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Oral allergy syndrome update – part 2

Welcome back! Catch up with all the nonsense from part one here.

Do you glow when you eat a tomato? That’s what I was trying to find out so was very eager to hear back from my allergist with my latest results.

One afternoon at the beginning of Jan 2019, I answered the call that changed my life.

“Hello Louise, your results are in”

“Great, what am I allergy to?”

“Nothing”

“Wait what?”

“Nothing”

“Can you say that in English because I swear you’re saying that after 3,5 years of very restrictive eating, a few cross contamination episodes which landed me in hospital, an irresitable love of interrogating restaurant chefs, and a whole lot of faffing about regarding the interpretation of food labels, ARE YOU NOW TELLING ME I AM CURED? I DO NOT HAVE ANY FOOD ALLERGIES, I AM ALLERGIC TO NOTHING?

“Yes”

“What about tomato or wheat, cooked or raw?”

sahand-hoseini-BMVAYjPf6mU-unsplash“Go eat pizza if you want”

“WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT???? CAN YOU EVEN CURE YOURSELF FROM FOOD ALLERGIES? I HAVE NEVER HEARD OF THIS BEFORE, ARE YOU A REAL DOCTOR?”

“Your immune system has now healed and I can’t detect anything in your bloodwork; you’re fine.”

“I thought I hated you, but I love you”

“Thanks”

“Do you want a picture of me for your wall or latest medical magazine cover, this is amazing.”

He didn’t.

Turns out, he was correct. I went home and tested myself by eating tomato sauce, just a few drops. No reaction. I ate a crumb of bread. No reaction. We ordered pizza. No reaction. Over the coming weeks, I re-introduced all my forbidden foods, all of which came up with no reaction. Not even a single scratch.

Oh, and didn’t I eat for Sweden! Making up for lost time.

“Would you like a cinnamon bun?”

“Yep, make it two!”

“Want a cardamom bun”

“Jesus, of course I do, hand them over”

“Darling, should I get pizza on the way home?”

“HELL YES!”

With gleeful abandon, for 2019 and the first half of 2020 I ate grains with joy, with a side of tomato salad.

Well, until this happened. Since, nearly dyings, I’ve gone back to a restrictive diet, with success I might add, as I haven’t had much of a reaction since. But not knowing really what the cause of my reaction in May was, every time I eat, I feel like I’m playing Russian roulette. Will we end the night with Netflix or a trip to emergency?

But Friday is the BIG DAY. I have an allergist appointment including a skin prick test and the works – with a new allergy clinic as I refused to go back to my original allergist. I can’t wait to sort this all out, and to find out, if I am once again a scientific miracle, or if I’ll be given an epi-pen and orders not to eat anything but apples.

More to come.

Oral allergy syndrome update – part 1

So the parting words with my fabulous, wise old owl Sydney allergist, had been to get tested in Sweden as apparently, they were way ahead on the allergy-testing game. So, in late 2018 I took myself off to our local GP, cried and screamed until he tested me, got a positive blood test for tomato and chilli which gave me a green light for a referral, then waited six months for the appointment with an allergy specialist.

During that time, I took better care of myself, took a job with less stress and a 30% pay cut, and waited, and waited.

Finally, the big day arrived. I met my new, Swedish allergist and spilt the beans on my tale of woe. Based on a clinical history, he agreed with my original diagnosis from my wise old owl – I have a food pollen allergy/oral allergy syndrome that stems from a certain type of grass. The protein in grass is mimicked in certain foods (things that grow as grass = wheat, for example) and cross-reacts, plus throw in a nightshade allergy as well.

And that’s where our agreement ended. My wise old owl was always showing me research and giving tips on what I could do to help. He had a penchant for recommending resistance training and drinking good quality water; he took a very holistic view on health. My new allergist, it seemed, had a penchant for recommending prescriptions.

“So, currently, I have a long, long list of foods I cannot eat, and I’d like to know if we can shorten that list. What exactly am I allergic to? Am I really allergic to waffles? Let’s find out and won’t eat it,” I said.

“Or, you could just take two anti-histamines a day, and go out and eat what you like.”

“Or, you could test me for various things, and just tell me what I’m actually allergic to.”

“I can’t test you for everything.”

“No, but you can use your 30 years of experience to test me for some things, then make a recommendation based on that.”

“Or you can just take anti-histamines,”

“Or you could run proper tests on me,”

“I can give you a nose spray as well if you like,”

“I think you should just test me for more things,”

“I think you should leave my office now.”

And when he called back three weeks later with the test results from my blood work, what he said, flawed me.

More to come.

 

 

Don’t forget

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The slow summer of 2020

Summer is long days that last forever with the Nordic light that reflects off the lake. We’ve been staying at our country houses up in the very far north of Sweden, with all the family finally together.

Think forests, swimming in lakes*, berry picking, tumbling with cousins, social distancing from grandparents, remote working and breaking bread around the table. There’s been long mornings with the kids taken up with watching ‘Summer Holiday’ so the day doesn’t start until around 10; plenty of time for multiple cups of tea, yoga, work, reading and scrolling.

There’s been milder days, rainy days, militant mosquitoes and jigsaw puzzles to be done. It’s birthday season for us, so there’s also been celebration after celebration and grandpa’s pancakes for breakfast. Slow days, sublime days.

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When the entire clan meet up, we are 12 altogether. Each sub-family has their own house, so ‘keeping the distance’ has worked remarkably well. The children have been brilliant and incredibly mindful of not getting too close to grandma and grandpa; the rules have been followed although not giving them hugs is ‘the hardest thing in the whole world’.

And from our cabin in the forest, a few of us escaped to two nights away in another cabin the forest. We all had a blast! Spectacular scenery and tranquillity, memories were made. I fell in love with the ‘birdsnest’ accommodation and we’re thinking of coming back next year, just the Swede as I, for our 15th wedding anniversary.

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We’re now rounding out the northern leg of our slow summer and are about to head back home to Stockholm. We’ve had volunteer farmers taking care of the house, glasshouse and garden, although the news from the south isn’t good. When we moved out, some type of micro spider moved in and now there’s an environmental disaster happening primarily on our tomatoes, but spreading quickly.

Here’s a little of what how we’ve been enjoying life…

 

A quick allergy update (full post to come soon!): I met with an actual allergist and from initial testing, he said I could start eating normally again. A bit too scared to do so, I’ve been eating clean whilst up north in the countryside with a hospital about an hour away. Even with dancing around my allergens and being careful, I’ve still awoken a few times with lips that look botoxed! Slight facial swelling is never a good holiday look. The mystery continues, and I’m now waiting on the official results and verdict from the doctor. God speed.

*not I.

Mayday! Mayday! On May Day.

Boom.

I’m alive.

I’m breathing life back into my blog.

It only took a brush with emergency services during a global pandemic to help me remember my WordPress password. And well, now, writing sparks so much joy, you’re stuck with me.

 

Mayday! Mayday! On May Day.

I think it’s what a lot of people who have eaten their way through a long, dark Swedish winter would think, when they look into the mirror and see that their face, neck and throat look a little odd: “Do I look fat? OR IS THIS THE START OF MY FIRST ANAPHYLACTIC EPISODE?” I went with fat.

On Friday, May 1, a public holiday in Sweden, I looked at myself in the mirror just after  lunch and thought, “Jesus, do I really look like this? I look a bit weird but maybe I actually just look like this all the time and there is no cause for alarm...”. I went on organising some craft for my daughter and her friend; it was just us at home. I then sorted the recycling. I faffed about the house, scratched a bit, felt flushed, considered taking some anti-histamines but that moment passed; then I did the laundry.

Soon, I took another peek in the mirror, at my throat and neck, “Gee, I need to start working out a bit, I look SO FAT…  is this normal? Or should I take a picture and ask my husband? I’D BE INTERESTED IN SEEING WHAT REPLY I WOULD GET TO THAT QUESTION”.

Time ticked on, ‘recycling craft’ was a big hit, the children were happy. I started scratching more; didn’t get any answers from The Swede. Turns out, my husband was impersonating his wife, by having his phone on silent and not answering any calls.

“Do I normally look like a wrestler? Where’s my collarbone gone?”  The only person qualified to answer those sensitive questions was my sister-in-law, a board-certified medical doctor with emergency experience living in the same time zone as me. Via FaceTime, she confirmed, I was indeed very likely having an anaphylactic response, and no, I was normally not this fat between my ears and my shoulders. “Have you taken any medication yet?” she inquired. “I took one of these and one of these,” holding up the bottled evidence to the screen. “Merde! No, you need to take ONE of those, and 15 OF THOSE!”. What??? So your official recommendation is that I take 100% of the emergency dose of cortisone and not a mere 10%? She thought it was a good idea.

img_8657From a slow burn, things suddenly moved quickly, and by the time I’d walked upstairs and tried to take the additional 14 tablets, I realised I couldn’t really swallow or breathe much. This shit is getting real, I can’t swallow or breathe, I feel very, very faint, THIS IS A BAD, UNEXPECTED OUTCOME FOR TEAM SWEDEN. Self-talk kicked in, from god knows where: I can either CALM DOWN NOW and try to take one tablet at a time, fizzy in water X 14; or die on the floor of our unrenovated 60s kitchen in front of my daughter, whilst trying to remember my pin code to call for help.

The tablets finally went down, the neighbour arrived to pick up his kid and start looking after mine; I started to cry. “Mummy, your neck is very, very red!” exclaimed The Flash as she came into the kitchen. “I’m fine darling!!” I wheezed. “I’ve taken my meds and now I just need to check-in with a doctor to see if I need to take more… Pelle will look after you, AND LOW AND BEHOLD, IF THE DEVIL OF YOUR FATHER EVERY DECIDES TO MAKE AN APPEARANCE, YOU CAN TELL HIM WHERE I AM”.

Next, I knew I had to get to the hospital, stat! Not wanting to risk my Swedish citizenship by overloading an already overloaded health care system, I did what any other self-respecting 44-yr-old Australian living in Sweden would do: I called an Uber.

Hello emergency services

img_8651The seven-minute ride with Said went well; although, as I slumped in the back, I was surprised at the amount of traffic WHEN EVERYONE REALLY SHOULD JUST BE AT HOME. I was quickly admitted and saw a flurry of doctors who were very attentive and showed appropriate concern at my lack of oxygen.

After a few hours of getting the good drugs and stabilising, other test results started to flow in: my kidneys had the steady rhythm of a Souza march and were coping with the episode, however, my heart was showing a range of minimalism of which Steve Reich would have been proud. It even had a rather sad ‘whistle’.

They needed to investigate what was going on with an EGC; did I have any wire in my bra? And that’s when it hit me. When you feel that your throat is closing off, who’s got time for the finer things in life, like putting on your glasses and getting properly dressed? Over the last few hours, I’d been inspected by every non-Corona attending doctor at one of Stockholm’s largest hospitals, being whizzed in and out of every department; all, as a blind, bra-less wonder*.

Food pollen allergy syndrome anyone?

We’re not really sure what the trigger was, and we will probably never know. The most likely theory is something that I’ve been suspecting for a long while now: that Sweden is trying to kill me.

Ok, maybe not Sweden, but its pollen-releasing glorious flora and fauna which is on springtime overdrive at the moment. Or was it eating a good dose of fresh tomatoes, my old nightshade allergy nemesis? Perhaps poorly dealt-with compounding stressors of the shitstorm known as 2020? Highly likely: a combination of all of the above.

Home comings

When I was finally released and came home in a heavenly cloud of heavy medication, I was filled with lightness; of thought, of love, of gratitude. I could breathe.

At the end of a very long, long weekend, I was just happy that a stretched health care system operating during a global pandemic unheard of in our times, still has the capacity to swiftly look after the rest of the tomato-eating population.

Lou Lou Loves

img_8672What else does Lou Lou Love? A husband that also drives her to the emergency when THE EXACT SAME THING happens 36 hours later**, and although is not allowed to enter the hospital, waits in the carpark for two hours just in case you die. For quick-acting neighbours who swoop in and take care of your children X 2 times, neighbours who say the sweetest things just when needed, for recovering in your glasshouse and listening to spring rain tap dance on its roof, for muddy feet, for cuddles, for cups of tea and your own fresh cotton sheets, and so much, for texts and calls coming in thick and fast from the south pole to the far north, just to double-check you are still alive.

Gold star award

A lot of things went right for me last weekend. I got the right advice, just at the right time, and managed not to totally freak out at all the important moments. Historically during an emergency situation, my natural inclination has been to put my hands up in the air, start crying, curse the gods and then trip over something, by which adding another dramatic layer to the original situation. This time, I’m proud to say, I walked along the tightrope between life and deaths*** with just the right balance of cascading hysteria and rational thought.

It’s a weird thing that happens to you, when you realise you can’t swallow or breath and need to act quickly to ensure your own sustainability. With its ancient DNA summoned, your body instinctively goes into self-protection mode and just knows what to do. You move from the flurry of thoughts successively agitating your mind, deep down into your body.

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Found on the kitchen table a few days later… 

Your body thankfully forgets it mind and doubles up with an ancient life force. Don’t talk, don’t move, don’t groove. During both episodes in the later stages, I went very quiet, didn’t say much and went inwards. As the swelling increased, I could feel myself going inside, touching the very essence of who I am before I even had a name, tapping into the collective conscience from time immemorial.

There have been four times previously in my life that I have felt this. At the final stages of the birth of our daughters, when my brother died in my arms, and now, on May 1st from 1pm onwards.

Despite the Uber decision****, the emergency doctors told me that I was very lucky, and that I had done everything right. I got a gold star for my handling of the situations. So it turns out that in emergency or extreme situations that so rarely occur in one’s life, I am ACTUALLY very good and can deliver the goods.

So now, really, it’s just the other 99.99999% of the time, that needs a bit of work.

More to come.

 

 

*One of my favourite Sienfeld episodes of all times.

**Yes, I suffered two severe anaphylactic episodes and was hospitalised again within 36 hours. The staff said welcome back.

***yep, plural, happened twice.

****The emergency doctors totally gave me the green light to overload the system and said next time, they much prefer I take an ambulance instead of an Uber. Point taken.

 

Keto kid-friendly fried chicken with broccoli

Well, I’ve started a ‘Keto’ lifestyle and I’ve made it to Day 3. For 30 days, I am going to eat <20 grams of net carbs, which basically means you give up bread, pasta and biscuits, and go around annoying people with endless energy and nutritional advice.

Keto basics

Do Not Eat

  • Grains – wheat, corn, rice, cereal (highly allergic towards all grains, so no problems)
  • Sugar – all forms of sugar, honey, agave, maple syrup (rarely touch these since ‘I Quit Sugar‘)
  • Fruit – apples, bananas, oranges (my morning smoothie will need to go #boo)
  • Tubers – potato, sweet potato (this is not good news)

Do Eat

  • Meats – fish, beef, lamb, poultry, eggs (now we are talking)
  • Leafy Greens – spinach, kale (kale chips are my fav)
  • Above ground vegetables – broccoli, cauliflower (love them)
  • High Fat Dairy – hard cheeses, high fat cream, butter (brilliant!)
  • Nuts and seeds – macadamias, walnuts, sunflower seeds (yes, yes and yes)
  • Avocado and berries – raspberries, blackberries (got them in the garden)
  • Sweeteners – stevia, erythritol, monk fruit (never really have these)
  • Other fats – coconut oil, high-fat salad dressing, saturated fats (awesome news)

Because I cannot count, I have found Diet Doctor’s meal plans awesome. All the customisable meal plans are all under 20 net carbs, so you don’t even have to think. Here is one that we have loved so far…

Keto kid-friendly fried chicken with broccoli

Super quick and delicious, TSH rolled this out for us last night. Everyone was full and happy. Great for a mid-week meal. Kids* came back for thirds, so safe to say, we will be having it again:

Ingredients

  • 700 g boneless chicken thighs
  • 150 g butter
  • 450 g broccoli
  • ½ leek
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt and pepper

Method

  1. Fry the chicken in butter, over medium-high heat for approximately 3-4 minutes on each side, depending on how thick the pieces are. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  2. Remove from pan and keep warm under aluminium foil or on low heat in the oven.
  3. Rinse and trim the broccoli, including the stem. Chop into bite-sized pieces. Rinse the leek, being careful to remove sandy deposits between layers. Coarsely chop the leek.
  4. Fry the vegetables over medium heat in the same skillet as the chicken. Add more butter and garlic powder and stir. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Serve the chicken and vegetables with an extra dollop of butter melting on top.

*The child with milk protein allergy had milk-free ‘butter’ obvs, no need for her to miss out.

Recipe courtesy of Diet Doctor.

 

The Magic of Midsummer in Stockholm

Hi guys!

I’m alive! It’s true! And I’m back to blogging. Sorry for the pause between acts, but life has just gotten in the way.

The Swedish Husband is settling in to his new job which includes nightshift and long hours and I’m up at 5am working and then either mumming, cooking or spotting deer and wolves in our backyard.* Since being elected to the board of our village I’ve also been wielding my power – no bastard in his electric car can charge it in our 1960’s garages without my say so. Busy times I tell you, busy times.

The girls are settling in great and enjoying the sunshine and endless light now on offer in Stockholm. Although I will say that two of them are sticking with English and like me, just prefer if 9 million people speak our language, instead of us learning theirs. But full reporting to come on all that, I promise. Lot’s of before and after shots of our home and what we’ve been doing, like the Swedish Husband building me the most beautiful tiered herb garden which I am totally in love with.

I’m also in love with the next Swedish cultural event, one of my favourite of the year, Midsummer. It’s a public holiday on Friday and I’ve managed to trade in the Queen’s birthday Australian public holiday (from my Australian employer) for Midsummer Eve in Sweden.

Midsummer in Sweden is met with the same glee, anticipation and pomp and ceremony of Christmas, including the traditional food. We even eat all the same food, it’s just that we do it in the light, instead of the dark.

Last year we had a lovely time celebrating midsummer in Sydney which made it mid-winter (same same). We went to midsummer celebrations hosted by the Swedish church and it was lovely. This year we are back in Stockholm and I cannot wait to experience all the magic. The girls are very excited. It will be the first traditional midsummer that they will remember. We’ve just had a meal planning session and I’ve done the shopping. We’ve worked out what can be prepared tomorrow and what needs to be done on Friday morning.

Midsummer has been celebrated in Sweden since the middle ages. It’s a big thing, bigger than their national day which occurs at the beginning of June. Midsummer is a celebration of light, love and the bounty of nature. If you’ve ever made it through a Swedish winter you would understand what all the fuss is about. It’s also a celebration of fertility and that’s why around noon on Friday we will be dancing around a phallic pole, doing a traditional frog dance with a crown of flowers on our heads. WHAT IS NOT TO LOVE ABOUT THAT? You can read more about midsummer here, in my most popular blog post, because it contains the word penis in the heading.

Everyone pretty much has gone out to their country abodes, fleeing the city for the country. All our friends have already left and the village is very quite. Considering the daily array of birds, deer, a wolf, and the hedgehog I just saw out the front of our place, I think it’s ‘country’ enough right here so we’ll be staying put in Stockholm.

I was particularly impressed with the Swede during our Midsummer menu planning session. He made sure I could eat everything, selecting traditional dishes that fitted in with all my special need, food allergy requirements. And when discussing his mother’s traditional cheese pie featuring short crust pastry, he didn’t even bat an eyelid when I said I was going to swap out wheat flour for grain-free almond meal. BLESS.

Sidenote: I’ve just returned from buying all the food for Midsummer. I hesitated when I was buying the ingredients for said cheese pie. Now let me tell you, you cannot muck around with your Midsummer menu. I’ve learnt this over the years. Any suggestion of changing ingredients for non-brand name items is met with disgust and disappointments over cutural misunderstandings. IT JUST AINT GONNA HAPPEN. So, I did hit panic mode when I realised the ‘value-for-money’ institute that I chose to shop at, did not stock the very special (expensive) cheese that comes from the region where the Swede was born and raised, along with everyone else that has our last name. Instead of being able to buy a great big whopping block of it, I could only avail of a pre-grated small package. Well, well. I’ve been married for nigh on 11 years and would like to continue on that way. It may not cut it, literally. I’m hoping the pre-grated version will be o.k but considering I love my new herb garden and love that he was totally open to me using Almond meal to make pastry when we both know it may be met with disaster, I’m more than prepared to go shopping tomorrow in the pre-Midsummer madness and get the proper block of cheese tomorrow. Now that’s the magic of midsummer.

You can also read more about another fantastic Midsummer here.

Hope you are all well! Stay tuned….

*I did see a wolf in our backyard. I’m not kidding and yes, I did swear. It was actually amazing and I was very calm about it. Probably because I was inside our house looking out when I saw it. When doing the school run and picking up the kids, I do walk a bit faster now. You can follow me on Instagram and see my ‘Instastories’ buy clicking on the camera symbol. I bring mundane to the next level, with the occassional Swedish wolf thrown in. Follow along!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello

Sydney has sunshine and surf, so why did you move to Sweden?

Good bloody question. I first came to Sweden in late 1999 as an exchange student from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, to study classical trumpet with Sir Håkan Hardenberger. I was meant to stay a year but ended up staying for 15.

How the hell did that happen?

Swedish men are handsome. Actually, I ended up playing too much trumpet and did nerve damage to my upper lip. I tell people I got into a bar fight and broke it that way, but the truth is I just played too many Mahler symphonies.

If you are a professional trumpet player but cannot play the trumpet, your knowledge of the Tomasi Trumpet Concerto and the difficulties of Baroque articulation are fairly useless out in the real world, as I discovered. So then I decided to have a breakdown, I met a cute Swedish boy and ended up staying.

It was very hip being in a brass band in Australia, circa 1984.

So what do you do now?

I closed the lid on my trumpet career a very long time ago and turned to the dark side. I now work as a writer.

You’ve spent 15 years in Sweden, why isn’t your Swedish any better than it is?

Piss off.

You seem to love acronyms, footnotes, exclamation marks and starting sentences with the informal ‘and’, what else do you love?   

I love my husband (TSH – The Swedish Husband) and baby girls born July 2010 (Bubbaganoush), July 2012 (The Flash) and March 2014 (Surprise Baby). And I love opera, food, rock pools, my Mac and over sharing.

I’ve read hilarious posts such as this one from 2012-2014, why did you stop writing?

I had a newborn, 1 + 3yr, moved a family of 5 to Sydney, and didn’t have the time. Now we’re back in Stockholm and I still don’t have time.

You claim you suffer from fake infertility?

You can read about our years of endless IVF treatments in Sweden here, here and here.  They never found anything ‘wrong’ with us and were we medically labelled with ‘unexplained infertility’. We were blessed with 2 beautiful daughters and couldn’t be happier. Then, soon after IVF hell, ended up with a spontaneous surprise baby at 38. Obviously, the years of infertility had been quite fake.

 What else do you suffer from?

During 2016 I found a wise old owl allergist in Sydney, Dr. Baker. After 15 years of symptoms and without any doctor in Sweden or Sydney working it out, Dr Baker finally put the pieces of my immunity puzzle together. I’m allergic to waffles.

I’m also allergic to dustmites, mould and grass, the latin term for those things combined is what we commonly call ‘air’.

I’m allergic to all ‘grass family foods‘:

oats, oatmeal, rice, rice flour, rye, sorghum grain, sorghum flour, spelt, sugarcane, cane sugar, raw sugar, molasses, teff, triticale, wheat, wheat bran, bulgur, wheat flour, wheat gluten, graham, whole wheat, wheat germ, wild rice, bamboo shoots, barley, barley malt, maltose (from Barley), corn, maize (corn), corn meal, corn oil, cornstarch, corn sugar, corn syrup, hominy grits, popcorn, sweet corn, kamut, lemongrass, citronella and millet.

I’m highly allergic to ‘nightshades‘:

Tomato, potato, capsicum and eggplant. And all their friends: Goji berries. Hot peppers (such as chili peppers, jalapenos, habaneros, chili-based spices, red pepper, cayenne, paprika spice)

Should we feel sorry for you?

Yes.