Friday, October 28, 2011

The Best Medicine

When I started taking Saint John's Wort for depression, I accepted the fact that, since I was more or less taking an MAOI, I'd have to give up eating cheese, chocolate, and red wine. The only hard one to stop was chocolate: I've never been overly fond of cheese, and as my good friends know, drinking, in general, has never been my strong suit. Cheap chocolate--the kind that's more sugar than cacao--seems to be all right, so I make do with that.

A comparison of our medical histories is reminiscent of the tortoise-hare fable: Karel's is pocked with episodes of fantastic fevers and epic sessions of homage to the porcelain god. The viruses that render him incapable of more than flailing weakly about in bed, barely able to drag himself the two steps to the toilet, leave me feeling flu-ish for a day or two--if they affect me at all. On the other hand, my medical history is layered with years of dealing with eczema, allergies, nearsightedness, and depression. None of which actually bothered me too much (except for the depression). Life could be uncomfortable, sure (working in a mouse lab and then coming down with an allergy to the little buggers can be inconvenient), but it wasn't like I was ever in mortal danger or anything.

At least, that used to be the case. About two months ago, I was eating some peanuts, and I began to break out in hives. A T1 immune response (the same kind that gives people poison ivy) to cashews a few weeks later, resulting in a huge blister on my lips, confirmed that I could no longer eat nuts. But it didn't just stop at the whole nut, oh no: in the two months since the blister episode, the problem has worsened to the point that anything containing nut oils--which is just about every single packaged food out there--sets off another bout of the itchies.

So far, happily, I've only ever been itchy, and not anaphylactic. It means that mistakes--where I thoughtlessly pop a peanut M&M, for instance--aren't going to be the end of me, and "traces" of peanuts in foods amount to a tolerable amount of itchiness. It's a good thing, too, because getting used to such a huge dietary restriction...kinda sucks, actually.

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