Signs of a Food Allergy in Infants:
- Cold-like respiratory congestion
Signs of a Food Allergy in Children:
- “Allergic Shiners" or a bluish-brownish discoloration around both eyes
- Flushing cheeks and ears, appearing bright red to crimson - sometimes only one ear will flush
- Nasal congestion may be present as mouth-breathing, sniffing, snorting or snoring, nose rubbing
- Increased mucus flow in nose & throat, ear-plugging with muffled hearing and ringing in the ears, recurrent ear infections, recurrent throat infections, swelling of the neck lymph nodes (glands), chronic or recurrent cough, wheezing
Infants who develop a food allergy may “outgrow” the first effects of the allergy, but tend to grow into children with pervasive health, behavior and learning problems - they very seldom ever “outgrow” the allergy, the symptoms simply change!
Connor’s story begins when he was an infant. As a newborn, he was colicky and seldom slept. Because I was breastfeeding him, I tried to eliminate different foods from my diet to see if it would help him - of course I never thought to eliminate the dairy. I believed that the dairy was one of the most important foods that I should be eating! When Connor was about 6 months old, I tried to introduce him to a rice cereal recommended by my doctor. This particular rice cereal contained milk in it so all you had to do was add water. He immediately became very constipated and extremely gassy. He also developed his first ear infection. At the advice of his health nurse, I quit the rice cereal and strictly breast-fed him until he was one year.
At about 14 months old, I weaned Connor onto whole milk and started feeding him vegetables and fruits, staying away from the cereals. It didn’t take long for him to develop eczema on his cheeks and hands. His ear infections worsened and the antibiotics stopped working. He broke out in rashes that would cover his whole body, he even developed a wheezy cough. Each of these symptoms pointed to an allergy and yet, my doctor treated each one separately! He was put on an inhaler for his asthma, Benedryl for his rashes, cortisone cream for his eczema, tubes in his ears for his ear infections and enemas & prune juice for his severe constipation. Not a single doctor that we saw ever once told me that all of these symptoms were strong indications of an allergy and that we should try eliminating foods from his diet.
Connor was a very sick child and it broke my heart to see him in so much pain. I would have done anything to make life better for him! He constantly lived with fluid in his ears and the ear infections never seemed to go away - now he has a permanent hole in his eardrum from the excessive number of times they put tubes in. Connor always seemed like he was in his own little world and only started talking when he was four. I believed that the fluid in his ears made him unable to hear properly.
When Connor went to kindergarten, he had a hard time focusing. His teacher had no patience with him and would call me in to tell me how he was such a bad child! I was completely shocked because at home, Connor was an awesome kid and so easy to take care of - he would spend hours playing with his train tracks or drawing amazing pictures for me. He had always been very well behaved and always listened to whatever I asked him to do; he never complained - most of the time you hardly even knew he was there! However, his teacher continued to complain and flat out told me that he had ADD.
The diagnoses of ADD just didn’t seem right to me - he was not hyper at all. If anything, Connor lacked energy and appeared depressed. I took him to see his doctor, who assured me that he didn’t have ADD, but Asperger’s Syndrome (a mild form of autism). As soon as I got home, I researched Asperger’s Syndrome all I could, and found that most children improved when milk and gluten were removed from their diets. So I put him on a gluten-free diet for two months, which didn’t help him at all. I also replaced his cow’s milk with goat’s milk. I have since learned that goat’s milk is NOT a good replacement for cow’s milk, as they both contain many of the same common allergens.
The symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome are: lack of social skills, avoidance of eye contact, preoccupation with only one or few interests (such as designing houses or drawing highly detailed scenes), heightened sensitivity to noise, lights, strong tastes or textures, delayed motor development and depression/anxiety. I find it very interesting that all of these symptoms also describe ME when I was a child. I can tell you from my experience what this feels like: It feels like there is a heaviness in your body that pulls you down and makes you feel tired and weak. There is a “fog” in your head that makes it hard to focus on what your teacher/parent is trying to teach or tell you. This “fog” makes you turn inward and the people on the outside are scary because you don’t understand them. They get mad and yell at you, but you don’t know why - there is a block between you and them, like you are in a different dimension - a dimension where the air is heavy and thick. I remember not wanting to play with other kids because it took too much energy to try to be how they wanted me to be. It was easier to be alone - that was when I was happy. I would spend hours drawing, wishing that everyone would just leave me alone - a very sad existence in a very lonely world!
When I went off of all dairy products, I was shocked at how the “fog” lifted - I never knew what that felt like! I didn’t even realize how horrible I felt until I was able to feel good. It is incredible how living with a food allergy affects your brain. If you think that your child may have a food allergy, PLEASE get help for them. Do everything that you can to help them. No one should have to live this way! I hear a lot of excuses like, “I could never live without milk!” But what if you are directly making your child sick?! Wouldn’t you do anything to help them? Milk is very easy to eliminate from your diet - almond milk has the same amount of calcium as cow’s milk and tastes great. It is also much healthier because it doesn’t have any of the cholesterol or hormones that cow’s milk has. I prefer to look at it as not giving up dairy products, but simply making healthier choices. The main purpose of the food we eat is to nourish, not to entertain or excite. For more great info on changing your eating habits, check out the article on How to Change What You & Your Family Eat.
Please do not simply accept the diagnoses of ADD, ADHD or autism - look deeper! I know that everyone would like the cure to come in the form of a pill, but if we want to get down to what is directly causing these conditions we have to look at what we are eating.
Connor is definitely improving in many ways now that I have taken him off of dairy products. He has more energy and the depression has completely gone away. He is always smiling and laughing and is loving school. He has jumped a couple of reading levels in the last month and is very proud of himself. Up until now, I was giving Connor Metamucil almost daily to help with his constipation, but now he is happy to report that he doesn’t need it at all! He is becoming more social with other kids and adults - and yes, the “fog” is definitely lifting!!
Carrie Wall is a wife and mother of two. She builds homes part-time with her husband, and is a piano teacher, artist and photographer. You can read more about Carrie's story here. If you are interested in contributing an article as a guest writer, please contact me.
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