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Does Morning Sickness Feel Like Hunger

by Clara Wynn
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Does Morning Sickness Feel Like Hunger

Does Morning Sickness Feel Like Hunger

Does Morning Sickness Feel Like Hunger? The first day of my third trimester, I was on the couch in our living room when I realized something strange. My husband had just come back from work — he’d been out all night at an event for his new business — and as soon as he walked through the door, he started coughing violently. “Why is everyone coughing?” I asked him. He said it was because someone nearby (a woman) didn’t take her mask off.

Within minutes of him coming home, I felt nauseous. It wasn’t like anything I’d ever experienced with morning sickness before. And it lasted longer than usual too. By bedtime that evening, I couldn’t even get up to use the bathroom. The next morning, I woke up feeling much better but still weak. So did many other people who were attending this event. And we later learned that it was probably due to something called food poisoning. But what happened? Why did I feel so awful and why did it last so long?

That afternoon, I spoke to several doctors about my experience and the one thing they agreed upon was that there must have been some sort of virus going around. They also thought it might be related to the fact that I hadn’t eaten very much during the previous night. When I got home that evening, though, I went straight to the kitchen and ate two bowls of cereal and then another bowl of oatmeal because I’m pretty sure I would’ve thrown up if I hadn’t. Even though I made myself eat those things, I still felt horrible and weak afterward. Later that evening, I took more Tylenol pills for pain relief, which may also have helped me sleep better.

And yet, despite my best efforts to figure out why I was suddenly experiencing such extreme nausea, nothing made sense until weeks later, when I found information online about how common food allergies really are. This is how I finally came to understand what was happening to me:

When most people think about food allergies, they’re thinking about allergy symptoms that happen after eating a specific type of food. For example, if I don’t tolerate milk products well, then eating them will result in a bad reaction. Or maybe I don’t react well to eggs, so having one will make me want to hurl. In these cases, the allergic reaction happens in the digestive system where everything gets digested. These reactions usually aren’t life-threatening.

But sometimes, food allergies happen without any warning signs. There isn’t necessarily an obvious trigger food that sets off the immune response. Instead, the body attacks itself. Food allergies can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, or health status. Some people have never shown any signs of being allergic to a particular food while others develop it over time. And even if you do show signs of being allergic to a food, it doesn’t mean that you’ll always carry an allergy into adulthood. About half of people with food allergies grow out of them.

So, does this mean that I could be suffering from a silent food allergy? Could it be that my sudden bouts of vomiting and weakness were actually caused by an internal food allergy attack? To find out, I reached out to Dr. Jennifer Gunter, a board-certified allergist who specializes in diagnosing and treating patients with silent food allergies. She told me in an email interview that she thinks that’s likely possible.

“In general, people with silent allergies may not know it, but they have an ‘allergic state’ similar to asthma,” says Dr. Gunter. “They have inflammation and swelling of tissues in the respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract, etc., causing tissue damage. Their immune system is attacking themselves.”

While this scenario sounds scary, it’s important to note that it’s relatively rare. According to Dr. Gunter, only 2 percent of Americans suffer from silent food allergies. That means that 98 percent of us have no clue we even have them.

Here’s how Dr. Gunter explains the process behind silent food allergies:
“[T]he immune system has memory cells that recognize proteins that are normally harmless and turns on the inflammatory cascade in order to destroy them as part of the defense against infection,” she writes. “These memory cells are programmed to remember foreign proteins, including food proteins, specifically because they are harmful. However, the same protein can appear naturally in different forms in various foods, and our immune systems mistake these natural versions for the ones that cause problems.”

Dr. Gunter adds that this process causes a delayed hypersensitivity reaction. “This immune response occurs hours or days after exposure to the offending food protein,” she notes. “It is similar to the way medications work; the medicine takes effect after being ingested. Since the immune system cannot tell the difference between the real drug and its analogs, both types of exposures lead to the same immune response.”
If you were wondering whether I could have simply developed a severe form of lactose intolerance, according to Dr. Gunter, that wouldn’t be the case. “Lactose intolerance is essentially a failure to digest lactose properly and results in diarrhea and abdominal cramping rather than an allergic response,” she emails.

And although it’s hard to believe, I’ve seen instances where sufferers of silent food allergies have been misdiagnosed as having non-food allergies. “People with allergies to wheat or dairy may be mistakenly diagnosed with contact dermatitis [i.e., skin conditions] from rubber gloves or laundry detergents, respectively,” Dr. Gunter shares. “Sometimes people with allergies to shellfish or fish may be diagnosed with seafood allergy, when they actually have shellfish allergy.”

I’ve heard that silent food allergies mostly occur in children, since they haven’t fully developed their own immunity yet. Is this true? “Children can definitely have silent food allergies,” Dr. Gunter assures me. “Many adults do, too!”

As for me, I didn’t discover I suffered from a silent allergy until years later. While I knew I was allergic to eggs when I was younger, I grew out of it, meaning that I eventually stopped reacting to egg whites. But in 2016, I noticed that my mouth became irritated whenever I brushed my teeth. At first, I ignored it, assuming it was temporary irritation from toothpaste, but it continued to bother me for months. Eventually, I visited my dentist and was given a full exam to see what was wrong. During the examination, my dentist discovered I had a silent allergy to beef.

Nowadays, I avoid eating any kind of meat except chicken and fish. If I accidentally consume any red meat, I get immediate side effects ranging from headaches to fatigue and nausea. I’ve also avoided consuming soy sauce and rice vinegar, which contain sulfites, and I wear a medical alert bracelet indicating that I am allergic to sulfite-containing foods. Despite all this, I still occasionally crave Chinese restaurants and sushi rolls. Luckily, I was able to pinpoint the source of my allergy during my initial visit to the dentist, so now I know to stay away from that restaurant chain and steer clear of any dishes containing raw fish.

According to Dr. Gunter, people with silent food allergies should consider avoiding the triggers that set off their allergic responses. “Avoidance is key,” she advises. “Allergies need to be managed, not cured.”

Food allergies aren’t the only things that can send you running to the nearest bathroom. Read on for more info…

Do You Have Food Intolerance Issues?

A condition known as FODMAPs stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, And Polyols. This group of complex carbohydrates includes fructose, fructans, galactooligosaccharide, polydextrose and sugar alcohols. People who suffer from FODMAPS issues are sensitive to these substances and can end up with gastrointestinal distress, bloating, flatulence, gas, diarrhea and constipation.

Symptoms include:

  • Gas and Bloated Stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Dry Mouth
  • Heartburn
  • Eczema flare ups
  • Acid Reflux
  • Skin rashes
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

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