Sunday, March 15, 2009

The stuff I put in my mouth

The mystery began in the fall of 2007. I was having lunch with my pastor at a vegetarian cafe downtown. It was a weekday and I had blocked off 90 minutes on my calendar at work. I was looking forward to chatting with Reverend Sandy and getting to know her better.

I ordered a black bean burger, something I had eaten many times at other restaurants, though not at this cafe as far as I could recall. I took a few bites of my burger and as Reverend Sandy and I continued to chat about one's spiritual journey through life, I started to realize that my tongue was sort of burning. And then my throat followed suit. I then realized that the left side of my lower lip was starting to swell. The pastor was not looking at me oddly or anything, so I came to the conclusion that whatever was going on, it must not be TOO bad.

Now, a sensible person would probably stop eating the sandwich at this point. A hungry person who didn't realize she was having an allergic reaction, however, would keep eating. Each bite was less fun than the last. The burger didn't even taste good anymore. Finally, when my palms started to itch like mad, I abandoned my lunch altogether. My torso was starting to itch and I began to wheeze a bit (I do have asthma).

I got in my car and took a hit off my rescue inhaler. I took a peek at my ribcage and confirmed that I was breaking out in hives (sexy!). It was pretty clear that I wasn't going to make it back to work, so I called in and then went home and took Benadryl. It took four Benadryl to tame this thing - enough to bring down a horse, I suspect.

The next day, I looked at the cafe's menu to see if I could figure out what ingredient may have caused the reaction, but it yielded few clues. I'd never dealt with a food allergy before and I wasn't sure where to start. I just knew I wasn't going to eat that particular black bean burger at that particular restaurant ever again.

My next reaction came in February of 2008. My mom was visiting and she picked up a bag of bulk granola cereal at the grocery store. She poured herself a bowl of the granola and found that it was tragically stale. She decided to "doctor it up." She filled a pizza pan with the cereal, sprinkled cinnamon and other stuff on it, and put it in the oven to bake. Later, on my way through the kitchen, I took a pinch of the still-warm granola and tossed it into my yap. My lip swelled immediately. I brushed my teeth, took some Benadryl, and spent the rest of the afternoon on the couch. I have to assume that my mother's attempt on my life was unintentional. I am, after all, her favorite.

Since then, I've had a couple more reactions. The list of stuff I can't eat is growing longer, but I still can't figure out what ingredient is causing it. Another reaction occurred after I ate whole wheat pasta with jarred red sauce. Thinking that some sort of herb or spice was at the route of my allergy, I decided that it must have been the sauce. So I tossed out the sauce and bought a different kind. Then I repeated the scenario (ate the very same meal) about a week later and realized that it had been the pasta, not the sauce. However, I don't think I'm allergic to wheat - I eat wheat bread all the time.

A few weeks ago, we had a guest speaker at church who brought in several loaves of freshly baked bread. My daughter was eating a slice of a sweet chocolate bread. I took a bite and realized immediately that if I ate so much as another crumb, I would spend the rest of the day zonked out on Benadryl. I was tempted to ask the lady for the recipe, since telling her "Hey, your bread made me sick" didn't seem appropriate.

My most recent reaction was to some store-bought brownies that a friend brought to a ladies' weekend getaway. You have no idea how much I wanted to eat those brownies. I have mourned them ever since.

If either of my readers has any idea what is making me sick, please send your thoughts my way. I do have an allergist who treats my asthma, so I will ask him about it on my next visit. I have no idea how one goes about discovering which ingredient, or combination thereof, is provoking an allergy. I'd better not develop an allergy to chocolate and/or wine - God would NOT do that to me, I'm sure of it.

7 comments:

Susie said...

Okay, reader number one is here with not so helpful information! Mark does the same thing with random foods. He endured all the allergy tests imaginable only to be told he has "idiopathic hives"--there's no distinguishable triggers. In the beginning his throat would close up, etc. Now his lips just swell up like Fat Albert and he breaks out all over in hives. He takes zyrtec or claritin everyday and an extra one if he has an attack. Welcome to the phenomenon . . .

Cassandra said...

I have to admit that I have been meaning to sign up and post on your blog ever since you told me about one afternoon when we were chatting in the front yard. Yep, it's me......your neighbor with the big yellow lab. I read your blog almost everyday.
I must agree with Susie as far as your allergy goes. Even though I am a paramedic by trade, some people just develop and allergy to an unknown substance. Although seeing an allergist may be a benefit, you just might end up taking up stock in Benedryl. I am allergic to tree nuts and I keep Benedryl on hand all the time because I never know when I am going to come into contact with a tree nut.
Keep up the good work and I love reading your blog.

Cassandra

Rachel said...

Hey Lady- Quit trying to off yourself! It could be a preservative in one of the ingredients and not the actual ingredient. I would start a notebook and record everything you eat including brand names if possible. Note any time you have a reaction. There is SOOO much crap in our food now a days it's a wonder we don't drop like flies. Seriously read the label and then google the ingredients you will never want to eat again. I admire our restraint with the brownies- I would have ate one and then been itchin like made. Benedryl makes me major loopy so I only take it if I feel like I am dyin. Miss ya!

aliciajill said...

Cinnamon? Would be in sweet things like bread and brownies, and in more spicy things like pizza sauce and bean burger.

Mary said...

I agree with Rachel.... you would have to log every ingredient every time you have a reaction. My sons first reaction was when he ate a half a cashew just to try them. He had pretty bad symptoms and was about to bring him to the ER but his tongue or mouth never swelled He had a lot of tingly feeling though and was nauseated. He does this at the smell of them now...You never know how bad a reaction may be so not a bad thing to carry a epi pen.

Cindy and the bullies baby! said...

I am convinced something bizarre is in the air. While it is not something I eat I will randomly get this bout of hives. Same body parts, no common thread.

after about 6 benedryl for a while it just goes away... Good news is I sleep really good.

Anonymous said...

I believe you may want to start with Cinnamon! It is in more things than you could ever realize! Best of luck to you!