Getting my appetite back – one bite at a time

It’s been a rough year – digestively speaking. While we usually play with our food on this blog, there hasn’t been much playing - with our without food around our house this last year. When your idea of a great meal is a bowl of instant mashed potatoes, you know you’re not fit to be writing about food for a while.

"The primary requisite for writing well about food is a good appetite."- A. J. Liebling

What do you do when you lose your appetite? How do you get it back? It’s been taking me a lot longer than I thought it would. First, there’s just utter frustration of not being able, or really wanting to, enjoy the foods you love so much. That’s followed by denial, and most depressingly, acceptance.

While instant mashed potatoes offer a comforting blandness equal to a favorite old blanket – they’re not the stuff on which culinary dreams are made. Nor should they ever be enough. It’s like settling. And when you find yourself having a bad day and looking forward to them, it’s time to get help.

I love food. Problem is, it hasn’t always liked me. From the mouthwatering zip of a cold lemon shake-up to the warm, creamy bite of chicken tikka masala – all things rich, creamy, spicy or sour are on my list of no-nos. No coffee, no alcohol and well, no fun.

But like anything that’s fun and bad for you, I’ve always snuck them in - like a naughty schoolgirl caught out after curfew. It’s safe to say it always catches up to you. I had my first ulcer at age 8, followed by more than 20 years of acid reflux, hiatal hernia, a gallbladder that doesn’t work quite right, and now some odd form of colitis. Food has always been a battle of keeping it down or keeping it in.

Last summer put a kink in my culinary dreams. While it started probably more than a decade ago, it’s just now, there’s a name for it. After months of tests (a special thanks to everyone who shared their colonoscopy stories with me – you know who you are) it comes down to that I have too many mast cells. We all need them to survive and have a healthy immune system; just some of us get a few too many.

See, those little cells are granules –full of histamine, leukotrienes and more. Too much histamine and you get all sorts of fun – mastocytic enterocolitis (colon swells up, good times), acid reflux (that’s why acid blockers are actually h2 antihistamines), gallbladder can’t decide what to do, oh –and you get a really bad case of non-allergic rhinitis. The latter of which is utterly ridiculous because you sneeze so much you just pray you can get a bite of food swallowed first.

So, after lots of allergy tests, too – I’m basically allergic to myself. Good thing though, when I found out I wasn’t allergic to peanuts or had celiac disease I had the biggest, fattest peanut butter cookie I could find.

You have to take your first bite sometime . . .

Gina Edwards

GE, 09/07/10

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