This post is a continuation from my health story last week where I wrote about the stomach issues I’ve had my entire life. In this post, I go into detail about my initial visit to my nutritionist.
Four years ago, I was a sophomore in high school and I really wasn’t taking care of my body: Staying up too late, not exercising, not eating well, working too much, not getting enough sleep, etc. It was two years after I started this blog, I was just getting into fashion photography and I felt invincible: Fueled by passion. However, my body started giving me signs that it was time to start taking better care of myself. These signs came in the form of anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, terrible bloating and acne. Granted, yes, I was a teenager and yes, a lot of these symptoms are typically associated with the hormonal changes one goes through during puberty, but I knew something more was going on. I did my own research and tried going gluten-free and dairy-free. I’d like to say it was a miraculous recovery and I immediately felt better than I ever had in my life, but that wasn’t the case. I felt better but I still wasn’t close to being healed. Although my eczema hadn’t flared up since I was 13 and my acne subsided, I still felt bloated and anxious. But I slept like a stone, which gave me enough energy to keep on trucking for three more years.
In late 2013 / early 2014, my body went through another iteration of ailments. Some of them were the same, but some of them were new: achey muscles, perpetual coldness, brittle nails, constant thirst and the overall feeling of weakness. I loved to run, but after a while, pounding my poor, achey muscles on the pavement felt more like torture than anything else. There is a good family friend of ours that has MS and I got really scared that I might have MS too. I did online research (hello, WebMD!) and diagnosed myself with a myriad of possibilities: hypothyriodism, Crohn’s disease, IBS, MS, adrenal fatigue and Hashimoto disease, amongst many others.
I made my first appointment to see a nutritionist in July of 2014. I also started seeing a chiropractor that same month to help alleviate my tight and achey muscles. My body was badly out of alignment.
I was so nervous the day of my first visit with the nutritionist. A friend recommended me to see her. She had good Yelp reviews, but I still didn’t know what her personality would be like. In my quest to eat healthier, I was very drawn to the raw vegan high carb low fat diet. I loved the idea of eating as close to nature as possible and being able to eat in large quantities, but I knew the criticism my type of diet got: Where are you getting your protein? Where are you getting your fat? It’s not balanced to eat that much fruit, etc. My ultimate fear was the nutritionist would tell me I needed to start eating meat. The notion that maybe my body wasn’t liking my 99% vegan (I still ate eggs) diet always lingered in the dark corridors of my mind. But I knew I needed to take care of myself and I needed to see the nutritionist no matter what the outcome would be. My mom came with me for support.
Click through to read the outcome of my first visit.
I had no idea how the nutritionist would diagnose me. Would she take one look at me and say, “That’s it! I can tell you’re deficient in this!” then write out a treatment plan for me? Would she need me to take a blood test? I had never gotten tested for allergies before.
The nutritionist had a nurse run a skin prick test on me for the full panel of foods in her clinic’s kit, save for meat and seafood since I was 99% vegan. The test consisted of 74 foods. I remember sneaking a peek at the list of foods I was being tested for: Broccoli, carrots, black pepper, cinnamon, bell pepper, celery, apricots, grapes, watermelon, avocados, cucumbers, oranges… MAN people have got some WEIRD allergies, I thought, Black pepper? Cinnamon? Broccoli? Carrots? Avocados? I eat that stuff all the time! I also remember hoping I wasn’t allergic to avocados because I love avocados.
After the test, I was supposed to sit for 15 minutes to see if any bumps / redness / itchiness / irritation formed on the pricked areas. I wasn’t sure how itchy and irritated the pricked areas were supposed to feel. My back–where the nurse pricked me–felt itchy and irritated but I wasn’t sure if it was a reaction to the food or the prick or if I was just anxious and imagining things. The nurse came in to check the pricked areas and record the results. Then I waited another 15-20 minutes to see the nutritionist who would go over the results with me.
The nutritionist came in and handed my mom and me the results. All I remember is seeing a lot of words in red. Columns of pure, uninterrupted words in red. The red indicated positive results. Among my positive results were rice, cow’s milk, wheat, white potatoes, sweet potatoes, oranges, oats, string beans, cocoa beans, cinnamon, Brazil nuts, garlic, kidney beans, celery, carrots, grapefruit and black pepper: some of the very foods I mocked for people being allergic to just minutes before. (Side note: avocados were negative, thank goodness.)
“When we see results like this, we’re fairly positive it’s Leaky Gut Syndrome,” the nutritionist said. Leaky Gut Syndrome is when tiny holes are present in your intestines, causing substances to leak into your bloodstream. When substances that should stay inside your intestines leak into your bloodstream, your body doesn’t know what to do with them and then automatically goes into attack mode. If carrots leak into your bloodstream, bam! your body attacks them. If sweet potatoes leak into your bloodstream, bam! your body attacks them. Your body has a memory of everything you put into it and will start to associate all of the food that leaked into your bloodstream–even if it was just once–as foreign invaders. All of the sudden, you feel horrible after eating foods that never used to bother you.
The good thing about Leaky Gut Syndrome is that most of the positive results are false positives. This means that after detoxing from the trigger foods for a certain period of time and taking vitamins & supplements, your body will repair itself. After the detox and reintroduction of the trigger food, you will (hopefully) no longer get a negative reaction. Leaky Gut Syndrome can have a variety of causes. My nutritionist suspected gluten sensitivity as the root of my ailments. Gluten is known for causing intestinal permeability. She sent me to a lab to get multiple blood tests. Thankfully, I tested negative for Celiac disease and my thyroid was completely normal. Since I do not have Celiac disease but am gluten sensitive, I have non-Celiac gluten sensitivity.
For the next few months, I had to completely detox from every food that had come back as positive in the test. The nutritionist didn’t have a problem with me not eating meat or seafood, although she did have me start taking fish & cod liver oils and a plethora of other vitamins & supplements, which I continue to take everyday and will probably take everyday for the rest of my life. I also had to–and still have to, perhaps indefinitely–get a monthly vitamin B12 shot. (Vitamin B12 is only found in animals & animal by-products.)
During the next few months of detox, I had to be extremely cautious about eating out because even if a restaurant offers gluten-free, dairy-free options, if the restaurant also offers non gf / df options, I had to be careful about cross-contamination (ie: if they use the same cutting board for bread and vegetables). To make things easier, I stopped eating out. I work from home, so it wasn’t much of an issue. When I wasn’t going to be home during a mealtime, I packed something to eat and brought it with me. After three months of my detox, I went to get tested for food allergies again.
Next week, I’ll go into how my first follow-up & subsequent food tests went and the courses of action I took from that.
I’m curious, those of you who commented about your food sensitivities in the post last week, did you see a nutritionist about your issues? If so, what was it like? Did your nutritionist run blood & skin prick tests on you to test you for allergies?