About 4 years ago, I started to have eczema and urticaria which never happened to me before. Slowly, it happened regularly until I had eczema constantly on my entire body and urticaria crisis every day. As you can imagine, it was very uncomfortable and made me quite crazy, to say the least. Of course, I quickly went to a dermatologist who gave me a cream which helped a bit. With it, I was fine, but once I stopped using it, it always came back. It dealt with the symptoms but not the causes. Therefore I did not know why this was happening to me. I went to see other doctors and also an homeopath but all of it showed no success until one doctor told me to go see an allergist.
After six months of living with my itchy and uncomfortable skin, I made an appointment with one of the few allergists who worked in Paris, where I was living at the time – oddly enough, there weren’t many of them! We did the common allergy tests and discovered that I was quite sensitive to humidity. The flat I was staying at just had a big leak. We lived with water damage for some time. It might apparently have been what caused my skin reactions. As a result, we took the decision that I needed to stay in a different place for a while. I was staying with my mother, I moved with my father. I stayed there for two weeks – allergy symptoms can appear up to a week after contact with the allergy cause, so two weeks was the right amount of time to stay away from humidity. Unfortunately, nothing changed.
My moral was quite low at that moment. Nothing had worked and I was worried I’ll have to live with this problem forever. This is when the allergist told me it could be food-related, which was a weird conclusion because the allergy tests did not show any food allergies. That’s when I learnt that allergies are quite an unknown area in medicine and haven’t been taken seriously in the past. The allergist told me she had seen a lot of patients who were negative to the tests but were actually allergic, the test analyzing just one allergy mechanism. People get truly sick, they’re not lying. Therefore, she uses empirical processes instead of medical evidence. Interestingly, it was exactly what I needed to hear.
She suggested I eat only rice, lamb and pears for a week, nothing else: no sauce; no salt or pepper or herbs, no oil, etc. People are apparently rarely allergic to those. Funny enough, after a week on this diet (trust me, eating plain rice for breakfast is not the best^^), all of my symptoms had disappeared. I thus had a beginning of an answer: it was food-related. Then started the actual work: finding out which ingredients caused the allergy. There are a few obvious ones that need to be check out: gluten, dairy, eggs, nuts. But there also others, less common, that can cause as much damage. Truth is, you can be allergic to anything. Therefore, I had to keep track of everything I ate and of any reaction I might have had, one day after the other. The notes were then analyzed by the allergist and myself and we concluded that I was allergic to wheat and dairy.
This process might seem silly or not medical enough – it is empirical though, so scientific. It showed itself to be the best way for me to figure out what was happening to my body and what was and still is the issue: last week I had some goat cheese by mistake and woke up two days later with eczema on my left arm. Yes, we used a notebook, we took notes, … but that’s only because medicine is not yet there regarding allergy-related diseases, allergology still being considered an unimportant area of medicine by some doctors – they think it’s a joke. I didn’t care about all of this at the time, I had finally found out what the problem was and that was enough. So when people bore me with the usual comment: ‘it should be so difficult to live on this diet!’: well, it isn’t easy every day but it is way easier than living constantly with eczema and urticaria, so no, it’s not that difficult. I don’t even ask myself that question.
It was quite intense going through that process. It took me 6 months before I got to see an allergist because it took 6 months before I met someone who told me to do so and more to discover that wheat and dairy were the problem. I consider myself wheat and dairy allergic today and yet, I have no medical proof to back that statement. I just had (still have) to listen to my body with the help of the allergist who was very supportive. So for anybody in a similar situation: it is hard, it takes courage and patience but there’s always a cause to a symptom. Plus, please know that you’re not the only allergic person out there, you can ask for help if you need to :).