Thursday, July 26, 2007

Allergy Testing 101

I do want to talk about how happy I am that the album is here, I really do. I also want to talk about how awesome everyone has been about picking up a copy of the disc and buying CD release tickets, thus calming my financial worries a bit. I want laugh about how I was hungover this morning after drinking beer at the Manx with the lovely Casey Comeau, but then moved on to drink wine at a friend's house. Mixing beer and wine? Dumb. I didn't even do that in high school.

But in the end, I will rant about the so-called allergy specialist went to see yesterday.

I have a long list of food sensitivities. They aren't full-fledged allergies, and they don't launch me into anaphalaxis, but they do affect how I live. I am lactose intolerant. I don't eat much wheat. I don't eat meat, other than fish. MSG gives me an instant migraine, and makes me pass out. Same goes for a lot of processed foods. I don't manage processed sugar very well. Dust makes my skin crawl and my ears itch. I get random bouts of asthma-like breathing trouble. I was allergic to the city of London, and don't do well on smog days.


I've also had dark circles around my eyes since I was a kid. The one and only time these went away was when I did a massive cleansing diet in high school. I lost loads of weight and finally looked like I hadn't been hit in the face. The cleansing diet ended, and the circles came back.


Last winter, I had trouble falling asleep one night. My breathing was very tight and I had trouble sucking in enough breath to calm me down. I stayed awake until 5am, and called in sick to work. That tightness lasted a full week, and despite taking my puffer, nothing changed. At this point, my doctor referred me to an allergy specialist she knew. I was excited to ask a million questions about my health. She wanted to find out what was wrong with my lungs.

Yesterday, the long-awaited appointment came. I explained my concerns, my sensitivities, and my weird asthma thing. I told him about the dark circles and how they only went away when I stopped eating just about everything in my regular diet. I said that my ears got itchy, like really itchy, when I was around dust. He seemed quite nice. He did the test where he made tiny pin pricks all up my arms - probably 60 in total - and smeared various substances into them. He also tested my lung capacity.

I waited around, bleeding and itchy, in the waiting room with about 20 screaming children. Half an hour later, he brought me back in.

He said a few things here, most of which I will put down to general idiocy.

First, he said that the dark circles were related to my asthma, and that they would never go away. That one time where they mysteriously disappeared apparently had nothing to do with the cleansing diet. I was deeply skeptical.

Then he said that the itchy ears that flare up when I am around dust are not because of dust. Maybe they are because of eczema, he offered. Uh, no? But thanks?

Best of all, he concluded that my asthma-like breathing problems are not asthma, and that I do not have asthma. Thank you, kind doctor, but it seems to me you just passed off the dark circles as asthma, correct?

"You are allergic to nothing," he stated helpfully.

I actually laughed - which I think he understood as gratitude. No, I don't have serious allergies, but trying to tell me nothing is wrong is about as useful as a kick in the eye.

So I left, frustrated and still oozing blood, and quite annoyed that I had wasted my morning there. I've now done both allergy extremes. This guy, who doesn't seem to recognize anything that won't kill you, and the Vega test I do every few years.

The Vega test is a hippie dippie and somewhat controversial method of allergy and food sensitivity testing. Most doctors scoff at it, which is why I tried it at all. It's interesting, but overwhelming, because it tests EVERYTHING under the sun. If you are even mildly sensitive to something, it shows up on your results. Finally, you end up with a fairly scary and long list of "allergies" of which only a few are worth watching out for. I, for example, am apparently sensitive to black cherries. But I am also sensitive to lactose and wheat, which is far more useful for me to know. Anyways. Many of the people who administer the Vega test are not doctors, and are sometimes not always helpful at telling you how to proceed with your gargantuan list of problems. But for general knowledge? Very cool.

I think I will stick to holistic medicine and self-diagnosis for a while. I feel much more able to assess what my body is doing after witnessing the magic of mainstream allergy testing. If magic was a synonym for shit. It's about that useful.


zoom said...

That's very interesting. I have dark circles under my eyes too, and some shortness of breath that started a few weeks ago. Now I'm wondering if it's being caused by asthma, not-asthma, or black cherries.

Andrea SK said...

We could start a club. Black Cherry Sufferers Unite, or perhaps, Dark Circles Make Us Sexy.

I suspect that the circles are mostly related to my wheat intolerance, but I have bad discipline around cakes and pies. Until I learn to say no, they will be here to stay.

The breathing problems are still a mystery. It must be the cherries.