My So-Called Congested Life

For the past two years, I’ve been dealing with congestion.

It’s not something I usually talk about. Usually because it’s not super serious and otherwise I’m pretty healthy. And also because I try to stay super positive and upbeat, and no one likes a downer.

But today I’m sharing my congestion story in case anyone is dealing with a similar issue, or just wants some hope and inspiration for any health problem.

It all started in the spring semester of my second year of journalism school. Grad school is definitely no joke and it can be a pretty stressful time, no matter what you’re studying or where you’re heading. I call this time The Perfect Storm. It was The Perfect Storm of stress, wondering about the future, moving apartments, working on my thesis project, dealing with low blood sugar issues, and oh yeah, getting sick like all the time.

I got six colds in six months. That’s about once a month. So basically, every time I thought I was getting over an epic cold, I woke up with yet another one. I figured it was just sinusitis since I had gotten that a few times over the years. I didn’t think it was anything food-related.

After I wasn’t getting better, my family doctor sent me to an ear, nose and throat doctor. He said there was nothing wrong. But I had chronic congestion, blocked ears and a sound in my ear every time I swallowed. So while he couldn’t do surgery or figure out a way to stop it, he thought it might be environment-relaed and sent me to an allergist. The allergist saw me once a month over an entire summer, and suggested asthma medication. But I don’t have asthma. And there were some pretty scary side effects of that, so I basically said no way and kept trying to find a cure.

It turns out that when you’re sick, and you want to get your health back, you sometimes have to do it yourself. You have to look out for yourself, try what you can, and have some faith that you will be okay.

I had worked with a nutritionist when I was 23 and she solved my blood sugar problems. So I went back to her with a question: could my congestion, chronic colds, and general low energy and exhaustion be a sign of food allergies?

She said yes and put me on an elimination diet. And that essentially changed my life forever. Because I learned I was allergic to dairy and gluten, had an egg intolerance, and have to watch my sugar intake.

My congestion is not 100 percent gone and I don’t know if it ever will be. I also have hashimoto’s (that I keep under control with medication, regular visits with a specialist, and ultrasounds) and since that’s an autoimmune condition, it’s possible that this is all connected.

But I can manage it on a daily basis. It gets worse when I’m stressed, tired, when it’s humid out, and when I feel run down. So I try to get enough sleep, eat the foods that I know work with me, get enough protein/healthy carbs/healthy fats, drink enough water, rest, work out, go for lots of daily walks, and spend time with the people that I love.

I know lots of people have much worse conditions than I do so I’m definitely not trying to whine here. I just wanted to share my story in case anyone is dealing with a chronic condition that they have to manage. But there are definitely better times ahead. My quality of life is about a billion times better than it was two years ago, and for that, I’m thankful every single day.

Can you relate to my story? Let me know if you have food allergies, intolerances or anything that you’ve had to learn to manage. I would love to hear from you.

Aya Tsintziras is a food blogger at She posts gluten-free, dairy-free and mostly sugar-free recipes, lifestyle and pop culture stories on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

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  1. Thanks for sharing your story! I’m currently working with an ND, trying to figure out my food issues, mostly gut but to come degree, congestion. So this is helpful.

    1. Thank you so much for reading! I’m so glad you found it helpful and I hope you resolve your food issues soon!

  2. Allie @ Miss Allies Kitchen

    How tough is that! So glad you took matters into your own hands!

    1. Thanks so much, Allie, you’re so sweet!

  3. Wow, Aya, I had no idea that people struggled with chronic congestion. I’m thankful that this world isn’t the end, and that someday there won’t be any more suffering, but I’m thankful for your hopeful outlook and joy in the midst of it.

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