Posts Tagged ‘foods’

Too Many Allergies! Update on Manny

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

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!

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.