I think I am allergic to chocolate!
I came to this realisation while trying to find out why my hay fever is so bad and affects me all year round. Readers – I warn you, you may find this post a bit gross.
Hay fever is not new to me. I have been plagued by it since I was about 11 years old. I have not so fond memories of wanting to scratch my eyeballs out because the itching was so bad. But because my Mum was quite cheap, and we only went to the Dr when things were really bad, it took me until my mental breaking point before asking her if I could have some medication. The sense of relief when the eye drop hit my eye ball was amazing!
Flash forward to University and my move to Wellington. My itchy eye ball symptoms went away and were replaced by a runny nose. At first I didn’t think this was so bad, after all, it is not that hard to blow one’s nose – just not that great for finding a boyfriend. Plus it was also only during the hay fever season. But it slowly got worse and more constant.
I started taking some medication again and this provided some relief but it never really fixed it. Plus buying over-the-counter drugs was expensive! I then figured out that I could get a prescription from the Dr and this cut costs down a bit and I was happy for a few more years.
I hear you asking “but how does this relate to Kona and triathlon?” Well, the more serious I got into my running, and then into triathlon, the more time I would be spending outside and the worse my symptoms got. I was now symptomatic all year around. It was also a struggle trying to breathe while training and I would have to constantly clear my nose. I suspected that this could also be one of the reasons why I am prone to getting the stitch. But that is a topic for another day.
Still, I soldiered on and kept taking medication to no avail.
The next thing that happened was that I would have blood in my mucus. I was initially quite concerned about this, but my Dr did not share my concern and said that sores don’t really heal in the nose because of the moisture and every time I blow my nose it reopened the sore. I went with this for another year or so.
This was until I started thinking that it might be diet related. After I joined Results Room I would occasionally participate in Real Food Challenges where I stopped eating all chocolate and junk food. One of the unexpected benefits was that there would no longer be any blood in my mucus. Then after the Challenge was over I would go on a bender and the blood would return.
I started thinking about this recently as I was expressing frustration to my personal trainer at how my hay fever seemed like it was getting worse again this winter. My Dr was telling me that it was the colder weather that was making my nose run more, but I didn’t believe this to be the true cause. My trainer asked if I had thought about whether it wasn’t hay fever at all but perhaps an intolerance to a food group, or maybe that certain foods were making it worse? I did some research on this and while there is conflicting evidence on whether food affects hay fever, I was willing to see if my symptoms improved if I cut out the groups of foods that are known to cause allergic reactions:
The plan was each week to trial cutting out one of the above groups to see if it made any difference to my symptoms. At the same time I would also cut back on the chocolate because, let’s be honest, it is 5 weeks to Mooloolaba Ironman70.3 and I need to start acting like it! I also read on one website that chocolate is a histamine!!!!! This was obviously quite devastating news.
Seeing as I don’t eat a lot of wheat I thought that would be the easiest one to trial first and eliminate that. I noticed the blood did disappear but there was no other real effect on the frequency of my nose blowing. The second week I tried cutting back on dairy. The night before I stared I had some cheese, yoghurt and milk as part of my dinner. Not because I was being rigorous about my testing, just because that was what I wanted to eat. That evening as I was trying to sleep I felt particularly blocked up and I had difficulty sleeping (but the pin had not yet dropped). The next day I had eggs and avocado on toast for breakfast and went to work. It was quite remarkable the difference I felt. That evening I made sure to have no diary in dinner and I was much clearer going to bed.
So it looks like diary and sugar might be the culprits for aggravating my hay fever/intolerance. I will have to keep up the non-diary diet for a little longer to be sure. But this conclusion is bittersweet as I love yoghurt almost as much as I love chocolate. In fact, it is what I turn to when I am trying not to eat chocolate. It is also quite mentally challenging thinking that I can’t have something. I guess that means I have to change my mental mind set – a common theme with anyone that is trying to eat healthy and/or lose weight – from “I can’t have it” to I should eat something different”.
But will this stop me eating chocolate? I think we all know the answer to that question🙂