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Making Some Interesting Connections – Yeast, Heavy Metals, and Eczema

There might be a pediatrician or other MD that would make the connection, but they would be few and far between.

What connection? The connection between yeast, heavy metals, and eczema.

I’ve been doing a bit of research on the topic. Let’s just say that there does seem to be a connection. And it would make sense. I had dental work done (“silver” fillings) while pregnant with my second child–the one that inspired me to start this site. Now both my sons have eczema. This thought has gone through my mind more than once in the last year or so. Today, well, it just came together. It started when I asked myself why both of my children who have eczema also have yeast, especially since they were born at home and I had no antibiotics during either birth, and none in the second pregnancy–I did take some during the first pregnancy, but in the first trimester, and I took probiotics afterwards. On the other hand, I had antibiotics during the pregnancy and during the birth of my first, and all I had to deal with was thrush, which cleared up and she’s as healthy as can be today–no allergies.

Here are some links that I’ve been reading. They aren’t all great scientific studies, but in my opinion, sometimes the experiences of others are more helpful than all the scientific studies in the world. Hence this website. But I digress.

This site talks about the connection between candida and skin conditions. It made a lot of sense to me.

This thread on the Mothering.com forum about a lady’s experience with her daughter’s eczema and its connection to candida is fascinating. I was intrigued when she brought up heavy metals several posts into the discussion. If you read far enough, you’ll find out that she got them all out and they are both doing better.

I’m going to keep researching this topic, and I’ll keep you informed on my findings. I’ll also let you know what happens next week when we talk to Dr. Dramov again.

 

My Baby Has Eczema

Our visit to the doctor yesterday confirmed our suspicions: Ralfie has eczema too. This makes two out of three of my children with eczema.

However, contrary to what one might imagine, I am not devastated. I had enough clues over the last 2-3 weeks to guess that he might have it–”acne” that didn’t quite look like acne anymore; redness around the anus; dry skin patches; yeast in the folds of the neck and behind the ears (Manny had it too). So when the doctor said, “You are right: he does have eczema,” I was not really surprised. In a way, it was kind of a relief; the suspense of wondering if he would have it or not was not fun.

I asked him about doing an IgE test, but he said it would not be accurate. Babies get antibodies through colostrum and milk, and it can take 6 months or more for them to die out. If he still has problems later, we could do it later.

Then I asked him about the stool test. He said we could try one. He would he interested to see the results, because he had never done a stool test on someone so young. Because I have been doing a relaxed infant potty training, I know I’ll be able to get the samples I need, uncontaminated by pee, pretty much whenever I am ready for them. I’m not ready yet, because we need to figure out where the money to pay for them is going to come from (it needs to be prepaid). We’ll probably dip into our savings for this.

In the mean time, I’m going to take InfaSkin for a week or two (about all we can afford right now) and also give Ralfie the probiotics the doctor sold us. And I’m going on a very strict diet this week. I would do it longer, but we will be attending a half-week conference, and I won’t have time to cook whole meals for myself. I will maintain a gluten-free diet, however. My son’s naturopath told me that redness around the anus indicates irritation in the gut, and gluten exacerbates an irritated gut, even if the person does not have Celiac disease. And gluten isn’t as hard to avoid as one might think.

Now why is it that my daughter has no allergies at all, and both my sons have them, one severely? There are several things I could guess. First, the yeast is suspicious. Sure, yeast likes warm, moist places, like the folds of a chubby baby’s neck. So why doesn’t every baby get yeast overgrowth there? I have wondered for some time if I might have an overgrowth of it myself. It’s something I might look into soon.

I have another theory, too. While I was pregnant with my second, I got some dental work done, and although I was told that there was no mercury in the fillings, I think there is. So I need to replace those fillings. More money, of course, so it’s not happening right now, but it’s something I definitely am going to do before I even think about getting pregnant. In the mean time, I’m going to experiment with eating lots of cilantro. Cilantro is able to chelate heavy metals out of the body. It can’t hurt, anyhow. I bought 2 bunches of organic cilantro yesterday. I would have bought more, but $2 a bunch was rather prohibitive. I’ll probably make some kind of cilantro pesto, only without the garlic. I’m not sure how he will react to that much garlic.

[*UPDATE* After getting the first comment on this post, I decided to do more research about chelation, and have realized that there is a lot more to it than just upping one's intake of cilantro. It could be a problem since I am breastfeeding, and the body tends to dump detoxing toxins into the milk supply, which is why it is not good to detox while nursing. I need to do more research and talk to a health care professional (probably my son's naturopath for starters) before I do anything like I mentioned.]

In doing research for cilantro pesto, I found a site that mentions that food allergies as as a side effect of heavy metal toxicity. It also discusses the link between heavy metals and candida, not in depth, but still, the fact that there seems to be a connection is intriguing.

I’m suspecting that he is not allergic to nearly as many things as his brother is. I had fried egg sandwiches yesterday, yet his red, swollen eyelid was less swollen and not red this morning. Eggs are one of Manny’s most allergic foods, but they didn’t seem to make Ralfie worse. I will, however, avoid them for the next couple of weeks, along with a bunch of other things.

So basically I’m eating my son’s diet for a while. I never thought I could. But I guess we can do what we have to do. For sure, I won’t be cutting calories and will be eating plenty of fat; I want to make sure my milk supply stays strong. Ralfie is doing anything but failing to thrive–he gained 3 lb 3 oz in his first 6 weeks, not counting the ounces he lost before my milk came in. He’s nice an chunky. I can’t even touch thumb and forefinger around his thigh anymore!

So this will be an interesting experience. I’ll keep you all posted.

Dejavu

I strongly suspect that my second son, Rafael, better known as Ralfie, also has eczema. He has bits of red, irritated skin in the insides of his elbows, redness around the eyes, and the same yeast infection in the folds of his skin that his big brother had. He’s even got it in his belly button! In the last week, his poop went from perfect curdy orange to a smoother greenish color. This indicates irritation.

This morning his eyelid looked swollen. So I called and got an appointment at the doctor’s. I’m going to ask for an IgE Immunocap blood test, and also see if we can’t talk the insurance company into paying for a stool test. It costs over $200, so we wouldn’t be able to do it right away anyhow, which would give us time to try to convince the insurance company that it is necessary.

I’m also going to go on a strict elimination diet starting tomorrow. I’m out shopping today, so I can’t start today. I’m going to eat green smoothies for breakfast, with some gluten-free grain, cooked or sprouted. I’ll eat veggies and another GF grain for lunch. I’ll adopt hemp seeds as my nut of choice for a few days, and toss flax seed oil in every smoothie. I’ll eat fruit and whatever I can for supper. I’m going to keep it simple for the first couple of weeks–rice, quinoa, millet, amaranth. Some of those are complete proteins, so coupled with fruits and veggies, especially greens, I should be okay. I’m not going to limit myself in quantity–I’ll eat as much as I need to not be hungry and keep my milk supply up. I’ll also take probiotics, preferably InfaSkin. With this limited diet, we’ll see how the eczema does, besides wait for test results.

I feel like I know what to do this time. We won’t spend the first nine months wondering what to do. I’m going to start with what I know and run with it. Because this doesn’t just feel like Dejavu. It is.

Dealing With Multiple Allergies

Did you know that exposure to one allergen can make reactions to other allergens more severe? Indeed it can. Today I wrote about it on my mom blog. Read my post called Allergies and see how I have decided to combat the sudden onset of seasonal allergies with my diet. Because though eczema is not the same as a drippy nose or itchy eyes, if it is an allergic reaction, and can be affected by other allergens, not just food.

Let me know what you think of the article, and feel free to share your experience as well.

Should You Wean Your Baby who Has Multiple Food Allergies?

Ever since my first child was born, I have been a big advocate of breastfeeding. I figured I would nurse as long as there was an interest. This was heavily influenced by a friend who was still nursing her two-year-old. I weaned my daughter at 19 months because my second pregnancy had made it too painful–and she was only nursing once a day by then anyhow.

I planned on nursing my son at least that long. But I began to have second thoughts about nursing as I watched him break our in a rash as he drank. It got worse as he got older. We tried giving him goat’s milk formula, and even experimented with homemade sunflower seed milk (that experiment landed us in the emergency room, though we didn’t make the connection between the reaction and the seeds until later, especially since he threw up just outside the hospital and had no symptoms once we got in the door). Soy wasn’t an option–we knew e was allergic to it. I didn’t know about hemp back then. It is a complete protein and has lots of good fat in it, but hemp milk is very expensive. I pay $34 per dozen for it from Azure Standard now, but imagine how much milk a 6-month-old can drink… I would use a case in a week or less. There are amino acid based formulas available, such as Neonate, but by the time we found out about them, he simply would not eat them. Period. And I don’t blame him; they taste awful. Plus I think there was at least one ingredient in them he couldn’t have; I don’t remember now.

Once we were convinced that there was a relationship between what I ate and his eczema, I tried eliminating various foods from my diet to clear it up. This works in some cases. My brother was allergic to wheat as a baby and would break out in a rash anytime mother ate wheat. Once she made the connection, she quit eating it and he quit breaking out. But then, she quit nursing and switched to goat’s milk at 6 weeks due to supply issues, though his allergy to wheat, as well as some other things, continued for years. He was never as bad off as my son, however, and has pretty much outgrown all the allergies.

So I tried eliminating the four worst offenders, wheat, soy, eggs, and milk, one at a time. When I saw no change after two weeks each, I added them back in. Later after some strange skin electroacu-something allergy test, I tried eliminating the 6 or 7 foods it showed as reactive. No change. Later he had an IgG food sensitivity test done, and I eliminated and rotated as best as I could based on the results. Still no change (thanks in part to several false negatives on that test–one of which was the infamous sunflower seeds; which reminds me, if you can eat them and can’t have dairy, they make a delicious sour cream–I found this recipe during this time). I remember hunting the kitchen in desperation one day, trying to find something to cure my nursing-induced hunger. But I couldn’t find anything that didn’t require preparation, so I ran to the local health food store to buy rice crackers and such.

It was a very hard time. I had to bring my own food to potlucks. I remember mixing quinoa, fresh and frozen veggies, and olive oil, because I didn’t know what else to fix, and eating that while I looked with envy at all the delicious entrees and mouthwatering desserts everyone around me was eating.

So I began to consider weaning. Manny had not been interested in solid food at 6 months. My husband thought I was neglecting him, but my research told me that as long as he was still gaining weight and nursing well, I shouldn’t worry about it. He finally did start eating around 10 months. I decided to wean him at 12 months. My plan was to feed him beans and cereal to give him a complete protein, with flax or olive oil mixed in for fat, and whatever veggie or fruit I could get down him. So at 12 months I began to wean him, finishing the process in less than two weeks.

When I declared my intention to wean online, I could not believe the amount of flack I got for my decision. “Breastmilk is best for your baby, even if he has allergies,” some insisted. Others told me of how they had persevered with their baby’s special diet until they were two or even later, as if they were trying to make me feel guilty for wanting to wean so I could go back to eating normal, tasty food. I mean, try eating pinto beans without onion or tomato. My husband would not eat half of what I was forced to eat during that time. I didn’t know enough about gluten-free baking to give up gluten. If I had known what I know now, I might have tried, but it wouldn’t have helped, because there were other foods that he was highly allergic to that I was still eating.

All I knew was that it was hard to identify trigger foods with the delay between my eating them and them turning into breastmilk and entering my baby’s digestive system. I knew it would be easier to do an elimination diet with him than with me, and that reactions would show up faster. So I ignored the naysayers and just weaned him.

In hindsight, I know now it was the best thing I ever did. I was still eating so many things that we didn’t know he was allergic to (remember the sunflower seed sour cream? That was one of the things; we didn’t figure out that one until later). Plus I comforted myself with the thought that I had nursed him a good 12 months; many babies are lucky to get 6 months or even less. He was able to go straight to solids with rice milk and hemp milk for liquids, without the need to add in a formula. We did eventually find a good hypoallergenic multivitamin in capsule form that we could dump into his milk to help make up for gaps in nutrients (Children’s Basic Nutrients). It was much less stressful for me to cook him a batch of beans, blend, and freeze them to use a few cubes at a time (I froze them in ice cube trays), and cook cream of some gluten free grain, such as quinoa or rice or millet daily, than it was for me to try to find something I could eat that was palatable. We made more rapid progress in figuring out the trigger foods this way. And he thrived.

So what should you do? I can’t tell you. Each case is different. Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you make an informed decision:

  • How old is the baby?
  • How well is your baby eating solids?
  • How long is the list if food allergies?
  • Have you identified all the food allergies?
  • Can you survive on your baby’s special diet?
  • How is your milk supply?
  • Is the restricted diet affecting your milk supply?
  • What is your budget for special formula, and is your baby young enough to accept said formula?
  • Can your baby handle alternative milks, such as goat or almond, that could be doctored into a homemade formula?

Let’s look at some of these in more detail.

The longer you nurse, the better. Of course, whether you work or not, and how good your milk supply is, are factors to consider. And how well the baby is eating. Your baby should have breastmilk and/or formula until at least 12 months, though you can start adding in safe foods whenever he is ready. I would recommend waiting until at least 6 months, and then holding off on the grains for a few months more, since grains are harder to digest.

If your child has just one or two or a few allergies, such as gluten and milk, then don’t eat those and nurse as long as you can. Websites such as Gluten-free Goddess have tons of delicious recipes, and I can testify that the Delicious Gluten-free Bread really is delicious!

But if you are dealing with a long list, and getting enough calories to keep up milk production is becoming an issue, because the food is so boring it makes you lose your appetite, then perhaps you should consider weaning. If your baby can handle a homemade formula with a milk ternative, or you can afford the expensive amino-acid based formulas, or if you can get your insurance to help pay for them, and if you start early enough that your baby will accept them, then don’t feel guilty for switching to a bottle. Figure out what is right for you after careful research and prayer, if you believe in praying. And once you know what decision you are going to make, ignore the naysayers and guilt-trippers. Be a duck–let their criticism slide off without affecting you. Because you are the mother, and ultimately you know what is best for your baby. Period.

Have you weaned a baby with food allergies? When did you and why? If you haven’t weaned yet, feel free to share your circumstances for feedback; I promise I will give opinions and not criticize your decisions, nor will I allow other commenters to do so. Please share!

Gluten-free Waffles

My son has gotten tired of the same-’ol food every day, so I have had to get creative. The other day I thought, “Waffles are a very forgiving food; I’m going to try making GF waffles.”

The result?

The word is still out on how well they will freeze (since I just made them this morning), but here’s the basic recipe.

Gluten-free Waffles

2 cups water
1 cup teff flour
1 cup amaranth flour
1-2 Tbsp oil
1 Tbsp honey or sweetener of your choice
1/2 tsp salt

Mix well or blend in a blender. If you didn’t use a blender, put into a pitcher of some kind so you can pour it into a hot waffle iron. I use a medium-high setting. Check after 10 minutes–not before! Serve however you would serve regular waffles: fruit sauce, maple syrup, jam, etc. Could also be used instead of bread in sandwiches.

We served his with palm oil for butter and homemade blueberry sauce (just blueberries, water, honey, and arrowroot to thicken). He loved them! Ate two small squares. This batch made 9 small squares; the rest are in the freezer.

The amaranth flour I used was ground in my dedicated gluten-free grain grinder (a.k.a. coffee grinder that hasn’t seen coffee beans since it got dropped off at the Goodwill). This yields a flour a bit more coarse than a purchased flour would. However, waffle batter is very forgiving–it can be as thick or as thin as you want (though you’ll need to adjust the time to compensate, and possibly the heat, if you can). You could also experiment with different flours. I just used these two because he doesn’t get them as often, and I bought 25 lb of teff flour a while back, so I want to find a good way to use it.

Another nice thing about this recipe is that it is very flexible as far as proportions are concerned. Since you use a 1:1 ratio of flour to water, you can get away with doubling or tripling the recipe, or increasing or decreasing it by random percentages (say 3/4 cup of flour to 3/4 cup of water to make enough for one very hungry person or two not-so-hungry people), and estimate the other ingredients.

Have you got a favorite GF recipe that your family loves? Please share it or a link to it in the comments!

Should You Treat Eczema With Steroids?

When my son developed eczema, we had been seeing a naturopath for his well-baby check-ups. Once we were sure he had eczema, she began to try different things to try to bring relief. She said we could use a little .5% hydrocortisone as needed, but to use it sparingly. She also discouraged us from using steroid cream of any kind, because, according to her, suppressing the reaction could make it go other places, such as the lungs, and cause other problems. Plus I had heard all kinds of stories, such as the eczema coming back worse when the steroids were done, and I was afraid that it would suppress the reactions so much that I wouldn’t be able to see when he was reacting to a new food.

At first, this arrangement worked okay. Because his eczema didn’t start with a bang, but built up gradually. However, I watched with increasing discouragement as it spread, starting with his face, then down his torso, and finally down his arms and legs. At the worst point, it was everywhere except for his hands and feet, but beginning to encroach on them.

By the time he was nine months old, I was a nervous wreck. I could barely function as wife and mother. Cleaning house was overwhelming. I just wanted to escape my problems, and there were times I would let him cry in the back room while I tried to cope by watching a movie or playing some game online. Going back to get him would just rind me of my helplessness to do anything for him, and it was more than I could take.

We decided that we needed to move closer to my husband’s work, and with the move came the decision to find a new doctor. We had reached our limit for alternative care with the insurance company, and naturopaths are expensive–not to mention that most of their treatments are not covered by insurance. A little research turned up Dr. Paul Thomas, a pediatrician who liked to integrate natural methods into his practice as much as possible.

One of the first things he did was encourage us to use more hydrocortisone. And I was to the point where I just couldn’t deal with the eczema anymore, so I started using it generously wherever he seemed irritated. I also started using 1% on his body and .5% on his face. We found ourselves spending $20 a month or more on this over-the-counter cream, but it helped. His face stopped weeping, and he became a happy baby again. Sure, he still reacted to food and scratched a lot, but he didn’t start rubbing his face in the carpet every time I put him down to learn to crawl.

We continued this regime for about a year, taking different tests and trying a few things the doctor recommended. When he was about a year and a half old, the doctor asked me if I would like to try a stronger steroid cream, just to help alleviate the symptoms a little more. This was the second time he had suggested this, and I decided to try it.

So for the next nine months, we used Triamcinalon, a medium-level steroid cream. And I learned some things during this time that I wish I had known when my son was younger.

  • A topical steroid only treats the current irritation; it does not prevent new reactions.
  • There are several levels of steroids; they are not all the same.
  • Eczema is most likely to break out on already irritated skin.
  • Stronger steroids should not be the first line of defense, nor the only treatment.

Let us look at these more closely.

Topical steroids do not prevent breakouts. I was under the false impression that if I used a stronger steroid than hydrocortisone, that if I cleared his skin up with steroids, then I wouldn’t be able to tell what foods he was reacting to. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Sure, if I had been giving him oral steroids, this might have been the case (I will discuss oral steroids in a future post). But a topical steroid cream or ointment only treats current symptoms. It does nothing to prevent an outbreak. So I could still see when he was reacting to foods, depending on the severity of the allergy and the amount of food consumed.

Not all steroids are created equal. When we visited an allergist,I learned something about steroids that the no-steroid advocates had failed to mention: there are various levels of steroids. Hydrocortisone is the weakest steroid, and the difference between .5% and 1% is the concentration of the drug, not a different drug. We even used 2.5% hydrocortisone for a while–this was only available with a prescription. Triamcinalon is a medium level steroid. There are 5-7 levels, depending on whom you ask, and most doctors will prescribe the lowest level that gets results.

Eczema tends to show up on already irritated skin. So many mothers and natural doctors on the Internet were saying to avoid steroids at all cost, but after I started using hydrocortisone more liberally, I realized that he was much more likely to have a reaction on already irritated skin than he was to break out on healthy skin. As his skin healed, the irritation reduced from basically all over to select spots here and there. As a result, I was able to use less steroid cream, because I didn’t need to use it all over, but only on the irritated areas. At this point, a good moisturizing routine began to really help too. It hadn’t made much difference back when he was at his worst.

Not first line of defense, nor only treatment. If someone develops eczema, using steroids should not be the first line of defense, nor should it be the only treatment. Not that you shouldn’t use a little hydrocortisone as needed (and you definitely should moisturize–sometimes that is all that is needed), but rushing out to get a strong steroid prescription right at first is probably not a good idea. You need to take a look at possible causes. In some cases, cutting a particular food out of the diet or getting rid of all chemical cleaners in the home will clear up the problem. In other cases, such as my son’s, the root of the problem is very deep and obscure. Most doctors in traditional practice are content with controlling the symptoms and never bother to look for the cause. That is why we keep going back to a naturopath: we are gradually identifying the cause and we are seeing results to such an extent that we haven’t needed the medium-level steroid cream for over a year. But I’m glad we used it when we needed it.

In summary, I do not believe that steroids should be avoided at all costs. I believe that the lowest level may be used to treat symptoms while the cause is being searched for. I also believe that topical steroids are a better choice for treatment of symptoms than oral steroids, though oral may be needed temporarily in a very severe case. Treating the symptoms will not cure the eczema, but it will make life bearable while the root cause is being sought out. Because “the curse causeless shall not come” (Proverbs 26:2); there is a cause for every disease, though it may not be readily discernible.

What has been your experience with steroids? Have you avoided them entirely? Used them liberally? Somewhere in between or back and forth? Please share your experience in the comments.

Too Many Allergies! Update on Manny

Okay, it’s been a while since I shared about Manny and how it’s going working with his eczema. We went to the doctor today, and I decided it was time to record some things.

First, his eczema is pretty much under control, but he still gets itchy. And he keeps breaking out around his mouth–and if we don’t put something on it for a few days (which is hard, because he hates me putting anything on his face), it gets dry and cracked and peels and bleeds and, well, yeah, not good.

We have tried various and sundry supplements. We have taken him off of beans for the most part, added chicken once a week, and try to get down hemp protein and chia seeds whenever possible. And quinoa and amaranth are complete proteins (meaning they contain all the essential amino acids), and he likes them more or less.

At the last visit, I asked if we could do a test of several foods that were not on the normal IgE test. So we made a list of about a dozen foods–things like spinach, cucumber, apples, carrots, etc. I was floored by the results. Every single one of them was either moderate, high, or very high. As the doctor put it, at the moderate level, doctors prescribe epi pens just to be safe. At the higher levels, there is risk for anaphylactic shock. Granted, my son has never had that. The worst reaction he has ever had could best be described as a mild case of asthma, with wheezing and excess mucus. It usually only lasts 10-15 minutes. Also, the quantity of food determines the severity of his reaction. He doesn’t appear to react at all to minuscule amounts of allergens–for instance, I make nut milk in the same blender that I make his rice milk, and there is no way I can thoroughly clean the blade. So I couldn’t give his rice milk to someone who got anaphylaxis from, say, almonds, because they would probably end up in the hospital. On the other hand, if I gave him a teaspoon of almond milk, he would probably have some kind of immediate reaction–exactly what would be hard to say, since he’s never had any.

One reason we have been going to a naturopath is that we like taking a natural approach first and foremost. But we are running out of options. Today he started talking about what antihistamines we had tried, and had we ever tried oral steroids.

Now, many people trying the natural approach would shy away from steroids of any kind, especially oral ones. But I didn’t bat an eye. You see, I had an experience once when my left eyelid became inflamed, and there was no apparent cause. The doctor was puzzled; she had never seen anything like it. She tried a mild steroid for about 5 days, and it improved, but as soon as I ran out, it came back. She tried Prednisone for about 7 or 8 days, but it had the same reaction. I ran out near the weekend, and by Saturday I was very uncomfortable. My eyelid was almost swollen shut, and it was very irritated (thankfully they eye itself was never affected). As a Seventh-day Adventist, I attend church on Saturday, and do not believe in conducting business on that day. However, when one of the elder’s wives told me that I really shouldn’t wait for Monday, but should go to a doctor that very afternoon, I went. She told me of a Mexican doctor right on my way home, and even though I got there about 15 minutes after closing time, she was still there and took pity on me. She showed me a picture in one of her books of the very condition I had, gave me a longer dose of Prednisone and I think some cream, and it went away and never came back.

I do not believe that the Prednisone cured me. I believe it simply calmed the inflammation long enough for my body to deal with whatever was causing the problem and to heal itself. That is what the naturopath was thinking when he recommended the oral steroids. He said we would taper it, just like I did for my eyelid, and that the idea would be to simply give his digestive system a chance to calm down and heal a little. Because his allergies are just out of control. Honestly, the only things he has ever tested not allergic to are meat and chocolate. We haven’t tested any gluten-free grains, but all of them (except buckwheat, which is as bad as milk) seem to be okay. At least, we are trying to keep a little variety!

So I decided to try Zyrtec. We had already tried Benadryl (he reacted to it) and Claratin (no reaction, but no improvement, either), so that was our next OTC choice. I think there is one more option if we ever need it; after that, we would have to look at prescription antihistamines. We already tried one, but either it tasted so bad that it gagged him, or he reacted to it and threw it up. He was too young to ask, but whatever it was, I’m not trying it again! (I’m sure the doctor has a record of what prescriptions he gave back then, so I could ask for a different one if needed.)

We are also going to look into L-glutamine. I can’t remember if we ever tried it or not, and I can’t remember where I heard about it, but I know I’ve heard of it before. We’re going to see if it has any effect on him at all. I think the steroids would be the last resort.

At the suggestion of a couple of people, I decided to test pumpkin seeds on Manny. He had never had them before. I started with a simple skin test. I crushed one seed between two spoons and rubbed some of the crumbs between my fingers until they felt oily. Then I rubbed this into the back of his knee, in the soft skin where he has recently broken out (at the moment, it’s pretty clear). When no reaction showed after several minutes, I let him try a tiny bit of the crushed seed. [Please note: If your child has a history of anaphylaxis, you may want to try such a test under a doctor's supervision; my son has never had any form of anaphylaxis, and the severity of his reactions are directly proportional to the amount of allergen consumed. He does not appear highly sensitive to small amounts of contamination, or I would probably ask his doctor to do an allergy test before testing any food orally. I would strongly recommend that you talk to your doctor about doing such home tests on your child.]

When he still had no reaction–including no funny sensations in his mouth, such as he had with coconut and cashew–I gave him the rest of the crushed seed, followed by one whole seed. He really liked them, and didn’t seem to react at all. No congestion, no “allergy asthma” (this is the best description I have heard for one of the reactions he gets), no itchiness, nothing. So I posted on Facebook that I was “cautiously optimistic” about the seeds.

That night, however, he was restless. After being put to bed, he fell asleep quickly, but then would keep waking and calling for Mama or just groaning or fussing and rubbing his eyes and scratching his neck (which is somewhat irritated still). I had observed this behavior before, usually after consuming such small quantities of allergens that he had no reaction at the time of consumption. One example would be the night after he ate the gluten-free pasta at the Olive Garden. I found out later that it is made with corn, tomatoes, cheese, and a number of other known allergens. I wish they would just serve rice pasta! But I digress.

I had gone to the pharmacy earlier in the evening and purchased the generic Zyrtec antihistamine, and when my husband started complaining about how he wasn’t going to get any sleep that night (and I began to wonder if I would either), it occurred to me to give him a dose. So I did. He only whined once after that, and then slept peacefully the rest of the night. So apparently Zyrtec is the drug of choice for Manny. I like that it only has to be given once a day, unlike Benadryl. So if it causes drowsiness, I will just give the dose in the evening and put him to bed. He’s over any drowsiness he might have by morning, so it works out well.

So that’s where we are at. Still struggling with his diet–especially now that he is in the very picky/doesn’t like anything stage (normal for his age, but very trying, since his choices are already so limited). Top that off with him being hungry all the time (I think he might be growing), and, well, you can probably relate if you are reading this, because either your child has eczema too, or someone close to you does. So wish me luck, and if you have any ideas, please share them!

Two Allergy-Free Recipes and Links to More

Eczema usually means allergies. Unless it’s contact dermatitis, which is simply a reaction to something that was touched, the allergies are usually to food. Food allergies mean diet restrictions.

Since my son was weaned at age 12 months, he has eaten beans and GF cereals every day. Until sometime around his 3rd birthday last month. He finally decided he was tired of beans and cereal. He became extremely picky, and it was very frustrating.

I finally realized that it was time for me to start cooking and baking, not just making a batch of cream of rice or whatever other grain in the morning and adding beans that I had precooked, blended, and frozen in ice cube trays. That worked when he was younger, but he is three years old now. He needs texture and variety. Not to mention that he is becoming more and more sensitive to beans. He tested in the medium range for black beans on the last IgE test. That means he should probably not eat beans every day.

But how to get protein? If he weren’t allergic to eggs, dairy, nuts, and most seeds, that wouldn’t be a problem. I would just give him an egg every day. Or some nuts. Or milk or cheese. But he can’t have any of that. Apart from quinoa and amaranth, most grains are missing certain essential amino acids (essential means the body cannot manufacture them, and therefore they must be consumed in the diet).

We have found a few solutions. First, the hemp milk he drinks daily is a complete protein (meaning it contains all the essential amino acids). He doesn’t get a lot of it–8-10 oz a day–but it’s something. Hemp protein can be used, but it has a strong flavor and is difficult to hide. I mean, I would drink it in a smoothie without a second thought, but he won’t. And I think it’s easier to make the horse led to water drink than to make a 3-year-old eat what he has decided he doesn’t like!

So although I am a 3rd generation vegetarian, and my husband has been almost exclusively vegetarian (with a few rare exceptions) for the past decade and a half, we decided to try giving Manny a little meat now and then. We tried turkey first. We wanted to get pre-cooked meat, so that we wouldn’t have to deal with raw meat in the home, but it turned out to be very expensive, not to mention that it actually had caramel color in it, which is probably not gluten free.

So then we tried chicken. Organic chicken. I went into Whole Foods and for once actually paid attention to the meat section. I settled on about 1/2 pound of ground chicken (they ground it for me). At $8 something a pound, it was a bit pricy, but it will last at least a month for the little guy! I mean, he only needs a couple of ounces per meal, right? It was wrapped in butcher paper, and went straight into the freezer when I got home.

I told my husband he would have to cook it, since he knows how to cook meat (hey, he knows how to butcher a chicken!) and I don’t. Besides, I have a mental block about touching the stuff. No moral objections (especially since it’s organic and was probably more humanely butchered than most meat is), but I just can’t bring myself to touch it. Ew!

So he dumped the ground chicken into a pot, added some garlic, cilantro, salt, and I don’t know what else, and cooked it to death. He wasn’t sure how long it needed to cook (being ground, obviously not very long), but he wanted to be sure any possible bacteria were dead.

Then he took shredded yuca (also known as cassava) that we had purchased at a Filippino market. (This picture isn’t the same brand as we get, but it is similar.) The root would cost almost $3 a pound at the grocery store, and then we’d have to peel and shred it and hope we got a good one. On the other hand, the frozen cassava came from a good root, and there’s no peeling or shredding to deal with. And best of all, we pay $1.25 for a 1 lb package! Considering the fact that cassava is high in calcium and also anti-inflammatory, and as gluten free as potatoes, it’s the perfect thing for someone on a restricted diet to include once in a while.

Once the chicken was done, my husband took some of the meat and mixed it with some cassava and a little extra salt (we froze the leftover chicken for future meals), formed patties with it, and pan fried it in a tiny bit of palm oil (more stable than olive, not refined like canola, and not an allergen to my son like coconut is). Health food stores sell Spectrum shortening, which is 100% unrefined palm oil. It works great in any recipe calling for shortening, has a very neutral flavor, and is very stable, so it’s great for baking and sauteing. Other seasonings could be added to this recipe, and even veggies (like shredded carrots). A gravy would be nice with it, too, but my son’s not ready for that yet.

The other recipe we have created in an attempt to get him to eat what he is not allergic to is Teff Pancakes. I created this recipe on my own, since I couldn’t find any recipes that I really liked online–or that were free of allergens. Because my son has more allergies than most kids–he’s the worst case his pediatrician has ever seen.

So here’s the recipe for Teff Pancakes as it stands now:

1 cup teff flour (I use the dark teff, but ivory teff would probably work too)
1/3 cup tapioca flour (did you know tapioca and cassava are the same thing?)
1 heaping Tbsp. sugar or xylitol
1 Tbsp. hemp or other protein (optional)
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. xanthum gum or 1 tbsp flax seeds (the xanthum gum works better)
cinnamon to taste (I give it 2 or 3 dashes)
scant 1 1/2 cups of water (I use exactly 11 oz measured in a liquid measuring cup)
2 Tbsp. oil (I use unrefined grapeseed)

Mix the dry ingredients, then add the wet.  You will probably need a wire whisk to get the lumps out. Allow to sit a few minutes while a skillet heats over medium or slightly lower. Make pancakes, turning them when most of the color has changed.

I personally make little tiny pancakes about 2″ across, using what we always called a big spoon (the one you eat with when you are bigger–not a soup spoon, just a big table spoon). This recipe makes about 30 pancakes that size. You could make bigger ones, of course. I don’t grease the skillet, either. There is enough oil in the batter to keep them from sticking.

Besides these two recipes, I have found several simple, gluten-free recipes around the Internet, from biscuits to millet tortillas, as well as a couple of decadent desserts. But rather than repeat them here, I’ll just refer you to my mom blog, Life of a Happy Mom, where I already posted those recipes and my comments on them.

Have you found a good gluten-free recipe that is toddler friendly? Please share it! Gluten-free cooking can be daunting, but with some good recipes that kids will eat, it really isn’t so hard. And if we all share with each other, it will make the burden just a little bit easier to bear.