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it turns out i am an intolerant person

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i'm lucky when it comes to allergies. aside from the fact that i seem to get strange bouts of them from nothing and everything a few times i year, there's nothing that i have to take pains to avoid. a peanut is not an object of fear for me. when i have had reactions, they've generally been of the mild contact dermatitis sort- which is sort of what you'd expect from someone who tries a lot of different types of cosmetics and skin care.

but as it happens, i'm not 100% allergy-proof when it comes to foods. relatively late in life, i discovered that i have a problem with grapefruit. it took that long, because the couple of times i tried it as a child, i found the flavour of grapefruit so detestable that i wanted it nowhere near me. so it wasn't until i was in my thirties that i thought to try it- as part of a coulis served over grilled fish in a restaurant. i still found it unpleasantly bitter and far too acidic to be palatable, but the next day, i also felt like i was auditioning for the role of an unfortunate crew member in one of the "alien" films. i was at work and barely able to concentrate i was in such pain.

i thought at first i was blaming the grapefruit out of convenience, so i made myself try the stuff again to be sure a few months later. same results, case closed.

of course, my little study didn't prove anything. after all, i didn't have any of the classic signs of an allergy- no swollen throat, no hives, no breathing difficulties- which led me to downplay its importance.  i couldn't really be allergic to something if it didn't kill me, right? well, i know that's not how it works, but it does show a certain level of ignorance on my part about what food allergies actually are. we confuse things by referring to some allergies as "intolerance" or "sensitivity" [which are different from true allergies in ways that only doctors and scientists truly need to understand] or saying that we just don't digest certain things. it's easy to tell when you don't digest things. without getting into too much detail, most people have a lot of difficulty fully digesting corn. [take a moment to think about that if you need to.] the point is, simply not being able to digest something isn't especially dangerous. allergies [and intolerances and sensitivities] are.

but because what happened to me didn't fit my understanding of what a serious allergy was, i didn't take it too seriously.

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last night, i was given a beverage with an eerily familiar bitter taste lurking in its ruby depths. it was a mix and, since i didn't think there was a huge amount of citric evil in it, i sipped away, happily convinced that the worst that was going to happen to me was that my stomach would be a bit sore later on. in fact, i didn't sip all that much, because the more aware of the grapefruit-ness of it, the more some distant alarm bell sounded in my brain.

i spent the majority of last night writhing in the most profound pain i'd felt in many years. of course, i was trying to keep relatively quiet, so that i didn't end up frightening dom again, but it was an effort. at one point, i completely lost the line between sleep, wakefulness and hallucination. i think i was in all three worlds at once.

in fact, i had almost the full list of gastrointestinal symptoms of anaphylaxis- minus, thankfully, the loss of bladder control- along with the dizziness, confusion and panic that are the nervous system's part of an allergic reaction. [acute allergic reactions aren't just about the hives and the breathing- there are lots of ways the body can find to freak out.] truly one of life's less pleasant experiences and, i'm fairly certain, quite a bit worse than either of the previous reactions i've had. [it's possible that i actually consumed more citric evil this time.]

what this has taught me is simple: this has gone beyond a simple case of a food that doesn't agree with me. i have a tough time digesting pistachios if i eat too many of them, but it's nothing i can't live with. my entire being, from my gut to the seed of my soul rejects grapefruit. and even if it's unlikely that some will sneak into my food without me noticing, i owe it to my body to check if i have any reason to think it might be lurking and take what steps i have to to make sure that the closest thing to grapefruit that ever touches my lips is fresca.

i'm lucky. i could have an allergy to something like gluten, which would require a wholesale overhaul of my eating habits, or sulphites, which would cause problems with anything dried, canned or somehow preserved [even naturally], as well as soy, vinegar, any prepared meat, basically any condiment and anything sweetened with sugar or sugar syrup. have fun going to a restaurant with that list.

your body will let you know in short order if it really can't handle something. be prepared to listen.

p.s. :: grapefruit is actually evil and trying to kill you. that's not me being paranoid. ask your doctor some time how many medications are screwed up by eating grapefruit. or just follow the link.



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