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Food, Sneezes and Hay Fever

I used to love oats. I used to eat huge bowls of delicious home-made muesli for breakfast, and often snacked on raw oats at night too. I almost craved them. I bought them in 25kg sacks.
Sure enough, as is often the case with craved foods, I had become allergic to them and was forced to drop them from my diet. I really missed them.
After six months or more free from oats and other foods that seemed to cause me trouble, I began cautiously re-introducing oats, eating them every four or five days so as not to provoke the allergy again. This seemed okay. Then I began eating them every three days, and eventually every two. I noticed no particular reaction until the pollen-laden north winds of spring arrived. I came down with shocking hay fever such as I'd never had before. Click to enlarge (also text below)

After weeks of misery, I remembered reading a small article in the Melbourne Age about a poor bloke in England who'd suffered his whole life because of what turned out to be an allergy to his morning oats (he was also allergic to eggs). He had sneezed constantly his whole life and suffered many other awful side-effects. Someone told him to stop eating muesli, and he immediately stopped sneezing (see article at right).
So I cut the oats out of my own diet again and my hay fever disappeared after a few days! Weird, but true.
After a long period of abstinence to clear the sensitivity out of my system, I have lately reintroducing oats to my diet again—but this time on a once-per-week basis. It is winter as I write, so although I feel no ill effects at this stage I will be carefully monitoring my hay-fever in spring.*
So, if you suffer from hay-fever, rhinitis, sinusitis or whatever, it's worth thinking about foods that might play a part in the process. It could be that oats or some completely different food is part of the cause of your suffering. You will find lots of info on food allergies on the internet if you want to know more. Good luck.

* Update (10/02): I did indeed suffer some hay fever again early this spring, though not as badly as the previous season. I cut out the once-per week oats but the hay fever took a couple of weeks to subside this time. I strongly suspect that I was also ingesting small amounts of oats on an almost daily basis through contamination in another food, which introduced a wildcard to the experiment that might have loaded up my system. It's hard to draw any conclusions at this stage. Of course, I could just be allergic to a pollen that appears briefly in early spring, which disappears at the same time that I stop eating oats. I'm going to keep experimenting.

* Update (4/03): After abstaing from oats again for a while, I re-introduced them on a once weekly basis early in the summer. I suffered no hay fever even on days that I would have expected to produce it.

* Update (1/04): This year I have continued to eat oats once a week and lately even more often, and have had a very hay-fever-free season when others I know are suffering badly. I suspect that as my gut is healing, and overall state of health improving, the root cause of the food allergy is disappearing.

* Update (12/07): I'm still largely avoiding oats to play it safe. I find that I can take a certain number of immune-stressors at any given time, but have to be careful not to overdo it. I have a current theory that the heavy dose of sulphite preservatives that I was ingesting alongside the oats via dried fruit in my muesli was partly responsible for my sensitivity. I will try oats without preservatives and see how I go...

Below is a text version of the scanned article above from the Melbourne Age (date unknown - 2000?):

Now nose knows no sneezes

RETIRED tax inspector Patrick Webster, 52, from Hampshire in southern England, has finally stopped sneezing. He had been sneezing several hundred times a day for about 37 years. It's estimated that he has sneezed more than 6 million times.
Webster reached his non-sneezing nirvana by giving up muesli (we always knew there was good reason not to eat muesli), which contains egg yolk and oats - to which the unfortunate fellow is allergic.
During his 37 years of purgatory, Webster saw more than 60 doctors. He never married, spent most of his life feeling exhausted, retired early and ate more muesli than he needed. Prescribed medications made him sick. As a result of 20 years of taking steroids, he has osteoporosis, cramp and a low mineral count.
"I have been eating muesli every day for breakfast for as long as I can remember. As soon as I gave up eating the foods they indicated the sneezing stopped," he says. Webster is believed to be a strong candidate for inclusion in the Guinness Book of Records.

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