My daughter Victoria is now 13 years old. When she was five she became very unwell with a gastro bug and was quite ill for three weeks (vomiting, diarrhoea, nausea). The sensation of nausea did not go away after she recovered. After some weeks we were referred to a paediatrician who diagnosed nervous dyspepsia. I knew this was not right and asked to be referred to a gastroenterologist. The GP reluctantly did so. The paed gastro specialist did an endoscopy and found a helicobacter ulcer which was then treated with antibiotics. Unfortunately the nausea remained, and diarrhoea started to become more of problem.
We were referred to a dietitian who dealt with intolerances and followed her elimination diet to the letter with very little improvement. I understand now that this dietitian’s diet was quite relaxed and included many foods in the moderate category (yoghurt, mangoes, just ripe bananas, Colby cheese etc). We abandoned the diet after three months and just ate home-cooked plainish food with no artificial additives (this did include a range of organic fruit and veg).
For the next six or so years we battled with Victoria’s health. The tummy problems continued (nausea, diarrhoea). Her immune system was poor (she caught everything going around). She was irritable, impatient and not affectionate. She constantly had dark circles under her eyes. And then about three years ago she began to suffer frequent headaches mainly sinus ones. She was just never well.
We went everywhere and did everything to try to help her (blood tests, acupuncturist, paediatric allergist, naturopath, eye tests, physiotherapist, ear/nose/throat specialist you name it we did it with no improvement).
Now it is relevant to talk about myself for a moment. For 20 years I have had turns where after eating out I would become really unwell. This was usually at a restaurant. First I get nausea, then feel faint and break out in a cold sweat followed by vomiting or diarrhoea or both. Sometimes I do actually faint. Even though we had not had any success with the early (relaxed) elimination diet I did learn about food chemicals at this time, and realised that it was ultra high-amine foods that I was reacting to (e.g. camembert cheese followed by aged beef with wine gravy etc).
Now cut back to mid last year one evening I prepared a meal of very fresh roast organic chicken (with skin) and homemade gravy, potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower and peas. After eating some of her meal, Victoria had a similar reaction to the ones I described above. This was the first time she had had the same type of turn as me. I recognised that this meal was high in amines (but not too high for me) and realised that amines were a problem for her.
So then I read your books and went to a new dietitian (dealing with intolerances) and discovered that Victoria needs to eat a diet low in all food chemicals. If she does stay absolutely strict she is reasonably well. The nausea problem has reduced dramatically, as has the diarrhoea. She is less irritable and more affectionate. Her headaches have reduced. Her immunity is better. We have seen a real improvement!
Her diet is very limited. (Unfortunately, she is also intolerant to raffinose, so she can’t even eat all the vegies in the low category!) We have to get our meat from a butcher who phones me the day the beef arrives from the abattoir, and I go that day and buy (and freeze) meat for the next month. She is very sensitive.
Victoria’s sinus headache problem is certainly affected by food chemicals - it has improved quite a lot on the elimination diet, but a whole range of environmental allergens seem to trigger it too. The grass being cut affects her. Walking through the detergent isle in the supermarket affects her. The smell of perfume and cosmetics affects her. Household chemicals affect her. Some particular irritants:
- Hairspray and other spray-on hair products: She feels an urgent need to remove herself from the smell of these products. She feels she can taste them and they cause her a serious headache. We can’t go to a normal hairdressing salon - she says they are toxic. We have our hair cut at a home salon and the hairdresser doesnt use any products on us.
- Dust: she is aware of dust if it is around and finds it unpleasant because it irritates her nose, but it is not until later that she develops a sinus headache. These headaches can be quite bad and last for many days.
- Perfumes/aromatherapy scents: these smells are all really distasteful to her. She feels nauseous and headachy in environments that are scented. She has a strong feeling that she needs to leave.
- Garden smells and pollens: she is very aware of them - they make her nose feel sneezy and occasionally she develops a headache.
- The smell of clothes washing detergent and other cleaners are most distasteful to Victoria. The skin on her face flushes and feels irritated, and she develops a headache if exposed to the smell for more than a couple of minutes. For washing sheets and pillow cases I often just use a hot water cycle with no detergent and dry them in the sun. They look and smell clean to us. For washing clothes I use the skin care cycle on our machine which uses more water and does an extra rinse, and just use a little OMO Sensitive or Earth Choice Sensitive. Once again, things come out clean, even with less detergent. We can’t detect a fragrance after washing and drying in the sun.
- If we happen to wear a garment that has been washed in normal fragrant powder for whatever reason, we both feel unwell and get a headache. I developed a very severe headache that lasted for days once (years ago) as I had lent a shirt to someone and they returned it after washing it in normal detergent and using Fabulon during the ironing process. I foolishly wore it to work and became so unwell and dizzy that I had to go home sick! We ourselves use Mitchum unscented deodorant, QV non soap alternative, Bod ultrasensitive fragrance free shampoo and conditioner purchased online from Biome or Simple shampoo and Conditioner ordered in by our local pharmacy.
- Victoria notices and dislikes the smell of petrol, cigarette smoke and basically anything else with a strong smell.
- Oppressive humid weather gives Victoria (and her grandmother) a sinus headache.
I suffer from sinus headaches too, and all of the above affect me, but I am not nearly as sensitive. Victoria and I both have a fantastic sense of smell. We can both smell cigarette smoke from a neighbour smoking in his back yard four big house blocks away. We are both super sensitive to food smells as well, especially protein foods (which of course comes in very handy with catering for an amine responder!)
One of the many specialists we have taken Victoria to is a paediatric allergist. She took one look at Victoria and commented that she looked like an allergy sufferer. She noticed (amongst other things) the dark circles under Victoria’s eyes and a wrinkle or line across her nose that indicated constant rubbing of her nose. Victoria was tested for a wide range of commons allergens, but the skin prick tests did not reveal allergy. The specialist said that she was surprised, and recommended Victoria use a saline nasal spray (which she does) and use antihistamines when needed as she may be allergic to things other than what she was tested for.
The whole body load issue is certainly relevant for Victoria. How badly she responds to irritating food and smells certainly varies according to the load on her body school stress, PMT, illness etc. She is definitely doing better on a diet of all low chemical foods, but it does not take much to upset her balance.
When Victoria is not doing well she feels overstimulated very easily by light, noise, smells (of course) and other stimulants. She also has poor volume control at such times, even though she is usually a quiet girl. Another recurring problem is urinary tract irritation not pain or burning just a constant feeling of needing to dash to the loo.
I have two other things I wanted to mention (for what they are worth):
- Victoria is gifted. She was accelerated a whole grade in primary school and excels academically. I nearly choked on my tea when I read in one of your books that we ‘should not blame bad behaviour on giftedness’ - I had been blaming her prickliness, impatience and irritability with others on giftedness to some degree.
- We have very recently discovered that Victoria’s blood levels of Vitamin D are in the normal range (55), but only barely. Our dietitian (from the failsafe list) says that in her opinion the bare minimum should be 75 and we should be aiming for 100. She says that recent overseas research indicates that there is a link between intolerances and low vitamin D levels. We are trying to get Victoria into the sun for safe periods every day to improve this, and will test again in 3 months …
Update 3 months later: We have actually been faring better over the last month or so. We had a re-test for vitamin D levels and to our surprise discovered that despite trying to increase sun-exposure, Victoria’s levels were still at the low-normal level of 55 (normal range is 50-300). Our dietitian had suggested previously that we should aim for higher than 100. So I decided to try a failsafe vitamin D capsule. I don’t know if that has helped, or it is just a co-incidence, but after a couple of weeks Victoria seems to be back to faring quite well on the low-chemical diet. I am cautiously optimistic.
What a long story - and this is only a small part of it! Thanks very much for your wonderful work. Your books and website are fantastic. I am very grateful. - Carol, by email