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I continue to be amazed by the things I’m discovering that are causing me issues. It’s hard at times not to deny these things and not start to think about something else possibly causing issues. It’s hard not to think that I’m going crazy. It seems like the tiniest traces cause me symptoms, and they seem to come from some pretty unlikely places. Sometimes I never really know for sure and just have to resolve to be more careful in the future.

Both can and can opener need to be fully cleaned before use.

Both can and can opener need to be fully cleaned before use.

After coming back from vacation, I began noticing symptoms emerging when eating meals at work, lunch in particular. I started to think about a connection among those lunchtime meals. I had used the microwave at work to heat up parts of those meals each day, so I decided to try taking meals that didn’t need to be microwaved to work for a while to see if it made a difference. It didn’t. I still noticed symptoms. I thought harder about the meals where I started

to notice a problem, and they involved foods/ingredients from cans. I’d been washing down my cans before opening them, so I failed to see how that might be the problem. I then thought more about my can opener. I’d been washing it in the sink by hand, but I wondered about the possibility of using it on a can that I had not washed. Was I able to get it cleaned thoroughly by hand? Since I could not answer that question absolutely in the affirmative, I decided to run my can opener through the dishwasher. Since that time, I have not noticed any issues with meals where I had to get ingredients from a can that needed a can opener to open. Also, I went back to using the microwave at work and have not noticed issues.

In the past, I’ve noticed very minor symptoms as I’ve left the house to go to work, but I’ve always written them off as residual symptoms from previous exposures. I didn’t always notice symptoms at this time. They were pretty spotty and occasional. I began to notice those more frequently and began to think of what could be causing them. I’ve learned to be very careful handling my supplements and have not had problems with them in a long time, other than taking one that was actually

Wash hands immediately before removing seal.

Wash hands immediately before removing seal.

contaminated with gluten in its production, but I digress. I started to think about my orange juice. It comes in a carton with an opening that has a plastic seal covering it. You pull on a plastic ring to remove it. I’ve never washed my hands before removing those plastic seals and just never thought of it. Perhaps at times I’ve actually removed it without touching the opening with my “dirty” fingers, and at other times I haven’t. This may have been a time when I was not so lucky. Since the orange juice was about empty, I tossed out the remaining and opened up a new carton, this time washing my hands before I took a hold of the ring to remove the seal. I have not noticed issues in the morning since. I had to give away an almost-full carton of milk that’s opened the same way and buy another. Lesson learned there!

After starting up my single-serving baking to get back into things slowly, I thought things were going fine. I wondered IMG_20160509_113827588_HDRif I might have been having exposure symptoms, but they were so minor that it was easy to write them off as something else. Just in case, though, I started going through items I’d been using in the recipes to see if anything stood out as a possible suspect. One item that stood out was a canister of salt. It’s opened from the top by pulling up a metal piece from the top of the container. You would then pour out salt through the resulting opening. I’d always just barely placed my fingernail under the metal piece to pull it up. I certainly didn’t think this would cause any problems. However, there was also the issue of the surface the metal piece touches when it’s closed. Could residue possibly be there? I decided not to use salt with a “cornbread for one” recipe that I tried last week. It was an optional ingredient. It did, however, call for other ingredients I had used previously. I had no issues with it, so I was able to eliminate those ingredients as suspects. When I made the cookies for church that I had made at the end of the week, I decided to use salt from the table instead of the salt in the cannister, and those cookies turned out completely fine. I had no issues with them either. I decided to buy another cannister of salt at the grocery store that used a different mechanism for opening and dispensing. It had a piece of plastic covering the hole used to pour out the salt, and I used a clean knife to punch through it to open it. I managed to use this new cannister of salt in another recipe and ruin that recipe as well! It turned out that I didn’t think to wipe down or wash the top of the container

The top of this cannister should be washed thoroughly before opening.

The top of this cannister should be washed thoroughly before opening.

before punching in the plastic piece. I had wiped it down after using it in the recipe, but it was too late by then. To test it out to be sure, I used it to season some veggies I’d fixed for dinner, and sure enough, I developed symptoms. I’d just ruined a brand new container of salt! I went to the store to buy another container of salt. I finally opened it later in the week after washing down the top thoroughly and using a clean knife to punch through the plastic piece. I sampled the salt to see how it was, and it was fine. I had no symptoms from it. I’ve also replaced some other ingredients that I’ve used in recipes with the salt just in case they might have been contaminated.

One evening, as I was fixing up my lunch for the next day, I had poured some pasta sauce from a bottle onto my meal. One thing I noticed is that some of the sauce dribbled onto the outside of the bottle before going into the lunch container. I was concerned that this might be problematic, but I decided not to worry about it and just take the item to work for lunch the next day anyway. I recall having symptoms after lunch the next day but can’t recall what I thought might have been the culprit at that time or if I thought the symptoms might have been something else altogether. The pasta sauce I think was in the back of my mind, though. I ended up making spaghetti for lunch the next day and used the pasta sauce again. I also had symptoms then. Next time, when IIMG_20160509_114937993 use the sauce, I may try either washing down the bottle before pouring out the sauce or using a spoon or measuring cup to get out what I need. Hopefully the sauce inside the bottle is fine. If it is, then the way I was dispensing it may very well have been causing problems. We’ll see, I guess.

Earlier in the week one morning, a few weeks after I’d discovered the issue with my orange juice, I had noticed symptoms after taking my vitamins and supplements. It was completely out-of-the-blue. I’m usually so careful getting my vitamins and supplements together in the morning that I almost never have problems with them now. I was very surprised. I had just started using a new hand soap, but I’ve never had problems with soap before. I researched the ingredients online, and I didn’t see anything that would suggest the ingredients were derived from wheat or gluten. Some of the pills I’d poured out more than what I needed, and I put the extras back into their respective containers. I didn’t think I’d touched them with unwashed hands. When I got home that evening, I poured my evening vitamins and supplements into a different dish and didn’t use my pill case as I do normally. I didn’t have any problems with my evening regimen. I was able to know then that one of my bottles of pills was

I'm totally not sure what happened here!

I’m totally not sure what happened here!

not contaminated. That night, I washed both my pill cases well with soap and water, and I wiped down the area where I keep them with a disposable wipe. The bowls I normally use to hold the pills as I pour them out of their bottles had been run through the dishwasher. I still had two pill bottles to test out. The next morning, I took my Allegra separately from the rest, about an hour or so earlier than usual. It seemed fine. I decided to take the other suspect one after I’d taken the rest. I wanted a little space of time in between to see if I would have any problems with the others. I didn’t, and I took that last pill. It seemed fine too. I was very relieved that I had not ruined any of my pills. I’m guessing I took care of whatever the problem was. This is just one of those times where I’m going to have to resolve to be more careful and hope it doesn’t happen again or a least for a good long time.

Dealing with cross-contamination is extremely difficult, especially at the level to which I experience symptoms. There are times I honestly can’t believe what causes me problems. Those are the times I think that those things can’t possibly be what I’m dealing with and that I need to start looking for other causes of my symptoms, like other food reactions or food intolerances, like histamine intolerance. However, all during these last three or four years, other than when I’ve discovered two other true food reactions, dealing with cross contamination alone is what has helped me feel better. Reacting to lower and lower levels over time means I’m making progress and handling the correct causes. I’m just hoping I get to the point where my reactions are from isolated incidents rather than continual sources of exposure. While I know I’ll never be able to stop them completely, I hope I can keep the number and frequency of exposures down to a point where they won’t cause long-term problems.

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