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Food Allergies

For each of us who love food and struggle with the effects it has on our waistlines there are whole other legions of people out there who struggle with food’s effects in dramatically different ways. Please welcome a guest post from my dear friend Cara. Recently her pre-school aged son, Avery, was diagnosed with several serious food allergies. This is a post of her experiences. Tune in tomorrow for her first recipe here on the blog!  ~ Elizabeth


I don’t know about you, but the way I was raised, food was not only a fun, family-oriented activity, it was sometimes the solution to a problem:   Tired? Have some peanuts.  Sick? Have some soup. Sad? Let’s go get ice cream! So it was somewhat of a shock to learn that certain foods might actually be hurting my child.

Other than some acid reflux during his early infancy, Avery was very healthy until age 2. When he turned 2 he got a cold that persisted for 18 weeks.  He was eventually diagnosed with Constrictive Airway Disease, Acid Reflux, and Pneumonia. He wound up on antibiotics, Prevacid, Singulair, and two very strong drugs to help his open his airways more: Xopenex and Budesonide.

For the next 18 months, he continued to struggle to breathe and came down with sinus infections, bronchitis, and pneumonia. Even while on very strong medications Avery was never what I would consider “healthy”. The best we ever seemed to do was put a gigantic, expensive ‘Band-Aid’ on this poor child’s ‘wound’.

One day, a friend mentioned to me that she and her children had found relief from constant illness, headaches, allergies, and more by finding out what foods they were sensitive to and cutting them out of their diets. According to her father, who is a doctor, for people with food sensitivities, the body sees these foods as invaders; this triggers the immune system to fight them off leaving the immune system too tired to fight when “real” bugs come along.  That same week I made an appointment for Avery to see an allergist.

I won’t get into what it’s like to draw blood from a 3 ½ year old. But what we learned from a simple $300 blood test was invaluable. Turns out, Avery is severely allergic to wheat, gluten, cow’s milk, and eggs.

The first step we took was to eliminate these foods from his diet. Our meals at home changed a little, but not a whole lot other than cutting out the occasional dinner roll or the after-dinner Oreo. Since I love to bake I now make cookies, muffins, breads and more with an egg substitute, gluten-free flour, and either rice or soy milk. There are a few good, pre-made, gluten-free products that are also egg/dairy free (a precious few) so we stock up on those too.

Avery has dealt with these changes superbly; something that I thank my lucky stars for.  Occasionally if we break the rules, he doesn’t feel well afterwards – and he understands that there is a connection between how he feels, and what he just ate!  That is something I wish I’d been able to experience, in my childhood!

Avery’s been without eggs, cow’s milk, and wheat for 2 months, and already he seems to be doing better at fighting off illnesses. He has had one cold in that period of time; it lasted a week, and only required 2 days’ worth of inhaler meds.  This is serious progress!

Bodies want to be in balance; bodies want to be healthy. Children are born to grow up strong. Sometimes, the environment or something they come into contact with thwarts that – but we need to ask the big question:  “Why?”… and not stop until we find the answer.

We are not a terribly ‘granola’ family. We live in a city neighborhood, we have an ordinary car that runs on ordinary gas. We recycle, but sometimes a few recyclables end up in the trash. We don’t compost or grow any of our own foods, or raise our own chickens. But I have become a ‘whole foodie’ as a result of Avery’s diagnosis. I make sure he gets a varied diet full fresh whole foods, plenty of sunshine, and vitamins. What goes ‘in’ really matters.

Sometimes I fear I sound like I’m raising some sort of prize bull!  But in reality, even though he’s no longer in the womb, I am still ‘growing’ my son. I want him to be healthy and strong. I want him to feel good in his body. I’ve also learned not to get emotional about food. So what if we can’t walk to the local ice cream shop this summer?   When I started to see these ‘bad’ foods as a poison to my child, that idyllic ice cream shop daydream dissipated… and he took my hand, and we headed home for a bowl of sweet, cold, soy ice cream.