Monday, March 23, 2009

Food Allergies Cured!

One of the reasons I originally wanted to start this blog was to share recipes, restaurant and product recommendations for those also living with wheat and dairy allergies. Well, life got crazy and by the time I was able to set up this site, my allergies were cured. However, some of what I'll likely share here will be at least rooted in my "allergy journey," so I'll go ahead and give you the story.

I have been plagued by ear, nose and throat issues my whole life. As a baby, my parents suffered through numerous ear infections and the corresponding howling that went with them. By elementary school, strep throat was my sickness du jour. After I graduated high school, I also graduated to the ultimate knock-you-on-your-butt supremacy of the mighty sinus infection. In my late 20's, it seemed I was always sick and I would get a sinus infection at least once a month.

At about this time, my mom was battling fibromyalgia, a debilitating chronic pain disorder, and was at her wits end. The drugs just weren't working anymore and she didn't want to be medicated for the rest of her life. She tried a new holistic doctor recommended by a friend, and within several months, her pain was dramatically reduced. While she'd previously been unable to get out of bed, sleep through the night or even take a walk around the block, she now can do all those things and more. All of this was accomplished through chiropractic adjustments, holistic remedies vs. drugs and an allergy elimination process.

The theory is that many people are allergic to foods to which they'd never expect, usually the foods they most commonly consume. And unlike allergies that are recognizable because they create life-threatening reactions such as anaphylactic shock, most allergies do much quieter damage over time. When I finally decided that I'd had enough of living with the sinus pain and visited this doctor, I learned that my allergies - most significantly to wheat and dairy - had been the culprit of my ENT issues most likely from a very young age. And my favorite foods were behind it all.

So, once I cleansed my system of all wheat and dairy based products as instructed (you'd be AMAZED at how much of what we eat contains at least one derivative of wheat or dairy), there was a very clear correlation: If I ate wheat or dairy, the result was always a sinus infection; if I didn't, I was sinus infection free.

While it was life-changing to take control of whether or not I got sick, you can imagine that avoiding all wheat and dairy products is not easy. It means no bread, no pizza, no ice cream (Oh, the horror!), etc. and makes eating out very challenging. I found a number of great wheat and dairy free products and learned to make my own versions of old favorites, and some of them were even quite good. But, still, it's just not the same. (As a point of clarity, I did not have Celiac disease, which is a much more serious intolerance to all gluten that requires a diligent avoidance of any contact with gluten-containing food.)

I lived life virtually wheat and dairy free for almost two years, at which time my aunt, a nurse, recommended another holistic doctor she knew had cured her friend of allergies. As anyone who loves bread and cheese knows, you will consider just about anything to get them back in your life. So I made an appointment.

As they described the process, I had to admit it sounded out there - the concept is that the things you're allergic to (allergens) set your body's energy out of whack, creating any number of reactions. The healing process involves the combination of three techniques: kinesiology (muscle testing), homeopathy and acupuncture/acupressure to determine which allergen you are sensitive to, identify the organ or meridian system involved and introduce what the body needs to recognize the allergen as normal vs. foreign. The analogy they used was this: In order to read a pdf file, your computer needs to download Adobe Acrobat Reader. What they do is "download the right program" to allow your body to accept the allergen, and therefore end the reactions.

Sound like voodoo witchery? I thought so too, and I'm actually a believer in holistic medicine. But all I could think about was the fact that maybe, just maybe, I'd be able to eat pizza and ice cream again one day, so I figured I'd go for it. The treatments are painless, and are actually very relaxing. I am now officially a fan of acupuncture - I love it! But still, at the end of each treatment I'd report home to my hubby and we'd marvel at whether any of this could work.

Well, it did. I can now eat anything I want with no reactions. Even now, a year later, it is sublime every time I eat a "real" bread product. Pizza and ice cream and pretzels, oh my!

Now that I'm back on wheat and dairy, life is much easier. Eating out no longer involves a complex questioning process about the menu ingredients with an unwitting server, and my fabulous friends and family don't have to create alternative dishes for me at gatherings. But I have stuck to the concepts I learned along the journey: eating whole grains, healthy oils and lots of veggies, avoiding highly processed or synthetic ingredients, and using holistic remedies instead of taking medications. And I continue to make many of my former allergy-free recipes, some of which are still my hubby's favorites, so I'll share those here.

Now, I recognize that holistic medicine isn't for everyone, and for many, allergies are just a minor annoyance in their lives. But for anyone suffering from chronic conditions, these treatments can make a huge difference in quality of life. Just make sure you do the research, ask for referrals and ensure the provider is reputable. And then, keep an open mind...and have a little faith.

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