensitivity that is not celiac doesn’t have a test. Unfortunately when there is no test and no medication for something it seems it almost doesn’t exist to the medical community. This is where western medicine falls short. It is superb at acute crisis management and I owe my life multiple times to it. But it has a blind spot to viewing people as a whole system and to the management of chronic ills, chronic fatigue syndrome is one that comes to mind. I suspect we are just starting to understand all the biochemistry that underlies many mysterious chronic illnesses.

Before and After

Symptoms that disappeared

Myself
Brain fog, frequent headaches, migraine (especially after exercise), itchiness (after exercise), random joint pain, irritability, hunger pangs within a couple of hours of eating, random bouts of anaphylaxis (near black outs, vomiting, and diarrhea)
severe menstrual cramps, what looked like an extreme case of keratosis pilaris (tiny red spots all over the body), adult acne
mouth sores, bleeding and/or itchy anus, dizziness, frequent throat clearing due to scratchy throat, and bloating

My partner
Dermatographism, loss of water weight, bruxism (nighttime teeth grinding), abdominal discomfort and bowel movements, much reduced gas

Factors other than diet that may have some influence: dust mite control, removing most scented household products, slight gradual increase in exercise as I no longer had itching, migraine, or nausea afterwards, decrease in eating out or processed foods

Now?

Nearing four years of successfully avoiding severe reactions. Still have smaller accidents. Possibly mold, which can be tricky to steer clear of entirely, and cross contamination. Luckily reactions to these are bouts of diarrhea and not life threatening, so in that sense I am fortunate and can afford to take little risks.

My partner gets inklings of dermatographism, bruxism, headaches, and bowel trouble when he starts eating out more. This might escalate to sleep disturbance, fever, and body aches when this goes on for longer periods of time like during travel. Although the culprits are a bit more ambiguous (is it high amines or mold, mild reactions to milk or wheat, or histamine overload caused by a combination of environmental allergies, fermented foods, and alcohol?), at least it is certain that they are a subset of those eliminated from our home diet.

In some sense it is a trade off. Used to be able to eat much anything, as I didn’t have clear reactions every single time I ate a problem food, but had random incidents and was chronically unwell. Now, I feel the best in my life but need to be cautious of everything I eat since reactions to accidental ingestion is swift and unmistakeable. For me, the trade off is worth it.

The Short

I never imagined I had any food issues until I trialled a gluten free diet to support my partner. I suffered from major depressive episodes since I was thirteen and in my early twenties was diagnosed with emerging Bipolar. Fortunately with plenty of help I was able to keep further episodes at bay but was prone to being mildly depressed. And now for the first time in my adult life I experienced clarity and energy and many physical symptoms that I always lived with disappeared.

And the surprises kept coming. My body started to feel more clearly when something was causing a problem. Within a few weeks I recognized I was allergic to mold and milk, later confirmed through testing. In the following three years I continued to learn more about my own body and about less typical manifestations of allergies in general. I am still astonished by how even severe reactions can somehow be masked enough that it is nearly impossible to pinpoint the cause despite ongoing suffering.

I feel there are still many unknowns and a large gap between research and what is known in the mainstream. The immune system going awry just might be the culprit behind a large subset of unexplained and usually chronic conditions, both mental and physical. Here, I will try to document what I am learning and my speculations.

The Long

I had a lot of chronic health issues, both large and small, that bothered me throughout my life and every once in a while landed me in the hospital. Most of these issues were deemed cause unknown, and frequently was some kind of inflammation of various organs.

But subjectively my greatest ongoing struggle since my teenage years was my mood and energy level.

I only really stumbled upon this because I was trying to support my partner, otherwise I am one that is very unlikely to have thought this “fad” and other food issues would have anything to do with me. I never suspected I had any problem with any food.

Thus I didn’t expect I would feel any different when my partner and I trialled the gluten free diet for two weeks. We really thought my partner might find some relief as he has various environmental allergies and digestive issues. The changes I started to feel was a huge surprise. After about a week my energy level, thinking, productivity all improved. And when after two weeks we ate gluten for a day, within hours I was irritable, then low mood and energy returned, and by the next day my brain felt literally stuck. I couldn’t even make simple decisions and it was a huge struggle to get any work done. Dizziness, headaches, hunger pangs, and many other minor symptoms returned as well.

Many might have tired of gluten free being trendy, but I for one thank this “fad” for totally changing the state of my health and understanding of my own body. It was not the full answer, but the first large piece of the puzzle without which the rest may never have fallen into place.

As it turns out, gluten was only the tip of the iceberg. Within a couple of weeks my body started to recognize allergies to milk and mold. And when I removed these offenders I recognized reactions to some tree nuts and shrimp. Since I heard that most adults who self diagnose with food allergies aren’t actually allergic, I got tested. Besides I was in disbelief that I could have lived my whole life without knowing, which some allergists say isn’t possible. But to my shock, my skin prick tests actually confirmed positive for milk, some tree nuts and grains, dust mites, and aspergillus mold.

Perhaps gluten has a dulling effect or because I had multiple allergies and all were eaten fairly frequently my whole life, my body was doing its best to adapt and each individual reaction was covered up.

After the gluten free diet we also tried the failsafe diet, as again we suspected my partner may have some food chemical intolerance. At one point we removed all processed foods or eating out and made everything from scratch at home, all the while tracking everything we ate and our symptoms. Sometimes it took a lot of trial and error to figure out what was really going on. For example in the beginning I frequently wondered if I was being “glutened”. Sometimes we were led down strange paths, ironically because we trusted what is supposedly true for most people. Ultimately it took nearly three years but we now have fairly clear answers for ourselves mostly thanks to the data we recorded of our diet.

This journey made me aware of many lesser known aspects of food allergies and sensitivities along with the discrepancy between mainstream knowledge and what can be found in research literature. It was interesting to observe how fervent people can be about their and sometimes even other’s food choices. I noticed possible connections between food and chronic illness. Also this strengthened my hunch that mental illness will eventually be explained as physical illness.