I had no idea I was eating grass for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. I was even drinking it. I was addicted, and unaware that it was causing an assortment of uncomfortable conditions that I thought I would have to live with.
Looking back at old school photographs the clues were there, if I had known what to look for. In primary school I always had dark circles under my eyes that today I call “allergy shiners.” In high school I had acne that did not improve despite spending a fortune on facials and creams. I preferred to risk sun damage and burn my skin to dry it out to being spotty. I thought period pain and tiredness were normal and I am pretty sure I was depressed but did not realise it at the time.
I grew up with allergies and had no idea of what it was like to feel well. Contact with grass or breathing in the scent of it caused hay fever reactions like itchy eyes, skin rashes and wheezing. I never thought of the wheat bread and other grains that I ate constantly as eating grass. As I got older, I seemed to “grow out” of some allergies and developed new ones. I did not realise that the allergy cause was still there, but my reactions changed. Migraines would take me out for days as a child in late primary school and asthma, stomach pains and bloating were constant problems in high school.
During my twenties I was working as a Registered Nurse and tried to stay healthy despite shift work. I used to go for a morning run at 6am when my roster permitted and go home via the bakery with a large loaf of bread straight out of the oven. I would eat the entire loaf and pretty soon afterwards I would feel drowsy and overwhelmingly tired. I thought the exertion of running was to blame and I would go and sleep for one or two hours, at 8am! Imagine my surprise the day I skipped the bakery after my run because it was not open yet. I was not sleepy as usual. I also had no requirement for my Asthma puffer which I was usually nervous to leave the house without. This got me thinking.
I started to research all the foods that contained wheat. Lollies and chocolate had been a pick me up because I was so tired all the time and my signature unwind of beer or gin as a sundowner also contained wheat. Getting these foods out of my daily diet was challenging at first because there was hidden wheat in everything. This was the eighties, and the alternative breads and cakes were only sold in the back recesses of the refrigerator in my local health food store, and they were not as yummy as the abundance of wheat and grain free foods on offer today.
My other challenge was that I was completely addicted to these foods, and they gave me a lift both physically and emotionally. I used to start my day waking up feeling pretty awful until I had cereal and toast. This sustained me until morning tea when after a few hours of caring for patients in the hospital, I would be desperate to have a wheat- based muffin that would keep me going until lunchtime, which was two toasted sandwiches. On getting home at 3:30pm I would need to sleep for an hour due to total exhaustion and then needed a gin or a beer to pick me up and give me the energy to cook dinner, featuring pasta, bread or pastry.
I had no idea that my favourite foods were fatiguing my body and it became too overloaded to react anymore. The reason I felt better in the morning after eating breakfast was that I had withdrawal symptoms on waking, which disappeared when I had cereal or toast. Chronic allergies can lead to overworked adrenal glands as most allergies cause the release of histamine and other pro-inflammatory substances. I just thought I was tired from shift work.
Allergies cause inflammation in the body and any organ or system can be affected. Some people seem to have a tendency to a weakness in a part of the body and that is the area that can be most affected. As a student nurse, my first ward was Rheumatology. I helped the patients with meals as their hands were affected by the hallmarks of inflammation: heat, redness, pain, swelling and loss of function. I buttered toast and opened cereal packets day after day at breakfast time and years later wondered if allergies had played a part in the inflammatory conditions the patients displayed. Genetic intolerance can cause people to react badly to foods that are considered healthy. It is important to remember that not every food is right for everyone.
So how do we know if we are being affected by a hidden allergy food? In his book Diet Wise, Prof Keith Scott Mumby explains the benefits of going on an elimination diet to identify toxic foods. By following a basic anti-allergy diet and gradually re-introducing foods you usually eat, you can monitor yourself for reactions which become apparent once your allergy is un-masked. Foods we consume regularly stay in our bodies, even if we don’t consume them every day, because it is all dependent on bowel motility. A food that is toxic for you may take up to four days to leave your body. Once we have been away from a particular food for a few days and then we re-introduce it into our diet, any formerly masked allergy symptoms will reveal themselves because the body has not had to continually cope with the constant presence of the allergy food. When we eat the food after a break, all the allergic reactions show up.
I remember helping a friend and client who suspected wheat was a toxic problem food. He eliminated it from his diet for four days and then had a wheat- based brekky on day five, before coming in to see me. It was obvious by his fever, shaking, painful joints and anxiety that his allergy food had been unmasked, something he had eaten each day all his life. I am very happy to assist people with the elimination diet and offer step by step advice and support. Over the years of seeing countless clients with food intolerances I have a good working knowledge of the types of problems that certain foods typically cause. I also recommend Diet Wise for people who would like to do their own elimination diet. (Diet Wise, Dr Keith Scott-Mumby MB ChB, PhD, FCRP, 2012, Mother Whale Inc. Reno, Nevada, USA). This is a wonderful book for people who want to feel great and naturally lose weight.
Reducing inflammation and pain is another way I assist people to boost their innate healing powers and recover from the effects of food intolerances. I use Microcurrent devices to reduce inflammation locally in the body as well as using a technique called Vagus Nerve Stimulation to control inflammation in the entire body. In their book Current Medicine, (Dr. John Hache, DNM & Dr. Lorry Hache, PsyD Pacific Health Options Inc. 2018 P 56) Dr’s John and Lorry Hache explain the following: The Vagus Nerve has drawn more interest than usual lately, as it has been discovered that inflammation, redness, heat, swelling and pain originate in a part of the brain that is under the power and control of the vagus nerve. By non-invasively stimulating the Vagus Nerve with an Alpha frequency, I can assist people to utilise their natural healing ability to achieve a sense of vitality and wellbeing.