When I was a kid, the minute some household appliance was declared unusable, I immediately went and got the screwdriver and popped that baby open. Discovering how all the parts and pieces worked together to vacuum the carpet or play a movie on the TV (or whatever else the thing used to do) transported me to another world that transfixed me for hours. I was on a journey, seeking to understand.
Becoming the Broken VCR
In the last few years, my body really started breaking down. It started off slowly but progressively got more severe, more often. Often times I was declaring myself unusable, forcing me to open myself up seeking to understand the hidden drivers and influencers of my physical and emotional well being.
Despite what every blood test, hormonal test, and allergy test said, I knew something was wrong with me. I just could not believe that someone in their 30s that exercised daily and ate pretty well could be so inconsistently tired, irritable, and disconnected. I’d go days and sometimes weeks barely being able to get out of bed and make it through the day without feeling like a zombie painfully plodding through life step after step. I would put on as positive of a face in public as I could, which made the crashes even harder, because I used every ounce of energy I had on acting happy.
Since no medical tests could identify anything, my self-diagnosis was that it had to be a mental health issue. I went and saw a few different therapists and researched a lot on mental health but ended up just getting more frustrated—and pretty certain it was another dead end.
Through some self-awareness along with a lot of trial and error, I was able to build some coping strategies that helped me get through the worst times…or at least not pile on the negative self-talk during down cycles, because that would push me even further down. But yet another year came with more tests and the same “everything looks great” responses. Until my ENT doctor off-handedly mentioned something that changed my life.
The Hidden Mechanism
You know the feeling when you’re swimming and you get a little water in your ear; not the full blown blockage, but just enough to be annoying and crackle every time you swallow? That was me every day, but according to the test, I had no allergies…and that’s when he said, “You know my mom had a similar thing and she found out there were some foods that made it worse for her. Have you ever had food sensitivity testing?”
I had never even considered food sensitivities because I didn’t have any GI issues, which I associated with celiac or being lactose intolerant. But when I started doing some research that night, my long list of health challenges were basically listed one after another.
Chronic headaches. Puffy eyes with dark circles. Extreme fatigue. Racing pulse. Insomnia. Congestion, ear fluid, and sinus pressure. Brain fog. Shaky hands. Anxiety. Depression. Irritability. Apathy….check…check…check…and on and on the description of my “perfectly healthy” life went.
Upon further research, I registered for a functional medicine program, did a full battery of tests, along with a two month elimination diet. Through the program and elimination diet I learned that I had been living with full blown food sensitivities and that all the undiagnosed symptoms stemmed directly from what I put in my mouth.
I discovered dairy, gluten, black beans, and oats all brought the full wrath of hell down on me. It was pretty crazy when I was able to start peeling back the layers on it all and really understand how my body responds to different foods.
The Wrath of Food Sensitivity
About 2 hours after I eat something that gives me a reaction, I get a sudden wave of anxiety almost like a panic attack.
About an hour later, my body starts shutting down and I get really, really tired. Like it’s 3am and you wanted to leave two drinks ago but your friend is still going hard tired. There have been a few times when I’ve been driving home from a meeting when I’ve almost passed out while waiting for a stoplight to turn green.
Then, for the next 2-3 days, I’ll have severe depression-like symptoms, feeling like I don’t care about anything or anyone.
I’d describe the following 3-4 days as the feeling you have the day after a hangover…when you are crawling out of your skin and feel like punching most people in the face.
So, yeah, eat one wrong thing…and I pretty much lose a week of life. Pretty crappy.
So, Now What?
I recognized long ago the connection between emotions, thoughts, and actions. But discovering how food was affecting me made it crystal clear that our chemicals drive our emotions which drive our thoughts which drive our actions…which then drive our chemicals, and so the cycle continues…and that sleep, diet, exercise, and stress can hijack any one of those steps in the cycle, throwing everything off kilter.
With this knowledge, I completely changed my diet…and completely transformed my life. Does it make it a lot harder to order at restaurants? Yes. Does it make my grocery bills a whole lot higher? Yep, that too. But I can tell you to feel like a human again, to have consistent energy, to be able to connect with my kids…is worth every bit of it.
I’m sharing this story because I know I’m not the only one out there struggling and not knowing the cause. I’ve told this story hundreds of times (pretty much every time I order at a restaurant) and I know several people who have made changes in their diet with extraordinary results.
It’s pretty easy for these sorts of symptoms to be brushed aside as the stress of running a business, raising young kids, or getting older, as I did with mine for years. But you’ve got to take care of yourself so you can take care of those important in your life. Are there feelings you’re struggling through that you’ve simply accepted as part of life? What could be possible if those