Your Kids Are What You’ve Eaten?

This is a follow up blog post to the one I wrote for The Times of Israel about Israeli’s lax attitude towards food allergies. I recommend you click on the link and read that post first, since it will put this blog post into context. Also, as serious as this topic is for me, I’m also doing a fun giveaway for my US readers. Read through to the end for the giveaway details!

So, this photo is the new food pyramid as created in conjunction with Michelle Obama. But it’s really the old food pyramid that has gotten me thinking.

Both of my children have food allergy/issues. Our eldest daughter was born allergic to all dairy products. This is different than a lactose intolerance, and dairy allergies are very serious. She would vomit after ingesting dairy products and was anemic for the first year and a half of her life. When we realized she had a dairy allergy, she started improving. Her iron levels went up, her pale skin started to have some rosiness, and she had a lot more energy. We had finally gotten her allergy under control, learned how to lead a pareve lifestyle, when we got her retested. At age 2, she tested negative for a dairy allergy and we celebrated with a giant pizza!

When I was pregnant with my second daughter, I remember remarking to my husband that I hoped she wasn’t allergic to dairy since it was not easy. When she was born, I nursed her and stayed off of dairy, in the off chance that she was in fact allergic. I was not at all prepared for what we would learn six months later, when we started feeding her rice cereal and she would violently vomit. She dropped from the 75% in weight to the 5%, would cry non-stop (she was very colicky from the day she was born) and wasn’t thriving. We immediately sought help and went to a pediatric gastroenterologist, who sent us back to our allergy doctor. The scratch test was eye opening! She was allergic to egg protein, oats, rice, sesame and peanuts.

I came home and cried. I had no idea how I was going to feed this child! And, even the doctor telling me how happy we should be that it wasn’t a dairy allergy, didn’t help at all. It took us months and months to figure out how to feed her. Instead of weening her at 12 months, I continued to nurse her until she was 17 months old. I vigilantly read all ingredients, moved the Cheerios (my eldest daughter’s staple) to the highest shelf in the house, and made a list for myself of foods we could no longer offer her. For weeks, she existed off of chicken soup, until I felt comfortable with other food items. And then, after a couple of weeks, we finally figured it out. We realized which foods she could eat and how to feed her. She started to thrive again, her weight slowly inched up although she is still at the 5%, and she began to develop nicely. When we could finally breath a sigh of relief that she was on the right road, I started to question how she got here in the first place.

My husband and I have no food allergies. I am not even lactose intolerant although I’m convinced my husband is. My parents have no food allergies, nor do my siblings or Grandparents. As far as I know, none of my first cousins on my Mother’s side have any food allergies either. My Father’s entire extended family was killed in the Holocaust, so I don’t have much to go on from that side. From my husband’s side, same thing. As far as I know, his parents have no food allergies, nor do his siblings. Same with his extended family.

Yet, here I have two children with food allergies!

So, I took to the internet and began reading. I spoke to other parents with children who have food allergies, and I tried to cobble together some truths.

In all honesty, I am not much closer to the truth. To understanding WHY my kids have food allergies. And, instead of focusing on the why, I’m now trying to focus on the WHAT NEXT.

Because, if my children have food allergies because of what I ate as a child, than I want to make a big change. I want to change the way our children eat.

But, how can I do that when the information that’s available is so conflicting?

1) Growing up, the USDA food pyramid insisted that we consume 6-11 servings of grains/carbs a day. And, that’s what my folks did. We ate carbs all the time. Big, heaping bowls of pasta. Cereals for breakfast. Sandwiches for lunch. Pretzels for snack, etc. Today’s food plate has carbs as a much smaller portion. It’s no longer the largest food group. So, if I blame the carbs from my diet, does that mean I no longer feed my family grains?

2) GMO’s -I had no idea what GMO’s were until I started reading Homemade Mommy’s blog. Then, I read about the top 10 GMO foods to avoid, and the list was frightening!  Wanna know where else GMO foods show up? Watch this video!

3) So, we decided to try to switch to organic as much as we possibly can. We signed up with a CSA, but in Israel I have no idea where to find organic meat and chicken. We eat only free-range, organic eggs and I try to buy organic whenever I can. But, how do I feed my family if I cut out all GMO’s? Besides the added cost to feed a family organic, items are not always available in my neighborhood.

4) The giant oil debate: Canola vs. Coconut oil – When it comes to the oil wars, my head feels like it’s going to explode. Suddenly, EVERYONE is talking about coconut oil. How much better it is for you,  how much canola oil is terrible for you. With such a giant PR push for coconut oil, it makes me wonder who is funding that effort. Why is coconut oil suddenly the “in” topic?

This brings me to my biggest problem, to date. Who to believe? How do I know which is better for our family? I learned a long time ago, at the beginning of my career in PR, not to always believe what I read. But, now that we are dealing with the health of my family, reliable sources are much more crucial.

Many people I’ve spoken to have suggested Robyn O’Brien. I’ve seen her Tedx talk and it was very interesting, and I have also read some of her information online. But, it doesn’t seem like she has many answers, just lots of the same questions.

I don’t have any answers, and I’m not any closer to where I want to be. I have tons of questions, though. And, I’m hoping, the more I question, the closer I’ll get to the truth.

Because, at the end of the day, I just want to create a nurturing, healthy, home environment for my family. So that we can live long and healthy lives, and so that P”G our grandchildren can be born into a better, healthier, world.

Do you or your kids suffer from food allergies? Do you think you have the answers, or reliable sources? Please let me know in the comment section!

Giveaway!

I was approached by the guys over at Xenon Project to giveaway an awesome radio controlled helicopter. I picked the one pictured above, because I think it’s pretty cool! Click on this link for more information! Comment on this blog post and you’ll be automatically entered to win. I’ll pick a winner, at random, on November 1st! This contest is open to US residents, only.

 

 

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10 Responses to Your Kids Are What You’ve Eaten?

  1. I’m also a bit freaked out by all these sudden food allergies. When I was a kid, no one was allergic to peanuts. I never heard of an epipen. Now these are daily realities in any elementary school. I don’t have children (yet) but I do have (the very cutest) nieces and nephews. I strongly urged my sisters to not mollycoddle them and wipe them down with anti-bacterial products every 5 minutes. Let them play in the mud, let them grow up the way we did! We grew up not eating ANY processed foods. We rarely ate out in restaurants. And we turned out fine. I’m glad my sisters take very good care of their children and manage their food consumption within reason. Thank God they are all healthy and allergy free (and SO cute, did I mention that already?). Is it possible that in our desire to micromanage our food consumption and our obsession with eliminating all dirt and bacteria from our lives, we have deprived ourselves of the ability to resist certain things and thus passed this on to our children?

    I should add that as proud Moroccan Jews, our diet, besides being fresh, unprocessed and made with love, contains a lot of olive oil, garlic and vegetables. I urge everyone to add those to your own diet.

    • holylandhipstermom says:

      One of the reasons why I blame myself for our kids food allergies is because I grew up in the States and my husband grew up in Israel. He recalls nibbling from the neighborhood trees during his walks home from school, and eating a diet that contained more fresh vegetables, olive oil, garlic, fresh fish, etc. I fight the urge to purelle my kids and believe me, my girls are eating a lot more sand and dirt than I ever did. Who knows? Maybe I should substitute our kugels and chulent for some Moroccan cuisine! Thanks, David, for your comment!

  2. Jen says:

    Shira:

    I could have written this post (and went through the same with elimination diets with my two youngest kids). More likely I would have written it 3 years ago when I was in a very similar place you describe, constantly asking “why why why?”

    I can’t say I have necessarily graduated from that place, and I can’t say that any of my progress in “accepting” my kids’ allergies has been intentional. Much of my acceptance comes from a) moving to Israel where access to alternative food choices is more difficult and b) having older children (my allergic boys are now 6 and 10.) As I’ve matured as a mother of allergic children , without having many more answer than I did when they were first diagnosed, I’ve found acceptance is the only way I can emotionally cope with the day-to-day. Whereas before “controlling” their situations was how I coped with the day-to-day. Also, I’m not having any more babies, and so naturally my thoughts move more from prevention (which is SO important) to hope for a cure. I think educating adult women of childbearing age on potential ways to prevent allergies might be useful…on the other hand, like you, I took physician-recommended steps so that my kids wouldn’t be allergic. And yet… here we are. Personally, as two women living in Israel, I think we could/should be tapping into the tech transfer and research orgs and find out what is being done to try to discover a cure…or at the very least, treatments. I have heard of some already.

  3. Andrea Purdon says:

    The allergies are explained in “Gut and Psychology Syndrome” by Dr. Natasha McBride MD. In a nut shell, mom’s gut flora is passed to baby in delivery and with breast feeding. If mom’s gut flora isn’t perfect, or baby is a C section, or bottle fed, baby may end up with unhealthy gut flora. Allergies are caused by leaky gut. Another culprit may be GMO foods that may injure gut flora. Allergies can be handled with Dr. McBrides Gaps diet and with Dr. Devi Nambudripads Allergy Elimination Technique (NAET) that I used successfully with my children and myself. Info on the web for certified NAET practitioners and GAPs. Good luck! (PS Canola is GMO..)

  4. Ruth DeUnger says:

    Great article. About 6 months ago, my 3 y/o’s sporatic bathroom issues became serious and luckily the first place I looked was what had changed in his diet. Turns out, what I was feeding my precious child was causing tears and screams hours later and I had no idea!!! I’m in the same boat with the whole ‘who to believe’ part! I was just saying that yesterday. My family has only recently abandoned the S.A.D. so we’re still learning. I feel like I read somewhere that ‘this product is great’ followed by someone else commenting ‘no, it’s not’! And both sides have scientific proof and research to back up their opinion. Should I feel my kids whole grains? Should we consume dairy? Is no fish better than imported fish? I just don’t know and it’s so overwhelming.

  5. Tough questions and not very good answers out there unfortunately. I think other than GMOs it is related to all the dead food we eat. 80% of our immune systems are in our guts. If our gut flora is unbalanced then our whole body goes haywire. GMOs could be part of that but I suspect it also has to do with the hygiene hypothesis (we are too clean) and that we don’t consume enough living foods with every meal. There are ways to heal and reverse food allergies by healing our gut lining. Elimination only addresses the symptoms not the cause. I would look into incorporating more broth and fermented foods like kefir, sauerkraut, etc. into their diets. And if you really want to fix it – look into a healing diet like GAPS or SCD. These things are tough but ultimately worth it in the end to heal our kiddos. Immunity issues are a lot broader in scope in the long term than just food allergies…unfortunately.

  6. Natasha says:

    Have you looked into primal/paleo lifestyle? My family and I did the switch almost a year ago and it is great minus the grass-fed free range and organic stuff bc it is too hard to find and expensive in Israel. It is a paradigm shift in nutrition but makes much more sense than conventional nutrition. check marksdailyapple.com

    • holylandhipstermom says:

      I’ve been looking into it for a while now and have considered switching. Where do you find coconut oil in Israel? Do you find it easy to follow? What about with kids?

  7. Kathrine says:

    Well, our family ceartainly has allergies, mommy and daddy included. :) We haven’t done much by way “what next,” simply because we have bigger, more pressing health concerns. I don’t envy your “who to believe” headache! Eventually I will wade into those waters for the benefit of the next generation. I’ll probably focus on what has the most scientific backing. Everyone and their dog has a theory, but which ones hold up under scrutiny? Your studying in this area is certainly commendable.

  8. Kim says:

    I have been doing research about nut allergies in Israel and your blog came up. I find it very interesting. We live in the U.S., but want to visit Israel next summer (2015). My daughter is allergic to peanuts and ALL tree nuts. I was wondering if things have improved about nut allergies since you originally posted this blog? We do not speak Hebrew. Do you think we can safely travel around Israel and find food for her? I realize you can’t give me any assurances, just wondering if people have become more understanding of the nut allergy and how serious it is?

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