I went to my gastroenterologist earlier this year. I recounted to her what had happened to me over Christmas and that I was beginning to suspect that my food reactions were allergic in nature. She was surprised by how sensitive I seemed to be to gluten and put me right up there with her most sensitive celiac patients. Her surprise was made even more significant by the fact she sees thousands of celiac patients. We discussed possibilities, and she ran some tests to check for mast cell activation disorder. She also suggested that I try taking a daily antihistamine like Zyrtec. I thought that taking an antihistamine daily might keep me from being able to tell if it was helping deal with symptoms from exposure. I could have perhaps gotten better at avoiding trace gluten during that time. My doctor said I’d probably have to take it for a period longer than I would normally go without exposure symptoms. I really didn’t want to start taking an antihistamine daily without due cause. I decided I would try taking one only when I suspected I was having a reaction. I figured that would be the only way to know for sure if it would help. I decided to start with Zyrtec.
A few days after I bought the Zyrtec, I had my first suspected exposure symptoms. I decided I would try the Zyrtec to see what would happen. I anxiously opened the bottle, poured a dose into the cap, and took it. I thought that I was starting to feel better, but I wasn’t sure if it was enough to know that the antihistamine was helping. I took one again a couple of days later, and it was the same thing. I did feel better but wasn’t entirely sure. I’d been reading online for the best antihistamines to take when having a reaction to food, and Zyrtec and Benadryl were consistently at the top of the list. Benadryl always scared me because it makes me so drowsy. However, Benadryl looked like a great choice because it was recommended as something to take when you first have a reaction, where Zyrtec was recommended as more of a maintenance antihistamine to take once daily. You can also take multiple doses of Benadryl a day. Since the potential to have multiple gluten exposures in a day exists, that sounded like a good thing to me. I decided to give Benadryl a try. I could notice a bigger difference with it. One time when it really made a big difference was when I went a few days without taking any but suspected that things didn’t feel quite right. When I finally realized that I was dealing with a gluten exposure, I took the Benadryl and felt a 180-degree turn in how I felt. I went from feeling tired, miserable, and moody to feeling fantastic within minutes. Whenever I suspected a reaction, I would take a Benadryl. Most of the time, I could tell a big difference within minutes. When I couldn’t, I figured I might be dealing with residual symptoms from past reactions or just normal/usual fatigue and tiredness. What was helpful at those times was realizing I didn’t have a constantly elevated level of histamine. I also realized that the feeling better was not a side effect of the antihistamine. Another thing it helped with was knowing that I didn’t need to suspect or eliminate any foods at that time.
I have no idea why the antihistamine helps so much. In my mind, the only thing that makes sense is an allergic reaction. Other possibilities, like histamine intolerance and mast cell activation disorder, seem to occur more rarely from what I’ve heard and read. My serum tryptase test came back normal. Also, I know I feel great when I’m not exposed to any of my trigger foods. As of now, I don’t feel that there are any trigger foods that I haven’t uncovered yet. I’m not entirely sure what kind of allergic reaction it is at this point, but I believe it has to involve one or more of the foods I’m actively avoiding. I was recently tested for wheat allergy, and the result came back as a Class I. Tests for flaxseed and gluten allergy that I’ve had in the past were definitively negative. Barley, rye, vinegar, and guar gum have not been tested. However, I’m thankful to have found something, an antihistamine, that can help improve the quality of my life somewhat, that keeps me from having to suffer through the symptoms of trace exposure. My only worry is the possibility that my reactions could turn into anaphylaxis at some point. So far, my symptoms have remained the same, but symptoms have become more noticeable with smaller trace amounts over time. However, I’ve heard that symptoms themselves can change over time as well. Because I haven’t been diagnosed with an allergy, I don’t have an epi-pen to protect me. The allergist who ran the wheat allergy test dismissed the result as a “false positive”, so I’m seriously considering seeing another allergist for a second opinion on my symptoms, reactive foods, and wheat allergy test result to see if I may need an epi-pen. If it comes down to a food challenge, maybe I can look into gluten-free wheat starch as an option. Hopefully whatever conclusion is reached will be the correct one.
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