Saturday, July 2, 2011


I have always wanted to know what it's like to live food-allergy free. To go grocery shopping without reading the label of every item you pick up.... and then dissapointingly put it back down. To go to a restaurant and not have to try and guess what might be in things before you make an order...
I grew up in a household of food allergies, so i'm used to it. I have a dairy intolerance - If I have dairy products too often I get high anxiety and my immune system drops out so I usually get a wicked cold at the end of a week of 'cheating'. My mom can't have gluten or rice or dairy (ie 90% of the stuff in a grocery store) So i grew up with home baking with weird types of flour. My sister has a gluten intolerance, but other than that can eat pretty much anything. My dad is supposedly sensitive to dairy, but he'd be the last to admit it lol.

All that is fine enough... I"m used to it... I wish it was different, but it's not like peanut butter where I stop breathing or something, so i cheat the odd time, or go overboard and regret it... but i'm used to it.

But being used to it doesn't really mean I"m happy about it. And so during my entire pregnancy I kept hoping and praying that Toby would be allergy free. I wanted him to be able to eat real food. Personally, I wanted to eat real food, because replacement foods are really expensive.

But at around three months of age the problems started.
As I've said before, Toby has never been one to sleep well. When he was young  he'd have screaming fits in the evening before finally wearing himself out, but then still waking and screaming 6-8 times during the night.
I looked up some stuff on the internet about screaming babies and found a lot of foods that were reccomended that breastfeeding moms not eat because babies with sensitive tummies get really bad aches.
I cut out broccoli, citrus, chocolate and onions. It doesn't seem like much, but it was just after Christmas and i had been eating a lot of chocolate and oranges and drinking orange juice, and as I later discovered there is either dehydrated onion or onion powder in EVERYTHING.
So the screaming got slightly better, but he still didn't like sleep.
Then the rash started.
A small spot on his belly... a few behind his knee... then some on his ankles....the whole underside of his arm... more spots on his belly... all over his neck.....
This is 6 months old... you can see the spots on his tummy and some on his legs.... the scratch on his head is from him raking at his face all night with his nails.

I had asked my doctor several times what to do and he just told me it was childhood eczema and to put cream on it to keep Toby from scratching.
But the itch wasn't the point.... the point was that it kept spreading and no matter how much cream I put on, it didn't go away. I wanted to know what was causing it. I kept telling myself that maybe I was overreacting, Maybe it was just sensitive skin like most babies have. But in the back of my head that nagging little voice said 'It's a food allergy.... he's got one... he's not going to get normal, easy food... you're doomed..."

I did a ton of research online about baby rashes. Most of them were not food related... the ones that were looked nothing like Toby's rash.
I found a list of common allergens in kids under 2, so I started cutting things out of my diet to see if it helped. I already wasn't consuming dairy, and I cut gluten out as well. It didn't seem to do anything...but it takes two weeks for a food to completely leave your system, and another week for Toby to feel better and then after that if the rash heals then I would be considered right. But that was a month. A month of not knowing if what I was doing WAS right and another month of the rash possibly getting worse.
So I cut out more all at once, including the stuff I had cut out because of assumed acid reflux.
No dairy, gluten, egg, corn, chocolate, onion, garlic, broccoli, strawberries, peanut butter or citrus. I also cut down on red meat.
Go read some labels in your pantry. I bet at least one of those things is in almost everything there.
I very quickly had to research vegan and vegetarian diets to figure out how to get enough proteins. I shopped a lot at farmers markets. Ate a lot of chicken and rice and peas.
Changing your diet THAT drastically is NOT recommended.... which I didn't find out until well into the change.... I felt the healthiest I'd felt in a LONG time, but I lost a lot of weight as a result. And if you've seen me, you know there's not much to lose. Plus I had a frequently breastfeeding baby sucking half the nutrients out of my body.
Months went by. I kept a nauseatingly detailed food journal. I started taking photos of his rash in progression. I started seeing a Naturopath. I started Toby on homeopathic supplements. I was incredibly anal about what he was allowed to eat when he started eating solid foods.
Rash pictures

Nothing I did made much difference. Some days his rash seemed fine. A few days later it flared up and I had no idea what I had eaten. I thought maybe it took two days for a reaction to show up so I kept waiting on suspicious foods to react, but never did. I was starting to give up. I told myself again that I was over reacting. I told myself again that it was just eczema.
But somehow I knew it was more than that... the rash changed to frequently.... it never went away.

Finally I figured it was either strawberries or egg.... or corn.... maybe....

He was eating a lot of different solid foods and didn't seem particularly better or worse. So one day, when Toby was 15 months old, I said screw it, here's an egg.
I gave him half a hard boiled egg yolk... he LOVED it....he wanted more but I said no, but then gave him half a banana muffin made by grandma (with egg in it obviously, but no gluten).

This is what happened

Well ok then.... I guess Toby is allergic to egg.
But I had cut out egg already right???
I went back and read my food journals. I re-read all the labels of the food I had.
Turns out I cheated a couple times and had a small piece of pie with 'possibly traces of egg' and the gluten free bread I had found and was all excited because it was delicious contained 'traces of egg'.
That's it.
That was enough.
I strictly cut out everything that even had the remotest chance of containing something that may have come into contact with an egg as some point in it's existence.

One week later.

Toby now has a small spot on his collar bone that flares up once in a while if I happen to eat a piece of cake or muffin or something. Once in a small while he'll ask for a piece of the cookie i'm trying to sneak behind his back, and i'll give him some, and the next day the spot on his neck is red.
I keep hoping he'll grow out of it. Some people say kids do by age 5. But I'm not sure if I want to believe that and get my hopes up. He can only eat baked goods if I make them with a powdered egg-replacer and I have a suspicion that gluten affects his mood, much the way dairy did with me when I was young. So I've been doing a lot of experimenting with gluten-free/vegan recepies.
But I have to say.... It's broadened my kitchen skills. It's broadened my culinary imagination.
Being forced to be creative in the kitchen has allowed me to have some fun with cooking and rediscover my love for food.
It's inspired me to want to take a chef training course once Toby's in school.
It's inspired me to want to open a vegan cafe and have a portion of the goods also be gluten-free.

Food allergies can be so restricting...But there a lot of people who CHOOSE to eat that way for better health, or political reasons, it doesn't matter....And as with anything the world has become more accepting of people who choose to follow different diets and the food industry is slowly increasing it's answer to the call for more 'food substitute' choices.
Maybe I can raise Toby to be one of the one's who answers.


  1. Cool. Well, not the allergy part, but the whole diagnosing was interesting, and I think opening a vegan cafe would be cool. There are SO many people I've talked to recently who have discovered they are having to cut out dairy or gluten or whatever because they feel so much better without it.

  2. wow that is intense!!! That's cool that you figured it out though!

  3. I would say "poor little guy" because his skin looks so itchy and uncomfortable (my son could relate), but I won't say that because you found out what was causing his reaction. Go you! It's hard, but you did it!

    I came across your site on the Circle of Mom's top 25 Food Allergy Mom Blogs. It's given me the idea to start a blog hop for allergies, asthma and eczema - parents or adults dealing with the condition. Please check out the page here and add a comment if you'd like to join. Thanks!