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Food Intolerance and Chronic Conditions

 September, 29 2009

Food intolerances could be causing one or more of the chronic conditions that afflict your life. I have direct experience with this, and discovering those foods that I am intolerant of has improved the quality of my life considerably.


None of this has scientific proof, but the amount of anecdotal testimony is large. Every disease or chronic condition that is auto-immune related has many internet communities dedicated to curing or at least improving the condition of sufferers through diet. There are many personal pages offering testimony from those who markedly improved their lives through diet. Other people have cured themselves when conventional medicine could not help and have written books on the subject.

Gastro-intestinal disorders, various sinus and breathing conditions, including hay fever and asthma, many skin disorders including hives and eczema, arthritis, ADD/ADHD, migraines, chronic fatigue, and depression all have Internet communities and personal sites offering dietary solutions to these chronic and often intractable maladies.

I am a proponent of the Paleo Diet, also known as the Cave Man Diet. What I have noticed is that every method to cure whatever ailment through diet cuts out some of the foods that are not allowed under the Paleo Diet. You could just go on it and see how you feel. Most who do love it, their chronic conditions abate, they feel better quickly, and they lose their excess weight.

If the Paleo Diet is not for you, and you just wish to cut out your problem foods, a good place to start is the list of that foods usually cause problems, and see if you are eating any of them.

The most common problem foods, the ones I see listed over and over on diet cure sites are; dairy, eggs, grain, yeast, tree nuts, peanuts, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, potatoes, soy, and crustaceans. Many people have problems with one or more fruits. The chemical additives I see listed most often are sulfites, MSG, and artificial sweeteners.

Just because your problem food isnít on this list doesnít mean it isnít a problem for you. I have a real problem with onions, which I will go into at length below. I never see onions listed as a problem food, but they are for me.

The first food intolerance I discovered was over thirty years ago. I went out to eat with friends at a small place that only served gyros, a Greek dish made of roast lamb, raw onions, tomatoes, and a sauce served on pita bread. Within two hours, I had a splitting migraine headache, one of the worst in years. I had many bad headaches as a child and they were still occurring, though less frequently as an adult.

It was an ďAha!Ē moment. It really got me thinking, and there seemed to be a correlation between onions and my past migraines. I tested it a few days later at a hot dog stand by ordering a dog with extra onions. Sure enough, another migraine. After that, I simply avoided onions and never got another migraine headache except when I accidentally ate onions, usually at a restaurant or party.

A few years ago I decided to try the Paleo Diet. I was looking to generally improve my condition by eating what I had evolved to eat. I had the beginnings of arthritis, hay fever effectively disabled me in the late parts of summer each year, IBS was a real problem, and I still had residual acne in my late 50s. Not bad acne like when I was a teen, but I still regularly got pimples on my face, neck, scalp, and back.

There was an immediate improvement in all areas, but I was not 100% on the diet. I was still eating ice cream, putting butter on things, and was still eating buns with my burgers, pasta with spaghetti sauce, baked potatoes with steak, and tomatoes in salads, spaghetti sauce, and chili. I had eliminated 90 Ė 95% of the banned foods, but not all.

After a year I felt much better, but there were still problems. The hay fever was better but still there and I still had problems with my bowels. I was getting diarrhea each time I ate ice cream, so I quit that; much improvement, but still problems.

I was still putting butter on my vegetables and using it to fry eggs. I quit buttering vegetables and switched to using ghee to fry eggs. Ghee is clarified butter, just the butterfat with none of the milk solids. That helped, but I was still having problems.

Now, I was getting diarrhea each time I ate eggs. It was real obvious, it happened within an hour each time. I switched to lard for cooking them with no change, so I quit eating eggs. That was the real breakthrough. I was no longer eating any diary or eggs. The IBS got much better quite quickly. That was this spring.

Spring is always the beginning of the hay fever season for me. I would have good and bad days, but I was always blowing my nose, and on the bad days I was incapacitated by it despite taking the maximum dosage of over the counter drugs and running the air conditioner which is equipped with a special super filter to help my allergies. As summer would progress, the bad days would come more often until late August and September which were all bad days, more like a bad month or two.

This year the hay fever is gone. I only took one allergy pill all year, and that was the day I visited my sister who has a herd of cats. Right now, with a super high pollen count, I am running the air conditioner, and my nose itches a bit, but I have taken no drugs and I am essentially normal. For me, in early September, that is a miracle cure.

I did some searching on the Internet and found that childhood allergies to milk and eggs often are often a precursor to hay fever developing at age 8 to 10. At our house, milk was a sacrament; I literally was not allowed to leave the table unless I drank one large glass of milk with each meal. I also ate fried eggs at least 5 times a week for breakfast. By age 9, I had horrible hay fever each summer.

It is now about five months since I quit dairy 100%, and four months of no eggs. I am finishing the first summer in 50 years that has been free of hay fever. Literally the largest burden of my life has been lifted. When I look back, it appears that there was a correlation between the amount of diary I was consuming and the intensity of my sinus allergies. Not science, just an anecdote, but the correlation seems clear to me.

In addition to solving my problems with hay fever and IBS, my pimples are truly gone for the first time since I was 12, my arthritis is better, and my chronic lower back pain is much better. I have lost the 20+ pounds I gained since high school and weigh what I did when I was 18. And, I have more energy and feel better than I have in years.

Once I removed the two foods I was the most intolerant of, it became apparent that there were other foods which caused me problems. My no eat list now contains; dairy, eggs, grain, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, bananas, onions, apples, peanuts, coffee, and chocolate. I have minor problems with French fries; I can do without the bun and ketchup, but I need fries with a burger. I am willing to suffer to a bit to eat my all time favorite food combo.

I miss eating pasta, bread, chips, ice cream, and cookies. Some of my favorite meals; like lasagna, spaghetti, pizza, chili, and Rubens sandwiches are off my menu for life. I miss all of them, but not enough to endure the physical ailments they cause.

My wife discovered in the last year that her long time problem with hives was caused by dairy. Once she went dairy free, she was able to quit taking the steroids she had been on for years and her hives are gone.

How do you discover your food intolerances? As far as I know, it is not something that is easily or cheaply tested for using laboratory methods. What you have to do is vary your diet and observe the results.

The most extreme method is the elimination diet. On that you limit your diet to foods which are highly unlikely to cause problems for a week or two and see if your symptoms go away or are reduced in magnitude. A typical elimination diet is to live on roast lamb or turkey breast with leafy green vegetables, white rice, and water for a week. Then if the symptoms improve you begin introducing the foods you commonly eat to see if they return. Unless you are in dire straights, most will find this to be more than they are willing to do.

A less severe method is the rotation diet. Get a list of the foods which are most commonly the cause of intolerance and delete them one at a time for a week or two and see if they have an effect. Start with the most common poorly tolerated foods, dairy, yeast, wheat, or eggs. These are hard ones, because they are a large part of most peopleís diets.

A third method is simple observation. Keep a food diary and look for which foods you ate before a problem occurred. This works best if you have a problem that occurs sporadically,

When you do seem to find a problem food, test it. If the problem goes away or lessens when you avoid that food and returns when you eat it, you have found a food you do not tolerate.

My experience has been that the problem foods I ate sporadically were easy to detect, it was the ones I ate every day that went unnoticed and were the major problems. Once I eliminated my two major problem foods, it became easier to notice others that were lesser problems but were affecting me. After I quit dairy and eggs, I noticed that if I do have small amounts of wheat, breading on fish or a tortilla to wrap a burrito, I have mild hay fever symptoms the next day. Wheat seems to trigger hay fever for me, but not as strongly as dairy.

If you have chronic health problems it could be worth your while to use Google; type in your chronic condition and words like diet, food, food intolerance, and so forth and start reading. One site may be way off base, but if you find dozens of sites offering the same general diet advice, it may be worth trying. Most of these diets are not farfetched; they usually recommend a few foods to avoid. If it doesnít help, you arenít out much and can go back to eating them. If it does help it will make your life better.

I recommend not buying most of the miracle cure books sold on the internet, especially if they are overly expensive, overly hyped, or seem to be pushing esoteric supplements sold only at that site. The information in those books is usually available from the internet for free. Often that is where the author got their information. Do a little work and save your money. Also avoid sites that are selling large amounts of alternative, natural, traditional, or esoteric treatments for many or all chronic conditions. Most of the best information I found came from personal or group sites dedicated to a single ailment which did not sell anything. I never spent a dime and used no holistic or new age treatments. My strategy was to spend nothing but read everything. I read stuff on web sites, experimented with diet changes, and made myself much better.

If you have chronic condition that is not getting better and the treatment you are getting seems ineffective, you may have one or more food intolerances. Even if you were given allergy tests, that doesnít mean your problems are not food related. There are countless stories of people who tested negative only to discover that food was the root of their problems.

I am not saying, fire your doctor and quit taking prescribed medicines, I am saying watch what you eat and how you react to it. The clues may be right under your nose. It helped me, it might help you.

~ ~ ~

This is not medical advice. I am not a Doctor, just a person who changed his life by changing my diet. This is not based on scientific studies, just my own experience in dealing with my dietary problems. Before embarking on any major dietary change, you should consult with your physician. If you have any serious medical condition, consulting your physician should always be your first step.

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