How I Became a Granola Mama: Discovering Food Allergies

So I’m not entirely sure why I haven’t written this post yet. If you have talked with me for just five minutes (sometimes less, ha!) you are probably aware that our daughter Eden has a milk allergy. It’s something that I have become very passionate about and sometimes a bit vigilante about, because its such a big part of our lives now. So I thought I would share a bit with you about the journey that has brought us here. Fair warning, it is impossible for this to not be a bit long winded or talk about baby poo.

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To help you with a little bit of background, I’ll tell you a little about myself first. When I was a baby, I had three sets of ear tubes for ear infections (dairy allergies can cause an increase in fluid/mucous buildup). When I was little they tried to diagnose me as lactose intolerant, but it didn’t help. Growing up, they said it was Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and I just had to deal with all of the GI issues. I also had iron-deficiency anemia. And then I got pregnant. I was one of those pregnant women that, instead of glowing, hated being pregnant because I was always miserable. I was nauseous pretty much the entire nine months. I ended up getting a prescription of Zofran. This quickly became my best friend. If I didn’t take it before I went to work in the morning, I would throw up once I got there.

So I ate dairy. Lots of dairy. They say that milk is supposed to help settle your stomach, right? Well, I tested that theory for sure. Milk, cheese, ice cream, mashed potatoes, milk shakes, and more cheese. It was just about the only thing I was interested in eating. And I was so incredibly sick…

Enter Eden.

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My tiny little baby was born just as beautiful as she could be. For the first few checkups I would take her to the doctor, take off her diaper for the naked weight and ask if her poos were normal. They just didn’t seem right, but I was a first time mom and they kept telling me it was fine. (Looking back, I now realize they were filled with mucous.) Then she started having reflux symptoms. She was always fussy, would only sleep on my chest or in her swing (never flat), crying after eating and a big time spit up baby. Then everything got worse. She started projectile vomiting. And then I started noticing black flecks in her poo. As a exclusively breast fed baby, her poo should be seedy yellow-green. No black flecks. I realized that was actually blood. My baby was having upper GI bleeds. She also got horrible diaper rash… So bad her skin would break open and not want to heal for weeks.

So I started doing research. What could cause all of these symptoms? I took her to the doctor after the worst vomiting episode, and she was put on Zantac for her reflux symptoms. So now she was starting to get better with the fussy, and the vomiting, but the weird poo and black flecks were still there. I started talking to friends and started wondering about a milk allergy. Not lactose intolerant, that is a bit different.

Milk is broken down into a sugar (lactose) and two proteins (casein and whey). And my kid is allergic to the proteins. Maybe lactose also, I’m not entirely sure… But the only way to actually figure this out is to cut it out of your diet. 100%. For a minimum of three weeks. Well, in December of 2012 I started cutting out dairy, but only the obvious stuff. I was still eating butter cooked into stuff and little things like that. But Eden wasn’t getting better. So I went completely dairy free in January. No cheating. No hidden butter or cream. Nothing. Three weeks later, my little girl started getting better. Her reflux symptoms decreased (they were still there and she was on medicine for it until she was about 7 months old), her poos stopped having mucous and blood in them, and her diaper rash was finally clearing up. I was thrilled!! Now don’t get me wrong, breast feeding and being dairy free is no walk in the park. It is truly a challenge…

Once she started eating solid foods, things got a bit more complicated. Now I was having to police my diet as well as hers (if you are nursing and your baby has an allergy, you can’t have *any* dairy, and Eden is especially intolerant). Every now and then, I would mess up and Eden would get sick again. Yucky diapers, horrible diaper rash. It was not a fun cycle. Not only that, but Eden’s reactions last a minimum of seven days. They could be up to three weeks long.

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I finally gave up breast feeding. It was just too much to worry about my diet making my baby so sick for so long. I stopped breastfeeding her when she turned one so that we could avoid putting her on specialty dairy-free formula (which is very expensive) and she finally got completely better! No more mommy mess-ups! No more diaper rash and yucky reactions! Oh happy day! It was the best decision. My little girl was finally healthy and not getting reaction cycles. But I wasn’t actually feeling better. While JD said that he had so much more energy, felt years younger and had lost 20lb, I still wasn’t feeling awesome GI-wise. And I started wondering if maybe I had another food intolerance. All of the signs were there. I was anemic again. My stomach bothered me a lot. Maybe I was missing something…

Well the next most common food intolerance is gluten. JD decided he wanted to go gluten-light (he doesn’t do 100% diets) which would make my gluten elimination a lot easier. So this past January we went gluten-free. And I can finally say that for the first time in 25 years, I am starting to feel better. Saturday night we did a gluten challenge. I’ll explain that a little bit later in an elimination diet post. And the result? Yep, I’m gluten intolerant. But I feel better!!! It has been a crazy journey up to this point, but JD and I feel loads healthier. We both have more energy, JD has lost 30lb in one year and is the healthiest he has been in years. Now that I am gluten-free, I am not having GI issues all the time and feel like a normal person. I’m taking iron supplements and hope to have my iron stores back to normal soon. And Eden hasn’t had a diaper rash in months.

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If all of this sounds familiar to you, you or someone in your family could be dealing with food allergies. I will have a post (hopefully soon) talking about symptom, elimination diets and resources. As well as discussing what it is that we actually eat now. Trust me, it’s a lot easier than you think it is! Also, feel free to contact me if you want to know more. Like I said, it’s something that I am very passionate about, and I know I’m not the only one that has dealt with this!