You've probably heard it said, "Once you know better, you do better." That is certainly true for me, as an individual and as a mother. I’ve always tried to make healthy choices for my family, and I thought I was doing pretty well until my youngest daughter, Eden, was born.
Eden turned our world upside down. As a second-time mother, After all, this wasn’t my first rodeo. I could change diapers one-handed. I had gone through potty training, and terrible two’s, and made the playdough. I knew the drill.
And then the universe laughed...
Eden broke out into hives when she touched anything washed with a fragrance. She had colic and could only sleep sitting up in her vibrating chair. She could not tolerate any formula. Her eczema was so bad she would scratch until she bled. We never experienced anything like that with our older daughter.
We immediately started using fragrance-free laundry detergent for everything, not just baby clothes. Her hives went away, but despite trying all the creams and lotions recommended by her pediatrician, nothing helped Eden's terrible eczema. She was so pitiful, and we felt so helpless.
When Eden was two, we discovered she had a severe tree nut allergy. Within five minutes of eating two pistachios she had hives around her mouth, on her neck, and she was pulling on her ears. It was terrifying. Nobody in our family (or extended family) had a food allergy. The world of food allergies was completely new territory for us. We took Eden to the allergist for a full panel of (IgE) tests to find out exactly what she was allergic to.
Obviously, we became a nut-free household, but Eden's eczema remained. I took her back to the allergist for more tests in hopes of finding the source of her eczema, but the doctor insisted that Eden was not allergic to anything not listed on her previous test. I knew that couldn't be right. We were missing a piece to the puzzle.
Lucky for us, a friend mentioned food sensitivity testing and asked if we had taken Eden. I had never heard of food sensitivities. They are becoming more common now, especially as more and more people are aware of gluten sensitivities, but back then, it wasn't really a thing.
I found this article very straight-forward and helpful: Knowing The Difference Between Food Allergies and Food Sensitivities.
Food allergies (IgE) are an overreaction by your immune system to a protein that it perceives as a threat—for example, the proteins in particular types of food. For people without allergies, these proteins are harmless. But if you’ve got an allergy, your immune system sees these proteins as dangerous invaders. Symptoms can include hives, itching, swelling, vomiting, diarrhoea and nausea. In some cases, it can cause potentially life-threatening symptoms, such as anaphylaxis, breathing difficulties, and/or a sudden drop in blood pressure.
Food sensitivities (IgG) reactions are typically not life-threatening, and symptoms can be delayed for up to a day. Symptoms of intolerance are sometimes subtle (but not always) and can be overlooked or dismissed if you don't know what to look for. They include: headache, brain fog, sleep problems, joint pain, fatigue, muscle aches, acne, eczema, bloating, gas, diarrhea, chronic runny nose, etc.
Our next stop was a local naturopath who ran a complete food sensitivity test. Low and behold, both of my girls were very highly sensitive to wheat, gluten, eggs (yolks and white), duck eggs (yolks and whites), dairy, and soy.
I am not going to lie, I freaked out. I did. There were tears. I could not fathom what on earth I would feed my children. Keep in mind, this was 2011 and even most gluten-free food was disgusting at the time. Add in dairy and egg free and you have sandwiches that made Eden cry. (Seriously, the bread crumbled. It was pitiful.)
You know what? We figured it out. We removed those foods from Eden's diet and... her eczema completely cleared up. When I told Eden's allergist she said, "Well, those aren't real allergies." I had "hold my earrings" moment, but composed myself and we never went back to that office again. Eden's sensitivities may not be life threatening, but they most certainly affect her quality of life. That was the inflammation visible on the outside of her body, imagine what was going on inside. (We'll talk more about gut health and the microbiome soon.)
About a year later, we let her eat gluten-free pizza with regular cheese (vegan cheese will always be disgusting) and within a few hours she had itchy bumps all over her tummy that lasted almost a week. She is older now, but she still avoids dairy except for the occasional cheat when she decided being itchy is worth it.
The food you put in your body is amazingly powerful. Think of it this way, how do you feel after drinking a cup of coffee? Your body reacts to all the food you put in your body. Are you paying attention?