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The Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) and Allergies, Food Intolerances, and Stress-related Illness
Hi everyone. I hope you are enjoying the summer! I am. I am thoroughly enjoying the warmth that is finally here. I am not going to complain about the heat and humidity here in the midwestern United States. That’s right, I am located in the midwest and as I get older I had been longing to move south… but no longer! I realize that although it is colder than I like for 5 months out of the year (November through March) it is pretty wonderful the rest of the time. It isn’t until mid January that the weather gets kind of unbearable for me. Last year a trip for 1 week to the Florida Keys in mid February did the trick! One week out of the year made the entire rest of the year look so much better. Going somewhere warm in February every year is now officially a must!
Now that I am a happier person and able to be in the moment and appreciate being alive on the planet, I am able to see the beauty in my life as it is. Have you ever had a person visit you and point out all the negatives in your life? The way you decorate, the paint colors you chose, saying “why did I do it that way”? It can be eye opening if you were used to this point of view and then suddenly realize you had been seeing things through their eyes. It occurred to me and I suddenly realized that all of those things weren’t true. Another example is I have a beautiful backyard with a pond and trees and privacy. I used to have allergies so I couldn’t enjoy being outdoors so I didn’t appreciate it (remembering now it was the reason we bought this lot in the first place.) This person, when they visited, ignored my backyard so I didn’t feel like it was special. But it is actually very special and it recharges me on a daily basis! I am so happy that I am able to see things with a whole new perspective now and I can let go of the negative judgements of others.
How did I get rid of my allergies you might be wondering? I was treated by a holistic doctor who specializes in energy medicine and in a technique called Nambrudipad’s Allergy Elimination Treatment (NAET). It is very New Agey and it is hard to describe it to you, but it WORKS and my husband and daughter were also treated. (Google it for more info.–it works similarly to accupressure and has to do with energy blockages in the body). We all used to take claritin and sudafed year round and now we don’t take anything at all and can enjoy the outdoors. My husband used to be lactose intolerant and now can eat dairy with no problems. It is really amazing. I heard about this doctor from the wonderful folks at my local health food store. I highly recommend a trip to your local health food store for a wealth of valuable and helpful information if you are having health problems–my life is completely changed because of support from these people (I have found it is often fellow HSPs who work there). I didn’t even realize how much my health had improved until I was talking to my NEW chiropractor, who uses a gentler and massage-type method of alignment rather than “jerking” my spine back into shape. Anyway, when I was talking to her I realized that I “used” to have so many health problems and they have almost all gradually been or are being resolved.
Here is a list of the health problems: Spinal misalignment due to stress (my neck was locked up for 15 years which seriously affected my immune system and my ability to sing–all of which I was completely unaware of because there was no pain just poor posture), Chronic Fatigue, Ovarian Cysts, Chronic systemic Candidiasis, Symptoms of low thyroid (I felt cold all the time), Severe PMS with low back pain and severe fatigue for 2 days at every Ovulation, Fibrocystic Breast Disease, Multiple Food Allergies with intestinal symptoms, occasional Migraine headaches, and Seasonal Allergies to early tree pollen that left me so fatigued in early spring that I was taking 3 hour naps daily! All of these things were like a vicious cycle because you just can’t get done what you need to get done and so you are constantly beating yourself up mentally saying to yourself, “What’s WRONG with me?”
What was wrong with me? Nothing! I am a highly sensitive person and so I must treat myself more gently!…Not change myself to be more tough but to change my expectations of myself to meet the special circumstances of my being. I am sensitive for a reason! Don’t compare yourself to everyone around you!
A “specific carbohydrate” diet was the first step to wellness for me and this is how I found it: Back before I was the least bit spiritual, I can remember throwing a coin in a wishing well at the mall and asking sincerely for the answers to my health problems that had crept up on me slowly and were now dragging me down–I felt like I was constantly swimming upstream and getting nowhere. Within a week my wish (or prayer) was answered and I was drawn to buy a local magazine that I never ever read. Inside was an article on the exact symptoms I was having: fatigue, intestinal problems, and bloating. The diagnosis was Gluten Intolerance and the cure was to remove gluten from my diet–grain in the form of wheat, oats, barley, and rye! I was very excited to figure this out! Where most people would have been devastated to give up pizza, bread, and at that point what seemed like everything good, I was ecstatic to have found what I hoped was the answer to why I was sick all the time! I was so sick of being sick! I also felt my prayers had been answered and so was feeling very loved and blessed by…could this be that God really existed and cared about me after all? Yes, I believe it was so…because I’ll never forget that first day of removing gluten from my diet on September 25, 1995–I did not need to take a long nap as usual and felt like a new person with a new-found energy and a relief from the fatigue! Hallelujah!
I had known since 1992 that I had multiple food allergies (eggs, rice, milk and dairy, sugar, and yeast) but with guidance from my friendly folks at the health food store, I found out that the gluten causes the initial damage that causes all the other food sensitivities. The book Breaking The Vicious Cycle by Elaine Gottschall was a godsend as well because it provided a “specific carbohydrate” diet that heals and repairs your digestive tract so that after a period of time you heal your other food sensitivities so the only thing you need to eliminate from your diet is gluten. ( I can provide more information on how this diet works at your request. Please just ask.)
Gluten Intolerance is now much more widely diagnosed and talked about than it was in 1995 with many more prepared food choices available and whole Gluten Free sections available at grocery stores now. (Elisabeth Hasselbeck on The View has it, talks about it and even wrote a book about it). Gluten Intolerance has completely different effects on different people and has a range of severity. Most severe is the genetic Celiac Disease (or sometimes called Celiac Sprue ) where even a spec of gluten can cause an immune system reaction of extreme fatigue, diarrhea and blood in the stools, and a stomach ache until the digestive tract heals again. This happens because of genetic inability to digest the protein called gluten and the body reacts to the offending grain as if is a poison. Occasional cheating is forbidden because you may be producing scar tissue that will make the digestive tract unable to heal even the other food allergies and you may be left irreparably unable to digest many foods at all and with a condition called malabsorption which can lead to extreme weight loss and even death. So this condition should not be taken lightly.
But most people probably have a milder form of gluten intolerance that develops as we age and encounter stress in life like parenting small children and balancing work and home. Studies show that 40% of women over 40 may be sensitive to gluten and not know it. I believe that, if you are a highly sensitive person and over 40, you should definitely try avoiding gluten if you are having intestinal irregularities such as alternating constipation and diarrhea and/or unexplained fatigue and bloating. The improvement to the quality of your life could be phenomenal. And if you are like me, feeling good again is worth the sacrifice… after all it is just food! Food is supposed to be fuel for the body–why put something in your engine that makes it run so poorly! It takes 2 weeks on the Elaine Gotschall “specific carbohydrate” diet (meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and some cheeses–no limit on quantity) to get the carb cravings out of your system and then you are home free and no longer even want any carbs or sugar. You feel so healthy and fruits and vegetables taste so much better like your taste buds come alive. Finally you can concentrate and get things done! And I lost 25 pounds being on the diet for 4 months.
For 11 years my daughter and I ate completely gluten-free (but not carb-free) and I never knew if I was Celiac or not but had to avoid every spec of gluten because I would get symptoms if I accidentally ate some–I did think that both of us were Celiac. One and 1/2 years ago though when I was first treated by my new holistic doctor with the NAET Technique, he treated us both for gluten “allergy”. I was skeptical from what I had read online and my doctor admittedly said he knew very little about Celiac Disease. Online I had read that NAET cannot treat Celiac Disease and is for people who have a gluten allergy only. I was very nervous about my daughter eating gluten again since she had stopped eating all gluten in 1997 at age 7 with a complete recovery from ill-health and fatigue and intestinal symptoms (although different from my symptoms). I insisted on a blood test be done for her to rule out Celiac Disease, and sure enough she tested negative for it and since then has been eating gluten with no trouble ever since. I have heard that there can be a remission of sorts for Celiac in the teenage years and that she can temporarily be without symptoms only for them to return later in life when stress enters her life. She is 20 and is also a highly sensitive person and is on the lookout for symptoms recurring but so far she is fine. I on the other hand waited a year after NAET to even try gluten again and the few times I tried, each time, I felt a stress on my immune system and ended up getting an upper respiratory virus. However, I was in the throws of Adrenal Fatigue at the time so once I completely heal from my Adrenal Fatigue, which I am determined to do, after a blood test I am going to try eating gluten occasionally now and then. But for now I avoid it except in small hidden quantities and I feel great.
My Adrenal Fatigue condition has greatly improved by taking many vitamin and adrenal supplements and hormonal replacements that were depleted by stress over the years. This holistic doctor who did the NAET treatments also ordered saliva testing for my hormones and the results showed that I was low in DHEA, Testosterone, and Progesterone for which I administer cream supplements daily from a pharmacy that specializes in bio-identical hormones (all arranged through my holistic doctor). I also take a special iodine supplement for low thyroid symptoms (feeling cold all the time and especially hands and feet and fibrocystic breast soreness and swelling monthly–all so much improved I actually forgot I used to have these symptoms!). I also take an adrenal rebuilder, and something called Cortico-B5 and B6 because the saliva testing showed I had high levels of cortisol (stress hormone) in the evenings.
I have been on this Adrenal Fatigue Treatment plan since January 2009 and all along I did not feel much different because the healing is so gradual. But compared to January 2009 when I had so much exhaustion I could not exercise at all without extreme fatigue the following few days, I now realize I am 10 times better health-wise! I still do struggle with some things like: my sugar and yeast allergies keep coming back when I am under stress and I go back for more NAET treatments on these 2 allergies only. I still pick up viruses easily because my immune system still is not as strong as it should be yet, and I still have some mild PMS symptoms. I still cannot exercise to the extent that I would like to and must continue to take it easy. To keep my weight under control I eat only specific carbs Monday through Friday but then I can eat whatever I want except gluten on the weekends which is awesome and gives me a fun weekend to look forward to. (At 5’10” I stay around 140 lbs.) With these adjustments, I am feeling great and on the road to complete recovery!
I feel better now at 48 than I did in my 20’s! Part of it of course is also the following: believing in and learning to love my self, avoiding stress and negative or toxic people, ignoring the “should” requirements of others and listening to my own heart and desires instead, expressing my truth in journaling and then discovering my gifts of writing, songwriting, and empathic coaching skills for helping others, being able to be in the moment and learning to relax, unblocking my creativity, believing in and being grateful for God and the magic of the Universe and the Law of Attraction, believing that being highly sensitive is an asset and a gift and that it is only a liability in the eyes of others who are judgmental, and narcissistic (and although they are entitled to their opinion and way of life, are people I choose not to be around for the sake of my health).
Who knows? When I get even stronger and even healthier, I may be strong enough to be around even the most negative people because I know how to release the negativity and recharge by getting time alone and through the elements of nature, and to ask for guidance from above. I feel I am living proof that God really does answer prayers.
For more information on the health issues mentioned above, please see Christiane Northrup’s book entitled Women’s Bodies Women’s Wisdom. It was this book that I first heard about the NAET Technique and Adrenal Fatigue and actually many of my health problems. In a future post I will write about how I made my Ovarian Cysts disappear to the amazement of my Ob.Gyn. (and myself!) with the knowledge I gained from this book and Louise Hay’s book You Can Heal Your Life.
Writing all this has made me realize how amazing it is that I have recovered so much in so many ways. I also have overcome many compulsions (shopping and overspending, hoarding certain items, organizing and cleaning,) perfectionism, procrastination, and basically the inability to enjoy my life. I no longer feel “compelled” to do any of these things. Yay! Until I wrote these things down to share with you, I really did not realize how my life has unfolded for the better in so many ways. Thanks for reading. I will be writing more about how I overcame these issues mentioned above if there is interest so please let me know. I hope I have inspired you that there is always hope and you can heal your life too–one step at a time. Just keep believing and knowing that as a highly sensitive person you are sensitive for a reason and that even the most difficult obstacles can be overcome! You can do it!