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How I found out my anxiety was caused by food




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Old 04-19-2013, 09:23 AM   #1
dingobingo1981
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How I found out my anxiety was caused by food

Mid December 2003 I was on a training course for consulting skills with numerous colleagues. We each had to do some public speaking. Iím not a big fan of public speaking but I had the usual flutter of nerves that accompanies public speaking, which then goes away afterwards. Except it didnít go away. That day and for the following few weeks I would experience intermittent anxiety.

Jan 2004 was a big month. My wife is from Taiwan and I was taking my parents to meet her parents. This was a little stressful, but for me that normally just means my senses are heightened a little. I sat down on the KLM plane at Heathrow ready to depart to Amsterdam where weíd catch our connection to Hong Kong. I felt ill, I started to sweat, my blood pressure dropped, I started to shake, I felt sick, what was happening! I recognised the symptoms from when I see someone getting an injection. My vision started to fade and I saw black dots. I was going to faint. At this point I need to point out I love flying and love airlines. I always wanted to be a pilot. I was as far removed from a nervous flyer as you can imagine. So this didnít make any sense. ďI need to get off the planeĒ. When I feel like this I feel I need to be in an open space with fresh air and lie down. My mum was sympathetic and recognised I was having a panic attack. Iíd never had one before, other than when seeing blood being taken etc. Why would I have one now? After twenty minutes or so I started to feel better. I put it down to the impending stress of my parents meeting my in-laws.

We were due to stop in HK for three nights before flying onto Taiwan. I didnít feel right. I felt spaced out, not myself, my anxiety continued and I didnít have much energy. I couldnít sleep for worry. My heart was beating, not fast, but stronger than normal. I could feel every beat in my chest. I tried to put it behind me. I felt sorry for my parents. I was supposed to be their tour guide, instead I was feeling miserable and very ill. What a waste of a trip! I felt more and more certain I couldnít cope with the impending meeting, this was so different from any other cold or flu, thatís all it could be. HoweverÖthe morning of the flight to Taiwan I took a walk early to get some breakfast, but I didnít feel like eating. That morning, the coach journey to the airport, the flight, and the meeting I felt completely normal. No nerves, it was like my old self. Surely this should have been the worst point if this was a stress/nerves issue? It didnít make sense.

The next two weeks exhibited the following pattern: Sleep, wake up, feel good, eat breakfast with my old and new family, start to feel ill, go to lie down for a couple of hours, force myself to go out and socialise, get worse throughout the day, go to sleep. I still felt it must be the stress of the trip, yet I had no problem with going to sleepÖthat didnít make sense either. On one occasion my mother-in-law invited us to her friendís house for dinner. I was to wait with my parents while dinner was prepared. I was so nervous and anxious I struggled to speak. Another time we were visiting a temple with my wifeís Uncle. I had so little energy it took all of my strength to walk around the temple. I thought I might collapse at any moment.

The trip came to an end and we went home. No further panic attacks on the plane, but each time before boarding I would get scared about being scared. Panicking about panicking. Stupid! And I loved flying so much, it ruined one of my passions. (Ten years later I still donít feel right in a boarding lounge, but Iím fine once Iíve sat down on a plane).

Right, surely if this was stress related, itís all over, back to my house and job thatís familiar for me, everything should be fine. Nope. The day after getting home I broke down crying. I was depressed like Iíd never known and felt sorry for ruining my parentís expensive holiday. I was depressed with being ill, I was just so depressed. Within an hour the depression was gone and I was back to being nervousÖthen an hour later it was my heart. Why so many things, why never at the same time? None of it made sense.

I made my way home and returned to my job, but my symptoms only got worse, not better. Iíd drive to work feeling like I was about to speak in front of the entire world Ė I was that nervous. Then for about three minutesÖ.one just one occasionÖ I felt completely normal. For the first time in weeks I didnít have any of these weird symptoms. I felt happy, relaxed, I couldnít feel my heart, I had energy. As soon as it started it ended, my heart started to miss beats and I could feel every thump in my chest. Instead of driving to work I went to the Drs instead. This was to be the first interaction with GPs over my weird illness. My Gp felt everything was fine. I was a bit stressed over the previous events and that itís normal for some people to be more aware of their heart beat than others. He advised me to relax, get some herbal teas and do more exercise. Leading up to my trip I had exercised for years. Cardio and weights. I loved running and body building, played 5-a-side football etc. Hmm, maybe it was just lack of exercise I thought. The next morning I resumed my morning running but quit after 1 km. I had no energy.

Back to the Drs. Again, they insisted it was psychological problems. Hmm, depression, yes, anxiety yes, but what about my heart beat and lack of energy? Anyway, their solution (nice one GPs!) was to prescribe me tranquilisers and anti-depressants. Iím a firm believer on fixing the problem, not sticking a plaster on top. I told them to eff off (in my head) and said no thanks out loud, and left.

Two months of this. My symptoms didnít improve, but I tried to learn to live with them. I used to love food shopping and cooking, but I didnít have the energy now, so Iíd buy myself packets of ready made pasta with fillings and just boil them. Pasta and cups of fruit tea would be my dinner for 2 months. At the weekend Iíd try to make some vegetables too. Before becoming ill my wife and I had a varied diet with lots of vegetables, fish, unprocessed foods etc.

My work picked up slightly as I was doing Java programming, something Iíd done before and enjoyed, and could sit at my desk without talking to many people. But I was still ill. People often talk about experiencing depression or an unusual heart rate, but Iíd never heard of anyone feeling nervous for no reason. And Iím not talking about someone whoís really shy and has been asked to go to the shops and feeling nervous, I mean absolutely no reason at all. I mean sitting at home, watching the weather and feeling like I was about the take the deciding penalty kick at the world cup. Such a strange feeling. I started to look at ways to keep calm. I even bought some Kava Kava tablets online. They have a relaxing and spacey effect. But my wife just thought I looked stoned when talking them, and they were only temporary in their effect, plus they were hepatoxic (bad for the liver). Another band aid.

Sometime around June, around five or six months into my illness my mum suggested I look at my diet. This would be an odd thing to suggest (this was 2004 before shops had sections devoted to gluten free food and gluten was a house-hold name) were it not for the fact that that she had been diagnosed as celiac in the early 90ís. Back then it took a junior doctor fresh out of med school to suggest it as a possibility, it was that unknown. My mum was getting gravely ill at the time, but they caught it with a few months to spare! I hadnít thought about gluten, but I know it made my mum feel ill and celiac disease was genetic so I happily gave it a go. After about a week I noticed a slight improvement, mainly with my energy and depression, but my heart would still race, skip beats, or just be very noticeable, and my anxiety was worse than ever. But a seed had been sewn! My illness could be environmental, it could be diet related. Having had a slight improvement with giving up gluten I thought there is no harm with trying to see what else could have an effect. I buried myself in the 2004 world wide web and came across a firm that did food sensitivity testing. They claimed they could do a food sensitivity test (IgG Ė delayed onset reaction, not IgE Ė immediate allergy) for up to 250 foods. How they do this is simpleÖthey ask for a sample of blood. This was done via a provided finger pricking device and something to absorb the blood.I then posted it back to them and they looked for certain antigens. Apparently antigens or antibodies (I cant remember) are slightly different depending on what they are for. For example a gluten antigen will look different to a casein antigen. By looking for these differences they could tell which foods were provoking an autoimmune response.

Around September I got my results. In my blood they found antigens/antibodies for the following foods:

Wheat, Gluten, Yeast, Vanilla, Egg Yolk, Egg White, Milk Casein protein, chilli

Hereís what I do knowÖwithin two days of cutting out these foods I felt half human. The length, severity and duration of my symptoms diminished. Within two weeks they were hardly noticeable and after a month I felt completely normal. Hang on a second, did I just find out that food was making me nervous? It was hard to believe and Iíd never heard of food causing anxiety, unless weíre talking about a lot of sugar or caffeine etc. I booked an appointment to see a gastroenterologist. This was after my GP laughed at my findings, but was a little intrigued so agreed to the referral. The gastroenterologist also laughed. Nope. No way food can cause those symptoms. He dismissed it as psychological. Was it?

After ten years I can promise you itís not. When Iíve accidentally eaten these foods Iíve got symptoms. When Iíve purposefully eaten these foods Iíve got symptoms. When Iíve avoid these foods I have no symptoms.

Having had ten years to experiment itís intriguing to note that different foods elicit different symptoms. Hereís a run down:

Gluten and wheat: depression, lack of motivation, difficulty to concentrate for long periods, foggy head, and when coming off gluten I also get oesophageal spasms

Dairy (specifically casein): anxiety, nervous, panic attacks, feeling like something bad is going to happen at any moment

Egg white: irregular heart beat. Most often it skips a beat, but sometimes will beat faster or just very strongly so itís very noticeable

Coffee & Chilli: coughing and producing lots of phlegm for days after eating or drinking

My symptoms severity, duration, and onset depend on my eating patterns. For example. If Iíve had no dairy for three months and then eat a pizza and a tub of ice cream in one night, nothing happens. If I start doing that twice a week then my symptoms start, get worse, and more frequent. When I stop eating they get less severe and more infrequent until they stop. Itís not an on or off thing. I read that this is due to antibody production. The immune system has to be stimulated over time to produce antibodies. One meal of dairy or a sandwich isnít enough to get it going for an IgG response. This is what Iíve experienced anyway.

I hope this can help someone.

 
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