11/19/2014 04:39 pm ET Updated Jan 19, 2015

Fatigued? What Your Doctor Won't Tell You

I woke up just about every morning (or within a few hours thereafter) feeling like I'd binge partied the night before. I felt like I was walking through a fog -- cotton balls stuffed inside my brain. By the end of the day, if I actually managed to stay awake 'til the end of the day, my tummy would be so bloated that I looked four months pregnant. I lived on decongestants because sinus headaches became a way of life. I was a wreck, and I was sick of it.

My doctor concluded it was allergies. Yes, I've always had environmental (but not food) allergies, so it sounded right to me. I saw an allergist and subjected myself to allergy shots for two years -- but I just kept feeling worse. All my allergist would say was, "You're just extremely allergic to everything." Thanks for the news flash. I was told to just keep going with the shots -- but I knew something just wasn't right.

No one believed how bad I felt until finally an acquaintance said, "Have you ever considered that you may have food intolerances?" Huh? I was quite desperate, so I quickly checked in with my M.D.s. They just sort of stared at me and then went right back to injecting me with mold and ragweed. I read up on the subject and tried to avoid certain foods myself. Sometimes I would feel better for a week, and then I'd go right back to where I was before. I needed help -- I didn't know what else to do. If any of this resonates with you, here are some tips and the steps that I followed.

1). How do you feel? Do you feel tired within a few hours after waking up, even though you got enough sleep and didn't overdo the cocktails the night before? Do you walk around some days in a total brain fog and wonder how you actually got to work? Does your belly look like a small alien could be growing in there at the end of the day? Yes? There very well may be something going on.

2). Talk to your regular doctor first. Make sure you don't actually have something medically wrong. Some people jump to the assumption that they have hypothyroidism or something worse, and some do, so get checked out. Do a full blood panel to make sure you aren't really jacked up.

3). Yep, there's nothing wrong with you. Okay, maybe something else is going on. As we grow older, we have an increased sensitivity to environmental allergens (you probably already knew that). I'd try taking an antihistamine every day, even if it's not traditional allergy season. Also, attempt to stop binging on twelve seasons of some show at night and actually get some sleep. If these actions resolve the problem -- awesome! If not, keep going to #4.

4). The ALCAT Test. After my son's kindergarten teacher inadvertently told me she had food intolerances, I found out about the ALCAT test. It checks your body's reactions to various foods, additives, medicines and environmental elements. You don't have to get pricked 100 times with the actual substances (been there -- and I was sick for days with all of the things I was allergic to throwing a party inside my body). Instead, the test requires a few vials of your blood, which is then sent off to a lab where the potential offenders are introduced to see if a reaction occurs. If there's a hit -- in oversimplified terms -- your body is telling you that it just doesn't like (or can't process) that particular substance. No -- unfortunately -- I'm not being paid by anyone to write this, so check out how it works online. I'm a lawyer, not a doctor, so you know you can't trust me.

5). You may have to dig deep to find someone who offers the ALCAT. My allergist refused to acknowledge a food connection, so she obviously didn't offer the test. My internist didn't either and just referred me back to my allergist. I was willing to find a guy in a van if he used a clean needle and knew what lab to send it to. Finally, through a reference, I found a comprehensive wellness center that focused on the total body instead of just trying to treat outward symptoms. I was so happy, it was actually kind of pathetic.

6. Now you actually have to do some work. My results came back, and I had serious intolerances -- chicken, potatoes, rice, dairy, sugar, onions and just about every other staple of human nutrition. This was going to be hard, but I was ready to dive in. BEFORE YOU GET SCARED OFF -- I'm not normal. I have countless friends who've taken it too, and although they did have many unexpected intolerances, they didn't have the multitude of severe ones like I did. So don't assume you'll have to give up everything that actually has taste. You won't.

7. The results have been life changing. My sinus headaches are almost completely gone. I actually wake up feeling pretty good. My allergies have mostly disappeared, except for some seasonal sniffles. Oh, and the bloat that made me look like there was a small child growing inside? Well, that's way better too. Don't worry; you won't have to give up the foods forever, even the ones that are the biggest problems. You have to clear them from your body for a few months, but then you can go back to eating them every few days. And the benefits are beyond worth it.

The main point is, don't be afraid to look beyond traditional ideas of why you feel like dirt. You don't have to travel to the rain forest to find a tribal healer, but do your research, talk to other people who've been through this and then find someone who'll listen.