Undetected food allergies caused me to break my back…twice!
March 15, 2011 I was moving and hoisted over my head a heavy solid wood piece of furniture. As I settled it on my shoulders I felt a pointed pain in my mid-back and a barely perceptible sinking in my stature. I thought it must be a muscle spasm caused from fatigue and just went on with my move gritting through the discomfort.
The next morning I rolled over to get out of bed and got an attack of sharp pain so bad I just lay there waiting for it to pass. It didn’t. I slowly and carefully rolled over the side of the bed and sank to the floor landing on hands and knees. The pain was excruciating and hard to breathe. I finally inched my way up to standing position and waddled into the bathroom. I figured those muscles really tightened up and it would work itself out as I got moving around that day.
I went to the spa where I worked as a massage therapist and though in some discomfort, I found I got through the day okay. But the pain lingered and when I went to bed the next night I took some ibuprofen thinking I would surely be fine the next morning. Not so, the same ordeal repeated itself with the pain and kneeling on the floor.
I continued this routine for more than a week and finally realized I had better have this looked at. I scheduled an appointment with the VA and went in a couple days later for X-rays. Laying on the cold scanning table was terrible and I would get these bursts of pain that made me emit a spontaneous scream that I could not control or detect when it would come. It was awful. The scans revealed that I had a compression fracture of T-8, which is a line break in the body of the 8th thoracic vertebra.
I was diagnosed with osteopenia, which is the precursor to osteoporosis, which is a condition that leaches minerals from your bones making them soft and brittle prone to fracture. It is rare in men and more often affects women due to hormonal changes with the onset of aging. I was told it was somehow a natural process of my body and I would just have to live with it…and be more careful. Don’t fall down was there advice.
I was told, “Only time will heal a break like this.” I had 3 months of extreme pain getting up out of bed in the mornings. But that pain did subside and for another 5 months there was an ever-present ache that never let up. Then one day the pain was gone but I noticed I always felt like I needed a chiropractic adjustment. It never quite felt in alignment, always seeming on the verge of a muscle spasm.
The doctors tried to get me to take bone building drugs but my investigation proved they did not actually build solid bone, they just laid in calcium which reportedly did not actually have tensile strength. I decided to just let my own body wisdom be my guide. They said consume lots of calcium and dairy products, which in time proved to be rather bad advice considering the congestive inflammatory effects of dairy products.
I motored on for nearly two years and then decided I wanted to get back in shape…I should be healed completely by now I thought. So I went for the extreme, since I was not getting any younger and thought I had to go all out. I ordered an exercise program online called “Insanity.” I excitedly tore open the packaging, read the initial literature and dove right into the assessment phase of the program. 20 minutes later while doing rapid leg kicks while on all fours I felt that familiar drain of energy and intense focused pain I had felt before.
Yep, I fractured another vertebra, this time T-11! I lay on the floor knowing that had happened due to the same achy feeling I was having. That night was total hell, maybe even worse than before because it is a larger vertebra and more foundational I surmised, being lower in the spine. At 2 am I could not stand the pain any longer and I began the 2 hour drive to the Seattle VA Hospital emergency room.
They did the same tests with the same results as before and I knew I was in store for 3 months of intense pain followed by 5 more of constant aching. After a few hours, as the sun was rising, the doctor on staff, about my age, asked me what I had done to cause this second break. I told him and he looked at me with disgust and said, “you know, walking is very good exercise” like I was too old to attempt such a radical exercise program. Like other doctors he couldn’t believe I could go on living without a medicine cabinet filled with prescriptions either. I take zero meds!
I drove home, pain pills in hand and wondered just what was I going to do about this condition that kept getting worse. It was late January, 2013.
The next 8 months I tried to eat exclusively healthy organic foods, made smoothies regularly and limited alcohol and bread. However, I steadily got worse as Irritable Bowel Syndrome set in. My stools were constantly runny and I would have to dash off to the restroom at a moment’s notice. As the end of the year closed in my health was slowly and gradually getting worse. I was bloated and overweight and really distraught over it. I decided to try one of those MLM companies that had shakes and supplements to get myself healthy again. After all, they were purported to be totally organic and healthy.
I followed their directions diligently and actually had a one pound daily weight loss, but the IBS didn’t change and I would get this horrible cramping in my stomach. I looked at the labels of all the things I was taking and just did not find anything obvious that should be causing me such discomfort. So I ignored it and kept on with the program. On day 22 I had a severe incidence of diverticulosis. I rushed off that evening in November, 2013 back to the VA emergency in Seattle. I did not know at the time the culprit to blame was the shakes were based on whey protein.
They informed me I would have to take a treatment of antibiotics and eat very bland foods until it came under control. But still they had no answers for me and I was feeling desperate. I tried to notice when the IBS flared up and what may be causing it, but there were so many variables that I just couldn’t pin down what the definite causes were. It seemed hopeless and the medical community just told me I would have to live with it. Even though I did not drink alcohol that much, I decided to completely avoid its consumption with the hope that would be the magic bullet that would save me. I am sure that choice was beneficial in many ways, but it certainly was not the definitive answer I was looking for.
Finally in August, 2014 I got the idea to Google IBS. I was directed right to the IBS Treatment Center in Seattle. I read the information presented, gave them a call and decided to give it a chance. I scheduled an appointment. After a brief interview regarding my daily habits and diet the Naturopathic doctor explained very clearly the steps they would take to find out exactly what my body was doing. After blood was drawn and urine sample taken, I was given instructions for taking stool samples over the next 2 weeks, how to collect and store them in the fridge and the process of sending them off to a lab.
After a couple more weeks results were in and I was called back to the offices of the IBS Treatment Center, for a consultation on the results of the tests and their recommendations for treatment. Everything seemed so calm and professional and presented in clear manner. I was given a binder explaining what their findings were, reading materials to support the findings, living and dietary guides to follow and above all the specific cause of my problems and the cure. However, it would take about 6 weeks for that to become evident.
The tests revealed that I had an allergic reaction to about a dozen foods, my body was rejecting them and regarded them as invaders. They were: Whey, Eggs, Gluten, Wheat, Mushrooms, Walnuts, Almonds, Peanuts, Hazelnuts, Cranberries, Shell Fish (shrimp-lobster-crab), Oatmeal and Baker’s & Brewer’s Yeast.
Their recommendation was all I had to do was to stop eating these foods and I would be alright. Wow! They were so confident and certain, so different from the medical doctors who wanted merely to experiment with drug therapies. They also prescribed a probiotic formula to populate my intestines with good digestive bacteria.
The foods that I was to avoid were basically what I had been living on for years. Even though I had decided to limit bread and pasta for quite some time before this, that actually increased my consumption of eggs on a more frequent basis. It was also recommended I limit the sugars I eat and that required me to back off from so much fruit in my smoothies.
As each week passed I steadily lost bloat and felt better and more energized. I noticed my skin was clear and the texture was notably more healthy. I was sleeping better and by the end of the 6 weeks my motility was totally normal. You can’t imagine the joy of overcoming all the misery of those years with IBS. The bloat and lack of energy, poor sleep, tired feeling, burning ass…All because of eating a few foods my body did not like!
I started this story with the account of my osteopenia. How that figured into this food allergy complication was that even though I was eating good, healthy organic foods, they were the foods my body rejected. And because of the reaction to those foods my internal chemistry changed and prevented me from metabolizing the nutrition those foods were intended to provide. I continued to leach out minerals from my bones and they grew weaker and weaker, prone to breaking. Once I had bumped a table with my right hand which fractured my little finger metatarsal bone and it was extremely painful to shake hands with anyone for about a year. It has fully healed now and bone density scans reveal that I have improved much, although at my age of 65 now I probably will not fully regain complete bone density.
I have learned that food allergies are pervasive in our country and that complications with diabetes are often directly traceable to this. It has opened up a wide investigation into the effects of genetically modified foods as well and the damage they are doing to peoples’ digestion. We are on the precipice of a national catastrophe based on the altered and poisoned foods that we eat every day.