For the past 18 months I have felt painfully unwell.
Interstitial cystitis, you may assume. Or perhaps small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), or even anxiety. Yes to all three, but there’s something else I haven’t talked about that has borderline robbed me of any sense of well-being this year: allergies.
Allergies may not sound like a big deal if they’re not life-threatening, but they have the potential to affect everyday existence.
I have struggled since childhood. I loved my cat more than anything, but one cuddle would cause my eyes to swell so badly I could hardly see. My nose runs all the time. I always have a pack of tissues on me, with one tissue in my hand ready for use. I usually have one blocked nostril, and I sneeze about 30-50 times on a good day. Even water vapor or heat sets me off.
I’ve wanted to get on top of it, but I’ve spent much of my adult life focused on healing endometriosis, and that always took priority. However, in the past 18 months, my attention has been diverted.
It first began when my partner and I moved into our current rental home: a basement flat. I immediately started suffering from — apologies for the detail — excessive mucus. For a long time, I assumed it was the result of a food allergy, so I tried various elimination diets. Eventually, it went away after at least half a year. But 18 months ago, it was replaced by a worsening of my normal allergy symptoms.
It reached a point where I was sneezing over 100 times a day in long bursts that left me exhausted. I was short of breath and wheezing, struggled to breathe at night, and felt breathless after short walks.
The severity affected my ability to work. I felt like I had a bad cold every single day. I hadn’t felt well in very, very long time.
But what does all of this have to do with endometriosis? A lot, actually.
People with endometriosis are significantly more likely to suffer from allergies. In fact, a study published in the journal Human Reproduction found that 61% of people with endometriosis live with allergies, while 88% of those who have endometriosis plus fibromyalgia and/or chronic fatigue syndrome have allergies.
During my time off, I was able to reflect more on my health. While my bladder pain is definitely the worst of my issues, the allergies leave me feeling drained on a daily basis. I also know that my bladder pain is in part linked to histamine intolerance, so if I can calm down the histamine reaction from my allergies, perhaps I can also calm down my bladder.
A compromised gut can cause histamine intolerance and a worsening of allergies, and many people with endometriosis have SIBO. I’m already addressing this with SIBO treatment, but it’s likely to take several months. In the meantime, I’m unwell right now.
I considered what in my current environment could be worsening my reactions. My partner and I have wanted to move for a long time, but work and the pandemic have pushed that goal to the back burner. For now, I have to deal with the reality of where we live: a basement flat that has a mold problem and experienced a serious flood early last year.
As a health coach, I’m aware of the risks of mold. It’s one of the main reasons we want to move. I’ve often thought that a portion of my recent symptoms are likely linked to it. We’ve been working to keep up with the mold, but preventing it has been harder.
So, I took the financial plunge and purchased a quality dehumidifier. Upon turning it on, we discovered the humidity in our flat was 82%. Mold thrives at 70%, while dust mites start kicking into action around 50%. The optimal range for health is between 30% and 60%.
The dehumidifier has pretty much been on ever since, but it wasn’t enough. My allergies continued at the same severity, so I embarked on a deep clean of the house — washing every furnishing I could, dry cleaning what I couldn’t, and treating the rest with a toxin-free mold and dust mite spray. I went one step further by replacing our bedding and have continued to treat the flat. I intend to buy an air purifier when I have the budget.
Within a week, my allergies significantly reduced. While I still have a long way to go, and the biggest change will clearly be getting away from the mold, feeling even a little better gives me the energy to take the next step.
Note: Endometriosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Endometriosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to endometriosis.