Sunday, July 3, 2011

Adjusting to a Curve Ball: More Food Allergies

I've been feeling a little sorry for myself lately. My son, aged two and a bit, has recently thrown a curve ball into our diet - unintentionally, of course. About one month ago, William developed severe eczema all over his torso, arms and legs. It was red, angry looking and itchy. His behavior also started changing after eating certain foods. He went from calm and cheerful to aggressive, anxious and inconsolable. My husband and I debated: is this just the 'terrible twos' or is it something more, like a food allergy? My gut was telling me that he was, in part, reacting to something in his diet despite many assurances that this was typical two year old behavior. My mind has been in a tug-a-war state of questioning whether I'm overreacting versus trying to get a handle on his rash and behavioral changes.

I must admit, I thought we had the food/allergy thing figured out with the removal of grains and dairy from his diet. But now, I feel as though we are back to square one, eliminating more food from his already limited diet. Through the process of elimination, we have discovered that eggs are causing his eczema and nuts, coconut and most forms of sugar (other than honey) cause his behavior to change drastically. I've been feeling sorry for myself because it means no more pancakes, cookies or muffins with nut flours. It means being more creative at meal time. It means being far more organized than I have been. And, it means bucking up and adjusting to this new reality with a positive attitude.

After having a good cry over the situation, I've decided that I need to rise to the challenge. I started by making a list of the positives:
  1. There are still a lot of different foods left to eat. Meat, animal fat, vegetables, fruit, possibly some seeds like hemp, sunflower and pumpkin (that we've not yet tested his tolerance for),
  2. I'm being forced to feed my family a truer Paleo diet (no eggs, limited seeds, no sugar), which is healthier for us,
  3. The large quantities of nuts and eggs we were consuming wasn't natural from a traditional diet sense: if we had to pick and shell nuts ourselves, we'd eat much less of them, and they would be available seasonally only,
  4. Nuts are very expensive, so this should cut down on our grocery bill - a lot,
  5. I no longer have to worry about the pesticides and chemicals nuts contain from the monoculture growing and extraction methods,
  6. We are now eating a more seasonal, local diet because let's face it, most nuts, with the exception of hazelnuts do not grow in Saskatchewan, and 
  7. Most importantly, it will keep my son happy, healthy and eczema-free.
When things seem completely overwhelming, having a plan helps me regain a 'sense of control' over the situation so that I can move forward:

First, I started by cleaning out my kitchen pantry and removing all of the foods we can no longer eat. I also removed all of the old cookbooks that aren't of any use to us.

Second, we purchased a food dehydrator so that I can make healthy snacks, like fruit leathers, vegetables chips and jerky. It's important for me to be prepared to have a variety of food on hand that we can eat in pinch or if we plan to be away from the house for awhile.

Third, we'll be incorporating traditionally fermented foods and nourishing bone broths into our diet. I believe that part of William's food sensitivities and behavioral issues stem from the fact that he has a severely leaking gut and abnormal gut flora, just like me. Broths are incredibly nourishing and healing and fermented foods will help repopulate his gut with a better balance of friendly bacteria. I'm hoping that by healing his leaky gut, we will be able to reintroduce some of the foods that are affecting his behavior in time.

Lastly,  I'm researching meals that we can eat and making meal plans. I plan to do away with trying to eat a traditional breakfast and instead, we'll be eating super leftovers in the morning or a smoothie. Lunch will remain largely the same (burger patties, vegetable 'fries' and more vegetables or soup) and supper will be a new meal cooked from scratch. I will make up certain food in bulk - things I can freeze, like soups with homemade bone broths, burger patties, meatballs and meatloaves.

With all new things there is an adjustment period that makes everything seem so very hard, but I know that eventually I will find a rhythm again with meals, meal planning and eating. That is how I will cope. That and trying to maintain a sense of humor about it all - my two year old definitely helps with that. This morning, after a tense and complete flop of a breakfast, my son asked me for more of Mommy's 'banana pancake mess'. What a wonderful reminder that while I considered the meal a failure, my son still considered it a yummy breakfast. And, there is nothing like the frankness of a child to put the laughter and ease back into a stressful situation.

Linked to Monday Mania.


kathleenes said...

I have been doing bone broth with - it is so nutritious and very versatile to use - her blog is one of my favorites and she probably has something to say about alergies too...

Shanon Hilton said...

Yes, I plan to do the bone broth too, though it's not quite as appealing in the middle of summer! I have been by before, thanks for the recommendation.

Dawn Farias said...

Oh, friend, big hugs! For several years my son was on a low carb that controlled his seizures. I definitely went through a mourning period regarding cooking and eating.

You are determined and dedicated and know that you will find a new rhythm. Embracing what you CAN eat is smart. I'm glad you had your good cry, though. :)

In other news, I like your profile picture (I think it's new??) and you did a great job on your social media buttons.

Shanon Hilton said...

Thanks Dawn. ;) Thank goodness for informative blogs and virtual friends! I never expected to find such support and encouragement online. I really appreciate your comments.

And yes, the profile picture is new!

Carrie said...

I feel your frustration! While my kids continue to be doing really well on our diet, I have an eczema on my hands (which I've had for over 10 years) that not only is not going away, but last week I developed an eczema on my face. Gotta love those curve balls!! I guess its time for me to also take a closer look at my already restricted diet, too! Thanks for sharing and helping me see the bright side of things!!

Lori said...

Good luck with all of this. I know it's hard to eliminate so many foods because I had to eliminate them from my diet! I've been on a Candida diet for the last year which means basically meat, veges, and a little fruit. I do have nuts every once in a while but not many.

Even though my gut is more in balance, I still have to eat this way. At the beginning, I did morn the loss of food. This summer, I've been trying to find some new menus, but it's still hard and we eat a lot of the same food over and over which does get boring. But, it's all completely doable! We have survived!!! Even though I don't have kids yet, I assume we will eat the same way with kids. Oh, and I don't eat grains of any sort. I do eat eggs, but I'm wondering if I'm starting to become sensitive to them.

Good luck again! It sounds like you have things under control.

Lori said...

And one last thing...I also think I'm sensitive to coconut so I thought it was interesting that your son is too. Most people do great with coconut, but if I have too much oil I get sick. I know people say that's "die off," but I think it's more than that.

Shanon Hilton said...

Hi Lori, Another blogger mentioned to me that reacting to coconut is a sign of the body cleansing... I have heard that when you follow the GAPS/SCD diet, you can experience behavioral changes from the toxins and microbial die off. I assumed it would be more of a phase though, rather than specific reactions to specific food groups. I haven't looked into that idea in detail yet.

Thanks for commenting. :)

Lola said...

Hi, I just found your blog and your story is so similar to mine. I'm just now realizing that I'm sensitive to coconut (probably from eating way to much of it). My youngest daughter has many allergies too so after months of eating paleo I'm biting the bullet and starting the GAPS intro next week for her and I. I'm so nervous but I just want to be able to eat the random piece of cheese, slab of butter or whip cream without spending three days with a migraine. Your blog is lovely and I'll read some more.

Crystal Rassi said...

So I suppose there goes the idea to have chickens in your yard, Shannon?

Do you think at all, that by completely restricting foods like eggs, one's body will develop a more severe allergy to them? I don't know this for fact but just wondering.

Shanon Hilton said...

Hi Crystal, Well it certainly puts a damper on having them for eggs that's for sure! However, I still would like to have chickens for more reasons that just the eggs. There is the meat that chickens provide, the pest control and their lovely chicken manure for fertilizer!

I'm not really sure what the answer is to your question, however, I am hoping that the restrictions will be temporary. After completing the GAPS protocol diet, we theoretically should be able to reintroduce nourishing foods like eggs and nuts.

Shanon Hilton said...

Hi Lola, I completely agree. Even if some of the currently restricted foods can be eaten on a special occasion basis only, it would be so nice to have more options. We'll be starting the GAPS diet soon too. Keep in touch, I'd love to hear how it goes for you.

C. M. Hastings said...

Wow! I am amazed by your blog! We just had an appointment w/ an allergist today for my son, who we suspect has ASD.

I have a few things to say after reading this one of your posts...
1) Cross-contamination: Might be a culprit..
I've done tons of reading since discovering my son's food sensitivites and realized most processed foods contain cc. Rice Dream rice milk, for instance, is made with barley, however they don't list it on the packaging. I always call the company to ask about the poss. of cc.
2) Gluten: I assume you've cut it out, but by far that's the worst for my son, and I'm finding, causes a lot of other allergies and I think gut permeability and gas. (and yeast etc)
3) Probiotics: very important BUT must be gluten free obvi. Dr. Fred Bisci sells one ( Very important (you can also get digestive enzymes/and systemic enzymes on his site) to fight the yeast and to heal the gut. Very, very key, to my understanding...
4)Nuts in bulk (like from Whole Foods, etc.) are CROSS-contaminated. This I just found out a few days ago and was pissed!! :P Buying bags of seeds online from Amazon (Now foods and Go Raw are the only co.'s so far I see w/ no cc of wheat, dairy, nuts, soy or oils..) Awesome! At least there are a couple co's.. right?

anyway, thank you thank you thank you for your blog!!!!! I look forward to reading more about farming and how it relates to this. ♥♥♥
Take care,
Morgan Pocorobba

Shanon Hilton said...

Hi Morgan,

1. That's scary point about cross contamination - especially the barley in rice milk. We've done away with store bought milk alternatives. We make our own hemp milk - occasionally.
2. Yes, we are gluten and grain-free in our house.
3. Finding dairy-free probiotics has been a challenge. We're working on incorporating fermented foods instead.
4. Cross contamination in nuts and seeds - this doesn't surprise me and yet I never consciously thought about it, but now that you mention it, I shouldn't be buying sunflower seeds in that format!

Thank you so much for sharing your points and suggestions! --Shanon