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Found 14 results

  1. Celiac.com 07/13/2018 - I went to a friend’s home for dinner. A few days before, she called and asked me what I could eat. I asked her what she was planning to make, and she said she was grilling meats with side dishes. I said, “Great. Please just grill a piece of chicken for me with salt and pepper, and I’ll be happy to bring a side.” She said, “No need to bring a side. I’ve got this.” When I arrived, she greeted me and said, “I spent all day cooking tonight’s dinner so you can eat it. Hey would you just check this salad dressing to see if it is OK for you?” I looked at the ingredients and it contained gluten and dairy, both of which I cannot eat. Then I glanced around the kitchen and saw evidence of wheat cross-contamination, including buns being toasted on the grill, and gluten-containing barbeque sauce spilling on the grill where my “clean” chicken was cooking. She had other guests to tend to, and I couldn’t offer instruction or read the ingredients of everything she used in the meal. At social gatherings, I’ve been challenged too by those who ask if I am really “allergic,” or just eating gluten free as a “fad.” I’ve been told many times by hosts and hostesses that, “a little won’t hurt you,” or “everything in moderation,” or “if it is made with loving hands, it is good for you to eat.” Of course, all of this is bunk for those with food allergies or celiac disease. A little bit may kill us, and whether made with loving hands or not, it will certainly make us sick. Those of us with food allergies and/or celiac disease walk a tightrope with friends and relatives. The old rules of etiquette just don’t work anymore. We don’t want to insult anybody, we don’t want to be isolated, and we also don’t want to risk our health by eating foods that may contain ingredients we cannot tolerate. So what do we do? Etiquette books advise us to eat what is put in front of us when we are guests in someone’s home. They caution us at all costs not to insult our hostess. Rather, we are instructed to compliment the hostess on her good cooking, flavor combinations, and food choices. But when foods are prepared in a cross-contaminated environment with ingredients we are allergic to, we cannot follow the old social constructs that do not serve us. We need to work together to rewrite the rules, so that we can be included in social gatherings without fear of cross-contamination, and without offending anyone. Let’s figure out how to surmount these social situations together. Each edition of this column will present a scenario, and together, we’ll determine appropriate, polite, and most importantly, safe ways to navigate this tricky gluten-free/food allergies lifestyle in a graceful way. If someone disagrees with our new behavior patterns, we can refer them to this column and say, “Here are the new rules for those of us with food allergies or celiac disease.” When we are guests in someone’s home, we can give them links to this column so they understand the plight we are faced with, bite after bite. Perhaps this will help those of us living with us to understand, be more compassionate, and accepting of our adaptations to keep ourselves safe. This column will present a scenario such as the one above, and ask that you comment on how you would navigate it. Let’s talk about it. Let’s share ideas. Using the example above, here’s the scenario for this issue: What would you do? Your kind-hearted friend invites you to dinner and insists on cooking for you. You arrive and the first thing she says is, “I’ve spent all day making this for you. Oh, I bought this salad dressing for you, but you might want to read the ingredients first.” You do, and it contains malt vinegar. You look around the kitchen and notice evidence of cross-contamination in the rest of the meal. What do you do? Please comment below and feel free to share the tricky scenarios that you’ve encountered too. Let’s discuss how to surmount these social situations. What would you do?
  2. Sorry my titles so long but its hard to really shorten that. I'm trying to get advice for family planning, I guess. I am 26years old and have two little girls ages 6 and 3. They are both smart and strong but they have both inherited medical issues. My 6 year old especially. She has Celiac, dairy intolerance, some unknown allergy causing eosinophilic esophagitis (inflammation in her esophagus), and it seems she may have Periodic Paralysis like I do (causes temporary weakness/paralysis). She also has asthma related to animal dander. She had to get ear tubes in and her adenoid removed because her ears wouldn't release all the fluid it collected so she couldn't hear properly and her adenoid was swollen and causing problems. Shes been to the doctor way more than average and obviously, that's tough to deal with. My younger daughter is dairy intolerant and the doctor thinks she also has Celiac as well as a fairly benign skin condition called kopilaris pilaris (or something like that, maybe if she guts gluten it will go away*.*). With all of this plus my own conditions, (Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, Celiac, Normokalemic Periodic Paralysis) I'm wondering if I would be doing a disservice to my family and myself as well as any new baby if I were to get pregnant again. Like logically, it seems having a baby knowing all the risks now, would be a bad idea. Tough pregnancy's plus tough recovery's plus baby potentially being born chronically ill; probably shouldn't anymore, right? So logically I know I shouldn't, but I'm having a hard time coping with the idea of never having a baby again. I am a lot healthier than I used to be, but being pregnant has a way of beating up the body so thinking about that has been helpful in preventing me from taking that step. But still, I'm disappointed. I would have liked to have like four kids and as it is it looks like I'll never get the chance to have those twins I always dreamed of:) (I'm a twin so I love:) Has anyone else here had to deal with this? What have you done to cope with it?
  3. Celiac.com 04/06/2018 - For many individuals, the movie Peter Rabbit is a longtime, favorite children’s story. Unfortunately, the 2018 version that has been recently created by Sony Pictures has taken this story and changed it into something extremely controversial for the food allergy community. As an overview, the movie pokes fun of individuals with food allergies, particularly anaphylactic shock, which is a life-threatening allergic reaction. Basically, the rabbits discover that the male human is highly allergic to blackberries and they plot to use it against him. In addition, the rabbits make it a point of saying, they hope they don’t receive any letters about the topic of food allergies and give a wink towards the screen. Now if that was not bad enough, the movie provides children with false information. They show that once an EpiPen is administered the individual will be completely well, get right back up and resume normal activities with no problems at all. However, that is completely, 100 percent inaccurate information. You’ll still have to get to the hospital immediately for further treatment, so you can breathe, control severe hives, etc. A lot of people feel that this is definitely, without a shadow of a doubt, food allergy bullying because of the insensitivity the film is presenting. Simply just turn on your computers, and browse through social media, specifically Twitter and YouTube. You will even find the trending hashtag #BoycottPeterRabbit all over the internet. However, even with all this negative feedback from parents and food allergy charities, Sony Pictures did not pull this specific scene from their movie. They did decide to make an official public apology, but that was all. There was no donation made to any organization to help benefit food allergy awareness, advocacy, education or research.
  4. Hello, I'm looking for a Gastro Psychiatrist or GI doctor who works with mental illness and would appreciate any recommendations. I've also thought about looking for immunologist who work with the gut microbiome. I live in Nebraska so a doctor in the Midwest would be ideal, but I would appreciate any recomendations! I struggle with anxiety, depression, and multiple food allergies. I've been gluten free about 6 months so I don't think I can be tested for celiac. I've been thinking about doing a gluten challenge to be tested, but out of all my food allergies gluten seems to make anxiety the worst. So, I'm not sure if its worth testing or just keep avoiding. While I've seen improvement in digestive and mental health symptoms since eliminating food allergies, I'm still struggling. I highly suspect I have immune related issues from dysbiosis as I was regularly put on antibiotics for sinus infections growing up. I have a lot of symptoms that point to Candida, histamine intolerance, or SIBO. It would be great to investigate some of these causes under the care of a physician. Any advice is appreciated! <3 Elizabeth
  5. until
    The GFAF Expos are the greatest events on earth for those living a gluten-free or allergen-friendly lifestyle! Sample and purchase hundreds of products, meet with local and national brands, receive coupons, and attend informative presentations by top-notch speakers. While all products at the Expo are gluten free, many are also free from the top 8 allergens. There is also a dedicated nut-free section. The Expos are a fun, family-friendly, educational and safe place made just for you! What do you get with your Expo Ticket? Entry into the 100+ booth vendor fair Valuable coupons at the vendor booths Samples from the vendors Discounted products available for purchase Informative classes related to the gluten and allergen-free lifestyle Free reusable bag to carry your goodies The chance to meet your favorite vendors, authors and bloggers Get 20% off with code ADVANCE For more information, visit www.gfafexpo.com
  6. Hello, I'm new to the board and definitely have candida issues. My biggest issue is finding a doc who's willing to treat me. I've visited 2 primary care docs who have no idea what I'm talking about, and 2 GI docs who want to perform colonoscopies. What types of docs are you guys seeing that are working with you for treatments of Nystatin/Diflucan? Since those seem to be the main meds that work. I don't know if I should see a PCP, GYN, or Infectious Disease?
  7. So, question: How do you know if you have any other intolerances/sensitivities/allergies? Does anyone have any experience with the elimination method? And what exactly goes into that? What are the top foods to begin with? Thanks in advance ~Jessica
  8. Hello all, I just found this forum and I would like to introduce myself. I have recently been to the allergist due to a host of food allergies. Like, this is really not cool, I'm running out of stuff to eat! Over the course of 10 years or so, I've been to the allergist 3 times for skin testing. I've got horrible environmental spring, fall, summer, and even winter 'allergies'. Nothing has come up save for this last time: cat and dog. I can't eat beef, I break out in hives, get miserably itchy, and oh yeah, the wheezing. Yet, I'm not "officially" allergic. Dairy gives me horrendous gastrointestinal issues. Most recently, I damn near had to go to the ER again after a reaction to almonds. The list goes on. My Dx the last time around for the allergies was nonallergic rhinitis. That didn't tell me anything else, really. Since nothing really showed on this round of testing, and a lot of my reactionary symptoms center around the itching, the doc ran a liver panel. I've seen the preliminary results and my AST, ALT, and GGT are elevated. Not astronomically, but outside of the "normal" range. At this point, I'll mention that I've got an aunt with Sjögren's, and an aunt with celiac disease. I've had asthma since I was a teen, and digestive issues in the way of constipation for as long as I can remember. After a little bit of google-fu on this liver function thing, Celiac Disease cannot be ruled out at this point. I looked at the rather extensive list on the U of Chicago website for celiac symptoms, and I'll be damned if just about every single thing that's ever been wrong with me isn't on that list! I feel like I'm going crazy with this right now, as celiac disease and/or Sjögren's are my primary suspicions. My mom's sisters are the aforementioned aunts so of course, my mom thinks I'm crazy for thinking celiac disease, but I really, really don't think it's even a stretch. I think it's a very viable possibility at this point. I've naturally gravitated away from breads, pastas, etc because I'm trying to lose that last 10 or so. I haven't gone gluten-free, but hadn't really put two and two together with the malaise, fatigue, nausea until the past few days. I'll be damned, I feel like THIS COULD REALLY BE IT!!! Brain fog, bloating, headache, after eating gluten - crackers, wheat in my tofu product, bread. Oh, the stomachache too. Keep in mind, while I'm glad that my aunt has many more food options nowadays, I've been wary of the gluten-free fad thing. For people that don't actually NEED to go gluten-free, it's unnecessary and ridiculous. Now that I'm looking at this possibility, there's a chance that I may be eating some crow with gluten free fixings. Ha. While I wait to discuss this further with the doc, I'll be here, probably asking questions as I go. I'm not completely crazy for making this leap, am I?
  9. I wanted to drop back in and pass on what i've learned in the past year and a half since i started this "what's wrong with me?" journey. I thought I had food allergies/intolerances all my life - diarrhea when I eat has been my companion for 45 years. Digestive enzymes and probiotics have kept me alive and able to eat for the past 20ish years. The post with most of my story is here: http://www.celiac.com/gluten-free/topic/99411-i-think-youre-my-people/ Nov 2012 I was tested for the celiac gene and antibodies. In a lab error, my blood sample was sent to 2 different labs - Prometheus Labs and Peace Health Labs. Prometheus Labs developed the tests, by the way, so are considered to be the most accurate. Everything from Prometheus came back negative. The Peace Health labs were all negative, except the anti-tissue transglutaminase came back as a weak positive. I went gluten-free (100% and I am confident about that, right down to shampoo and toothpaste) for 7.5 months. No change in my digestive woes. Not worse, but not better, and my face was still breaking out (i'm in my 50's.) After 7.5 months, I went to oregon's premier research hospital in Portland and saw 2 gastroenterologists. They said I didn't have celiac disease, that if i had, i'd have begun to see improvements right away. Instead they said I had IBS - which was the first time any doc had told me that. Months passed and my youngest daughter's (20ish) digestive problems got worse and worse. She saw a naturopath, and in the course of her visits told her doc about me. The ND said it sounded like I had SIBO - Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth. I read about it on http://www.siboinfo.org and thought it sounded like me. I went first to my primary care doc to ask for the SIBO test, who sent me to a gastroenterologist, who said i absolutely didn't have SIBO and that i had a gut that "ran fast" just like some people's legs run fast. He also said if i'd had diarrhea for 40 years statistically, it wasn't going to go away. that was helpful, of course. I said "I'm not dead yet" and decided i wasn't done looking for answers. I made an appt with my daughter's ND 2 hours away in another town, was tested for SIBO, and it came back positive. I took Rifaximin for 2 weeks, then started the low FODMAPS diet to starve any bacteria that remained in my small intestine. I'm on week 6 of the 12 weeks I need to be on that diet. I'm also taking low-dose-naltrexone (good reports on healing the gut with crohn's disease) and several supplements to help heal my intestines. That treatment all started 8 weeks ago. I've now been able to eat the first two foods that i was ever allergic to. I have bacon every day - that allergy developed when i was 9. I have had 5 oranges now - and i've been allergic to them (i thought) since i was 15. Everything says that this is working for me. All the evidence is that my gut was damaged by bacteria being in the small intestine, where it isn't supposed to be. Now that the bacteria is gone from there, my intestines are healing, which prevents food particles from leaking through my gut into my body, creating an allergic reaction. I'm afraid to hope that it's going to be a cure for me, but the evidence says it might. I woke up on day 7 after starting the antibiotic feeling the best I have felt in 40 years. It was amazing. I'm wanting to share this in case others of you, like me, don't get better on the gluten-free diet. If that's you, or it helped but doesn't eliminate all the problems, i hope you'll explore the possibility you have SIBO. it's a simple breath test to tell you if you have it. You can even order the test yourself, from Commonwealth Labs in Boston, and they will send you the results. For $175 you might get an answer. If a doc tries to check you for bacteria using a stool test, insist on the breath test. You can read on the siboinfo.org site why that is the only test that works to check if you have bacteria in your small intestine. It is also possible to have BOTH celiac and SIBO. People with IBS have constipation and/or diarrhea. The SIBO test measures for hydrogen (which is put out by some varieties of bacteria) and for methane (put out by other bacteria.) If you have hydrogen gas-producing bacteria, you have diarrhea. if you have the methane-producing bacteria, you have constipation. Methane has been shown to slow down gut motility by as much as 70%. You can have both types of bacteria. There is also a suspected link between the endotoxins produced by the bacteria in the gut and Fibromyalgia. I don't have it, but i did have a fair amount of muscle pain - i just thought i was getting achy but i didn't know why. When i took the antibiotic, the muscle pain stopped. i used to go to the chiropractor all the time because my neck would get so tight and hurt - and it's completely stopped. no more aches! My youngest daughter turned out to be negative on the SIBO, negative on parasites but positive on yeast overgrowth. She's now started treatment for it and we're hopeful for her too. I have never gotten the help i needed for my gut from conventional medicine. This naturopath, however, has turned into a blessing in my life and now, i'm offering this as hope to the rest of you. If you aren't getting completely better on your gluten-free diet, look into SIBO, parasites and yeast. I'd recommend the SIBOinfo.org website, the book by Dr. Mark Pimental "A New IBS Solution: Bacteria, the Missing Link" is about SIBO, IBS and why some things improve your gut but don't cure the problem. A good companion book is by Elaine Gottschall, "Breaking the Vicious Cycle." It was about 20 years ago that doctors discovered that stomach ulcers were caused by h.pylori. Prior to that, docs thought they were because you were a type A person, told you to drink milk and calm down. Then they discovered the h.pylori bacteria and ulcers became treated with an antibiotic. Now, research has shown that many of the people with IBS diagnosis have bacteria in their small intestines, where they shouldn't be, which is called SIBO. Rifaximin is the antibiotic that is best to treat it. It's a hugely expensive AB ($1,025) but my co-pay for the whole 2 weeks was $35. Hopefully, some of what i've included here will help someone else. Wishing all of you the best! Please post if you have questions - i'll check back by and try to answer any.
  10. Hello! I am the mom to five kids. The oldest son and daughter were diagnosed with celiac at the same time at age 9 and 7, though they both had been suffering for years (my son worse). The two younger ones were tested, then 6 and 4 and neither test positive and neither have symptoms. Both kids are great without gluten at the moment, and the other two kids don't have all that much gluten but are exposed to it readily and are also fine. There is no family incidence of it, but my husband and I must have the genetic component in there somewhere. We also have a baby, now 15 months old (12 months-ish adjusted) with food allergies, which none of the other children have. She was dx'd with a peanut allergy at 9 months and a dairy allergy at 12 months. She was failure to thrive pretty much since birth, but officially around 8 months. She was a preemie born at 27 weeks after IUGR, so she was frankly destined to be small. Seems to be doing very well with her diet at the moment and is finally gaining weight again, but we are told that she will likely have more allergies crop up when she is tested again at 18 months. Thus far her main symptoms for her allergies have been skin rash/exzema and general grumpiness/colic, as well as some concerning enlarged lymph nodes. Around 5 months while she was exclusively breast fed, I started an elimination diet due to the rash, but it didn't help. As her rashes got worse and the lymph nodes got more enlarged, allergy testing was suggested and we got the ball rolling with the peanut dx and dropped the breast milk entirely... to a milk based formula, which led to the dairy dx. Never had her tested for celiac, as we were told it wouldn't be until age 2 or 3 at least where she would be able to be diagnosed. We introduced gluten to her diet at 9 months/6ish months adjusted because I know that in order to be diagnosed she has to have had gluten in her. She has yet to have what I think are the more classic celiac symptoms -- various tommy troubles. Even on gluten, her rash is essentially gone except for some dry skin and she is no longer spotty and scratchy. But because of the food issues already, and the familial incidence, we want to get her tested as soon as it would be realiable. Should we wait for symptoms or should we test sooner rather than later? With no symptoms, even if she will develop Celiac, will she be able to be tested for it now? Maybe wait until 18 months with the rest of her allergy tests? Thoughts, celiac parents?
  11. It has been so long since I've been glutened that I hardly remember what it was like. Thank goodness for that! Unfortunately, I ate a handful of nuts (the first food I gave up back in the 90s). It has been a three-day drag so far. Many symptoms are similar to gluten but not as pronounced. Also, there is not much emotional disregulation as there typically is with a glutening. What IS there is the fatigue, heavy arms, muscle burning, numb knees and arthritis that typically accompanies the gluten reaction. The nuts were made in a factory where flour is used which could be a consideration. Does anyone else have 3+ day event after eating foods (other than gluten) to which they are allergic? Is there any proof that this reaction to other foods is due to leaky gut and, therefore, may disappear as the gut repairs over time? So far, the best I've felt is on a Paleo diet (no grains or legumes). It's a restrictive diet but worth it to feel that good. However, I really am curious if any of you have experienced a reduction in food allergies after being gluten-free for some time. Thanks, Cali
  12. Usually, I research the issue I am having before I ask more questions. This time I'm just too overwhelmed to do so. Please forgive me for the repetition that will surely occur in this post. Background: My immune system has been through the ringer in the past month. A UTI that didn't clear with cipro, Bactrim for the same UTI, an accidental glutening, serum sickness reaction to the Bactrim (the day after the glutening) combined with high levels of environmental allergic reactions (just the usual itchy nose and eyes, sneezing). My allergist said that the serum sickness reaction could take up to 2-4 weeks to dissipate. Well, this coming Friday makes it 4 weeks. The lymph nodes have just returned to normal- they were swollen along the side of my neck. I think my energy is coming back to normal, but it's hard to tell because I caught my husband's cold (really?!?) and it still hasn't run its course. The thing that's sticking is a slightly swollen tongue- enough to hurt because it's pushing past the boundaries of my teeth and my tongue has a scalloped edge. It was part of the serum sickness reaction, but now it comes and goes as it pleases and for the past few weeks I've been suspecting other food intolerances/allergies. I've limited my diet mostly by cutting out raw fruits and veggies as well as nuts. If I stick to these items, the swelling seems to go down. I've been swollen-tongue-free for a couple of days and this morning I had a lara bar with cashews in it. (Please God no, not the lara bars!) A few hours later- bam! swollen tongue and cheeks. I feel normal in every other way. My freak out is being perpetuated by the fact that I leave the country for 6 weeks at the end of June. This leads me to so, so, so many questions for you all: Would my immune system melt down trigger the development of other food intolerances? Do any others out there experience tongue swelling with food intolerance? From what I've read, if this IS happening, it's a delayed reaction, which would seem to indicate an intolerance and not an allergy. Should I be worried about anaphylaxis? (BTW- I'm petrified of anaphylaxis.) Do I have time to do an elimination diet? How should I proceed? Because I've limited my diet, I eat very few things now. I've heard chatter about a 4 day rotation, but need advice on how to go about that. Is it possible that it's just taking me longer to recover from the SSR as it has taken me longer to recover from just about every other illness I've encountered this year (stomach bug 3Xs as long, aforementioned UTI- case in point)? I have another appointment with my allergist, who was adamant that this was not a food allergy, just in case the symptoms don't go away. But that is the week I leave town. I'm scared to eat. I'm scared to stick to the foods I know are safe because that might cause me to become intolerant (not really sure how that works). I'm scared about eating something "new" and swelling like Violet Beauregarde after she downed Wonka's untested gum. Your advice is much appreciated. Thanks- Shellie
  13. Hi, everyone. This is my first time posting but I could really use some help and support right now. I had never had food allergies until my onion one in 2000. I got really sick overseas and when I came back home I was given two rounds of antibiotics. For 2-3 months after that I had major digestive upset that no one (doctors/tests) could figure out. I was basically told IBS deal with it. I got better, for the most part, when I figured out I couldn't have onion anymore. Then last June I was given the Celiac diagnosis along with a couple of other food allergies. I started feeling a lot better until 2-3 months ago. I just had more food allergy testing done on Tuesday and was given a bigger list...mostly vegetables, tuna, oranges, watermelon, and squash. These are things I eat all the time! Now I can't. I already found I can't have legumes, soy, gluten, bananas, buckwheat, wheat, peanuts, corn, nuts, and dairy. Why am I having all these allergies/intolerances all of a sudden, I feel soon I won't be able to eat anything! Is there a way to fix this? Thanks for any help/suggestions!
  14. Hi Sorry to write such a long post, but I want to make my experience as detailed as possible so that it's easier to answer! I just wanted to ask a few questions about allergies and leaky gut. About 5 months ago I was having a lot of digestive problems, fatigue, depression a lot of weight loss (which is not a good thing for me because I was already quite skinny) and was eventually given a blood test for celiac which came back negative. I went on the gluten free diet anyway and most of my symptoms went away within about a week except for my stomach bloating and gas which lasted 2 weeks. During this time I had been eating lots of gluten free processed food, lactose free milk and going out for dinners and it was all perfectly fine so I was happy and started eating a lot and managed to gain back quite a bit of weight until I got glutened again while eating out. After this I stopped eating out as much and felt much worse than I did the first time I went off gluten, but after 2 weeks I was again completely better. Another week later I was back on my weight gaining regime and ended up getting glutened by putting my bread in the toaster that my parents use which I thought wouldn't happen since I do not have celiac disease, but regardless I have since completely avoided any form of cross contamination that I can think of. The problem is I haven't really healed this time and it's been over a month. Sometimes when I have eaten something that contained absolutely no gluten in it my stomach would just swell up 10x it's normal size (while it was already quite swollen) and I would get really bad stomach pains and other problems... I sort of figured out that it may have been corn since cornflour was often used in my meals when this would happen, but sometimes when I ate cornflour it didn't do this at all. After about a week of no corn (and pretty much no processed food at all) I didn't experience any pain but my stomach was still very distended. I decided to cut out dairy. I had been eating lactose free but not dairy free and thought maybe this was the solution to my problems. It's been almost a week and my stomach has not gone any flatter, but my fatigue, depression and insomnia has come back which I am thinking might be because of withdrawal from dairy? I am really hoping it isn't something else. A lot of my gas has gone away since cutting out dairy, but I still feel like there's something lingering in the background and the fact that I have barely any symptoms besides constant bloating makes it harder for me to determine what it could be. I have been eating a lot of rice, eggs, nuts and night shades (mostly potatoes and tomatoes) and am wondering if this could be the problem, but I'm so scared to cut anything else out because every day that I don't stuff my face with food I seem to lose almost a kilo (2 lbs?). I know a lot of people experience leaky gut and other allergies popping up, but I'm just wondering if it sounds like I could have one of these problems or are my symptoms too mild and I should just wait to see if it goes away before cutting anything else out of my diet? I know I haven't been dealing with this as long as a lot of people, but I'm just worried if I do nothing about it it'll get worse and if I do start cutting out food I may end up losing all the weight I gained back for nothing >< I am quite depressed at this point and could really use some advice...
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