If you missed the first part of this series, please read it here.
Finally, I have some progress to report on our gut healing expedition. It really is more of an expedition than a journey because I have little idea where we are going with this… just keep exploring, reading, trying and trying some more.
It would be one thing if it were my gut that needed healing, that would be easy. But controlling everything a six-year-old puts in his mouth 24/7 is damn near impossible. And I am literally obsessing over what is wrong with him and how can I fix it. He was sick this entire past week, from Sunday until Thursday. Thankfully we avoided the usual vomit because we changed his diet up immediately when he began coughing Sunday. (We were in the vicinity of dogs on Saturday and Sunday, and he ate a little sour cream Friday night. Like maybe a 1/4 teaspoon worth.) I stuck to toast and as much vegetables and fruit as I could get him to eat. It was a full-out battle to get him to eat homemade jello, applesauce and broccoli I steamed for dinner. It is freaking exhausting.
Five days of coughing, nose blowing, near throwing up and fighting to get him to eat everything except for toast (I’m sure, however, that he would have maxed a bag of Cheetos given the chance) and I am at my wit’s end. Of course I
have been studying and researching what the heck we are going to do to correct how sensitive his body is to everything.
I called his allergy doctor to see if she would write an order for an IgG blood test so that we can determine my son’s food intolerances since it clearly goes beyond the “cashews, dogs and mold” that he tested allergic to with an IgE skin test. Her office had recently said that they can do the test. Now the nurse was telling me no. Thankfully the good doctor called me herself. She explained to me that IgG antibodies are released every time a foreign protein enters the bloodstream, and so every time a person eats, IgG antibodies are sent out. This makes the IgG test inaccurate because it is too difficult to tell which foods are causing sensitivity and which are not, since ALL foods cause the release of the antibodies. While I have read that these antibodies are cumulative, implying that the greater number of antibodies present would signify the intolerance, I must trust her explanation. My insurance would not cover the test anyway. The doctor strongly suggested we see a gastroenterologist and gave me a referral. She said that because my son is vomiting so frequently he probably has a condition called Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE) but the only way to know is to get an upper endoscopy.
Did I ever tell you how much I love invasive procedures that may not be necessary?
About two years ago I was concerned that my son may have had some residual problems from the Posterior Urethral Valves he was born with, because he was not 100% toilet trained. Just a little leakage going on, nothing big. So we go to a Urologist per the instruction of a pediatrician. The urologist immediately says that they have to do a urodynamics test to make sure everything is okay. Hold the phone lady, I swore off those tests back when he was two. They are incredibly invasive and traumatizing for children! But for some reason, I gave in and scheduled the test. I wanted to make sure he wasn’t leaking because there was a problem. WORST decision EVER! I was almost 40 weeks pregnant, they took us in a room with an x-ray machine so I had to stand behind a wall, they strap my four-year-old to a table, arms, legs, and head, catheterize him and rotate the board to get different pictures. Not only was my son crying in pain, he was scared because this machine he was tied down to was rotating him sideways. I was crying so much the nurses thought I was going to faint. The worst part is, the tests came back fine. The doctor told us he probably leaks because he rushes when he goes to the bathroom and doesn’t finish completely. The test was unnecessary!
That is why I avoid invasive procedures unless it is a life or death situation. So, while I haven’t decided if we will see the gastroenterologist, I am pretty damn sure we are not doing the endoscopy, which would require anesthesia.
EoE is a condition where repeated exposure to allergens causes chronic inflammation and so white blood cells line the esophagus to protect the body from the inflammation. The treatment for this condition is an elimination diet to see what foods are causing the problems. Since my son already needs to eliminate a bunch of unknown intolerances from his diet, why not just skip the endoscopy and do the elimination diet.
After five days of battling my son’s illness and also battling my son to eat, I went to the grocery store alone to get a little break. My mind was racing while I was picking out foods. Can he eat this? Will this make him sick? What the hell am I going to pack in his lunch for summer camp?! I walked by a mom and her son as she said, “Pick out your Lucky Charms” to her kid. I got so mad! I never feed my son crap like that, ever. If I did he would be even sicker! I try so hard but still, he gets worse. I try so hard most of the time, but not all of the time. How am I supposed to be perfect with a six year old’s diet?!
Today I almost cried because I am so frustrated with the thought of all of this. I am pretty sure he has EoE. Symptoms include difficulty swallowing , which would explain why fruit and other fibrous foods sit in his mouth unchewed for minutes and minutes until we force him to swallow it. It would also explain why his IgE skin allergy test showed reactions to everything, even the saline control poke. His immune system is hyper-reactive and needs a huge break from whatever allergens and intolerances he has before his body can relax. His body is most likely reacting to everything he eats because his digestive system is so chronically inflamed. The chronic inflammation prevents nutrient absorption which would explain why he is so small, why he sometimes has difficulty listening and processing information and why he always chews on his nails and other non-food items. As the allergist said, he has “failure to thrive.” My son is failing to thrive. If that is not motivation to undertake this impossible task of an elimination diet, I do not know what is.
After researching elimination diets, the GAPS diet and Autoimmune Paleo diets, I am wholly confused about what guidelines to follow. I know I will be eliminating the top 8 allergens, which are:
- Tree Nuts
- Fish/ Shellfish
Some diets say to eliminate nightshades, while others say no fruit what-so-ever. I am just going to start with the top eight to try to keep it as simple as possible. I will, however, also be eliminating processed sugar and commercial vegetable oils. This means pretty much zero processed foods. I have set a goal of three weeks before reintroducing foods one at a time to see if they cause a reaction. I am also going to add the following supplements to his daily regimen:
- Cod liver oil – an Omega-3 fat which is great for reducing inflammation.
- L-Glutamine – an amino acid which helps the cells in the lining of the digestive tract regenerate.
- Primadophilis Kids – a probiotic blend which includes the strain Lactobacillus rhamnosus, which has been proven to be beneficial to those with food allergies and behavioral problems.
- Lots of gelatin and bone broths to help the gut heal.
I know this is going to be hard. I am trying to mentally prepare myself for battle the best I can. This morning my son asked for toast and I told him that we were taking a break from toast for a few days. He had a tantrum. Thankfully I was prepared with banana and blueberry “ice cream” for breakfast. I’m not sure how long that is going to work but at least it got me through another meal. This time we are going to stick with it, we HAVE to for his sake!
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Some of the articles I read in my research of these issues: