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Why did mac & cheese not agree with me?
September 23, 2008 11:48 AM   Subscribe

Am I allergic to something food-related?

Precursor: I am definitely absolutely not allergic to gluten. I was just tested two weeks ago.

I just had Easy Mac and a bag of Rold Gold pretzels for lunch. Immediately after eating, I got really strong stomach cramps, and about 15 minutes later went to the bathroom where I had very intense diarrhea. I feel perfectly normal now.

I've been noticing this happening on occasion, but I've never noted the food I ate when it happened before.

Is there something in Easy Mac/pretzels (note: it was PROBABLY not the pretzels; I eat them a lot) that I could theoretically be allergic to, or is there some reason eating them would make me have INSTANT diarrhea?

I am positive no one slipped a laxative into my water.

The only other thing I have eaten today has been an Odwalla mango smoothie, much earlier, with no bad feelings immediately after.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Lactose intolerant?
posted by amro at 11:54 AM on September 23, 2008


Allergies don't tend to give you diarrhea. Rather it will gives you hives, your throat may swell up or you may have itchy feelings. IANAD, but I'm with amro on this, or your easy mac was spoiled or something.
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 12:10 PM on September 23, 2008


Yup, sounds like lactose intolerance. Certain types of cheese (or "cheeses") are worse than others.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:17 PM on September 23, 2008


Yeah, not an allergy, more like a food sensitivity.

Ingredients for Easy Mac: Enriched Macaroni Product (Wheat Flour, Durum Wheat Flour, Glyceryl Monostearate, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate [Iron], Thiamin Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Riboflavin [Vitamin B2], Folic Acid), Cheese Sauce Mix (Whey, Corn Syrup Solids, Palm Oil, Maltodextrin, Modified Food Starch, Salt, Milkfat, Milk Protein Concentrate, Calcium Phosphate, Contains less than 2% of Medium Chain Triglycerides, Sodium Tripolyphosphate, Natural Flavor, Whey Protein Concentrate, Monosodium Glutamate, Citric Acid, Guar Gum, Sodium Phosphate, Lactic Acid, Calcium Phosphate, Milk, Apocarotenal [Color], Artificial Flavor, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Enzymes, Cheese Culture.

There's a lot of processed stuff in there, and a lot of various sources of dairy: Whey, Milkfat, Milk Protein Concentrate, Whey Protein Concentrate, Milk, Cheese Culture.
posted by Constant Reader at 12:30 PM on September 23, 2008


oooookkkkkkkkkkk IANAD either, but I have a ton of experience with stuff of this ilk.

Yeah, you could just have had bad easy mac, and it does seem highly unlikely it is allergy. Especially for instant diarrhea.

HOWEVER

1. The speed with which every person's body reacts to stuff in the gut it doesn't like can vary quite a bit. With me, even if I eat a bunch of stuff I shouldn't have, its usually a couple hours later when it smacks me down. Varies depending on ingredients that I shun, and the quantity, and over what period of time I jammed it into my system.

2 People who determine they are lactose intolerant may also have trouble consuming dairy and anything with milk protein in it. Then even consuming a lactose-free dairy product isn't going to help.

3. If you were tested for actual food ALLERGY, it is unlikely you were simultaneously tested for gluten intolerance. Doesn't mean your doc/lab didn't do it, but I have yet to run into an allergist who does this. Even the people who have gluten intolerance and ONLY 'gluten intolerance' are not automagically allergic to wheat, rye, barley, & oats (all of which are considered gluten). Confused yet?

Actual allergy to a food, and intolerance to gluten, are not the same thing. Often people say they are "allergic to wheat" when they are gluten intolerant because it's easier for folks to understand. However, the mechanism by which gluten intolerance works and food allergy works are not the same thing.

You could be both, or either, of course.

4. As Wocka says, actual food allergy usually cause hives or anaphylactic shock - you often heard about this from folks with nut allergy, though it could happen with other foods as well.

5. I believe that you can have a food intolerance that is not easily classified by modern western science... i.e. there could be a food ingredient that your body doesn't like. Who knows what the hell to call that, but you get a reaction to it whenever you eat it, and it's not pleasant. It may not be actual 'allergy' or gluten intolerance, but you know that you feel like crap when you eat it. What scientific basis do I have for this? None. My sample data is just talking to tons of people about it. If it's easy to avoid a single food that bugs you, and that's all you have to do to not feel like ass, why not do it?

that is all.
posted by bitterkitten at 12:36 PM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm thirding the lactose intolerance. Welcome to the club.
posted by slimepuppy at 12:38 PM on September 23, 2008


Allergies don't tend to give you diarrhea

Symptoms of food-induced allergic reactions range from localized hives to life-threatening anaphylaxis. The organ systems most commonly involved include the skin (e.g., urticaria, flushing, angioedema, and worsening eczema), gastrointestinal tract (e.g., vomiting, abdominal pain, cramping, and diarrhea), and respiratory tract (e.g., rhinitis, asthma, and stridor)-From a review on food allergies in the current NEJM, which unfortunately is not available as free text or I would link to it. So yes, it could be food allergies, although lactose intolerance is a possibility too, especially in an adult. There are a whole host of other things that it could be as well; irritable bowel syndrome, repeated bouts of food poisoning, rotavirus infection, ulcerative colitis, crohn's disease, and so on. Of course, these vary widely in how serious they are as well as in how likely they are, but as I often comment, any kind of diagnosis is pretty much impossible over the internet, so if it is frequent enough or severe enough for you to be concerned a visit to a physician is in order.
posted by TedW at 12:39 PM on September 23, 2008


I wouldn't necessarily rule out the Odwalla either. I've had plenty of those with no adverse reaction until eating my next meal.
posted by Constant Reader at 12:52 PM on September 23, 2008


Mmmhmm. Nthing lactose intolerance. It sneaks up on ya, apparently. I was in my thirties and grew up with tons of dairy products and suddenly, one fine day, my body just rejected certain dairy products, similar to the manner in which your body rejected them. I mean, instant rejection.

A trip to the doc revealed that being lactose intolerant doesn't mean my body hates all lactose, it just doesn't like certain dairy stuff. And how do I know which stuff? Ugh. I had to 'test' food by trying various things and waiting for a reaction. (I don't fully understand the biology/chemistry behind this, but I can't eat, say, sour cream, whereas a bit of brie is just find with my GI tract.) So maybe Easy Mac is your nemesis, but for some reason homemade mac cheese works just fine. So, if it is lactose intolerance, don't expect a finely delineated list of stuff that works and doesn't. If you go to a doc again, they'll tell you to make a food diary, so maybe getting started on that now will better help you assess what's goin' on.
posted by December at 12:59 PM on September 23, 2008


Consider that it may just be the grease load.
posted by reflecked at 1:05 PM on September 23, 2008


I also vote for lactose intolerance. And I agree that it's not an easy thing to figure out - I can have cheese pretty much all of the time (note the pretty much), sometimes ice cream and sometimes not (mostly not), never any heavy cream or milk, yogurt doesn't bug me. Things that have creeped up on me though - chocolate, and weirdly enough, those yummy sausage egg biscuits at Jack in the Box. Lactose is added to a lot of different foods, so try and pay attention to the labels. For me, if I get a load of lactose I can't handle, it's pretty much an immediate trip to the bathroom.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:11 PM on September 23, 2008


I would guess lactose intolerance (is there any real dairy in Easy Mac, though?) or Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
posted by geeky at 1:12 PM on September 23, 2008


Consider also that this could be a coincidence. You could have a stomach virus that hit you shortly after eating. You could have a sensitivity to something you ate earlier in the day that is just hitting you. You could have a food borne illness that was from something you ate last week.
If it continues - see a doctor. In the meantime - keep a food journal and see what comes of that.
posted by Wolfie at 1:12 PM on September 23, 2008


FYI, lots of people with gluten intolerence don't test positive for celiac disease. Your level of antibodies might be lower than the western medical establishment's official threshold for celiac, for example. And a primary care physician is likely to be unfamiliar with the nuances of food intolerance issues. I tested negative on the blood test for gluten, but positive on a saliva test through a non-western doc. Yes, my skeptometer goes off with that. But I have symptoms that disappear when I stop eating gluten for a month, and return when I start again (placebo doesn't expain it - but even hidden-at-first gluten has caused symptoms).

So...don't rule out gluten. Just yet. If your belly hurts each time you eat gluten, then it might be gluten. Or yeast or something else often contained in gluten-filled snacks.

As December says, a food diary (yes, it's a hassle) and being highly attentive to what you eat (also a hassle) may help you figure it out.
posted by quinoa at 1:19 PM on September 23, 2008


Do the symptoms hit you after you've had something sweet? Besides lactose intolerance, there's also fructose intolerance (which I have). An Odwalla is basically a fructose bomb, and would give me similar symptoms if I didn't avoid fruit like the plague. Additionally, that mac and cheese has corn syrup in it - another fructose bomb.
posted by chez shoes at 1:24 PM on September 23, 2008


there's also fructose intolerance

Whoa! You just blew my mind! That may explain a lot of my avoidance of fruit juice, and also my very immediate reaction to too many Jelly Bellies.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:28 PM on September 23, 2008


Looking at the ingredients for this Easy Mac:

Enriched Macaroni Product (Wheat Flour, Durum Wheat Flour, Glyceryl Monostearate, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate [Iron], Thiamin Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Riboflavin [Vitamin B2], Folic Acid), Cheese Sauce Mix (Whey, Corn Syrup Solids, Palm Oil, Maltodextrin, Modified Food Starch, Salt, Milkfat, Milk Protein Concentrate, Calcium Phosphate, Contains less than 2% of Medium Chain Triglycerides, Sodium Tripolyphosphate, Natural Flavor, Whey Protein Concentrate, Monosodium Glutamate, Citric Acid, Guar Gum, Sodium Phosphate, Lactic Acid, Calcium Phosphate, Milk, Apocarotenal [Color], Artificial Flavor, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Enzymes, Cheese Culture.

You could be having a reaction to just about anything. Time consuming, though perhaps worth your while would be to do some research into the unpronounceable chemicals and additives listed here and see if there've been alerts on possible allergic reactions to them and if you can narrow it down - to perhaps avoid that ingredient which basically means to eat foods that do not contain artificial colorings, preservatives and chemical additives. MSG alone has been a major culprit in health issues (that would be the monosodium glutamate - used as a flavor enhancer).
posted by watercarrier at 1:44 PM on September 23, 2008


Regarding lactose intolerance - for you intolerant folks out there who can eat cheese but not ice cream, it's because aged cheeses (and it doesn't have to be super-aged - a Cheddar a few months aged will do it) have virtually no lactose in them. Fresh milk products do. Aged cheeses don't. So yay!
posted by rtha at 2:47 PM on September 23, 2008


Repeat after me... Lactaid. What you described is exactly what I go through if I eat Mac n' Cheese without taking lactase to treat my lactose intolerance. Everyone's threshold is different, and different dairy products bother different people, but whatever is in Kraft Mac n' Cheese is infamously bad for those with this condition.
posted by Raichle at 12:16 PM on September 24, 2008


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