I am 27 years old, female and live in the sub-tropics in Australia. My family has a history of ADHD, Asthma, Eczema and a whole host of other allergy / food intolerance related problems. Click here to learn the difference between an allergy and food intolerance and for an introduction to food intolerance.
I suffer from severe Salicylate Intolerance which gives me the following symptoms:
- Hives / Urticaria; on a daily basis - always varying in intensity, size and location. Popular locations are my arms and torso.
- Angiodema / Swelling; initially on a daily basis, now every couple of days or so - most frequently facial (lips, eyelids), fingers and feet when I am having a bad reaction, tongue or throat when I am having a really bad reaction.
- Neurological Symptoms; Brain fog (mental fuzziness - I went from very being a very precise person to completely vague and confused), memory problems (mainly short term - when reading I would forget the start of the sentence by the time I had finished reading it, I would forget words, half way through tasks I would forget what I was doing etc.), co-ordination problems (at my worst I would trip over, fall or bump into things 10+ times in a day).
- Fatigue; At my worst I was struggling to get up at 4pm in the afternoon each day to make dinner (having gone to bed at 10pm the night before). Usually when I have a bad reaction I really struggle to get out of bed the next morning no matter how much sleep I have had - I am then in a daze all day which no amount of sleep can help.
Stress and Hormones
Stress is a huge factor and completely under-researched and under-documented as far as I am concerned. When I am stressed my tolerance levels drop dramatically. Another key factor is hormones; I have more severe reactions in the days before my period is due.
In the past year I have been under a large amount of stress due to a heavy workload at my job as well as finishing off my postgraduate study part time. On reflection, this was an underlying contributing factor to the severity of my salicylate intolerance over the past year.
Too Many Variables
One thing that drives me nuts about food intolerances is the sheer number and variety of variables involved. For any given food intolerance reaction my stress levels, exposure to foods over the past 24 hrs, exposure to airborne pollutants over the past 24 hrs and hormone levels all have an effect on the severity and type of reaction. This makes it very hard to distinguish a clear cause for a reaction, consequently it makes the prevention of reactions very hard. It also makes it hard to distinguish what symptoms are even part of a reaction (ie. If I have a headache it could just be a regular headache or it could be a part of a reaction to smelling something. Smelling mint gives me terrible headaches but I am not sure what else has that effect).
The best solution to minimising my problems with salicylates is to avoid them. Unfortunately that is easier said than done as salicylates are present in just about every food of plant origin. I am very fortunate to have found the 'Failsafe Diet' which is based upon the information contained in Anne Swain's thesis 'The role of natural salicylates in food intolerance'. The diet focuses on minimising both artificial and natural chemicals in your environment and diet. I have had a huge amount of success with this diet and highly recommend it. The diet helped me to vastly improve my health and decrease the severity of my symptoms however I was still experiencing hives, swelling and other neurological symptoms on a daily basis.
I started taking Zyrtec 10mg daily each morning about 18 months ago at the recommendation of my allergist and GP. I did not have any noticable trouble with drowsiness when taking Zyrtec. I took Zyrtec in an attempt to stop or minimise the daily hives and facial swelling I was experiencing. The Zyrtec helped minimise the hives and swelling but did not stop them. My allergist had recommended that I try Zyrtec for a month straight to 'break the cycle' of the hives. So after a month I tried stopping Zyrtec and found that my hives got worse so I figured that it was helping me. So I kept on taking the Zyrtec. Each time I felt like I was getting better I tried stopping the Zyrtec but would find that my hives would be much worse within 24hrs of stopping it. So I thought that the Zyrtec was really helping me minimise my hives and other symptoms. WRONG...but more about that later.