I am an addict.

No, that isn't groundbreaking news, many addicts abound the world 'round. What is so different about me?

I'm addicted to cow's milk.

I've often joked about it. My friends teased me about it, thinking there were so many other things worse that I could be addicted to. I agreed and laughed along...until I couldn't.

Last year I began having symptoms of aphasia (not being able to speak when I wanted to) as well as dysphasia (abnormal feeling in my throat and mouth) in conjunction with my reaction to the antibiotic, Levaquin. The "Fluoroquinolone Toxicity" affected my pre-antibiotic stomach issues to the extreme. My gastroparesis (first diagnosed several years ago) began to become much more symptomatic, neuropathy spread throughout my extremities...and into my mouth and throat.

In a reaction to the increasing bloating and nausea, I stopped eating. I completely lost my appetite and resorted to sipping on ice milk and drinking milk-based nutritional drinks over ice to attempt to get some calories into me. My physicians would later inform me that my instinctual desire for extremes in temperature are what still allowed me to trigger my swallow reflex in spite of an absence of feeling at the back of my throat.

When the neuropathy began to progress in my mouth and throat, it not only affected my ability to swallow, it also affected the way everything tasted. Since nothing 'tasted right' to me, I went back to my comfort food: Milk.

My body-wide swelling had become annoying a few months after I moved into my apartment, but no one else seemed to notice. Apparently, I am the type of person who handles weight well on the outside...not on the inside. This formerly-skinny little girl was screaming in pain and agony and confusion. I didn't understand why I couldn't lose weight.

The clothing sizes in my closet grew from medium to large to extra large then to 2x to avoid feeling rough fabric on my pain-filled skin. I commiserated with my larger relatives, for the first time in my life having a bit more empathy for their paradigms, but I still screamed internally with confusion. How could I be continuing to be at a stable weight when I wasn't eating anything?

The answers weren't easy to come by. A swallow study had been ordered by my gastroenterologist when my food restrictions seemed out of proportion with what my endoscopy had shown. Several days before the swallow study the inflammation in my throat had increased, causing me to be unable to swallow my anti-inflammatory medication which caused the issue to become even more dire.

Within a few days, I received intravenous fluids, but I noticed my swelling was starting to decrease throughout my body. I was still taking sips of milk and rinsing my mouth with it to try to keep it moist in spite of not feeling like I could swallow.

My therapist worked with me to move me past the anxious feeling of panic that felt like I couldn't swallow. We worked with my physicians to discover that although my swallow reflex was completely intact, I could no longer feel that area of my throat, which caused me to panic.

The swallow study showed a 70% narrowing in the top of my esophagus from unknown reasons, likely partially from acid reflux and my hiatal hernia. That narrowing combined with my lack of sensation (or dysphasia) in my mouth and throat caused a very scary situation, but why was the milk implicated?

About 15 years ago, I was tested for food sensitivities by a naturopath. At the time I was raising a family and to implement all of the suggestions would have been impractical, so I ignored the results. After the swallow study, I felt a strong impression not to intake ANY milk. None. I went with that impression and then added the other items that I had tested sensitive to. The results were life-changing.

For the last two years, I have had to use my inhaler for my asthma at least three times per day. Since eliminating those foods I had tested sensitive to, including dairy, wheat, pork, soy, corn, and eggs, I have not had to use my inhaler one time. I am losing weight at a rate of about 3/4-1 pound every day while eating more food than I thought possible.

Today marks one month since my swallowing became so bad that I had stopped all solid food. Then, I finally stopped the milk. To date, I have lost an abundant amount of swelling throughout my body. I am losing weight at a rate of about 3/4 of a pound per day. In the past 30 days, I have lost 14 pounds.

Yes, I still have to process my food with blenders and food processors and I have eliminated most fats and fiber due to my gastroparesis and dysphasia, but I am eating healthier and feeling better than I have in years. And to think I nearly died catering to my addiction to milk.