Friday, February 8, 2013

My Story

As a kid, my favorite food was always bread.  I loved nothing more than to stuff myself with a thick, yeasty pizza crust every Saturday night.  Little did I know, my favorite food didn’t love me back.

When I was in fifth grade, I developed a hereditary skin disease called psoriasis. I wore long-sleeved polo shirts and long pants, rain or shine, to cover the angry red splotches that peppered my arms, legs and torso. A flaky crust of dried skin blanketed my scalp, choking out some of my hair. After trying a dozen different creams and lotions to no avail, I visited a dermatologist.  The doctor was specifically a children’s dermatologist, but as a fifth grade student, I found his brusque approach intimidating.  I was thoroughly overwhelmed when the visit closed with a blood draw.  While the medications prescribed by the dermatologist were effective in temporarily easing my symptoms of psoriasis, the rash always returned.

In middle school, the clues continued to emerge:  breakfast left me feeling unsettled, and all too often, my stomach ached terribly, inexplicably, in the middle of the afternoon. When I moved on to high school, the discomfort came with me. By my sophomore year of high school, digestive discomfort plagued me more often than not.

I was determined to get to the bottom of the issue. Every night before I went to sleep, I scoured the internet for individuals with experiences similar to my own. I was shocked to find that many of the symptoms of Celiac disease exactly matched my own. Here was an explanation for not only my digestive discomfort, but also my psoriasis, migraines and moodiness. Repeated searches supported my hypothesis. I was going to have to give up bread. 

At first, the idea of going gluten free terrified me.  The more I thought about it, though, the surer I became that it was the thing to do. 

Rather than repeat my experience with conventional medicine, I decided to visit a naturopathic doctor.  This doctor, barefoot and wearing a colorful sundress, personally greeted my mother and me at the door of the clinic. We visited with her whilst filling out paperwork, and then she sat down with us for nearly two hours, asking me questions and explaining the inner-workings of the body.  The doctor prescribed only dietary changes and supplements, but a short while after visiting the naturopath, miscellaneous and seemingly unrelated aches and pains disappeared. Within two weeks, the after-dinner stomachaches ceased.  My psoriasis, though not yet completely gone, was as minimal as it had been since before fifth grade.

As the naturopath explained it, the main principle of naturopathy is that the body has the capacity to heal itself, and that all systems of the body work together. The skin, for instance, might expel unwanted toxins that could not otherwise be expelled from the body. This is why, in the long run, the topical medications prescribed by the dermatologist were ineffective in combating my psoriasis. However, when the pressure is removed from one system of the body, a healthy balance is restored to the body as a whole. In my case, this was accomplished by changing my diet. As it turned out, a blood test revealed that I was allergic to not only wheat but also eggs, dairy, pineapple and halibut. 

Others often react with pity when they hear of my dietary restrictions, but I don’t feel sorry for myself.  Instead, I feel sorry for those who eat whatever they please and later suffer the consequences.  I cannot recommend a food allergy test highly enough.

 Over time, I imagine that the contents of this blog will come to reflect my interests in food and health, perhaps coupled with a bit of scientific research. 

As for now, thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll join me in my quest for health.