Posts Tagged ‘protein’

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!

Two Allergy-Free Recipes and Links to More

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

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.