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Posts tagged ‘food challenge’

Eczema & Asthma – Testing for Food Triggers

I’ve asked Dr. Farshchian to help us distinguish between food allergies and sensitivities and to help us better understand testing methods for each. While we’re not sure if food is the root cause of eczema, most of us have experienced first hand how food can trigger flare ups. I hope today’s post can shed some light on the IgE vs. IgG debate – knowing both can trigger eczema and asthma.

-Jennifer

Eczema & Asthma – Testing for Food Triggers

By Dr. Thalia Farshchian, N.D. (Bio below)

Food sensitivity testing is gaining popularity to assist in identifying triggers to chronic conditions like eczema, asthma, nasal congestion and more. To draw a conclusion that a particular food triggers symptoms, the gold standard for identification is an elimination challenge.

The elimination challenge can be quite the challenge in and of itself when you are considering eliminating all of the most common triggers: gluten, dairy, eggs, corn, soy, nuts. In clinical practice, I have found food sensitivity testing to be a very helpful guide as it alleviates an element of stress on the child and family.

Read more

Confession: I Overlooked a Suspected Allergen In an Ingredient List

I feel really lucky at this moment because I made a mistake, a HUGE mistake. Thankfully, Tristan is ok.

A little background: We think Tristan has an allergy to almonds. He used to drink almond milk daily and was incredibly itchy. After stopping the milk, the itching stopped. So, now, as far I as I know, he hasn’t had almonds for about a year. No, I take that back, he tried a bite of yogurt made from almonds the other day (completely dairy free) and he got a little pink around his mouth, so he didn’t have any more. I avoid almonds now because I just don’t know if he could have developed a more severe reaction to them, like he did with dairy not long ago. Blood and skin testing was always negative, like most everything else – even for his anaphylaxis to dairy. Read more

After an Anaphylactic Reaction – The Road to Recovery

It’s been just over two weeks since Tristan’s first anaphylactic reaction. Since then I’ve realized a few things and learned even more from all the supportive comments and words of encouragement from all of you (which I am extremely grateful for! Thank you!).

1) False negatives with food allergy tests are more common than you’d think. There are tons of people out there, who like Tristan, react negatively in food allergy tests, but indeed have food allergies. I was really surprised by how many of you commented that you’d received false negative results as well. Incredible! Why isn’t allergy testing more accurate?!!! Think of the children and adults going misdiagnosed (false negatives and false positives)! Grrr!! I wish in-clinic food challenges were more supported by physicians – it’s not called the Gold Standard in allergy diagnosis for nothing.

2) It takes some time to recover emotionally and physically from an anaphylactic episode. For at least one week I kept having flash backs to that night. I’d relive certain moments in my head, but the worst was visualizing (again and again) my son – swollen, blue, covered in hives, and unable to get enough air. I’m sure I will never, ever completely be free of those horrifying images. I’ve been hugging my son a little tighter and looking at him more appreciatively lately, thankful that I still have him in my life.

It’s also common to have additional allergic reactions, although usually on a smaller scale, after anaphylaxis. We’re lucky this didn’t happen with Tristan, but he did experience pain in his thigh and butt in the area where the epinephrine was injected. The soreness was the worst just under one week later, walking was quite painful for him.

3) It’s not always easy to talk about it. Tristan (just about to turn five-years-old) does not want to talk about his anaphylaxis. In fact, he tells me exactly that when I try to get him to open up about what happened. I did want to make sure he didn’t blame himself in any way for his allergic reaction, so I asked him and he assured me he knew it wasn’t his fault, but that it was my fault. Oh. Well. Yes, he was right. He said it in a way that wasn’t blaming me, but more simply that I was responsible. So, we talked about that (for as long as he would, which was not long) as I wanted him to know, without a shadow of a doubt, that mama did NOT know he was going to react that way. If I did I would have NEVER given him that cheese. He seemed to really understand and agree. Phew.

If you have trouble getting your children to open up about their food allergies or anaphylactic reaction, here are some great tips from Natalie, who suffers from multiple food allergies and has experienced anaphylaxis many times.

  • Try to get them talking while doing something they enjoy. Turn what your child likes doing into an opportunity to open up and talk about it. For instance, if he likes anything artsy, try drawing with him. Try drawing the ambulance or the hospital and prompt your child in that way. If the child is really into trucks you could set up a time and go by your local fire station and they can show him their trucks and how they know when they need to go help someone, etc. You could give them a heads up about what had happened and have them talk to your child about how brave he was. It may be really exciting for your child and provide them with the opportunity to talk about how brave he was even though it was scary!

I followed Natalie’s advice and took Tristan to visit the firemen who came to our house as first responders on the night of his anaphylactic reaction. I called ahead to the station to find out when the men who were on call that night would be available for us to meet with them. Tristan and I baked them cookies (allergy-free of course!) and took a little tour of the fire station.

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visitig our heroes

  • Connect with other with food allergies. Another idea is to find someone in the area who has gone through the same thing. I know in our area there are different support groups for food allergies and if you are able to find one you could find a food allergy buddy. FAAN has a list of support groups here and Kids with Food Allergies has a wonderful online support system. It’s a great way for parents to get together and discuss the stresses of managing food allergies as well. Often times I wish there was more of a community and connection between the kids though. I still get frustrated when people try to relate to me after a reaction because they don’t know what it feels like. The feelings during a reaction are hard to explain and overwhelming!  If you can find someone for him to relate to it may really help.

After Tristan’s reaction, I started reaching out to other parents in our area to start a play group for kid’s with food allergies. It will be a sort of support group for the parents and a great way for kids with food allergies to connect with other children going through the same thing. I cannot wait for our first meet-up!

  • Give them time to heal. Parents process allergic reactions much differently than children do, so be careful of how frequently you bring up the experience with your children. With food allergies it is such a fine line with the amount of information you give to children. Of course as they grow up, you want them to know that food allergies are extremely serious and can make them very, very sick, but you certainly don’t want them to fear eating.

I completely agree with Natalie about not wanting our children to live in fear of eating. Thankfully my little guy is quite the foodie already, but I know fears can manifest at the drop of the hat, so his eating habits are something I will keep a close eye on. I want him to be well aware of his food restrictions, but I certainly don’t want him to develop any eating disorders or anxieties about food. And I don’t ever want him to feel left out because of his food allergies. Definitely a tough balance and one that will take lots of practice.

How was your or your child’s recovery from anaphylaxis? What helped you get through the emotional and physical aspects?

It’s Just Not Worth the Risk: Our Anaphylactic Experience

Last night was the worst night of my life. It was the night of my son’s first anaphylactic reaction.

Looking back now, it all seems like a nightmare – blurry, but terrifying all the same. I’ve been thinking about how I’d write this post throughout the day. How to begin, what details to include/avoid, etc. I’ve settled on brutal honesty and to start from the beginning, with a short history of my son, Tristan’s, allergies to date. Read more

Our Eczema Elimination Diet Success (How You Can Do It Too!)

An elimination diet really isn’t that hard and for many it provides a great sense of relief when food allergies or intolerances are discovered. In truth, it’s deciding to do the diet and embracing your decision by fully planning and preparing for it, that’s the hardest.

Why an Elimination Diet for Eczema?

After years of worsening eczema and unsuccessful attempts with multiple doctors to identify the triggers, I finally realized I could no longer put off an eczema elimination diet for my son. It was time to figure out which foods were aggravating his eczema when allergy testing all came back negative. The best way to do that, according to many health professionals, in fact it’s considered the “gold standard” for food allergy diagnosis by many pediatricians, is by conducting a food challenge. A food challenge is when certain foods are consumed in small doses and then the individual is monitored very closely, in a physicians office is best, to determine if the food causes any reaction in the body. Read more

An Incredible Experience with National Jewish Hospital’s Atopic Dermatitis Clinic

Nancy, of Real Food, Allergy Free, and I connected via an eczema Facebook group, around the time I was starting The Eczema Company. When I learned that she was heading to National Jewish Hospital with her daughter, I was so excited for her and eager to hear first hand what her experience was like. NJH has such a unique, team approach to atopic dermatitis. I was sure you’d be just as curious as I was about how the hospital’s specialized clinic helps parents and children gain control over their eczema. So, I was thrilled when Nancy agreed to share her story with us. Thank you, Nancy!

-Jennifer

 

An Incredible Experience with National Jewish Hospital’s Atopic Dermatitis Clinic

By Nancy of Real Food, Allergy Free (bio below)

Born just a few days after her due date, Bella was a content and healthy newborn.  At six weeks old her skin turned bright red.  It almost looked raw.  I didn’t rush her to the doctor until it started oozing yellow fluid.  The doctor diagnosed her with infected eczema.

I remember thinking it didn’t look like the eczema my other children had.  My other children had small raised patches of itchy skin.  Bella’s entire body and bald head was bright red and oozing.  But then again, my other children never developed eczema this young nor had it been infected.  We were sent home with oral antibiotics, topical antibiotics and steroids, and a referral to a dermatologist.  That was the beginning of an exhausting five-year battle with the worst case of eczema I had ever seen.

As a newborn, eczema didn’t seem to bother Bella, but as she grew older and developed motor skills, the itching and scratching never seemed to stop.  All of her clothing and sheets were covered in blood stains from the wounds she opened while scratching.  We saw multiple pediatricians, dermatologists, and allergists.  Allergy testing showed she was allergic to egg, dairy, soy and nuts, so we limited her diet accordingly.  We tried every holistic approach we could find including consulting naturopaths, trying the GAPS diet, homeopathy, nutritional supplements and UVB therapy.  I was thankful that these treatments made the days somewhat tolerable, but the nights were unbearable.

Sometime in those first years Bella developed night terrors.  Even before she was able to talk in complete sentences, she would scream “no” and “ow” while tossing and turning like she was in pain.   Because she dug into her skin like a crazed person, my husband or I had to sit with her and do our best to stop her.

The older she grew, the more frequent the night terrors occurred.  It came to the point where there were more night terrors than sleeping.  Two hours of sleep per night became the norm.  We just couldn’t do it anymore.  When Bella was four years old, we asked the pediatrician for something to help her sleep.  After trying herbs and Melatonin, the doctor prescribed Clonodine.  It helped, but she was still having a couple of night terrors per night.  The doctor mentioned the next level of medication he could offer was Prozac.  We were not willing to go there, so we decided to be thankful for what sleep we were now getting.

I HATED that my child was so dependent on medication and yet was still miserable. My pediatrician and my dermatologist both independently recommended I take her to Cincinnati for a therapy that was basically chemotherapy.  I drew the line there.   I would have to be happy with where we were in this battle.  There were no options left.  That is until I joined a Facebook group I saw Jennifer was part of called “eczema parents.”  Everyone there was talking about a two-week program for children with severe eczema at National Jewish Health in Denver.

Bella in her wet wraps at NJH

I cannot explain in words the emotions I felt when hearing about this program.  I saw before and after pictures that blew my mind.  They were helping children live normal lives without extreme medical intervention.  I wanted to hope, but I was so afraid of disappointment.  I had no idea how we would afford a program like this, but I knew we had to give it a shot.

A phone call later I learned that National Jewish has a unique approach.  Every patient is assigned a team of doctors and nurses including an allergist, dietician and psychologist with specialized training in Atopic Dermatitis.  The skin is treated with hydration therapy (wet wraps) while extensive testing is completed to find triggers that cause the eczema to flare.  The child also attends individual therapy and group art therapy, and the parents attend group therapy.  I was thrilled to learn that our team would also include a sleep specialist.

National Jewish Health was a true answer to our prayers!  Through the miracle of wet wraps, Bella’s skin was 99% clear within three days!  You can read a daily log of our experience here.

The rest of the two weeks were spent teaching us how to maintain her new skin and testing and challenging her food allergies.  To my utter and complete amazement she passed all of her food challenges.  Not only did we leave there with new skin, but we left with only one dietary restriction: nuts.

Going into this program, I felt fairly confident that they would help Bella’s eczema and maybe open up her diet a bit, but I had no idea if they could help with the night terrors.  In just a few consultations, the sleep specialist gave me the hope I was looking for.

The sleep specialist explained that night terrors were nothing more than the child getting stuck between stages of sleep.  Night terrors are usually triggered by lack of sleep.  It was normal for kids with severe eczema to wake up from the itching several times per night.  She was sure that once we got the itching under control, the night terrors would go away.  We would no longer need medication.  To my amazement she was right!  Bella started sleeping through the night while we were there.  In the five months since, she has had three or four night terrors, and they were obviously connected to not getting enough sleep (sickness, house guests, etc.).

Should you take your child to National Jewish?  Absolutely!  Can you imagine walking into a hospital where all of the doctors just “get it?”  Everyone from the doctors to the nurses and even the sleep specialist, who isn’t normally part of the team, understood exactly what we were going through, and were confident they could help.  There is no cure for eczema, but the team at National Jewish has come pretty close.  Ourlives were forever changed by the team at National Jewish.  I only wish I had known about it sooner.

Bella is all smiles with her eczema now under control.

 

Bio: Nancy is a home-schooling mom of four beautiful children.  Her youngest struggles with severe eczema.  Nancy is passionate about the real food movement, but is also a real mom with a limited amount of time and money.   Her blog, Real Food, Allergy Free , features fast, frugal and (mostly) healthy allergy-friendly recipes that even “normal” people would enjoy.

Son’s Delayed, Serious Allergic Reaction and My Guilt

As food allergy parents, we are so diligent in removing possible allergic foods in our home. We read all the labels thoroughly and buy only food we know is safe. So, how did my son have an allergic reaction at home today? I honestly have no explanation. I feel like a professional label reader. I can spot hidden sources of dairy, gluten and soy, like a champ. Nothing escapes these eyes. Not until recently that is.

I am embarrassed, ashamed, sad, and mostly I feel guilty that I let an obvious food allergy into my home and into my trusting son’s cereal bowl this morning. He is so good at asking me if a new food has allergies in it. Anytime anyone wants to give him food, he turns to me and asks if it’s safe. He’s so confident in me. But I made a mistake. Thank heavens he’s ok, but still, this one is all on me. Mom is not perfect – that’s probably a harsh lesson for any child to learn, but one they must.

What’s so odd is that he actually consumed this particular allergic food two times in the past week without any obvious reactions. But this morning, a few minutes after beginning on his bowl of cereal, he started to get pink around the mouth. A few minutes later his wrists became itchy and he asked me to tickle them to help him avoid scratching (that’s our little trick which he loves). This happens from time to time – he gets a little itchy and most the time we have no idea why (since we avoid all his major food triggers now). But, I was watching him carefully since the itch was combined with the pink around the mouth. Then a few minutes later he started coughing. My alarm bells went off. This never happens. The only time I’ve seen these reactions together was when he reacted to dairy during a food challenge over a year ago. Now I was officially worried. Other than the pink around the mouth, he looked ok though and was acting fine. I asked him how he felt and he said he wanted his medicine. So, I gave him his antihistamine and two puffs from his Ventolin as a precaution. The coughing continued and then he tells me his throat hurts. OMG, is his throat closing?!! Ok, now I’m officially on full alert and up to get the EpiPen. I sit by him and watch, asking him constantly how he is. The Ventolin kicks in and shortly after so does the antihistamine and the crisis is averted. Overwhelming sense of relief. We didn’t need the EpiPen, but we were VERY close. I always tell people that my son is not anaphylactic, that he’s never had a true anaphylactic episode, but now I’m not so sure.

Just what was this offending food? It was granola. The ingredient that almost led to an ER trip? Spelt flour, a type of gluten. The sad part, I know spelt is glutenous. But, I somehow overlooked the ingredient. I remember scanning the label on the box for at least a few minutes at the grocery story. I remember being so excited that it was free of all Tristan’s allergens that I bought four boxes so we wouldn’t run out. Ironic.

What I find so odd about this story, is that Tristan had eaten this cereal twice in the past week and was fine. The first time, no reaction at all. The second time, he was very slightly pink around the mouth (but we see this every once in a while and aren’t sure what it’s in relation to, so didn’t make the connection with the cereal), then the infamous third time – you now know the scary story.

Another interesting fact, Tristan has never reacted positive to gluten in standardized blood or skin allergy tests. He was tested once at one year old and again at three years old. But look how he reacted today. What does that say about allergy testing? It’s why we’ve come to rely only on our son’s past reaction’s to food, the elimination diet, and food challenges.

So, I suppose the moral of this story is that we can be lulled into a very false sense of security as allergy parents. We feel confident that we’re being diligent in allergy proofing our home, but in fact, we can make mistakes. I sure did. I feel horribly guilty, but that doesn’t help my son. I have to buckle up, keep my eyes peeled for the next offending allergy trying to strike, and be ready if/when it does.

Have you experienced false negatives in allergy testing? Have you or your child reacted to a food only after consuming it several times first?

Elimination Diet – Results

My husband and I finished up the elimination diet last Monday. We stayed on the diet for 3 weeks eliminating the following:

  • Dairy
  • Gluten
  • Peanuts
  • Refined sugar and cane sugar
  • Alcohol

The results:

At the end of the three weeks we both had a little bit more energy. My dandruff was significantly reduced, but not completely gone. My husband’s belly fat disappeared. I didn’t notice this as it was a slow change, but his mother pointed it out and she was right. Not that he had a huge belly, but just a little one. Now I wonder if he was constantly bloated or if he actually lost weight.

Food Challenge:

We reintroduced a new item each day, the reactions we had were as follows:

  • Wine gave us a horrible night’s sleep. This happened the first time and each time after that we consumed wine of any type. I’ll keep track to see if this continues long-term. Was it the alcohol or the sugar or who knows what other additives might be in there that caused us to sleep so poorly? I’ve heard there can be milk products and gluten as well as many other things. I’ve yet to have beer, but my husband has and he didn’t notice feeling any different afterwards.
  • Gluten gave us different reactions. We both had a small handful of multigrain cereal one evening as a snack. It was late and we both went to bed shortly after, not noticing anything. The next morning we had a bowl full of different cereals containing gluten. I felt very groggy/sluggish and it was hard to get motivated. Eric felt light headed and out of it. It was about one hour after eating the cereal that we started feeling this way and it lasted for an hour or so. Now we’re trying to limit gluten, but not completely rule it out from our diets. It seems if we have a small portion, it’s ok, but something larger than a couple of crackers isn’t worth the risk.
  • Sugar a non-issue for my husband, but the verdict is still out for me. I know that straight up refined sugar, like jelly beans, will completely zap my energy not long after eating them. Usually I’ll get a headache too. With baked goods, it’s less severe. Chocolate bars can be mixed. So, I had a dark chocolate bar with almonds, cranberries, and regular sugar, and milk. I felt awful the rest of the day….bloated, headache, no energy. Was it the sugar? Was it the milk, or something else? Not sure, but it probably wasn’t the milk since it was cooked milk, which apparently is easier to digest. I’ll blame the sugar.

We both know we cannot process a glass of cow’s milk without feeling a little bloated and sick, so when it was time to reintroduce dairy products, we had cow’s cheese and yogurt, but with no noticeable reaction. I was surprised. I really thought I’d have issues with all dairy, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Our Takeaways

  1. Keep a journal. This was essential for the elimination diet. I documented how I felt each day during the diet and then how I felt after reintroducing certain foods. You cannot be too detailed. It’s really interesting to look back and find patterns you may not have noticed at first. This is also hugely important when managing eczema, allergies, or asthma in general. I keep a journal for Tristan noting when he has flare-ups, or gets really itchy. I document the foods he ate around then and I’m constantly noted when new foods can be added to his diet or something new bothers him and must be restricted. I also document when we test new creams and new treatments and therapies. It has been my lifesaver. My brain just cannot retain that much info.
  2. Refined and cane sugar is in EVERYTHING. Cereal that doesn’t seem sweet, salsa, relish, most alternative milks that are not the “unsweetened” variety, many nut or seed butters, etc. It’s insane and it’s really started disgusting me. I monitored sugar a bit before, but not much since it was one of the few things Tristan wasn’t allergic too. Now I realize that not only do I need to check the grams of sugar in each serving, but I also need to check which type of sugar the item contains.  Most, but not all, the health food store products contained cane instead of regular sugar, BUT cane isn’t really any better than regular sugar. Same for raw sugar, not supposed to be any healthier. I guess you could debate maple syrup, raw honey, molasses, and agave, but I can’t completely rule out all sugar (I wouldn’t survive), so I’m sticking with these “healthier” versions. Oh, and don’t let the sugar alcohols fool you. Xylitol, maltitol, etc. They are not all they are cracked up to be either.
  3. If we eliminated ALL sugar I’m sure results would have been drastically different. But, I’m not willing to go there. Besides, would that mean eliminating fruit too? Pass.
  4. I’ll monitor the amount of sugar we consume and try to keep it as unrefined as possible. This will be hard due to #2, so I’ll have to start baking for us a lot more. I can’t live without a piece of chocolate or a cookie each day…ok, so it’s usually more than one a day…..
  5. We’ll start limiting our gluten intake.
  6. We’ll continue to monitor our dairy intake.
  7. Hemp milk is an acquired taste J Especially the unsweetened flavor.
  8. Coconut Bliss ice cream is dreamy good!

Next Steps:

Since many of our minor health ailments are still present, we’ll be trying the following supplements.

  • Primrose Oil – for reducing inflammation and hopefully helping with the dandruff, psoriasis, eczema, acne, and redness.  Tristan, my husband, and I are all trying this. It can take up to 6 months to notice changes, so stay tuned.
  • Homeopathy – my husband is taking a blend of homeopathy (R65) in drop format specifically for his psoriasis. It’s been one week and no change yet. This shouldn’t take too long to see a difference, so we’ll give it a few more weeks.

Check out the beginning of our Elimination Diet:

Elimination Diet – A Cure for What Ails Us

Elimination Diet – Update 1

Elimination Diet – A Cure for What Ails Us

Today is day two of our food elimination diet. My husband and I are embarking on an adventure together, no, more of a challenge. Between us we have the following minor health ailments:

  • Dandruff
  • Psoriasis
  • Acne
  • Redness
  • Blotchy patches in face
  • Itchy neck

Read more

Fee Fi Fo Fum, Food Allergies

When Tristan was first diagnosed with eczema at three months old , I had absolutely zero idea that food could trigger eczema. The doctors never mentioned it. We just went right along with the steroid creams and heavy moisturizers that were prescribed.

After Tristan’s (and mine) first ever visit with a natural practitioner, an appointment made after much coaxing from my in-laws, we were advised that it was quite possible that Tristan was intolerant to a few foods, which could be aggravating his body and causing the eczema. I was told dairy, specifically cow’s milk, was very hard for the body to digest and to try removing it from Tristan’s diet to see if there was any improvement in his skin. I removed cow’s milk and all other milk products. But, how could my little one year old live without cheese or yogurt? I purchased soy yogurt and vegan cheese. But wait, casein, isn’t that a milk protein? Why was casein listed as in ingredient in vegan cheese? Isn’t that a little contradictory? That was my first shocking discovery in the horribly misleading world of food labels. In the years that have passed I have continued to lose faith, almost daily, in the quality of ingredients and the misrepresentation of food labels in general. But I digress.

Eliminating dairy didn’t change a thing. So, we kept on with the steroids and creams. I then heard about wheat, so I tried removing that too, but no change. My mistake at the time was that I only removed wheat, not gluten as a whole, but more on that in a post to come.

I asked our pediatrician about food allergies and she did say it was possible, although she never mentioned the idea on her own. She suggested we test him via blood draw and the skin prick test. In the skin prick test he reacted to some seasonal allergies, cats, dogs, and walnuts. In the blood test he reacted to walnuts again, but that was all. From then on we were careful around walnuts, but we were never informed about the dangers of tree nuts. The doctor never suggested an EpiPen.

Tristan during a mild eczema reaction – red, greasy, balm covered face. (Totally goofy photo, I know.)

Fast forward two years, Tristan’s skin was getting worse. We went to a party and Tristan was enjoying the food. Suddenly he got a red rash around his mouth, along with hives and his breathing was a little strained. My husband and I panicked. Walnuts? Did anything contain walnuts? We hadn’t seen any, but sure enough, one of the salads contained finely chopped walnuts. No doctor had ever told us he could react this way, we didn’t have an EpiPen or even Benadryl. My husband ran to the store, one block away, and by the time he was back with Benadryl in hand, Tristan was already recovering. Luckily the reaction wasn’t horrible, but we gave him the Benadryl anyway to be sure. Now we knew to be careful with walnuts and we insisted on an EpiPen prescription at the next doctor’s appointment.

After that frightening, very serious encounter with Tristan’s first obvious allergic reaction, I started doing a lot of research and came across many allergies that can trigger eczema such as: milk, gluten, soy, eggs, shell-fish, peas, sesame seeds, tomatoes, and corn. I found a GREAT book: Dealing with Food Allergies in Babies and Children by Janice Vickerstaff Joneja PhD RD. This book had very clear steps to follow in order to conduct a food elimination challenge for children with eczema. I was hooked and I was determined – food challenge, bring it on! For some reason I did everything recommended except eliminating gluten. Tristan loved bread and I just couldn’t face a gluten-free  future. After one month of the diet, Tristan’s skin was still terrible. It was obvious that we didn’t find all his food triggers through the diet, but we decided to reintroduce some of the food again and see if anything caused his eczema to flare more than it already was. Soy, corn, red bell peppers, strawberries, cantaloupe, and tomatoes were obvious triggers, causing him to go into an instant itch trance. It was hard to say if these items aggravated his eczema, but they certainly made him scratch, which in turn certainly irritated his skin.

We started getting used to eating without the known triggers, plus we were still avoiding diary.  Tristan’s skin was still getting worse. When I asked for the advice of a local naturopath, she seemed surprised when I told her that we hadn’t eliminated gluten yet. She basically insisted we remove gluten as she was sure it would make a difference. Well, why not? We honestly were at rock bottom in terms of Tristan’s skin. Something had to change.  We removed gluten, very carefully reading labels. And low and behold within in a couple of days, Tristan’s skin was clearing up, and fast. It was unbelievable to see. However, we had started giving him some natural supplements – omega oils, probiotics, and homeopathy around the same time, so I wasn’t entirely sure removing the gluten was improving his skin so drastically. Three weeks later he got a hold of two small pieces of breakfast cereal containing gluten and within two hours his skin was horribly red and inflamed. So, he was officially gluten-free from that point on.

His skin was improving, but he’d still develop horrible itch attacks. Thank goodness for mittens like ScratchMeNots and pjs like Kumfy Cotton. We had already eliminated so much food from Tristan’s diet, what else could be bothering him? We had switched to soap nuts for laundry as anything else – natural or chemical, caused a gradual flair-up. We also moved to dishwashing detergent free of sodium lauryl sulfphate (aka formaldehyde).  He didn’t seem to have any traditional household allergies, like mold. So, what could be causing the itch? My mom reminded me that almonds drive her mad with itchiness. Almonds? No, couldn’t be. After all, removing almonds would be severely challenging since Tristan was consuming almonds in various formats throughout all day long – almond milk, almond butter, raw and roasted almonds. They were a great source of calcium and protein, but not knowing what else to do we stopped almonds for one week. And, wouldn’t you know it – the itching stopped completely.

At that point I was feeling bold and brave. So, after years of withholding milk, we tried to give Tristan some cow’s milk cheese to test for a casein reaction (cheese doesn’t have lactose). If he passed the casein test, lactose would be the next step. But he failed and failed miserably. He got red around the mouth after I gave him one small piece. He also got a little congested in his lungs and throat, but not bad. According to the book we had been following I was to give him two pieces a few hours later. About 30 minutes after the next two pieces of cheese Tristan started coughing intensely, said his stomach hurt, and developed hives on his body. His eczema flared-up after a few hours. No more cow’s milk products for him. I’d like to try goat some day, but that’s on hold for now.

Just a few weeks ago I posted about a recent visit to the allergist where Tristan underwent skin prick testing and a blood test. The doctor wanted to determine the severity of Tristan’s nut allergies. The skin prick test didn’t show walnuts this time, but hazelnuts instead. The blood test results haven’t come in yet, but we tested for hazelnuts, walnuts, and almonds.

Every once in a while Tristan gets a little itchy, mostly after applying any sort of cream or oil to his skin. And he still has some patches of very mild eczema, but we are thrilled we’ve come so far. I’m sure there is something that is triggering the little bit of eczema he has, but I’ve yet to determine it. Our new dermatologist wants to have Tristan tested for a full range of foods via another blood test, so we’ll see where that brings us. But for now we’re in skin bliss.

Here’s a recap of Tristan’s triggers:

  • Dairy
  • Gluten
  • Soy
  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Hazelnuts
  • Tomato (except low acid varieties)
  • Corn
  • Red Peppers – bell, spicy, etc.
  • Strawberries
  • Cantaloupe

What triggers your child’s eczema or asthma? What food allergies do your children have?

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