Wednesday, 13 June 2007

On Monday I went for a food intolerance test in Truro. It turns out I'm sensitive to dairy products, soya, peas, lentils, chick peas, beans, chocolate, onions, brussel sprouts, tomatoes and coffee. Coffee and onions I already knew made me squiffy, legumes I was totally shocked at.

Five years ago I was diagnosed as suffering from Crohn's Disease, which is basically where your digestive system starts to attack itself and ulcerates, up to the point where, if left untreated, it can "burn" a hole right through itself. Your body just doesn't absorb enough minerals and, combined with even the simplest food making you feel sick, that means you loose a lot of weight very quickly and feel like poo 95% of the time.

Back then, I was trying to complete my second year at uni, but I kept missing days, arriving late because I was kept up half the night with violent stomach cramps, falling asleep at my desk, and generally not doing very well. There was a point were I lived on dry Rice Krispies and bread. So, after many, many trips to hospital, the doctors finally discovered the Crohn's and I was put on steroids and other drugs to control it. Initially the steroids worked like magic - I highly recommend them to all - but, come the summer holidays, I was booked in to have the Evil part of my intestine removed.

It was amazing. Such a change. A week Inside followed by six weeks of taking it easy and no driving for a month. Plus, no alcohol, which meant a dry 21st birthday. Start of symptoms to operation took a year.

But, since then, it's all been pretty good. I'm all-clear. The only thing is, whenever there may be the slightest hint of a stomach ache or a tummy bug, I instantly go into Panic Mode and assume I'll be wheeled back Inside in no time. It's all in my head, I know, but it really raises the stress levels, which, of course, makes it all worse.

So, you can imagine what I was like when both Lovely Jon and I had a bug at the end of the Easter holidays. We were staying with our respective parents - who only live three miles apart - back in Surrey. Jon felt sick two days before coming home, and I, naturally, started to feel exceedingly dodgy the night before. The car journey home took over seven hours. SEVEN HOURS. Usually we do it in four and a half. I had to stop for the loo a lot. A lot. And I was hysterical to boot.

Since then, a good nine weeks or so ago, I have felt, well, Not Right. The thought of leaving the house made me have panic attacks. Just getting in the car made me feel sick. Going somewhere and not knowing where the toilets were was unthinkable. So, basically, since then I haven't really gone out. You can tell by looking at me. My skin is vile, I must've put on a stone at least, and having to be somewhere with more than three people terrifies me.

But the last two weeks have been much better. I've been making myself go on short trips out - places where I know there are toilets. Places that aren't too far away. Or if they are far away, we go on the train so I know I'm not too far away from a loo. If I drive, I don't panic.

My goal was to be OK for the Royal Cornwall Show this weekend, and I was fine. That's not to say I'm completely over it. I still have to remind myself where the toilets are, just in case, but only once or twice, instead of every five minutes, and Immodium has become my new best friend, but I'm getting there.

So I took the the food test to try to clear up those niggly doubts I still had. Maybe something had upset my insides at Easter, and was still causing me to have some problems weeks later. And the no.1 culprit appears to be dairy products. Easter=chocolate. And I knew I shouldn't have tested all those cream teas! Back when I was ill even the thought of milk and butter completely turned my stomach, so I should've seen it coming.

The advice has been to exclude dairy for a month, and then slowly re-introduce it to see how much my body can cope with. The thing is, soya - being a bean - comes up as being a problem food for me too, and the vast majority of vegan milk replacements are made from soya. Fun. I don't recommend trying to find a non-dairy based "butter" in Asda, by the way. I have some oat milk, which tastes slightly nutty but chalky, and some rice milk, which is better but very sweet. I had to plump for a soya-based spread in the end as there was just nothing else, but I am using it very sparingly. At the moment I'm just excluding dairy, so if I continue to have problems the legumes will have to go, too.

When I found all this out on Monday, I was quite happy about it. An explanation for my squiffiness, I thought, but going to find replacement foods has been quite traumatic. I love milk so much and replacing it with ground-up rice just isn't the same. I got quite down about it yesterday, and that seems to have continued into today. My advice booklet says this is normal. Removing something you eat or drink every day from your diet can be like a drug addict going cold turkey and can leave you with all the withdrawal symptoms.

But I'm trying to be positive about it. I will get used to it, and it is helping me. (I hope.) But I don't recommend oat milk if you don't have to. Really.


Catherine said...

Poor you!
I hope you manage to find some good alternative foods. Holland and Barrett or Hendra Health in Truro might be your best bet.
Hope you're feeling better soon.

lorna said...

Awwww, Em! You've been through so much! Hope that the dairy free diet is the answer and you feel right as rain soon. xxxxxxx