How I overcame food intolerances: from just 8 foods to being able to eat anything

Eating a gluten free biscuit
I decided to write this blog post while I was eating a gluten free biscuit a couple of days ago.

 
 

You might be wondering why a gluten free biscuit is such a big deal. 

But to me it’s a huge deal.

And to explain why it means so much to me, I need to take you on a journey back in time.

 The only foods I could eat when my food sensitivities were at their worst

The only foods I could eat when my food sensitivities were at their worst

When I could eat just 8 foods
Let’s go back to September 2015. I’m in the UK speaking to the dietitian, Marianne Williams, who I was referred to by the allergist I came to the UK to visit, Dr Michael Radcliffe. 

My anxiety levels are through the roof as I describe what’s been happening and the debilitating symptoms I now experience after eating most foods. 

She’s caring and supportive. But when I explain to her what I’m currently eating to get through the day without throwing up multiple times, she’s clearly shocked.

Apples, grapes, carrots, broccoli, lettuce, cauliflower, marrows and mushrooms. 

And that’s it.


She tells me that I wouldn’t actually survive at this rate for much longer. And that shocks me.

It feels like I’ve really hit rock bottom (though little do I know that things are about to get worse as my chemical sensitivities will really kick in and I’ll become housebound in a month, as well as my chronic fatigue worsening to the point of barely being able to function).

The start of my journey with extreme food sensitivities
But this blog post is about food so let’s stick to that. As I hear the dietitian say that, I think back to how I reached this point.

 A few months before the start of my illness

A few months before the start of my illness

I remember how healthy and happy I was before this all started in February 2015. Then I think of the difficult months when I would throw up as often as 20 times in a day. No relief and no explanation about why this was happening to me. 

I think about the day I finally realised that rice seemed to make my symptoms worse. And how I eliminated rice and at the suggestion of one of my doctors corn too. 

And I remember how incredible the relief was back then. How good to be able to eat without dashing to the bathroom to throw up. To be well again and to be able to eat without worrying how I would feel afterwards. 

Becoming more and more sensitive
But then I also remember how short-lived that relief was. 

I remember how as time passed I became more and more sensitive, reacting to anything with even a minute amount of corn in it. So corn became my archenemy. It got so bad that I was carrying a three page list of anything which could possibly be derived from corn and checking anything over and over again before eating it. And it wasn’t just food – it was medicines and some types of water too.

My food sensitivities were worsening to the point that I would eliminate anything which made me sick – constantly trying to figure out what might have made me sick this time.

Just to stop throwing up. Just to be well enough to get through the day. 

Eating out became a nightmare and caused so much anxiety and stress that it was no longer worthwhile. Even eating at family and friends didn’t make sense any more as there were so many things they had to avoid and I was always anxious that something would go wrong. 

 A shadow of my former athletic self

A shadow of my former athletic self

Reintroducing foods but remaining restricted
Until we come back to me speaking to the dietitian in September 2015, able to eat only 8 foods and a shadow of my former athletic self.

And as we speak, we plan to start reintroducing one food at a time, starting with very small quantities and trying one a week. I wonder how my body will react, but one thing I am sure of is that I will be steering clear of the foods which I know I react to or which I have been told other people with corn intolerances react to.

For the rest of my life. No questions asked.

So corn (and anything potentially derived from corn) was at the top of my avoidance list, followed by rice, gluten, other grains, any dairy products, any nightshade vegetables and others. I was happy to see the list of foods I could eat increase but knew I would always keep making a lot of substitutions and was still only eating foods I had prepared myself.

And though my dietitian was amazing and helped me to regain my confidence and try many of the foods I had previously eliminated, nothing she could say was enough to convince me to even think about trying any of the foods on my avoidance list. 


Being able to eat anything I want thanks to neural retraining
Until I started neural retraining via DNRS in January 2016. I started it to treat multiple chemical sensitivity. I was sceptical about whether it could even help with this, but had absolutely no intention of using DNRS to work on my food sensitivities. 

It never even crossed my mind. I had food intolerances. The foods I was avoiding made me ill. Why would I ever try putting myself through that again? I was much happier and felt better avoiding them.

 Some of the foods I reintroduced within 4 months of starting DNRS, many of which I was sure I would never eat again

Some of the foods I reintroduced within 4 months of starting DNRS, many of which I was sure I would never eat again

But through DNRS things started to change really quickly. I started craving some of the foods on my avoidance list. Before DNRS, the anxiety I had developed around those foods made craving them impossible. I reintroduced all the items in this picture (many of which were on my avoidance list) within four months of starting DNRS. 

But I’ve since decided that I’d rather remain on a low gluten diet (for a number of reasons). But it’s a choice, not a necessity, and I still occasionally take a slice of pizza or a piece of cake.

The one food I was still mostly avoiding until recently was corn, my original archenemy. 

Why eating the gluten free biscuit was such a huge deal
So that’s why eating the gluten free biscuit was such a huge deal. Because corn (and rice) is commonly used in anything labelled gluten free, so after eliminating corn I never even looked at anything gluten free again.

Because the biscuit was full of things which I would have run a mile from not too long ago (including maize starch and maize flour). And because of all the possibilities it opens up: gluten free bread, crackers, biscuits, pasta, pizza and so on… 

Yes I’m aware that processed gluten free foods aren’t healthy and I won’t be eating them every day. But knowing that if and when I want to indulge myself I can is simply amazing.

And I wanted to write this because before I started DNRS, I wouldn’t even have dreamt of being able to eat the things I can eat today.

How you can overcome food intolerances
And because if you have food sensitivities, you can overcome them the way I did. It might not seem possible. I definitely didn’t think it was. 

But you don’t have to keep feeling restricted and isolated. You can enjoy eating the foods you used to before your sensitivities developed. You don’t have to wait and see the next food you need to eliminate to reduce the symptoms.

You can overcome this. All you need to do is to take the first step and trust that you can recover through neural retraining too. 

You can read more about how I recovered through DNRS here or feel free to contact me. You can also subscribe to receive updates at the top of the page.

 
 Photo by Rene Rossignaud Photography

Photo by Rene Rossignaud Photography