Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Day 407

"Attack, of the killer tomatoes"

I've never seen that movie, but I've heard it quoted in other movies.  I seem to recall someone (maybe Drew Barrymore?) singing the title song in one of her own movies ... but I don't recall which ... I can hear the song as plain as day ... sung in a false baritone ... Anyway the original movie is apparently a spoof of horror movies and it came out in the last 70s.  So no wonder I never saw it. I was aged in the single digits.

Anyway, there is a point to this post that goes beyond B grade movie spoofs.  I am here to talk about the real life "attack of the killer tomatoes".

I can't eat tomato.  Doesn't that suck!! It severely hampers my Italian intake.  No lasagna, no spaghetti Bolognese, no marinara, no meat balls ... and the list goes on.  But if that isn't enough, I also can't eat mushroom or spinach.  So whatever Italian may have been left for me, is now out the window.  Because if it doesn't have tomato it's definitely gonna have mushroom.

I have always suffered migraine, from a young age.  I was diagnosed with migraine at around the age of 11 shortly after a bout of viral encephalitis, although I probably suffered it before that time given the headaches I used to get.  Anyway, as a migraine sufferer I always knew that chocolate, oranges and pork were no good. Oh, and red wine.  They were the standard migraine foods of the day.  It took another 20 years before I discovered a whole host of other issues.

In my mid-late 20s I suffered migraines so bad that I could have one that lasted up to 3 weeks. I would live on painkillers to get me through my work day (I was forging my career at the time) and would collapse in a sick heap once I got home.  Eventually I'd go to Emergency and they'd give me morphine or something equally strong, via injection.  [They won't do that anymore.]  Anyway, I do recall one particular day when I went to the doctor in my pyjamas, hair all askew, and said either fix it or kill me now.  So with that suicidal declaration he did the only thing possible and put me on anti-depressants.  Anyway, it took another few years, a weening off the drugs, a marriage and a baby before we really got to the bottom of the problem.

When Tahlia was a toddler, and Derek was living and working in Sydney during the week as the NSW State Manager of a major telecommunications company, I got sick. Very sick.  The headaches were at an all time high and I was driving to work with a bucket on my lap due to an ongoing case of non-pregnancy related morning sickness.  Then the gastro started to complement the bucket thing.  I lived with this for at least 9 months. Oh, I saw doctors.  I had tests galore - blood tests, poo samples, gastroscopy, colonoscopy. It wasn't until I saw an allergy specialist who, after a multitude of tests, decided to send me to a dietitian.

The dietitian suggested I was a classic text book case of someone who had sensitivities to amines, salicylates and MSG.  But to be sure we had to cleanse first and then re-introduce certain foods.

Welcome my good friend - Cabbage.  All I could eat was fresh meat, boiled potato and cabbage. For a month! With a new fruit, vegetable or meat product re-introduced each day, my reaction documented, and then removed.  Derek was living back in Canberra with us by now. He tried his best to support my new diet. After a week of cabbage he gave up and left me to it. Thank goodness we have two toilets. Oh, and I went through major detox.  I had so many chemicals in my body that on day 3 of my cleanse I started shaking, vomiting and had major headaches.  And the sweats.  I was in rehab.

So, that was how we determined my sensitivities.  The reaction I have to amines, salicylates and MSG isn't an odd one. Many people suffer from this "affliction".  So much so that Royal Prince Alfred hospital has devised what is now referred to as the Royal Prince Alfred Elimination Diet.

So what are amines, salicylates and MSG?  Well they are all naturally occurring chemicals in foods. Yes, MSG can be an additive found in flavoured chips, crackers, gravies, sauces etc (you will find it in many foods disguised as "flavour enhancer 621, but experts suggest you should also steer clear of 627 and 635), but apparently it also occurs naturally in things like tomatoes, spinach and mushrooms.  Hmph.  Salicylates and amines are also naturally occurring chemicals found in fruit, veges and meat. Plus you will find them in wines and beer and other such delights.  These chemicals are not added but occur naturally or form during freezing or, in the case of wine and beer, occur during the fermentation process.

So there you have it.  The history of my real life "attack of the killer tomatoes".  I don't stick to the diet religiously.  I have reintroduced many amine and salicylate foods but keep an eye on things if my health starts to waver.  As for MSG, I steer clear of it completely. Except for a little bit of tomato sauce or pizza base occasionally. But no lasagna, spag bol or meat balls for me.

I've been clean now for 10 years ....

I still get migraine. But not as severe, nor as frequent, nor as long lasting.

But it seems my Tahlia has now started. She is 11.  The headaches are now weekly and getting worse.  Tomatoes are her favourite thing ...


  1. Thank you, that was explained so very well. As you know I share this exact ailment albiet with slightly different reactions. I'm sorry to hear Tahlia may be following suit. At 16 and almost 15 my children have also exhibited similar symtoms, & we may have to devise a plan for them. I always thought it was interesting how I would love and crave some of the very foods that were worst for me, the dietician stated this was infact quite common. And it is indeed very difficult to explain to people why you have a headache after eating something healthy like a carrot!

  2. My son is allergic to salycilytes too. And: strawberries, pears, grape, garlic, milk, and apricots. That is what we know. He is 2 1/2. Here is what we've done that has been HOLY COW A LIFE SAVER and it is a disservice that doctors aren't talking about alternative options and more people need to know about it: Advanced Allergy Therapeutics (AAT). There are only so many doctors, usually chiropractors, that can do AAT in the country. I was approached by a pharmacist at a Medicine Shoppe (where I would get my son's prescription formula) about this doctor in our area that did it, so we were lucky. There is a website that can explain more about it: www.allergytx.com

    It is noninvasive and painless. Insurance doesn't cover it off course, but it really is not that expensive in the grand scheme of things. It is so worth it. We go every once in a while if my son is having issues and we investigate and treat further. He is now able to eat all the things, with NO CONSEQUENCES or REACTIONS that he has been treated for. It was $80 for testing (one time fee, you can get as much testing done on as many days as you want and never pay again). Then, it was $40 per treatment. Each food group has to be in it's own treatment. So, that is where things could add up depending on what you have to do. AAT can address digestive allergies and also respiratory (asthma, etc), skin (my son's eczema is GONE), and headaches/migraines.

    It's worth checking out. I tell all parents I know who have children with allergies about it.

  3. All I can say is, thank God you found out the cause.
    Who knew 'healthy' foods could be bad for you?
    At least Tahlia has a mum who's on top of this, hopefully it won't be too bad for her.

    PS. I avoid mushrooms too but that's because they're gross.

  4. Thanks so much for everyone's in depth comments (yes even the mushrooms are gross comment :) )

    Boomerang Jane ... I'm with ya ...

    Kristy ... THANK YOU!! I am sooo looking into that and will mention it to my osteopath at my next appointment. You're a gem!!!

    Thanks everyone for taking the time to read AND to respond. You're awesome.

  5. oh Leanne I really feel for you :(. I hope that you are able to identify Tahlia's intolerances quickly so that her headaches don't cause her too much trouble :(. Intolerances are horrible things :(


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