Taking care of your mental and physical health is just as important as any career move or responsibility.
Turns out I’m allergic to apples, and yes, I get how weird that sounds. How did I figure this out? I went to four different doctors about this weird “itchy mouth syndrome” I was experiencing that was also becoming kind of scary, as it was happening more frequently and started causing my throat to itch as well. What I learned is that my symptoms are actually related to pollen allergies. Something a lot of us deal with to some extent, but now that my family is living back in Texas, my pollen allergies are worse than ever. Along with pollen allergies (which according to my doctor also show up on fruits and other foods, hence the allergy to apples) I also have other adult onset food allergies as well.
Here’s the backstory…
I ran my fourth full marathon back in December 2018 (my first one in my 40ies!) and did fine in the actual race in Dallas (not my best time and not my worst, but I was just thankful I completed the whole thing!). I usually need about a month after running 26.2 miles to feel fully recovered and back to myself. But, two months later, I still wasn’t feeling good and was living with a huge amount of fatigue since completing that race.
My new doctor took all of the above information into consideration, ran pollen and food allergy tests, and then came up with a plan. Along with a daily pollen allergy regime, I was also put on an elimination diet of the food I was sensitive to including all grains, dairy, eggs, pork, crab and kidney beans.
As you can imagine, my first month with these new eating constraints was HARD, and I wasn’t seeing any improvement with my fatigue. But, I stuck with it and by month two, I had more energy and started to have more mental clarity as well (an added bonus). By the end of month three, I was feeling totally well and back to myself again.
I just saw my doctor for my three-month follow up, happy to report my success and expecting a change in my eating plan. No such luck! She’s happy it’s working and doesn’t want to add food back in too soon and have me back to square one. So, everything is at status quo for another three months.
Here’s what I’ve learned (so far!) through all this:
- Once I started feeling better, it was easier to keep my eating on track because I could tell myself that the foods I was sensitive to were making me feel sick. Before I saw a change, it was hope and pure will that were keeping me going.
- I was having dreams about accidently eating a food I’m sensitive to (funny how anxiety shows up in our lives, right?)
- I saw how judgment sometimes showed up about other people’s eating, especially if it was by choice and not doctor recommended, and was an inconvenience to me or other people.
- I was horrified when I had to send incorrect food orders back at restaurants, and then I was the one inconveniencing others.
- I was embarrassed about how long it took me to order my food at a restaurant now (and I hate being the center of attention!).
- I’m a pretty adventurous eater (minus things like guinea pig when we were in Peru. But, in my defense, I had one as a pet growing up, and definitely draw a line there). I sometimes didn’t actually miss a particular food as much as miss trying something new (like these amazing desserts in Prague called trdelník that my husband and kids are still talking about- cinnamon sugar cone, strawberries, vanilla ice cream and chocolate- my mouth is watering and I didn’t even try it). Next time, I hope!
- I struggle with what to eat for breakfast without my beloved daily dose of oatmeal. These days sometimes breakfast is simply a Larabar if I’m in a rush, or a sweet potato with almond butter and honey if I’m not. I’m thinking of trying baked apples as well; as the cooking process is supposed to get rid of the pollen allergens, go figure.
- Coffee with only sugar and not half-and-half just doesn’t taste the same!
- I MISS DESSERTS! As a family we usually eat healthy meals during the week and have a cheat day on the weekend. We rotate who chooses the restaurant and dessert place. This usually fun family outing is not as much fun when you’re on a restrictive diet.
- My dad used to peal his fruit before eating it, and I wish I had asked him about that when he was still alive. Did he also have oral allergy syndrome that was taken care of by pealing his fruit (since the pollen allergens are on the peal itself)? Did he do it to see the joy on his kids’ faces when the whole peal came off all together? Strange how grief comes up at the weirdest times, times when I want to ask more questions instead of just having to accept what is.
- I wish I had started all of this earlier, at the first sign of a problem. The first time I had an itchy mouth after eating fruit (or even the first time it caused an itchy throat too). Why do we so often wait until things are bad, both mentally and physically, before seeking help?
- Note to self: Don’t run another marathon in your 40ies!
So, there you have it, my life for the last three months, and the next three to come. What’s the take away here? These unexpected big life changes can bring with them grief and loss over the way things used to be. So, try to just be here now with openness for whatever comes next. Have fun with these changes when you’re able to and embrace them as best you can. You’ve got this!