Truth (sadly). Turns out that not only is the mild depression I’ve been prone to since having postnatal depression with my first baby attributable to food, but so are 99% of my other health issues. Even the joint pain that’s caused by Joint Hypermobility Syndrome is, it turns out, exacerbated A LOT by food.
Long story short, around Christmas last year, I stopped being able to breathe properly and was short of breath for over a month. I wasn’t too stressed, I’d had days like that before and it always passed – but after a month I was fed up and figured I should get it checked out by the doctor. (Short, I am keeping this story short…) Cue a bunch of tests, including a positive blood test for celiac disease, a gastroscopy, a colonoscopy, etc etc etc. And every time, the results came back: yeah, you’re all inflamed and your body’s mildly unhappy, but there’s nothing really WRONG.
(Short, short). I’ve suspected for years I had some sort of food intolerance (official allergy tests came up blank; sinus scopes showed the same as the rest of my insides – irritated, inflamed, nothing else to see) and tried to do an official elimination diet in the last quarter of 2015. However, elimination diets are BLOODY HARD, you guys. VERY, VERY HARD. So I didn’t make it.
But this time, with the whole not-breathing thing and the scopes done etc etc, I kind of had reached the breaking point, where SOMEthing needed to change, and this was the only probable thing I COULD change. So I started the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital’s Elimination Diet (which was later affirmed by a dietician as being the Correct Elimination Diet For My Symptoms, so that’s nifty and helpful #oops #dontdietwithoutadvice #doasIdonotasIsay O:)). That was about three months ago now, and… Yeah. Guys? I am pretty much literally intolerant of FOOD. >.<
So this sucks, but I’m getting used to it, and I’ve made it nearly a whole week now without a food-related breakdown, so that’s progress, and my symptoms are manageable, and the most, most, MOST important thing? I CAN SLEEP.
I’ve suffered from apparently-random insomnia and disturbed sleep for YEEEEEARS. (Yes, had sleep tests done and been checked out for sleep apnoea too – conclusion? No apnoea, but yes, definitely something wrong, more investigation required >.<) Turns out the culprit isn’t stress, or lack of exercise, or even temperature (though I do struggle to sleep when it’s really hot). It’s amines.
Amines are a natural food chemical that, if your body is normal and sane, are actually quite healthy for you. They’re formed by the breakdown of proteins in food. But they’re known to be a trigger for migraines, and, in my case, a bunch of other fun symptoms too. So I pretty much can’t each chocolate, or any of the fruits/veggies on this list that have an A next to them, or a bunch of other really tasty things, like cheese. Which… is really sad. Because I like food. And I like cooking. And I’m kind of a low-key foodie. *sad faces*. Oh, and you see all the Ss against those foods on the list? Yeah. Can’t have too many of them, either. Thank goodness I’m okay with the Gs >.< (I also have to cut out gluten (though I’m hopeful that once my insides heal, I’ll be able to tolerate small amounts), and can’t have more than a few serves of dairy a week. URGH.)
I’m at the fun end of the project now where I’m trying tiny amounts of random amine-containing foods every couple of days, to see what I can tolerate. For example, tomato sauce (ketchup) on hot chips for one night? Totally okay. A second night in a row? NO SLEEP FOR YOU, SUCKER!!!
Vinegar, which is supposed to be one of the worst amine triggers? Seems totally okay so far. Salt + vinegar chips for 3 days in a row was perfectly fine, mayo doesn’t seem to trigger, and I even tried vinegar salad dressing once and it seemed to be okay. Lemon juice, though? One decent squeeze, maybe a tablespoon, on some (GF)pasta was enough to keep me up for several hours past bedtime with insomnia, and disrupt my sleep for the rest of the night.
Bodies are weird, y’all. WEEEEEIIIIIIRRRRDDDD.
And some things I’ve just decided I can live with. The anxiety that manifests as nyctophobia, which I had as a kid but grew out of and then returned full-force with the postnatal depression and seems to be here to stay? It seems to ease when I eat exactly zero salicylate-containing foods (the Ss in that link – so, like, nearly all fruits and vegetables >.<) – but avoiding salicylates entirely is murderously hard, and makes me cry over my lack of food options at least twice a week. So – and I’m shocked, this is so bizarre – for now, I’m actually choosing to cope with the nyctophobia, because it’s easier (?!?!?!?!?!!!!!!!) than trying to live without salicylates (which I still have to regulate and can’t overdose on, but some is waaaaaay better than none in this instance). And there are other things I can do too which down-regulate the anxiety – making sure I see the chiropractor and exercise properly often enough to keep my joints in place,* getting enough sleep – which, WOW, SO much easier without amines!! So yeah. Just going to cope with that one for now.
If you’re interested in learning more about this, I will obviously do the professional thing and say ‘see a nutritionist who’s experienced with food intolerances’, which is a giant case of ‘do as I say, not as I do’. There is also a lot of good information on the Fed Up website, which is based on the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital diet. And as an FYI-relating-what-I-was-told-and-not-in-any-way-shape-or-form-making-medical-recommendations-because-I-am-NOT-A-MEDICAL-PROFESSIONAL-Y’ALL, I was *told* by the community nutrition nurses that Fodmap is the recommended diet for bowel- and digestive-related problems, while the RPAH one is recommended as the first port of call re: elimination diets for people with ‘other’ symptoms (e.g. sinus problems, mood issues, behavioural issues, joint problems, cognitive issues, sleep disruption, skin problems, etc etc etc).
So. Yeah. Food intolerant. It me. It sucks, tbh, but not as badly as, say, being in a coma** or having a life-threatening disease, or even just a life-endangering disease like celiac, which they first thought I had.
And you guys? Wow. This sleep thing that everyone’s been telling me about for the last three decades? WOW. 10/10 would recommend.
Sleep?!!? IS MAGICAL. WHO KNEW.
* Anxiety + bad joints (for whatever reason) are actually pretty closely linked, the theory being that when you’re all out of alignment, your subconscious homeostatic brain is aware of this and spends its life running interference to protect your spine/neck from damage – so you’re essentially getting low-grade warning, warning signals from your brain constantly without a logical, external cause that your conscious mind can attach it to, and this manifests as anxiety – generalised and non-specific dread and fear – the feeling that something is wrong without something specific to attach it to. (Of course, there are plenty of other reasons for anxiety too!!)
** I know someone in a medically-induced coma rn. It’s… wow, yeah. If you have prayers/good vibes to spare, they could use some. <3
DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical person or a doctor or a thing that is in any way, shape or form qualified to give health advice. I’m simply sharing my own experiences. Don’t sue me. La.