It’s an interesting conundrum: When you’ve started to remove allergens and experience relief from symptoms, how do you know when your body is functioning normally again? How do you know when your body is experiencing no more allergy symptoms?
If you’re anything like me or the people whose stories I’ve read, you suffered from allergy symptoms long before you identified your allergens, or even before you realized you were allergic. Perhaps it crept up gradually, starting with symptoms so minimal that you didn’t even notice. Maybe you first noticed a constantly runny nose, maybe it was stomach upset, maybe it was a slight rash. You knew something was up, but you figured it was benign; a cold, a change in humidity, or some bad food. It was only when the symptoms didn’t go away that you started to question what was wrong, and only once you saw a good doctor, were referred to a specialist, and got tested that you started to take back the power to feel better. By the time you identified allergies and began to treat the symptoms it could be years after the symptoms first began. You no longer remember what it felt like before you were ill. You don’t remember how normal skin, sinuses, or stomachs feel. So you begin to feel better. You think, “I’m so much better! This is wonderful!” You feel so great that you don’t notice any lingering symptoms, and can’t identify what about your body still isn’t normal. The biggest symptoms, the ones that alerted you to the problem, are gone, and those minuscule symptoms go unnoticed. You think everything is great…until those little symptoms grow and you realize that you’re not better yet.
This is what happened to me. I learned about my lactose and egg intolerances and avoided them. My stomach felt so much better! Of course there was nothing else wrong in my stomach. I found out about my contact allergies and removed them. Suddenly my eyes were no longer swelling up and my rashes were occasional and minimal. Certainly that little bit could be accounted for by uncontrollable continuing exposures. There’s no reason to believe anything else is wrong! But then my stomach became sporadically upset, even though I thought I was avoiding everything. No problem, I must not be avoiding everything, or I must have been eating other things that my body just didn’t like that much. My scalp remained itchy on a semi-regular basis, occasionally getting flaky. My skin started to slough off more again, creating a crumbly mess when I dried my legs and feet after my shower, as well as excessively coming off certain other places while in the shower. Some of my lymph nodes were still occasionally bothering me. It must be because I haven’t changed all my pants seams to cotton and maybe the oil I’m using on my skin is slightly contaminated with my allergens. These are the things I told myself. This was my normal.
It wasn’t until my throat started to feel tight after eating certain foods that I discovered my error. What I was experiencing after the “relief of my allergy symptoms” wasn’t normal. I wasn’t caused by my having uncontrollable exposures (although those still do happen) or by missing some form of contamination in my oil. No. It was because I was still eating my allergen. My entire body was reacting to my ingestion of my allergen. My stomach was complaining that it was having to digest something it felt was toxic. My skin and scalp were itchy, dry, and sloughing off because they were reacting to the presence of my allergen in my body. My lymph nodes were acting up because they were still being exposed to my allergen. I was poisoning myself with my allergen from the inside.
Since I stopped eating my allergen, my stomach has no longer felt upset, aside from one minor twinge that happened once and felt nothing like the previous stomach discomfort. My skin still itches after I’ve been out in public, but my scalp has stopped itching and I have now dried my legs and feet twice with NO skin sloughing at all. I can’t remember that not happening before. My lymph nodes have settled down, mostly. My skin oil is not bothering my skin. Oddly, I think I am feeling full more easily. My stomach is less bloated. I think I may still be eating my allergen in small quantities from time to time while I figure out everything to avoid, but I’m improving.
I think this is my new normal. Is it actually normal? Is how I feel right now how normal, allergy-free people feel? I don’t know. Only time will tell. What I do know is that this normal feels better than the last normal. If there’s another normal in my future, I hope it’s even better.
Did you ever think your body was back to normal only to discover later that you were still experiencing allergy symptoms? How do you define “normal” after experiencing allergy symptoms? Comment below.