Food Allergies

Everything Update – 5/25/2017

It’s been a while since I’ve posted and I thought I should write an update, so everyone knows I still exist. The last few weeks have been a bit crazy and unsettling for me, which affects everything I do, as I’ll explain.

Writing: The Writer’s Academy starts in less than two weeks. My nerves are on high alert. I received an email containing homework. The people in the class were asked to talk about ourselves, our projects, etc.

I put it off for two days because I was horrified. It wasn’t as bad as having to introduce myself in person to a room full of people, but I was still nervous about it. When I did answer, I got ‘yelled’ at by Alexandra Sokoloff, (author and one of the instructors) and it was hilarious! Let me explain. I’m a starter, and not always a finisher. I’m aiming to change this, which is part of the reason I’m taking the class.

I admitted to having twelve projects in various stages of completion, and she said exactly what one would expect. She told me to pick a novel and stick to it until it’s complete. Then she gave concrete reasons why. The irony is I haven’t even chosen which project I’ll be working on for the course! I hope I have it figured out soon.

Other than avoiding preparing for the academy, I haven’t done much writing. I wrote a piece of flash fiction and have thought a lot about writing. Mostly my mind is on my fantasy trilogy, so it’s currently the top contender for the class.

Reading: Pern, that is all.

Food Issues: Salicylates suck and avoiding them now rules my life. After several strong reactions to foods containing the nasty buggers, I decided it was time for a pantry/fridge/joy purge.

It was as painful as it sounds. I started with a list, well two lists on one piece of paper – front and back. Good on half of one side and Bad on most of the rest. On the bad list, there are foods I would never touch along with foods I will forever miss. Oranges, almonds, peanuts, mustard, basil, oregano, corn, all tomato products, tea, olive oil, rum, and many other things I regularly consumed. Okay, I haven’t had rum in over year because of pain meds but still!

The bad list is even worse than it looks at first glance. I mentioned corn. This means no corn products, except corn starch. Do you know how many things have corn syrup or corn meal in them? Blo-Pops, along with almost all hard candies, do. Soda, chicken bullion, most hamburger buns, any of the good frozen meals (I know, a rarity), and lots of cereals have one or the other as well. No more popcorn either.

Losing tomato products was painful as well. I’m a sucker for A-1 steak sauce, I’ll dip bread in that stuff, but I can’t have it. BBQ sauce. I live in TEXAS for crying out loud! Talk about unfair. No more ketchup, hell, no more Raising Canes sauce. Actually, Raising Canes uses paprika so I couldn’t have it anyway, but that’s not the point.

At least I can still eat garlic! I might have terrible breath if you ever meet me but I’m seasoning everything within reason with garlic, salt, chives, parsley and soy sauce from now on. Perhaps not all at once. I’m also happy to report I can consume pecans, limes, potatoes, and green beans. The world would have ended if these were taken from me.

The important thing is I feel different now that I’ve given up the foods I should have cut out a year ago. I’m less tired, less foggy, more energetic, etc. I’ve even lost a few pounds. The symptoms, besides major reactions, were much like the ones you would encounter with hypothyroidism.

Medical: My back hurts, as always. I won’t see any of my doctors unless I think I need to.

Everything Else: I’m obsessing/worrying about my packing list. The one I wrote five months ago. This is normal behavior for me when I go on a trip so nothing to be concerned about.

That’s all for now. I’ll post another update once I decide on a project.

Roadblocks & Annoyances

My muse has been waking up, so it was no surprise when my body starting betraying me again. It seems like every time I get close to being myself again after all these back problems and medication adjusting, something pops up that could potentially stop me from writing.

This time it is my sensitivity to salicylates. It’s been quite some time since I had my first major allergic reaction and I’ve done many things to avoid a repeat performance of Hellboy (this was my entire body turning bright red after drinking a smoothie containing blackberries and blueberries). I really thought I had this stuff under control, but I learned twice in the last week how wrong I was.

Okay, confession time. I did learn tea was very high in salicylates, but at the time of my first reaction, I didn’t know. So I kept drinking it, every day. As time went on, I reacted to more things. The doctor had warned me of this, and while I listened to her, I unwisely decided to keep enjoying the things I loved until my body told me I was done.

Unfortunately, when I react to one thing, there is a domino effect. There are three different types of salicylate. I wasn’t reacting to the one that includes mint and menthol, so I didn’t cut either out. I loved my mints and cough drops, they acted as substitutes when I stopped smoking years ago. Then came the fateful day when my body rejected both. It was awful! They caused sores in my mouth, even under my tongue!

Once that happened I reacted to certain shampoos and cosmetics. I had already cleaned out the ones with ‘benzyl salicylate’ on their label, but I left the ones containing aloe. Mistake!

And I still drank tea. Even when there were signs it was doing bad things to me, I kept drinking it. Then my body, which is clearly smarter than me, decided it for me. I reacted, and it wasn’t fun. Shortly after I reacted to a face cleaner, then yesterday I an unexpected enemy reared it’s lovely, delicious, terrible head — paprika. I ate a grilled chicken salad. The chicken was seasoned with salt, pepper (another salicylate), garlic, onion powder, and paprika. Stupid me, I have looked at the lists of foods to avoid a hundred times and simply never noticed the spices. It’s more accurate to say I ignored it.

My punishment was to turn into Hellboy again. Honestly, I’m lucky I haven’t had any breathing issues, though the doctor says it will come to that.

There are a few more items in the house I need to figure out replacements for. Did I mention I can’t have mint? I have yet to discover a toothpaste that is for sensitive teeth but doesn’t contain mint. I guess I should cut out regular pepper too, ugh!

I had to learn all the terms used by various companies that mean salicylates without actually using the word.  Most sunscreens have the evil in them, but the label says homosalate or octisalate. Some of the ones for sensitive skin don’t have those two, but they have aloe. I found two I can use, which are more expensive but safe is good.

I’m discovering more and more things I have to avoid, but I’m paying more attention now. I hate giving up things I love (no more chicken strips from restaurants), but it’s time to give in. I don’t only turn red when I use things I shouldn’t, I also feel really awful. Lie down and stare at the ceiling awful. This stops me from writing, and I can’t allow it any longer.

Back pain and surgeries have already been roadblocks to writing, I can’t let my own bad choices also stop me too.

Yesterday was the first day with no tea. I hated it, but I survived. Today will be the same. The two pieces of chicken meant for my salads will be given to my offspring, and I’ll find something plain to eat. I’ll pout a lot and curse the unfairness of it all, but I know it’s all worth it.

Most importantly, I’ll write.

Disappointing/Potentially Dangerous Morning Due To My Own Bad Choices

As an adult, I have the right to make terrible decisions, right? My most recent mess up has to do with Pop Tarts, and I’m ticked off about it. Not long ago I made a choice to start eating a cherry one every morning. Not the healthiest thing, but it was quick, easy, and kept my blood sugar mostly normal.

Besides eating mostly sugar for breakfast, my biggest mistake was assuming something as cheap and bad for you as Pop Tarts are, there couldn’t be real fruit in them. I was spectacularly wrong!

There are dried cherries, and oddly, dried apples in them. Guess who is allergic to berries and most other fruits? Actually, it’s more that I’m overly sensitive to something in a lot of foods – salicylates. I’ve always had issues with them, but until several months ago, when I had a severe reaction to some berries, it wasn’t too much of an issue. I’ve never cared for most fruit, so I rarely had any, except in Pop Tarts.

I learned from my doctor that my sensitivity would grow worse once I had the bad reaction. The problem is salicylates are in so many foods. To break it down a bit, everyone is sensitive to them, as they are basically poison. As we grow and try new things, our bodies build up a tolerance, allowing us to eat them. How else do you think you can eat tomatoes, which are nightshades – poison? People like me are more sensitive to them and can’t build as strong a tolerance, so are likely to have an allergic reaction eventually.

Have you seen Hellboy? Imagine a female version, and you’ll get a good mental image of what I looked like when I reacted to a smoothie containing blackberries and blueberries. I’d avoided these my whole life until that day, apparently for a good reason. My entire body turned bright red, and I felt terrible. I probably should have gone to the hospital, but I took a Benadryl and waited.

So, back to the cherry Pop Tarts. As usual, I ate one today. I was cutting potatoes for a stew I was going to throw together in the slow-cooker. I ended up eating pretty slow, in between potatoes. It took about fifteen minutes to cut the veggies and get everything in the pot. Then I went to my bedroom to change into my gym clothes. On the way, my bottom lip started feeling strange.

It was a tingling that was almost a burning sensation. It was the same with a couple of my fingers. Curse words flooded my thoughts because I recognized the feeling. I was reacting to something. I panicked a little at first because it could only be the cheap pastry or the tea I was drinking with it. I looked at my cup of tea and realized I’d only taken a few small drinks. It had to be the damn Pop Tart!

Claritin is part of my morning pill routine so I didn’t take a Benadryl. All I could do was finish getting ready and take my kid to school. I almost didn’t go to the gym but decided I would because I didn’t really feel bad, the burning, which had moved into my entire chin, wouldn’t stop me from working out. When I got to the gym I checked my face and the bottom half was definitely red. I worried I looked like a ventriloquist’s dummy but I sucked it up and got on the elliptical. The allergy stuff wasn’t going to kick in for at least two more hours so I kept my head down and made as little eye contact as possible. Actually, I do that every time I go to the gym so I wasn’t acting out of the ordinary, haha.

After my workout, I went to the grocery store and picked up something different for breakfast. I came home and looked at the ingredients on the food that betrayed me, and sure enough, it had real fruit. I’m an idiot for not checking this before I started eating them every day, which was two months ago. I can only guess how I was able to eat them this long. With the fruits in dried form, maybe it takes longer to get to me?

At least this will force me to eat something healthy in the morning. I should have been all along. The truth is, I’m a creature of habit. Buying a box of Pop Tarts was an impulse and then quickly became a habit. Plus, I LIKE them. Whatever I choose to eat for breakfast always becomes an everyday thing. I don’t have time in the morning to think too much about food. I certainly don’t have enough time to eat anything that takes a lot of prep.

Now, the Claritin is doing its job. My face isn’t red, and my bottom lip and chin aren’t swollen or burning anymore. I still feel it a bit in my fingers, but it will go away soon. If it doesn’t, I guess it will be doctor time.

The really sad part for me is my tea. I drink a cup every day while I eat breakfast. For all I know, it contributed to what happened. Tea is high in salicylates. I have been drinking it anyway because I did build up a tolerance. I knew eventually it would probably betray me too but I was hoping it would take a long time. Giving up my daily caffeine is terrifying! I may have to anyway.

I hope this time I’ve learned my lesson!

 

Salicylates Suck

Fair warning, this is a rant.

Today I had a green smoothie. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever had. I’m trying to eat healthier but I have this picky thing. There are a lot of foods I won’t eat. Some of them I can’t eat, due to allergies. Most of them is because I flat-out don’t like them. A few I have refused to try for reasons I could never fathom. Today I finally understand, but I’ll explain that later.

I decided to try this smoothie thing so I could actually get the benefits of healthy foods without having to taste their inherent grossness. The thought of eating kale makes my poor taste buds shrivel and long to hide, but the good stuff from it can’t be denied. The smoothie I made today had water, kale, pineapple, an orange, a few blueberries, a few blackberries and a single strawberry.

I drank it, all of it and I didn’t die of yuck, so I started looking up recipes. I figured, hey, let’s throw in some veggies since I won’t be able to taste them anyway. About eight minutes into my new obsession my bottom lip started burning. This didn’t really surprise me because I’ve had that reaction before from strawberry seeds. It was minor and my own fault so no biggie. It’s important to know at this point that this was not the first smoothie I have made that had a strawberry in it. I made one last week and had only the minor weirdness in my bottom lip.

A few minutes later my face started feeling strange. First in one cheek then moving to the whole thing. Even my scalp was tingly. I thought some potent curse words and promptly took a Benadryl. This is not a good thing for me because I’m sensitive to Benadryl and it always makes me loopy and I had an enforced hour-long nap because of it. I’m sure it’s helping but I still feel odd.

My entire body turned red, especially my face. I imagine I look a lot like a female Hellboy. If my lips decide to swell, which is likely, I’ll look like Hellboy after a fight. After deciding that it had to be the blueberries and/or blackberries that I reacted to I turned to the internet to look up everything about allergies to berries. Turns out it’s a much broader allergy. Salicylates. I found several lists of things that have salicylates in them. Those lists explained my life! I would estimate ninety percent of the foods that I don’t like (mostly vegetables) and actively avoid are on the list. There are foods that I like but I can never eat much of too. For example. I love oranges but I never can eat a whole one. The lip thing starts happening so I generally steal a few pieces when my husband eats one. Same with apples. Those little round peppermints and my nemesis –broccoli, is on it. There were always some foods that I thought I should like but didn’t. Like peaches. I never understood why I couldn’t eat them. They tasted good but after eating one I was always disgusted. Go natural defenses!

I have this hate/hate relationship with baked fruit. I thought it was a texture thing but the only baked fruit I’ve eaten was in cobblers and pies. The fruits and berries in all of those contain salicylates so that was probably the real problem.

It’s not just foods. There are certain cosmetics that I can’t use because their burn: Lip stains and lip butters. Some mouthwashes I have to avoid. Herbal Essences shampoos feel like they are trying to dissolve my scalp. Oh and aspirin.

So this whole mess boils down to a few facts.

  1. I will never eat another berry for as long as I live.
  2. I will have to avoid some other fruits as well, but I’ll probably push the boundaries a bit from time to time.
  3. I’ve decided that I was never all that picky, my body was merely protecting me. (Who am I kidding, I’m too picky for it to be only because of this)
  4. My brother, who hates all fruits, may not be as weird as I thought he was.
  5. I won’t be embarrassed at having to refuse to eat something I don’t want to eat.
  6. My family will benefit greatly from all the smoothie making stuff I have in the fridge.
  7. My husband gets bonus points because he didn’t laugh once at how I look. He did when I mentioned Hellboy but that’s perfectly reasonable.
  8. Most importantly, I am thankful it wasn’t worse. I never had trouble breathing and didn’t end up in the hospital. Plus now I know what to avoid so it doesn’t happen again.

So we’re going to call this my “Now I feel justified for being weird about food” moment.