I Can’t Eat Gluten?

About a year ago, I started developing random outbreaks of giant, itchy hives on my legs, neck, or arms. I never knew when an outbreak would hit, and it would literally just come out of the blue.

At first, I attributed it to an allergic reaction to material I wore or soap I used. The welts were absolutely unbearable! They itched to the point that I would sometimes draw blood on my poor, over-scratched skin, and it would keep me up for hours in the middle of the night. The only relief I could find was to numb them with ice packs.

I went on countless doctor visits, and I had so much blood drawn, I wondered if I’d have any blood left. I took allergy tests – all to no avail! How could that be? How could everything come back negative, but my body was clearly having some sort of adverse reaction to something?

Well, I hit the internet and became the Queen of Google Searches. I spent hours doing online research, and I kept finding one common thread – gluten! I found it strange as I was one of those people who thought this new gluten-free diet that was all the rage was just a silly trend. I didn’t even know what it was!

I had to take a crash course on gluten and found out that it is a protein that acts as a glue in wheat, rye, and barley.  I started becoming hyper-aware of what I ate and how I felt. I started by eliminating gluten and had no reactions. Hmmm… I still didn’t entirely believe it. A life without regular bread, bagels, crackers, and pasta just seemed too depressing.  I couldn’t imagine that’s really what it was.

The metaphorical “straw that broke the camel’s back” was when I went on a trip to Philadelphia to visit my daughter. I figured – hey, I’m on vacation, I’m going to live it up and eat whatever the heck I want!  I had giant pancakes for breakfast and a delicious sandwich on bread for lunch. Within a few hours, the welts appeared.  Except this time, this was the worst reaction I had ever had! My legs swelled up, and the itching kept me up ALL NIGHT!  I was very close to going to an ER, but I ultimately chose not to go.  I had done so months before, and all I got was a prescription for a steroid and a referral to see an allergist.

However, my feet and legs were so swollen I had to wear flip flops in 40 degree weather. On my flight home, I realized that gluten had to be the culprit. I then started thinking back to my younger years and realized that I was probably always sensitive to gluten. I always had stomach problems if I ate big meals of pasta or bread, but thought it was just from overeating. I had to stop drinking beer a decade ago, because I realized how much it wrecked my stomach. Now, I know it was probably the barley in it (which contains gluten).

I was tested for celiac disease, and it came back negative, so I know I just have a severe intolerance to gluten. I have slowly been educating myself and am learning how to avoid it. Every now and then I get “glutened” when dining out, and it’s not fun. But the outbreaks are next to none now.

I have also found a wealth of support and some great alternative products that enable me to feel “normal.” I’ll share that next week!

In the meantime, has anyone else experienced this?

Here’s another one on my arm.
This is exactly how I felt when going to the doctor and getting my lab results.
These are photos from the infamous trip to Philadelphia. I was a mess!
Look how swollen my ankle is.
You can see the swelling in my feet and ankles.
Ice, ice, baby!



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