Delayed Food Allergies. Our Story.
This article is not scientific, it is personal.
When my second son was born, I was thrilled. He was born at home just before 7am and spent the rest of the day curled up on my chest. It was heaven. It made me forget that he was more than two weeks early and I was completely unprepared.
Then night came, and the screaming started. I figured I would be in for a rough night since he slept all day. But man, was this rough.
Had it been this rough with the first?
It must have been.
Those mothering hormones really do make us forget all the bad parts, right?
Every half hour. Screaming. Nursing helped sometimes. Walking helped very little. Bouncing. Singing. Shhhh-ing.
I think they all helped for a few minutes until the screaming started again.
Finally he would sleep for another half hour.
And then we would do it all over again.
Check his diaper.Nurse him.Swaddle him.Walk.Bounce.Sing and walk.Sing and bounce.Unswaddle him? Pacifier?
Pray for morning.
During the first couple nights, my sister took him for a couple hours so I could sleep a little. I remember his screaming waking me up from downstairs.
At two days old, he had green goopy boogers in his nose. They came all day and night.
The midwife thought that was not normal.
The pediatrician said it was just because he had an older sibling (who was perfectly healthy).
I asked about the screaming at night.
“Turn off the monitor. He’ll learn not to scream,” said the pediatrician.
Mental note: Pediatricians are for medical advice, not parenting advice.
Thank goodness this was my second baby. I knew what was normal. I knew the sound of an “I-am-angry-that-you-set-me-down” cry and an “I-am-in-misery” cry. And I certainly knew the difference.
This high-pitched wail was the latter option. He pulled his little knees to his chest and arched his back and screamed until he exhausted himself, whether you were holding him or not.
I held him. I couldn’t imagine leaving him alone while he seemed to be in such pain.
This went on for four months straight. I had a “colicky” baby, apparently. During the day or night, he only slept if someone was holding him, and no more than 30 minutes at one time. He woke up if he was laid down.
My husband and I would take shifts: my husband went to bed at 8pm, and I stayed up until 2am with the baby. Then we would switch. He brought me the baby to nurse after two hours, and then kept him until 6am so I could get a whopping four hours of sleep.
I was delirious.
My father-in-law was kind enough to watch the baby so my husband and I could go out on dates, or so I could take my older boy to Kindermusik class. We usually found my father-in-law sitting in some awkward position with the baby asleep on him… afraid to move because the baby had screamed himself to sleep. He certainly wasn’t going to be the one to make the baby scream again.
We laughed. But boy, was that screaming brutal for everyone… especially the baby.
His older brother would mock him. Then they would both be yelling. I didn't think it was funny.
I saw our pediatric chiropractor who did some soft tissue adjustments on his abdomen. It helped a little.
I saw another chiropractor that gave us homeopathics – one for digestion, one for his immune system, and one for his liver. They helped a little more.
At four months I did an elimination diet. I didn’t just limit certain foods, I dropped everything except the following: grass-fed beef, spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes, green beans, grapes, apples, oatmeal, olive oil and sea salt. That’s all I ate – no herbs, nothing else – for two weeks. I exclusively nursed the baby as I always had.
I told the pediatrician at his 4-month visit that we were on an elimination diet and he seemed to be doing much better.
The pediatrician said “Don’t do that to yourself! You have to cut-out all the best foods.”
But the baby did do much better. He began sleeping for two hours at a time. He would even sleep for half an hour by himself. I cried happy tears the first time he slept in his bed for 30 minutes.
He would still scream and pull in his legs every time he woke up, though.
He still wanted to be held constantly. I used to say “there are worse things in this world than your child wanting you to hold him!” It’s true, but that was my silver lining for complete exhaustion.
His nose was still goopy.
After two weeks, I began adding foods back in. I didn’t notice much of a difference. He kept sleeping better – at this point (5-months) I considered the occasional 2-hour stint AWESOME.
The only things I knew I could not eat were gluten and dairy – either one made his nose run with clear mucous all day long.
So that’s how we were: gluten-free and dairy-free and ecstatic to be sleeping 6 (very interrupted) hours every night.
By now, when he woke at night he would clutch at his throat or rub his ears, along with pulling his legs to his chest.
He was diagnosed with an ear infection at one point that did not respond to antibiotics. After that, we relied on herbs to relieve what we thought was ear pain.
I had a baby boy who “was not missing a single ounce.” Holy cow, can you believe what a chunk he was!?!
He turned one. I lamented that I had missed his first year. I couldn’t remember much. I had been in survival-mode ever since his birth. I felt terrible.
At 16-months I tested him for classic allergies to common foods and environmental allergens, and another test for
delayed food allergies, or food sensitivities.
I was determined to find out why my child had a chronic goopy nose, and what I perceived to be severe digestive upset.
The pediatrician still thought he was just “colicky,” and “building his immune system to tolerate older siblings.”
Colic after one year?
His older brother was not in preschool, and was very rarely sick.
We got the results for classic allergies quickly: negative. Milk, wheat, molds, animals, pollens, nothing.
A couple weeks later the delayed onset food allergy results came and I cried. My son showed severe, off-the-chart antibody levels against 17 foods, moderate antibody levels against 4 other foods, and mild levels against another 12 foods. That was May 11, 2011.
I really cried. I wasn’t grieving the loss of food – that came later. I cried because my poor child had so much inflammation, and we just didn’t know.
Now I knew.
From that day on… no, scratch that, from that MINUTE on, he stopped eating gluten (wheat, barley, rye, spelt), dairy (cow or goat), corn, soy, rice, oats, eggs, pecans, pineapple, citrus, blueberries, grapes, bell peppers (sweet or spicy), garlic, onions, potatoes, asparagus and canola.
Literally, as soon as I got the results, my son never ate another bite of any of those foods for over six months. My husband and I decided to eliminate those foods as a family. We were not going to single-out one child.
That means we didn’t eat anything with citric acid (citrus, corn, or pineapple derived), baking powder (grape derived), vinegar (corn derived) or sugar (corn derived). No lunch meats, no cookies, no crackers, no bread. Nothing with plain “salt” as an ingredient since salt is often tainted with cornstarch as an anti-caking agent. No canned goods or frozen goods for the same reason.
We certainly never ate at a restaurant.
Meals from scratch.
Fresh produce only.
Quinoa and buckwheat.
We bought a dehydrator and a Blendtec. I borrowed every gluten-free, vegan, and raw cookbook I could find from the library.
I eventually hired a mommy’s helper. I had found myself cooking instead of keeping up with the financial work for our businesses.
After 3 days, my baby didn’t have any mucous in his nose.
After 2 weeks, he began sleeping through the night.
His vocabulary and motor skills seemed to progress by leaps and bounds. I never considered him slow or behind, but now he was more alert, and brighter in every way.
We all were brighter – we were sleeping at night!
Family who hadn’t seen him in a couple months commented that he seemed like a different kid. He wasn’t clinging to mommy anymore - he was off playing with his brother and cousins, instead.
Some of it could have been developmental timing: separation anxiety that spontaneously cleared up at 18-months, perhaps. He was due to start talking more and becoming more active. But after 2 weeks, I thought he was a different child.
So many people say: I couldn’t do that. They see the sacrifice.
I’d like to think that anyone with a child in pain would do that.
Besides, I got my life back, too.
After about five months on an elimination diet we begged our favorite local restaurant to cater to us. It didn’t hurt that we knew the owners. They would cook a plain ground beef patty in a clean skillet (they grind their own beef, so no questionable additives) and serve it with a sliced apple for our little guy. We were in heaven.
We could tell if he ate something tainted while visiting friends of family: he would wake crying around 11pm or midnight, and then keep waking approximately every two hours until 5am, when he would be awake for the rest of the day. This lasted for three nights every time. Naps during the day were short and fitful.
We kept him on an elimination diet for over 6 months. We gave him probiotics, fish oil, l-glutamine, and a calcium/vitamin D supplement.
Based on his test results, he looked like a child with a leaky gut. Foods were getting into his blood stream and triggering an immune response as though he were infected with bacteria or viruses. I was determined to dampen the inflammation and give his gut the time and resources to heal.
He still has times of irritability and rubs his ears sometimes. Our pediatric chiropractor says his ear canals are sometimes inflamed and his ear drums have a mild cloudiness. He has diarrhea almost every day. He takes a little longer than his brother to recover from illness.
But we remind ourselves how life was one year ago. And we see the frequency diminishing.
We just re-tested him.
Now, he has mild to moderate levels of reactivity to cow’s dairy products, and the same for gluten-containing products. He has a moderate and severe reaction to egg yolk, and egg white, respectively. That’s all: gluten, cow’s milk, eggs.
To us, it’s a miracle.
We have re-introduced garlic in small quantities – a food that was a mild allergen on the first tests. So far so good.
It’s almost as if my husband and I don’t want to re-introduce anything. We’ve finally gotten our son healthy and happy. Bringing back foods is scary and unknown. We’re safe and secure now.
Mothering hormones can only make you forget so much.
But then we go to the grocery store and we see pineapple and blueberries… the forbidden foods look so good! I’m sure we will slowly bring back the “dangerous” foods.
I thank God for maternal instinct and devotion. I thank God that this wasn’t my first child, and that I didn’t accept screaming babies as “normal.” Most of all, I thank God for my little baby boy. He’s so worth it.
Did I mention that we’re all sleeping? Thank God!
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