Healing the Gut Part 3 – Allergy Tests and My Weakness Exposed

What to do when doing an elimination diet for allergies with a child.

A lot has happened this month on the allergy front!  We finally decided to take our six year old for the blood work his allergy doctor ordered a few months ago.  I was holding off because I was afraid.  There was a time in the past where a tech could not find his vein and was jabbing a needle inside his arm trying to catch one… I guess they call this fishing.  Anyone who’s job it is to poke a needle into a vein should at least be good enough to actually find the vein.  It’s their job, after all.

So anyway, the day before the 4th of July we went for the blood draw.  It actually went really well and he barely cried, RELIEF!  We were still following the elimination diet, removing the top allergenic foods such as egg whites, gluten, soy, dairy and nuts.  The doctor called about a week later letting me know that in addition to testing allergic to dogs, cashews and mold, he is also allergic to gluten and soy.  We should make sure to always have an EpiPen on hand.

Do you know what happens when you send an EpiPen to Day Camp with your son who thinks he knows better than you when you say not to play with it?

EpiPen safety is taught to our kids, I just wish mine would LISTEN!

The answer is he stabs himself in the hand with it.  Thank god he wasn’t applying much pressure when the needle popped out.  He was barely poked, but definitely scared.  One day, I tell myself…  One day he will listen to me when I talk.

Sometimes I think my sarcasm is the only thing that keeps me sane.

How the elimination diet is going…

We were doing pretty good at avoiding the allergenic foods and cooking at home.  I noticed that eating out in restaurants would impact him negatively – his immediate symptoms are grogginess, inability to listen and communicate, tired and glassy eyes, throat swelling and asthma.  The more we eat out, the more I see these symptoms.

To any person who cooks at home every day, I salute you.  We do not have a dishwasher and cooking and cleaning up three meals a day (sometimes six meals because everyone eats something different)  is so time consuming and exhausting.  If I wasn’t a stay-at-home mom I would have to hire a chef or a maid.  Or Mary Poppins.

For lunches, I have been sending him the same foods I discussed here.  We are sticking to gluten free treats, which cost an arm and a leg but are worth it when my son is bright eyed and communicating throughout the day.  He attends summer camp through the City Park District, which offers a “healthy” lunch three times a week.  Here is what this lunch consists of:  GMO white bread sandwiches with non-organic lunch meat and cheese, a piece of non-organic fruit which few of the kids actually eat and sometimes a salad.  (Because kids eat salad.)  My son eats the lunch I pack before lunchtime and then eats the GMO white bread sandwich, throwing away the free fruit and salad.  Elimination diet fail.  The good part, however, is that even though there are some slip-ups, we are seeing improvements in behavior and overall appearance which suggest his body is doing better than he was before.  In pictures from the recent past, his eyes were droopy, dull and sunken in, but now they are clearer and he looks happy and healthy.  Again, RELIEF.

It is my plan to go strict elimination diet in August when I have full control over his diet.  The important thing in healing the gut is to completely avoid foods which irritate the body, otherwise healing will not take place.  Every time my son eats something he is not supposed to, we are back at square one.  While I am seeing minor improvements which I am super thankful for, true healing of his gut will not take place unless we can completely stick to his diet.

Why am I so terrible at sticking to an elimination diet?

That is the question I keep asking myself.  I talk about what we need to do, I write about what we need to do.  I even start to do what we need to do.  Then the resistance starts.  My son complains.  He won’t feed himself.  I have to hand feed two kids while cooking and cleaning up and doing dishes non-stop.  My son wants a treat.  We are out of gluten free snacks.  There is pizza day at camp.  Wait, it’s ice cream AND pizza day.  I just cooked lunch and cleaned everything up, now its already time to start dinner!?  What the heck an I going to make tonight?!?  AHHH.  Ok, so I think its pretty obvious why sometimes I just say whatever, just this time we will steer off the path.  The problem is those times add up!

On Saturday it was my son’s trophy picnic for completing the t-ball season.  On the way there, my husband needed to stop for a coffee.  (The fireman schedule is not conducive to early mornings.)  Of course, son wants a doughnut, so Dad gives him a little doughnut hole; like the little part stamped out from the center of the big doughnut.  No big deal, I guess.  Then we get to the park.  He gets a free lunch of a crappy hot dog on a crappy bun with some chips.  I’m not liking this, but how can I rip the hot dog out of his hand without being evil?  I ripped off most of the bread but he still got a big dose of preservatives, gluten and who-knows-what else.

Later, we stop by family to hang out for a little.  He eats fancy crackers that look like they are whole grain and I hoped not too bad (from an allergy perspective).  On the way home he starts coughing and trying to clear his throat, so I know his throat is swelling and he is having a reaction.  I felt so guilty for not protecting him because I was too tired to fight him, and now he was suffering and it really was my fault.

I am so terrible at sticking to his diet because I get weak.  I get tired from all the battle and I just give in.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how tired I am.  My son’s health and well being is my responsibility, whether he likes it or not!

Thankfully I put my own whining behind me and decided to work out a solution.  If I can be prepared at all times, then my son will still feel included and I won’t have to be the “bad guy.”  We ordered some coconut flour to make some treats at home, and I found some “healthy” (only meaning not full of corn syrup) fruit snacks at Target, check them out here.  We are still buying these gluten free cookies made by Annie’s which my kids love.  I am going to use his old kindergarten lunch box as a carrying case and take it with us when we go to visit friends or out to events.  The preparation will take a lot of time and most likely border exhausting, but nothing is more exhausting than the whining and fighting if I don’t prepare.

The bottom line is that we are taking on this battle to improve my son’s quality of life.  He has been sick pretty much his whole life and I want to give him a chance at feeling better, while I still have a little control over what he is eating.  With preparation, I can avoid a lot of the resistance and keep us all on track.  A happy healthy boy is my reward and that is the best gift any mother could hope for!

Is your child on an elimination diet?  Please share your tips or tricks in the comments below.  I need them!  😉

Migraines: Could Histamine Intolerance be the cause?

Can foods be triggering your migraines?  See if histamine intolerance is the culprit!

Migraines and parenting – the worst combination ever.  Migraine headaches can be debilitating due to the intense and throbbing pain; coupled with vision loss and possibly nausea and vomiting.  Unfortunately being a parent doesn’t stop just because Mommy needs to lie down.  I began getting migraines after the birth of my first son and have been searching for the cause the last six years in hopes of avoiding them completely.

According to the Migraine Research Foundation, approximately 18% of American women and 6% of American men suffer from migraines.  After consulting several medical doctors regarding my migraines, I can safely say that a majority of doctors are unsure what exactly triggers them.  I assume this is because the triggers vary greatly from person to person.  There are, however, several prescription drugs they can prescribe.  (No thanks doc, I will pass on a potentially harmful treatment without even identifying the cause!)  What your medical doctor probably does not know about is a condition called “histamine intolerance” which has been found to cause not only migraines, but can also cause skin irritation, anxiety, nasal congestion and acid reflux, to name just a few.  I read about histamine intolerance a few months ago and have slowly been linking my migraine triggers to symptoms of histamine intolerance.

What is histamine?

Histamine is a chemical produced by the body and found in food.  It is a neurotransmitter, which sends communications throughout the body; and is used in proper digestion, the immune system and the brain.  You may have heard of anti-histamine medications which are used to treat the uncomfortable symptoms of food and seasonal allergies caused by the body’s release of histamine – think itchy, watery, sneezing, runny nose mess.  According to Functional Medicine Practitioner Amy Myers, M.D.:

Histamine causes your blood vessels to swell, or dilate, so that your white blood cells can quickly find and attack the infection or problem. The histamine buildup is what gives you a headache and leaves you feeling flushed, itchy and miserable. This is part of the body’s natural immune response, but if you don’t break down histamine properly, you could develop what we call histamine intolerance.

Conditions such as allergies, leaky gut, bacterial overgrowth in the intestines, fermented food and alcohol, enzyme deficiency and histamine rich foods can all cause an increase in histamine levels.

When the body cannot properly break down the histamine in the bloodstream, it accumulates and eventually sets off symptoms which are easily confused with allergies.  According to Dr. Janice Joneja, symptoms of histamine intolerance include:

  • Itching of the skin, eyes, ears, and nose
  • Hives
  • Tissue swelling, especially of face, mouth and sometimes throat
  • Hypotension (drop in blood pressure)
  • Increase in pulse, heart “racing”
  • Symptoms resembling an anxiety or panic attack
  • Chest pain
  • Nasal congestion and runny nose
  • Conjunctivitis (irritated, watery, reddened eyes)
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue, confusion, irritability
  • Very occasionally loss of consciousness usually lasting for only one or two seconds
  • Digestive tract upset, especially heartburn, “indigestion”, and reflux

Food Sources of Histamine.

As mentioned above, the body produces it’s own histamine, but histamine is also present in foods.  There are three categories of foods which can impact histamine levels in the body: foods which are naturally high in histamine, foods which cause the body to release histamine, and foods which block the intestinal enzyme diamine oxidase (DAO) which is needed to break down histamine.

The following is an excerpt from a great article on histamine intolerance by Dr. Amy Myer, read her article here.

Histamine-Rich Foods:

  • Fermented alcoholic beverages, especially wine, champagne and beer
  • Fermented foods: sauerkraut, vinegar, soy sauce, kefir, yogurt, kombucha, etc
  • Vinegar-containing foods: pickles, mayonnaise, olives
  • Cured meats: bacon, salami, pepperoni, luncheon meats and hot dogs
  • Soured foods: sour cream, sour milk, buttermilk, soured bread, etc
  • Dried fruit: apricots, prunes, dates, figs, raisins
  • Most citrus fruits
  • Aged cheese including goat cheese
  • Nuts: walnuts, cashews, and peanuts
  • Vegetables: avocados, eggplant, spinach, and tomatoes
  • Smoked fish and certain species of fish: mackerel, mahi-mahi, tuna, anchovies, sardines

Histamine-Releasing Foods:

  • Alcohol
  • Bananas
  • Chocolate
  • Cow’s Milk
  • Nuts
  • Papaya
  • Pineapple
  • Shellfish
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Wheat Germ
  • Many artificial preservatives and dyes

DAO-Blocking Foods:

  • Alcohol
  • Energy drinks
  • Black tea
  • Mate tea
  • Green tea

Is anyone else thankful that coffee is not on the list!?

Good digestion is required to properly break down histamine.

Everything always comes back to a healthy gut!

There are two enzyme systems which break down histamine; histamine N-methyl transferase (HMT) which is found in the central nervous system and the enzyme diamine oxidase (DAO) which is found in the digestive system. Deficiency in the DAO enzyme is found to be the most common cause of histamine intolerance.  (Source.)  This can be due to gut damage caused by gluten intolerance, bad bacteria overgrowth in the intestines, leaky gut, use of prescription drugs, DAO blocking drinks listed above and genetic factors.  Leaky gut appears to be the main cause of histamine intolerance and therefore healing the gut is necessary to treat histamine intolerance.  (Source)  A supplemental enzyme DAO is available for use, but should be used under the guidance of a health practitioner.  I have read that taking enzyme supplements will further decrease the amount of enzymes the body will produce on its own, which seems counter productive.  Definitely seek a professional before starting up enzyme supplementation!

According to Dr. Amy Myers, an elimination diet is the best treatment for histamine intolerance.  It is recommended to remove all foods on the list above for one to three months and reintroduce one at a time, tracking any symptoms to determine if those foods are problematic for you.  She has written an ebook to guide through the process of an elimination diet, which can be found here.

I have definitely found my triggers by doing an elimination diet.  No one is perfect, however, and I still slip up from time to time.  In fact, the other day I started getting an ocular migraine in the car.  I started seeing the flashing lights in the center of my field of vision.  All I had with me was my Lavender Essential Oil, so I used it.  I applied a few drops to my temples and the base of my neck while inhaling the aroma from the bottle.  After a few minutes, MY VISION CLEARED.  WHAT!?  This has never happened before, EVER.  I was shocked.

Lavender oil - natural antihistamine for migraine relief!

Studies such as this have shown Lavender oil to be effective at treating headaches when inhaled.  Lavender oil is also effective as an antihistamine, which I can attest to.  Swiping a drop on the inside of my mouth when I am experiencing seasonal allergies quells my symptoms almost immediately.  Next time you are having a migraine, give it a try!

Are you interested in buying pure essential oils?  Click here to find out more.

Have you found any interesting migraine treatments?  Let us know in the comments below!

*If you like what you have read, please be sure to subscribe for email updates in the side bar.  Thank you!

Sources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22517298?dopt=Abstract

http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/85/5/1185.full

http://www.foodsmatter.com/allergy_intolerance/histamine/articles/histamine_joneja.html

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24433203 – Histamine in Migraine and Brain

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-11175/everything-you-need-to-know-about-histamine-intolerance.html

http://chriskresser.com/headaches-hives-and-heartburn-could-histamine-be-the-cause

http://beyondmeds.com/2013/02/18/more-histamine/

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Disclaimer:  The content on the blog Mommy Lives Clean is for informational purposes only, and is not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. I am not a medical professional and the information contained on this blog should not be used to diagnose, treat or prevent any disease or illness. Please consult with a health care professional before acting on any information given herein.  Please never disregard medical advice or wait in seeking it because of something you have read in this blog.

Gut Healing Journey – Elimination Diet Week 1 – Derailed!

We made it through the first week of attempting an elimination diet with my 6-year-old.  After a week of wracking my brain for food ideas, fighting with my son and feeding him fruit while he was distracted watching Power Rangers, I have definitely noticed an improvement in my son’s mood and listening skills.  He has been more pleasant to be around, with less whining and tantrums.  He even has developed a sense of humor unlike before, cracking jokes and using goofy sayings that he never has in the past.

I shouldn’t really call what we are doing an elimination diet.  My son is at summer camp during the day, where they serve a free lunch three days a week along with snacks.  I picked him up last Tuesday and he was eating a Ritz cracker.  That’s pretty much everything we are trying to avoid baked up into one buttery crunchy snack.  At his point, perfection is pretty much impossible.  I tried to pack him lunches which were fairly clean: sliced cucumbers or celery, bison burger with no bun, Happy Squeeze fruit and veggie pouches... most of this came back uneaten.  One day he was physically sick because he had not eaten all day.  As the week progressed I started including sandwiches made with one slice of Ezekiel bread or a gluten-free waffle, blue corn tortilla chips and gluten-free cookies.  The main reason I gave him foods which are not part of the diet was to make sure he eats something, however this is his first experience at summer camp and I want him to have amazing memories.  The other kids at camp are eating Lunchables, cookies and goldfish crackers.  While I won’t give in that far, I was willing to offer gluten-free options so we both felt happy at the end of the day.

The real difference has been at breakfast and dinner.  We have stuck to meat, veggies and fruits while he is at home and we can watch help him eat.  He still seems to be having problems swallowing dense or fibrous foods like meat or fruit, so I have to sit with him and ask him to chew still.  It can be frustrating, but the results I have seen are so motivating.

Here are some ideas on clean meals that my kids have enjoyed:

Breakfast

  • Tea with gelatin stirred in.  Every morning with breakfast my son enjoyed Egyptian Licorice Tea with a little grass-fed gelatin and raw honey stirred in.  He loves it!
  • Fruit!  Fruit is in season right now so we are enjoying everything from watermelon to peaches to berries.  I make sure to give each of my kids a large serving of fruit while I cook up something denser with protein.
  • Nitrate free sausage.  Ideally, I would get sausage from a local farm.  I used a delivery service called Irv & Shelley’s Fresh Picks, which only delivers in my area.  Farmer’s Markets often carry meat products from local farms but they can be pricey and hard to come by.  We also purchase the brand below from our local grocery store, which does not give me migraines like most processed meat.  To me, that says it’s not too bad although it is super processed.  Sausage is a great way to get some protein in my boys at breakfast, so the brand below is better than nothing.

018410_sausage

 

  • Leftover Breakfast Cakes.  I’ll admit that is the worst recipe name ever, but these are delicious and another great way to sneak some protein and veggies in at breakfast.  This morning I used a bit of leftover salmon and three egg yolks.  (I threw the whites away because my youngest is allergic and egg whites are definitely banned as part of our elimination diet.)  Season with a little salt and pepper, then cook up like a pancake.  They come out pretty well and taste delicious.  You can use left over steamed veggies or even diced up spinach or onions.  It will come out looking more like a mini omelette but tasty and nutritious nonetheless.
leftover breakfast cakes

Salmon and egg yolk… that’s it! A nutrition powerhouse for breakfast.

Lunch

  • I try to provide a protein, a fruit and a veggie in each meal along with a treat of some form.  Here are some photos of what I sent for lunch:
Ezekiel  toast, homemade popcorn, cucumber slices and Mary's Gone Crackers with nitrate-free Applegate pepperoni slices.

Ezekiel toast, homemade popcorn, cucumber slices and Mary’s Gone Crackers with nitrate-free Applegate pepperoni slices.

 

Homemade Kombucha jello, cucumber and celery slices, pepperoni and crackers (same as above) and an organic applesauce squeeze.

Homemade Kombucha jello, cucumber and celery slices, pepperoni and crackers (same as above) and an organic applesauce squeeze.  Don’t mind the lovely artistry on the napkin.

Again, he did not eat the fruit or the vegetables unless they were in pouch form, so those have been a life saver.  The jello and pepperoni he ate as long as I included an ice pack in his lunch to keep them fresh.  He will eat crackers and bread any day… of course the thing I am trying to eliminate he loves the most.  I started throwing in these or these cookies as well.

Dinner

  • Bison burgers.  I made my own recipe and did not use egg so it was safe for all.
  • Crock pot whole chicken.  See my recipe here.
  • Soup!  I made my son drink soup or broth every night.  I would put about a cup into a coffee mug and he drank it like tea.  (He likes it that way.)  I used the broth left over from the chicken.  Check out my recipe for delicious green soup here.
  • Burrito bowls.  I sautéed the leftover chicken from the crock pot with some onions, cooked up some white basmati rice, added some cilantro, fresh tomato and avocado.  With the right spices it was really good!  Read about why certain types of unprocessed white rice are a better choice than brown here.
  • Salmon.  I was hesitant to serve my kids salmon for a really long time, but recent studies are coming out showing the natural selenium in salmon aids in mercury detoxification to the point eating salmon once a week is definitely more beneficial than not.  Read this article by Chris Kresser to know more.
  • Veggies from our garden.  So far we have gotten wonderful green beans, tiny little onions and fresh basil.  I just threw the onion seeds in a large pot, so I am having to thin them out as they grow.  It’s really nice having the freshest organic produce ever to eat at home.  If only we didn’t have sub-zero winters here!

Dessert & Snacks

  • Nectarine ‘Yogurt.”  Get my recipe here.
  • Homemade Jello.  Get my recipe here.
  • Banana Ice Cream.  The best version is just frozen bananas and a little almond butter.  We added frozen strawberries last night… oh my GOD.  You can also check out a super healthy ice cream recipe here.

strawberry ice cream

I have spent a lot of thought and effort into food preparation this past week and I really feel it paid off.  My son seems to be feeling better already.  We did not eat out at all and I really focused on providing gluten, dairy, egg white and nut-free options for him.  We are still avoiding as much as we can, but if he eats a cracker or two at summer camp it is not the end of the world.  Life is about having fun, after all!  We will see if anything changes with Week 2, as we approach the 4th of July holiday!