Written by Alayna Fern Posted in Maintenance on Friday, 15 June 2018.

Last summer was rough…both mentally and physically.  I was struggling with non-stop, pounding headaches, stomach aches, anxiety, and I just felt sick all day long.  While I hated laying on the couch all day, the hardest part was knowing that each day I was falling further and further behind in gymnastics.  At the age of eleven, I lived and breathed for the sport of gymnastics.  Unfortunately, my health was going downhill and I felt completely helpless.  Summer plans were being canceled because I was too weak to do anything.  Not only was I falling further and further behind at the gym, my attitude and fears were worsening and as soon as school started, I couldn’t keep up and focus on academics either.  Nothing was going well and it seemed that doctors were even stumped.  I had already found my gluten allergy and had been gluten-free for three years.  I couldn’t have even imagined that my gluten-free diet wasn’t strict enough.

I had so many different sicknesses, including stomach aches, headaches that never went away (4 months straight), fevers, and my throat would hurt and get really swollen.  Sometimes when I was at worst, my head would start pounding or my vision would get blurry and I would feel dizzy.  I went to so many different doctors such as, allergists, pediatrics, neurologists, and pulmonologist.  One time I even had to go to the pediatric ER.  Unfortunately, none of these doctors were helping me.

We needed answers and something had to change…fast.  First we switched allergists.  The new doctor suggested that I take an allergy test.  My results showed that I was allergic to much more than just gluten.  I was allergic to corn, rice, onion, watermelon, cod, pecans, walnuts, cashews, and egg whites.  Upsetting at first because eating was becoming so difficult, but soon after I cut these things out, I started to feel better so I was a little less upset.  Here’s the thing, when I went “gluten-free”, I had increased the amount of corn and rice in my diet as substitutes.  These foods were not giving me any direct symptoms, but were weakening my immune system making it so I was catching a lot of viruses and more.  I also had a very high histamine level, which probably caused the allergies, but additionally caused swelling in my brain…which was probably part of the cause of the headaches.  When I finally found a doctor that understood my issues, she put all the pieces together.  She noticed new symptoms like my heart rate was really high when moving from sitting to standing, which contributed to my exhaustion.  She was surprised I could do gymnastics at all.  Being allergic to all of these foods was really tough in the beginning and it still is now.  My parents would make these crazy foods for me to make up for everything I was missing in my diet.

Everything that went downhill when I got sick started was finally starting to come back uphill.  I had no more fears in gymnastics, my grades started to rise again, I did not get sick as much, I got my strength back, and there was no more inflammation in my stomach.  I also felt like my mind was clearer…like there was no more fog.

I just can’t believe how changing the way I eat has completely changed how I feel.   And while it means I have to be very careful with everything that I put in my mouth and many times it’s a pain, it is worth it because of how much better I feel and how much stronger my immune system is.  I’m eating healthier than ever and feel the best I ever have.

*Alayna is a 12-year old in the 7th grade at Ft. Clarke Middle School in Gainesville, Florida.  She is a competitive gymnast that will be competing level 8 this spring, 2016.