Food Challenge Rounds 20 & 21: Cindy vs. Apricot and Cottonseed Oil

I didn’t get a chance to write about last week’s food challenge – dried apricots – but that’s pretty ok, considering how uneventful it was. Basically, I ate a bunch of apricots, talked to the doctor for ten minutes, went home, and went on with my life. You know, the way normal people eat food. They just eat it. It was cool to experience that with a food I’ve been terrified of for basically my whole life for no other reason than I can’t tell the difference between an apricot, a peach, and a nectarine and that unsettles me.

So woohoo! I can eat apricots! Celebrate good times, come on. Or something.

I'd rather eat an apricot than cottonseed oil anyway.

I’d rather eat an apricot than cottonseed oil anyway.

Today’s cottonseed oil challenge was a whole ‘nother story. One that starts with two bites of an omelet fried in cottonseed oil and two baby bites of a sweet potato drizzled with cottonseed oil and ends with anaphylaxis.

This was the quickest and most severe reaction I’ve ever had. I started coughing at the second bit of the sweet potato, but figured that sometimes people cough, and took a second bite of the egg (I was alternating sweet potato, egg, sweet potato, egg to make sure I didn’t eat too quickly). After that second bite, I pushed the tupperware away and started panting. The doctor looked at me and kneeled down to be eye level to my sitting in the office chair and asked what was happening.

“Help” was all I could say.

He ran to tell the nurse to prep the epi injection, and came back and said “Tell me what you feel.” Through gulps of air, I explained that I felt like I was running a marathon but I didn’t run marathon and the air was not coming out and I was scared.

The nurse shot me with the epi and then took me to a room for a Benedryl injection. I stayed there shaking for a little while and then poked my head out because my throat started feeling tighter and tighter. They switched my room because the patient occupying the closest room to the doctor’s actual office had finally left (ok, so it was 20 minutes and that person is entitled to be a patient, too, I guess) and gave me more epi. So that meant more shaking but some major relief.

I just sat on the exam table without moving for a really long time, staring off into space, unable to lie down or close my eyes because I was too out of it. Finally, I mustered the strength to take a nap. I woke up periodically for more medicine – some inhaled steroids, more Benedryl – but essentially just lay there sleeping. I’d say “dead to the world” because that’s the accurate idiom, but considering I could have actually died that doesn’t seem so cool anymore).  The nurse brought me some extra sweaters and jackets because I was freezing — it was about 80 degrees in the office and I could hear all the patients complaining about the heat and the nurses on the phone with the building to fix the thermostat, but I was freezing in my t-shirt, sweater, and shearling jacket.

Finally, at around 1pm, I woke up and had enough strength to stand up. I’d been at the doctor since 7:30am. I started eating at about 7:40, and got sick at 7:45. That’s a long time to be at the doctor. They joked that I worked there, and never one to miss moment, I suggested they pay me for my time. They responded they charge by the hour, and we all had a good laugh.

I had enough strength to drive the mile home, which was good, even though the valet guy who is the best in the world offered to drive me home, and  told me he would drive me home at any point if I was this sick. Such a good hearted man.

I got home, called my mom, and slept on and off for the next 5 and a half hours. I’d be perfectly awake one minute, just lying down, and the next minute, I’d look at the time on my tv and realize I’d been asleep for 40 minutes. I guess 100mg of Benadryl, 2-ish doses of epi, and not breathing will do that to you. Kind of knocked the wind out of my sails, but hey. I learned something.

Actually, I learned a few things:

1. I can never have Pringles again (until the food industry realizes cottonseed oil is so unhealthy and they switch to canola)

2. A hello kitty bandaid makes everything better. I’ll totally take Benadryl injections into my hip if it means getting some hello kitty fun.

3. Passover is my favorite holiday even though it’s really not accommodating of my allergies. Like, seriously? Maror and cottonseed oil? Come on.

4. Epinephrine really does work and it’s not scary. Not breathing is scary. Breathing is great.

5. Rapping Nicki Minaj is a good test to see if I can breathe. Because I tried it quietly at the doctor’s office, and only got to the line “he ill, he real, he might got a deal” before I started panting — and that’s only the 5th line.

FOOD CHALLENGE TALLY

Cindy: 14

Allergens: 7

Next Up: Grape Juice (for sulfites and passover. and bc I’m 99.9% sure it’s fine since I have other wine and grapes and raisins and there’s no way I can do a rough challenge while I recover from this lovely bout of anaphylaxis).

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Food Challenge Round 19: Cindy vs. Buckwheat

First, I want to say how proud I am that I’ve actually tried the foods I’ve said I would for the last few weeks. No more last minute changes. But I do sort of wish that I’d made a last minute swap for apricots this week, as I’m 99% sure I’ve eaten apricots and been fine (I never actually tested positive for them, or tested for them at all, but for some reason they terrify me and I feel like I need to eat them where I know I’m safe to overcome this totally irrational fear). I wish I’d made the switch, because buckwheat went…mediocrely.

Hey look! It's two foods I can't eat for the price of one!

Hey look! It’s two foods I can’t eat for the price of one!

I cooked buckwheat pancakes in the morning and they smelled FOUL. But when I tasted them at the doctor’s office, they were delicious. So right away I knew something was up, but I can’t really get my head straight before 9am most days and I was operating on almost no sleep and two consecutive 12+ hour workdays at my 8am challenge, so I let it be. After one pancake though, I got this weird airy feeling in my throat and chest. I’ve had this feeling before, and I usually ignore it and keep eating, and then get sick. It’s the impending doom feeling. It happened with pickles, it happens all the time with watermelon, and it used to happen with blueberries and walnuts when I still ate those. So this time, I trusted my gut and asked the doctor if I could stop eating. (I’m learning how to be safe, yay!). He said sure, and we just chatted about his latest Now That’s What I Call Music 45 CD.

And then the tingling started. No big deal, but like, my lips and chin and jaw started feeling…off. Not swollen. Not painful. Just, annoying. And hyperaware. And tingly. Like my whole body had become centralized in my face and I couldn’t balance out. This did not concern the doctor, who said I had no visible signs of sickness. Twenty minutes later, when the tingling persisted but didn’t get worse, he released me, with no medicine. We called it a “slight positive.” Meaning, I can have exactly that amount of buckwheat on rare occasions if I need to. Sort of like onion powder. But, unlike onion powder, I don’t think I’m going to be coming across buckwheat that often. And considering I’ve avoided onion powder successfully since that challenge a few months ago, I think the point is moot.

Anyone 3/4 of a bag of buckwheat flour? Because for $5.99 (for like 4 cups, mind you), that flour needs a good home.

Oh, and ps. Now that I can’t have buckwheat, I feel like I will get more incensed the next time someone suggests I eat gluten-free. Nope. I can eat real wheat (sort of) and I cannot have one of the standard gluten-free wheats, so world, stop asking if your gluten free cookies or cakes or what-have-yous are helpful to me. They aren’t. /endrant

FOOD CHALLENGE TALLY

Cindy: 13

Allergens: 6

Next Up: Apricots

Benadryl, Epipen, and…Nicki Minaj?

When you have food allergies, people tell you you’re crazy all the time. Not in those words, per se, but they imply it’s all in your head. Which is super frustrating, especially when you start to believe that. When you resist care because you assume you must be crazy. I mean, if you think about, potentially dying, like immediately, because you ate a peanut is a little strange, especially when most of the population eats peanuts all the time.

So aside from reacting like this:

Amazing cartoon courtesy of http://foodallergyfun.blogspot.com/.

Amazing cartoon courtesy of http://foodallergyfun.blogspot.com/.

I find that I’ve also developed other coping mechanisms. Little checks to see if the allergy is in my head or real. Is it just a panic attack or is my throat actually tight? Is chest tightness accompanying my hives because my chest is actually getting tight, or are the hives making me so scared I’m having a panic reaction? In other words: do I need to go to the hospital or do I need to get a grip and put on some steroid cream, pop some Benadryl, and move about my daily business.

What are these checks, you may ask? Well, there’s one I use all the time, and it’s terribly unscientific but it totally works.

I rap.

And not just any rap.

I rap Superbass by Nicki Minaj.

I know her hair may look like Benadryl, but Nicki Minaj is not a remedy for food allergies. At least not a doctor approved one.

I know her hair may look like Benadryl, but Nicki Minaj is not a remedy for food allergies. At least not a doctor approved one.

Now, I’ve alluded to this behaviour before, but at the time I thought it was a one time check. But as I found myself staring at my hives in the bathroom mirror rapping Superbass earlier this evening when my dinner caused a hives breakout, it dawned on me that this rap test has become a regular occurrence.

And it sort of makes sense. Because you need a lot of breath control to rap. And if your airwaves are closing, you don’t have breath control. So if I can get through the first verse of Superbass without stopping for air, I know I’m not having a potentially fatal reaction.

You’d think I’d be a better rapper by now.

Oh, and because disclaimers are cool: Don’t try this at home. Be smarter than I am, and seek medical attention. Don’t let the fools who don’t believe in allergies mess with your head that you find yourself on the brink of death. Because, you know, Nicki might be awesome, but she’s not that awesome.

Food Challenge Round 17: Cindy vs. Roasted Garlic Hummus

I was terrified before my challenge this morning. The last time I had sesame, I just barely passed, and since Sabra Roasted Garlic Hummus has some tahine in it, I was nervous. But I miss hummus, it’s a great and popular food, and I know I’ve eaten it successfully on may an occasion. So it was worth a try.

I used to eat these every Friday for lunch. Good to know I can know eat this on occasion.

I used to eat these every Friday for lunch. Good to know I can know eat this on occasion.

And in fact, I am not allergic to it! Hooray! That part of my doctor’s visit was uneventful. I ate half the tub of the snack size hummus, and was fine. Until about an hour when I got a sesame migraine, but that’s nothing a little chocolate, caffeine, and tylenol can’t handle. I probably won’t eat hummus often, but on occasion? A hummus migraine is better than a hunger migraine, right?

Plus, the snack pack came with pretzels. Which I have been DYING to try but the doctor has said it’s a bit of a waste of  challenge because I can already have “so much” wheat. But, he let me eat these pretzels. I “accidentally” ate all of them, which was a badish idea, but hey. I feel okay, I ate pretzels, and I am renewed.

What did terrify me, however, were the following insights:

1. There’s no solution to my horseradish problem, except getting someone to shop for me (as the doctor put it, “Don’t you work with a lot of men? Shouldn’t they be chivalrous and help you?”); asking someone who works in the store to get me an item from the back while sating far away from the horseradish, and trusting that they will not touch anything bad in that process which he said he wouldn’t trust them about; buying the items that are too close to the horseradish in a non-organic store that wouldn’t sell horseradish, but that’s a bad option because I need organic foods. Hi, rock. Hi hard place. Nice to be between you both.

2. The other solution he presented was eating more vegetables, so that the ones I can eat aren’t in the horseradish section. But to do that, I have to try vegetables. With which I have a bad history. But he said he wants me to try everything I have had reactions to in the past (with some obvious exceptions, like fish and horseradish). That’s why we’re doing this, he explained. He wants to do a double blind test, where he blindfolds me, feeds me the food and a placebo, and we spend all day making sure I don’t die. Because there’s a teeny chance I’m not allergic to the foods themselves and just think I am, or outgrew them, or something. That’s why we do food challenges in the first place, he explained. So here’s the thing. I’ll have to take off like a month from work all tolled, and potentially die. Like, “Hey, I can’t come in today, because I’ve decided to out myself in a precarious near-death situation, but dont worry, there are epipens, so I’ll be decently okay, but probably out of it for a week, but in the end there’s a small chance I can eat lettuce?” How does that work? I can;t imagine waking up in the morning and knowingly feeding myself cauliflower. That’s like waking up and saying “Today, I’ve decided to drive with my eyes closed. But it’s cool, I have airbags and bandages and a paramedic in the car, so if I’m almost dying, someone will fix me.” Bad idea. And yet, so is not eating. Slow death vs. death challenge in a controlled environment? This is like the real Fear Factor, people.

3. He also wants to test antibiotics when we’re done with foods. That’s also a full day, because those last in your system for a full day. Basically, I’d come to the office, take biaxin that has no additives, made by his pharmacist with special care, and see what happens. Last time I had biaxin, I blacked out in Mrs. Agassi’s 10th grade English class. But this time, I’d be sinus-infection free and in a doctor’s office, so…cool? I wonder if it makes more sense to do those challenges when I’m already sick. So a) I miss fewer work days and b) I’m not on unnecessary meds.

In good news — because amid all my fear, I have to stay sunny and appreciate this ridiculousness — there’s a new epipen on the market. It’s actually not an epipen because that’s a brand name. It’s an Auvi-Q and it’s badass. Thanks, T, for sending me the info from the NY Times. The doctor showed it to me today and I’m obsessed (what has my life come to?!). It’s the size of a nano and the thickness of a cell phone/two chocolate bars, and it TALKS TO YOU. Like it says, “remove the red cap. Place against your thigh. [it clicks to inject] 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Inejction complete.” It’s so slick and small and easy to carry and not pencil-case shaped and an idiot can use it and feel comfortable. It’s like a GPS epipen. It’s genius and I want one.

I don't know why I'm so excited about a medical tool but I really am. Look how sexy this is!

I don’t know why I’m so excited about a medical tool but I really am. Look how sexy this is!

In other good news, the world is starting to hate xanthan gum. Ten points to the anti-xanthan gum crusade! And thanks, E, for sending along this brilliant article.

I have the best friends, and I love the NY Times. That’s the moral of this story. Despite all the fear, all the anxiety, all the unclarity about how to proceed, I know I have support, I know the world is listening in its own way, and I can sort of kind of eat hummus and pretzels. So this is a win. Just a “tread carefully as we move forward but never stop moving forward” kind of win.

FOOD CHALLENGE TALLY

Cindy: 13 (including the sabra pretzels)

Allergens: 5

Next Up: Buckwheat (can someone tell me what the hell buckwheat is? It’s on my list of not terrifying things to try but I don’t know what to do with it. The doctor said “make pancakes” but that seems unnecessary).