Our Journey Through Food Allergies

by Heather Neal

*Warning: I will talk about poop in this post. I’ll keep it mild, but if it bothers you, go away. Come back later. For those that choose to forge on, I’ll pepper the post with cute baby pictures to distract you.*

I knew something was wrong when Kabes was only 6 weeks old. There wasn’t a thing we could do to assuage his screams. He cried until he was hoarse.

newborn baby boy

I felt like an idiot, but I called the doctor. .”Umm hi, my newborn won’t stop crying. “

The nurse didn’t laugh or point fingers. Or maybe she did, but at least she waited until I’d hung up the phone. The doctor didn’t laugh either. She looked at us sympathetically when we brought our frantic baby in to get checked out and agreed something was wrong. These weren’t normal newborn cries. The problem? She didn’t know.

baby boy and daddy

I’d already turned to my #1 source of parental guidance: Dr. Google. Oh, you know him? {I’ve said it a thousand times- I don’t know how people raised children before the existence of the internet.}

Long story short, I’d already determined he had silent reflux. The doctor agreed. She disagreed, however, on what I’d decided the cause was. Apparently dairy and/or soy are huge instigators of the nasty, nasty thing that is infant reflux. {It’s called MSPI.} But the doctor said it was unlikely, so I brushed off the idea.

blue eyed baby

Fast forward a few weeks {months?}. He’d calmed down a bit but it was still clear something was wrong. At this point I started trusting my parental instincts more and started fighting. I researched and researched and researched and decided the best way to treat his reflux and fought with doctors, nurses, pharmacies, and insurance companies until I was satisfied.

While I was finally content with the medication situation, I still wasn’t ok with the idea that he “just had” reflux. I truly felt it was stemming from something and I had to know what. The whole dairy/soy thing was still floating around in the depths of my sleep-deprived brain.

baby with infant reflux

I brought it up everywhere I went. To the lactation consult. The chiropractor. The pediatric gastroenterologist. While I had the support of the former, I was dismayed when the latter squashed my theory into the ground. I wasn’t pleased with her reasoning though: if I cut out dairy, I would lose too much weight and wouldn’t be able to breastfeed. {A valid point, but flawed reasoning.} We looked instead at lactase overload, overactive letdown and oversupply issues.

Finally it became very, very clear. Blood. In his diaper. Not miniscule specks that only a mom would notice because no one else would dare get that close to a stinky mess. But obvious. They’d always been green, slimy, and mucousy, but the blood was the last piece of evidence I needed to make my closing argument.

smiling despite food allergies

I took a picture on my phone and after profusely apologizing for what I was about to do, I showed it to the GI doc. She laughed, said it wasn’t the first time, and immediately agreed with my assessment. That was that. Allergic colitis.

He was allergic to something in his diet. Which meant my diet.

beach babe

I knew that. I’d cut out ALL dairy and soy weeks before that appointment and the blood had long since disappeared.

By all dairy and soy I meant every last thing that contains any derivative of milk or soy: whey, casein, butter, soybean oil, soy lecithin, natural flavors, vegetable oil, etc.

I’d attempted a total elimination diet the first time I suspected food intolerance to be the culprit, but it was too drastic of a reaction. I lasted about 2 weeks before I caved and gave up. I was too hungry and too busy soothing an unsoothable newborn to prep enough food. Because I’d read fats weren’t usually an issue, I didn’t worry about cutting out soybean oil.

breastfeeding with food allergies MSPI

So this time around I was more logical about the approach. I started with the biggest offenders, and figured I’d move down a list of foods if needed. His diapers cleared up after eliminating soy and dairy. At some point I’ll eat soybean oil to see if he reacts to that or just soy protein.

While his diapers looked better, he still wasn’t sleeping, so wheat and eggs were the next to go. That’s where we are now. If you’re keeping track, that’s: no dairy. no soy. no wheat. no eggs.

crawling 6 months

He’s still not sleeping. But he does seem to be feeling better. My gut instinct says he’s fine with wheat or eggs but I’m trying to be patient so we don’t have to repeat the process. I’m grateful my profession has given me so much knowledge about food. It’s comforting, empowering, and useful during a time that could be frustrating, foreign, and exacerbating. It’s still those last things sometimes, but mostly it’s been a lot better than I expected. I didn’t eat much dairy to start with besides the occasional Greek yogurt, fro yo or goat cheese. {Mmm goat cheese…} The soy is much harder. It’s made me very aware of how omnipresent soy is in our food supply. Downright scary. But besides that issue, I miss the quality source of protein soy provides. I’d love some edamame or tofu or tempeh right about now. Yeah, I just said that.

dealing with allergic colitis

So that’s where we are right now. I don’t really have an end to this post because we don’t have an end to our journey. We’re lucky that these seem to be GI reactions and not anaphylactic, which is a whole different ballgame. It’ll affect our family food choices for at least a while {most kids grow out of this} and it’ll affect our foray into solids slightly {more on that later}. But besides that, it’s really quite benign as far as infant issues can go.

starting solids with food allergies

Even though we’re only part way through this obstacle, I figured I’d share now because it’s simply astonishing how many people I’ve run into that can relate.

 

If you’ve dealt with anything similar feel free to link below so other people can read about your experience.

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

bex July 31, 2012 at 7:39 am

I nursed all three of my older children for more than 2 years each, so you can imagine how upsetting it was when this exact same thing happened to my fourth child and I had no idea what was going on. I worked with a PhD nutritionist who specializes in a raw diet during my pregnancy, so I instinctively just cut out anything unclean (which for me, includes dairy). It was slow progress, but was ultimately what worked. I wish no one associated milk or soy with proper nutrition. We just don’t need it and often – because most of it is so unclean (pesticides, GMO, hormones, etc), it’s doing us so much harm. Thank you so much for sharing… it’s a great lesson in taking control of your family’s and your own health.

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tinysneakers August 1, 2012 at 7:56 am

How frustrating to have things go so differently the 4th time around! I agree with wishing people didn’t feel milk or soy was necessary to be healthy- I can’t believe how many doctors told me he couldn’t have a milk allergy because my diet would suffer. Umm no, and no?!

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Brittany (Healthy Slice of Life) July 31, 2012 at 10:05 am

Great post, Heather! I feel so fortunate to not have experienced these issues with Hailey because I don’t have the extensive knowledge you have and I’m not sure what I would have done (besides come crying to you for help ;)). I’m sure this post will help others follow their maternal instincts!

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Katie @wishandwhimsy August 1, 2012 at 9:46 am

What a precious baby! While I’m not a mother, I can sense and tell that you have so much love for the little blessing in your life. Wishing you the best!

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Ann Dunaway Teh @ Nourish & Flourish August 1, 2012 at 10:49 am

Hi Heather! I’m also an RD doing Best Body Bootcamp and have been through the same thing with both of my children. My first wasn’t as bad – only dairy but my baby girl had issues with both dairy and soy. She is 7 months old now. I wish I had found you sooner to help you out! I know how difficult and frustrating it is! I wrote a 3 part series on MSPI on my blog, which you can find here: http://dunawaydietetics.com/mspi-a-nutrition-mystery-solved-part-i/ (links at the bottom to the other 2 posts). Also, all of my menu plans right now which I post weekly on my blog are dairy and soy free (though not wheat and egg free) but maybe that will help you or anyone else right now. Hang in there! It does get better!

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tinysneakers August 4, 2012 at 7:43 am

Oh I’m so excited to have found somebody else that’s been through this! {Although I’m sorry you’ve been through it!} You might regret telling me- now I’ll probably ask you a thousand questions. ;)

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Ann Dunaway Teh @ Nourish & Flourish August 4, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Feel free to ask away! I know how difficult and frustrating it can be!

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StoriesAndSweetPotatoes August 1, 2012 at 11:39 am

Wow, what a story! He’s the cutest thing ever, obviously worth it ;) Avoiding soy 100% is darn near impossible unless you are just eating meat veggies.

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Molly Ritterbeck August 1, 2012 at 3:35 pm

#1 you have the cutest baby alive (next to mine of course!)
#2 mom instincts are great – right?
#3 I applaud you for not giving up and doing what was right for you both

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tinysneakers August 4, 2012 at 7:43 am

Aww thanks!! :) And yes, mom instincts are awesome- especially once you learn to trust them!

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jane August 3, 2012 at 8:37 am

Hi Heather, what a journey! I’m having oversupply issues, too. I tried to access your link on the subject but the link doesn’t work. How did you end up fixing the issue? Thanks!

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tinysneakers August 4, 2012 at 7:50 am

Sorry you’re having issues too- it gets frustrating doesn’t it?! I was able to fix mine through blockfeeding- I’d feed him on one side for 2-3 feedings in a row and then switch to the other side. At first I’d have to pump a little bit on the side I wasn’t feeding on because it was uncomfortable, but eventually I could get away without pumping. I still only feed on one side at a time. A lactation consultant can be really helpful in figuring things out if you haven’t talked to one already!

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Shanna like Banana August 3, 2012 at 4:51 pm

First: oh my is he a cutie. Those eyes are piercingly beautiful!

Second: I’m so sorry you both had to go through all of that..well this, since it is ongoing. Hopefully it something that goes away soon? Is that possible? Bean seems to be okay with eating anything and everything. Go figure cuz I’m actually fairly sensitive and picky. Must take after his dad ;)

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tinysneakers August 4, 2012 at 7:45 am

Most kids tend to grow out of it by a year or two, which is awesome. I’ve heard of some getting over it even sooner. That’s awesome S is such a fabulous eater- K hasn’t turned down a food yet haha.

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Ashley fletcher August 30, 2012 at 10:16 pm

Thanks for posting this. I was just sent home from the pediatricians office today with orders to cut out all dairy and soy products in the hopes that it will help my 4 month old daughter’s BM issues. Definately going to be a struggle but I am determined to continue breastfeeding! I’d be interested to know how you get on with the introduction of solids after all of this. I was hoping to start at 5 months but I see that this might require a delay now that we’re trying a process of elimination… Did you actually cut out all foods that may contain milk ingredients? That’s what I’m having a hard time with. It seems like everything!!

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tinysneakers September 2, 2012 at 4:10 pm

So sorry to hear about your baby! It sounds daunting at first, but once you get the hang of some go-to “safe” foods, it’s really not all that bad. Especially if it helps your baby- such good motivation! ;)

I did eliminate EVERYTHING with dairy- anything with butter, whey, casein, etc. as well as all things soy, including soybean oil and soy lecithin. A little overwhelming at first but already second nature now. Even the husband is starting to catch on haha.

We started solids a bit after 6 months. I’d suggest cutting things out of your diet for at least a little while before starting solids just so you’re not dealing with too many factors all at once- that can make it hard to pinpoint. {But that’s just my opinion!} The only thing we’ve done differently than I might have otherwise is steer clear of the major allergens. So far we’ve only done fruits and vegetables. We wait a couple of days in between {even though it’s torture} introducing new foods so we can pin point any reactions.

Good luck and if you have any questions feel free to email me!

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Tracie Pauley February 23, 2013 at 5:23 pm

I have loved reading your blog- a friend just reccomended it to me. The posting above literally sounds like I could have written it. My experience almost to a “T”. But I gave up nursing at 5 months after a dairy free diet since my son was 2 weeks old. His GI specialist told me to give up soy would be so challenging I should consider putting him on elecare formula, which I did. Now that he is 10 months old trying foods like wheat and egg have been too confusing. His symptoms are much more subtle than the dairy which also caused blood in his stool. However, after eating and loving Cheerios for about another jos reflux suddenly got worse and he started vomiting, real vomiting. Could he have had a virus or the stomach flu? Or was it a reaction to the Cheerios? We stopped them one week ago and I found gluten free Cheerios. His waking 3, ,4 , even 5 times after putting him to bed from reflux pain has stopped. So confusing but I plan to not try egg, gluten, as well as dairy or soy for a while longer….

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