I hope my experience is of help or encouragement to someone.

I first did the RPAH Elimination Diet (strict dairy and gluten free) in 1997 after experiencing chronic hives. I had the help of a dietitian and had seen an immunologist. The diet showed I was sensitive to salicylates and amines. For many years I successfully managed my hives by taking a daily antihistamine and also by reducing my intake of very high chemical foods, although I wasn’t very strict at all with managing the food side of things.

Over the last 5 years, I rarely had hives anymore, and thought maybe I had outgrown my intolerance. So I gradually increased my food chemicals again. Then in 2012, I experienced a Major Depression for 8 months. I was feeling so low, so hopeless, and crying all the time, it was the darkest time in my life. I work as a Graphic Designer, and I found my creativity totally vanished when I was depressed. This was very frightening, being creative always came so naturally to me, and losing this ability had a big impact on my livelihood too.

I was perplexed as to why I would be depressed, my life was wonderful, I couldn’t see a reason for the melancholy that had overtaken me. I remember telling my GP that it felt more like a ‘chemical thing’, like something was out of balance with my internal chemistry. In hindsight, I should have trusted my instinct on this... instead, I took my GP’s advice and I tried therapy, exercise and rest, and then antidepressants (SSRIs). Nothing worked and the antidepressants gave me nasty side effects (nausea, migraine with aura, hot flushes, diarrhoea, nightmares, anxiety, muscle twitches, split tongue, light sensitivity, foggy brain, blocked ears), and then some nasty withdrawals (brain zaps, teary, lack of appetite, insomnia). During the depression, I was also suffering badly with muscle pain. I was seeing a physio very regularly, and taking maximum doses of Panadol every day, but still had chronic pain.

At the time, I was taking fish oil supplements because I believed it may be beneficial in treating depression. I was also taking probiotics, believing it would boost my immune system – I never felt well! I stopped taking probiotics after I saw no measurable benefit, and when I stopped taking them, I noticed my muscle pain actually improved a bit. Then the penny started to drop... maybe my food intolerance symptoms had switched from hives to depression and muscle pain! I realised that the fish oil supplement I was taking was very high in amines, so I stopped taking it, and noticed a further improvement with my muscle pain and eventually my mood. Then I started searching online to see if depression and muscle pain were known symptoms of food intolerance. Back in 1997 I don’t recall being informed that these could be symptoms, but sure enough I found myself reading about other people’s experiences on FedUp! Thanks to you for all the work you have done and continue to do, to shed light on this complex and misunderstood issue. Your forum and website, and cookbook really helped me put the pieces of my own health puzzle in place.

So then I also began to reduce my food chemicals, and other chemicals such as perfumes, and cleaning products, and I saw a slow but steady improvement in my depression! I wanted to be sure I was on the right track, so I booked a dietitian to help me through the RPAH Elimination Diet again. I started elimination with a local dietitian, only to quickly realise she didn’t have enough experience or knowledge in this area. For example, she advised me to liberalise my diet as I went through the challenges, adding back any foods I didn’t respond to. I knew that this was likely to confuse my results, and immediately lost confidence in that particular dietitian. I voiced my frustration about this on your forum and thankfully another member recommended a marvellous failsafe dietitian to me. I was so happy to find that she was able to help me straight away. It was such a relief to have her insight and also her support through the rest of the process. She really took the time to consider my case, treating me as an individual, and showing great compassion towards any struggles I had. With anxiety and depression being triggered during my challenges, she was wonderful at encouraging me to stick with it until the end.

The results of my elimination this time were much clearer and more accurate than last time, and this was mostly due to her attention to detail, and ongoing support. She was very generous with her email support and this made all the difference during the tricky challenges. I am now finished my challenges, and have discovered that salicylates trigger ringing ears, acne, restless sleep, mouth ulcers, and anxiety. Amines cause depression and muscle pain. Food has always been a real source of joy for me, and although it is tough to accept that I have to restrict certain foods, it is immensely empowering to be able to manage my health this way. My lovely dietitian is now helping me to liberalise my diet, and has been brilliant with offering me a few different approaches for how to manage this stage too - Rachel by email

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