Such helpful information in here. Being a parent is hard enough, but navigating food allergies on top of that is just brutal. I’m so glad Heidi can share her journey and help other mamas!
During my pregnancy I had many thoughts cross my mind: parenting styles, things I wanted to be sure to do as well as things I didn’t, and what I would do if I had a baby that wasn’t a sleeper. Sleep was/is a huge deal for me, and many prayers were said that my baby would be a sleeper.
One thing that didn’t cross my mind even once was, “What if my baby has food allergies?”
Soon after my son Christian was born, I noticed patches of red throughout his whole body and especially his face, which turned out to be eczema. He was the farthest thing from a sleeper that I’ve ever imagined. He was fussy after I ate, and I was able to figure out corn and eggs as part of the reason for that. Having no nutritional background and no knowledge of eczema or food allergies, I started researching on my own, and slowly but surely the pieces came together. I still remember getting the call from my pediatrician, who at 9 months agreed to trust my “mommy gut” and order blood testing for allergies. For those of you who haven’t dealt with allergies, it is almost impossible to find a pediatrician or even a specialist who will even consider testing for any kind of allergies until after a baby is one so. This was huge that he willingly trusted me.
I still remember getting the call from the nurse, “Your son is allergic to egg whites, soy, peanuts, walnuts, wheat, gluten, and corn.”
If you are wondering if your child has food allergies, here are some questions to start with.
What do food allergies look like?
Allergies are an immune response that can take many forms. Upset stomach, rashes or eczema, lack of weight gain, dry skin, itching, vomiting, hives, swelling of the tongue, diaper rash, and respiratory issues are the most common symptoms. Symptoms can occur up to two hours after you eat or come in contact with whatever the allergy happens to be. Our largest organ is our first line of defense, so it’s normal that the skin would be one of the telltale signs.
What are the most common food allergies?
Peanuts and tree nuts, milk, eggs, wheat, soy, and shellfish. Milk allergies are twice as common as egg allergies and three times more common than peanut allergies. That being said, you could be allergic to the protein in milk versus the actual milk itself.
What kind of testing can I do?
Start with medical history. Do you or your spouse have food allergies in your immediate family? Aunts and uncles? Cousins? Grandparents? Scratch testing is another option but generally not the first one, as 50%-60% of scratch tests can yield a false positive. Since food proteins are bigger when they interact with your skin or blood, it is easier for the antibodies to “see” the allergen and attack them. Blood tests can be done called an IgE (immunoglobin E). Muscle testing (applied kinesiology) is a more homeopathic test based on the belief that various muscles are linked to organs and glands in your body, and specific muscle weakness can signal sensitivities or allergies. Another option would be to try an elimination diet.
What does an elimination diet look like?
Every bite of food that we eat sends a message to our body, and it responds accordingly. Our intestines are our message system that communicates from the body to the brain by converting food into messengers through digestion and absorption. Our intestines are responsible for 70% of our body’s immune system. Unfortunately, the most informative elimination diets tend to be the strictest ones. Start by removing gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, corn, pork, beef, chicken, beans and lentils, coffee, citrus fruits, nuts, and nightshade veggies. Remove these things from your diet for 3-4 weeks. Then reintroduce them one at a time back into your diet. Watch for any reaction for two days before adding the next ingredient back into your diet. Watch for changes in sleep, mood, energy, digestive habits, and bowel habits during this time.
What is the most important thing to realize about allergies?
Know that allergies can hide. Corn is by far the toughest allergy I’ve dealt with because it is in everything from citric and ascorbic acid to caramel flavor. Milk can hide in things like whey proteins or even “natural flavoring” (as is the case with most allergies). After you confirm an allergy, researching it and knowing what to look for in a label is important.
Having a child with a variety of food allergies has really opened my eyes to my surroundings and the challenges that can come with an allergy. It can be completely overwhelming at first, but with time it becomes second nature, and you will soon be able to quickly identify which options are good and which ones give you a chance to use creativity to come up with an alternative.
My son’s skin now!