We have many food allergies in our family. It has taken us many years to figure out what they are and what we can do about them. Any one who has been diagnosed with any type of allergy knows good and well that it is a constant battle to stay clear of the allergens that trigger a nasty allergic response. After my kids were diagnosed, our first thoughts were of defeat.
My mind was flooded with questions like:
- What are food allergies
- What are the signs and symptoms of food allergies?
- How to test for food allergies?
- How to cope with food allergies?
- How do I cook and feed my family with food allergies?
- How do I send my kids places with their food allergies?
Let me preface this by saying that these are my discoveries and opinions. I am not a medical professional. I am a concerned mother who has and is still finding ways to improve her family’s well being.
When Junior started solids at six months old, I noticed she was unable to poop as well as normal. (Just being real here.) She had been breastfed up to this point and we never saw any obvious signs of food allergies. When she was weaned at thirteen months, the pediatrician really pushed us to give her cow’s milk. Being a first time mom, I had no idea what I was doing and followed doctor’s orders. After a year of constant constipation and complaints of her stomach aching, I decided to experiment with different types of milk – almond, soy, dairy without hormones, rice, etc. Junior loved her milk so we went dairy without hormones. It fixed the constipation but not the stomach aches. As any mom knows, you have to decide what is habitual complaining and what to really be concerned about. This was where I was at because I was tired of hearing the complaining.
At this point, Junior is four years old. I decided to experiment with a gluten free diet just to see what would happen. Within the six weeks of experimentation, she stopped complaining of stomachaches. But it was summer time and with a slower change of pace, I thought she had broken the habit of complaining. In the fall, she started mother’s day out, and for convenience sake, we started eating gluten again. Then the complaining started again and having days on end with asthma attacks, I seriously was at a loss. I was due with Booger any day and I really did not have the patience for the complaining or illness any more. (I promise that I’m not a cold mother. LOL!)
Now enters Booger into our lives. She also was breastfed. I noticed on multiple occasions that if I ate dairy, she would projectile vomit, break out in a rash, run a low-grade fever, have multiple frothy, green, poopy diapers, and end up with bleeding blisters on her bum. I was alarmed because I knew this type of reaction was not normal. So I asked the pediatrician. They showed no concern and said that if I didn’t see any blood in her poop then there’s nothing wrong and to keep trying dairy. Long story short, we no longer see that pediatrician. So I started researching symptoms of dairy allergy and new pediatricians. Low and behold, Booger was exhibiting most of the symptoms, barring anaphylaxis and bloody poop. So at this point, I figured out that it wasn’t the lactose she was reacting to but the protein in the milk. Here is an article to help you understand what I’m talking about. I wasn’t about to give up on nursing so I went dairy, soy, chocolate, and tomato free until she was weaned at eleven months.
Fast forward three years, Junior is still complaining of stomachaches and as long as Booger doesn’t ingest dairy, she has no episodes. But Booger now starts complaining of her stomach hurting also. Around this same time, Junior became ill for four weeks. With having found a new pediatrician, he suggested a battery of tests, but everything came back normal. We logged everything she ate including gum. After trial and error, we figured out that something she was eating triggered severe headaches, severe lethargy, severe stomachaches, low-grade fever, and severe nausea. We did the elimination diet to finally rule out certain types of food. Low and behold my suspicions of a gluten allergy reared its ugly head. After this episode, I was determined to find answers. I thought to myself “enough is enough!” He had recommended allergy testing multiple times, but I just couldn’t bring myself to subject my kids to the testing.
Many people are probably wondering why I waited so long to do allergy testing. Here’s why. First, our old pediatrician stripped away the confidence of my mothering intuition to figure out the root of the problem. She left me feeling like I was crazy for thinking something was wrong with my kids even though something was not right. Second, I wanted a pediatrician who would help me figure out what was wrong with my kids and give me direction on how to fix it. Third, before our new pediatrician had an allergy diagnostic and treatment clinic, our only option for testing was two hours away in a different town and our insurance wouldn’t cover testing.
After our pediatrician included an allergy specialist in his practice, I signed Junior and Booger up for allergy testing. The tests confirmed two things for me. One, I’m not crazy and to trust my intuition. Two, both my girls have several seasonal and food allergies. As a result, we are now gluten and dairy free.
Now that you’ve read our story, let’s explore the questions above.
1.What are food allergies?
Food allergies can range from something slightly agitating and unnoticeable to more severe and life threatening. According to this article, some of the most common food allergies are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish. In our house we deal mainly with dairy and gluten allergies.
2.What are the signs and symptoms of food allergies?
At the beginning of our journey, the signs were not obvious. As any parent knows, a random stomachache is not uncommon. However, a few years after starting solids, Junior started having constant stomachaches and constipation. It became obvious to me that her allergies had become worse. She showed signs like lethargy, nausea, low-grade fever, and constantly had allergic shiners under her eyes. Allergic shiners are purple and grey looking bags under your eyes. This is your body’s way of trying to tell you that you are allergic to something. Check out this article to help you understand.
Booger has always thrown up after consuming dairy and would develop extreme eczema. These are obvious signs that something is wrong. To back my theory up, please visit this website. She also had frothy, green, and mucus filled poopy diapers and was extremely snotty in her eyes and nose. When she started solids, she complained of her stomach hurting. So having dealt with a gluten allergy with Junior, I decided to take her off gluten and it made a huge difference.
3.How to test for food allergies?
To help answer this question, my suggestion is to find a trustworthy pediatrician who either has a certified allergist or can refer you to a specialist. Our pediatrician felt skin testing would be more reliable than blood testing and less traumatic. Plus with blood testing, if you have not consumed the food within a window of time, the blood reflects no allergy to that product. So logic said to me that blood testing would require my kids to consume a suspected allergen just to get a positive blood test and potentially make them ill. We opted for the skin testing because the results were immediate and my kids did not have to go through the trauma of having blood drawn. They also did not get ill because they did not have to consume food that would cause an allergic reaction. To learn more about the different types of allergy testing try exploring this website.
4.How to cope with food allergies?
When I first started researching how to deal with food allergies, I felt so overwhelmed and inadequate. I did not know where to start. So I turned to the internet and typed in “how to deal with food allergies.” Some things popped up but it wasn’t very satisfying. In further searching, Pinterest proved to be a wealth of information. Join the boards and learn more about food allergies.
Even with a wealth of information online and from friends and family, coping with food allergies is a daily and constant struggle. For example: when we go to parties or someone’s house, most often the food is not gluten free. So with a little preparation, I bring a comparable gluten free food for the kids. Some would say that it was not worth it. But when you have struggled for years of not knowing what is wrong with your children then all of the sudden a simple solution like a diet change fixes the problem, you then know it is all worth it so my kids are healthy and happy.
5.How do I cook and feed my family?
The longer we are gluten and dairy free, the more items I see added the shelves at the grocery stores. Most of the stuff I cook, we ate before but with gluten. Now I customize each recipe to be gluten and dairy free. Trail and error are the best and easiest ways to learn. For example: We love Velveeta shells and cheese, but the gluten free boxes of shells and cheese are nasty tasting to us. I found Velveeta sells the cheese sauce separately from noodles. So I buy Tinkyada gluten free shell noodles and add the Velveeta sauce. It tastes just like the regular Velveeta shells and cheese. Yummy! Check out my GF/DF board on Pinterest for more ideas.
Gluten Free Shells and Cheese
2 cups of Tinkyada gluten free shell noodles
1 package of Velveeta original cheese sauce
*cook noodles according to package; drain
*mix together noodles and cheese sauce
*serve hot with hotdogs or chicken and peas
Side note: I’m not sure why but neither of my kids react to the ingredients in Velveeta cheese so that’s why we can eat it. Again trial and error are the best teacher.
6.How do I send my kids to places with food allergies?
Most people are very respectful and understanding of our food allergies. I’m blessed to work at my children’s school and to have great co-workers. I cannot thank my kid’s teachers enough for working with me to make sure my kids are well cared for. Thank you! Thank you!
Communication! Communication! I’m very up front with my kid’s teachers and office staff about my kid’s allergies. If possible, I try to make it very easy on them. If one of my kids has a special event and food will be involved, I try to make some thing similar in gluten free form and send it with them the next day. I never want to make a teacher feel it is their responsibility to make sure they provide gluten free items. If they want to provide these as an option, I consider it a blessing.
If my kids go places without us, we either send gluten and dairy free food with them or whomever they stay with are accommodating and will purchase what they can eat. Again, we are very blessed to have friends and family that understand food allergies.
As the kids are getting older, they are learning what they can and cannot eat. It will get easier, but for now, this momma will be a protective bulldog for her babies. The complaint of a stomachache becomes less and less. I’ve also noticed their immune systems fight off infections quicker and they do not “catch” every little virus floating around. Our household is definitely healthier than it’s been in a long time.