Tonsillitis and dairy and wheat and gluten

I know many of my regular readers already know this story…so feel free to skip it. Im posting for people who may google “recurrent tonsillitis” and need to know my story…because there is not much out there that works for this beyond a tonsillectomy, and it is important for people to know there are other, less intrusive, things to try.

I will start this by saying I have never believed in certain foods really changing how healthy you are. Of course I have a general belief that healthy eating is healthier, and I know about allergies. But I never believed that ingesting relatively healthy foods that one does not seem to have an an allergy to could impact ones health much. Hence my resistance to ever seeing a naturopath (who would surely tell me not to eat lots of things I love).

I started to get tonsillitis regularly in university, a couple times a year. Not enough to be a big issue…but enough to notice.

In my 30s, it got worse. Bad enough for me to see an ENT in 2008 and consider a tonsillectomy. I was, at this time, getting it every 2-3 months (4-6 times a year), and it was not responding to several antibiotics anymore. That ENT was not very concerned and suggested gargling hydrogen peroxide daily. I tried it, and it did help. By the time I was pregnant with Charlotte, I was getting it 2-3 times a year. That said, I pretty well always had a sore throat from the gargling. Also, if I ran out, the infection came back within a day or two.

When Charlotte (now 4) was a baby, I went off dairy due to an intolerance she had. Eventually, I noticed my tonsillitis was gone. I went about 8-9 months without it, or the peroxide. As soon as she could tolerate (and I could eat) dairy again…I started getting tonsillitis regularly again. I know I should have stayed off the dairy, but I just wasn’t sufficiently motivated to. I think a big reason was that I had gained a lot of weight off dairy and in my head felt like I could not lose weight off dairy. I know that is likely not true…but it was how it felt. Also, at that time it was still responding well to antibiotics. If I got in them the first day I was sick, I often didn’t even get sick enough to miss work. The hydrogen peroxide still helped too. So, I was back I dairy and managing my tonsils as best I could with antibiotics and hydrogen peroxide.

Eventually, my tonsil infections got more frequent and more resistant to antibiotics. I always needed two rounds to knock it out (often for only a month or so) and was told that eventually I might need iv antibiotics for it. In spring of 2011, I was out of work for about 4 weeks when (while on my second round of antibiotics) I got a cold during a bout with tonsillitis, which didn’t drain properly and went to my ears, leading to an excruciating ear infection and ruptured ear drum. It was the sickest I’d ever been in my life (which I guess is lucky since there are many worse things…but it was still brutal). I went back to an ENT to once again look into a tonsillectomy (which I was TERRIFIED of) and again was turned down. I needed to get documented (with swabs) tonsillitis 5 or more times a year, which wasn’t happening for a couple of reasons; the hydrogen peroxide got it down to a bit less than that, and I often went to clinics they took one look at my pus coveted tonsils and refused to do a swab since I clearly needed antibiotics. To have the surgery, if have to allow myself to get the infection as often as possible (which, without peroxide, would have been almost always) and go to my (part time, busy-and getting on antibiotics as the first sign of infection was key to me not getting really sick) doctor to get a proper record for at least a year. Not happening. I didn’t have time for that and was terrified of the surgery anyways. I played around with going dairy free again…but nixed it. I was in good shape and scared going off dairy would make me gain weight, and also as someone who rarely eats meat but was (finally) quite athletic…I felt I needed the protein I got from dairy. So I went back to my peroxide gargling existence.

Then, in March 2012, I did a one month grain free challenge. I was still on antibiotics for a recent infection when I started, and it was a challenge that had nothing to do with my tonsils. I was just curious if I’d lose weight. I did…just 5lbs…but more importantly I realized I ate loads more fruit, veggies and protein when I was not always reaching for simple carbs…so I kept it up. Eventually I added rice and oats back in…rice so I could eat sushi and oats because they are healthy and filling…but I never went back to eating wheat. About 6 months in, I realized I’d ran out of peroxide a long time ago…and the last time I’d gotten tonsillitis had been March!!! Hmm???

In April, a year after I went off wheat and a year after I’d had tonsillitis, Passover came and I decided to eat some matzah. Not a tonne, but a few pieces a day. By day 4…I had tonsillitis. I stopped eating wheat again…and my tonsils have once again been clear ever since (4 more months). Occasionally I’ll have a bite of pizza crust or something, and when I do my throat is always itchy the next morning (though a day of gargling-I now use diluted apple cider vinegar instead of peroxide) clears it up as long as I don’t do it again. Eventually I have realized other sources of gluten (soy sauce, veggie dogs) have the same effect. Luckily, trace gluten does not seem to, so I can eat out, pull the cheese off pizza, eat the inside of a wrap or sandwich, etc…without issue

I am now a believer that dairy and /or gluten were responsible for my recurrent tonsillitis. Living without wheat is easy (way easier than living without dairy was…I’m glad I don’t have to do both) and I am so happy to not be sick and on antibiotics and gargling a corrosive all the time. Also thrilled to no longer be chasing a surgery I didn’t even want. They are my tonsils and I’ll keep them thank you very much.

So, I would strongly recommend, if googling “recurrent tonsillitis” got you hear, to try tweaking your diet. Try going off dairy or gluten (I’d try one at a time, why be off both of you don’t have to? Try whichever one you think you can live without more easily and healthily first…if they doesn’t work then try both) for a few months. It can’t hurt…and just might help!

It’s too late to add links…maybe in the morning…but the health category has plenty of posts documenting my history of tonsillitis…and recent lack of it!!!

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10 thoughts on “Tonsillitis and dairy and wheat and gluten

  1. thank u very much for writing about your experiences in trying to get rid of tonsillitis. my son has it. and im suspicious that it has something to do with dairy or gluten. I just don’t know what to do as he doesn’t eat fruits or vegetables… without grains and dairy im left only with meat. any suggestions? please?

  2. I am so sorry it took me so long to reply to you! I have a daughter who is vegetarian (by choice)….but doesn’t like vegetables very much and has very typical “kid tastes”. Some of the nutrition rich foods I have discovered she will eat are:
    Roasted sweet potatoes
    Mashed or roasted butternut squash
    spaghetti squash casserole
    I also often shred vegetables into sauces and soups and she will eat that. Zucchini works well for that.
    You can also try smoothies, a lot of kids love them.
    Good luck!

  3. I have a very similar thing! i hate that doctors don’t believe me. I too really only figured it out because my daughter was born with a server dairy allergy and any time i ate even the tiniest bit of cake or scone she would break out in severe eczema, blistering and bleeding (i was breast feeding) so i went off dairy completely for her sake and we both got better! i got my tonsils out when i was back at uni, but after a year started getting sick again. went back to the Ent & apparently tonsil tissue often grows back! I had reduced the amount of dairy but had a hard time getting rid of all of it. Now being dairy free is the only thing that helps me. its not easy when you consider how many things have milk solids added for no reason at all. Haven’t tried going off gluten… my daughter is nearly 3 and slowly being able to tolerate tiny amounts of dairy without sending her immune system into overdrive. i dont understand how doctors refuse to believe that things like ezcema can be caused by dairy. if i hadnt cut most dairy out of my diet before she was born, she would have been one of those kids wrapped from head to toe in wet bandages unable to move. The doctors were no help whatsoever..

  4. I am gluten intolerant. But on the weekend I binged on lollies ( ate half a bag) and I ate a cookie from my batch of infamous choc chip recipe… Knowing I will pay for this usually through constipation or eczema. Boom! I got full blown tonsillitis which has knocked me on my back for two days so far. Blah I know it’s my fault but usually my symptoms are not this strong!
    Never again will I eat gluten no matter how much I want a sweet.

  5. My response to gluten has also always been about my tonsils. I used to regularly get what I now know are actually called something-tonsil stones…I have been eating a gluten free diet for almost 20 years with the occasional slip up…last week I ate French fries with the crispy coating – not regular oven fries like Orida – and the next morning my right tonsil was swollen and I had an earache…it is so excruciatingly painful, not to mention the inflammation and damage to the rest of my system. Gluten intolerance can manifest as celiac disease as well as nearly two hundred other diseases. I’m actually relieved to hear that other people get recurring tonsillitis due to gluten exposure. Now-how to get past this?! It’s taking too long…

    • Thank you for sharing, I too am glad to hear I’m not the only one. People think I’m crazy when I tell them my gluten intolerance has tonsillitis, but it is. It’s now been a few years since I wrote this post, and I still get scratchy swollen throat if I eat gluten, and that’s just a tiny bit. I have no doubt if I actually had a full serving of something I would get full-blown tonsillitis. I do find it since going off dairy (a year ago) I am a little bit less sensitive to gluten, but I’m still sensitive to it.

      When I do have a throat reaction, I find that if I gargle a half-and-half mixture of apple cider vinegar and water several times a day, that usually heals it up. It’s a vile while I’m doing it, but it really helps so try it!

  6. I am so interested in what you’ve written! I have had a throat infection for about three months – I used to have them constantly when I was little. I have been gluten free since being diagnosed with coeliac disease in 2014. I’m thinking I need to trial removing dairy, which will be awful because cheese is my crack….

    • I would definitely recommend trying it. If you look back about three years he will see that I was the biggest cheese addict! I always thought I could not go vegan because of cheese, the one year I was off dairy it was only because breast-feeding was important to me and I knew that there was an end in sight. But now I have been vegan for approximately two years, and it’s not hard anymore. I have found some great cheese alternatives! (however give yourself at least a month before you try them, or else he will expect him to taste like dairy cheese and be disappointed.)

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