Written by: Robert Allen
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.