Slow Poison

It turns out, I’ve been slowly poisoning my husband for our entire marriage.

Honest, Officer, I’m really *not* trying to harm my poor husband. It’s just that he’s been diagnosed with severe food allergies. The list of allergens includes virtually every “compromise” food I’ve cooked for the last twelve years.

Really, Officer. Allow me to explain…

I’m married to a picky eater. I gave birth to a worse one. Food flavors and scents are neurologically over-clocked for my husband and daughter–nearly as much as tactile and auditory input already are. Both my husband and daughter vacillate between craving and avoiding–can’t get enough one week, suddenly hate it the next. Then they gaslight themselves, each other, and me by insisting that they’ve always reacted thus.

Since she was born, my daughter’s SPD has forced an a la carte approach to every meal. Unfortunately her tastes run to processed garbage, so every meal gets heated straight out of the freezer. While it’s a disaster for her health, at least it’s not a profound sink for our time…and, most importantly, she eats. We know of many people who aren’t so lucky with their kids’ expression of SPD…

Fortunately, my husband and I could agree on enough foods to reach a compromise menu. So dinners have been a bifurcated affair for the last decade–Kiddo eating her own stuff, D and I eating ours, and (when the planets aligned) all three of us occasionally managing a dinner together either at the table or at the TV.

Then my poor husband started choking on food.

Multiple doctors’ appointments, an endoscopy, a CT, and an allergy test later, we have an answer for why: EOE. Long story short, he’s had a profoundly stressful year. His body has begun to mount an immune response to various food stressors. As a result, his esophagus has become swollen and scarred–which causes him to choke.

The list of foods is, frankly, apocalyptic: egg, all citrus, pineapple, all tree nuts (except pecans), peanuts, soy, coconut, corn, barley, cottonseed, rice, rye, pepper, cinnamon, garlic, mustard, onion, all legumes (beans and peas), broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and lettuce. 

(The list of outdoor and indoor allergens is just as apocalyptic. It starts with dust mites. We live in a fully-carpeted house. Solving that problem *alone* will cost tens of thousands of dollars.)

Even the nurse who administered the test was taken aback by the results, and she sees allergy patients all day.

Our problem now is how to feed ourselves without poisoning my husband. All of our favorite foods are in that list. Multiple foods that he *can* eat, he *won’t* (like seafood) because of the flavor/texture/scent problem. And multiple foods that he can eat, *I can’t* because of cancer guidelines. (And our daughter, of course, won’t eat any of either.) 

So, as my neighbor put it, with a horrified look on her face, “Kathryn, what are you going to *do*?”

Long story short: study. Lots of it.

He has to eat clean (total elimination of all food stressors, no eating of any untested food group) for the next ten days. Then he’ll binge on “bad” foods for four days and record the results.

It took me hours to come up with a breakfast and dinner menu for him for the next five days that he’ll actually *eat*. It’s going to take hours more to come up with another five days that won’t feel like a complete rehash of everything we’ve just had.

He’s been giving me shame-faced looks, lamenting what a problem he’s become. I remind him of how much of a problem I’ve been for the past year. 

Somehow, we’ll figure out a way to quit poisoning him. I suspect meditation will have to be part of that solution, if only to help him deal with the stress he’s been under. Because, like that astounding list of foods, there is simply no way to avoid it all. So study and loving care (and hard flooring, and maybe even some serious meds!) might have to be enough.

I pray to God it will be. I love this guy, and we all need him. 

So, honest, Officer, I’m gonna do my best to quit poisoning him.

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