As the parent of a child with a food allergy (Alice is allergic to hazelnuts - no Nutella!) we learned to live a life of food awareness without it taking up too much of our mental and emotional space. But when Alice was 8 we received the news that she is (and has more than likely always been) allergic to dairy, gluten, eggs and honey, among others, and her food sensitivities are off the charts. Her previous skin tests gave mostly negatives but we knew something wasn't right so we went to see a Naturopath and had major blood panels run for food allergies and sensitivities.
Here is what we faced over the past five years or so and maybe it might sound familiar to some of you. At age 3 Alice was diagnosed with asthma (who knew a child could turn that blue) and eczema (itchy and painful!). At 5 her doctors thought she had Oppositional Defiance Disorder or Sensory Processing Disorder or Anxiety Disorder. Which after a series of tests they settled on Anxiety Disorder. This is also when we found out she is allergic to hazelnuts.
The asthma medications slowed her growth and had other serious side effects. Then we found out she had Acid Reflux which was the primary cause of her asthma and the PPI the doctor gave her caused more serious side effects. Gee, why does she have reflux? That question was never even asked by her doctors. Last spring it was the ADD or ADHD diagnostic train and a Neuro-Psych Evaluation that made me jump off and start really looking at her diet. We observe that she finds significant relief in her symptoms depending on what she is eating so we found that Natropathic practitioner who could help us identify what was going on.
So here's the list of symptoms to consider: asthma, eczema, cough, constant runny nose, frequent colds, sinus infections, ear infections, headaches, reflux, bloating and swelling, constipation, insomnia, inability to sooth, low sensory threshold, crying at seemingly inconsequential moments, inability to focus, inability to follow directions, high anxiety. If your child experiences some of these symptoms perhaps, just perhaps, food and other allergies could be a cause or could be exacerbating your child's experiences.
To find this out your pediatrician more than likely will not be able to provide you with the answers. You have to go to a natropathic, homeopathic or holistic or functional medicine practitioner. Your insurance will more than likely not cover these office visits or the necessary tests but you must get comprehensive IgG and IgE blood panels as a start and perhaps more.
The results to those tests explained a lot to us about Alice’s behavior. High sensitivity, low sensory threshold, digestive issues, focus issues, etc. These are issues that other people saw as purely behavioral problems - but we knew better. We know she is a loving, patient, funny, adaptive, and highly intelligent child and that there was a reason for her behavior that was deeper than typical explanations of selfish or impatient or spoiled.
I would really like to make it clear that ALL CHILDREN are loving, kind, curious, fun, intelligent and beautiful creatures. But when your child displays behavior that does not easily conform to expectations very often it is those "bad" behaviors that people focus on. Sometimes very significant people in your child's life can't get past those behaviors and it is very isolating and sad for families to experience.
We are finding answers for Alice related to her diet because of experimenting we did at home and ultimately the total rejection of what conventional medicine had to offer for her. Other children will not find relief from what they are facing by changing what they eat. But if there is any possibility that they will find relief, please consider trying.
There is nothing "wrong" with our children. Some kids don't have any of these issues and some parents never have to go through this process. But for those of us who do, we aren't manufacturing their problems. We aren't too lenient on our children. Our children are not lacking in discipline or moral character. The world they experience overstimulates them or their systems are overwhelmed by inflammation and they don't feel good and they can't explain what they feel.
The point is if food or environmental allergies or food sensitivities are the root or part of the problem and you can reduce the inflammatory response by getting to its cause then you don't have to fill your kid with dangerous pharmaceuticals! And they will be understood. Change your diet and change your life.
As parents we are our children's best defense. We have to believe in them. We have to push until we find causes. We have no solid answers for why she has these allergies. Part genetics, perhaps, but a major part is our environment and food supply. That’s what we have been talking about in our “What Does Organic Mean, Anyway?” series.
Alice right now is healthier than ever. We have learned what her real food triggers are and know which foods to monitor and which foods to eliminate entirely. Sometimes she is still upset that she can’t eat what the other kids are eating. But she now recognizes the cause and effect between having that bowl of mac-n-cheese and having an upset stomach and then uncontrollable hyperactivity. I am relieved and excited that we have this new food era in our family that will nourish us and give us health and allow Alice to be who she really is. If you are out there and you have gone through this process, I would love to hear from you. It takes a village.
They are all amazing and wonderful little people and in the end we will find some gifts out of the struggles that we face to help them.