Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Allergy shots are for real, kids!

For about four months now, I've been making a twice-weekly trek to my (new) allergist's office to receive four shots (two in each arm) of special made-for-me allergy serums that contain tiny (but increasing) doses of all the environmental things I'm allergic to.

The idea is that by s....l....o....w....l....y increasing the dosage, we can train my body not to freakthefuckout when it encounters a bit of pollen, a dust mite, or a mosquito bite.

Today I reached what is called my maintenance dose--a dosage level of allergy serum I'll continue to receive every 3-4 weeks for several more years or maybe forever.

This allergy shot journey has been a huge time commitment--though the shots themselves take no more than 2 minutes, there's travel time to and from the office, waiting room time, and then you have to wait there 20-30 minutes after each shot to make sure you won't have a serious reaction. Not to mention countless hours spent at home laying on ice packs to combat the local swelling I often get after a shot.

Back of the envelope math--I've had something like 112 individual shots and spent somewhere around 40-50 hours in various shot-related activities.

But it all paid off this weekend when I spent several hours cleaning my house (sweeping, dusting, raking, etc.) with the windows wide open all while landscapers outside stirred up a veritable cloud of grass, tree, and weed pollens. For pre-shot me, this would have been a nightmare scenario--itchy eyes, hives, sneezing, etc. I might have lasted half an hour before I knocked myself out with a few benadryl and called it a day. But post-shot me had barely a sniffle, and that's without any antihistamines at all. It was like being a normal person. Truly a huge difference in less than four months.

One other note - yes, I did eventually become the mayor of the allergist's office on FourSquare, which led to a really awesome moment when the former mayor recognized me in the office and came up to congratulate me on my progress and tell me what a great difference the shots have made for him--a refrain I've heard from almost everyone who has gone through this process.

Off to lay down on some ice packs (for the last time before a 3-week break!)

Friday, July 15, 2011

So I'm a sucky blogger (are we really all that surprised?)

So work has been nuts and the blog has gotten away from me. Apologies to my 3 loyal readers.

Unfortunately another big factor in the blog getting away from me is that my rash is back in full effect, and this time nothing (special diet, steroid creams and shots, double doses of multiple types of allergy meds) seems to be controlling it. It turns out it was much more fun to blog about allergies when I was doing something about them and it was working.

I'm with a new allergist now, who is much more attentive than Dr. Beverly Hills was, and I've begun immunotherapy (i.e. Allergy Shots) with him. What this means is that I have four little vials of special made-for-me allergy serum in his office refrigerator, and I go twice a week (one day apart, always when the Dr. is in the office in case I go all anaphylactic on them) to get four shots of these serums in my arms. The shots are for all my environmental allergies - pollens, animals, molds, etc.*

* Those who've memorized my list of environmental allergies may recall that I'm allergic to cockroaches. When they were putting in the order for my special serum, but poor technician had to call and ask if cockroaches are something I "regularly encounter in my day to day life" and thus should be included in the shot. AWKWARD! And god I hope not!

The idea here is for roughly 12 weeks I'll go twice a week and get these shots, which will increase slowly in dosage. Then after this 12-week ramp up, I'll go on maintenance shots every 3-4 weeks for a year or more. Hopefully after this time,

1. I'll have increased or even total tolerance of the stuff in my shots!
2. I'll be the Mayor of his office on Four Square
3. I'll stop getting that Shots! Shots! ShotsShotsShotsShots! song in my head everytime I think about this.

Dr. Glendale (yawn, but that name will do for now), thinks maybe if we can get the environmental allergens under control, that will help enough with my general histamine level that the food allergies won't matter anymore, or will be easily controlled with Allegra, etc. Besides, not eating all that stuff wasn't stopping the rash anyway anymore. So now I'm avoiding only soy--because I really do think I react to it. But that's all I'm strict about for now. Dark circle status: Moderate--but not as bad as before.

In the back of my mind, I'm a little worried that these uncontrollable rashes might actually be my body reacting to myself, rather than to pollen or food or anything I can control or avoid. Apparently in something like 50% of cases like mine where rash flares just won't quit, that's the problem. One step at a time, I guess.

Anyway, that's the latest. See you in less than two months next time*

*no promises

Monday, May 23, 2011

I see a SANDWICH in my future!

I came across this top-8 free bread recipe linked in Pinterest today: and got a little obsessed, because it doesn't contain a single thing I can't have (well ok, except potato starch, which is easily subbed). So naturally after work I hightailed it over to the natural foods store to grab some millet, sorghum, and teff flours to work with because I just could not wait another day to make it. Miracle of miracles they had all three in stock!

My gosh baking has changed a lot for me. I used to make a mean baguette out of just bread flour, yeast, salt and water. Now my supplies for a simple recipe look like this:

I baked a half batch (one loaf) because these flours are expensive! Below are the measurements, many of which are in grams, which I prefer. If you want volume measurements, they are in the original recipe (doubled from mine):

.25 cup white sugar
1 tbsp active dry yeast
2 tsp olive oil
1 5/8 cups warm (but not hot) water

90g Millet Flour
30g Teff Flour
68g Sorghum Flour
1 cup cornstarch (or 1 cup potato starch, or a blend)
60g tapioca flour
2 tsp zanthan gum
.5 tbsp salt

Mix the first four ingredients and set aside for 10 mins or so to proof the yeast. This was not in the original recipe, but it's part of my standard bread practice, so I did this while I mixed the other flours.

Measure and mix all the dry stuff.

Mix the wet and dry in your trusty mixer. Note this is more like a batter than a bread dough--you're in paddle territory, definitely not bread hook. You want to mix this for 2-3 mins.

Once mixed, pour into a standard loaf pan. It should fill it about halfway. Set aside using your favorite rising method (I tried out the author's suggestion of using the microwave and it was great).

Once the volume has doubled (your bread will be peeking out of the pan), pop in the oven at 400 for 10 mins. After 10 mins, cover with foil, then bake 35-45 mins (until 190 degrees internal temp). Note: the recipe said 35-45, I was actually at temp in 30. But I bake with a pizza stone in the oven, so your mileage may vary.

Try to let it cool before you eat it.

I want to play around with the baking method. I'm not thrilled with the browning I got and I think I can do better. But otherwise--this seriously tastes like real bread. Real, homemade, warm, delicious, comforting bread. Look at that crumb!

I feel like I just got back something major that I had lost.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

On "just staying home"

One of my biggest fears with this diagnosis was that it would further cut me off from an already small social circle here in LA. If I couldn't eat "normal foods" how could I go to parties, or eat out in restaurants, or even cook things for friends who are used to flour and eggs and all that delicious stuff.

I've actually found that my fears were overblown in many ways. Both friends and restaurants have been very accommodating, and with a little planning I can almost always find or bring something to eat. Restaurants, especially, have blown me away with their attention and willingness to work with me. It helps that I'm polite and clear and willing to eat pretty much anything as long as I'm not allergic to it!

So I was sad to see a tweet this morning from a restaurant owner in Copenhagen (retweeted by an LA Times food blogger):

: Dear people, if you are allergic to everything from the sea and would like to keep wheat, butter, offal and salt?? of the menu. Stay home!!

I got into it a little with him, and he backpedaled a bit. Apparently when he said "stay home" what he meant was "call us first so we have warning" - he's still learning twitter. He could have helped his case tremendously by not referring to "allergies" in quotes a tweet or two later as though he doesn't believe someone can actually be allergic to a bunch of normal stuff. Newsflash buddy--click the food allergens link at the right to see that this is indeed possible.

The good news is, at least in my world, restauranteurs like Rene don't have to suffer us annoying allergic people. And lucky for us we don't have to suffer them either. On to other restaurants!

Friday, May 13, 2011

~ Pity me post ~

I walked three blocks to a local taqueria for lunch. When I got back, my legs looked like this:

And that's all just lingering reaction from stuff I ate in SF last week. Get out of my system please because I would like to be able to get my heart rate above 100 without a huge breakout again!!!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Back on the Wagon

Last week I traveled for work up to my favorite city in the world - San Francisco.

Although I'd done a lot of pre-planning for the trip and had my lara bars and special granola in tow, and my mom was wonderfully accommodating in the meals she prepared at home, I still fell off the allergen-free diet wagon, hard.

It was the business lunches that did me in, mainly. First a delicious sushi meal in which I got too frazzled by the line at the counter to carefully order sashimi without tuna or shrimp and instead got the chef's sampler (rice! tuna! shrimp! something in a sauce I'm certain contained soy! Miso soup!) Although I refrained from dipping the sushi in soy sauce, I know the damage was done. Rashalicious.

Day 2 I vowed to be smarter. I told the coworker I'd be dining with that I needed her to choose a restaurant where I could order simple foods--steamed or grilled veggies and meat, or possibly just a simple salad. So what does she pick to accommodate my needs? DIM freaking SUM. Granted, delicious, but clearly my request went in one ear and out the other. We had a client meeting in the afternoon and by the end of it my chest was fully broken out in big raised hives.

It didn't help that being in SF and Marin was like wearing a giant helmet filled with pollen. I started back on my Zyrtec immediately upon arriving and checking the pollen forecast, but it was too late for me at that point. I was a sniffling, congested mess pretty much the whole week.

Someone remind me of this incident when I decide in a few months whether to opt for allergy-shot treatment for the environmental allergies, at least.

One bright side: I've been wanting to write a post about my allergic shiners (or lack thereof on this diet) for awhile, but I was having trouble finding a good before shot of what my under-eyes look like with a good dose of allergens in my life! Rest assured, I now have the perfect photo to use, so stay tuned for that!

Oh, and bright side #2 - Once I finally said "screw it I'm eating whatever I want" I got to have sourdough. Mmmm sourdough.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Double-Double, Mustard-Grilled, Protein Style


Yeah. I can eat that.

h/t to eating is the hard part for the photo (and inspiration to go see In & Out university!)