As a Christian family we are encouraged to follow a vegetarian (if not vegan) diet. For the longest amount of time were pretty good about eating healthy, wholesome plant-based meals. It was great!
But if we were eating so healthy, why was my daughter sick ALL THE TIME?
Since she started eating solid foods I clearly remember our trips to the ER due to her unexplained hives and vomit, or extreme constipation that was making her bleed, and the countless visits to the doctor due to the fever, nausea, puffy belly, severe eczema behind her ear, her emotional outbursts, it was just ridiculous and heartbreaking! This little girl had seen many doctors at her young age and all they ever said was for me to increase her fiber intake and to apply Cortisone on her ear to help with the eczema.
Finally, when she entered second grade I was having a conversation with a friend and I shared how frustrated I was with not being able to know what was causing my daughter so much suffering. She said that when her daughter (now in college) was little she had symptoms very similar to my daughter’s and she suggested that we take her to see the Naturopath that she had seen for her daughter.
We immediately scheduled an appointment!
When we met Dr. Z. and explained my daughter’s symptoms, I felt heard. It felt like she actually cared about my child. She listened and asked questions (questions that no other doctor had asked before). After an actual hour spent with her we learned that there was a high possibility that my daughter may have food allergies.
Indeed, two weeks later we had our follow-up appointment and we learned that the diet that I thought was the best thing I could have done for my child was actually the reason why she was so sick.
Here is the list of her allergens:
- Green Bell Peppers
- Green beans
I hit a wall! I was clueless about what the next step in our lives was going to be. I knew we needed to take action immediately but I had no idea where to start. Following a vegetarian diet means that if you buy meat replacements – well, they are all soy and/or gluten-based so what in the world was I supposed to feed this child? No more tofu?? No more soy milk? No more edamame? No more buns for the gluten or wheat-based burgers? No more lentils? What? Lentils are her favorite food! Ouch! I was devastated and as a child, I can’t imagine what she went through. The birthday cupcakes that she was going to be missing out on! At one point I asked the school if I could send out a note to the parents in her class asking them to please let me know in advance if they were planning on bringing cupcakes or other “treats” to the class so I can also send something for my child so she didn’t feel left out.
Six years later, I can say that I found the most wonderful support system from people who have and continue to inspire me on a daily basis. I am not only talking about friends, I am talking about the online world. People like Karina Allrich from Gluten Free Goddess; Elizabeth Gordon with her amazing and life-saving books: Allergy-free Desserts AND The Complete Allergy-Free Comfort Foods Cookbook; Amy from Simply Sugar and Gluten Free, and the list goes on and on. These people have made my life so much easier and I can’t thank them enough! Her new diet really made a difference! It was like a new child!
Nowadays, there are more and more people being diagnosed with food allergies as well as food sensitivities. Why is that? Well, I have no degree on health science but I do know that in my country of origin, we mostly grow foods that do not contain chemicals or pesticides. We also do not have McDonald’s or Burger Kings on every corner and we make (and encourage) our children eat their soup before they can move to the “next dish” (usually rice with something delicious like mashed potatoes and breaded chicken). Here in the US, it is concerning how they grow our food. The bigger – the better does not and should not apply to our food. We can do better than that.
I have a full time job and planning meals in advance is a must in my household. The freezer is now my best friend and I love buying in bulk, I also learned to read labels before buying any canned or processed foods. I learned to always remember to have Benadryl and her Epi Pen wherever we go. My daughter and son learned to read ingredients and ask an adult if a food they are about to eat contains any of their allergens. With both kids having food allergies (the boy is allergic to dairy and eggs – and according to him he is allergic to oatmeal but the doctor “forgot” to note it on the results sheet) it has made our lives a little more challenging but it has also allow me the opportunity to learn about what is and isn’t good for our bodies. Though my now-twelve-year-old daughter outgrew her allergy to gluten, wheat, and lentils, we continue to eat (mostly) gluten free meals. Their snacks are mainly veggies and fruits (which they do not mind at all!) or organic tortilla chips. Their breakfasts consist of something that I have baked the Sunday before or a smoothie full of fruits and greens and flax, chia or hemp seeds or oatmeal (not my favorite either). Their lunches are packed with nutrients (like brown rice, lentils and/or garbanzo beans curry, etc.).
I really love being able to feed my kids wholesome foods (that contain no soy or gluten) but I know there is still so much to be learned. I look forward to continuing this journey to good health!
And that is how food allergies changed our lives.
With warmest regards,
Beets & Kale