A Life Without Fear of Stomach Pains or Hives

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Written by: Robert Allen

Robb,
I’ve been a wreck. I’m 19 years old, yet you would think I was 3x that age with all of the recent health problems I’ve had. It all started when I was 17 with random stomach aches that lasted for about a year, but only when I ate certain foods.
My solution? Avoid those foods. Simple enough right? Actually, NO…
The problem was that the list of foods that caused my stomach aches kept growing. AND GROWING. Until literally I was eating eggs and toast for breakfast, a turkey or peanut butter sandwich for lunch, and egg sandwiches for dinner. And still feeling like crap.
Before all that, I was strong and an athlete, but because of the way I was eating my performance suffered accordingly.
That way of eating persisted for about a year. Then, things got much worse. I started waking up in the middle of the night with sharp pains in my lower stomach. My stomach actually was swollen after each meal. And I started to develop chest pains. I thought in part I was going to die. I never really wanted to tell my parents the full extent of my problems for fear of freaking them out.
Any way, I ended up graduating High School and making it through my first year of college with these problems while keeping a 4.0 GPA in each. But don’t ask me how. I was always in such pain and in fear of my life it’s amazing that I focused on anything.
I was actually at the point where I always carried pepto bismol, tums, and alka seltzer around because I knew no matter what I ate it was going to be so painful.
Then, in May of this year the mother-of-all stomach aches hit. I was with my girlfriend in Walmart looking for a mother’s day card when I just dropped to my knees and yelled from the pain. She took me home immediately, and by that time I was starting to break out in severe hives. My parents were freaked, my girlfriend was crying, and I was in pain; but because I just thought this was the end that I had been mentally preparing for, I was actually calm. IN PAIN, but very calm.
In the Emergency room, I was immediately injected with an antihistamine and something to calm my stomach. Within minutes the hives and stomach ache dissipated, and everyone was relieved. I had so many questions, yet all the nurses wanted to do was get me out of there. It was MY RESPONSIBILITY to figure out what was causing the reaction, they said. I tried to explain the stomach issue being a leading indicator, but it was out the door and goodnight.
Well, fast forward one week later and guess what? Another crippling stomach ache and another hives break out. Only this time I refused to go to the emergency room and be charged over $1000 for something I thought I could treat at home. So I took a benadryl, the hives started to go away.
This experience lead me to lose a little faith in the medical community and gain a little belief in my own researching ability to solve my health issues. Nevertheless, the stomach problems got worse and chest pains followed. The chest pains, though, were what concerned me most. I had put up with stomach aches for almost 3 years now, but chest pains seemed to indicate something more serious. So, I made an appointment with my doctor.
I showed up and told him my story, going over each detail to be painstakingly clear. I followed my story all the way up to the point of hives and chest pains.
And the entire time, he never once wrote anything down, only sat there nodding.
But then, the magic phrase “chest pains” came out of my mouth, and he wanted to do an EKG.
He did, and the results were “not textbook” and he “want[ed] me to see a specialist.”
I asked more and more questions that he would only dodge. He said lets do some blood work and see.
I got the blood drawn and left upset. And upset at the whole situation, not just the doctor. Everyone was putting the burden on me. I thought these people were supposed to be experts? I was going to school for a degree in finance and computer science, not biochemistry.
Well at least he did refer me to a cardiologist, but that appointment was 3 weeks away.
I made up my mind on the way home I was going to come to that appointment prepared. I was going to spend every non-stomach ache waking minute learning about my symptoms and the related diseases I had. I was not going to let this cardiologist scratch his head and do a referral like everyone else up to this point.
So after my summer school class everyday for 3 weeks, I went into the library at school and researched. I learned so many different diseases and symptoms. The only problem was that if I was going to do a diagnoses I would have thought I had them all. Almost everything I thought I could have had the same symptoms. NO WONDER my doctor was so reluctant to commit to any one answer.
I researched in spite of several more hives break outs. Now benadryl was added to my staple of medicines that I carried each and every day.
Finally, the appointment came. It was time to see the cardiologist. He came in, and I was ready.
I had rehearsed every aspect of what I was going to tell him, careful to highlight the points where I thought he should pay the most attention to. The entire time he listened. Jotted down notes and made a timeline of my symptoms. He started to get a smirk on his face about half-way through my monologue. This only frustrated me! Did he think that this was funny?! Finally, I concluded and he said, “now take a deep breath.” I did. “Your symptoms seem to imply you have an autoimmune disease, somewhat approaching a severe gluten allergy, and they may easily remedied by changes to your diet.”
I didn’t really hear much else. In my head, I kept hearing “changes to your diet.” That to me was best way to say something that should have been so obvious to me all along.
But I was too focused on a diagnoses to think about possible treatments when I was doing my research.
One thing that cardiologist did that probably saved my life is give me the number of one of his friends who was also a cardiologist. Only his friend practiced something called “Paleo.” I had no idea what the heck that meant. I just knew if this guy was going to give me advice, then I was going to take it.
The call went over great. I actually got in to see this cardiologist fairly quickly. He spent 2 hours going over the diet with me. I was so intrigued and hopeful that a solution was on the horizon. He recommended your book, and since then everything has changed.
I have read your book 5 times since June. I have been living in your podcast and finding additional material by Mark Sisson, Doug Mcguff and the like.
I have seen such a dramatic change in the way I feel since implementing the paleo lifestyle. I have started to put back on some of the weight I had lost, sleep better, feel better. No more stomach aches! No more chest pains!
THANK YOU SO MUCH! Seriously.
Paleo has become such a passion for me. It has pulled me out of the darkest point in my life and shed clarity on so many different things. Paleo has given me my life back. You, Robb, have given me a life without fear of stomach pains and hives.

Robert

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  1. The Crunchy Pickle
    September 24, 2012 at 5:27 am

    Incredible! I am so glad you found answers!!

  2. Amy
    September 24, 2012 at 6:57 am

    Congrats on making the changes to your life that took away your pain! Here’s hoping that others will see your post and realize what they need to do as well. Good job!

  3. Christa Crawford
    September 24, 2012 at 7:12 am

    Robert, Good for you for being tenacious enough to seek a real answer to your health problems!

  4. Ryan
    September 24, 2012 at 8:33 am

    Robert, this is such an awesome and inspiring story; especially so seeing a fellow college student taking their health into their own hands, that’s something most people never do. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Jennifer
    September 24, 2012 at 10:45 am

    I love hearing stories like this! Robert – I too had awful, debilitating stomach pains. They would put me in bed for days at a time when I could only eat liquid food and even water would make the pains worse! Because the food reactions would sometimes occur days later, I had no idea what was going on. Robb’s book and Dr. Cate Shanahan’s Deep Nutrition changed my entire life. I live without stomach pain now. It’s truly amazing! So glad you found a good cardiologist who actually knew what he was talking about! Very happy for your success.

  6. Cindy
    September 25, 2012 at 9:08 am

    How wonderful! You are so fortunate to have learned all this at a young age. I remember having many painful bouts of stomach and intestinal distress as a teenager (’70s, before the Internet), and spent decades of trial and error before finding Paleo in my 50s. Go out and live!

  7. Joe
    September 25, 2012 at 4:52 pm

    Robb,

    What are your thoughts on Shakeology? All of the “testimonials” talk about how it changed their lives. I can’t find any honest feedback on it, I would love to hear your thoughts.

    Joe

    • Amy Kubal
      September 26, 2012 at 4:40 am

      Stick with real food! There is no such thing as a quick fix!!!

    • Gene
      September 27, 2012 at 12:22 am

      Joe: evolution has been so kind as to make you a CEO in charge of a whole slew of workers, including personal eaters! Yes, these little friends are there to serve you by digesting real, whole food on your behalf so that you can better absorb it. But, like many downstairs workers, they can get a little ticked if you don’t let them do their jobs. Like American Airlines employees, they’ll organise all sorts of job action to gum up the works if you don’t treat them right and feed them well. Give them a fair share of the profits of your “company” (time, energy and money) and you can avoid all kinds of unrest.

  8. Robin
    January 12, 2013 at 9:54 am

    I too went through the years of stomach pain, was checked for colon cancer, galbladder issues, misdignosed as having an ulcer and IBS. After I demanded a colonoscopy and edg….it turned out I have Celiac Disease. It sounds to me as if you may have Celiac as well. I am only leaving this comment to caution you that gluten may very well be deadly for you. I would encourage you to read about Celiac disease (an autoimmune disease) and if you think it fits be sure to stay away from gluten for the rest of your life. GLuten in even the slightest amount (that would fit on the tip of a needle) can make you ill and damage your intestines. Eating gluten with Celiac Disease increases your risk for other autoimmune diseases and various cancers such as lymphoma and colon cancer. You cannot be checked for Celiac Disease when you are eating gluten free but you could read about the symptoms and decide for yourself if Celiac Disease fits your situation and just stay away from gluten for ever. By the way Celiac Disease is genetic. Your parents and siblings should probably be checked and any children that you have.
    Best of luck to you!!

  9. Valerie
    July 23, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    I cannot tell you how much I can relate to this. I was hospitalized a few weeks ago for bloating and chest pains. The pain sometimes goes all the way up to my shoulder. This happened I believe from eating too many oat cookies (which I has made myself). I recently saw a Naturopath and she has advised me to go on the Paleo diet. I already eat a Candida diet so I don’t think it will be too hard to switch over. Your story has made me hopeful that this might finally go away!!

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