On Monday, I had my re-visit with my allergist for the year. For the past couple years I have had to get allergy shots in hopes that my body can build some immunity to the things that bother me most. In my case, this happens to be Ragweed, Birch Pollen, Dust Mites, and Animals (esp. dogs/cats). Originally, I was put on a regime of allergy medications, including inhalers for my asthma. Not only do I suffer from asthma due to allergens but I also suffer from chronic sinus infections in which I had been taking a prescribed nasal spray for. This past year, I thought I had all of this under control so I had tapered off my medications, never really needing to use the nasal sprays and only needing my inhalers as needed when a random attack would strike (which is great considering these used to happen daily). However, then November hit and I started to feel my symptoms flare up again getting worse when we brought the Christmas tree in our house in December. Of course, the tree was to blame but who would have though there could have been much more to it then that. Dr. Kagen to the rescue!
I started my appointment at the allergy clinic like every other 3rd Monday-3 allergy shots in the arm and wait for 30 minutes to get them checked. Typically I have some small reaction to one or more of the shots given. I go home and have an itchy arm for a couple days and all is forgotten about until the next time I go in. However, this past Monday I got to have a very interesting visit with the doctor and re-visit what has been going on this past year. The nurse took my blood pressure (all good) and then had me do the breathing test (not as good as it should be). My latest score on this was a 57% (yikes). To the doctor this indicates asthma and inflammation in the lungs and it’s important to figure out why.
Upon further talking, my doctor asked if I had been experiencing heartburn/acid re-flux. Ironically, I have been experiencing this but I was wondering what the heck it had to do with my allergies and why it was important to bring up. My doctor then explained he has a guess as to what may be going on and why my symptoms are flaring up. He said that if I am experiencing heart burn/acid re-flux that typically it can be caused by a food allergy or food sensitivity. There is a name he rattled off at me too for what could possibly be part of my issue, Eosinophilic Esophagitis.
Typically, in my case my doctor believes the allergens are working from the bottom up. The things I have allergies to, have cousin foods that can also cause problems for people. This may be the case for me. If I eat one of these cousin foods it goes down into my stomach causing a reaction, then it causes heart burn/acid re-flux which then the allergen travels up through my esophagus causing some inflammation there and also to my lungs (inducing my asthma) then it continues to travel up into my head/sinus areas and causing a lot of extra mucus and bodily secretions. I actually was diagnosed with a sinus infection while there as well.
Digging further, my doctor and I started briefly talking about our issues with infertility. Although he stated he is no expert he said that although my husband may have the “slow swimmers” and that could be our major contributing factor he also explained that my bodily chemistry may not be the greatest with my body trying to fight off all of these allergens. He also explained that the sensitivity to food is more then likely producing extra acidity to my body and again, acidity will go strait to our bodily fluids, namely vaginal fluids and therefore could be killing off what good sperm my husband has. My doctor said gut health is so incredibly important and links to some of our bodies major health issues. Interesting thought right?
Whoa-stop the train! Never in all my time dealing with allergies or infertility did I consider any of this or that the two issues may, in fact, be linked together. Considering food allergies are tricky, where does one even start in tackling this issue? My doctor started by giving me a list of the food “cousins” to be aware of:
Ragweed Pollen Food Cousins: Watermelon, Cantaloupe, Pumpkin, Pumpkin Seeds, Squash, Sunflower seeds, Banana, Lettuce, and sometimes Latex or Rubber products
Birch Pollen: Celery, Carrots, and all Stony Pitted Fruits such as Apples, Peaches, Pears and Cherries
Cat Allergens: Pork
Dust Mite: Snail and possibly Shellfish
Since an abrupt change in diet can be very overwhelming, I am not diving in head first. Instead, my doctor suggested I start by keeping a food diary and being extremely cautious of how my body is reacting to what I am putting in it and also record these symptoms as well as any lingering symptoms may have. He said the listed above foods, for now, is NOT a “do not eat it list” it is just simply information intended to help me determine if this relationship has any clinical significance to my issues. Along with keeping a food diary, my doctor also wants to treat my symptoms first hand. So, I am currently being treated for my sinus infection with Azithromycin. I am using over the counter nasal spray (Afrin) and also taking Prilosec for my heartburn/acid re-flux. He then wants me to be seen again at the end of January to again revisit my symptoms after a few weeks of treatment. The pharmacy did suggest eating yogurt daily as well as using a probiotic to ward off possible yeast infection.
I started the food diary yesterday, which is a lot harder then I thought it would be. However, I am all for figuring this out alongside my doctor, especially if this would help improve symptoms and our fertility. Again, this year is all about self care and I am all for making any positive changes that help improve my daily life. The time is now! In the days ahead I am also going to try to gather more information about this issue and ways it relates to infertility. Knowledge is power right. I’ve already brought this issue up in my secondary infertility groups and I have had a great response along with feedback. I will try to keep you all updated in the days ahead with what I find out or changes made! Thank you for your continued support.
A few links I have found online in regards to this are below, but ironically I’m not finding too much concrete research on the links between allergies and infertility BUT I plan to continue on digging in the days to come. Until then check out the links I found: