Last year, in preparation for Tristan’s first time at day camp, I searched for a medicine pouch to keep all his rescue meds in one place and for an epinephrine carrier, an easy way to keep his epinephrine on him at all times. I wanted something fun and boyish that he wouldn’t be embarrassed to be seen with. You know kids – if their friends don’t have the same thing – its so not cool. So, I was worried because none of his friends have food allergies. How would they react to seeing Tristan wear his epinephrine? How would Tristan handle it? Read more
It’s no secret that dairy can cause inflammation in the body, which can trigger eczema, chronic ear infections, asthma, and a host of other health conditions. Do a quick search and you’ll find article after article about how milk, yogurt, and cheese have all played havoc on our bodies. You can read here about my friend Selena’s battle with her health and how removing dairy from her diet really changed the game. I have another friend that suffered from cystic acne who after removing dairy, for the first time in her life has clear skin. When I added ghee (butter with milk proteins removed)to my diet I developed severe heart burn and chronic phlegm – a sign of inflammation. My son’s asthma flared with ghee as well.
Now, all that being said, it’s difficult to label dairy as the enemy for a few reasons. Read more
How Does One Family go GAPS? – One Pot of Soup at a Time (Guest Post)
By Ronit Feinglass Plank (bio below)
Well, it’s happened. I, a former vegan, have animal parts in my refrigerator. Seriously, there are all kinds in there: steaks, turkey breasts, lamb shanks, fish filets, sausage, ribs, I’m even thinking about getting a liver if it will help. I went from slow-cooking hearty soups brimming with legumes to slow-cooking the knuckles and joints of cattle for this new modified GAPS-Paleo-Auto-Immune type diet we are trying for my eczema and allergy-addled son.
Those of us who face chronic eczema know sometimes no cause can be found for the itching that keeps our children suffering and awake at night. After years of trying to get to the bottom of things with food elimination and scores of naturopathic visits, then three days a week light therapy with no measurable result except the faint charred smell of something burning every time my son got out of the UV booth, last fall my husband and I finally agreed to the dermatologist’s recommendation to put our son on immunosuppressive drugs.
These are strong. And not to be used for long periods of time because they can be dangerous. Yet for five months now my son has finally been able to sleep at night, and my husband and I learned for the first time since before our six year old was born what rested feels like.
But the whole time our son has been on the drugs, I’ve known we were only being granted a short respite from the relentlessness of his chronic condition. Like ducking under an awning during a downpour, I knew we’d eventually have to go back out into the storm.
So now, in anticipation of weaning him off these drugs, and after talking to other eczema moms, I have found this new way of eating—heavy on restorative animal fats, broth and collagen–to possibly be my last hope. In lieu of feeding my son gluten, sugar, grains, dairy products, eggs, legumes and soy, I’m to fill him up on nourishing meats and vegetables so his sensitive body can repair.
These days I’ve got all kinds of bones simmering and clinking around in pots; I feel like some kind of witch stirring my cauldron into the wee hours, scraping gelatin off of soup-softened joints and knuckles and harvesting marrow to blend up with fat so I can sneak into foods my son might eat. I’ve literally caught myself giggling while cutting up beef tallow, plotting how to slip chunks of it into his school lunches.
I am an all or nothing, a do it right or don’t do it at all kind of person and I’ve gone into hyper drive over my health challenged son. I really, really wish I could eliminate just a food or two and see results, but it’s not that simple for us. It never has been. For some kids with atopic dermatitis kids, there is not merely a trigger or two. As my (many) doctors have reiterated as they shake their heads over my son, he’s just unlucky. There is no magic bullet, no “one” thing that will put a stop to this, though for years I have been searching for it.
Maybe this new way of eating will make him better. I am pinning my hopes on it. It can’t hurt, right? Almost no processed food and actually cooking for my family, as in not ordering in, not buying take out or pre-made grocery meals. Tough for this New York girl, city of all night diners, home of the 7:00 delivered breakfast sandwich, the single cookie at midnight from the coffee shop on the corner because, really, it’s too hard to get off the couch. I’m talking the full on planning what to buy at the grocery store, then going to that store, buying it and—wait for it—cooking it.
My family eating it, now that’s another story.
- My homemade blueberry Jell-O was not a hit. The kids spit it out after one chew.
- My homemade almond milk: Rejected.
- Home-ground pumpkin seed flour and banana mini muffins: Rejected.
- 24-hour beef broth: Rejected.
- 24-hour chicken broth: Rejected.
- 2-hour chicken soup: Consumed. Progress at last!
When I got the okay from our naturopath to add a little white rice into our son’s diet I immediately cooked it up in the really good 24-hour chicken broth I had boiled. I added extra smears of chicken fat, schmaltz my people call it—my people being east coast Jews. I look at it richly: does it hold my salvation? How much can I disguise in my son’s food before he notices? Do my clothes reek of it? I was at the dentist’s office this week and swore I picked up the fatty mineral scent of boiled animal. Could it be trapped permanently in my nostrils? I smell bones everywhere.
Feeding your family the #GAPS diet. Read this tale of perseverance and success! @eczemacompany #eczema
The good news is a month into this I am still cooking up a storm. I research recipes and menu plan and shop and concoct all kinds of strange muffins from applesauce and seeds. And despite the late nights and greasy dishes, I feel calmer.
Doing all this makes me feel proactive. I can’t change my son’s genetics or take the pain on for him, so I latch on to the things I can do and I go like gangbusters.
I know from all these years of fighting the good fight that the end result may not be everything I ultimately had hoped for. But when you’re dealing with a disease that is relentless; that wears you out and crushes you for the pain it causes your kid, even a little improvement is worth it. Feeling like we are doing something to help make our children’s lives better is so much of what it is about.
Bio: Ronit is a writer and mother of two whose youngest has faced eczema, asthma and allergies since birth. She is well versed in both western and eastern treatment modalities, having tried most in her quest to treat her son. Her essay “I want to heal my son so badly” was featured on Salon.com
Her work has appeared in Brain,Child Magazine, Lilith, Niche, and The Iowa Review and is forthcoming in the anthology Best New Writing 2015. You can follow her and find links to her essays and fiction on Facebook.
It’s been quite a while since I updated you on our homeopathic journey to healing Tristan’s eczema, allergies, and asthma. You can find previous posts on this subject here. And I’m sorry to say that I don’t have a happy ending for you, at least regarding custom treatment. While we saw some minor improvements with Tristan’s health while following a customized treatment plant from Tristan’s homeopathic doctor, after nine months we just didn’t see the results we should have. And nine months of homeopathy was quite costly. Luckily, we have good additional insurance with my husband’s company and so while the visits were covered, the tinctures and granules were not. But I don’t regret having tried working with a homeopath. Yes, I’m sad it didn’t work like we hoped, but I can at least say we tried. Because I do believe the last few remaining answers are still out there waiting for us to discover.
Although this go around wasn’t the best, it’s funny because Tristan did respond well to homeopathy in the past with commercially prepared homeopathic tinctures for treating eczema and ear infections. Yet, a customized treatment plan, something unique and created just for his body, didn’t work enough. I find it quite ironic. But I guess these commercial products are mass produced for a reason, they provide great results to a large population of people, so they sell well. The only reason we stopped using them is that we got to a point where Tristan’s skin cleared up enough that the tinctures no longer helped him as much. I was hoping a customized homeopathic treatment would heal him of the rest of his issues, but it wasn’t the answer for us. I have heard stories where great results were seen, so please don’t let our story lessen your faith in homeopathic doctors, who can do great things for many health conditions.
Here are the homeopathic blends for eczema that I’m aware of. We’ve used two and found they worked really well.
Dr. Reckweg R23 – For acute, chronic, itchy eczema. Worked great with the tincture above.
We used the two tinctures above while also using this immune balancer (not a booster) and found the three worked VERY well together. Until we determined most of Tristan’s food sensitivities, this was our go-to plan and it provided some much needed relief. We started the three around the same time, so we weren’t sure which one was really helping the most. So, we tried stopping each of the homeopathic tinctures and the immune balancer in turn, but each time we removed one we saw the eczema come back either immediately or over a few day period. So, I really must say that in Tristan’s case, the three worked wonders together.
Recently we’ve learned that Tristan has pretty severe seasonal allergies that manifest themselves in typical fashion (itchy nose, watery eyes, etc.) and as eczema. So, we’ve been using Allergex, another commercially available tincture, but for allergies. It works really well for him to relieve his itchy nose and mildly for his eczema. And it works GREAT for me. I use it religiously to survive allergy season. Honestly, I couldn’t do without it now. It’s amazing.
Have you used homeopathy? Did it work well for you or your children?
In February we hosted a camp contest for food-allergic kids to win a 2 week spot at Camp Wingate*Kirkland this summer. Any food allergy parent knows what a special opportunity it is to go to summer camp like a ‘regular’ kid and have fun, without the worries of food allergies for the camper or the parent! Well, we’re proud to share the winner with you. Congratulations to Grace!!! Grace’s mom, Christie, was kind enough to answer a few questions for us and sent us a letter about their introductory tour of the camp. It brings joy to my heart to see the smile on Grace’s face and we wish her a fun-filled camp experience.
Jennifer: We’re so happy for you and Grace! What a great experience this summer’s camp stay will be for Grace. Tell us, how did you hear about the contest?
Christie: I heard about the contest from a friend of mine who came across it online on your blog, actually.
Jennifer: Did you or Grace write the winning essay?
Christie: Grace actually submitted a video essay; I recorded it but the words were hers. The only advice I gave her was to speak from her heart, which she did.
Jennifer: What prompted you or Grace to enter?
Christie: What prompted me to have Grace enter the contest was the fact that she has been wanting to attend an overnight camp but was afraid because of her allergies. As you know, not everyone understands food allergies. Cross-contamination of food is a real issue; unfortunately there are too many people who think you can simply take a pecan off a salad and serve it to a tree nut allergic child. I want Grace to experience the wonders of childhood, and I don’t want her food allergies to hold her back from those experiences. Camp WK seems to be a place where she can be just like every other child for two weeks.
Jennifer: Please tell us about Grace’s allergies.
Christie: Grace is allergic to tree nuts and shellfish. She carries an EpiPen, but thankfully we have never needed to use it! We discovered Grace’s allergies when she was about three years old. She had a bite of lobster and within 30 minutes she broke out in hives from head to toe; it looked as if someone had scalded her in hot water. The pediatrician told us to give her Benedryl every four hours or so, which we did, and to also have her tested for food allergies. I made an appointment with an allergist; during that waiting period to see the allergist we were at the mall and Grace ate candy corn from one of the bulk candy bins at a store. Within a few minutes, she broke out in hives head to toe! After giving her Benedryl again, I called the allergist’s office rather confused because there wasn’t shellfish in the candy corn. The allergist said that it was probably a tree nut allergy and that candy corn was one of the most cross-contaminated foods – especially those in bulk bins. Sure enough, when I asked the store manager about it he confirmed that pistachios had been in that specific bin before. When we did finally see the allergist, Grace tested positive for tree nuts and shellfish. She is not allergic to peanuts, thankfully.
Jennifer: How do you feel about sending Grace off to summer camp?
Christie: I am so excited for Grace! Summer camp was one of my favorite childhood memories, and I want her to have the same experience – in a way that is safe for her. Of course, there is a part of me that is nervous, but I made a commitment to myself a long time ago that I would never let my anxiety about her allergies get in the way of her life as long she was safe and being cared for. I had not heard of Camp Wingate Kirkland before the contest, but I have now done tons of research on the camp. It looks like an amazing place for children to have fun, learn new things and gain self-confidence – in a safe environment.
Jennifer: Is this her first time away from you for an extended amount of time? How do you feel about that?
Christie: This would be her second time away from her dad and me for this long of a period. Last summer, Grace and her brother Patrick went on a two-week Alaska cruise with their grandparents. They sailed Princess Cruises, and the cruise line was amazing with her allergies. That said, this will be the fist time she is away for such a long period without anyone from her family being there!
Jennifer: What about your daughter are you most proud of?
Christie: I am most proud of the independent, responsible young girl that she is becoming. A few months ago, Grace went out to eat at a local chain restaurant (one that we trust) with another family. It was the first time she ate out without a family member. She was nervous, but she had her chef card (listing all her food allergies), and I was told that she called the manager over to table when they sat down to speak with him about her food allergies. Everything went fine, but what Grace gained from that experience was self-confidence! She now has confidence that she can advocate for herself and not let her food allergies get in the way!
We are raising Grace to be proactive about her food allergies. She knows how to read food labels, and we have taught her to that even “safe” foods are not always safe because manufacturing processes change. When she goes to birthday parties, she takes her own food and is diligent about eating only foods she knows is safe for her. We also raising her to understand that as much as we would like for her to have every opportunity in the world, there will be things that just won’t work for her – and that is okay. Not everyone or every business can or wants to be accommodating. She needs to learn to be appreciative for the things and experiences that are safe for her, rather than focusing on what she may miss out on.
I also want to add one more item – Grace’s friends. She has the most supportive, incredible friends. I tell her all the time how blessed she is to have friends who want her to experience all the goodness of life, safely. In the example before, Grace’s friend asked Grace to pick the restaurant for dinner because she wanted it to be safe for Grace. It is such a beautiful lesson in friendship when children are kind to each other this way.
Here is the letter Christie sent me following their introductory tour of the camp. I’m sharing it with you because it made me smile and I hope it will do the same for you. I understand as a food allergy mom what kind of joy Christie must be feeling to share this food allergy safe sleep away camp experience with her daughter.
I want to share with you this photo of Grace with Mia (Sandy and Will’s daughter) at Camp Wingate*Kirkland, standing in front of the bunk house where they will stay this summer. We had the great fortune of receiving a tour of the camp on Saturday, and Mia was Grace’s tour guide.
Meeting Sandy and Will, and seeing the camp firsthand was incredible. Any anxiety I had about sending Grace away for camp was immediately relieved. They are not only generous and kind people, they live what they believe. The practices they have in place to ensure that camp is a fun, safe experience for all campers are very detailed and well thought out. I was impressed by the level of detail they shared with me about how the chef checks all food labels, how they ensure campers don’t bring in food with nuts, how they have EpiPens within reach throughout the camp, etc.
One of the most poignant moments was when we were in the dining hall and Grace asked if they serve dessert with dinner. Grace asked because she can’t eat dessert at most places we go, and that sometimes makes her feel sad to watch everyone else enjoy themselves. Sandy not only said that yes they serve dessert but that everything was safe for Grace, and then she gave her a chocolate chip brownie the chef had made earlier that day. On the way home, Grace said she thought that at Camp WK she was really going to be about “Grace from Lunenburg” not just “Grace with nut allergies” – and that made my heart smile! That is exactly what the Camp WK mission is all about!
What a gift Grace has been given in so many ways!
Camp Wingate*Kirkland is a traditional overnight camp where you are inspired and empowered with a choice of daily activities. And like it was 55 years ago – W * K is not a “plugged in” camp. Campers feel supported and confident to step out of their comfort-zone and try new things without the fear of failure. Camper safety, having fun, and developing life skills are our priorities.
You may think ear infections are a bit off topic from our usual allergy/eczema/asthma posts, but it isn’t so. Both excessive ear wax and ear infections, and related conditions, have often been linked to sensitivities to dairy most commonly, but other foods as well. Dairy is a common culprit because it is known to cause inflammation in the body. Read more
Most of you know my son has anaphylaxis to sheep’s dairy of all things. You can read about or first and only anaphylactic reaction here. It’s not one I wish to repeat. Cow’s dairy is an allergy for my son as well as some tree nuts, but they are more moderate and to date have not been life threatening. We keep an epinephrine auto injector on us as all times, just to be safe. Yes, it’s rare that my son, Tristan, would eat a bite of something cross contaminated with sheep’s milk or cheese, unless we are at a Greek restaurant, but still, it’s better to be on the safe side AND we never know if he was exposed to cow’s or goat’s dairy or tree nuts, if his reaction could be more severe the next time. So, we play it safe because it’s better than being sorry. Read more
I love this infographic by YorkTest because I constantly see the words allergies and intolerance or sensitivity used interchangeably. While they all have to do with foods, that’s where the similarities stop. This graphic makes a clear distinction between food allergies and food intolerances (also similar to sensitivities). I do want to make a couple of clarifications. There have been documented cases of IgE food allergic reactions that occurred more than two hours later, in some cases a day or so later. While this is rare, it can happen. It is also rare that someone has more than two food allergies, but sadly it is becoming less rare by the day, it seems. We’re seeing this mostly in children and it’s frightening. While food allergies can last a lifetime, it isn’t uncommon for children to grow out of them or at least see their reactions lessen in severity, which is the cause of much relief for the parents, as you can imagine. My son is one such example. He was born with only food intolerances, we knew they irritated his eczema, but that was it. By two years of age, some of the foods developed into true IgE allergies and we had several close calls and one frightening anaphylaxictic reaction – you can read about it here and see a video about it here (made by Allerject).
By Josh Gitalis (bio below)
If you or your child suffers from allergy-driven conditions like eczema, psoriasis, asthma or allergies, you are likely well aware of the difficulty in treating these conditions. The first line therapies consist of various forms of steroids, and they only bring temporary relief. These conditions manifest from the inside out, so it is no wonder that these treatments are ineffective over the long-term. Read more
Our Healing Your Gut series continues, take a look at past posts here.
Gut Healing Series: Learn How GAPS Can Heal the Whole Family! Not Just Eczema. (Guest Post)
By Sally Gray ND (Bio below)
The GAPS Protocol – A Profoundly Nutrient Dense & Healing Protocol to Remedy Common Chronic Health Issues
The GAPS (Gut & Psychology Syndrome) Protocol is the healing regime presented by Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride, a widely recognized and respected Neurosurgeon and Medical Nutrition Specialist, who cured her own son of autism. This Protocol is gaining wide acceptance as a legitimate treatment for neurological and behavioral disorders such as those on the autistic spectrum, ADD/ADHD, OCD, Pandas, epilepsy, perceptual issues, bipolar, depression and more. Read more