I Don’t Like Having Food Intolerances!

Hiking strong out of Canyon de Chelly
Hiking strong out of Canyon de Chelly

I don’t like having food intolerances! I don’t like having to eat differently than other people. I want to be able to go to a restaurant and eat something more than lettuce or steamed vegetables and not worry about feeling poorly afterwards. I want to be able to travel easily and not have to choose hotels that have kitchens. I don’t want to bring food into hotels or with me in the car so I have something to eat. I want to be able to eat what I used to be able to eat (which was healthy food) and still feel well.

Someday, maybe it will happen. I sure hope so!

In the meantime, I will listen to my body, for there is a night and day difference in how food can make me feel. Or should I say a “I have to stay home because I feel so awful” kind of day compared to “I can hike 2.5 miles and 600 feet of vertical with no problem” kind of day. I’ll choose the hiking day over the stay-at-home-feeling-awful day….anytime.  I just wish it weren’t so difficult!!

If you don’t know, I’ve had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) since 2003 and we believe it is infection associated. Check out the Stanford ME/CFS website for more information. Before getting CFS, I was very healthy and very physically active. I went from that state of being to not being able to function much at all. Antimicrobial medications have helped me tremendously and I am currently taking an antiviral medication. Somewhere along the way, the food intolerances started. (I suspect the food intolerances are caused by the pathogens I’m battling…this is a guess on my part.) I just figured out two years ago that I have food intolerances, and I am still figuring out what foods are problematic for me.

Most recently, I tried adding in ground flax seed to my diet. I started slowly, just 1/4 teaspoon at first, increasing it to 1/2 to 1 teaspoon per day. After a week, my right wrist and knee were sore. I stopped the flax seed and the pain went away.

Next I tried taking a probiotic formulated for babies with just one strain: Bifidobacterium infantis. I took the baby dose, one scoop. Actually, babies can take one-half to one scoop twice a day, while the mothers can take 3 to 6 scoops daily. So, I was taking even less than what a baby could take. I only took it for two days.

At the same time (I KNOW I shouldn’t try two (or three) things at once but sometimes I get so frustrated with the slowness of the testing that I do try more than one thing at a time)…..I also tried some blackberries (made into a juice or smoothie) and some cabbage juice (skip this, it tastes horrible). I ended up with such extreme fatigue, I couldn’t even leave the house. It’s been a long time since I felt like that!

I did one other experiment shortly after the fatigue went away: I made a smoothie with 10 frozen cherries, 10 blackberries and 1/4 cup pomegranate juice. All of those foods are low histamine, but the cherries and the blackberries are high in benzoates, and some people who have histamine intolerance (which I seem to have) also can’t tolerate benzoates, since the benzoates can cause histamine to be released in the body. Dr. Joneja discusses this in her chapter on Biogenic Amines in her book Dealing with Food Allergies. It is also discussed briefly towards the end of this interview on The Low Histamine Chef’s website.  Within two hours of that “healthful” smoothie, I had a headache that lasted into the next day.

I don’t get headaches now unless it is food related. I’ve had some significant head colds (including one now)….and no headaches. I was under a lot of stress last August when a family member had a significant health issue and I was the primary care taker….no headaches. But if I drink a smoothie that is supposed to be healthy (but is high in benzoates) or eat a meal in a restaurant that has too much histamine in it, I get a headache!

Now, of course, the only way to know for sure if those foods caused the extreme fatigue is to consume them again. I won’t repeat the probiotic since I’ve had some kind of trouble with pretty much every probiotic I’ve tried. I will try to eat some cherries and berries as they come into season, and see what happens. I’ve done fine with cabbage as a vegetable, and I will keep eating that but I will skip the cabbage juice because it tastes terrible.

I stopped all those foods and was able to have good energy for our road trip. I did a couple of hikes that would have been beyond my ability until just recently, even beyond my ability while I was eating those “healthy” foods. Truly a food isn’t healthy for you if it makes you sick!

Even though my background is in nutrition and I worked as a registered dietitian for years, I am really surprised (shocked is a better word) at how food affects me! I never would have suspected in a million years that I have food intolerances!

Here’s to more hiking days instead of stay-at-home days for me! Even if I do have to eat differently than everyone else, it’s so worth it! (I just have to remind myself of that from time to time!)

(If interested in a similar story see my post: Oh the Difference Food Makes.)

4 thoughts on “I Don’t Like Having Food Intolerances!

  1. It certainly is a complicated journey we’re on.

    Thanks for the reference to benzoates. I will look into that as berries are a significant problem for me.

    So happy for you re your hike! And what a wonderful photo you included.

    1. Yes, it is a complicated journey! Hopefully it will become clearer soon!

      I’m glad you a have a possible reason for why berries might trouble you.

      I was very happy for my hike too. Glad you like the photo. 🙂

  2. i’m so glad to find someone who understands this from a dietician’s POV. aren’t we the most boring people to go out to dinner with?? i’d been having what i now call “minor” food intolerances for a few years…but the past year i think it’s the act of eating almost anything that causes extreme fatigue (that’s my “easy” symptom, they get much worse with certain foods). it all started with a bad case of shingles in my head, that i don’t know if i ever fully recovered from. antivirals helped tremendously, for a year or 2, until they didn’t. my doc thinks it’s lyme, bc i have a history of having tic on me for an extended time, my elisa was positive, and my western blot showed “signs” of infection (but not to CDC standard). i’m reading this from by living room sofa – 4 weeks into antibiotic treatment and its no picnic. i took 2 weeks off of work so i could experiment with antibiotics and food. so nice to not have to juggle a hectic work routine as well, but, it’s back to work next week, not exactly cured but with some mental strength stored up! good luck with your own health issues 🙂

    1. Hi ally~
      Your comment about going out to dinner made me smile! So true!

      Interesting that you feel your food intolerance issues started after having shingles. I *think* mine may also be infection induced.

      I wish you better health and an easy return to work!!

      All the best,

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