Monday, 23 July 2012

Food allergies: What happened when I gave butter to my milk allergic daughter...

food allergy advice
Feeding croissants to a child with a milk allergy

Hands up if you've fed your child something to which you KNOW they are allergic?

Me.  I have.

Why?  Because since she was diagnosed with multiple food allergies* I've been getting conflicting advice. 

She's allergic to milk?  Feed her butter!

The day she did her first food challenge in hospital in France - aged 18 months - the doctor handed me an Epipen and told me to go home and feed her 10g of butter a week.

Pardon?  I've just watched my toddler break out in hives, cry, have diarrhoea all day and scratch herself all over.  And you want me to carry on feeding her milk?

I trawled the internet for hours trying to find evidence that this was a good idea (it was 2007) and I came across a few medical papers in the States that gave it a cautious thumbs controlled tests in a hospital.

So I didn't feed my daughter the butter.

And yet, and yet...

Magic allergy cure or DIY immunotherapy?

Everyone told me that she'd grow out of her allergies.  Would that just happen by magic?  Or did I need to do some DIY immunotherapy?

I've done the odd test and some have been exciting.  On my birthday in April my daughter tried a teeny bit of goat's cheese.  Then some more, then some more and I actually cried with happiness.

The next day we tried again and after a teeny bit she instantly started to wheeze.  No more goat's cheese then.

Child eats egg and is fine.  Child eats egg and has allergic reaction.

She can eat some biscuits that contain milk and she can eat the occasional biscuit that contains egg.  

But the day I baked an egg yolk in a cake was the day she broke out in a rash, felt faint and her lip started to swell.

There seems to be absolutely no rhyme or reason to allergies. 

Go on, have a croissant!

And now it's the summer and we are in France for six weeks.  And when in France you drink fiendishly strong black coffee and dunk your buttery croissant with glee. 

So I gave my daughter a croissant (I figured the coffee might kill her).

She ate the whole damn buttery thing, including the egg glaze.  No reaction.

And the next day she ate another one.  And today she's had another.

Bloody marvellous, no?

Butter today, not butter tomorrow

But yesterday she nibbled a shortbread biscuit - full of butter, like the croissant - and instantly got an itchy tongue, lips and face.

I definitely don't understand.  But I'm thrilled that she can eat a croissant.

Russian Roulette, allergy style

I can't tell you what to do and maybe you're apoplectic at my cavalier allergy attitude?  But if you could see the joy on my daughter's face as she chows down on a croissant, just like her siblings...

It's food for thought, no?  I'd love to hear your reactions, don't hold back!

*My daughter was diagnosed - aged 9 months(ish) - with a milk (casein) allergy, egg allergy and Brazil nut allergy.  She is also allergic to mustard, kiwi fruit, dust mites and horses.  She is now nearly 7 years old.

Image courtesy: FreeDigitalPhotos

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Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Winning the fight against food allergies

food allergy recipes
Trashy, sickly, beautiful
I'm reading a VERY interesting book about habit loops and willpower.  'The Power of Habit' by Charles Duhigg.  You should buy it, it's fascinating.  

In one part - oh and please don't be thinking that this is a proper book review - an experiment is described about testing willpower.

It's radishes for you
All participants are put in a room with a plate of fresh chocolate chip cookies and a bowl of radishes.  One half of the participants is told they may not eat the radishes and they can only eat the cookies.  

The other half?  Only radishes for you and don't you dare touch the cookies.

For 30 minutes, there was pleasure in one room and pain in the other.

Then - and this was the real point - the participants were asked to perform a seemingly simple test.  Draw around a diagram without lifting the pen off the page.  Actually it was impossible to do it.

But the group that had just stuffed their faces with cookies and were happy, warm and fuzzy, had a damned good go at it.  Again and again they tried, until they were told to stop.

The grumpy radish eaters?  They were NOT happy.  Grumbling, whining, can't be bothered with this, why did I volunteer for this anyway?  You get the picture.

Newsflash: Your willpower gets weary
Conclusion?  Willpower is exhaustible.  

The group that hadn't been using their willpower - the cookie lot - were more than happy to have a go at a difficult thing.  Course they were, they were all chilled, full of cookies and feeling fine.

Radish eaters?  They'd just lived through agony resisting the cookies and they definitely didn't have any willpower left in the tank.

I like this experiment a lot.  It vindicates my marshmallow willpower. 

I spend SO MUCH TIME being strong about stuff (umm, getting four kids to school, not shouting too much, baking) that it is perfectly understandable that at some hurdles, I stumble, trip and eat Betty Crocker frosting straight from the tub.

Betty Crocker's Vanilla Icing from a tub. Oh yeah
Ha! You see where I was going all along?  This stuff is amazing people!  And I mean amazing in a food allergies context, not in a nutritional context.  It is free from all the nasties (it does have a 'may contain milk' disclaimer) and it can be kept in the fridge.  Yes, it contains industrial amounts of toxic sugary stuff, but this week I really don't care. 

So when the school does a cake sale and you remember at 8am that you were supposed to make cake for your child with allergies so she doesn't feel left out...just grab some Betty Crocker magic, smear it on a biscuit, add sprinkles and Bob is definitely your uncle.

We are winning the war on allergies friends!  One trashy, beautiful product at a time.  

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