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  • Writer's pictureMaxine G. Klak, C.H.N.

How I Got Here

As you may have read elsewhere on the website, I got interested in holistic nutrition in order to sort out my own issues with food and digestion. It seemed that each year or so, another food was added to the list of "things that make my mouth itch" or "foods that make me feel extremely bloated" and it was getting really frustrating.

THIS IS NOT MEDICAL ADVICE. This is just my experience and my trial and error method of trying to sort it out over the years. I am not suggesting that you try anything I tried or do anything I did. Your case is unique and I suggest you discuss your concerns with a professional.

I can't remember ever having any sort of food allergies or intolerances as a child, though I did have a bad reaction to penicillin. I was a picky eater though, and I find it curious that the foods I had to choke down while I held my breath back then, are now some of favourites. As a teenager, I started to notice that when I had a piece of crab leg, or a few prawns, I might sneeze a few times, and my nose would run or get itchy. Nothing major, and I thought "a small price to pay for a yummy prawn".

Then one New Year's Eve, we had surf & turf - steaks with Alaskan King crab legs. I knew there would be a stuffy nose and some discomfort afterward, but threw caution to the wind and dug in. Not long after dinner, I started to sneeze. But it didn't stop at the typical 3 sneezes - I'm quite sure I sneezed at least 50 times in succession, but it felt like it could have been 100. And as I sneezed, my eyes started swelling shut. I looked like Rocky Balboa at the end of that first movie. And then the really scary part - my throat started to swell shut.

In retrospect, we should have gone to the hospital, but nothing like this had ever happened, so I hung my head over a bowl of hot water and breathed in the steam. Eventually my throat opened back up and over the course of the evening the swelling in my eyes receded, but that was the last time I knowingly ate anything out of the ocean.

I started to react severely to plants and pollen out in the yard around that time as well, so I went to see an allergist. For someone nervous around needles, that was no picnic. I counted something like 96 holes in my arms, in one way or another. Sure enough, I reacted to everything in the test that was from the ocean (salmon and cod included), as well as rabbits, feathers, birch pollen, grass pollen, etc. I believe at that time I was told to get an Ana Kit and have it handy for emergencies, as there wasn't a preventative allergy shot for food allergies. This was the precursor to the EpiPen, and consisted of an actual syringe! I didn't know how anyone scared of needles was supposed to administer something like this on themselves, and prayed I would never have to find out.

Fast forward a number of years, and I noticed that when I ate certain foods raw (carrots, apples, cherries, almonds, celery to name a few) that the roof of my mouth and ear canals got itchy. This was not only annoying, but since the crab leg incident I was quite nervous that it could turn into another severe reaction. So I started avoiding those foods as well. This included peaches, tangerines, apricots.... my diet of fruit was down to oranges and bananas. Not very exciting (no shade to those fruits, just not much variety).

Then one day I was having lunch with a colleague, and we got chatting about allergies. He mentioned Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) - he guessed that those fruits and vegetables that made my mouth itch was related to my birch pollen allergy. As soon as I got in front of a computer, I started looking into it and it appeared that he was right. I felt like I finally had some sort of answer, and I wasn't just some freak of nature that couldn't eat a cold raw apple. So based on what I could find on the subject, I cut up an apple and put it in the microwave oven for 15 seconds. I took one bite, and with my EpiPen beside me sat and waited. No reaction. I took a few more bites. Nothing. I finished the apple and had no adverse reaction whatsoever.

While this gave me some measure of food freedom back, it wasn't ideal. I prefer a cold apple to a slightly warmed one, and you can't always find a knife and a microwave. Especially when you're travelling. By the way, this worked for all those other foods as well - carrots, celery, and peaches. Life was better. But at that point, I was taking antihistamines every day, and thought I'd have to do so for the rest of my life. I didn't like the idea of that.

Some years later, I had the same reaction to something else - I can't even remember what it was, to be honest, but it was completely unrelated to the birch pollen issue. I just remember being totally upset and thinking "at this rate, 10 years from now I'll only be able to eat water and cardboard!". That is when I decided to dig deeper into why this was happening, and eventually found holistic nutrition. Rather than being scattered about it, I thought I may as well do it right, find a good program and then perhaps I'd be able to help others find answers much more quickly than it took me to find mine.

Today I can eat all of those fruits and vegetables with no issues, raw or cooked. I no longer take a daily oral antihistamine. I can sleep on and under feathers, which wasn't possible in my twenties. My "hay fever" in the spring is not nearly as severe as it once was (I haven't needed the prescription eye drops for 2 years!). I did go back to the allergist, to see if I'd test any differently to fish and seafood, but sadly, I did not. So those things are still off the table, literally, but easily avoided. For the sake of brevity, I've left out some of the details and missteps I made along the way, but I hope this has been enough to give you an overview of my journey.

My message to you is this: 1. Listen to what your body is telling you. If something is causing problems, but never used to, something's up. 2. Cutting a bunch of foods out of your diet isn't necessarily the only answer. A wide variety of food is what makes life interesting, and your body thrives on variety. 3. It can get better! Don't despair. Talk to a professional and give it time. Our problems don't arrive overnight, nor will they be solved overnight.

And again, I am required to tell you, THIS IS NOT MEDICAL ADVICE.

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