Let me just begin by saying I absolutely love food. I’ve always been a “foodie.” Growing up in an Italian family, I’ve been indulging in some of the most delicious foods since before my baby teeth came in. I’ve been enjoying ravioli since before it became one of the newest “Insta-worthy” meals. Homemade pizza? Check. Homemade pasta & bolognese? I ate that at my grandma’s every Sunday until I went off to college. Drizzling extra virgin olive oil on everything? My absolute favorite.
I’m proud to say that I have never eaten pasta with jarred tomato sauce (ew). I tried mac & cheese for the first time in my life at the age of 21 years and 5 months, and I can probably count on one hand the amount of times I’ve eaten chicken parmesan (FYI, that isn’t really Italian).
However, two years ago that all changed. The days of eating bread with olive oil and Parmiggiano, eating my grandma’s homemade pizza and enjoying my mom’s famous tiramisu were over. Little did I know, things would not get better and the list of things I couldn’t eat would keep growing.
The severe stomach pain began during my sophomore year of college – literally out of the blue.
My doctor initially thought it was an ulcer, but when no medications worked we ruled out an ulcer and I was diagnosed with dyspepsia, or acid reflux. It didn’t end up being that either. The pain that began in my stomach slowly ended up moving to my lower abdomen. As days and months passed, my stomach began to severely react to gluten and dairy. Thinking I had an intolerance, I eliminated both—that didn’t help much either.
For months, I couldn’t even eat salad or vegetables and ate a diet of grilled chicken and brown rice. I became devastated as my Instagram feed taunted me with pictures of my favorite foods, which I longed to be able to eat.
Sometimes, when my eyes were bigger than my mouth, I would eat things I knew I shouldn’t and my stomach was certain it would make me regret it. The few times I had a piece of a chocolate chip cookie, I was sick for days and struggled to stand up straight due to severe stomach pains. The only temporary relief I found was curling up into a ball on my bed.
What is most frustrating is that no doctor has been able to figure out what is wrong with me. I’ve had literally every test done imaginable and everything has come back negative. My doctors have told me they have no clue what else to do.
Hearing doctors tell you they cannot help you is one of the most devastating phrases you will ever hear. I just got “rejected” by my fifth doctor last week. I’ve been following the low FODMAP diet for 3 months. I can’t eat gluten, dairy, onions, garlic, fried foods, or any foods with glucose or fructose. It has come to the point where I can’t even go out to restaurants because I simply cannot find anything I can eat.
Going out to eat and discovering new foods used to be one of my favorite things to do. Now, the thought of going to a restaurant and looking and the menu only to realize I can’t eat anything leaves me in tears. I went from being able to eat everything and literally having a stomach of steel to having to question every ingredient in every piece of food I put in my mouth.
I am determined to find a cure, and I know there will be a day when my inner foodie can shine again and I can eat everything. When that day comes, you can be sure to find me devouring endless amounts of Neapolitan-style pizza, tiramisu sundaes, Haagen-Dazs coffee ice cream, and endless chocolate chip cookies. But until then, you can find me snacking away on some gluten-, egg-, and dairy-free dessert trying to pretend it actually tastes good.