Allergic to Exercise? Superior woman overcomes rare condition

By KBJR News 1

July 9, 2014 Updated Jul 9, 2014 at 9:05 PM CST

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- If you said you were allergic to exercise, many might think you were kidding, or being a couch potato.

But it's a reality for one Superior woman who has now gotten to the bottom of her rare medical condition.

Each time 40-year-old Elaine Holmberg would run, she says her scalp would tingle and her nose would run and itch.

After her workout, things would get worse and symptoms would last about 24 hours.

"I would be done and do my stretching and within minutes, I'd be sneezing and I’d get hives,” Holmberg said. “I would puff-up, basically look like I had the flu or an allergy attack."

A doctor at Essentia Health diagnosed her condition as food dependent exercise-induced anaphylaxis.

"A patient has to eat certain foods and exercise within two hours in order for these symptoms to occur," Dr. Allaaddin Kandeel, a Health Allergist said.

The primary food culprits are wheat, grain and nuts.

Those affected can exercise without symptoms if they have not eaten the food in question.

"Now I just haven't been eating before I run,” Holmberg said. “I run early in the morning and I just have my coffee and water."

Dr. Kandeel gave Holmberg an epinephrine auto injector to be used in case she has another severe reaction.

He advised her to wear a medical alert bracelet and to never exercise alone.

"I've worked so hard, why would I stop for some sneezing and allergies?" Holmberg said.

Holmberg is training for another 5K and says since her diagnosis, she hasn't had many problems.

Food dependent exercise induced anaphylaxis was first recognized in the 1980s.

It's still not understood why it happens.

Jennifer Walch
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