Adventures in Allergies

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Last week we got the results back from my 2 year old’s IgG. An IgG tests for food sensitivities, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Here is our story.

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Even as a newborn, our son had bad skin. We were extremely careful with any products that he might come into contact with like laundry detergent, baby creams, etc. but still his poor little skin was covered in eczema from head to toe. Once he was old enough to scratch himself his skin would bleed from the constant scratching. People were always commenting on his skin and I tried to keep him covered to avoid more self-inflicted damage.

Our pediatrician told me to eliminate dairy to see if it helped but we didn’t notice any big changes. Her solution was to cover him in hydrocortisone twice a day. Once he got a little older (I think around 3 months) he was old enough for this whole body oil that is only to be used in the more severe cases of eczema and only for a short amount of time. That had me a little worried but it helped, some. Our doctor told me he would have to use the hydrocortisone forever.

We changed to a plant-based diet when he was 10 months old. He was mostly breastfed but ate fruit, veggies, and some grains. Some times his skin got better, other times it was a lot worse. Additionally, he would get horrible diaper rashes that took a long time to heal.

Go Nuts

We don’t know of any family history of food allergies so the pediatrician gave the go ahead for nuts around 12 months. He loved peanut butter and ate it regularly for a while then I noticed he would begin to cry and his mouth and hands would turn red and he would also scratch at his neck when he ate peanut butter. I mentioned this to the pediatrician. She said I could try almonds and almond milk. He didn’t appear to have a reaction.

She never recommended allergy testing. She encouraged me to give him eggs and “soft meat like hotdogs.” I kid you not! Our pediatrician recommended hotdogs, she knew we were eating plant-based. That is when I fired our pediatrician, there were other issues too, but the hotdog recommendation was just too much.

Removing Wheat

When he was 17 months old I got the idea to remove gluten/wheat from his diet. His skin began clearing up, not completely but the difference was undeniable. After a few weeks of this we went on a road trip. We didn’t have a lot of healthy food options and let him eat some bread or tortillas. Boom! His skin was inflamed from head to toe and wait for it… here comes that nasty diaper rash.

Wheat/gluten were definitely (at least part) of the problem. Once we removed gluten from his diet his skin was mostly clear with a few problem areas like behind the knees and the inside creases of the elbow.

We had no idea what was causing the other skin problems. We also noticed that his tummy was almost always sticking out and very hard. He was a pooping machine, 4-5 times just in the morning was normal. I knew there was a problem but I didn’t know what. It seemed like something was affecting his gut.

The Wakeup Call

In February I ran across this blog post by Jennifer at It’s an Itchy Little World. She recounts her son’s anaphylaxis experience. If you don’t do anything else today read this story. I knew I needed to get him tested. I researched different tests, different doctors and finally settled on a Naturopathic doctor that was close by. My husband took our son in to get the blood draw, I’m not good with anything involving blood and pass out from it regularly. I know, I’m cool like that.

This was the first time I realized my sons reaction to peanuts could get worse. I also considered all of the other symptoms and what they could be doing to his body.

The Results

I’m not sure if all test results are broken down like this; ours are classified into 0, 1,2 and 3s. The zeros mean he has no allergy/intolerance, the 1s are a slight allergy/intolerance, 2s are a moderate allergy/intolerance, and 3s are severe. Please note that this is not an “official” interpretation of the test just the best way I can relate. Our doctor told us to focus on removing the 2s and the 3s. She was concerned that he showed so many intolerances.

Ones

  • Asparagus
  • Banana
  • Barley
  • Lima Beans
  • Pinto Beans
  • Bran
  • Cantaloupe
  • Carrots
  • Cheddar Cheese
  • Grapefruit
  • Mustard
  • Green Peas
  • Rye
  • Watermelon

Twos

  • Cottage Cheese
  • Egg Whites
  • Gluten
  • Malt
  • Wheat
  • Yogurt

Threes

  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Egg Yolk
  • Oats
  • Peanuts
  • Pineapple
  • Sesame
  • Walnuts

Our Reactions

We sat in the office looking over the results. My husband would say the foods our son is allergic to, then shake his head. I think he wanted to cry. I was ok, confident even. After all, I’m the one my friends call when they have food or allergy questions. I cook for people with allergies ALL THE TIME. It hadn’t really sunk in yet.

I asked the doctor if there was anything we needed to consider since we eat plant-based and he would no longer be eating nuts. She wasn’t concerned, knowing we feed him well, but recommended EFAs (Essential Fatty Acids) and to continue the probiotic we had already started. I asked her about cow’s milk, it came back as a 0 but cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, and yogurt all showed a sensitivity. She thought it probably had something to do with the fact that he hasn’t really been exposed to cows milk. It as .001 from being in allergy range and I will continue to avoid it. She was shocked that wheat and gluten still registered as 2s since he hasn’t had it in a very long time. We talked about his reaction to peanuts and she prescribed an Epi Pen.

My husband got up early the next morning and read all the labels in the pantry. Later that morning I walked in the pantry and instead of being a happy place I felt like it was a potential minefield. It is full of wheat, peanut butter, lots of nuts, lots of grains, lots of beans, etc.

Later in the day we were all running errands. My husband stayed in our car with the boys while I ran in to get a few things, including some quick snacks our son could eat. It wasn’t our normal Sprout’s, it was packed and I suddenly felt the entire weight of all of these restrictions. Every box I picked up, every package contained an offending ingredient. Now I wanted to cry, if there had been a comfy place I would have curled up and had a good sob. Thankfully I found a few things that would work for a while and made my way over to the EFAs. I didn’t know what I was looking for. I got help from a super-duper employee that pointed me in the right direction and helped me find plant-based (vegan) EFAs.

Eating

I’m still wrapping my head around all of this. When it’s time to eat I can’t grab walnuts, a banana or a granola bar, even hummus (sesame) and carrots could be a problem. His typical and favorite breakfast was oatmeal with walnuts and almond milk; lunch was almond butter on gluten-free (but contained egg) bread, with banana, and dinner usually contains beans.

One Week

It’s been a week since we received this news. Since removing all of the 2 and 3 and mostly removing the 1s my sons tummy is noticeably smaller and softer. I never knew he had creases, it was always to bloated. Unfortunately he has been crankier. I attribute it to a little detox and to him being hungry. Most of his favorites are on the list above. He isn’t enjoying his new options. He is also scratching more. I’m hoping this resolves soon.

Thankful

As I reflect on all of this I’m incredibly thankful that he as been as healthy as he has been. I’m thankful that he hasn’t had a severe anaphylactic reaction. I thank God for protecting him and leading us to get the testing done. I’m also thankful that I am, at least somewhat, equipped to handle this.

If you have read all of this thank you for sharing in our journey. This will still be a plant-based adventure for us, now just a little more allergy friendly.

If you have blogs, recipes or other resources that would be helpful please share them. I love the community I’ve found online and the way we journey together. Also, I’m new at this, if I say something ignorant or offensive please forgive me. Send me an email to let me know and I’ll try to correct myself. We also have a lot of other exciting things going on that I’ll share some other time. We appreciate your prayers!

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Comments

  1. Know the feeling only to well these days. It is scary how similar our son’s skin has been 🙁 Our finding out Alistaire has a “life-threatening” allergy to peanuts and a lesser one to eggs has been “fun”. But life goes on and we figure it out, day by7 day. If anything, I am glad you fired that idiot Doctor! Our pediatrician took it very seriously – and got us in for immediate “first” testing. There is a reason why my boys all see him. He is pure awesome!!
    We face a lot more testing and I cringe on what will be found 🙁

  2. Oh hugs! You’ll get through this – it’s tough at first, but you’ll be a allergy free cooking champ soon. One resource you may want to check out is: http://welcomingkitchen.blogspot.ca/ It’s a great allergy free and began blog with recipes.

    Also, curious what the naturopath suggested you do with the results. IgG and IgE tests are all notorious for inaccurate results, so don’t worry too much yet. Take the results with a grain of salt. It looks like you’re eliminating all of the 2-3s, a good place to start. But please don’t forget to add them back in one at a time after a month or so without them – see how he does. It is VERY likely that most of the foods are not real triggers for him and are safe for him to eat. Eliminating them from his diet is the tricky part, but adding them back in during a food challenge is where you’ll really learn from all of this. You may have to do this with the 1s at some point as well, but I’d start with the 2s and 3s.

    Glad she recommended EFAs and probiotics – very much necessary to heal the gut.

    Fingers crossed for you!
    Jennifer

    • Thank you Jennifer! I’ll check out that blog. Thankfully I’ve been cooking wheat/gluten free for almost a year but there is still a lot to take in.
      Our doctor recommended removing the 2-3s then working to heal the gut then test again. I may consult an allergist too. Time will tell.
      Thank you so much for sharing your story. It made a huge impact in our lives.

  3. Thank you for sharing this story. My story is very similar and this is why I started blogging about it and sharing it with the world. I am going to share the HECK out of this story! I want more parents to turn to diet changes before anything else.

    We went through this EXACT situation with my son. He had constant sinus infections and an ENT wanted to take his tonsils and adenoids out and put tubes in his ears. He was like one and a half! I also had the same face of shock when I got my results back – wheat, oats, cashews, walnuts, peanuts….and like 20 other things. Then I got to work and got creative in the kitchen.

    This is my son’s story on my blog – http://barefootessence.com/2012/06/20/change-your-diet-skip-surgery/#.UZZcK7XkvXM

    All the recipes on my site are plant-based and gluten-free.

    I love the message you’re putting out there, I am following your work! xo

    • Thank you Jacqueline! If we hadn’t already been plant-based before my son turned 1 I’m sure we would have had similar issues. My older son had ear infections at every well-baby check up. Thankfully they were not as severe as Jacob’s. I remember reading your story last summer and it was like a light switched on. I finally understood why my son had those issues. I sent it to everyone I knew. I think it even helped some friends investigate plant-based living. Thank you for sharing your story with me.

  4. I have eczema on my hands that flares up pretty bad in the winter, but I cannot imagine having it from head to toe, poor baby! Think of this as an adventure in the kitchen! Soon enough this will just be a way of life for you guys, sending prayers and hugs your way!

  5. Holly, I am so sorry you’re dealing with this. It’s an incredibly difficult thing to grieve over and then adjust to but you guys are so positive and creative and God will be watching over as always! My middle daughter is allergic to cashews and pistachios and my son is allergic to peanuts, mango and dogs. I carry an Epi-pen and Benadryl with me wherever I go. And sadly, we are in the process of saying goodbye to our beloved dog and sending her to live with family (thank goodness!) because my son’s allergies are so bad. He also scratches til he bleeds and we’ve used that prescription oil as well but it’s just not okay to expose him to the dog in his own home, every single day. We’re grieving over it but we know it’s the right decision!

    Your list of allergens is lengthier than ours but I know you guys will adjust before too long. And you are all in my prayers! Thank you for sharing.

    • Thank you so much! I’m sorry you have to say good-bye to your dog. I know it is hard to do. We haven’t tested for any environmental allergies yet but we don’t have pets so he isn’t exposed too often. Something has been in the air though the last few weeks and he is struggling.
      So few people understand how scary and hard it is having little ones with allergies. Thank you for being so understanding.

      btw, I really enjoy your blog! I’ll have to see which recipes will work for us with all of these restrictions.

  6. Poor baby! Hang in there – it’ll get easier soon. Have you tried maybe breakfast quinoa or rice cooked in rice milk or even just water and maybe a little maple syrup on top? And my daughter loves sunbutter so hopefully he’ll get to love that instead of the peanut butter. Have you tried coconut butter? That might be another option. Best of luck to you guys!

    • Yes, we’ve tried them even before we knew about these allergies. He will eat them but doesn’t enjoy them as much at oatmeal. Yesterday he went in the pantry, picked up the oatmeal container, and said “please mommy”
      It was tough.
      He isn’t loving sun butter but I’m hoping it grows on him. I’ve never bought coconut butter but I’ll look into it.
      Thanks for your support Clara!

  7. Holly, I have looked forward to your son’s results. I am so thrilled you have a path to go with him. I understand how difficult it looks, I will pray for your whole family. When we got the diagnosis of wheat and peanuts, I read a great article(wish I remembered where)that said to concentrate on what you can eat, not what you can’t. That helped me so much. Also, I have a great breakfast millet recipe I think you could use successfully. I will email it to you.

  8. We had our 2 year old testing a few months ago as just like your son he had itchy skin and had seen a dermatologist who confirmed eczema. We knew he was allergic to egg ( – oh boy was that a big lesson for a new mum) and the testing showed up seafood and peanuts. I am not happy with the basic tests that were done, I feel there is a lot more that should have been included and having read your post today you have encouraged me to go with my mummy instinct and look into it further – thank you 🙂

    I am also having testing soon… A few weeks back, without having ever had a reaction before, I turned into an itchy mess. My face, tongue and lips decided to have a wee party of their own and went all numb and red and itchy. It has happened once again this week. I am at loss – there is nothing I have changed in my diet or lifestyle.

    Thank you for this post. It helps to know other parents share our journey with allergies and itchy little people.

    Bless you

  9. You certainly have some challenges ahead, Holly – but I have no doubt you will meet and surpass them. Thank goodness you now know what has been causing such trouble for your son. I’m sure it is a psychological relief to you and a huge physical relief for him. How can such a little body have so many allergies? Best of luck!

  10. I have a 14 month daughter who we have had to go through pretty much the same thing. She is a baby that has been on hydrocortisone cream since birth (which I’m not a fan of), but without it her skin around her ankles and hands, specifically, look like “beef jerky” according to my husband. Around Halloween time, when she was only 7 1/2 months, she had gotten her hands on a Reese Cup that was at a house and had it devoured before I noticed. I panicked since it had peanuts in it and she was so young. She did just fine with it though! Around 9 months, I had made peanut butter cookies and since she had done just fine with the Reese cup, I gave her one. Well, she had a full body reaction. We took her to the Urgent Care and they told us it was a virus and sent us home. It wasn’t until she was 12 months that I made a soup and instead of heavy cream, I used cashew cream (we are a mostly plant based family/ whole foods). within 20 minutes of my daughter eating ONE bite of it, she had thrown up and had hives all over her body and her head and face. We took her to the ER and thankfully after sticking her 6 times with an IV they got the meds in her. My pediatrician that thankfully completely is on board with our diet (I hope you find one soon, it makes life a lot easier!) sent us to an allergist where we did the blood test. It came back that she was allergic to everything, similar to your son, and food allergies don’t run in our family either. I was panicked at first, since I was overwhelmed but then I had several people including the allergist tell me that a lot of the allergies might not be, and if she does fine with them to continue feeding them to her unless it becomes a problem. The lower sensitivities not the higher ones, obviously. If you keep feeding them the lower sensitivities then they have a higher chance of getting over those allergies as they get older. There are some, like peanut, that you DO NOT push, because these usually get worse with age. But my daughter was allergic to almond and soy on the lower end and I still feed those to her because that is what we drink and mix in our foods. She has been doing a lot better since avoiding the higher ones, though! Hope your boy will improve! (sorry for the book)

    • Thanks Katie! Our “Plan” is to avoid the allergens on the lower end of the spectrum for 1-3 months then reintroduce them one at a time. In the mean time we are working on getting his gut healthier and his skin cleared up. He has been scratching A LOT lately. For the first week I left some of the 1s in his diet and he was definitely having a reaction. I hope to get all of this issues cleared up soon. It would be nice to know what is really causing his issues. There are a few that I expect to be ok like carrots and bananas. I hope that beans end up being ok.

      • I’ll keep him and you all in my prayer! I know it is very tough, especially at first. It’s good you have a plan, it took me a while to get one going. What took me a while is asking people what they cook certain foods in when we are out. I have been surprised at how many people cook with food that she is allergic to.

    • Samantha says:

      My son has multiple food allergies as well. Our allergist also told us not to cut out the foods which were mild to moderate. Only the severe ones. The biggest improvement in his skin came when we switched from whole wheat to refined and from dairy milk to soy milk. Then we started using a cleansing ointment instead of soap and slathering aquaphor on him and his skin has had a drastic improvement. Strangely enough he can eat cheese. I just can’t figure it out.

  11. vegetarianmamma says:

    Hugs Hugs and more Hugs. Many of us have been in such a similar boat!! Thank you for sharing your story! Thanks for linking up at our Gluten Free Fridays party! I have tweeted and pinned your entry to our Gluten Free Fridays board on Pinterest! 🙂

    Can’t wait to see what you are bringing to the party this week! We have another GREAT giveaway!

    Cindy from vegetarianmamma.com

  12. I just wanted to thank you for sharing your story. My 18 month old son has suffered with eczema since 4 months. I felt it was food related, but my pediatrician insisted it was hereditary. (though no one in my family had it) I asked repeatedly for an allergist referral, it wasn’t until I demanded that I got it. The allergist followed my mom instincts and did the scratch test on my son. He is severely (a 4) allergic to peanuts, soy, dairy and wheat! Once we removed these from his diet his skin cleared, amazing! He accidently got into a cereal with wheat last night and immediately broke out and started itching. This is a very overwhelming road we are embarking on, but I thank God everyday for finding out about these allergies through his eczema. If I had continued to give him these allergens, things could have been so much worse. Luckily, I went plant based months ago or this would have been that much more overwhelming. I feel blessed to have found your blog, thank you!!!

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