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Knowledge is Power – Get Tested

So many comments have come in about my previous blog article: Is There Life Without Ice Cream that I felt it only fair to follow up.  The main theme was, “How could you receive this news and not have had ANY idea about it beforehand?

That of course is where it gets tricky.  Not just for me, but for ALL of us.  What do we know, what do we admit to, and what do we avoid or pretend doesn’t exist, like an ostrich with its head in the sand?  How in touch are we with our bodies? Are we treating our bodies right?  Finally, are we truly living our optimal lives?

We should be feeling great, not just getting by.  Is merely getting by how we think we should live OUR life here on Earth?  Is living a healthy lifestyle so overwhelming or scary for us that we are willing to accept living at only a fraction of how great we should be feeling?

This Zen Mama Wannabe is as guilty of this anyone.  I am not making these changes because I WANT to; I am now making them because I HAVE to.  Something happened (for me it was getting blood test results) that caused me to realize I needed to make big changes in my diet.

Why did I have these tests done in the first place? To be honest, having my blood tested for food sensitivities was not my idea.  I had gone to a new doctor…perhaps a bit more “new-age” than mainstream.  When my general care physician was not interested in my suggestion that we run a thyroid panel on me to make sure everything was working properly (You’re a healthy woman – why would we need to?) I thought maybe it was time to suck it up and go out of network.

When you reach certain milestones, in my case turning 40, your body changes. I was exhausted and feeling run down, but would joke it was just due to being a mother (as we all know a 24-7 job).  I felt grumpier more of the time, but maybe that was due to being exhausted.  I did have one symptom that was driving me crazy: itchy skin.  The skin on my face and around my hairline itched like crazy.  It went on for months.  I saw a dermatologist who said it was just dry skin and gave me a prescription lotion.  My primary care doctor said it was seborrheic dermatitis and told me to use over-the-counter athletic foot cream on my face when it itched.  Perhaps these suggestions might take away the itch — temporarily, but neither was looking into actually understanding or solving the problem.

This new doctor took a different approach.  She said my skin was just the exhibiting on the outside what had been going on a lot longer on the inside.  She thought I might be low on B vitamins (especially B-12 – from not eating meat) and ran a few tests.  The histamine level in my blood was off the charts (meaning something was going on that my body didn’t like and was trying to fight off). She asked me more about my diet, thinking it might be a food allergy.

Only when questioned did I really put any thought into it.  Yes, I guess I had noticed the funny sounds my stomach would make after we had gone out for ice cream.  Yes, my stomach felt a bit torn up in the mornings (after my coffee – with lots of milk – and Zone bar) but I had written it off to stress or nerves.  Maybe I was lactose intolerant – several of my friends were and I knew it became more common in women as they got older.  We switched milks.  Didn’t seem to make any difference so back to the stress theory.  Mostly though, I didn’t think about it;  I didn’t really want to.  I just lived with it (don’t they call that settling?) and got used to it so that the rumblings in my stomach were not so disconcerting.

There are many symptoms of people who are having reactions to dairy.  When I look at the list in hindsight, I can say, “Oh, yeah I guess I had that one and maybe that one, and oh yeah that one for sure.”  But before I got the blood test results if you would have shown me the list and asked if any of the symptoms applied to me, I would have told you no.  Why?  Because that wasn’t how I saw myself. My belief system said that I love dairy products, I was a generally healthy person, and I certainly didn’t have allergies (especially to foods I liked!).

The blood tests told a different story. Cow’s milk, Casein, Lactalbumin and most cheeses were all things my body was having a HUGE reaction to; they were actually considered not safe for me and needed to be avoided.  Finally I was cornered, as left untreated these types of allergies only get worse.  The histamine level in my blood told the story: my body felt under attack by all the cheese, cow’s milk and casein products I was ingesting.  I need to remove them immediately and then we’ll see where we’re at.  (The theory being my skin will stop itching, I won’t feel as lethargic and run-down, etc.).  After all, in a sense, I have been poisoning my body, slowly – over time, and didn’t even know it!

Now, of course I think everyone should get a basic food panel blood test.  I also think everyone should ask for and get a full blood work up (what my primary care doctor wouldn’t offer me).  It was through that that the high histamine level showed up, waving the red flag that something was seriously wrong, since I obviously wasn’t picking up on the other symptoms.

Could there be things you are not picking up on?  Information is power.  Deep down, don’t you want to know how well (or not) your body is working?  I know these tests are often not covered by insurance (mine weren’t for the most part) and they can be pricey.  That was one of my excuses for quite a while. But ultimately, this is MY life (and YOUR life).  Why should we settle for anything less than feeling great?

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