This photo was taken when I was 11 years old. This was the year when everything changed. It was at this age that I developed a long list of food sensitivities. There are many thoughts on how food sensitivities develop, but I strongly believe that in my case it was related to stress from an emotional trauma I experienced the year before.
Food sensitivities can present with many different types of symptoms like digestive upset, rashes, headaches, congestion, discharge… For me it was the digestive system that went off the rails when I ate any of my offending foods and my list was lengthy. I would get stomach pain and end up running to the washroom repeatedly for a few hours after eating the irritating food.
This sudden change in my health had huge effects not only on my digestive system, but it also took a toll on my mental/emotional health. I now spent my days worrying about what foods I ate and planning where the closest washroom was. I lived in fear of getting sick every day for over 14 years. This fear affected everything. I wouldn’t want to go to events with my friends, especially if there was going to be a meal. Family gatherings and holidays were stress inducing – what would the meal consist of? Did they put any bacon in the salad? Is there milk in the mashed potatoes? Did the beef get cooked with the ham?…
I would bring my own food to most events, which helped reduce the stress a bit, but the fear of getting sick was still always a thought in the back of my head.
If I was going out I would be very particular about what I would eat before going to help ensure that I would feel ok while I was away from home. My mom joked that I lived off of tuna and arrowroot crackers for years. But I really did. These were my safe foods and I knew I’d be ok with them. This was my life for many years and it continued through my university years where I was known by the cafeteria ladies as “the tuna girl”.
As I neared the end of my schooling at Naturopathic college things started to turn around. I think this was due to a combination of being really strict on avoiding my irritating foods for a period of time and providing my body with supplemental support to aid in the healing of my digestive system. I distinctly remember trying chocolate again for the first time in over 10 years. I couldn’t fully enjoy its deliciousness the first few times, as the memory of getting sick from eating just one M and M while staying at a cousin’s house over Christmas in elementary school still loomed over my thoughts, but slowly over time those worries subsided. I also have a vivid memory of one day realizing that it had been days, maybe weeks, since I last stressed about food choices or worried about getting sick. It was such a liberating feeling to not have the fear of sickness dictate my life.
All of this lead me to be the ND I am today. My naturopathic practice has become focused around digestive issues and food sensitivities because these were a major part of my life for over 14 years. I know first hand how debilitating these issues can be, but I also know that it doesn’t have to be a forever issue. I always educate my patients who do food sensitivity testing that just because these foods aren’t serving them well at this moment doesn’t mean they won’t ever get to enjoy them again. Some foods they may not get to have in abundance any more, but they will probably get to a point where they can have a small portion without upsetting their system.
We all have a story to tell about how we arrived where we are today and now you have some insight into mine.
Dr. Jennifer Kaster ND
Helping you achieve wellness… the natural way.