Saturday, April 18, 2009

Because I Want to Hear You Scream...

I recently stumbled upon a medical abstract from France at, "Conduct Disorders and Food Allergies." Your problem isn't food sensitivities or allergies, folks. For people like us who keep insisting that certain foods make us ill, our real diagnosis is neurosis. The medical help we really need is psychiatric, but people of our ilk are so deeply in denial about our "conduct disorder" that we're unlikely to allow ourselves to be helped voluntarily. And if you happen to be a mom whose kids are reacting to certain foods and you keep them on a diet avoiding those foods? Food sensitivities actually aren't the problem requiring medical supervision. You are the problem requiring medical supervision. Why, your medical carers should suspect Munchausen by Proxy and monitor you!

I once saw an allergist who thought like this. She told me I needed to consume milk for my health (even though my internist had told me that I should "never eat anything from the udder of a cow" and I'd actually had a positive blood screen for casein before. But it wasn't her blood screen, so it didn't count). She, who happened to be the Head of Allergy and Immunology at a major teaching hospital, made it clear that she thought I was neurotic and irrational. I reported to her that consuming things made with seitan (fake vegetarian meat made of wheat gluten) made my throat swell to a frightening degree (accompanied by asthmatic tightening in the chest and violent itching), and that eating pasta and bread, among other things, made me feel ill in other ways, too. She literally rolled her eyes in irritation and told me, rather sternly, that I couldn't possibly be allergic to gluten too! (I should add that I was so ignorant then, I didn't even realize that gluten fell into the category of wheat. I knew nothing about celiac or gluten sensitivity or food sensitivities in general, and I didn't know anyone who did—and certainly not anyone I'd believe. But my throat was always swollen and I was sick and itched all the time.) This esteemed expert practically ordered me to consume milk, for the health of my bones, of course. I wanted to believe her. I didn't want to be on a special diet. So, feeling emboldened by this allergist's recommendation, I went out and had an ice cream. Doctor's orders! And, of course, this was immediately followed by a severe throat swelling incident. (At least I wasn't exhibiting signs of having a conduct disorder. I was following through with learned medical advice. This is a healthy sign of not being neurotic.)

A year after this Expert rolled her eyes at me, I had a positive gliadin antibody screen with another, more progressive doctor, and received a diagnosis of celiac disease. This was doubly confirmed, in no uncertain terms, by the dramatic positive reaction I had to a gluten free diet. I'll spare you the disgusting details, but I will add that the last time I accidentally ingested a small amount of gluten, not only did I have the usual uncomfortable and embarrassing GI symptoms, but my whole mouth blistered in sores and all my other inflammatory problems went wild. I was sick for days. Obviously, this must've been some sort of Pavlovian anxiety reaction provoked at the thought of eating gluten.
The list of things that will set off my reactions is fairly long, but when I avoid them, I have no oozing eczema, no uncomfortable throat swelling, and no head-to-toe violent itching all night. These are problems that plagued me, daily, for years before I discovered their connection to specific food triggers. Obviously, I'm sadly neurotic and am misunderstanding things that have no clinical relevance.
It's easy to write off medical idiots like this, but what's scary is that their opinions are mainstream, even here in supposedly progressive California.

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