This post is a continuation from my health story Part I and Part II where I wrote about the stomach issues I’ve had my entire life. In this post, I go into detail about my follow up nutritionist visits, subsequent food tests and what I’m doing with my diet right now.
My first follow-up visit with the nutritionist was one month after my initial visit. For that month, I was eating only foods I didn’t test positive for. Although I was on a strict diet, I had eaten plant-based, gluten-free and dairy-free on my own for the past three years, so I didn’t need to make huge shifts in what I ate. Avoiding the arbitrary foods my body was sensitive to–such as carrots, watermelon, rice, oranges, etc.–was a minor inconvenience, if nothing else. I swapped rice for buckwheat, oatmeal for green smoothies, oranges for grapefruit and then just avoided any other of my ‘trigger’ foods. I also took a bunch of vitamins & supplements to make sure I was getting enough nutrients.
Within the first two weeks, my acne cleared, my stomach felt less bloated and my nails got stronger. I was feeling good! The first month went by, I got skin prick tested for food allergies again and a lot of the foods that came back positive during my first visit now came back negative–exactly as the nutritionist had anticipated.
After my second visit, my nutritionist said she wanted to see me in three months to check up on me. During those three months, my job was to start re-introducing all the once positive foods that now tested negative–like rice, carrots, watermelon, etc.–one at a time, so I could pay attention to the way they made me feel. Since the nutritionist shares her office with an acupuncturist, she also suggested I get acupuncture treatment to speed up the healing process of rebuilding my gut. I was feeling good enough on my own that I decided to wait on the acupuncture. (These medical expenses aren’t cheap!) I started re-introducing food and my body seemed more accepting to the food I fed it. I wasn’t bouncing-off-the-walls great, I wasn’t nearly healed, but I felt better than I had ever felt on my own. Everything was moving in the right direction for once!… Until October.
Click through to read what happened to me in October!
In October, a weird oval-shaped inch-long callous formed over the part of my palm leading up to the thumb of my left hand. It didn’t itch or bother me, but it was odd how it just one day appeared. By late November, the callous had broken out into a rash and was spreading. By December, the callous had spread to the middle of my palm. A week later, I woke up with an identical rash in the same spot on my right hand. No matter how much I moisturized with various creams and oils, my hands were so dry they cracked. And then they bled. And then they cracked and bled some more. I couldn’t open up my hands enough to flex my fingers because my skin was so tight and dry it would crack. I wrapped gauze around my hands so I wouldn’t get everything I touched greasy–my hands were always slathered in moisturizers. I tried to think of clever ways to hide my hands in outfit pictures. My mom and I started making our own homemade body butters because it was so difficult to find a good hardy store-bought cream that wasn’t full of a million nasty ingredients. I had no idea what was causing my rash: I was eating the same foods I had been eating (all of my subsequent allergy testings were going well), I didn’t have my bloating issues, my acne was at bay, etc. I hadn’t changed ANYTHING so what was going on?!
I am all about sticking something out until it gets better. But when I came to the realization that my hands weren’t getting better–but were, in fact, getting much worse–I called my nutritionist. She told me to stop using soap on my hands since any kind of soap–even homemade–was too drying. She also strongly urged me to book an appointment with the acupuncturist as soon as I could. “I really think acupuncture will help your hands,” she said. So I booked the first acupuncture appointment I could get.
Acupuncture didn’t seem to remarkably help, but perhaps it stopped the state of my skin from deteriorating even more. I couldn’t see much of a difference, but at least my rashes didn’t get worse. What DID help was when the weather got warmer and the days got longer and sunnier as we headed into spring. By the time April had arrived, my hands were (almost) back to normal. They were–and still are–very dry, but not to the same extremity.
Everything was humming along quite nicely until June of this year. The skin on my face started breaking out (again!) and my muscles felt sorer and stiffer than usual. The skin on my hands started getting so dry I could tell they were going to crack if I didn’t do anything about them.
I had to go for another food allergy test & blood test in June and both results reflected the way I was feeling. I tested positive for MORE foods than before. My blood test revealed my body was in attack mode. I wasn’t eating anything out of my usual diet, I was homemaking my own skin products and I was getting regular acupuncture treatments. I was confused as to why my body was once again attacking itself. The nutritionist seemed equally puzzled.
There were so many factors that could have potentially been instigating attacks in my system: Accidental cross-contamination with gluten or dairy, grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, genetically modified food, nightshades and even certain fruits and veggies. What I really needed to do was to start from scratch. The nutritionist instructed me eat in food groups, introducing only one new food at a time to avoid any mystery as to what food had bothered me if I felt any negative effects from what I had eaten. I was to eat the same new food for three consecutive days, add another food, eat that for three consecutive days, etc. and slowly build variety from there. I started out eating only bananas for three days straight. What’s interesting is practically overnight, my body felt better again. My acne cleared, the skin on my hands wasn’t so dry, I slept better, I had more energy and my muscles felt less tense & tight. Then I introduced mangoes, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, apples, dates, watermelon, kiwis, peaches, plums, avocados, etc. Nothing in the fruit family irritated me. Once I exhausted all the fruits I could think of, I moved on to vegetables, which is where I still am. So far no vegetables have irritated me except for carrots, which gave me terrible bloating and weird bumps on the inside of my cheeks.
About three weeks ago, I had a check up appointment with my nutritionist, who did an abbreviated food allergy test on me to make sure my health was progressing. The results were greatly improved! Currently, I have to stick with eating only fruits & vegetables–save for the foods that came back positive after my most recent test & nightshades–for the next two months until I get tested for the full panel of food allergies again in September. I’ll let you know how it goes!
Thanks for sticking with me these past three weeks while I’ve shared my health journey so far. I once heard someone say our bodies speak to us in the form of sensations; it’s up to us to listen to those sensations. It took me years to understand my digestive issues weren’t normal. It also took me years to understand I wasn’t treating my body right. And it’s going to take me years to reverse the damage I’ve unknowingly done to myself, but I’m glad I’m on the right track.
Let me know if you have any additional questions for me about my diet, how I deal with social events, what I do for exercise, recipes, etc. in the comments below and I will gladly answer them!
All photographs from my Instagram feed.