A Mums’ Intuition is Never Wrong

Kids get sick, it’s just part of growing up. But when is a cold not just a cold? When does it mean there could be more going on internally? What if you could help your child get better? I know you’re like me and would want to do everything you could possibly do for your child in order to keep them healthy and happy. Today’s post is about how one mom did just that. She realized surgery wasn’t the answer in her son’s case and she went looking for answers.

– Jennifer

Mother’s Intuition Saves her Son from Surgery

By Jacqueline Fisch (see bio below)

A major part of my journey into a plant-based diet and thinking about the food I put on my family’s table happened when my son Jacob was about a year old. When he was a baby, he had a constantly stuffy nose and I noticed he always breathed through his mouth. I just thought he was a mouth breather, and figured that was normal for kids. I didn’t think much of it. As an infant he spit up EVERYTHING! It didn’t matter if it was breast milk or formula, or what kind of bottle it was or his feeding position. I consumed dairy when nursing, and when he had formula he drank a cow’s milk formula.

Jacob was always stuffy as a child

Jacob was always stuffy as a child

That winter, he had pneumonia twice, and what seemed like a never-ending cough. He would get a cough that would last for a month at a time; he’d get a little better, and then start coughing again. The poor little guy’s tonsils were always red and swollen. Doctors asked if we had trouble feeding him, thinking he would have pain when swallowing. Thankfully this wasn’t an issue. Jacob has had the appetite of a teenage boy from birth, and it has only increased.

When Jacob was almost two, his pediatrician at the time referred him to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist who after examining him recommended removing his tonsils and adenoids, and putting tubes in his ears. The specialist said this was a very common surgery in kids.

Jacob was practically a baby! The thought of signing him up for an elective surgery made me nauseous and I felt full of fear. I asked the specialist why his tonsils were swollen; something had to be causing it right? He didn’t have an answer for me and didn’t seem interested in finding out why. He recommended having Jacob’s hearing tested to make sure it wasn’t damaged from sinus drainage. It turns out his hearing was just fine – I knew he could hear me when I was telling him ‘no’ for the fifteenth time!

The ENT said I had two options, put Jacob through surgery, or wait-and-see if it gets better or worse. He explained that if it gets worse it could potentially damage his hearing from his sinuses draining. He said some kids grow out of it and some kids just have enlarged tonsils and they live with it. That didn’t seem like a solution to me, and definitely didn’t make me feel any better. I was frustrated and confused, and scared that the only option I had was surgery. I imagined what it would feel like to sit in a waiting room while my little boy was undergoing an operation. It made me feel sick to my stomach.

Food Allergy Testing 

There had to be a reason why he was constantly stuffed up without being sick. I decided to consult with a naturopath who examined him and suggested that a food allergy could be causing his enlarged tonsils, so she recommended food allergy testing. She explained the tricky part about identifying food sensitivities is that they don’t have an immediate reaction. I was even more frustrated and confused. I thought, no way he has any food allergies; he’s never reacted to any food or environmental stimuli.

The allergy test she recommended is called an IgG test. I associated allergy testing with those scratch tests where they look for visible reactions after getting scratched with potential allergens.

Food allergies are a reaction to food proteins and are categorized in mainly two ways; as an immunoglobulin E (IgE)–mediated (immediate) reaction or a non–IgG-mediated (delayed) reaction. Immediate reactions would be itchy skin, trouble breathing, vomiting, throat swelling, or anaphylaxis.

With an IgG (delayed) reaction, the reaction may take several hours to several days to present itself. Common reactions are (but not limited to) headaches, hypertension, asthma, recurrent respiratory infections, joint pain, sinus infections or skin rashes.

Since IgG allergic reactions take hours or days after ingestion to show up, this makes it challenging to pinpoint trigger foods. I decided to move forward with the test, even with the $230 price tag; when healthy foods aren’t healthy for you, you need to know.

The naturopath took a blood spot from a finger prick. I was the only one who winced, Jacob was un-phased. The blood sample was sent to a lab where it was tested against 96 of the most common eaten foods.

We received the results about three weeks later in a detailed report. It detailed the foods that caused an immune reaction and how severe that reaction was. Based on this results, the naturopath recommended removing any trigger foods for a minimum of three months, then reintroduce foods one at a time, a new one every week and watch for any of the reactions mentioned earlier within seven days. With Jacob, the reactions I would be looking for would be a stuffy nose or more frequent bowel movements.

Upon review of the report with our naturopath, Jacob tested to be highly sensitive to cow’s milk, cheese and eggs, and somewhat sensitive to soy, asparagus, oranges and cod. I immediately cut these foods out of his diet as best I could.

In just a few weeks his symptoms improved – he could breathe through his nose and went from 5 poops a day to 2 or 3. After several months with these foods off of his plate, his tonsils were visibly smaller.

Our adventure with food allergies led me to devour dozens of books and documentaries on food, including those that promote a mostly plant-based and dairy-free diet. Based on my newfound knowledge, I never reintroduced dairy to Jacob’s diet. We eat a mostly plant-based (vegan) diet at home, where he will occasionally have a baked good that has a small amount of dairy in it and his symptoms haven’t resurfaced.

A Happy Healthy Update:

Jacob will celebrate his 5th birthday this August. He only gets a few mild colds a year, no longer gets those lingering coughs (or any cough at all for that matter). He also hasn’t taken antibiotics in over three years. He’s a wildly energetic, enthusiastic, happy and healthy boy.

 It frightens me to think of how many parents have, and will put their kids at risk for an unnecessary surgery that could easily be avoided by changing what’s on our forks. 

 He never went back to the ENT. He still has selective hearing, but I’m pretty sure that all kids do.


Bio: Jacqueline Fisch is the urban-minimalist + vegan cook extraordinaire of Barefoot Essence , turning hungry people’s kitchens into healthy fast food restaurants. Teaching famished + all-too-busy folks how to make super simple plant-based + gluten-free food. 

Uber-passionate about unfussy, unprocessed, organic and local food; Jacq doesn’t count calories, use measuring cups or kitchen scales. She eats when she’s hungry and sometimes defiantly forgets to stop, especially when really yummy fare is involved. Jacq went from diet soda junkie to green smoothie goddess by learning to trust her instincts and tune into what her bod was telling her, “Take real food and transform it into uncomplicated, flavorful meals.”

Find Jacq barefoot + cooking for a hungry hubby, two vegan kids and two American Bulldog fur-babies. She likes to stay on the move, but currently whippin’ up delicious food up in Chicago.



  1. ElmoRules on October 22, 2013 at 10:28 am

    Our ENT is also an allergist. He tested my girls for IgG reactions as soon as I described their symptoms. All ENT’s should understand there is an underlying cause to ear, nose and throat issues. When one of them was in the hospital due to ketotic hypoglycemia, the doctor on rounds had several student doctors with him. He told them that if a child presents with an ear infection, they should not jump to antibiotics first, they should suggest that the child go dairy free for two months and see if that clears the ears because dairy allergies are the number one cause of ear infections.

    • Jennifer on October 24, 2013 at 9:20 pm

      Wow! I wish your doctor could spread the word to all the doctors out there. It’s so wonderful to hear he’s not so eager to jump to antibiotics at the first sign of an infection. You found a gem with that doctor. I’m surprised he recommended IgG testing too – so controversial for most doctors who flat out don’t believe in their reliability. Do you remember which lab he sent the blood work too? I’ve heard some labs are better than others, so I’d be curious to know which one he recommends. Thanks for your comment! Jennifer

      • Jacqueline Fisch on October 28, 2013 at 3:34 pm

        Ditto that! I’m still looking for a doctor who is first of all, open minded to the idea of not consuming dairy, and even better, an advocate!

        • Jennifer on October 29, 2013 at 7:36 am

          Jacqueline – I hope you find a great advocate! Try searching for an integrative MD or maybe an allergist or immunologist. Fingers crossed for you!

  2. Sun Connor (@SuninAustin) on October 25, 2013 at 10:25 pm

    This was recommended for my son, as well. He was not in daycare (common question) and we were constantly treating him for ear and sinus infections. We were referred to a specialist, who suggested he have the surgery. I switched specialist – believe it or not – swapped out his straw sippy cups with regular cups and we were already mindful of his food allergies (he also has a dairy allergy). After that, the recurring ear/sinus issues ceased.

    • Jennifer on October 29, 2013 at 7:36 am

      Wow – what did a sippy cup have to do with reoccurring ear infections. Interesting!

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