By Paige Cowley, NLC
It’s a scary feeling when something negative is happening to your body and you don’t know why. Add to that the fact that your healthcare team doesn’t know, either, and it makes matters even more cringe-worthy and unnerving.
So, what happens when you are a healthy eater and are having mysterious symptoms no one can explain? As much as food is medicine, it can also be the culprit. That was the case for me.
It all started one night after dinner when my mouth began feeling raw. I thought nothing of it other than it was odd. Over the next few days, I began to develop an abnormal amount of canker sores all over the inside of my mouth. It got to the point where I could barely talk, drink, or eat for several days.
From what I could narrow down, the next time I reacted to lemon juice, and then a vinaigrette that contained apple cider vinegar, and then hot sauce on eggs combined with seltzer water. The list went on, but all of the instances had one thing in common: acidity. This went on for about a year, and I was having reactions almost once a month.
Asking for Help
The first time I went to Urgent Care, they gave me steroids, drew my blood, and swabbed my mouth. Everything came back negative. More doctor’s visits, more blood work, from thyroid to blood allergy tests, which can show false positives or false negatives or merely that you had something present in your diet. All had negative results. Doctors told me they believed that I was sick, but they didn’t know why. I was referred to a GI specialist, a rheumatologist, a dentist, and an oral surgeon.
The problem was that the doctors have a long list of different diagnoses when it comes to what can be the root cause of canker sores. Many of the physicians said sometimes, “This just happens and we don’t know why.” But I refused to accept that as an answer.
Searching for My Own Answers
I knew deep down that it was correlated with what I was eating. The list of things I had to avoid began growing, and it became overwhelming. I became very frustrated. I was losing weight (and not in a good way). I felt like no one was really listening and kept referring me out instead of taking the time to really dig in and help.
Finally, a colleague of mine who is a physician suggested that I look into seeing an allergist/immunologist because it sounded like some sort of hypersensitive inflammatory reaction. Turns out, he was right, and so was I.
I found a functional diagnostic nutrition practitioner, Maria Claps (who is also Nutritious Life Certified!) and then eventually went to a different primary care physician. More tests were done. First, a delayed immune sensitivities test found out I was having delayed food sensitivities to mainly white potatoes, egg whites, and black pepper.
Later, a skin prick allergy test showed that I was having immediate reactions to lemon, orange, apple, strawberry, and peach. All except the lemon and peach I was still eating, so it made sense that I was still having reactions.
What I Learned
I wanted to share all of this because even after I finally began gathering clues about what was wrong, It was a long road to figuring out what would really make me feel better.
It started out with trial and error and guesswork on my part. I began by eliminating the foods identified by the delayed sensitivity test. That led to less stomach discomfort, fewer headaches, and better sleep. I also eliminated gluten, since it can be an inflammation-inducing food for some people, and I didn’t need another reason for my body to become inflamed. I still ended up having a few hypersensitive mouth reactions after eliminating these foods, but I could tell it was helping. Then, I had the skin prick test and eliminated the fruits it identified, and the reactions finally stopped for good. To further support reducing inflammation, I also began to prioritize sleep and stress management.
I’m now feeling good and I hope that things stay that way, and my message is this: Sometimes you have to step outside the box and be your own champion to get your life back. You have to find a team of people who are willing to work with and listen to you to do what it takes to find the answers. No one is going to do the work for you. You can stay informed, but you also can’t always find answers on the internet, you need the right trained professionals.
You are ultimately in charge of your own health journey. When you come to what seems like a dead end, keep pushing, keep asking, and keep sticking up for yourself. That will allow you to keep moving forward on the journey to a healthier you. Healthy eating is not a one-size-fits-all scenario. We are all different, and the best thing you can do is to listen to your own body. You are the expert when it comes to you. If something in your gut is telling something isn’t right (and in my case it quite literally was my gut signaling trouble), chances are you’re right.
Paige Cowley, Nutritious Life Certified, is a Pilates instructor and athlete based in Tampa, Florida and is the creator of the new healthy living site Bourbon and Broccoli. Paige actively competes as an equestrian. She also loves tennis, yoga, and her dogs, as well as cooking and eating deliciously healthy food. She specializes in utilizing Pilates to develop low-impact athletic conditioning and cross-training plans for competitive horseback riders and athletes of all kinds. She is also a healthcare professional and has worked as a hospital social worker since 2012.