How One Food Might Save My Life

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I am allergic to life!

I’m not kidding! I’ve suffered from various mysterious allergic reactions for most of my life.

I’ve gone to school with random swollen knee joints, swollen eyes, half a swollen lip, rashes across my hands and back, red blotches on my face and neck, etc. It kinda sounds like I was beaten up a lot, but there was no bruising, just large red swollen patches.

For decades I tried to figure out the cause.

The doctors first thought I had chillblains when I was 11 years old and my knee and elbow joints kept swelling up. My mum threw away a brand new air-freshener from my bedroom because she thought that was the cause of it.

A friend told me that I had a very dire disease because my red blotches didn’t go away when they put a glass on it (I was terrified for a week!). During my first year of college, I stopped eating mushrooms for a year because I thought I was allergic to those (I wasn’t).

And recently, I went to 3 allergy specialists in New York City and had every pinprick test possible (I tested positive for just about everything)!

Do You Want A Prescription For the Gym?

paleo allergies
I had just about given up hope when an Ear, Mouth, and Throat specialist (whom I went to see on an unrelated matter) diagnosed me as having angioedema, a fairly rare immune disorder.

As my angioedema specialist stated very matter-of-factly, I was basically allergic to stress and everything else in life. Anything from visiting the dentist, to waking up in the morning, to anything and everything could cause a reaction.

As I have since found out, if I stop taking antihistamines for just 1 day, then I will guaranteed to have a reaction.

When I asked how to cure this disease, he prescribed me antihistamines and gave me 2 epi-pens for anaphylactic reactions where my throat closes up and I can’t breathe.

You’re supposed to stab yourself in the upper thigh really hard with the pen, and the reason why they give you 2 of these is because the first one might not work and you’ll have to stab yourself again! I’d have enough trouble stabbing myself once.

When my face displayed the utter shock and horror I felt at finding out that there was no permanent cure, he went on to offer me a prescription to go to the gym. I turned that down.

Why am I telling you all this? And what does this have to do with food?

The Food That Might Save Me

I’ve been reading a lot about celery (crazy right?), and I was shocked to find out that a large number of people are severely allergic to celery (it’s an allergen that often causes anaphylactic reactions where your throat closes up)! In fact, the EU has celery on its list of allergens that must be declared on food labels.

A paper published in The Western Journal of Medicine notes that celery is one of the most allergenic foods in existence, just below cereal grains. Celery is the only vegetable listed on that top allergens list!

There is even a syndrome associated with celery allergies – the “birch-mugwort-celery syndrome” – and it’s suggested that around 40% of all Swiss patients with food allergies are sensitive to celery tubers (one common form is celery root or celeriac). This allergy appears to be particularly prevalent in parts of Europe.

Even though celery has so little protein (or anything else for that matter), like most food allergies, it is one of the proteins that’s the cause.

While I’m pouring through the ton of websites and studies open on my computer screen, I suddenly read the following scary and sobering fact:

“Two common characteristics in many patients who die of food-induced anaphylaxis are denial of the severity of their food allergy and a reliance on oral antihistaminics alone to treat their symptoms.”

This is me.

Even now, I routinely downplay just how severe my angioedema is. (As I write this, I don’t even know where my epi-pens are, despite the fact that they will be the only things that could save me if my throat closed up!). I don’t watch my stress levels, I don’t relax enough, and I don’t sleep enough.

Here’s the real kicker: Even though I research obsessively about other random topics (like celery), I don’t research angioedema. I’m afraid of what I’ll find. Instead, I rely on taking little pills every night (hoping that I won’t forget one night and praying that I’m never in a situation when I don’t have access to them).

How Celery Might Save Me…

That one quote, in one study I found while researching celery, may well save me. I’m making an appointment to get new epi-pens, and I’m making more of an effort to de-stress and sleep enough.

Will I research angioedema now? Maybe…I know it’s irrational, but I am terrified that there will be no cure and that I will have to just live with taking a white pill every night and being careful about everything I do (even though that’s what I have to live with already). In fact, I’m crying while I write this, because I know just how irrational and scared I am!

Your Comments

I know many of you suffer from allergies too – I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below about how you deal with them and how they’ve affected your life. Do they scare you? Is it something you research obsessively, or do you try to forget about it?

Images: photo credit: •Saif•, Abdullah AL-Naser.

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Comments

  1. Ruth says

    My 7 month old son is allergic/intolerant (still finding out) to dairy/soya/oats/citrus. I have done lots of research online as he was so ill in the first few weeks of his life and the Drs fobbed us off. Thankfully we now are under a dietitian and pediatrician. Today though he just came out in hives and we ended up at the childrens hospital :-( the Dr and myself and my husband have no idea what he has reacted to this time :-( it’s a long sometimes scary journey but we are getting there.

  2. says

    The very first thought that came to my mind as I read your words was not that you are afraid of “no cure,” but that you are afraid of being HEALED and having your life change dramatically. Imagine what your life might be like if you weren’t so allergic. Think about and see how that idea feels to you.

    Remember Marianne Williamson’s beautiful quote?
    “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.’ We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

    Sending a hug…

  3. Linda says

    Hi Louise, Yes I have allergies: corn rice wheat cow(milk) cheese orange strawberry peanut tomato salmon cod shellfish beef pork chocolate dust mite(far) dust mite(Pter) cat dog mold(aspergillus histamine Eng.Plantain(weed)…..I stay away from the things I know I’m allergic to. I don’t take antihistamines BUT I do feel tired all the time. My throat closes (I thought) BUT the Ears Mouth Throat specialist said I had muscle spasms and gave me some high antacid pills to help with that. They seem to help. I haven’t eaten out since I went Paleo in January. I cook my own food which takes a lot of time.

  4. AmandaS says

    Nice comment Cindy.
    Louise, can I encourage you to look into Emotional Freedom Technique and do some google searches for allergies? Some people have found incredible relief, and if you download the free manuals you can do it on yourself.
    Another option I’d recommend is to go to a good kinesiologist. Essentially, both these options work by chilling your body’s ‘high-alert reaction’ by balancing meridians etc in the body that are trying to protect us… and doing a lousy (misinformed) job

  5. WendyM says

    I am sitting under a pile of blankets researching ‘allergic to quinoa’. I have IgE mediated allergy to house dust mite, milk, soya, etc. I ate it three days ago and my tummy is still giving me fits. That is the very nice version of events. I’ve been ill all my life but was not diagnosed until my 50’s. Changing my diet has been a very good thing for me. But the allergies still plague me. For instance, if my teen cooks a pizza and I smell it my asthma starts. It is the cheese, you see. I tried taking the tablets and just getting on with life but then I would be exposed to something and have to take a week to recover. People around me, try but do not understand. Eventually I can tell they are totally bored with it. Writing this I realise that I will start my own website on my travels with allergies. Thanks for listening. Be well. x

    • says

      Thanks Wendy – it is awful living with chronic allergies. I’m terrified of ever forgetting my allergy pill still! Great idea starting a website :) Share the link here when you do!

  6. Breandano says

    Hi Louise,
    I suffer from the exact same thing. A doctor diagnosed me with Angiodema about 6 years ago, since then – like you – I’ve taken an anti-histamine on an almost daily basis. On the days that I decide not to take one – due to drowsiness etc – I am almost guaranteed to go through some sort of anaphylactic reaction. Many thanks for the post, it’s nice knowing that I’m not the only one allergic to life :)

  7. says

    Hi Loise! I have been in the same boat, on and off that is and see many of the same cases in my clientele as I am an Integrative Manual Therapist. I have had immune challenges all my life, the big ones for me were dairy and gluten. And I even have a anaphylactic response to pathogens!!! I also found out that my native American heritage(small as it is) causes my liver to be less tolerant of certain toxins, which is also common in those with Asiatic heritage. But with care of diet and a lot of therapeutic work, I have managed to have long periods of times where I am not sensitive to anything. I have found in my work and research that certain structural and physiologic anomalies can be the cause of an improper immune response, such as poor lymphatic flow, or poor circulation. Well enough about me!

    I have also found when working with my clients that they would go into an allergy reaction no matter HOW careful they were. When I asked what was different in their lives, they would report that some stressful event was going on. Anaphylaxis from stress?! This got my curiosity going. I started doing some emotional work with them, and worked with improving their adrenal gland function and found that it had the affect of reducing all their reactions.

    I’m just saying, there is a wealth of information out there, and I have seen some pretty amazing things, I think your discovery will continue :-)

    Adriana

  8. Nina says

    Thank you for sharing you story – i have had angioedema since i was a teen and i am the exact same way – i am scared to research or continue to see doctors out of fear that i’ll never be cured. I did read recently that some pharma companies are taking interest in angioedema – hopefully there will be reliable treatments in the near future.

  9. Claire says

    I have had severe reactions mostly neck up so this can mean swelling of the face, epiglottis, tongue and throat I had an operation when I was 21 and began with allergies to nuts and prawns and other less minor reactions to kiwi fruit, eggs and Banana I had skin tests and hospital appointments and was diagnosed with angiodema I carry an epi-pen with me everywhere I go.

    I got divorced in 2008 and have been with my new oartner for 4 years and up to now I gave only had minor reactions. About a month ago I had a missed miscarriage and had to have surgery to remove the baby – and now I have had a facial swelling in the cheek on Saturday that lasted 3 days and this morning I woke up because my throat was swelling up on one side. I rely on tra mechanic acid tablets which were prescribed many years ago but they are the only things that seem to work i used to be on antihistamines every day but had to stop taking them due to the pregnancy. I’m just worried why this has all started up again and if it’s going to get worse. It’s a horrible thought process wondering when to use your epi-pen.

    I’m now 38 but since being diagnosed doctors don’t really seen to know what it is and what causes it.

    • says

      Hi Claire – I’m so sorry to hear that. I’ve read a few accounts of people getting somewhat better with a Paleo diet, and I’ve noticed that less stress and more sleep helps me a lot.

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