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!
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.