Could it really be the wheat?

This is a post for those of you who have ever struggled with food allergies or constant nagging health issues. I've been coming to terms with my own over the past few months and I thought I would share my experience. I've spent the past few days trying to convince myself that I'm  just sick with a cold and not a sinus infection.

So, if you've been following along with this blog for any length of time you'll know I spent the majority of this past fall sick - with what might have been sinusitis? (Sinusitis is when you have a sinus infection over a long period of time and it can't be treated or fixed with antibiotics). I'll never really know for sure if this is what it was, because when you don't have a family doctor, and you spend the majority of time at walk-in-clinics, you are usually just treated for your symptoms as of that day (i.e. put on another round of antibiotics and sent on your way.)

(Well that's not exactly true - one doctor went as far to refer me to an allergist... of course I'm still on a 10 month wait list to see said doctor, so no-one's really sure what (if anything) I'm allergic to... or if that's why I felt so awful for so long).

The point of this being, I feel like sometimes you just need to do your own research.

No one seemed particularly concerned (except for my mom of course) that I spent over 8 weeks on round after round of antibiotics that never worked; that from last September through last November I constantly felt like a bag of potatoes: no energy, no vim always struggling to feel peppy, always fighting the feeling of a swollen sinus cavity, never having a clear head. One doctor's answer was to keep taking decongestants - which I did... for about 8 weeks everyday I took a cold and sinus pill. (That doesn't do great things for your stomach by the way, if you were wondering.)

So anyway, by last November I had had enough. I took matters into my own hands.

The thing is I've had a lifetime of stuffy noses - I snored so loudly when I was a kid my cousins wouldn't have sleepovers in the same room as me. I was always, always stuffed and fighting and ear, nose or throat infection. Throughout my 20's I've suffered from about 2-4 sinus infections per year. I can't remember a time in my life when I just felt 100% really, healthy over a long period of time.

I don't know why it didn't dawn on me sooner; food allergies.

Last summer I read Wheat Belly in an effort to find out whether Mike might be allergic to wheat (he was always getting an upset stomach and we couldn't figure out why). Throughout the summer in an effort to support Mike, we both stopped eating wheat and gluten to see if that's what was causing troubles for him.

Without the wheat, I never felt better. The summer was amazing - no allergies, no colds, and no sinus infections.

By fall I started back into school full time - it was a huge life change, and the last thing on our minds was diet. I got lazy and started eating wheat again.

And what do you know? All of a sudden I was sick again.

So in November a lightbulb went off in my head. What if it's me who's actually bothered by wheat and gluten, and not Mike as I had originally thought?

I went back and reread some research - and I don't know how I missed it to begin with.

Wheat sensitivities can cause: swelling of mucous membranes, lethargy, a foggy feeling in your head, constant sinus pain and on and on.

I saw so much of myself in the description, that I almost feel stupid for overlooking it the first time around.

At the end of November I cut it out again (yes right before the holiday season with all the wonderful baking and dinners and lots of bread).  And lo and behold I slowly began to feel better.

Since then I've really been a different person then I was mid-october. It frustrates me to think that doctors don't ask questions beyond the typical routine. Even after I told them this was the 8,9,10th week of feeling like crap they still just did the same treatment over and over. It wasn't until I started to make my own adjustments that I began to feel like myself again.

Of course this doesn't end well because if you'll remember from the beginning of this post I told you that I'm sitting here right now, sick again. In that same position. Constantly blowing my nose. My head feels like I hit a brick wall.

You see the problem is, I feel like I don't have the authority to say "oh, I can't eat wheat" because I haven't been "diagnosed" - it's only been a process of elimination or self-discovery that's led me to this point, and not a doctor officially saying, "Don't eat wheat, you are allergic or sensitive to it."

So last weekend when I was out with friends and family on a number of different occasions - when wheat was put in front of me I was faced by the following inner dialogue:

  • share a pitcher of beer: "Ok I can't say no to that.. I don't want to seem like a hippie who's trying out food trends."
  • take some bread when it's being passed around at the dinner table: "I don't want to seem rude, and who knows, maybe it's not actually the wheat."
  • order pizza after the bar: "everyone else wants some and I need something to eat."

So I fell off the bandwagon. And here I am 5 days later. Suffering. Thinking to myself, "I guess it really could be the wheat."

And I guess the main point is, I don't really need a doctor to tell me that.

So that's my story. If you are still with me I'll tell you here for the record: I'm staying off of it for good this time. I'm giving myself my own diagnosis. So there.

And I would offer to those of you out there - if you are always generally feeling *not well* you have to think about all the things that are going on in your life; it's just so hard to overlook something. I'm not saying it's always going to be a food allergy.... but I do believe that you need to listen to what your body is telling you.