For some time now I've been having what seem suspiciously like anaphylactic shock reactions to something I eat at some restaurants. So far I haven't turned blue, but I have fainted and it's a little unnerving, as much for my companions as for me. The NHS specialist I saw several years ago was unhelpful to the point of being rude, but the attacks have kept on coming and finally, on Saturday, I plucked up courage to go for an allergy test at a local health food shop.
I have to admit I was dubious. The test was by means of a Vega machine and when I researched the process online the results were very negative. At best, I thought it would identify a few 'usual suspects' that I might be intolerant to. At worst, it would be £50 down the drain. But in fact, I was pleasantly surprised. The operator was clearly very experienced (and very sensible), and she'd set the whole thing up as a controlled experiment, so that neither of us knew the results in advance. I wasn't allowed to tell her what I thought I might be allergic to, so there was no way she could influence the results. And in turn, I had no idea which substance I was being tested for, so I couldn't influence the results.
And the results were interesting to say the least. Mild intolerances to citrus and tomatoes, a much more unusual intolerance to carrots (yes, really - she checked three times!) and a high intolerance (bordering on danger levels) to monosodium glutamate and several food dyes.
The mild intolerances aren't a problem - I simply cut out those foods as much as possible for a couple of months before reintroducing them gradually to my diet, which should hopefully give me time to build up tolerance to them. The higher level results for MSG, tartrazine and carmine red are much more of an issue, and are almost certainly what's causing my allergic reactions. How strange that the NHS specialist couldn't or wouldn't test for those, instead of selecting a couple of ingredients at random that I told him I hadn't eaten.
Of course, it's going to be difficult to avoid additives, particularly when eating out, but I can try to avoid cheaper restaurants which are more likely to use cheaper ingredients, and I can now press my GP for an epi-pen to carry around with me. And I no longer have to feel like a hysterical, middle-aged female who's imagining the whole thing, over-excited by the prospect of eating out, or trying to gain attention by fainting in public. Yes. Those really are some of the things that were suggested by the specialist.
Homeopathic testing gets a bad press (and sometimes probably deserves it). But in my case so far, it's homeopathy five, conventional medicine nil. And the best £50 I've spent in a very long while.