*This post is completely unrelated to DIY, homesteading, aquaponics, or pretty much everything else I cover on my blog. Today is a little more personal, and hopefully resounds with other parents or food intolerance sufferers who are a bit fed up with the blasé attitude of conventional medicine toward nutrition.*
About this time last year, I was suspicious about food issues with my 6 month old baby, and decided (against my pediatrician’s wishes) to do an elimination diet. Even with Caroline being exclusively breast fed, she had horrible eczema and was just so miserable all the time. She was the classic “colicky” baby. Oh, it was okay if you held her in just the right way, being sure to never ever sit down and constantly pace. She could nap if she was laying on your chest. Sometimes maybe in the swing. Anyway, my mama senses were tingling, so I gave up dairy and gluten. Dairy because I am mildly intolerant so I was suspicious she would be too, and gluten for it’s reputation of causing skin and digestive issues. My pediatrician told me I was wasting my time, that the eczema was genetic and in no way diet related, and I just had to go get prescription steroid creams for my tiny little baby with tissue thin skin and accept that pharmaceuticals were the only answer for her. I declined, and thought, what could it hurt, it’s only food. If I can’t ditch conventional bread and pasta for a few weeks for the sake of my child’s health, what kind of person would I be?! I had more self-discipline than that! So I researched what gluten was and where it was hiding, then completely cut it out to test my theory. Here is our before and after shot, taken 30 days before and after cutting gluten from my diet.
Amazing difference, right? It was like this all over her body, but her face was the absolute worst. Now her skin is clear and smooth, with barely a rough patch to be seen. Needless to say, I switched pediatricians. However, my new doctor wasn’t thoroughly convinced about my personal findings. I can’t say that I blame him, because neither was I. I was acting on suspicion, and though it seemed I was right, I prefer to know, you know? I didn’t like depriving her of practically an entire food group simply on whim, as it felt. I didn’t like people judging me for my “trendy” eating styles either. But my doctor kept brushing my concerns aside. “Just avoid gluten until she’s three, and then we can reassess.” That seemed like a very long time for guessing, considering we were at her 1 year well check. I was also suspicious about tomatoes, given her face looked like this whenever she got ketchup/bbq/pasta sauce on her skin:
He told me it was just because it was an acidic food, that she would grow out of it eventually. She would be fine eating tomatoes, no big deal. I wasn’t entirely convinced. So, I pushed for a few months and got him to agree to an allergy test. Well three vials of blood taken later, they tested 13 measly food items. It did not include testing for celiac or tomatoes. The only item of concern was wheat, which showed no reaction. So, based on the “all clear” phone call I received, I started feeding her (and myself, since I still eliminated gluten in my own diet because of breastmilk) gluten and tomatoes again. Over the weeks that followed, she became incredibly crabby, throwing tantrums over the slightest provocation. Things like a toy falling over would cause her to throw herself on the ground and scream unconsolably. She had a low grade fever more days than she didn’t, around 99.3 degrees. Her digestion was off. She was increasingly tired but slept poorly. Many of these things could be explained away – she was teething, she had mild RSV, she was going through developmental changes emotionally and physically, so she could just be tantruming, etc. But again, I just knew something was off. More than just conventional “baby-ness”. So I talked to Kelsey of Texas Total Health (who I’ve been working with during our nutritional transition and is amazing and wonderful and CALL HER NOW!) She mentioned the Pinner Test, which tests for IgG reactions (vs IgE reactions that show allergies) and can signal food intolerances. These delayed immune responses can take up to 3 days to manifest, and last for as long as you keep eating the foods, which make it tough to pinpoint. They can cause headaches, digestive problems, grumpiness, and more. I signed up right away, and with one measly finger prick Caroline was tested on 200 different foods. And guess what she had a reaction to??
To say I was not surprised would be an understatement. I was actually rather relieved to finally have real answers, versus my suspicions. And to have someone listen to me, agree that things didn’t sound or look “normal”, and to help me find those answers. I’m not sure if it’s a problem with most pediatricians to dismiss nutrition’s impact on health, but considering my batting average is a big fat ZERO in that department right now, I’m not feeling very confident. It actually enrages me, to think about how miserable my daughter would be feeling if I had just followed their advice and not looked further into the issue on my own. It’s certainly had me second guessing quite a few different things, and looking around for another pediatrician who will actually listen and address the underlying issue, instead of just throwing prescriptions at the symptoms. Caroline is only 17 months old, so it won’t be a tough transition to take out tomatoes and gluten. I did decide to have a gluten-free home, however, because I don’t want to struggle with the “But daddy is eating crackers, I want some too!” issues. I want solidarity, so she never has to feel like she’s alone and unsupported. It’s actually much harder for me to eliminate tomatoes than gluten! For now, I’m going to research tomato-free ketchup and sauces, and just limit dishes I cook with them, keeping them mostly in mom and dad meals and letting the kids eat modified versions. I’m still trying to get a handle on things, and come up with a game plan for how we’ll be cooking without two pretty major players in US kitchens. It’s challenging, but it could be SO much worse, and I am grateful that we have such a minor struggle. Gluten-free is practically a fad now, so it’s easy to find affordable supplies for baked goods, and cheat every now and then with pre-made crackers or breads. I am looking forward to the challenge. Especially now that I know my baby girl feels healthy, happy, and whole.