Posts Tagged ‘allergen’

I’m Allergic to … What Can I Eat?

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Several months ago I received a question from one of my readers. She was undergoing skin allergy tests to find out what she was allergic to and had already come up with several things. I wrote her a rather lengthy response, and then asked if I could share it with my readers here. If you or someone in your family has been diagnosed with one or more food allergies, you may find this post helpful.

Question:

 I came acrossed your blog about being allergic to wheat and I was just skin tested she said i was allergic to wheat, oranges, tomatoes, pork, peanuts, and im not even done testing, i dont know what to eat can you give me some ideas, i am talking about food from the stores like regular food not food i have to buy online or anything. im kinda broke lol

Answer:

You asked me to help you with food allergies and what to eat. Before I do that, I want to share my “qualifications”. My brother had multiple food allergies as a child. Gluten, citrus, nightshade, and a few others I can’t remember. He outgrew them by puberty. I learned to read labels before age 10. My son has even more allergies and sensitivities, and until I weaned him at 12 months, I tried to eat his diet. I later learned that I was still eating things that he was highly reactive to, and that helped me deal with all the guilt I had over weaning him early (I nursed his sister for 20 months and only weaned her because it got painful in pregnancy).
So what can you do? First of all, you need to totally change your attitude toward food. You need to think differently about food. If you try to find a substitute for every item you are used to eating, you will either go crazy or have to triple your food budget.
Let’s take that apart. Suppose you like to eat a chili hot dog. With the wheat bun, the pork in the dog, the tomatoes in the chili, and the cheese on top, it’s going to be really hard to make a substitute for it. So just forget it. Find totally new foods that you can enjoy. It will probably mean taking your food with you when you eat out with friends. You never know what is in prepared foods unless you have a label to read.
Since you are not finished testing, it is going to be hard to give you a lot of advice. If you tested negative on soy, embrace tofu and other soy-based foods. If you haven’t been tested for it yet, then hold off, because that is one of the worst allergens.
Think of foods that you may eat once in a while that are not on the forbidden list. In fact, you would do well to make a list of all the individual foods you can eat. You will probably find that the list of can-eat will be bigger than the list of can’t-eat. The only problem is that several of the can’t-eats are in 90% of prepackaged foods. So you are going to have to embrace cooking from scratch.
Look at that can-eat list. If corn is on it, embrace corn tortillas and tortilla chips. Try blue chips for variety. Potatoes are related to tomatoes, so you should probably cut them out for a month or two until whatever symptoms you have been having subside and then try them to see if you can eat them. But sweet potatoes and yams are not related to potatoes, and you should be able to tolerate them well. Think sweet potato fries! Mmmmmmm! Look at the wealth of veggies available and just forget about tomatoes (and potatoes, peppers and eggplant–they are all nightshade). But broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, zucchini, carrots, and many other veggies are fair game. Embrace legumes–except soy, if it’s a problem. Try sprouting some of them and create nutritious dishes with them.
You can find websites that let you select ingredients and prohibit them from the recipe, and then do searches based on the parameters you specified. This will give you some ideas of things you can do. Even just googling ingredients with a minus sign next to things you want to avoid can provide recipes.
Basically, you will need to just embrace your options and let the rest go. It will be hard at first, but when you get the results of feeling better, it will be worth it.
And if you don’t get better, there could be some other issue causing the allergies. In my son’s case, he has pathogenic bacteria in his gut that is causing irritation that manifests itself on the skin as eczema. The more we do for his gut, the better he gets. His IgE score has come down from about 2875 to somewhere around 2500-2600. That doesn’t seem like much, but considering that 300 is considered the maximum of normal, that is wonderful!
So there you go. Let me know if you have anymore questions.
Whether you are dealing with just one allergen, like soy, or multiple food allergies, like this reader and my son, the principles are the same. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below and I will answer to the best of my ability. I should also mention that if you have multiple food allergies, it might be wise to seek the advice of a qualified nutritionist to be sure you are getting a good balance of nutrients with the remaining foods. It would also be advisable to take a good supplement.

My Baby Has Eczema: Diet Disaster

Friday, January 14th, 2011

Last week I related the experience of how my son came down with eczema as a tiny baby. Trying to find the cause of it was an exercise in futility. My brother was born allergic to wheat and as a child suffered from many allergies, which he eventually outgrew sometime around puberty. So I was familiar with food allergies and had some ideas about how to deal with them. My basic understanding was this: Find the reactive foods, eliminate them, problem solved.

But it wasn’t that easy. I already mentioned last week how I tried cutting out one food at a time to test to see if that was it. This works if there are only one or two allergens–which usually is the case for most people–but it didn’t work for me. There was absolutely no change no matter what I was avoiding.

Some people speculated that maybe his eczema was not food related. But I knew otherwise. Sometimes when I was nursing him, I could practically watch him react. It was as though my milk were poison to him. Sometimes my husband would notice the reaction, and say, “He’s breaking out again.”. I began to dread him saying that. What could I do about it that I wasn’t already doing? I mean, he had to eat!

What About Formula?

We thought of trying some kind of formula, but the doctor did her best to discourage me from switching. After all, even though he was allergic to something in my milk, he was still getting the best nutrition possible. And for all we knew, he might be allergic to something in the formula. I learned later that there are hypoallergenic formulas out there, and we even got one when he was about 9 or 10 months old, but even that had corn syrup solids in it, and he has since proved to be very reactive to corn, so even if he had been willing to take a bottle, I’m not sure how well it would have worked.

My husband was convinced that if Manny could just get off my breastmilk and onto something he could handle, he would clear up. (I know now that this was not true, but we were still operating under the “some food is causing this allergy; eliminate the food(s) and the eczema will go away” assumption. We didn’t realize that allergies were only part of the equation in his case, and not necessarily the greater part.) After some research we decided to try goat’s milk formula. My mom’s milk supply ran low when I was about 3 months old, and she supplemented with goat’s milk. My very allergic brother thrived on it as well. So I figured it was worth a try

Now if you try to find goat’s milk formula, you won’t find it–at least, not in the States. You have to buy the ingredients and make it yourself. I found a source for fresh goat’s milk, got my hands on a good formula recipe, and made up a batch.

I don’t want to remember the day we tried to get him to drink it. He was about 6 months old by then and was firmly established with breastfeeding. He didn’t even want to take breastmilk from a bottle! My husband sat for hours while Manny cried for milk the way he was used to getting it and resisted the bottle with all the firmness a six-month-old can muster. I can’t tell you how hard it was to watch. I knew I had what he wanted–more and more as the hours passed–and it was killing me to listen to him cry. But Daddy was determined to try.

Finally he drank some. Then he vomited. Then he had a bad reaction on his skin. And he refused to drink more. I begged my husband to “Just let me feed my baby!” and he finally relented.

We never tried that again.

The Home Skin Test

We had much to learn, but eventually we figured out that certain foods would cause a hives-like reaction on his skin, and this was an indication that he was almost without question truly allergic to those foods. (Note: There is a difference between true allergies and sensitivities; one should avoid true allergens and limit contact with things they are merely sensitive to. This will be discussed more in depth later.) We have used this simple home skin test–rubbing an area of his skin with the food we are testing–with some success to test things  without actually giving them to him orally. Once we figured this out, we suddenly understood why he reacted the way he did to the goat’s milk: he is highly allergic to all forms of dairy, including goat’s milk. By trial and error we discovered that he is also without doubt truly allergic to wheat, all nuts, most seeds, kiwi, cranberry, and maybe one or two other things. But that wasn’t until months later, and I still had some of those in my diet when we finally weaned him.

Diet Restrictions Toughen

In an attempt to put our finger on what was causing the eczema and eliminate it, I began to cut more and more out of my diet. I was hoping that if I could just figure out all the things he was allergic to, he would stop breaking out. Meal preparation became a burden, because my husband and daughter didn’t join me in the restricted diet–meaning I had to cook two different meals. I would try to have at least one dish in common, and find a substitute for what I couldn’t have. Friends became concerned that I wasn’t getting enough nutrition to make good milk. I wasn’t so worried about that–as long as I was producing, I knew from the research that I had done that the milk itself would be fine–but it certainly did drain me. It was also very frustrating. I remember being hungry for a snack one evening, and I couldn’t find any snack foods that I could eat in the house. I was so desperate that I grabbed my purse and headed over to the local health food store (less than a mile away) and stocked up on rice crackers and other expensive snack items. Then I tried to make them last, because I didn’t have a lot of money in the food budget for things like that!

More than anything else, the restrictions that I was putting in my diet were all the more frustrating because of the lack of improvement. It didn’t matter what I tried; he just wasn’t getting better. The strain began to manifest itself in emotional issues. I came very near to a serious breakdown. I will share about that next week.

Have you ever dealt with eczema in a loved one–or yourself? Can you enter into the frustration that we were experiencing–trying to figure out the allergen(s) and not being able to pinpoint all of them? Please share with us  in the comments. If you have a blog about it, be sure to include a link. And consider subscribing so you won’t miss next week’s post, where I will delve into the emotional pain I experienced–and how I almost didn’t survive intact.