Posts Tagged ‘special diet’

Multiple Allergies – What Does the Rest of the Family Do?

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

So one of your family members has been diagnosed with severe allergies to a bunch of foods. It’s not just gluten; it’s not just soy, or eggs, or nightshade, or dairy. It’s all of them. And more. Should you put the whole family on the limited diet or should you cook two separate meals three times a day?

There isn’t really an exact answer to this question. The answer will vary with the family and circumstances. However, I think I could give you some advice based on my experience with first a brother and then a son with multiple allergies, as well as myself having gone gluten-free for our baby (which, by the way, seems to be doing quite well–his eczema has not progressed since I did that).

What exactly you do with the rest of the family’s diet will almost certainly depend on the number of allergies and the severity of the allergies.

For instance, if you have a child that has a life-threatening allergy to peanuts, then it would probably be a good idea to banish peanut butter and all peanut-containing products from the home. Almond butter will work just fine, even if it is a bit more expensive–but it’s way cheaper than a trip to the emergency room!

However, if your child (or other family member) has a very large list, but no or few life-threatening allergies, it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to make your whole family adopt the special diet. Not only can it get very expensive (especially for a large family), but it would deprive the others of much enjoyment.

You may need to get some extra kitchen equipment if the person has severe, life-threatening allergies to certain things. I already mentioned substituting almond butter for peanut butter. In my home, we have a son who is allergic to peanuts and all other nuts, but he is not highly sensitive to minute amounts of anything. He is actually allergic to most seeds as well as nuts, yet I can use my blender for making pesto for him after making nut milk for the rest of the family, and he has no problem. Of course I clean it first, but I know it isn’t as clean as new. So I haven’t banished peanut butter and other nuts. He just never gets any. This is nice for us, but many families will need to take into consideration getting separate equipment for items that cannot be perfectly cleaned (like blenders, bread machine pans, toasters, etc; pans and dishes and silverware shouldn’t be a problem if thoroughly cleaned).

Does this mean you need to cook 6 meals a day? Not necessarily. It depends on the list. Suppose you have someone allergic to wheat, and the family wants sandwiches. Just use wheat- or gluten-free bread for that person. Allergic to potatoes? Put a sweet potato in a separate pan while baking potatoes for the rest of the family. Allergic to dairy? Cook some of the lasagna in a separate pan without the cheese (use tofu or quinoa or some other seasoned filler instead of ricotta and leave off the mozzarella).

If there is a long list of allergies, you may need to serve 2 meals at a time, one for the allergic person and one for the rest of the family. That is the reality in our house. But that doesn’t mean I spend all my time in the kitchen. There are actually 3 diet plans in our house: The long list of prohibited foods for Manny, gluten-free for me, and anything goes for my husband and daughter. Usually that means I eat one diet or the other. Rarely I’ve been known to cook 3 different cereals (say, amaranth for Manny, oats for me, 5-grain cereal for the other two), but I usually only cook two things. Today we had grilled veggies & tofu. Manny couldn’t have them, so my husband fixed him something else. He and our daughter ate the veggies with bread, but I just left off the bread and ate the veggies and tofu.

However, sometimes I cook things in bulk for Manny. Pancakes, waffles, biscuits, squash, beans, etc, can all be cooked in bulk and frozen. Then when I don’t have time to cook a regular meal, I can pull something out of the freezer.

When we have beans, sometimes I take out some of the beans before we season them (he can’t have the tomato sauce we add to our beans) and season them separately for him. When I made millet pudding for the family, I made some with nut milk for us and a small batch with hemp milk for him–but I baked them at the same time. He can have many of the veggies that we have, so I make them available for him with whatever his main course is. We also have an allergy-free cold cereal available, and some crackers and rice cakes, so that when we are in a rush, there is something we can feed him for supper (at our house, lunch is like most people’s dinner, and supper is a light meal). When we have pasta, we cook rice pasta for him and put olive oil, yeast flakes, dry basil, granulated garlic, and salt on it, while the rest of the family has a sauce of some kind (cashew cheese, spaghetti sauce, pesto, etc). He can usually have some salad, if I leave the tomatoes and carrots out.

So if the list is long, you may need to fix two separate meals, but often you can prepare two similar dishes at the same time. Making two lasagnas takes only a tiny bit more effort than making one–and no extra baking time if they are baked together. Having extra meals frozen and ready to eat can be very helpful, so when you cook, cook in bulk.

If the person only is allergic to one or two things, the severity of the allergy and the rest of the family’s love of the item(s) will make it easy to determine whether to cut it out of the family diet or not. But when the list is extensive, as in my son’s case, you may need to change your attitude toward cooking, spend a little time now and then in the kitchen, cook some things in bulk, etc. It is, however, totally doable. And the rewards–less itching, growing better, better attitude, etc–will definitely be worth the effort.

Should You Wean Your Baby who Has Multiple Food Allergies?

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

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!