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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Digesting it All

Jules here-

Though I have alluded to it before, I need to reiterate the reality of my diaper situation: my now-3-year-old-son has chronic diarrhea. It has been three years with only a handful of "normal" diapers to deal with-- imagine the amount of wipes I go through.  If I don't change his diaper within 5 minutes after he destroys it-- his poor Irish bottom because so irritated that I have to forcibly put him in the tub.
Still obsessed with golf..
Now that you are thoroughly grossed out, you may understand the desperation I feel in trying to pinpoint the allergen that terrorizes James's digestive system.  He has an elevated white blood cell count associated with allergens- but so far we can't find the food source. We know he's allergic to dust mites, dogs, cats, walnuts, and barley; he does not consume barley or walnuts on a daily basis. And I hope he's not eating too much dust. Because he's growing so well despite his problems, we have tried elimination diets rather than more invasive procedures.  Here's our journey summed up so far:
Mmm.... lactose free

Lactose Free:
Positives: Lactaid milk substitutes beautifully in cooking.  Cabot Cheddar is naturally lactose free!
Negatives: Expense! Lactaid milk is TWICE as much as regular milk.
Result: Initially an improvement, after 1 week he was back to his normal digestion.
No dairy products at all, including ice cream

Dairy Free:
Positives: Ummmm.... not many.  "Milk" is labeled clearly on most items.  They make dairy free chocolate chips at Trader Joes which is nice. Many people are milk-allergic/sensitive so there are plenty of items.
Negatives: Milk substitutes taste nothing like milk.  I enjoy a vanilla soy milk on my cereal- but drinking it plain- bleck.  The worst milk concoction I came up with was rice milk hot cocoa- it was inedible.  As for "soy cheese" my mom threw it out after tasting it saying, "No one should have to ever eat this. I need to eat something to get that taste out of my mouth."  
Results: Once again, initially (1 month) there was an improvement, but he slowly returned to his baseline status. We stayed dairy free for 8 weeks.
When one kid is dairy-free-- you have to sneak the other ones out for ice cream!
Egg Free:
Positives: Eggs aren't in that much pre-packaged thing. We had to make eggless pancakes (which tasted o.k.) and an eggless birthday cake which tasted pretty normal I think....
Negatives: The simple "breakfast for dinner" scrambled eggs dinner were out the window. Otherwise, this wasn't too hard.
Results: Nada. No change.
soy free rabbit food
Soy Free:
Positives: Labels are labeled "soy free." This was a more "all natural" diet and I would recommend it for anyone who wanted more "whole foods".
Negatives: Wow- soy is in EVERYTHING. Check anything that comes in a box or a bag- it probably has soy: Goldfish, crackers, cereal, breads, snacks, etc.... Soy Lechtin or Soybean oil, or simply Soy.  It made me really question our food supply if it so heavily processed- and I am someone who cooks mostly from scratch!
No bread at all- except for Bertucci trips... who could resist that?

Gluten Free: (Just started this trial 3 days ago)
Positives: Everything is REALLY well-labeled. This is a fad-diet so there are TONS of substitutes for normal food. Whole isles are dedicated to GF products.
Negatives: No bread or pasta. The GF bread runs about $6 for a small loaf, and it's not very good. We are sticking to rice cakes, corn tortillas, and simply no bread.
Results: Pending... we'll find out how is tummy is in a week or two....

Overall challenges and suggestions if you need to do an elimination diet:
1. Making sure my kid isn't hungry. Before each trial I go to pinterest and search recipes, substitutions, etc.  I have snacks/food handy so he can have something all of the time.
2. Have fun substitutes too. James was soy-free on Halloween, so I made sure I had extra starbursts and candy corn for him (he couldn't have any of the chocolate candy). I am blessed that he is SUCH a good sport about not being able to have certain food items (For example, we were at a restaurant that offered free ice cream for kids for dessert, but he was dairy free. I grabbed one of the after-dinner mints and said he could have that instead... he didn't even fuss!!!)
3. Be patient. Elimination diets take time, and it's hard to want to rush the results.  It can be exhausting cooking two breakfasts for your children so one can be allergy-free.
Normal waffles to the left, GF waffles to the right-- you needed A LOT of syrup to swallow them down....
4. Listen to a nutritionist. James's gastroenterologist has a full-time nutritionist to offer suggestions during elimination diets so the child does not miss out on key elements of his/her diets. I know a few parents who take his/her kid off of dairy, and don't even consider the loss of calcium, etc.
5.You are going to screw up. Seriously- you will not be able to be 100% at this-- I am very vigilant about James's nut allergy as he has an anaphylactic reaction-- but a food sensitivity is so subtle that it's hard to keep him from Pizza Hut when the crust might have soy....

 No matter what-- James has been a great sport about his elimination diets and he often asks, "Wait, am I dairy free still?" Or, "Can I have tootsie pop or does it have soy?" And surprisingly he reacts well when I tell him yes or no to each item.  Though he still is quite wary of milk (I tried 4 different varieties to get him to drink milk during the dairy free time) and he'll ask, "Is this Grace's milk? Or James's milk?" and he hesitates to drink it...

Easy Rule #87979- Don't ever complain about other children's annoying allergies, because God might want to teach you a lesson in empathy. I've learned my lesson all to well.

Easy Rule #3535- "Dairy-Free Cheese" does not exist. It's never a good idea.

And a HAPPY ONE YEAR BIRTHDAY to my adorable nephew CHARLIE!! (And happy birthday to his mom too-- she was blessed with a baby on her b-day last year!!):

Looking like a cabbage patch kid

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