I’m walking home from dinner with my mom and look down at my stomach protruding from loosely fitting pullover — or at least it had been loose before dinner. I look over at my mom and say, “I guess something at dinner was contaminated with peanuts?” Not shocked, she glances at my midsection and says, “Sure seems that way. You look three months pregnant!”

You might assume that I was seven years old and had been dealing with a peanut allergy my whole life. The truth is, I was 27 when my mom and I were walking home from the neighborhood bar where we had met my dad for a quick dinner out on the patio. 

Growing up, I was able to eat anything — anything I liked, to be more accurate. I never suffered from allergies, or had to stay away from foods, or detergents or smells or anything really. I knew of friends who went to the doctor every four weeks and had allergy shots. If I went to the doctor once a year that was A LOT!

So how did I end up here? It all started in Telluride, Colorado, where I noticed something peculiar happening every time I went to my favorite restaurant, Siam. Siam is a wonderful Asian-inspired restaurant that served peanut sauce with every dish. My best girlfriend and I would walk to Siam for lunch, because you could get the same thing for lunch as you could for dinner at half the price, score! Once a week at least, we would go to Siam for lunch, make the 10-minute walk back to the bank where we worked and almost immediately I would be in the bathroom expelling all the food in my body, in the worst possible way. When I started to notice the correlation between eating at Siam and the violent display that quickly ensued, I started to take a look at other times this was happening…

I began to notice frequently not feeling well on Friday nights and the weekends. Every Friday at the bank we had “cookie Friday” with Nutter Butters, which I totally ate! Then other things started to come to mind, like the peanut M&M’s my coworker kept at her desk and nuts in my salad at the Chop House. OMG they were everywhere! I started to put other things together: the rapid weight loss and the comments about me not eating or not eating much and the constantly being tired. Was it all connected?

So, I stopped eating nuts. That should take care of it, right? Well, it got better. The adult acne went away and I was able to hold down food and finally gain healthy weight. But as I eliminated nuts and got to the source of the allergy, the allergy got worse! I totally restricted my diet. What this looked like was apples for breakfast, carrots for lunch and romaine lettuce for dinner. I was eating maybe 500 calories a day. My body could not keep up with the rigors of my work schedule, let alone skiing and hiking. And on top of all that, my relationship was failing, mainly because I felt terrible all the time and didn’t want to do anything.  With all of this stress, in November of 2010 I moved back to Michigan to deal with my health.

I drove from Telluride to Detroit in two days, arrived at my parents’ house, climbed to the top of the stairs and cried. All that stress of the past five years could now be dealt with. The first thing I did was go to the doctor. He told me it was a peanut allergy and that I could go on allergy shots for the rest of my life or never eat peanuts again. I chose the latter! With very little help from the doctor, lots of time on my hands and not a lot of outside stressors, I started doing some research. See, when I tell people I developed a peanut allergy at age 24, most people don’t understand. Instead, they wonder, “How could that be?” What I discovered in my research is that a person can develop any allergy at any time.

Allergies that come on later in life can be due to stress we put on our own bodies. Adrenal fatigue can happen when we put ourselves in stressful situations. Adrenaline is the body’s flight or fight response that is supposed to keep me alive and safe from lions and tigers and bears, oh my! However, since I don’t live in caveman times I don’t really need adrenaline to keep me alive. Now I have other stresses that don’t end when we’ve outsmarted the tiger — they just keep building over time. Our bodies keep responding to the stress, and over time my immune system got so out of whack that it started attacking me!

I took a hard look at what my life was like in my teens and twenties that might have caused this type of reaction. Factors like: being on and off borderline anorexic from age 14-27, drinking, smoking, staying up late, not working out and eating fast food in college. Not to mention the constant stress of the financial industry and the on-again-off-again relationship in my twenties. All of these lifestyle choices add stress to the body, and mine couldn’t keep up. No wonder I was so sick!

As I started to make healthy choices and found a vitamin company that really supported my immune system, my body began to heal. Over the next couple years I gained back the weight I had lost — in a healthy way — and made lifestyle choices that would take me into my thirties and beyond making me feel good about myself as I age. And, above all, it led me to an amazing career choice. Having gone through all this, I feel confident in helping others feel their best and live long, healthy lives.