Anyone that has had to deal with allergies and intolerances will be able to relate to this post and for those that haven’t, perhaps you’ll read something here that will trigger alarm bells. Or perhaps you’ll just have a bit more sympathy next time you see your friend whose kid can’t eat wheat/dairy/soya…
I have always struggled with dairy, never been the hugest fan as I’ve known throughout adulthood that my system has problems digesting it. I would often feel bloated and have stomach cramps or diarrhoea after a dairy laden meal. I cut it out of my diet altogether over a decade ago and felt great for it, but re-added it when I was pregnant with 4yo as I’d allowed myself to believe the hype that it’s the best source of calcium for a growing baby. I now know there are far better sources out there than cows dairy but didn’t then. This is more than likely why she suffers now, because when a pregnant woman eats food she is intolerant of the intolerance can be passed onto the foetus. This fact has played heavily on my heart, but short of time travel there isn’t much I can do about it now.
Being an exclusively breastfed baby all the dairy I was eating will have gone into her milk, and it was obvious (to me at least) that she had food sensitivities from very early on. At two weeks she developed reflux and by six weeks her face was covered in scabby eczema. Our doctor was supremely unhelpful, practically laughed at my suggestion to get her allergy tested and prescribed hydrocortisone cream to clear up her skin. I was incredulous that they would rather put steroids on a six week old baby than get to the root of the problem. I cut dairy back out of my diet and it definitely helped. From the research I did, it seems dairy and reflux often go hand in hand, along with eczema especially when it’s on the face.
When it came to weaning at six months, we decided to allow her to have small quantities of dairy to try and build up a tolerance as opposed to not having it at all which can bring on a full blown allergy. We fared up pretty well in the first year or so when I had strict control over everything she ate. We never gave her cows milk to drink, and we didn’t give her huge amounts of dairy in one day. The rule of thumb being if lunch contained it then tea wouldn’t.
Just after she turned two her facial eczema flared up for the first time since she was a baby, and we just couldn’t get it under control. I went to see the doctor (again) and was told that even if it was related to issues with food the allergy clinic in our area was so over-subscribed they wouldn’t see her because she wasn’t a bad enough case. After six months of not sleeping, exceptionally challenging behaviour, horrible eczema and generally going round in circles we found a private allergy nurse. She confirmed that food intolerances were indeed at the root of our troubles, but it wasn’t just dairy; it was a whole host of food and ingredients. Her advice was complete exclusion all of the allergens from her diet for three months, as this is usually enough time for the body to rid itself of an intolerance.
And so it began. To say it was a ball ache would be an understatement. I cook mainly from scratch, but all our little shortcuts and cheats had to go. Nursery were supportive to a degree, but slipped up on a weekly basis at first meaning we had to keep going back to the start with the exclusion. The diet dictated our lives for a whole year – during which time we also saw two homoeopaths. I now strongly feel that they ripped us off and we may as well have thrown the money down the toilet. A year of being told no all the time, always having different meals to her friends and not being able to eat the food at birthday parties took their toll on our little girl. She became quite miserable, depressed even. The crunch came on holiday in Spain last May, where policing every single thing she ate was almost impossible. We decided to do an experiment and see if she was ready to start eating foods on the banned list again. Amazingly she didn’t appear to have any adverse reactions, and all seemed to be great.
Things were fine for a couple of months, but the tell-tale signs that she was struggling again soon crept back. She was up to nocturnal tricks for some reason or other every night for two weeks. Her eczema flared up, behaviour got really bad and she would get an intermittent sky high temperature that would disappear as quickly as it came. This was a regular occurrence pre-diet, and our allergy nurse was convinced we would see the back of it once we had everything under control. Sure as anything it didn’t feature in our lives for months. We didn’t hang around waiting and put her straight back onto the exclusion diet.
This was a whole year ago, and we have still not been able to reintroduce a single thing. After doing a fair bit of research, I now think she may have gut allergies. We *finally* have an appointment coming up with a paediatrician so will hopefully get to the bottom of it once and for all.
I feel her pain because over the last few years I have become intolerant of coffee, cocoa, peaches, tea, lemongrass, apples and cashew nuts to name the ones that I can remember. My symptoms include headaches, irritability, wind, acne, insomnia and a bright red rash (mainly on my arms and legs). According to the allergy nurse if you are pre-disposed to intolerances you need to ensure you don’t eat the same food more than twice in one day otherwise you are likely to become intolerant of it – e.g. if you had toast for breakfast, then pasta for lunch you can not so much as look at a breadcrumb for the rest of the day.
It’s a real pain the butt, and I’ve had it with exclusion diets! Which is why I have embarked on GAPS, in a bid to wave goodbye to my food sensitivities for good! You can read the full story here: