I had a dear friend tell me her son was diagnosed with multiple food allergies today. Among them-Wheat, Gluten, Soy and Peanut. They only tested for the most common allergens for now. She is beyond bummed. Life is hard enough as a mom without trying to navigate food allergies and intolerances. I know because I have been down this road countless times. First with myself, then with each one of my children. We have dealt with allergies, intolerances and anaphylaxis and we are still alive and well to talk about it.
So what do I say to the parent who receives the news that their child was just diagnosed? First, stay calm. You can do this! I promise. It’s kinda like having a baby and wondering what on earth you are doing…you birth out this live watermelon and they send you home with zero instructions for how to keep this living breathing thing alive. When you hear your child has food allergies or intolerances to common things like wheat or gluten or soy, your head spins because guess what, that crap is in EVERYTHING!!! And if it’s not in it, it’s cooked or processed or shared equipment with or been exposed to or ??? It seems so daunting. One of my littles was diagnosed with an anaphylactic peanut allergy at the ripe old age of 1. A trip to the emergency room in an ambulance (where they strap in the mother who holds the baby-LOL) and we left the hospital with a new diagnosis and this feeling of despair. I birthed three children and they were all alive and well, but now this one had some deadly allergy and how was I going to keep him alive? I wanted bubble wrap or a space suit to put him in. So when I say, you will get through this stage, I promise you will get through it.
So where would I begin?
I would begin by focusing on the basic food groups such as veggies, fruit, meats and dairy. When it comes to gluten and wheat, I would not run out and try to replace everything you already eat with all gluten free brands. Trust me, just because it says its gluten free doesn’t make it magical. And sometimes the gluten free deal isn’t full of awesome replacement ingredients. You can end up with constipation, diarrhea or gastrointestinal issues from alternative ingredients used to replace the gluten and wheat. When cooking, I use coconut oil, lard, ghee, duck fat and sometimes butter. Oils have a smoke point and can turn rancid so I tend to stay away from fragile oils and stick to traditional methods of our ancestors ways of cooking in fats and lards. You also want to pay attention to oils that may be contaminated with your allergen or mixed with other oils.
How do I eat?
When you make your burger ditch the bun. When you eat cereal for breakfast, stick to gluten free brands you already use OR opt for gluten free oatmeal or rice cereals or just go crazy and eat bacon and eggs in multiple ways. Always read your food labels and pay attention to how each item is processed or the machinery it was processed on. I can buy one brand of almond butter and my son is ok, but if I purchase another brand, he always has a reaction. It can be hit or miss, and ingredients can be changed without your knowledge, so read read read your labels!
When you want to go out to eat, know your food choices and find restaurants or quick stops that carry a gluten free menu and avoid cooking in oils you are allergic to. It is so popular to carry gluten free menus and if not, recognize how foods are cooked and again, stick to main food groups. Restaurants can grill a burger or steak and throw fruit and veggies on the side. Always ask your server what oil they cook in and if they don’t know, have them ask the manager or chef. I even call restaurants ahead of time to ask what oil they use. We’ve been doing the gluten free gig long before there were gluten free menus, (add in anaphylactic peanut allergy in the last decade) and it just takes a little extra thinking and communication on my part to make it work.
How do I shop?
When you shop for groceries, stick to the perimeter of the store. The outsides will carry less packaged foods and there is often a “health” aisle, which will carry gluten free/peanut free/nut free snacks and food items. Remember, you are shopping for less packaged items such as fruits, veggies, meats, dairy. Packaged items like applesauce, dried fruit, bars, nuts, trail mixes, gluten free crackers, chips, popcorn, etc. will all likely pass the test (pending your personal allergies). Pay attention to what trail mixes, nuts, chips and food items are cooked in. I bought trail mix with no peanuts that was baked in peanut oil. You will be ditching most cookies, crackers, and desert type snack packs, but honestly, this isn’t a bad thing. Most kid’s snacks are probably not in the highest caliber for nutrient dense snacking anyway.
What else should I do?
Heal the gut! A lot of allergies and intolerances can stem from intestinal permeability or “leaky gut”. When these undigested foods ‘leak’ through the gut wall, the immune system does not recognize the intruders and sets out to attack them resulting in what some come to understand as food sensitivities, intolerances or allergies. These show up in multiple areas from the inside out such as stomachaches and gastrointestinal distress to itchy eyes, sneezing and postnasal drip or skin reactions. There are multiple gut healing protocols and modalities used to start supporting the healing process such as bone broth, ferments and supplements. Personally, I have had amazing results with nutrition and supplements. It’s not an overnight process but nutrition is key and I have seen changes not just in myself, but others who have taken the steps to support themselves nutritionally.
As always, ask me anything. I know and understand how overwhelming this time can be and I would love to help you navigate this tricky time. You are never alone <3