This blog post is coming straight from the heart.
A very happy heart.
There’s no scientific references, case studies or test results. This blog is about the amazing change capable by the human body.
Our Journey Begins
My oldest daughter is almost 10 years old. Since she was 6 weeks old, we’ve been struggling, dealing with and managing a wide range of food allergies. Our first view into the world of food allergies wasn’t so clear. She was six weeks old and covered in eczema. I was exclusively breastfeeding and with the help of our midwife, figured out that the citrus that I was consuming, was playing a part in her eczema. Cutting that out, made a difference but we didn’t know that this was the just the beginning of a life-changing journey.
At 10 months old, she started to develop hives. This happened immediately after eating yogurt. Our pediatrician referred us to an allergist but before we could get in to see him, she had an anaphylactic reaction at age 18 months.
The Diagnosis: 8 Common Food Allergies
By the time she was 2 years old, she was diagnosed with 8 common food allergies: dairy, eggs, mustard, sesame, fish, shellfish, nuts and peanuts.
This rocked our world. Unless you the parent of a food-allergic child or have food allergies, you have no how this affects your daily life.
Everywhere in our culture, food is part of a celebration – birthdays, weddings, picnics, any holiday, gatherings, etc…you name it and food is probably involved.
To get a sense of what it is like to deal with food allergies, go read the labels of foods you find in your pantry or fridge – dairy and eggs are in almost everything.
We researched, joined support groups, went to registered dieticians, nutritionists, hospital meetings, online sites, and magazines, etc. We did everything we could to keep her safe in so many different situations but the stress, anxiety, and worry were always there.
Fortunately, our family and friends were so supportive and did everything they could to accommodate her – always going above and beyond.
The Social Aspect of Food Allergies
One aspect that isn’t discussed too much with the general population is the exclusion that food allergies play- the social aspect of food allergies.
I can’t speak for my daughter but she’s had to stand out of the crowd and be different since her first memory. That’s a long time.
I really and truly believe all that she’s had to do has helped to build her into the wonderful, caring, empathetic, confident, strong and easy going person that she is today. She holds a maturity, wisdom, and empathy that goes well beyond her years.
We like to live by the saying “Life doesn’t happen to you, it happens for you”, meaning, that you need to take what life deals out to you and made the best of it.
She is, as my husband says, “our magic girl”.
So you can imagine that today, after being allergic to shellfish for the past 9 years, how excited, happy, proud, I was that she was deemed by her allergist to no longer have a shellfish allergy!!
I’m still reeling from the news. This opens up a whole new food group for us. One that is filled with rich, nutrient-dense omega-3 fatty acids (we can start getting some real, quality DHA into her), protein, minerals, and vitamins. And the stress of cross-contamination has melted away.
A New Way Of Living
Now, let me take a step back a minute and say that yes, she has food allergies and this affects our daily lives but there are many families out there that are dealing with far greater challenges every day. I raise my hat to those families and wish them all the best.
I am so happy, grateful and excited that I jumped a little ahead.
We have been working on her lifestyle for a few years now. This means getting rid of gluten (at least in her day-to-day life), reducing her sugar intake and focussing on whole, natural, well-sourced food, spending time outside and getting good quality sleep.
This is a big change from the recommendations we were given when she was first diagnosed. A nutritionist we saw when she was younger, recommended that:
- we replace dairy products with soy products. Doesn’t she know that soy is one of the top 8 allergens, hugely GMO’d and a phytoestrogen (something that messes with a girl’s hormones = early onset puberty!!)
- replace butter with chemically made margarine. I’d rather skip the spread than use a product that’s made entirely with chemicals. Butter has vitamin K and lauric acid, margarine has rancid fats and is not real food.
- read the label and if it doesn’t contain her allergens it’s okay. What!?! What about the preservatives, coloring, “natural ingredients”, chemicals, etc. that are found in processed food. What about nourishing her body with nutrient-dense, quality of the food? There are plenty of “foods” that contain things like transfats and other things that are clinically-proven to be carcinogenic or potentially carcinogenic.
- and the list goes on
We were grateful for the guidance. After all, we were just given news that changed our lives and any advice from a professional was welcome.
The Turning Point
In order to manage my diagnosis without the use of medication, I had to make drastic changes to my life – my diet, my stress levels, my rest and my exercise. Essentially my self-care.
After a few weeks on a very strong medication recommended by my rheumatologist, I decided to look for alternatives. You can read more about my story here but in a nutshell, the medication left me feeling awful for 3 days after administering (injecting it into my leg) each week. I was fatigued, sore, swollen and not in a good place. This was not how I wanted to live my life or how I wanted my kids to know me.
I drastically changed my diet and saw unbelievable results. This led me to spend years, researching, learning and applying knowledge and making changes to my body, mind, and spirit which could be seen in my overall health. I made it official and studied to became a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner, with the passion for helping others to become advocates of their own health struggles.
Leaky Gut and Microbiome
One of the most influential things that I learned about was the notion of leaky gut and the gut microbiome. As I researched and applied my new knowledge, I saw the difference that a gluten-free, whole foods approach was making to me.
My husband Brad calls me the canary in the coal mine.
Most people have heard about gluten but I don’t think many people really understand the havoc it’s wreaking on our health.
Leaky gut, also known as intestinal hyperpermeability, means that there are large “holes” in the intestinal wall that allows particles of food to be released into the bloodstream. These particles can create inflammation and serious damage to the body such as autoimmune diseases (i.e. rheumatoid arthritis and food allergies).
A Little on Gluten
I have learned that gluten:
- Is a highly sprayed crop. What does that mean? It means that most wheat that we find in our bread, pasta, cookies, cakes, bars, etc., contain the poison glyphosate. Glyphosate is a pesticide that is used throughout North America on many crops but has been banned in Europe and other countries.
Glyphosate wreaks havoc on the body, disrupting the good bacteria naturally found in the gut which is so important for good health.
2. The wheat we eat today is not like the wheat our grandparents ate. Wheat today contains a very high level of gliadin, a protein found in wheat gluten. It is a protein that has become more and more difficult to digest, which again affects our gut lining and bacteria.
We decided to eliminate gluten from our family diet and adopt a clean, whole food diet, avoiding all processed food.
Of course, these dietary changes did not happen overnight, in fact took months. But once our girls started eating whole foods regularly, we couldn’t believe how much they enjoyed them and the vitality that they expressed.
I used to make 2-3 different plates per meal to accommodate allergies and preferences!! That was a huge stress for me and it took up a lot of my energy and time (while working full-time and being a present mom).
The Power of Food
We changed out diet by cutting out gluten and increasing a variety of vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, sourcing our meat, chicken, and fish from places where the animals were pasture-raised and grass-fed, incorporating some whole grains (specifically rice). Over a couple of years, this had such a wonderful impact on all of us and especially ,Ayla who is now able to eat mustard, eggs, and dairy.
Nature Infused Living
More recently, we started to spend more time outside, in the sunshine, unprotected. If you aren’t familiar with Dr. Jack Kruse, you should check him out. Get out in the sun!
We began to spend more time interacting with nature. That means getting dirty, swimming in natural bodies of water, sleeping an inch above the ground (camping), rising and sleeping with the sun.
Being active has been something that our girls have always been but now we encourage them to move as much as they want. We no longer ask them to sit down, be quiet or use the screen as a way of keeping them busy. Now if they are getting restless, we send them outside to jump on the trampoline, to play on their Gorilla Gym or find something else to do.
Movement is imperative to health, as I am learning more and more about this. We need to get the blood moving, the heart pumping, increase our mobility, flexibility, and strength. These are all things that we tend to decrease as we age so I am going to encourage my kids to keep up the love and ease of continuous movement.
When I grow up, I want to be like my kids.
Focussing on re- building our daughter’s microbiome, efforts to heal her gut through stress reduction, nature-infused living, eating a clean, whole-foods diet, getting regular movement, sunlight, and sleep has paid off.
Some doctors and scientists might dismiss this as random, claiming people grow out of the allergies or sometimes gain new ones BUT in our minds and hearts, Brad and I believe that lifestyle or food as medicine or epigenetics, have been the major factor in this change. We know there are doctors and other scientific/healthcare professionals that would agree with us. We also believe that one day, mainstream modern scientific medical research will catch up with this notion and show (in a randomized, double-blind peer reviewed study) that gut health has direct, effect on allergies and autoimmune disease.
Today is a day that I’ll never forget. Seeing her face as she realized that she could eat shrimp, crab, and lobster. Life has changed again.
I am so proud of who she is and how she coped with her allergy challenges. My heart swells and my eyes tear when I think of her excitement and happiness today.
Keep it up Boo, I’m so proud to be your mom.
Disclaimer – Please Read
The statements made in this post have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and represent the opinions of the authors. The author is not a Medical Doctor and does not engage directly or indirectly in diagnosing disease, dispensing medical advice, or prescribing the use of any products or services as treatment for sickness or disease. This information is for educational purposes only. You should always cooperate with the health professional of your choice with a mutual goal of building good health. Please consult the physician of your choice before starting this, or any, diet plan or exercise program. Do not use or apply any of the information contained in this book if you are nursing or pregnant. Any application or use of the information, resources, or recommendations contained within this book is at your own risk.