Food allergies & intolerances. Just those words can be so overwhelming for anyone who has walked down this path. We discovered food intolerances in our middle child and myself this past year. Acid reflux, daily digestion issues, eczema.
It starts with just putting together a and b. I don’t know how long my son had issues- he thought they were normal. Until we noticed and noted the smell of throw-up coming from our sweet son, and then talked to him about it… he never mentioned his daily reflux. He matter of factly, told us he did it all the time. What?!! He threw up in his mouth multiple times a day everyday! “What do you do with it?” I ask. “Swallow it.” UGH!!! You feel guilty for not noticing. You feel sad for this sweet child that thought this was normal. You wonder when it started… and will never find out. I have had eczema as long as I remember… but this winter it got intolerably worse.
Then, what do you do? Doctors, tests, hypotheses tested, elimination diets, special diets, part of “that” crowd. Figuring out food allergies is not as easy as going to an allergist and getting a positive skin test result. My son didn’t test positive for ANY food or ANYTHING yet exhibited allergic symptoms: “allergy circles” under his eyes, congestion, acid reflux, digestion problems, etc. I have some “condition” that all skin test results look exactly the same. And so… blood tests…more time and more money… and no allergies. And a children’s gastro specialist for my son… misdiagnosis there! Naturopath- no help… An elimination diet of everything. Learning to cook for the diet. Slowly reintroducing foods. Some confusion. Maybe dairy? Maybe gluten? Our allergy doctor said doctors and tests can be wrong; if x happens every time he eats y, then don’t feed him y even if the doctor and tests say it should be fine. ha. Do what you know works!
And slowly, you figure it out and gain confidence in what you know as your child’s parent. Dairy sets it off for both of us. The littlest bit of dairy in any and all of its forms even raw. So, lots of label reading and finding out the huge presence milk has in SO many products.
And sometimes you doubt yourself and find yourself confused. And disappointment every time your child has an issue- “What did I miss?” He asks “What did I eat, mom?”
And lots of reading and researching: Why so many food allergies? Anti-biotics. Messed up gut flora. Poor food quality. Weird ingredients in food. GMOs, soy, corn, hormones.Genes.
All the while, maintaining “normal” life. Food is a huge part of life. Breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner if you don’t already know include food. Staying at home is a culinary challenge- you learn to cook differently. I am thankful for this- loved the challenge (mostly). But everything else is tricky! Going out to a restaurant. Traveling, Birthday parties. School. Family gatherings. Grand-parents. Sleepovers. All these places and events add a little bit of tenseness to any parent dealing with food allergies&intolerances. You have to be prepared with “other” food at all times. You have to prepare your child to deal with being different. You have to teach them to deal with skipping the treat unless you bring your own. You have to ask your server for ingredient lists when you want to order at a restaurant. You have to train family&friends- what is “dairy”, to read labels, to respect the diet. You become the people that are difficult to have over for dinner. “Mom, can I have this?” becomes a constant.
And then we found the GAPS HEALING diet. I am not one that accepts “no” easily. I don’t give up, and I work hard (usually). Some may consider this stubborn… I may agree. When I heard about GAPS- thanks to another food allergy dealing mother- I researched and read and decided to give it a try. GAPS = Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride (lots of info on this) and many auto-immune issues (leaky gut, food allergies, allergies, obesity…) can be treated with the GAPS diet. The goal of the diet is to heal the digestive system. You start with GAPS Intro (hard but doable and worth it) and then move to Full-GAPS (not too hard and worth it). On Full-GAPS you avoid starches, sugars (except honey), and grains. You eat lots of veggies, fruit, protein, homemade broth, traditional fats, and fermented foods. You also try to get good sleep, reduce stress & toxins, and take fermented cod liver oil. This is a temporary lifestyle and diet. You are healing yourself. This is not forever.
Two months in. We are just over two months into the GAPS diet. We completed the Intro diet in 20 days. Kudos to my amazing kids and husband. And let me tell you, I am a better cook and they are WAY better eaters now (especially my oldest who was PICKY!) Our food tastes great. We feel great. The eczema is rarely an issue. The acid reflux is rarely an issue. We have already started to introduce GAPS “legal” dairy (whey, yogurt, kefir, aged cheese) and are doing great! (Recall: None of this was tolerated before- AT ALL!)
Healing. Healing is a process (think of a cold as my son pointed out) and so is healing your gut. All symptoms are not gone on Day 1 or Week 1 or Month 1. But, I can testify that things have changed significantly in 2 months. I am amazed actually! I was hopeful… but I am amazed. I don’t know how long we will stick with GAPS- somewhere between 6 months and 2 years… I love that our food can heal. I love that God created our bodies to want to heal.
“Thank you for doing the diet, Mom.” My 7 year old son thanked me the other night (out of the blue) when I was tucking him in. He is so glad he no longer feels bad. He is glad to no longer throw up in his mouth all the time. He doesn’t mind doing the diet AT ALL- he will tell you “I like my life like this. I don’t want to ever feel like that again.” This boy has been amazing through the ENTIRE process: tests, doctors, diets, lots of food restrictions. And this kid, who has always been teeny tiny has grown close to 2 inches, has no “allergy circles”, and looks so much healthier. My family comments on his physical change all the time. And then, he thanks me… ahhhh! He knows it is a lot of work for me and thanked me. I am blessed.
I encourage you wherever you are on the allergy/intolerance path. It can be frustrating and hard. You know best. Trust your instincts. Listen to your child. Embrace new food. Cook. Read. Ask questions. Try GAPS.
And if you don’t deal with food allergies/intolerances: Don’t judge. Invite your allergic friends over. Ask them what they like to eat. Know it is not easy.