allergies, fitness, food allergies, health, lifestyle

Food Allergy Testing: Improving Health and Fitness through Self-Awareness

My fitness journey started around the beginning of 2016 but I only REALLY committed to improving both my overall fitness AND health at the beginning of 2017 when I started documenting my home-cooked dinners/daily workouts on my Instagram account @cook2lean. In terms of my goals, not a LOT has changed, but the @cook2lean Instagram is now dedicated primarily to food posts, since I now have this blog as an outlet to discuss fitness-related topics.

That being said, this year I officially got booted from my parent’s health insurance because I reached the tender age of 26 and had to get my own through my employer. Because my health was now fully in my own hands, I decided that this was the year I was going to take full ownership of it, and I was going address any issues that I’d been dealing with for the past few years that had gone ignored, including allergies.

I’ve always had a known allergy to pollen because when spring rolls around, I am in complete misery even though I WANT to enjoy the weather – itchy eyes, itchy nose, itchy/sore throat, stuffy nose, runny nose – I deal with all of these symptoms at the same time all day, and they are barely alleviated by Claritin-D. If I decide to go on a run outside without taking an antihistamine beforehand, I will end up having an allergic reaction which usually entails the symptoms above in addition to hives, facial swelling, and a hard time breathing. Good times!

Despite having a history of environmental allergies AND food allergies these past few years, I had never been formally tested for any allergies. All of the food allergies that I had knowledge of had developed over time and were discovered by accident or in complex situations where I couldn’t pinpoint the direct cause of the reaction. For example, when I was in high school, I had an anaphylactic reaction to (what I thought at the time) were apples. But I had also eaten Sabre Hummus before the reaction so I wasn’t sure if it was the apples or ingredients in the hummus after I had realized that the culprit could have been one of two things. It turns out it wasn’t the apples because when I got tested for food allergies last week I didn’t react to apples at all (more info about that in a little bit)! A few years later, my brother was snacking on almonds and gave me one  to try, and 30 minutes later, we were speeding through red lights as he tried to get me to a hospital because I was turning purple from being unable to breathe. I ended up being okay about 30 minutes after taking a few Benodryls, but I was in full panic mode during those 30 minutes thinking I was about to die from suffocation! In that case, it was definitely the almond I was allergic to, so since then I have stayed away from any tree nuts…actually, there were a few other instances of tree nuts I reacted to before I completely decided to stop pushing my luck but there are too many accidental anecdotes to list at this point.

During college, I ate peanut butter every once in a while thinking I was ONLY allergic to tree nuts (since peanuts are not tree nuts, but legumes – one of my favorite fun food facts) and I never reacted to peanuts previously. But after working out post-peanut butter consumption one day I had an allergic reaction which resulted in hives, swelling, and a hard time breathing. So I quit peanut butter altogether after that.

So after all these trials and errors, you’d THINK that I would have been smart enough to get tested for food allergies already to avoid further risk, but dealing with my parent’s health insurance and medicals bills and claims while I was in school and after college was always confusing – and as a result I avoided seeing doctors for a few years. Post-college I also had a job that wasn’t as flexible about in-office hours as my current job is, so that also deterred me from going and seeing any specialists about my allergy problems or any other medical problems I had. Now that I work for a company that allows me to work from home on an as-needed basis it’s much easier to focus on my health without having to sacrifice a vacation day, which is what I would have had to do in my previous job.

This year, taking control of my health is my main objective, and that’s why I recently decided to finally get tested for food allergies. It’s been a few years since I’ve had any food-related reactions, and I wanted to find out (1) If I was still allergic to peanuts and tree nuts, because if it turned out I have grown out of the allergy it would change my life and allow me to expand my adventures in the kitchen (spoiler alert: I did not grow out of the nut allergy so MERP) and (2) if I was allergic to any other foods that I wasn’t aware of. In the past 1.5 years or so, my nutrition and health has had a complete overhaul compared to what it was before, and as a result, I feel great when I’m consistently eating whole, unprocessed food. But now I also notice a HUGE difference  in how I feel when I eat things that I no longer consume in my every day diet such as wheat products and cheese, which is one of the reasons I wanted to get tested for food allergies/intolerances. I found that I would get super sleepy, foggy brain, and my digestion would be completely screwed for the next 24-28 hours after indulging on things like cheesy pasta or pizza – even in moderation.

A few weeks ago I finally decided to commit the time and money to getting  tested for food allergies, and last week I got tested for food allergies as well as environmental allergies. As it turns out, I am allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, milk, and I am also allergic to soybeans and sesame which I was NOT initially aware of. I had actually been cooking with soy sauce and sesame oil quite often before being tested for food allergies without any noticeable symptoms after eating meals that contained either ingredient. But I also had several sinus infections back to back for a few months in the last few months during the time I was heavily cooking with soy and sesame, so it’s very possible that exposing myself to those allergens (without knowing they were allergens at the time) was causing inflammation, compromising my immune system and increasing my risk of getting sick.

Being equipped with this new (expensive) knowledge is definitely going to allow me to treat my body a little better this year now that I know what types of food trigger negative reactions. As a result I think it will make it just a little bit easier to meet my fitness goals. I can’t expect my body to give me the results I’m looking for if I’m constantly poisoning it, so I really want to start getting better at avoiding or at least limiting the intake of foods I’m sensitive to. I think it will be much easier to lose excess fat with reduced exposure to allergens since I’ll experience less inflammation. When your body is stressed, it doesn’t always do what you want it to do, so I really can’t expect it to operate in its prime if I’m constantly stressing it with allergens. I will probably never be able to 100% give up cheese, but I can at least decide that I will only have it in moderation or on special occasions without gorging myself lol.

Just in case anyone is interested in the time/cost of food allergy testing, the consultation and testing took about two hours total and I was billed $431 so it was not cheap in terms of time OR cost (Note: I’m in a high deductible plan with my health insurance which is the reason the cost was high, but this visit helped me reach my deductible which means I’ll no longer be fully eating the costs for medical-related visits moving forward. If you have a lower deductible or better coverage through your insurance this could cost you less…or more if vice versa). This particular visit was only part 1 of 2 visits though – I have a follow up appointment in a few weeks to complete testing for environmental allergies.

I will likely post an update blog in a few weeks about managing my newfound allergies and let you guys know if it’s made any difference in achieving health/fitness goals. Has anyone else had any experience with food allergy/intolerance testing and how has it helped you with your health? I’d love to hear from anyone else with a similar experience!

Speaking of fitness goals, I went to get my body composition/body fat percentage and resting metabolic rate analyzed at the University of Pittsburgh’s Neuromuscular Research Lab this past week and was really happy with the results I received! My next fitness-related post will go into more detail about the experience for anyone who would be interested in getting their body composition/fat percentage analyzed and happens to live in the Pittsburgh area! I promise that my next blog post before then will be some sort of food recipe to share with you guys though. 🙂

Feel free to check out my previous blog posts, leave a comment on this blog post, follow my Facebook page, or follow my Instagram page where I post pictures of my dinner daily! Let me know if you see anything you’d like a recipe for. Until next time!

 

Previous blog posts:

Experimenting with 5 Days of Reduced Meat Consumption

Crispy Pan Fried Tilapia (Gluten Free)

Fresh Mango Avocado Salsa

Positive Reinforcement: Staying Motivated During Your Fitness Journey

Zucchini Crust Pizza

Weight Loss and Keeping Weight Off – What Worked (and Still Works) for Me 20+ lbs Later

Pan seared salmon with creamy cauliflower mash and sauteed brussel sprouts

My Health and Fitness Journey: Cook2Lean

 

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