The all consuming world of food sensitivities

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Anyone who has had to deal with allergies and intolerances will be able to relate to this post. For those who haven’t, perhaps you’ll read something here which 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.

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39 thoughts on “The all consuming world of food sensitivities

  1. Oh hon sorry to hear about that! Nuts are a funny one, because a reaction can come from no-where but be really nasty. Hope your dad’s isn’t too bad. Perhaps switch to a non-bio eco brand for washing? They are much more gentle on the skin – method do a really good one xx

  2. It is so tough to see kids unwell and of course yourself, reacting to new foods too. My Dad had a terrible reaction out of nowhere to brazil nuts recently (scary) and my eldest child came out in the most awful rash last week due to a change in washing powder. Hope things get better for us all x

  3. Thanks very much Mel, I hope so too! When we measured and weighed my little one for the referral appt she is only 2nd percentile for height, and 20th for weight 🙁 Really hoping to get in front of someone this month xx

  4. Another great post! It is so difficult seeing your little ones suffer from allergies. I cannot believe you have had to wait so long to see a paediatrician… Hope he/she helps. x Mel

  5. We have similar issues Judith as my daughter’s worst one is corn – which I didn’t realise until we had to start avoiding it – is in just about anything that has been processed. There are almost a hundred ingredients made out of corn and you would never ever know as they are given weird and wonderful names such as ‘maltodextrin’ and ‘ascorbic acid’

    It’s fine to a point, but heartbreaking at times… hope your friends little boy outgrows his too. Thanks for commenting x

  6. Oh bless you, this sounds like such hard work. I remember that my Mum kept my brother off dairy because of his eczema and as a result he used to have soya instead. This lead on to a nut allergy and now he carries and epipen. It isn’t easy but you are a great Mum. Thanks for linking to PoCoLo x

  7. Wow, that must be so hard to keep all the allergens out of her diet. What are all the things she is allergic to/intolerant of? I have a friend with a son who has a fructose intolerance. It means he can’t have fruit, tomatoes, any root vegetable or anything with sugar in it, as sucrose breaks down into glucose and fructose. (You learn something new every day). Then it turned out he had a dairy intolerance as well. He is so good about it, though, and completely accepts that he has to have special separate food and usually can’t have what’s being served at parties etc. His mum is a great cook and makes special cakes for him to take to events, made with glucose instead of sugar. It seems like such a tremendous hassle, and so limiting for one so young. I do hope your daughter grows out of it in 3 years’ time!

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