Saturday, March 28, 2009

Frustrated with Allergy Shots--What Now???

I went on the elimination diet, as my allergist recommended, and stayed on it. Except for accidental exposure/ingestion of my allergens, I didn't cheat. I started the shots as well.

I did feel somewhat better, but not great. And when ragweed season(August--read: Allergic Hell month) came, I felt HORRIBLE. No better than if I was just taking Loratadine every day. And I was taking it every day AND getting the shots AND avoiding all of my known allergenic foods and their families...and still felt horrible and could barely function.

I tried to add foods back in, but with no sure success. So then I would go back on the diet until I had the week of no reactions, and then try a different food....and have some sort of reaction, and then back on the diet until I had a week of no reactions, which took forever to get to that point...

I had very little success in adding any new foods in. When I asked the allergist or his assistant about what to do, I was told to give the new food a month to be sure I was or wasn't reacting. I suspected my cycles to have something to do with how/when I reacted to things, so the thought was to give it the whole month and see if there was a pattern. Obviously, if I had an obvious immediate reaction, I would quit that food and go back on the elimination diet until I had a week free of reactions, and then attempt to add back a different food.

Over the course of the time I was on the elimination diet, I repeatedly tried to add wheat back in. According to my skin testing, I should have been ok with it, but I could tell I was having reactions to it. Not the immediate reaction, but a few months ago I noticed that when I ate something with wheat flour(using flour from the corn-free foods list), I would get the hiccups. After 3 days of having wheat, I developed back pain under the left shoulderblade, heartburn, and then progressed to abdominal pain and other symptoms.

I believe I was also becoming more and more sensitive to new things. It was like my body was saying "Hey, my allergens are gone--I need something new to react to--let's react to something else!".
I started reacting noticeably to things such as dishwasher detergent, scented dishsoap, people's perfume/aftershave smell, fabric softener smell on other people's clothes, food smells in the air. Exposure to these things would cause me to have instant brain fog, itchy nose, sinus irritation/drainage and headache.
If I washed the kids' hair with baby shampoo or used conditioner, or got conventional dishwashing liquid on my hands, they would be raw, cracked and sore for 3 days.

I also started to have a stiff neck, jaw pain/clicking, constant drainage down my throat, clogged sinuses. Finally I was able to get a Rx from the allergist(antibiotics-a Z-pack) and started feeling better...but then THAT caused other issues(read: yeast problems) that the allergist only wanted to treat with creams. I suspected systemic yeast problems but could not get a Rx for a systemic antifungal. In an attempt to get control over the yeast, I started making my own kefir and drinking that everyday.

In addition to the struggle of adding new foods(and trying to stick to the crazy limited diet) and becoming more sensitive to new things, and the sinus problems, my shots were giving me problems. I've always had problems with my left arm itching after the shots and had mentioned it to the doc. He told the nurses to make sure I had taken my Loratadine, do an epi rinse on the needle before getting the serum ready, then follow the shot with a cream and then ice. Well, I was still itching as the shots increased. Then they reformulated my serums, making them weaker. Still, my left arm was itching for days. Especially if/when I was exposed to something I was allergic to--even something like, say, the smell of a Sharpie marker(which contains corn).

All of these problems got worse over the holiday season(and I stuck to my diet the best I knew how, fixing my own dishes for Thanksgiving and Christmas and avoiding the rest of the family's food for the most part).

In October, I found a thread in the Avoiding Corn forum about a treatment for allergies called Advanced Allergy Therapeutics, or AAT. Come to find out, there was a AAT doc(Chiro) near me. I wasn't ready to jump in yet (seeing as I have been paying for all this allergy stuff out-of-pocket and I am not monetarily rich), but happened to find someone from another state that was going to the AAT doc near me. I began to follow their journey and correspond via email to get updates as to how things were going for them. They were having excellent success and were able to eat the foods they were allergic to with no problems. They really encouraged me to make an appointment.

I asked my conventional allergist what his thoughts were in regards to AAT, and was told "Nothing has been proven with those types of treatments. There are only testimonials, but no scientific evidence. I wouldn't advise throwing too much money in their direction."

I took his advice with a grain of salt, knowing that his whole background was likely from Western medicine. I also knew that his therapy-the shots-only had an 85% likelihood of working(after $1000's of dollars invested), and his therapy would not even address the food allergy issues unless you count the *possible* indirect "get the pollen/mold/epithelial allergies under control and *maybe* then your body will quit reacting to foods"...

FINALLY, in January, I made an appointment with the AAT doc for Valentine's Day. I waited for that day, wondering what it would bring. Would the testing show any similarities to the skin prick testing? Would the treatments work? Would I react to the treatments? Could I start to live a normal life again and not constantly be worried about what to eat, what to breathe, what to wash with, for pete's sake???

And would I go broke with this therapy?

Only time would tell.

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