When only fresh will do ....

We met Anna Locatelli, an elegant and attractive Italian lady, at the Allergy Show last year when she told us about her dramatic food reactions. We asked her to put her experiences on paper for us.

I have suffered from an allergy since the end of 2002 when I began reacting violently and systematically, both in the UK and abroad, to virtually all foods including, unfortunately, many of the organic foods that I had been eating for over 20 years without any problem.

Dramatic Symptoms
The reactions would occur some time after meals – anything from a mere half hour to up to 12 hours later, and were more or less similar but varied in intensity.

They would start with an itching or a burning sensation, followed by the appearance of hives or ‘tram-lines’, which often developed into deep gashes (like being slashed with a razor-blade) or abrasions which took ages to heal.

My lymphatic system would also be affected as my glands would swell, particularly in my neck.

There would be a dramatic loss of flora in the gut, due to an overactive bowel, and abnormally heavy sweating as if I had malaria. This would then lead to a rapid weight loss. I also had terrible insomnia and when I finally managed to fall asleep, I’d have hallucinations.

When things got really bad, I’d feel as if my insides were burning or badly damaged (as if there were lesions, obviously due to the depletion of flora) and the nerve endings in my feet and hands became painful as if I’d been subjected to electric shocks.

I would also lose weight incredibly fast - up to 10 kilos in one week. But, by the same token, I could also regain it just as quickly if I could find something that I could eat.

During these episodes I could feel my immune system going into overdrive, reacting to something it perceived to be highly toxic. I would be left looking ghastly and feeling totally wiped out.

Medical Suggestions
Initially I consulted various doctors and practitioners, none of whom could pinpoint the cause. At one stage, leukaemia was deemed possible but I did not let this suggestion alarm me. I am extremely aware of my body and I could sense that I was still healthy underneath, although very sensitive to some chemical process. When thorough tests were run in hospital, even though I was in a weakened and semi-delirious state, it transpired that there was nothing organically wrong with me except a severe lack of vitamins.

The doctors were baffled. They suggested in the interim taking Clarityn and corticosteroids, which I refused as medication has never agreed with me. For this reason, since childhood I have been treated homeopathically for any ailments (our family doctor was a conventional physician and was based in Harley Street). I knew therefore that in my particular case suppressing the symptoms would not have dealt with the root cause but only served to drive back into the body what it was trying to eliminate.

It was also suggested that I should undergo gene therapy to replace a faulty gene. In other words, as more is being done to the food chain, I am being asked to adapt my body to its changes, which I find crazy. Wasn’t the food industry originally meant to serve us and not the other way round? This is not, I hasten to add, to criticise gene therapy as such, as for many people it may be a life saver.

In addition to conventional medical tests, I was also tested for allergies in two different laboratories; the first told me I am allergic to everything and the second to nothing. Interestingly, both diagnoses were correct.

I finally decided, having spent considerable time and money consulting different specialists, none of whom had been able to help me, that I would have to solve the enigma myself.

Self Diagnosis & Treatment
By a slow process of trial and error, I started to find out what was good or bad for me. I noticed that if food had been given a ‘shelf-life’ and did not go off (ie, grow mould) I would react, but if, on the other hand, it began to wilt in a few days, I was perfectly all right. I therefore came to the conclusion that preservation processes which deprive foods of their natural vitality but keep them looking fresh, were my basic problem.

It was the farmers’ markets which saved my life and for three years I was able to build up my immune system again and felt fine. Lately, however, I have begun to find that my symptoms are returning and that my hitherto reliable sources of food are now not so safe. My fear is that, in order to comply with directives regarding food sanitisation standards, even the seeds may now be affected.

Once again, I am finding it difficult to survive and on occasion have only been able to eat food which is totally fresh - fruit picked straight off a tree, for example which still has a ‘vibration’ to it. Good red wine and dark chocolate (both powerful anti-oxidants) have on occasion saved me from going under too.

Naturally, in line with today’s ‘blame the victim’ approach, it has been suggested that my condition is psychosomatic, but I refute this absolutely.

I would argue that nobody in their right mind would want to complicate their life in this way. I have to take my own food with me wherever I go - this has made me a very cheap guest! Moreover, I’m Italian and am therefore typically mad about food. I adore cooking and have always had a voracious appetite and a fast metabolism. Not being able to eat normally has become a nightmare.

A few years ago, I became a reflexologist and Reiki master, and must strive to be a good advertisement for what I do. It is obviously in my best interests to look better rather than worse than the client! When I am affected by the allergy I am unable to work as it takes me quite a time to recover.

Being so sensitive personally to chemicals, for me the techno-fix is not the answer - I need to look elsewhere. I’d be extremely interested to hear if any other readers have experienced similar problems.

October 2006

Dear Foods Matter -

It was good to see you at the Allergy Show again this year and also very reassuring to speak to you – a great help in the never-ending struggle to stay alive.

As I’ve already mentioned to you, I have experienced problems with the shelf life of foods for the last four years. When I eat foods that have been treated to last, my neck swells noticeably (I realise this is the thyroid) and my hair starts to fall out. But as I get better the symptoms subside. I have also begun to react to several chemical products.

After decorating my flat with reputedly safe water-based paints in December. I started to have massive nose-bleeds bordering on haemorrhages having never had nose-bleeds in the past. I ended up in hospital a few times.

The volatile organic compounds (VOCs) stayed in the atmosphere for about 4-5 months and I had to steer clear of the premises for a while as the symptoms would recur. I have since heard of seven people who have had similar problems.

I have also started to feel extremely ill whenever I’m exposed to VOCs in public places such as stations, airports or supermarkets. My reaction is almost immediate, not dissimilar to an anaphylactic shock except that my blood pressure rockets (nothing seems effective in bringing it down), capillaries burst under the skin and I become dysphasic (have difficulty in swallowing). I feel very nauseous, have tremors, malarial type sweating most particularly at night and feel totally poisoned. I tend to have terrible colitis and hallucinations during sleep. The symptoms only improve if I pace up and down for hours, drink huge amounts of water to replace fluids and take Bach’s Rescue Remedy.

I was similarly affected by a very strong glue that had been used at the local branch of my bank to put up some poster. It took me ten days to recover and the symptoms were similar to those caused by VOCs. Going to public places is now a huge problem and I have had to stop working.

I am obviously suffering from a form of multiple chemical sensitivity, and I imagine that my immune system is getting weaker all the time. Alternatively, one could argue that the body, when it reacts violently, is trying to protect one from what it perceives as damaging to the system.

Chocolate and red wine continue to be a great help. I also find that if I follow my instinct it is generally right.

You can contact Anna via us here at Foods Matter, 5 Lawn Road, London NW3 2XS, info@foodsmatter.com 020 7722 2866

First published in 2006

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