Food Allergies – how they changed our lives

My daughter was a very healthy and happy baby for the first year of her life. Then things went downhill. For the next 1 1/2 years, she was constantly getting sick. We were dumbfounded because I am a stay-at-home mom and my daughter was not around other children on a daily basis and around very few children when they were sick. It didn’t start out so bad, but eventually seemed that every six weeks we were back at the doctor’s office with some type of respiratory illness.  And… we were hearing the same thing every time we were there, “It’s just a virus.” And we were sent away with yet another decongestant to “pacify” us, and help us and our daughter get some rest at night.  Now, typically a virus will run its course in a few days, only, for our daughter, it lasted a few weeks. She would finally get well and then in a week or two we’d be right back at the doctor’s office with yet another “virus”. And the cycle would repeat over and over and over and… well, I’m sure you get the picture. My husband and I began asking questions very early on and were always shot down. I think the first time I asked about allergies my daughter was only a few months old. Even as an infant she was always sneezing and clearing her throat. The answer I was given…, “Babies can’t have allergies.” Now the direction of my thought at the time was seasonal allergies because all of her symptoms were upper respiratory. For the course of these first 2 1/2 years, she never had one ear infection, never had any stomach issues, and only rarely had a rash – which I was able to related to certain lotions or diapers. Her symptoms always consisted of coughing, sneezing, clearing her throat, and congestion – definitely not what would make one think about a food allergy.

People were always giving me advice, and had several people mention chiropractic for young children. I didn’t really know what to think about that, but shortly after my daughter turned 2, I decided to question my own chiropractor about adjustments for my daughter to see if it would help her. He took one look at her and said, “She has allergies, and she is probably allergic to dairy.” He asked several questions about her diet and then he then explained to me that although it may not be a severe allergy – only having cough, congestion, and sneezing, it may be that she had so many seasonal allergies (over which you have no control over being exposed to), that eliminating the dairy (which we do have control over) could really benefit her. It made sense to me, and decided to give it a try. We tried this for a week and didn’t see any real difference, so we stopped and concluded that it couldn’t be dairy.

Around this same time, we were finally referred to a pediatric allergist, and because of her age, they didn’t want to do any testing yet. Instead, they wanted to see how many times she had to be on oral steroids in the upcoming 6 months to determine if any testing should be done. By the way, she had already been on oral steroids almost every 6-8 weeks during the previous year!

Another six months later, we finally decided to switch doctors and see the one that my friend had been recommending. At our first visit, she patiently listened to our story and instantly believed us that something was not right and there had to be an underlying cause other than “just another virus”. It felt SO good to finally have some support! She agreed that our little girl had already been on WAY too many steroids. She immediately referred us again to a pediatric allergist and also to a pediatric pulmonologist.

The pulmonologist determined that she had asthma and immediately started her on inhaled meds to help.  The allergist however, still didn’t think anything would come of allergy testing, although tested her anyway (they don’t like to test children under the age of 3). Having the initial allergy “skin prick” test was miserable for our girl, but definitely confirmed everything I’d been saying from the beginning. She was allergic to practically every plant in our area! What did surprise me is that she also tested positive to dairy and eggs. WOW! Time for some big changes!

at first, I was so overwhelmed. How was I going to get my toddler to understand that she could no longer have the milk and cheese that she loved so much? No more mac and cheese which she had almost every day! It was quite difficult those first few weeks, but it did slowly get better. One thing I found while changing her diet was that practically every processed food in our house contained some form of milk ingredient. Wow! Things I wouldn’t even expect, like taco seasoning and beef bullion.

I found it much easier to stop reading labels and start getting back to the basics. Thus our quest to become more healthy and eliminate most processed foods began. My shopping cart began looking like a vegetable stand instead of a typical cart with a toddler in it. All the ‘quick and easy’ foods were no longer an option. I was challenged in my baking hobby as I could no longer use any dairy or eggs for my family. The family joke at our house was that we were “vegan” but not “vegetarian”. I am grateful that my girl has always loved all types of foods. The road was not easy, especially for our daughter. She was always disappointed, and we had many tears when I had to tell her “no” to some of her favorite foods, but she eventually understood that she was “allergic” and that those foods were making her sick. Even at 2 and 3 years of age, she was very good about always asking me if she could have certain things if we were at friends’ houses. I was so impressed by her ability to understand and accept her new diet.

I would like to say that we noticed an immediate change in our daughter’s health, but we didn’t. It actually took close to 4 weeks after changing her diet and starting her asthma meds for us to see an improvement. When we did start seeing improvements, they were drastic! Looking back on it, I am amazed by all the changes we’ve seen! Literally, in the past 2 years, we have had 2 sick visits!

I would love to have the doctors who took care of us to see the vast improvement in her health, but shortly after finding our answers we moved and had to find new doctors. Because the doctors here never saw her “before”, they often looked at me crazy (still do sometimes) when I go over her medical history. Even her new allergist flat-out told me that she didn’t think she had a dairy allergy at all because it “doesn’t present itself with respiratory symptoms, it always shows itself with stomach and bowel issues.” I’ve had many other people look at me like I’m crazy, and have even been told “she can’t be allergic to that, it’s healthy for you.” To every one of them I’ve said, “All I know is that once we took it out of her diet, she has become a different child! If that’s what it takes to keep her healthy and out of the doctor’s office, it’s what we’ll do!”

In the past year, under the direction of our doctors, we began offering dairy and eggs in baked goods as it changes the chemical composition of them and is easier on the body.  They said doing this would help her build up an immunity to the dairy and eggs.  A few months ago had another scratch test and blood work for allergy testing. She tested negative to dairy and very low to eggs. The next step was a ‘milk challenge’ and ‘egg challenge’, which again she passed without any problem. She now has no dietary restrictions at all! We are so blessed, but we are forever changed by the road we traveled those couple of years.

We continue to eat minimal processed foods. In fact, I have not added any processed foods back into our diet other than the occasional package of goldfish. 🙂 We have added back some dairy and eggs, but not to the extent we had before. My daughter no longer likes the taste of milk, so we rarely buy it. She does enjoy having “real” cheese again, but usually can’t eat a whole cheese stick before tiring of it. These things have become accompaniments to an occasional meal rather than a staple on our plate. Of course she loves yogurt and ice cream but with the sugar content, those are rare treats at our house. Mostly though, she likes the “idea” of having things more that actually eating them. I have a box of cheese-its in my cabinet that has been sitting there for weeks because she “wanted” it, but never chooses it when given snack options so apparently doesn’t “like” it – which is completely fine with me!

Because of this journey we have been on, you’ll find me often referring to my daughter’s allergies and why we make the recipes we do.  You’ll find many dairy-free recipes and some egg-free recipes, all of which we still eat on a regular basis at our house. But you will also see some which do contain these items because we are no longer restricted in her diet.

Our lives and our health have forever been changed! We have definitely become more aware of what we are eating. I truly thought I was cooking healthy food for my family before, but now I know exactly what I am buying, and always strive to feed my family with the healthiest of foods.  For us, that means using whole food ingredients and very few processed foods.

Although I would never wish food allergies on anyone, I am actually glad we have been down this road.  I have a new perspective on food allergies, the foods we eat affecting our bodies, and we are now a whole lot healthier because of it.  I am forever grateful for the doctors who took the time to listen to us and genuinely cared about our daughter.  They helped us find the answers we needed to help our daughter stay healthy!

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2 Responses to Food Allergies – how they changed our lives

  1. It sounds like a long journey, but I’m glad to hear she’s doing do well now! Good for you as parents to be persistent with it all.

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