Why addressing my food sensitivities was the best thing I did for my health

Natasha Asselstine, R.H.N.

Natasha Asselstine, R.H.N.

Since I was a baby I have experienced bouts of eczema. I remember using hydrocortisone cream almost daily to manage it, and going for allergy tests that always came back negative. I grew up believing that this was the skin I was given, and that was that. No big deal.

Several years ago, I developed a small patch of eczema on my right eyelid. Again, I thought no big deal, and a little cream will put it in its place. But I was wrong, and a few weeks later I woke up covered head to toe with inflamed eczema – my entire body had erupted in a rash that looked like burns. I had never had it anywhere near this bad. I could barely open my eyes or mouth and I was also incredibly congested – sneezing incessantly and constantly rubbing itchy eyes, nose and skin. I tried taking antihistamines but they didn’t work. Needless to say, I was miserable!

This was the start of a long journey towards health and education. I was in countless doctors’ offices trying to uncover the cause and address it. But unfortunately it wasn’t so easy to diagnose and I was given more hydrocortisone cream to manage it. As the weeks passed, I also experienced extreme fatigue, brain fog and dizziness, forgetfulness, weight gain, bowel issues and I lost what felt like half of my hair. The congestion and allergy symptoms were also fierce, my iron stores had plummeted to a dangerously low level and my thyroid was being negatively impacted, too.

All this began with a small patch of dry skin above my eye.
eczema
One of the hardest aspects of it all was simply trying to communicate how unwell I felt. After all, it was “just eczema.” But I knew I wasn’t right. Having dizzy spells in my boss’s office, being bedridden on the weekends, panicking over anything added to my to-do list and forgetting loved ones’ birthdays was just not “me.”

In the end, it turned out to be food sensitivities (rather than immediate response allergies – those tests came back as negative) to quite a few of the foods that were staples in my diet. To be honest, I was first sceptical with the diagnosis, but at this point I was desperate to get better, so I was willing to try anything. I immediately got creative in the kitchen and tried a bunch of new ingredients and recipes.

Admittedly, I had my ups and downs and certainly complained a great deal when I couldn’t enjoy certain foods during social occasions, but more than anything I remember appreciating how this experience was forcing me to learn how to eat better. I also found the process of sourcing out foods that I could eat, and enjoy, to be a lot of fun! It opened up my eyes to a whole new way of eating (pardon the pun). Not only did I change my diet, but I also supported my gut – which I later learned to be the source of the development of food allergies.

Starting at just three months I noticed great improvement and by a year my eczema and food allergies cleared up for good! I used my last drop of hydrocortisone cream in 2013. Not only did I clear up my eczema for the long term, I’ve also experienced a variety of health improvements:

  • my mind is clear and focused, and my energy is incredible
  • my iron levels are the best they’ve ever been
  • I no longer crave sugar and refined foods, or experience “hangriness”
  • I enjoy and crave the taste of healthful foods, and am no longer a fussy eater
  • my hair has grown back
  • my thyroid has improved
  • my weight hasn’t come back on
  • I no longer experience sneezing, itchiness, congestion – or even hay fever in the spring!

I grew up my whole life thinking my eczema was normal. It’s now when I look back that I realize it was my body’s way of trying to tell me something. My body was able to hang on until 2012 before it threw in the towel.

It was a long journey to identify what was wrong, but that discovery was the best thing that ever happened to me, and even led me to return to school and pursue a career as a nutritionist.

My biggest lesson from this is to listen to my body, and that by nourishing it well it can take care of the rest.

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