** I’ve been writing, and editing, and rewriting this post for months, putting off actually hitting Publish. Why? Because it’s very personal. And definitely TMI. And has nothing to do with personal finance. And involves… girl stuff… And it probably won’t be relevant to most of the readers here. So, feel free to skip this one! You’ve been warned!
I actually left work on time that day, desperate to make it to the Vitamin Shoppe before they closed. I’d discovered the night before that I was down to my last pill. Driving 20 minutes out of my way was more than worth it. I made a bee-line through the store to the back wall, and grabbed two bottles of reishi mushroom extract. You can buy it at most health food stores, but Vitamin Shoppe is one of the few places that sell an affordable store brand; I’d likely pay anything for them, but why pay $20-50 for 60 pills (or less!) when you can get 100 for $12?
The gray-haired man behind the counter seemed very friendly. Maybe a little too friendly. I’m the type of person who prefers her purchases not be commented on. No such luck. I could feel it coming as he started chit-chatting.
Him: So what made you decide on the reishi mushroom?
Me (feeling the redness creeping up my face): I have… uhm… an… allergy.
Him (look of confusion): Huh. Reishi mushroom is generally recommended for immune support. I myself follow a mushroom regiment. But if you’re suffering from allergies, I’d recommend: blah, blah, blah.
I stood there for a second, ready to just thank him for his advice, pay for my reishi and go. But then I reminded myself how hard it was to find a solution to my issue. And I’d promised myself that I would share that information. Maybe by sharing, I’d help someone else? After all, don’t many people turn to herbal medicines when modern science fails them?
I took a deep breath and replied: I have a sperm allergy.
Well, that’s one way to shut a middle-aged man up! Mr. Chatty just stood there, mouth open, staring at me. It was obvious I’d caught him off guard. Just when the silence started getting uncomfortable, the sales girl a few feet over, who apparently had been eavesdropping on our conversation, jumped into the conversation. She seemed genuinely interested, asking several questions. Eventually, her male counterpart was able to recover, as he looked at me in awe and whispered: I didn’t even know that was possible.
I’m not even sure if my sperm “allergy” is technically considered an allergy. No, my throat won’t swell closed if I give a blow-job (my sister was dying to ask that question!). And Benedryl provides no relief at all; Although I’m guilty upon occasion of taking a few so I could sleep despite the discomfort. It’s more that my vagina views sperm as a foreign invader that must be stopped at all cost. The immune reaction results in swelling, burning, and discomfort that can last for weeks. Weeks! This reaction creates an imbalance in my system, which often will lead to some type of infection.
I’ve spent many, many years being brushed off as just having an “overly sensitive” system. It wasn’t until Bryan and I had been dating about a year that my gynecologist brought up allergies as a possible culprit. After a battery of allergy tests, the Allergist gave his recommendation: My skin was too sensitive to draw many conclusions about food, but I definitely had a lot of reactions, so I should stay away from using anything natural on my body (or Bryan’s body). The chemical tests were better: Nothing with propylene glycol or cocamidopropyl betaine (found in most body washes, shampoos, conditioners, etc.) for me (or Bryan!). No condoms, of any kind, ever. I already assumed those were an issue from previous relationships. And a list of other recommendations that didn’t apply to my, uhm, “issue”: No cobalt. No formaldehyde. No whatever-chemical-they-use-in-hair-dye. I have a list… somewhere…
Changing both of our shower products, and steering clear of all condoms and lubricants, made things better. Much better. Instead of feeling like I had an infection all the time, I was only having issues about once a quarter. Better, but it still sucked. Especially since it took weeks to figure out; It usually just started off as irritation and inflammation, so there wasn’t much the doctor could do about it. I had to wait (usually several weeks) to figure out if it would turn into an infection, or go away on its own. Miserable!
My doctor was out of answers, so I did what most people do, and started scouring the internet. Turns out, there are thousands of women who have the same issues. Thousands of women who have been suffering for years. Women whose marriages and relationships end over something that makes them miserable, and they have no control over. Women who are trying unbelievable remedies to find some relief. I was shocked to see what some women were doing to find relief. There are just certain places a clove of garlic should never go!
I started to pay attention to when my issues would start; Honestly, it wasn’t hard to do, since the reaction is pretty much instant. It didn’t take long to figure it out: sperm. Was that even possible? The internet said it was, but just be safe, I asked my doctor. Turns out, it really is possible! Because of the type of reaction it is, there isn’t an easy way to test to be sure. I try to avoid what’s causing the reaction. It doesn’t always work out. See above comments about condoms. See any high school sex ed book for statistics on how well “pulling out” helps you avoid sperm. And to some extent, my original doctors were right: My system is so sensitive, I react to anything the least bit different. Try as we might, we couldn’t completely avoid causing a reaction.
Somewhere in the vast web, I finally found an answer: reishi mushroom extract. It’s widely known for supporting the immune system, and is commonly used by people with cancer, or who are avoiding cancer risks. I assume that’s why it works, since my sperm allergy is an immune reaction. And it seems to work for more than just sperm related issues: it’s helped in situations where someone decided to try a new body wash, and a few other mishaps we should have been more careful to avoid.
I don’t take the pills all the time; I usually just take 2 pills morning and night for several days when I need them. That being said, I’d gotten to the point of being overly confident with how well they worked, and wasn’t taking them often enough or long enough when I did need them. Lately I’ve been taking two a day, just to get my system back on track.
Which brings up another good question: Fertility. Obviously, sperm is a necessary part of creating a baby. There isn’t much (maybe any) research on the subject. Everything I’ve come across (on the internet) has basically said that, with a sperm allergy, your only hope is in-vitro. If the reishi mushroom stops the reaction, does that mean pregnancy is possible? I haven’t found anything that says one way or the other.We’re pretty well settled on the idea that we won’t be having children, so we aren’t really trying to figure that part out.
See, I warned you this post was TMI! Why am I posting about sperm allergies on a personal finance blog? Because it’s my blog, and I’ll do what I want! I kid! I’m doing this because I know how miserable it is to suffer through, without any answers. The toll it can take on relationships. The desperation to find an answer! While I don’t get a lot of traffic here, this blog is a public format, where women might be able to come across the answers they need. It may not work for everyone. But maybe I can help one other person who is suffering.
And then it would totally be worth the embarrassment of sharing my vaginal issues with the world (and the horrified sales man at Vitamin Shoppe)!
- Cindy W.
Note: I am NOT a doctor, and this is in no way medical advice. Talk to your own doctor, and do your own research before trying any new supplement. While I haven’t noticed any side effects in the year plus that I’ve been regularly taking reishi mushroom extract, I can’t guarantee that there aren’t side effects or dangers in taking this supplement. I am in no way associated with Vitamin Shoppe, and am in no way compensated for my statements.