Have you ever had unexplained pain? Or pain and exhaustion that seems to have an explanation but no remedy? There may be a simple (yet seemingly crazy) reason why. This is a three-part story due to the tangled knot of discovery and efforts to unravel my very own mystery. You may see yourself or someone you know in the following three stories.
As I marched through the process of feeling better, feeling worse, feeling better, worse (you get the idea) from 2006 through 2009, I figured it was my busy lifestyle that created the health roller coaster. Mid-year 2006, I was working as a commissioned sales rep in Florida and having a long-distance relationship, travelling every couple of weeks to Tennessee. After about six months, my boyfriend (eventually my husband, Ken) who lived in Knoxville decided to move to Florida to be with me, so we bought a house together and got ready to settle in when an amazing job opportunity for Ken presented itself — in Las Vegas.
Now we had to rent or buy a house in Vegas and fly hours to be together. I did most of the travelling and ended up working there and Florida, opening Vegas accounts for my company a week or two a month. Back and forth I went for a year until Ken’s dream opportunity fell through and everything seemed to fall apart. The list of disasters that followed are too lengthy to detail here, but suffice it to say the immense financial strain, the emotional stress and the physical toll came together like the perfect storm, and at the end of 2008, I crashed. I was sick with respiratory infections and strep for months and couldn’t seem to get back on track.
I was still getting Vitamin C IVs, and doing all the right things for my body and my spirit, but it wasn’t enough. I slogged through 2009, planned our small wedding on the beach, and ended up having to quit my job (doctor’s orders) due to stress and exhaustion. I ended up with strep throat again on our honeymoon in November, and never felt completely well even after it was gone.
The cascade continued into December when I had an old dental filling replaced. It should have been an easy procedure, but it didn’t go as planned (very inexperienced dentist) and I ended up with my first root canal in March 2010. Infection took hold and I had an apicoectomy in July. I was also on Amoxicillin the entire time (seven months), which was counter-intuitive to everything I knew, but felt I had no choice. We went on a vacation in late August and while we were in northern Michigan, the throbbing in my face was so awful I ended up having the tooth yanked. A $4100 molar in the garbage…ouch!
That same summer, I had also begun suffering with a bum hip. The vice-like tightness and stabbing, shooting pain in my groin and thigh worsened until I could barely walk — I was running on pure frustration. I had recently turned forty and thought, “Well, isn’t this wonderful? I can hardly wait to see what fifty is like.” I was not in a good place emotionally, however, I did start feeling better after the infected molar was pulled, and within a couple of months my hip pain receded enough that I could get back to yoga and light exercise. Finally some relief.
In January 2011 as I began the somewhat violent process of a dental implant to replace the missing molar, my groin pain waxed-and-waned and I started having allergic reactions to God-knows-what. I was covered in hives and my lips, tongue, throat and cheeks were raw, swollen and blistered all the time. It was especially bad in the morning; my lips would crack and bleed from the swelling. I looked like Goldie Hawn in First Wives Club. If it didn’t hurt so much it might have been funny, but I was miserable and scared. What if whatever I was allergic to caused me to stop breathing while I slept? I eliminated everything I was eating in stages trying to figure it out. This went on throughout the summer as I went to numerous allergists and specialists trying to figure out the mystery. Nobody had any answers.
I was still limping (again, no exercise) with a swollen face and hives. I was thin, tired, gaunt and afraid of everything. I didn’t want to go anywhere for fear I’d pass out (as I had started to do). I was racking up thousands of dollars of debt on holistic and regular treatments and tests. Depression and fear were my constant companions, though I had to pretend otherwise.
Just as I gave in to feeling totally lost and out of ideas, along came one of my angels, my dermatologist’s PA, Sandra, who had been doing my mole checks for years and knew me very well. I told her what was going on and she asked, “Didn’t you have your wedding ring reset because of the nickel in the white gold?” I looked at her strangely, and replied, “Yes, why?”
“There’s nickel in silverware and cooking utensils and pans and a lot of food,” she explained. She suggested I eat with plastic and use ceramic pans and knives and research foods containing nickel. For the next couple of days, I ate with plastic and the reactions subsided. The only spot that was red and raw was a stripe on my tongue below the temporary abutment (screw) that was for my soon-to-be permanent crown. It was the abutment! I called the periodontist and found out I could get the permanent titanium abutment and crown right away.
At last, I had a gorgeous new molar and massive relief knowing I could control my allergy to nickel. I bought nickel-free silverware, ceramic pans, knives, made sure my mixer, toaster and other items were nickel-free, though I had to continue to eat with plastic for many, many months when we went out to restaurants — so embarrassing! I always felt compelled to explain myself to the server, “I’m allergic to nickel,” I would sheepishly say. I ordered things that were grilled (to avoid pans) and food that I could eat with chop sticks. It took several months for my raw mouth to calm down, but eventually it did.
There are six hundred million people allergic to nickel and many more who don’t know they are. It’s in everything, all around us — cell phones, purses, jewelry, zippers, coins, most metal kitchen items, belt buckles, some dental metals, tattoo ink and surprisingly it’s in medical needles. It’s in most food, but higher concentrations are in canned and fermented foods, like sauerkraut, beer and wine. It’s also higher in food that grows in the ground like peanuts and potatoes. And sadly, it’s high in coffee, tea and chocolate.
Yes, I am still allergic to nickel, though symptom free. Back then it became so severe because it was in my mouth and my immune system was at rock-bottom. My body wasn’t able to handle the long-term load of physical pain, months of antibiotics and the emotional distress, which led to my adrenal glands working in “fight or flight” mode constantly, weakening them so they could no longer do their job.
So how do you determine if you’re having an allergic reaction to something and if it’s a dangerous reaction, a sensitivity, or a full-blown immune reaction? Read on to learn more.
“It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.” Mahatma Gandhi