Schwappender Wein

Red wine, aged cheese and yeast bread. Three things I no longer eat. 🙁 (Image by Stefan Krause)

Sorry about going MIA the last couple of weeks. My second book just released (Yaaaaay! *Blows noisemaker and strews confetti*) and I’ve been writing blog posts and answering interview questions and whatnot for that. But….I’m back! And I’m not talking about anything Pagan. (GG says I don’t have to apologize, but I’m going to anyway. Sorry!) But hey, it’s what’s on my mind (other than the book). I think issues with food is something that needs to be talked about more. A lot of people are sick, and we’re not helping them. I’m one of those people.

I’ve mentioned in the comments before that I have a digestive disorder of unknown type. Food makes me sick. This wasn’t a huge deal when I was a kid; I knew to avoid chocolate and not let people put cheddar in my scrambled eggs and be careful what I ordered at a Mexican food restaurant. I got older and realized that I couldn’t drink red wine without getting ill. Then after much curious study, I realized most people got drunk BEFORE they got sick. I get sick well before I get drunk. Until I figured out that my experience is not the typical one, I was seriously confused about why people like alcohol!

But then I got into my thirties, the avoid list kept getting bigger, and I was getting painfully ill at inconvenient times. About five years ago, back when I was a high school theater teacher, I cramped up so badly after lunch one day that I folded in half and had to get a substitute for the next two hours while I curled up in a ball in the greenroom of the theater, unable to move. That was the final straw. I went to the doctor. My doctor (whom I love and have gone to for years) checked me for celiac’s disease (no), told me I had IBS (irritable bowel syndrome; it’s as fun as it sounds), gave me a prescription for muscle relaxants and sent me to a specialist to confirm. The specialist said the same thing. One thing they both emphasized was that my concerns over food being the root of my problems was bogus, that for some people cortisol (the stress hormone) makes their digestive system stop working right. That was all. So if I never stress out again, I’ll be fine. Otherwise, I’m FUBAR. And here’re some pills.They don’t fix the problem, but I’ll recover more quickly from folding in half during work hours.

This sent me into a tailspin of confusion. Yes, stress makes it worse, but I know that certain foods make me sick. Give me fudge, and I’ll be in the bathroom throwing up in less than half an hour. It’s happened since I was a wee thing. It frustrated me to no end that neither of them would listen to me. I didn’t want a pill that masked symptoms. I wanted a solution. But I couldn’t figure out what chocolate, cheddar cheese, avocados, bananas and red wine had in common. I couldn’t figure out why mushrooms weren’t really a problem…unless I mixed them with spinach, which would make me absolutely nauseous.

My DH TheScott did some research on the interwebs, home of all knowledge both real and imaginary, and found a common denominator between the things that set me off: they all contain large amounts of broken down proteins called amines, particularly histamine. There were researchers out of Australia who had decided that living with IBS, though not immediately life threatening, can seriously impair quality of life. And they believed that food, in fact, is often the problem. Their research indicated that some people, for some reason, lack digestive enzymes–much like the commonly known and understood lactose intolerance, which is a lack of the enzyme lactase, but for other enzymes as well. This malfunction of the gut can cause a whole host of problems when the body can’t handle aspects of the otherwise perfectly healthy food we put into it. Why doctors easily accept that a person can be missing lactase but not any of the other digestive enzymes baffles me. But my disappointment with the medical community over this is a whole ‘nother post.

After reading their research, TheScott proposed I lack the enzyme diamine oxidase, and therefore had what was, at the time, called an “amine intolerance.” I looked at the list of foods I would have to avoid, and while everything that set me off was on it, I thought the list in its entirety was the worst list of no-nos the planet has seen and nobody should have to live like that. I insisted I had some other problem.

Please, gods, may it be some other problem.

Over the past five years I’ve been researching different forms of digestive disorders, from celiac’s to food allergies to intolerances and more. I’ve learned a lot about how digestion works and the many things that can go wrong. I’ve gone on a variety of diets in an attempt to find one that helps. I tried a gluten-free (helped, but not enough), low FODMAP diet (somewhat successful), Paleo (got me almost, but not quite, symptom free, and I still follow a more relaxed version of this that allows for limited dairy because I likes me some butter and cheese), and various other elimination diets (never successful). Finally this year, after reading a few more articles on that intolerance TheScott found years ago–now called “histamine intolerance”–I gave a low histamine diet a try.

Oh, #$%^&. It’s working. Idunna help me.

Next week, I’ll talk more about HIT (histamine intolerance). Meanwhile, if you have any questions about food reactions, I’m happy to share what I’ve learned! The most important thing I want people to know is that digestive disorders are real, and they wreak serious havoc on people’s lives. Meanwhile I’m working on prayers to Idunna, the goddess who tends the apple orchard of Asgard that keeps the gods young and healthy. If anyone has any experience working with her, I’d love to hear about it.

+ Featured Image: Still Life with Cheese and Wine by John F. Francis