By Guest Blogger A.L. Robbins

A little more than a week into the new year, it dawned on me that I had achieved a resolution of mine from almost every past year since college. I rang in 2019 35 lbs lighter than January 1, 2018, but not because of anything I set out to do. It was because of food allergies.

The summer of 2018 brought along very intentional, forced diet changes. In June, our breastfed toddler was diagnosed with extensive food allergies. After a severe reaction (we’re talking limp, lethargic and projectile vomiting) to a supplemental formula we tried early on, we knew milk and soy were likely on the list. The milk allergy was confirmed with another severe reaction after trying yogurt at 7 months. We were advised by his pediatrician at the time that formal allergy testing was unnecessary and to simply avoid both soy and milk in his diet until a later time. Perpetual nights of interrupted sleep, tummy troubles during the day and an increase in severe eczema flare-ups signaled something more was going on with our little guy.

My family and I relocated to Greensboro in the spring of 2018. Noticing the extensive eczema, our son’s new pediatrician revisited the topic of food allergies with us during his 18 month wellness visit. Formal allergy testing was recommended and we were advised to slather on copious amounts of a prescription steroid cream, daily in the meantime.

In addition to milk and soy, we were asked to carefully recall and document other foods consumed just before an eczema flare up or gastrointestinal upset. Well, we ended up going to the allergist with a list that looked like a recipe for marinara sauce (because it basically was) since our son had a pretty serious reaction during dinner (hives, wheezing, severe irritability and gastrointestinal distress) the week before his appointment. Testing confirmed what we already expected, and much more!

Now What?

The allergies to milk protein and, get this, garlic are “EpiPen status”. Other food on the list includes soy, beef, wheat/gluten, coconut, corn, green beans, peppers, tomato, cilantro/coriander and basil. As a breastfeeding mother, I was informed I needed to eliminate these foods from my diet if I didn’t wish to wean. Since ensuring a full nutritional profile was a real concern, I decided to continue breastfeeding. Toodaloo, Taco Tuesday! See Ya, Spaghetti Sunday! And forget about pizza …or really, anything not cooked at home!

But I need my vices!

Sure there are a lot of gluten-free options out there these days, but many of them contain corn and/or soy. Unless it is a desert, garlic is in practically everything! Due to the prevalence of both milk and soy in many mainstream brands, I liken finding chocolate I can actually eat to a treasure hunt. Drinking adult beverages is something I rarely do since I’m still breastfeeding, but in the event I wish to indulge, there are serious limitations if I want to make sure my son does not encounter any trace of allergens. Beer is out, due to the gluten content. And get this, milk is used in the finishing process of many wines. By far though, I think parting with cheese was the most difficult. I’m quite convinced I actually experienced mild detox symptoms.

Silver Linings

Admittedly, things were and still are overwhelming at times, but there is an upside to discovering the food allergies. With a definitive diagnosis and strict avoidance, we have been able to eliminate the things that have caused my son distress. We no longer coat his body in steroid cream since his eczema has cleared. He is FINALLY sleeping through the night (and so are we). The list of “approved ingredients” have led us to be fairly creative in the kitchen. My husband has even learned how to make lovely version of a flat bread called socca that we can all enjoy. Our family is saving money by not dining out. Best of all, we know exactly what is going into our bodies. We bring far less processed and pre-packaged foods into our home and instead are consuming real, whole foods… leading to the positive change in my waistline.

Do I miss dining out? Umm, yeah! Historically, my husband and I practically explored cities by way of our bellies. However, reflecting on the prior year has made me realize the overwhelmingly positive impact these diet modifications have had on our family. Our family is certainly not alone in the allergy adventure. To those of you also on this road, stay strong! We remain hopeful that our little guy could outgrow some or all of these allergies and that breakthrough discoveries and treatment options are on the horizon.

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