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Fatigue and Food Allergies

Written by: Miriam Becker, Nandy*, Melissa T., Michela, Mylène*, and Beth Z.
Some individuals with food allergies have reported experiencing fatigue. This condition is known by some allergists as "allergic fatigue."
Of course, no one should continue to eat allergens, and fatigue as a symptom can possibly be avoided by avoiding allergens. However, some people have noticed that they continue to experience fatigue despite being off their allergens; perhaps due to another condition or perhaps due to the allergies.
Several FAST members recently (11/03) decided to share some of the things they have learned along the way in dealing with food allergies and fatigue.

Activities

One of the common problems among people with fatigue tends to be biting off more than they can chew. Nandy advises, "Learn what your exertion point is, and don't overdue activities beyond it, even if you feel okay at the time. By exceeding your tolerance level your body will pay you back big time, and you'll be sorry."
Find a hobby that you can do at home when you can't do outside activities. You can't go out every weekend even if you wanted to, so instead of feeling low and as if you are missing out, get a hobby which you can love and enjoy doing at home. Choose something which will not tire you out and may even help to relax you. Perhaps studying a language, sewing, knitting, crocheting, jewelry-making, taking a bubble bath, reading, painting, drawing, nail art, completing a crossword, collecting something--you name it! Check out a craft and hobby store for ideas on a hobby to start.

Exercise

According to Mylène, "A doctor told me that exercise does include living in a house. By doing the laundry in the basement, I need to go up the stairs to get the dirty clothes (putting them in a cloth bag and pushing the bag down the stairs instead of carrying it saves some energy to bring it back up when I'm done), down two levels to put it in the machine, and going back to the kitchen to finish dinner. Some people go to the gym to do stairs for fifteen minutes...I've done fifteen minutes of stairs by the end of a normal day just by staying in the house and doing a few things. It's not enough for some people, but with the pain I'm in when I do 'real' exercises, it's enough for me."
Nandy says, "I used to be a really active person until my health changed. With fatigue it's difficult to make it through an average day, let alone exercise. When you are feeling at your best during the day, this could be the time to try something really gentle, perhaps a stroll in the fresh air, a very gentle cycle ride or some stretching exercises. Do not do this if you are feeling really weak or tired, only at your best, and in little spells, too. Failing that, I actually feel better if I ensure I get a bit of fresh air each day, even if it only means sitting in the garden with my cup of tea--so what if you have to put your coat on, the fresh air will make you feel a little better."
"I don't attempt to complete an entire exercise video in one fell swoop," comments Melissa. "I exercise, but I stop when I feel worn out or as if I've done enough. Don't let an exercise video or exercise program dictate what's right for you. Ask your doctor and go by how you feel. Remember that something is better than nothing."

Housework and Errands

Housework is one of those things that seems to pile up, especially on days when you don't feel good enough to get up to cook a meal or do the dishes. Plan how much you need to do each day realistically and do not exceed the set amount--remember that things can wait until tomorrow. Do you really need to do thorough cleaning twice a week? Doing your cleaning on a month rotation is enough. You can vaccum one weekend, clean the bathroom another weekend and so on. You can maintain your home being clean without overdoing it every time. Perhaps you can chart out days for specific chores--a laundry day, an errands day, etc. to pace yourself. Sometimes simply having responsibilities written out on a to-do-list will help to take some of the pressure off--that way you don't have to "remember" all that has to be done.
Avoid running all around the house all day long. So you have just emptied the upstairs waste paper baskets, no need to run back upstairs to put them in their place right this moment. Leave them at the foot of the stairs until you or someone else next needs to go up. No need to run upstairs with the clean laundry right now is there? Again, leave them at the foot of the stairs until someone goes to the bathroom perhaps.
When preparing foods in the kitchen, say peeling vegetables, do so whilst sitting down at a table. In fact, do as much as you can sitting down. You may be able to find a stool of the appropriate height for sitting at your kitchen counter if you prefer.
Buy a dishwasher. Mylène says, "I noticed that even living alone generated a lot of dishes given my food allergies. A dishwasher saves me the time I need to breath and relax a little after meals." Nandy agrees. "I bought one, and it has become so important to me. I cook every day with all my recipes from scratch, so every day there are so many pans and dishes. I eat late, and the last thing I want is to be washing dishes at 9 PM when I am worn out from the long day. Let the machine do it for you so you can relax, unwind, and get to bed early."
Learn to control urges to do all your shopping errands in one day. Mylène says, "I try to stop at stores on my way back from work. I tend not to stay long because I want to go home. If I go after dinner, I stay twice as long because I have the time for it before the store closes. I also try to go into store in the late afternoon on weekends as they close at five. I can't shop for hours if they close." If shopping during busy hours fatigues you and you prefer a quiet store, try not to shop on weekends, during lunch breaks, or when work shifts let out.
Housework is all about pacing. Find something that works for you, and stick to it. Don't feel the need to get everything finished in one day. And remember, like Mylène, you can count some of your housework as free exercise--you don't need an expensive membership to a gym!

Naps

The most common piece of advice from those who suffer from fatigue? Take a nap!
One of the most annoying things about napping is never knowing when to wake up! For example, if you have an alarm clock you likely don't want to re-program the alarm all of the time to wake you. Instead, you can invest in an inexpensive plastic egg-timer as a way to get in a nap that's the exact amount of time you need--most can set from 1-60 minutes--and that alarm'll wake you up a lot faster than a clock radio! Check around, because they come in cute shapes such as lady-bugs and chickens. It never hurts to try and make the allergies as "fun" as possible! Beth Z. sets the alarm on her cell phone to know when to wake up!
Work can be a place where a nap is greatly needed, but may be difficult to get in. If you need to take a nap to help with your fatigue and have a private office, try purchasing a roll-up exercise mat and using it as a bed you can roll out in a pinch. When rolled up, it can easily fit under your desk or behind a door.
If you don't have the privacy of an office, try to find a private place where you can nap. Beth Z. says, "If I can, I take a fifteen- to twenty-minute nap in my car at lunchtime." After she wakes up, Beth says that doing some exercise helps to get her going again. "I try to do some stretching or a little bit of blood circulating exercise (like a mini trampoline, jumping jacks or climbing the office stairs."
Nandy has a nice piece of advice: "Don't feel guilty--this is not about being lazy!"

Bedtime and Sleep

Aside from naps, you may find that you will need to sleep for longer hours than other people. Michela says she sleeps "ten or more hours if I'm sick or have been stressed. It sounds like a lot, but it means I can get more done when I am awake so it actually ends up being a time saver. Also, avoid caffeine, because it makes it harder to fall asleep, so you lose even more energy."
Melissa also finds a need for more sleep, and a steady schedule. "A lot of people go to bed whenever they feel like it and wake up when they need to, depending on that day's schedule. You should try to see how long your body naturally wants to sleep by going to bed at a normal time and turning off your alarm. That will help you know when you need to go to bed. I personally need at least ten, usually eleven, solid hours of sleep each night."
Stop running around a few hours before going to bed. If you start relaxing a few hours before going to bed, your sleep will be of better quality and you will feel more refreshed in the morning. Don't exercise before going to bed. Doing a quiet activity such as reading may help to relax you.

Friendships

According to Nandy, "Don't surround yourself with people who don't accept you as you are. They will bring you down, which will bring on low moods and which will make your fatigue even worse." Melissa says, "I've experienced what Nandy mentioned. There are times when I have been around certain people and when we part I feel happy. Yet there are other people who take all of your energy because they are so focused on themselves."

Students

Mylène has good tips for students.
* Do you really need to recopy all your notes, since you'll be the only one reading them?
* Find the hours where you are most productive and do your homework during that time-frame. (I found that I was working better if I did my homework from 7-10 PM. I am not a morning person. I worked late on homework, but took all the time I needed to sleep in the morning)
* Do you need to go through your notes for hours after the class? You just spent hours listening to it. It may be better invested the next morning after a good night's sleep.

Other Ideas

Nandy says, "If you have something forthcoming which you need to be fit for (an exam, day out, meeting, etc.), be sure to take things extra slow in the week leading up to it."
Miriam Becker finds that "videos games or mindless TV can also help with fatigue, but only if you are in a really comfortable chair. The important thing is to only do this for fifteen minutes to an hour, or you'll start getting too relaxed."
Nandy notices a difference when she has control over the temperature in her environment. "Keep warm! Perhaps that means wearing extra layers, over the knee socks under your jeans/trousers. Wear lots of little layers to trap the warmth in. The trouble is, those of us with fatigue tend to really feel the cold, and those with food allergies tend to be rather on the slight side, so we feel the cold even more. It's easy to forget about really wrapping up, but you can do so without looking like michelin man! Don't overdo the heating temperature in the house, it will make you more tired still, but put extra clothes on and keep the temperature moderate."
Melissa says, "Respect any days you've decided to take off. I tend to take a day off each week where I have nothing planned so that I can relax--and then I end up making it one of the busiest days of the week."
Nandy advises that people with fatigue "Do not miss meals. Eat a good breakfast and take small healthy snacks inbetween meals. Try to avoid too much sugar, tea, and coffee, but do drink plenty of fluids. Dehydration can worsen the effects of fatigue."

* A large portion of the article was written by this individual.

This website is for personal support information only. Nothing should be construed as medical advice.