If you would have told me 15 years ago that my body would be as uncooperative as it currently is, I’d tell you that you were crazy. I was healthy and active. Never drank, smoked or used drugs. However, when I entered into my adult years, something changed in me, and I’m living with a sensitive body now.
I was born with eczema and developed environmental allergies at a young age. I was told to stay away from strawberries and oranges, though I know now that’s because they irritate eczema. I was allergic to animal dander and dust mites. My brothers and I joked that it’s because our mother kept the house too clean and we never had furry pets. I lived with those feeling like every other person with normal allergies.
I grew up having other normal ailments like chicken pox and the flu, although a bout of scarlet fever wasn’t necessarily “normal”.
When I entered my teen years, hormones did crazy things to my eczema. It was on my hands, face and lips. It wept and I was very emotional about it because, as you can imagine, such a visual condition lent to me being teased. My skin became very sensitive – I couldn’t wear makeup, and even Vaseline with SPF made my lips crack horribly. Fortunately, I grew out of it and now don’t have a fraction of the eczema issues I had then. Most appear with seasonal allergies or excessive hand washing.
In my late teens a new symptom of my sensitive system developed. I started to have allergic reactions to eating fruit. First it was apples making my mouth and ears itch, but it also made my throat swell. A visit to an allergist confirmed a condition called “Oral Allergy Syndrome”. A few years later, another allergist explained that it’s because of a severe allergy to birch trees. Though to be honest, she did an environmental allergen test and I tested positive for everything.
Under a microscope the tree allergen looks like the protein strain in tree-grown fruit, and my body was confusing the two. The good news was that heat breaks down the protein relatively easily, so I could always eat cooked or canned fruit.
And by tree-grown fruit I mean apples, peaches, pears, plums, cherries, nectarines…you get the idea.
The next development started in my early twenties. I started having digestive issues related to stress. It was so extreme that I went through two GI doctors, two colonoscopies and a slew of other tests. In that time I also had a kidney stone, but I don’t think it’s relevant other than to say that I wasn’t taking very good care of myself. I was eventually diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. It isn’t severe enough to warrant medication, but I had to make dietary changes. I cut back on fatty and spicy food, red meat and dairy.
An interesting side-effect of UC is that your body mimics lactose intolerance. Or should I say it causes lactose sensitivity. Eventually I was able to moderately introduce those foods back into my diet, though I still stay away from milk and ice cream.
After a few years, I got everything under control. My last major UC flare was in December 2010 and I worked around my food allergies. The swelling didn’t happen as severely anymore, so I didn’t need to carry an epi-pen any longer.
I had my daughter in 2009 and aside from some UC issues, I was fine.
In 2012 I had my son, and it was then that new sensitivity problems arose.
There were mornings where I would wake up feeling sick. It felt like mild food poisoning, but I never put much thought into it. I was tired, stressed from having two kids and attributed it to eating unhealthy, exhaustion, stress and anxiety.
In early 2013, it started getting worse. Every two weeks I was waking up, sick to my stomach. I suspected hormones, because it was happening regularly – every two weeks – so I went to see my doctor after three torturous months. He said I had a hormone sensitivity and we agreed that I try a low-dose birth control. I’m happy to say that it appears to be working.
I was still having stomach and digestive problems and finally decided to see a naturopath. Long story short, she says I have a sensitive GI (well, yes) and prescribed me supplements and gave me some dietary restrictions, which appear to be helping. It means no dairy, no red meat, no sugar, no artificial additives and low-gluten.
Lets summarize, shall we?
Eczema = Sensitive skin, which means I am careful of what skin products I use and have a medicated topical cream for flares.
Oral Allergy Syndrome = allergy to birch which means I can’t eat tree-grown fruits
Ulcerative Colitis = sensitive lower intestine, which means I need to watch my fat intake and stress levels
Hormone sensitivity = my body can’t tolerate extreme hormone fluctuations.
Sensitive GI = my digestive system is sensitive to certain foods, so I need to reduce the intake or avoid them totally.
Foods I can’t eat:
Apples, peaches, pears, plums, cherries, nectarines, apricots, kiwi, almonds, hazelnuts (all if raw), cow’s milk, ice cream
Foods I should avoid (eat in moderation)
Yogurt, red meat (unless it’s grass-fed), gluten (wheat, rye, barley), sugar, artificial additives, overcooked eggs (a blog post for another day)
I feel like these are all pieces to a puzzle that I’m still figuring out. So far I can assume that I’m just sensitive. And I though that only described teenage emotions!