'It isn't all in my head': Healthy food makes me ill

By admin
12 November 2015

She suffered from excruciating migraines, hypertension, tinnitus, disorientation, hot flushes, nausea and asthma for years. Doctors kept telling Anna* she was stressed – but she knew they were wrong.

She suffered from excruciating migraines, hypertension, tinnitus, disorientation, hot flushes, nausea and asthma for years. Doctors kept telling Anna* she was stressed  but she knew they were wrong. "For years I have lived with migraines, hypertension, tinnitus, disorientation, hot flushes, nausea, asthma and other unpleasant ailments. I have consulted numerous doctors and specialists, have had dozens of tests, scans and x-rays, but nobody came up with a proper diagnosis. Most doctors said it was all due to stress, but I knew they were wrong. Then I found an allergy specialist three years ago and he diagnosed me with salicylate sensitivity. This meant I had to cut out a number of foods from my diet, mainly fruit, some vegetables, spices, herbs and preservatives. I did feel better for a while once I had eliminated the offending foods.

'I often spent days in bed as I was feeling too ill to function'

Then two years ago, my GP put me on low dose of hypertension meds to help control my migraine attacks. Six weeks later my blood pressure became erratic and dangerously high on many occasions. During three bouts of hospitalisation, blood tests, x-rays and scans were done resulting in a bad reaction to iodine and still no answers as all results were pretty normal. Every medicine prescribed made me worse and I often spent days in bed as I was feeling too ill to function.

In desperation I stopped the BP meds and my blood pressure normalised after a few weeks! Then I developed a gluten intolerance, plus sugary foods started to affect me and despite negative test results I still had no idea why I was having so many problems. A few months ago I had to spend three days in bed with debilitating vertigo, migraine and raised BP after eating a matured steak for supper.

I had no choice but to do my own research and found this vertigo attack was the result of histamine intolerance. Well, in the past nine months I have established that I have MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity - confirmed by a new allergy specialist). I have an intolerance to gluten, salicylates, sulphites, lactose and amines (histamines), so I have a very limited list of foods that I can eat safely.

A large number of prescription drugs contain amines, which explains why I have so many reactions to medications. I react to some drugs within hours, others after two or three days or even longer. Food reactions can occur within minutes of eating, or they can take a few hours and take days to go away.  Food intolerance is generally caused by one or all of the following: stress, parasites and Leaky Gut Syndrome (LGS). I have tried several alternative therapies with some relief, but I am now under the care of a new doctor who has diagnosed me with LGS. Leaky Gut Syndrome allows toxins to seep through the gut lining, thereby putting an extra burden on the liver, kidneys and other organs as they try to rid the body of the poisons in the system.  This leads to food intolerance and can make one feel quite ill.

'I have to take each day at a time'

Unfortunately it is an extremely slow recovery process and so far I have had adverse reactions to six out of the eight remedies prescribed including natural remedies. My system is extremely sensitive and I have to take each day at a time. I have found that my reactions vary quite considerably. Some days I get stiff neck muscles, migraine and disorientation, a week later I might react to food with hot flushes, palpitations, insomnia and nausea. I get tinnitus within minutes of eating something containing a sensitivity trigger, often hard to identify, so I keep a food diary when reactions are bad.

Eating out is a nightmare as I cannot eat most restaurant dishes. If I order a salad it is pointless as I can only eat certain types of lettuce, celery and radish - no tomato, cucumber, olives or frilly lettuce permitted. Preservatives, sauces, herbs, spices, most fruit, cheeses, processed meats, fermented foods, canned foods and many other popular food items are banned from my diet. When I walk through a supermarket I realise that I can only select a very small percentage of items on the shelf. What do I miss the most?  Yoghurt, dark chocolate, tomatoes, avocados and cheese!

I am in my senior years and am grateful that I have had 60+ years of eating whatever I liked apart from shellfish, but now I have to select my food very carefully. It is no longer a matter of avoiding what I can't eat, but rather select what I CAN eat. When I have days of bad reactions I will eat boiled plain white rice (no perfumed rice allowed), a small portion of white fish or chicken with selected vegetables, followed by peeled, cooked pears. I've tried reintroducing some foods with not much luck as migraine or strong palpitations usually kick in. I can only take paracetamol as all other pain killers cause a reaction.
'Eating out is a nightmare'

I make my own gluten-free bread, drink rice milk and eat lots of root vegetables. To add to my woes, having MCS, a number of inhalants set off my asthma, so I have to avoid air fresheners, perfume, cigarette smoke, braai smoke, wood smoke and paint fumes. Sadly most people don't seem to care when their actions, such as smoking, cause your body to react. Even family have taken time to understand that my problem can be life-threatening. No, I'm not being fussy and it isn't all in my head. When I found my new allergist she confirmed that food intolerance and MCS are real, the latter classed as a chronic illness! Most publications have presented articles on gluten and lactose intolerance, but I am yet to see any articles published on amine intolerance (HI) and MCS. Little has been written about LGS as it is a syndrome, not a disease that doctors can relate to.

'No, I'm not being fussy and it isn't all in my head'

For the record, food intolerance or sensitivity is not the same as an allergy and therefore is controlled by eliminating foods and chemicals that cause the problem. An allergy can generally treated with medication.

I wonder how many people out there suffer with similar symptoms wondering what on earth is wrong with them? Look at what you are eating, after all, your stomach is your second brain.”

*Not her real name

This story was submitted to YOU by one of our readers and has been minimally edited.

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