Eating out is nice, until you can't breathe
June 18, 2008 1:10 PM   Subscribe

Food makes me sick!

Starting in high school, I noticed that my lung got "tight" after eating at the school cafeteria. Its only got worse since then, then I usually need a shot of my inhaler after I eat just about anything that is prepared. Sometimes, eating makes my ears achey and full filling, or I just get amazing fatigued after eating.

After some observations, its anything that's salty or whole grain. Not just salty because I can salt my food at home and its ok, but its the "chicken breast that is mostly plumped with some salty concoction" that tends to knock me on my butt.

In the last year I have started to get the same thing plus amazingly achey ears if I drink any kind of wine, beer, and some spirits. What is it that does this too me? Is it some additive or preservative that I am sensitive to? I am so sick of my ears always hurting and having to carry an inhaler whenever I plan to eat out.

I have been tested for allergies and I am deathly allergic to shellfish and somewhat allergic to wheat, somewhat sensitive to chocolate and peanuts if I am already having trouble.

Can you help me figure out what specifically to avoid?
posted by stormygrey to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Maybe MSG (monsodiumgulitimate)? My mom has a horrible reaction to that, and it's something that makes things salty, but isn't salt (she's fine with salt). Not sure how that comports with the whole grain things.

The best way to figure this out is probably to do an elimination diet. Ask a doctor to help with that.
posted by dpx.mfx at 1:22 PM on June 18, 2008

My mom gets this feeling from soy products.
posted by sunshinesky at 1:30 PM on June 18, 2008

You really need to work with a specialist. Allergists are great, but most focus on airbourne allergies, not food allergies. Find one that specializes in food allergies. My regular allergist was great with giving me asthma medication, but didn't know anything about the role of food.

I had similar experiences. I was diagnosed with Labyrinthitis, which my doctor said was triggered by salt. I also found I was sensitive not just to wheat, but to carbs in general, which caused fatigue no matter how healthy they were. I also had severe digestive symptoms. Eating out is a mine-field. Most soy sauce has gluten in it for example. Restaurants use salt like people in the 90s used oil. If you went back in the kitchen you would be aghast.

Figure out if you are sensitive to any cooking medium. Try canola oil, olive oil, ....etc. at home to see if you are sensitive.

Wine and other types of alcohol have all kinds of junk in them. For me, I tried many before I settled on a few that don't bother me, mostly the verymuchjustalcohol things like vodka and gin, though lately I've been able to drink beer and wine.

I followed a paleo diet (no bread, no alcohol, no dairy) for a long time to get rid of my symptoms and now I can eat most things without a problem, but I had to add them in slowly to see how much it took to trigger problems. Not eating out is a good idea, but when you have to, you can take some precautions. If it's a decent restaurant call ahead and request low-sodium/gluten-free/ etc. Usually when I eat out, I get only lean protein + vegetables.

I see you live in Atlanta, which is, thankfully, a city with some good restaurants that may be accommodating. Some restaurants now even specialize in gluten-free now.
posted by melissam at 1:32 PM on June 18, 2008

Also, the achy ears are probably from the sulfites in the booze. Naturally occurring preservative.

Mom also gets this, and can't eat from salad bars for the same reason (according to her).
posted by sunshinesky at 1:32 PM on June 18, 2008

Check for allergies. Gluten, soy (a lot of processed foods have soy added). The first thing I'd look for is soy, actually - a girl I used to live with has a soy allergy, and the reaction was a lot like this.
posted by Lady Li at 1:54 PM on June 18, 2008

An acquaintance of mine gets similar symptoms from foods that contain sulfites, which occur naturally in wine and are added to lots of other foods as a preservative. Dried fruits and lunch meats are particularly well-known for having lots of them.
posted by vytae at 2:12 PM on June 18, 2008

Please note that there are sulfite-free wines out there!
posted by sunshinesky at 2:25 PM on June 18, 2008

Thanks everyone! I already casually contend that I am allergic to sulfites (bad experience with some merlot) and iodine (mainly because the non-iodized salt never causes any manner of reaction), but have never really explored it medically since my allergist and GP have basically said "that sucks, here's an inhaler and an epipen"

I just think that maybe half of my asthma is probably from acid reflux or GERD or just my basic sucky immune system not liking what I am feeding myself. I want to be armed with information!

What kind of specialist am I looking for is this a do-it-yourself elimination thing?
posted by stormygrey at 3:49 PM on June 18, 2008

You're looking for an allergist - you can find them in hospitals or in specialty allergy clinics.

You should expect a skin prick test where the lightly abrade your skin with a small tool that has an allergen on it. They will do this multiple times using a new tool for each compound. Some places will follow up with an injection of compounds that are mild reactions just under your skin (a subcutaneous injection) to be sure that they are not missing a subtle allergy.

What they are looking for is called a wheal and flare reaction that they will measure to determine your sensitivity to each of the compounds. Things that you are allergic to will make you itch.

Be absolutely sure that you stay at least 15 to 20 minutes after the prick test/injections - they should have a cortisone cream for inflamed itchy skin and they should be prepared to sort you out if something surprises you with anaphylactic shock. Be sure to tell them that your symptoms are breathing related so that they know to look for it and be prepared.

Solutions are varied - the Asthma Center in Philadelphia suggested that I carry (1) an epipen, (2) benadryl and (3) an oral steroid with me at all times in case any of my food allergies acted up. I have yet to heed this particular bit of advice... Other solutions are avoidance and desensitization treatments.

Good luck!
posted by oreonax at 4:06 PM on June 18, 2008

Have you considered the possibility that you may have GERD induced asthma?
posted by digitalprimate at 5:54 PM on June 18, 2008

Gall stones can mimic a lot of those symptoms. I kept getting diagnosed with asthma when I had them. Greasy food really set it off.
posted by fshgrl at 6:08 PM on June 18, 2008

Hrm. Turns out you already have an allergist. Color me embarrassed. Apologies...
posted by oreonax at 6:49 PM on June 18, 2008

Oreonax - if you are not heeding advice to carry epi and antihistamines, you should correct that immediately.

I used to be a bit lax about this but since my pecan/walnut/macadamia allergy is 12 x 12 on the wheal and flare scale I always carry them now. You never know when something will be contaminated when you eat out. And of course the only time I've suffered from an attack since being diagnosed I did not have them with me.
posted by wingless_angel at 2:12 AM on June 19, 2008

With GERD I saw both an allergist and a gastroenterologist. For gluten intolerance/celiac (means not just allergic, but every time you eat gluten you damage your body) I had to have an internal biopsy, which was thankfully negative. Gluten intolerance has been linked to allergenic GERD.

I eventually did my own elimination diet, which combined with both asthma and gerd medication, did wonders. Now I don't take any medication.
posted by melissam at 6:45 AM on June 19, 2008

I went to an allergist, who refused to test me because he seemed to think my rashes after eating were psychosomatic. I think most allergists check for full fledged allergies, things which cause shock and I'm not sure how much food they actually test for, more like pollen and pet dander etc. But i did a blood test and a candida test through an alternative medical center and found out a lot. But i still break out in rashes even if i avoid what I'm supposed to. I would try to do a cleanse, or a juice fast and then reintroduce each food you are suspicious of back into your diet and look for reaction. I personally don't have the time or the discipline to do this and i don't know how effective it would be anyway, as I was told I am allergic to garlic, lemon and honey, all things which are either in the master cleanse or which i would otherwise consider healthy. It's a guessing game, and it takes a lot of work and commitment. My advice is to try an alternative route, doctors aren't very open minded to possibilities outside the realm of western medicine. i wish you luck.
posted by madmamasmith at 6:40 PM on March 1, 2009

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