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Image by Naveed Pervaiz


Cheese. Spinach. Strawberries. Ice cream.  Wheat beer. Mushrooms. Milk. French fries. Peanuts. Pizza. Bread.  

What do all of these have in common? 

They have almost killed me. Each of them, and more, have caused a severe anaphylactic reaction. But, here’s the weird thing - not every time I eat them. 

I have spent most of the past 10 years avoiding pretty much every food other than meats and vegetables and living a life worried that the next bite might be my last. 

The crazy thing is…that it wasn’t food. It was my body’s inflammatory response to the ubiquitous use of herbicides and pesticides in my environment. 

Thanks to Damon Heybrock at Health Studio KC, we finally got to the root of my problem. Here’s a summary of how he explained it. 

All of our bodies remove toxins through normal bodily processes. Histamines, pesticides, alcohol - pretty much anything our individual bodies think don’t belong. Mine just happens to not remove them as well as, say, Charlie, the 93 year old who used to bathe in 2-4d herbicide. 

Eventually, my body gets overloaded with toxins and has to have an emergency dump. And…my throat swells shut - not a true anaphylaxis, but a boatload of phlegm which clogs my ability to breath. 

Because Damon is a good doctor, he asked us to think about patterns of reactions. We noticed they were seasonal - heavy in the spring and fall and especially light in the winter. We noticed that I had a bunch in junior high and high school (1995-2001), almost none in college and when we lived in suburban Kansas City (2001-2009), and resumed promptly upon returning to live in Concordia. They became more frequent and extreme - sometimes, during harvest season, three times a week. Pavlov might have some explanation for why I don’t enjoy what other farmers have called their Super Bowl.

Damon pointed out that it might not just be food - that there are environmental toxins that often play larger roles than food. Especially problematic, he explained, is glyphosate, which actually lowers a body's ability to remove toxins. He pretty much revealed a decision - either we should leave the farm or change the way we farm to not include environmental toxins. 

So, we quit cold turkey. Early, we tried different herbicides - supposedly safer herbicides - but they caused more reactions. At the end of our herbicide use, I had three reactions per week. In the two years since we quit, I have had 3 reactions, and each of them corresponded with my proximity to our neighbors spraying their fields. 

Seems definitive enough to me.

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