Monday, July 29, 2013

How we Deal with Food Allergies part 2

    During the first month of our new diet, C's health rapidly improved, but even more amazing was that all of my children got healthier. Our oldest daughter N had been a very fussy baby and since she was our first, we were really unsure of what to do. Things only got worse when I had to switch her to formula at 5 months because my milk had dried up. She had horrible constipation that required weekly suppositories and daily prune juice. Trying to get a 7 month old to drink prune juice is not a fun experience and neither is putting a suppository up their tush. We even spent a few days in the hospital when she started having problems breathing because she was so backed up. When she started kindergarten we had to pack extra clothes with her because she  often had accidents because every time she had to pee we had to get her to a toilet immediately. She wasn't holding it too long or procrastinating going, she just had to go that bad when she had to go. She often complained of stomach pain and that her body ached, really, she just complained often so I would not take it quite as seriously. She also had a rash on the back of her skin called Keratosis Pilaris It is hereditary, but not the way we thought. During the first week of changing our diet to strictly fruit and vegetables, N no longer had to run to the potty in order to make it there on time. By the second week, her stomach aches were gone and by the end of the month, the rash on her arms was almost completely gone.
   Our daughter B had developed eczema when she was 2 years old and by the end of the first month she it was nearly gone off her elbows and knees. J our oldest boy was our biggest ball of energy. He also had the Keratosis Pilaris which was healing up and we even noticed he started listening better. Lastly our baby K's diarrhea took the longest to resolve but by the end of the month everyone was doing better, even hubby and I had noticed changes.  Hubby's Keratosis Pilaris was getting better but wasn't gone, he had lost 25 pounds,  dandruff was better and even his psoriasis was gone. We both noticed that our afternoon "brain fog" was gone and that we needed less sleep to feel well rested. My biggest change was that the severe neck pain that I had for the last 5 years was gone.
   After the first month we new we needed to add in some other foods. Cutting up fruit and vegetables all day long was really hard on me and a dinner of broccoli and potatoes would not cut it with our extended family. The first two foods we added back in was rice and beans. Healthy Mexican food was our new favorite thing. Our next food item was nuts which was wonderful because we discovered we could make "mayonaise" and "sour cream" out of cashews!
   Everyone stayed healthy we were doing so good that we decided to give some of our old foods a try. C first exposure to dairy led to a mild attack that we were able to handle at home with inhalers and and her nebulizer but her second exposure was almost a trip to the hospital. She had similar reactions to even a small amount of gluten. My opinion is that the two together are what caused such a severe attacks that even her high doses of medications couldn't control. Definitely not worth it.  N had gluten twice and both times was left with urinary urgency and a stomach ache that lasted for two days. Eggs, dairy, and gluten all cause B's eczema to come back. If we have eggs more then once in a week she even reminds me that it hurts her and asks me to find her something else to eat. J bounces off the walls when ever he eats something he shouldn't which is worse for me then him. I did feed baby K a mint chocolate cookie and he broke out in hives from head to toe. So we have all decided gluten and dairy are just off limits for our family.
   There are tons of gluten free and dairy free alternatives out there and even more recipe blogs. My one piece of kitchen equipment that I had to buy was a bread maker.  As a large family, buying the tiny gluten free bread loaves at $5 for 7 slices of bread just isn't an option and Red Mill brand makes some great dairy free and gluten free bread mixes. I also just bought an ice cream maker because we discovered soy ice cream!! It's not quite the same but every kid needs ice cream, but again, $7 a pint is killer. There is even soy and almond yogurt!
 My last tip is that gluten free and dairy free foods are easy to find and much cheaper on Amazon.

How we Deal with Food Allergies Part 1

    My pregnancy with C was pretty normal. We had a scare after my 20 week ultrasound that some of her measurements were off and the doctors thought there was a possibility of Down's syndrome. After several more tests and another ultrasound, we were told everything looked great and we had nothing to worry about. She was born in July with her eyes wide open and made hardly a peep for the next two days. She was a pretty easy baby and did really well while I was breastfeeding her. Unfortunately, I have never been able to breastfeed for more then 5 months and had to switch her to formula. Over the next few months she continued to get up several times a night screaming but would calm down after we fed her a bottle but we went through a ton of formula. We were so happy the day she turned 1 and we could switch to milk instead.
    Shortly after her first birthday, my mom and I decided to take a road trip with all four kids, up to my parents cabin which was a 6 hour drive. I packed the usual snacks: cheerios, bananas, cheeze-its, and a whole gallon of milk to survive the ride. C, like most one year olds was not a fan of being trapped in her car-seat, so we kept refilling her sippy cup with milk and passing out the cheerios. The second day at the cabin C started having diarrhea. It was constant. We were going through 10 or more diapers a day and she was up several times a night crying. She got horrible diaper rash that was so bad her skin was peeling off her. We stayed at the cabin for two weeks and the poor thing had diarrhea the whole time and not normal diarrhea, it was pale and fatty looking and smelled worse then anything I had ever smelled. I called our family doctor on the way home and set an appointment for the next day.
    Fast forward four months and C still has diarrhea. My doctor had run out of tests to run on our daughter and so we were sent to GI specialists at one of the best children's hospitals who told me that since C was still growing it must be Toddlers diarrhea, which basically meant I was giving her too much juice. I tried to explain that she had one glass of juice a day and it was watered down. The doctor reexplained that she was still gaining weight so she was fine and that she would see us in three months. It didn't seem to matter to the doctor that my daughter's backside was missing several layers of skin.
      I also need to add in here because of my personal feeling on the matter, my kids are on a delayed vaccination schedule and since C had been sick her vaccinations were very behind.
     We returned to our family doctor for a check up and C was given two vaccinations to try and get her caught up with the regular vaccination schedule. 24 hours later we were in the ER and C was diagnosed with pneumonia. We never made it back to the GI doctor for our 3 month check-up because C developed breathing problems. Since she was under the age of 3 she was never given the diagnosis of asthma but we spent at least 6 days of every month over the next year in the hospital with severe asthma attacks. C was put on 3 different medications including 2 steroids to try and keeps her attacks under control. Her diarrhea did eventually stop, but now we had a new problem. Every time C received a vaccination, we were in the hospital 24 hours later with pneumonia. Luckily our family doctor saw the pattern and has put all vaccinations on hold. Even without the vaccinations though, every time C got a runny nose we knew an attack was going to be happening soon.
   We were eventually sent to an allergist and had a whole battery of tests run on C to try and figure out what was causing her attacks. Everything came back negative.
   C last major attack was June of 2012. We celebrated my dad's birthday one night with cake and ice cream. By 11 p.m. we had given her every medication we had at home, her inhalers and nebulizer treatments, and C could still barely breath. My husband took her to the E.R. and I sat at home with our other children. An hour later he called me asking about what a tracheotomy was and how bad was it that her O2 level was in the 70's. In the background I heard two people arguing about who had to be the one to give her the tracheotomy when the child couldn't handle anesthesia and who would hold her down while they were cutting.  I wanted to run to the hospital right then but I had 3 other sleeping children at my house. While I was still on the phone I heard what I assume to be a nurse yell that C's O2 stats jumped to 83% and the doctors got quiet. I asked my husband what was happening and he said all the doctors went just outside the room and were talking and he would call me back.
    C was in the hospital for 3 more days and was eventually released with 2 more medications to take every day. When we finally returned the following week to the doctor for our check-up, we were given horrible news. We were told that no one had any idea what was causing her attacks and that if C stayed on these medications she would have kidney failure, but if she continued to have her attacks, she would need that tracheotomy. The doctor mentioned the possibility of celiac's disease but said that she could not be tested because the test would require someone so young to need anesthesia and C would most likely not survive anesthesia.
  We were so lost. The following week our 8 month old baby started with the same smelly strange diarrhea as C. I knew I couldn't watch another child go through the same health challenges, so we made another appointment with our family doctor to see if there was anything else we could do. After reviewing all of Cs tests and lab work from the last year and a half, she suggested we just assume it was a food allergy. She said we had to eliminate everything from her diet. Everything. Just feed her vegetables and lean meats, and see what happened. The only problem was that C was a very sneaky little girl. She would go in the pantry and find food or grab food off her siblings plates when we were doing dishes, so the only way to make sure she did not get any food that would hurt her, the whole family had to eat the same way. We had also decided that because the diet was so strict it would be cruel if C had to watch the rest of us eat food she liked so we were going to do this as a team!
    After our doctor had suggested that we treat her attacks as food allergy reactions, I started researching everything I could about food allergies. Her symptoms eliminated most food allergies except dairy and gluten allergies and because C's lab work had shown that she had a very high level of inflammation, her symptoms matched Celiac's disease.  I also noticed that several of my other children had symptoms on the list of gluten sensitivity.
I realized that maybe this team work approach would probably really benefit all of my children and not just C. The other thing I realized was that many of the symptoms of a dairy allergy and a gluten allergy were very similar so we needed to avoid both. I had noticed very early on when C's attacks first started that every time she had milk, she would get a runny nose and she would get discharge coming out of her ears. GROSS.
   Here is a list of some of the other site that I found really helpful:
Dairy Allergy-

Gluten Intolerance/Celiac Disease-

       I also began watching several documentaries, trying to find out as much information as possible about how food affects our bodies and to see if there was anything else we should be doing to get our daughter healthy and basically save her life. One of the first documentaries we watched was "Forks over Knives". There was so much great information in the documentary but one of the most important piece of information that we needed right then was that the animal protein Casein, was found in anything that came an animals, including meat and dairy products, causes inflammation in our bodies when we consume it. Since inflammation was C's biggest problem we decided to eliminate meat from our diet too. I spent the next week getting rid of just about all of the food in our house. It turns out that dairy is in just about everything. We learned to not only read ingredients in our food better, but that dairy was often not listed in the ingredients and we had to check for the tiny D symbol on the front of packages to know for sure that it was dairy free.
    For a whole month we ate only fresh fruit and vegetables. It was hard and the kids complained and what made it even harder was that even our extended family complained. No one believed that food allergies could cause the problems that C had and that we would starve to death without meat, dairy, and gluten in our diet.  
Here are some of the other documentaries we really loved:
"Fat,Sick,and Nearly Dead"
"Food Inc."
"The Gerson Miracle"

  The results we had in just one month was amazing. C was off all medications, no attacks, no runny nose, no ear problems, the swelling in her face went away and she was finally sleeping good! We also saw dramatic improvements in our whole family. I will post about that soon!


Sunday, July 28, 2013

"A little more water in the soup"

       My Grandpa O was one of the most awesome men you could ever meet. He had tattoos on both his forearms, the shiniest bald head, the loudest sneeze you have ever heard, he was a huge fan of Arby's food, and had a story for every occasion. He had this a amazing ability to walk up to a stranger and talk to them like he had known them for years. It was near impossible to take him into any store for less then an hour, even if you were only buying one item, because he would talk to every person who walked within 5 feet of him. I once took him to visit Grandma O in the hospital. He would smile and nod at each person we passed, maybe say,"Hi", and keep walking along. As we neared the hospital elevators, this guy was walking passed us and Grandpa says," Hi, how ya doin?", and the man replies as he is still walking, "Good. How are you?" and continues on past. Grandpa shouts to the man to stop real quick, and says "Well you didn't give me a chance to tell you how I am doing" and proceeds to tell the man about his day and about grandma being in the hospital. This poor guy keeps looking at me as if to ask, is he serious or crazy.
       Grandpa O was also one of the most honest people you have ever met, which might sound like a good thing, but it wasn't. Why, you ask....Let me explain.
      One day while my grandpa was out grocery shopping, he saw a lady who was nearing the end of her pregnancy. Grandpa watched her for a moment and then was kind enough to ask her if she needed help with anything. She politely said no thank you and and turned to walk away. My grandpa quickly asked if she was going to be having the baby soon and the woman said she had a few weeks left in her pregnancy. My grandpa's response, and I quote, "Sheesh, if you get any bigger you won't have enough skin left to blink your eyes."
      When my grandfather told me this story, he seemed really surprised at the fact that the lady seemed to want to hit him with her purse. When I tried to explain to him that it was very offensive to say that to a pregnant woman, he replied " I figured that out, that's why I am just telling you the story". I was 7 months pregnant.
      The only time I knew my grandpa to lie was when he would say, "Let me tell you something real quick". If he said those words, you knew at least two more stories were going to be told.
     Most of Grandpa O's stories were about the men he used to work at Sun Oil Refinery with. There was one story that I heard many times and really grew to love. It was about this quiet man that grandpa worked with. The man was one of grandpa's best workers and usually kept to himself. The man also had a large family and was very poor. Each time he would come to work and tell Grandpa O that his wife was pregnant again, Grandpa would say, "Your broke! How are you going to feed another kid?", and the man's response was always the same, "Li'l more water in the soup."
    I heard this story each of the 5 times I told my grandpa that I was pregnant. He would ask me if I was happy, if we would be okay, asked if I needed anything, and then tell me the story.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Finding Role Models

                One of a mother's greatest fears is that we don't know what we are doing and that we are going to mess up. We worry that we are the only ones who either didn't get the secret "How to be an Amazing Mom" handbook, or even worse, that there is no handbook, and we are the only ones who have no idea what we are doing. Even after 6 children, I still feel clueless. As if parenthood wasn't hard enough, each child is so different that the parenting tactics that were so effective with one child are suddenly worthless with the next.
    But I found a secret weapon!
            As a teenager, I had a rather grim opinion of motherhood. I figured it was something women just did to be normal. It was just part of life. I wasn't able to see any benefits to motherhood but I could see a ton of negatives.
           There was a woman at my church who had eight children.  I'll call her Mrs. S. Her oldest was my age. With my bleak outlook on parenting as a whole, I had a rather poor opinion of her as a person. I figured that no sane person would purposely have nine children and that she must not have been educated enough to know about birth control. Fast forward four years and I was lost in the throws of motherhood, the only one of my friends married and the first to have a baby. When my daughter was 3 months old, Mrs. S had baby number 9. She called me up out of the blue one day and asked me to come over and give her some advice. Of course, I was very confused as to what advice me, a new mom, could possibly give to someone with so much more experience. When I arrived at her home and we finished oohing and aahing over each others babies, she told me about some problems she was having breastfeeding and wanted to know if I had any ideas.
           Over the last 8 years, Mrs. S has become one of my closest friends and greatest resources. I visit her weekly if possible. Every one of her children are not only well behaved, kind, and successful in their own right, but each one of them knows how much their parents love them.  Our girls have become best friends and even my son has found friendship with her sons. I soak up every bit of advice she has to give and watch her every move. I ask questions about about how and why she does things. I share my experiences with her and see if there is any way to put her parenting tactics to use in my own home. She helps me work through problems by giving me a spectators point of view.
           There are many other mothers in my life that I constantly preen advice from. I question all of them without judgement and take what advice I think will work for my family. I found that that is my secret "How To be an Amazing Mom", handbook: my collections of friends and their advice.
         That day eight years before had been more for my benefit then for Mrs. S. By asking for my help, Mrs. S had given me my first bit of self esteem as a mother. She made me feel that I had something to give, that maybe, just maybe, I might know how to be a mom. I hope to be able to pass on the favor.