Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My Allergen-Free Diet

You may have noticed my recipes for "allergen-free" food on my blog, and I feel I have some explaining to do.  See, I am not really allergic to anything (that I know of), but the young people in my life are.  My son has a mild allergy to milk and egg (that story is a whole different post), and my daughter is sensitive to dairy, soy, wheat and eggs via my breast milk. 

Baby C started showing symptoms when she was around six weeks old.  She is exclusively breast fed, and in fact has never even had formula.  Anyway, like I was saying, at about six weeks, I really started noticing that she spit up quite a bit.  It felt like I was changing her outfit several times a day, and going through several burp cloths.  At doctors' visits, the best explanation I got at first was "well, babies spit up...sometimes it's a lot...nothing to worry about".   I remember when my son was a baby and he hardly ever spit up...so that was where I got the idea that maybe she shouldn't be spitting up so much.  I didn't feel it was normal.  The other thing I noticed was that she had a rash on her face that seemed to be taking a long time to clear up.   It started when babies usually get that "baby acne" and I expected it to go away within a couple of weeks. 

Well, fast forward a couple of weeks, and she was still experiencing the same thing.  Then one evening, I changed her diaper and noticed some black specks in her stool.  I know she was only eating one thing, obviously was way too young for solids...so after some research, I read that what I saw could be blood.  I called the doctor's office and described what I saw.  They asked me to bring in one of her diapers so they could determine whether it was blood or not.  The next day in the doctor's office, sure enough it was found to be blood.  I had already read that it could be a sign of allergy, so I asked if I should eliminate anything from my diet.  The doctor said she didn't advise me to do that.  It was somewhat unnerving that I overheard her calling another doctor to ask what how she should proceed.

Ultimately, she sent me home with a stool collection kit, as she thought it best to test for parasites, infection and a couple other things.   It seemed to take forever to get any results back.  But everything came up negative.  The doctor said, "maybe you should go ahead and eliminate dairy from your diet- and go ahead and eliminate soy, too...sometimes babies are sensitive to both".  And then we were referred to a pediatric gastroenterologist.  

By the time our appointment came around for the GI doctor, I had eliminated milk, soy, and eggs from my diet.  I had been keeping a food journal to track the symptoms along with what I was eating.  After a few weeks, there was an improvement, but I still noticed at times the spit up would increase and at this point I started to see mucous in her stool pretty consistently.  (Sorry to gross anyone out!)  At the specialist, we talked about the baby's symptoms, and we discussed the "big eight" allergens (I think it's something like 90% of food allergies are caused by milk, soy, eggs, wheat, tree nuts, peanuts, fish and shellfish).  I was already off of three of the foods on the list, plus I didn't really eat nuts or seafood of any kind.  Because the symptoms hadn't completely cleared up, the specialist recommended waiting about another 10 days, and then eliminating wheat if things didn't improve.  I ended up doing so.  

Once I had all those foods out of my diet, I noticed a significant improvement in Baby C's health.  She was hardly ever spitting up...her stools started to clear up, and miracle of miracles, the rash she had cleared up as well.  Some days I felt like I was crazily obsessing over every little thing, and just imagining the symptoms.  But every time I slipped up and ate something I wasn't supposed to, the symptoms returned. 

Now, several months later, I'm still maintaining this way of eating.  I don't think it's nearly as bad as it sounds.  At worst, it's terribly inconvenient, and I really don't miss the eliminated foods that much.  I'm discovering foods that I can eat all the time and certainly have been stretched as a home cook.  During this journey is when my son tested positive for food allergies, so it's certainly been an interesting experience.  

I write all this in hopes of helping another mom that may be going through a similar experience, and hopefully my recipes and other food posts will be useful to families dealing with food allergies.  I know how hard it is to go down that road and still stay inspired in the kitchen.  

Breastfeeding is something that I am extremely committed to (in case you couldn't tell) so I'm glad that I've found a way to continue this relationship with my child even in the midst of dealing with food allergies. 

1 comment:

  1. Wow! What a story! I am exclusively breastfeeding my 2 month old son and was concerned he might have allergies as well due to tons of spit up early on. Thankfully, it seems that his reflux is improving (he was overeating to soothe a sore tummy then spitting up - vicious cycle) after a short round of Zantac. I got concerned again when the baby acne flared up but it is nearly cleared up.

    It's good to hear reassurance that an allergy free diet isn't so terrible!

    I would love for you to consider sharing your story on my blog. I'm doing a big focus on breastfeeding through August for breastfeeding month. Let me know if you are interested! penguinelk at yahoo dot com