Papercut and colored pencil art by Sheryl Aronson X 5

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Symptom Sleuthing

Sjogren's syndrome is an autoimmune syndrome that affects the moisture producing glands, and can affect any system in the body. Add to that Fibromyalgia, Hashimoto's thyroiditis, lactose and gluten intolerance, and you get (or I should say, I get) endless sources of symptoms. I like puzzles, so symptom sleuthing is right up my alley. Warning: this blog post mentions bodily functions.
The gluten intolerance I discovered a couple of years ago when I tried a gluten free diet to see if it would help my Sjogren's symptoms. I had read that people with autoimmune issues often do better on gluten free diets. It did nothing for my pain or fatigue (darn it!), but my out-of-control acid reflux disappeared.
The lactose intolerance I discovered years ago when I started having really stinky gas, but only on weekdays. I figured out it was the milk I was putting on my cereal for breakfast. On weekends, I tended to have bagels or toast, with no milk. I started using a lactase pill that I took each time I ate dairy products. That solved the problem.
Later I found a capsule from a company called Digestive Advantage that I could take once a day, and eat dairy any time I wanted. Digestive Advantage has several products, for lactose defense, for intensive bowel support, for constipation and for gas defense. These products all have a natural probiotic and enzymes or other natural ingredients. They also have probiotic products. These are good products when used properly (read below). Give one a try.
A few weeks back, I looked at the ingredients of the different products, and thought that I read the same ingredients of the lactose defense version on the gas defense version, plus other ingredients. Why not get the extra benefits? I thought. I started using the gas defense version 3 weeks ago. Last week, I started having that stinky gas again, despite using the Digestive Advantage capsule daily. I figured my body was getting more sensitive to dairy.
I started to use the lactase pills again each time I ate dairy, and started looking for dairy substitutes. I tried almond milk yogurt, and coconut milk yogurt, despite having issues with coconut in the past. The almond milk was fine. The coconut milk caused, shall we say, worse problems than the regular milk. So I'm thinking I will use the lactase pills to finish off the dairy products I already bought, then go dairy free.
Kapow! My Symptom Sleuthing Mechanism kicks in. Hey! Didn't I switch from the lactose defense formula to the gas defense formula right before this started? I went on line to the Digestive Advantage website, and checked the ingredients of the two products. Aha! Only the Lactose defense one contains lactase enzyme, which is what helps digest dairy! It was not a problem with my digestive system, it was a problem with my eyes, and reading the boxes properly. Good thing I am a symptom sleuth, and was able to figure this out, or I might have given up dairy for the rest of my life for no good reason.
As you can see, symptom sleuthing is not just about what you ate, but about many other factors. In doing your own sleuthing when a new symptom arises, you might want to start keeping a journal of when, what, how, where, etc. the symptom occurs. Anything you ate in the day or so prior, any changes in anything in your life in the past week(s): deodorant, shampoo, laundry detergent, any new food, any new place you went, new clothing, carpet. Even a different brand of generic medication can set off an allergic reaction if you are sensitive to one of its ingredients.


  1. Hi there Sheryl! I just read a few of your posts and wanted to reach out since your blog is a great look into chronic conditions. If you could, please email me at mtrucillo(at)recallcenter(dot)com when you can as I would like to have a conversation. Thanks!

  2. Hi. Thanks for this great info and blog! I am also a SS patient who started having bad gas and pain about 20 years ago. Suffered for 5 years until I discovered cow's milk products were the culprit. I assumed it was a lactose problem. About 3 years ago I learned through blood tests that I'm very sensitive to the protein casein. Which is found in many dairy products. I use almond milk or rice milk with no problems. And can tolerate some hard cheeses. The one time I tried a goats milk product I was violently ill so avoid that as well.