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?