So how did it all start for me? I just thought I should share why I care and wrote this blog. When I was doing my research it was so enlightening to find other authors personal stories, which fueled their initial passion to getting to the root cause of their problems, and by proxy helping others in the process. I hope my story can provide some unforeseen insight to you.
I’m a preclinical scientist at a major pharmaceutical company in California, so I’m naturally pre inclined to have a curious and skeptical mind.
Looking back, I can see now that it must have started when I got carpal tunnel. My work in a fast paced intense start up biotech company caused me to have not one, but two work induced injuries. I had bilateral carpal tunnel and a neck sprain for about 2.5 years. Thankfully, I never reached a point where I needed surgery, but it’s pretty obvious now that that level of constant chronic inflammation, not to mention stress, and emotional despair at being 26 and almost too injured to work, is what was the catalyst for my future issues.
Then came the food intolerances. All of a sudden after eating what was seemingly normal food, I was getting severe discomfort and bloating. So severe, that a few hours after eating a “healthy” breakfast omelette, I could no longer fit into a dress I was planning to wear at a friends wedding!
I was finally able to narrow it down to dairy foods, specifically heavy cream and cheese, that seemed to be the culprit for my discomfort. The bizarre thing was, I always had upper gastro intestinal symptoms. Never had the typical diarrhea that was normal of lactose intolerance and inability to digest milk sugars. I spent the year experimenting with foods to see if there were any that I could tolerate, but had a hard time figuring out what prompted the symptoms. Surprisingly, milk and yogurt seemed to be the least provoking, but were also the ones with the most lactose.
The other odd thing about my symptoms was the acne. I had reduced my exposure to milk products to be mostly on the weekends, when I would find myself in front of cheese platters at parties, or other situations where I didn’t want to be THAT annoying person with the food sensitivity, and just ate the food that was in front of me.
Without fail, 2-3 days after eating dairy, I would get the most awful cystic acne pimples on my chin and cheeks. They felt enormous, were so painful, and became red and left scars from inflammation even if I never popped them. It is 6 months later and I still see the same pimple I had on my cheek that was caused by last Christmas dinner.
Back to my story of 2 years ago: I let myself take a break over one Thanksgiving, and had a piece of my cousin’s infamous hash brown casserole. It contained sour cream, cheese, condensed milk, but I thought if I only had a small piece it might be okay.
It was not ok.
I woke up in the middle of the night in the most pain I have ever been in my life. I was pale, sweaty, and in so much pain I could barely breathe. The only reason I didn’t take myself to the emergency room was because trusty web MD informed me that my appendix is actually located on the other side, so it was not appendicitis, but I was clearly dying of some other rare disease or type of cancer.
I woke up the next morning feeling fine, but worried, and booked an appointment with my primary care doctor.
She listened to my ailments for about 30 seconds before cutting me off to condescendingly explain that it was clear that I was lactose intolerant, and all I needed were some probiotics and yogurt.
As if it hadn't occurred to me that I was lactose intolerant. But hey, she’s the doctor, so maybe there was something that she knew that I didn’t.
This was my first visit with this doctor, having been put onto a new insurance plan because I changed pharmaceutical companies where I worked. So, I also brought up that I had been wanting a genetic test to assess my risk for breast cancer.
She declared that despite my background in pharmaceuticals and biology, I wouldn’t be able to comprehend the difference between a pathogenic and non pathogenic risk factor, and that the risk to my emotional health upon finding out I was predisposed to having breast cancer was greater than my actual risk to getting breast cancer. And that since only my mom had breast cancer (despite having no other sisters), the risk CLEARLY wasn’t genetic. Because I’m sure this doctor had more than a few hours of genetics taught to her in medical school.
Needless to say, I left this appointment utterly livid and vowed to never go back to this doctor. I didn’t see a single doctor for the next year.
But being the scientist that I am, I decided to give these probiotics a try. I couldn’t rule out this new information that I had been told despite the fact that I was pretty sure that this doctor was full of shit. Pun intended.
Long story short, the probiotics didn’t work. Taking Lactaid didn’t work. Taking seven Lactaids didn’t work. Eating things with lower lactose content didn’t work, and seemed to make my reactions even worse than before.
So here I am back where I started, getting weekly pimples at 28. It was making me very depressed especially since I had never had cystic acne as a teenager and had never had to deal with a consistent skin care regimen. I began spending exorbitant amounts of money on new products, not to mention the chemicals I was covering my face with 2-3x per day. This was not sustainable and I was reaching my maximum limit.
I feel a little vain focusing so much on the acne. But you see, it’s like my canary in the coal mine. It’s my primary readout for my underlying inflammation and whether I am on track in my anti-inflammatory lifestyle. I’m young, I go out, I drink, I get sleep deprived from time to time. And now I am able to use such symptoms as acne and leg cramps to signal to me that I have been straying too much from the protocol.
Continue to Part 2