If you had told me a year ago that I would spend months suffering from debilitating back pain, undergo tests, x-rays, and months of physical therapy all to find out that the root cause was a food allergy, I would have laughed in your face.
But that’s my story over the past year and I share it with the hope that if you spot these symptoms in yourself (or your kids), that you’ll take a look at your diet before going to the doctor.
Sometime around the beginning of 2020, maybe the end of 2019, I’m not exactly sure when, I started having lower back pain. It progressively got worse and I kept telling myself reasons/excuses for why I had this pain.
I just need more core strength.
I‘m carrying my toddler too much.
I’m not as fit as I used to be.
I spent too much time on my feet today.
Our mattress is old and doesn’t provide good back support.
Like many moms, I’m not the best at taking care of myself. Truthfully, I didn’t think it was that serious of an issue. So we got a new mattress, pillows, I changed my workouts. Nothing seemed to help and it was getting worse. It got to the point that I used combinations of ibuprofen and lidocaine patches to get through the day.
By the time October 2020 came around, I was hurting so much that the pain would take my breath away at times. I hobbled around the kitchen and had to hold onto the counter in order to stand up. Any change of direction such as going from standing to sitting, or standing to laying in bed, took triple the time it should.
I was grumpy, obviously. And my family was frustrated that they couldn’t help alleviate the pain. It seemed no matter what I did, I was miserable.
This was no way to live. Once I finally got in to see my doc, she ordered x-rays, which showed that I had spinal compression and deterioration. However, she said it looked more like the back of a mom who has been carrying three kids around rather than someone who’d be experiencing this level of pain.
She sent me to a physical therapist.
Call it divine intervention, a gift from God, or just good luck, but the Physical Therapist (PT) that our family has seen for years ended up having the exact same pain and symptoms that I was having a few years prior. Like me, she tried several options before realizing the connection to food.
We worked for a few sessions on strengthening my deep spinal muscles and glutes, but I was still in pain.
She became more and more convinced that the root cause was food related, and I thought she was crazy. Then she told me to keep a food journal and notice if my pain spiked about 30 minutes after eating. Well, it did. And it got worse as the day progressed.
After keeping an even more detailed food journal, I noticed right away which foods made my pain spike. It seemed that several of the common allergy triggers seemed to set me off – wheat, soy, egg, and an unusual one – peas.
At her recommendation, I took a food allergy blood test. The results showed that I was not allergic to any of those foods I listed above. At first, I was so confused. How could these foods trigger such a strong reaction in my body if I wasn’t allergic to them?
After talking with my PT again, and doing some research on how our body reacts to foods, I now believe that while I do not have a true food allergy, my body is not able to effectively process certain foods, and it’s manifesting itself in the pain I feel.
In other words, my body’s natural filters (kidneys, liver, intestines) are a bit clogged up from 40 years of use. Foods that in other times in my life didn’t bother me, are now getting bogged down in my body’s systems. The pain I feel is the discomfort in those systems.
I immediately cut out all foods that contain wheat, soy, egg, and peas/pea protein/pea fiber. That was hard because we’ve been a gluten free household for some time and nearly all gluten free foods contain at least one of those items. Actually, in hindsight, I think my pain started about the same time we made our household gluten free.
My pain almost completely vanished overnight.
Even more surprising was how much stronger my body reacted if I accidentally ate something that contained one of those foods. I felt feverish, had a headache, became nauseous and had diarrhea on top of the back pain.
Is This Forever?
Research on all of this is new and evolving. Our body’s relationship with food is complex, to say the least.
Most research shows that eliminating a certain allergenic food from your diet for 3-6 months is enough time for your body to hit reset, clean itself out, and be able to tolerate that food again.
I’m on month two or three of that timeline and plan to give it a full six months before I attempt to bring those foods back into my diet. Since I cut it all out, I feel better, my skin looks better, my mood is more predictable, and I’m not in a high level of pain all day.
If this is my ‘new normal’ then I think I’ll choose this over the former.