Living With Food Allergies

December 2009
When Mr. Max (as we like to call him) was about 20 months old, my husband gave him a small handful of cashews. Within about half an hour, he was all red and itchy on his face/ears. We didn't think too much of it other than "Well, I guess we won't give him cashews anymore." At this point in time, I was starting to move to a whole foods diet but did not think as holistically as I think now (aka, I wasn't freaking out like I would now!!). The next morning he woke up looking like he got beat up! His eyes were all puffy and his cheek was a bit puffy too. He was covered in hives and welts. We took him to the Urgent Care (it was a Sunday) and they wanted to prescribe him a steroid. Since he had recently had a seizure just after using a steroid cream, I didn't feel comfortable using that, so we reached for Benadryl and life went on. We avoided cashews at all costs and didn't think too much about additional food allergies at that point.

The worst reaction we've had...cashews, December 2009
As I started learning more about the body and nutrition, I began to wonder if Max was struggling with wheat. Since he was about 10 months old, he constantly had a diaper rash. I even switched to cloth diapers, which helped for a time but then it came back (that was the yeast). His poopy diapers were always sandy and couldn't be wiped off easily. I'd often have to bathe him because that was the only way to get him clean. Sometimes it would burn so badly he'd scream and cry. I hated it. I decided to take him off of wheat/gluten right after he had his third seizure in April 2010 and guess what? Diapers were a complete 360 degree change. No more dirty diapers 5-6 times a day, no more struggling to wipe it from his bum, no more burning rashes.

A few months later, I noticed he was getting hives a lot still. After a lot of thought and research I decided to pull corn from his diet. BAM. Hives disappeared. So there we were, gluten and corn free until August 2011 when we started the GAPS diet. This diet is designed to heal and seal the gut, which is exactly what Max needs. When he was tested for food allergies in June 2011, he was allergic to 15 out of 19 foods tested (and that doesn't include wheat/gluten). Flax seed, corn, coconut, guar gum, xanthan gum, brown rice, sorghum, tapioca starch, cashews, onion, strawberry, grape, lemon, kamut, apple. "What do I feed him?" I wondered. I cried, I prayed, I felt sorry for myself, sorry for him. I was willing to do anything. Anything. We had a brief stint with the GAPS diet but gave up after two weeks. It was hard and I wasn't totally committed. We tried NAET and felt like it helped, but had to stop after awhile because of the cost. Ultimately we started the GAPS diet again 6 months ago and have been doing it since.

Getting ready for his first day of Primary at Church!
Yesterday, Max was tested again for allergies. I went in, kind of expecting him to be allergic to everything again because he still struggles with hives daily, but I secretly hoped that maybe we'd seen some healing. WRONG. Allergic to 20 out of 21 foods tested. Cinnamon, strawberry, blueberry, apple, orange, butter, coconut, yogurt, kefir, peanut butter, stevia, lettuce, carrots, garlic, pecans, honey, onion, banana, quinoa. The only thing he wasn't allergic to? Almonds. Go figure (I totally would have thought he was because he really loves them).

So obviously I left feeling completely and utterly defeated. I have literally been busting my butt for over two years now and what? Now he's allergic to 35+ foods? REALLY?

I was frustrated. So was my husband. Most of all, I just feel sad. Sad that this is Max's life. I really hope time will continue to heal him and heaven knows, I will continue doing everything in my power to make these allergies get better. I pray for it multiple times a day. Even Max prays for it in his little prayers. "Please help Maxy's itchies to get better." It breaks my heart. I know there are so many kids out there going through so much more in regards to their health, but my heart still breaks for my little one. There is a part of me that has to grieve the fact that he will never get to go to someone's house and just eat away, without thinking anything of it. He will never get to go to a birthday party and eat what everyone else is eating. He will never feel totally normal. He will always be different. I hope he can embrace it and love himself no matter what and never be embarrassed of it. I hope I can raise him to be secure and confident and proud.

So as I was feeling so down, I dug out a list I made. August 2011. Just prior to starting the GAPS diet. Max was just under 3 1/2 years old. As I sat through and read this list, I was amazed. We have crossed SO many HUGE things off of this list. I can't even believe it. He really is a different boy than he was just 6 short months ago. He is more typical for his age. He still has difficulties for sure. But wow, the improvements. After looking at this, I can no longer feel sad or frustrated. Sure, it stinks. I still ask myself..."What do I feed this kid??" But I can't discount the hard work we've done because there have been improvements. SO many improvements.


Sensory

  • Hates getting shirt wet
  • Doesn't want to wash hands - Still doesn't prefer it but doesn't complain if asked 
  • Hates public pools/splashing - Haven't tried this out yet
  • Hates bathtub - getting hair washed, always stands - Still hates this A LOT
  • Loves going over big bumps
  • Loves spinning, jumping, getting tossed in air
  • Loves being squished or swung
  • Doesn't like messy hands
  • Sensitive to noise - Overly aware of noise but it doesn't affect his behavior/routine
  • Dislikes wearing shoes
  • Dislikes wearing clothes
  • Dislikes having teeth brushed - Doesn't prefer this but allows it without problems
Communication
  • Obvious receptive/expressive delays - Greatly improving!
  • No answering or asking questions - Asks questions ALL the time!! Especially "What?"
  • Does not express emotion (no "I love you" or "I'm happy/sad/etc") - Says "I love you" and expresses other emotions!!
  • Does not like affection - Prefers "squeezes" (hugs) instead of kisses but will come sit by me and want to cuddle
  • Prefers to communicate using as little speech as possible - Is becoming quite chatty at times!
Daily Tasks
  • Cannot dress self - Still working on this but can now put undies and pants on by self
  • Doesn't prefer to use a fork or spoon - Mostly uses utensils
  • Tantrums - long, inconsolable, triggered by anything - Infrequent, usually because of detoxification or food infraction
  • Cannot move plate from table after meal time (has to stay on table)
  • Needs consistency and lots of warning otherwise cannot transition - More flexible but warnings help a lot
  • Going to bed is very, very difficult and wakes often in the night, then wakes early - Low dose of melatonin has made night time extremely easy but sometimes wakes in the night still and is always up very early
Social
  • Has a hard time if person is not familiar 
  • Prefers to be on outer edges of play or plays solo - Interacts, calls them by name, also prefers solo play 
  • Doesn't typically interact with peers through conversation - Will initiate conversation sometimes
  • Outings are difficult - prone to bolting/running away and almost nothing can prevent it; usually ends with a very big tantrum in the car lasting the whole ride or more home - We can go out in public now!!!!! SO MUCH BETTER.
  • Church is extremely difficult - bolts/runs/tantrums - SO much better! Has sat through Sacrament Meeting (1 hr 10 mins) for about a month and can be trusted to leave and get a drink and come right back...AMAZING improvement.
  • Cannot go to story times/museums - bolts/runs - we mostly stay home - Haven't tried story time but going to the museum is fine now
Digestive/Food Allergies
  • Tends to have loose stools, several bowel movements a day, often diarrhea - Very much improved, regular stools now
  • Before removing gluten, always had a yeast diaper rash and sandy stools
  • Hives often
  • Very sensitive skin - will turn red from touch
  • Very red cheeks when exposed to heat
  • Sweats profusely when it's hot outside or when playing hard
Other
  • Difficulty showing pride in accomplishments - Now loves to say "Mom, watch me!" or "Mom, look at me!"
  • Potty training a HUGE struggle - FINALLY does not have #1 accidents anymore, still wears a diaper at night and wakes up very wet however
  • Often seems indifferent to things, not "caring" about things that other kids his age care about - He still doesn't care a lot about "things" but is more aware and excited about things, like his upcoming birthday for example.
  • Likes to line objects up
So I think now where I am at is first off, I cannot avoid feeding him something he's allergic to. It's impossible. All of these allergies are stemming from a leaky gut which is caused by an overgrowth of yeast (Candida). So I am going to move forward with trying to kick that yucky yeast out. And as we do that, the food allergies will improve. That is the hope at least. I also struggle with yeast issues (I am passing it on!) so I am going to also try to kick the yeast. That includes rotating herbs that are effective in killing the yeast and then using probiotics to go in and supply that good bacteria (here's some info from my friend Shari). My hope is that we can get the yeast under control which will in turn help the food allergies. I feel good about this approach. We will continue on the GAPS diet loosely (allowing "cheats" like occasional quinoa, sweet potatoes, stevia, etc). I am not at a point right now where I can follow it exactly, so instead of stressing about it, I'm just going to do my best and leave the rest up to God. Homemade stock (made from chicken/beef bones) is very healing to the gut and is something that the GAPS diet really emphasizes. I have not done a good job at getting this into him daily so that is one of my goals to improve upon. Mostly though I am going to cut myself some slack because I need it. I need to feel less stressed and I know that will make us all happier. I'm just going to do my best, not worry about doing things perfectly or to a "T," and pray that it will all work out. I love my little guy so much and will do just about anything for him!