Categories for

April 16, 2019 2:15 pm

Allergies

A couple of months ago, Thora had an eczema flare-up that I felt like I couldn’t get rid of. Most of her flare-ups make her legs patchy and red for a few weeks and then it goes away. This one wasn’t going away, so we took her to her doctor and got some recommendations, but I also brought up possibly doing allergy testing.

She had a bad reaction to a kiwi last fall (vomiting, red mouth/chin, a hive next to her mouth) that we treated at home with Benadryl, but it did freak me out because she’d had kiwis before with no visible ill effects. Given the kiwi incident and the current eczema problem, I asked if it would make sense to do the allergy test. Her doctor agreed, and we made an appointment for a blood draw.

IgE Test

Thora handled the blood draw like a champ – I don’t even think she blinked when the needle went in. A few days later, I went to meet with her doctor to get the results.

They were devastating.

The test was an Immunoglobulin E (IgE) test that looks at 22 common foods, and she showed reactions to over half of them:

Allergy panel results showing multiple food allergies

Clam, Corn, Garlic, Pea, Mustard, Orange, Peanut, Potato, Rice, Shrimp, Tomato, Walnut, Wheat, and Soy

Additionally, her IgE number, which according to the paper should be between 0 and 60? It was 1131.

Her doctor (Dr. M) was incredibly sympathetic and advised us to eliminate the foods she showed responses to from her diet and to feed her the “safe” items on the list. That said, she acknowledged it was incredibly restrictive and difficult and said that while she could counsel us on what to feed Thora, she would have to Google it first. I asked for referrals for people who would know, and we agreed on sending us to a local allergy clinic and a nutritionist.

Dr. M let me know that the lab still had a bit of Thora’s blood left on which we could run additional tests. We agreed to test for coconuts and almonds because if she can’t have wheat, potato, or rice, those are the alternative flours she could potentially have. Plus, she drinks almond milk nearly every day since we already avoid dairy for her.

(Weirdly, her IgE test showed she was not allergic to dairy, so it’s definitely a sensitivity versus a true allergy.)

Dr. M’s office called me back later that day to tell me she tested positive to coconuts and almonds as well. By that point I had used up all my devastation and panic and I limply agreed to avoid those as well and hung up.

Allergy Clinic

It took two weeks to get in to the allergy clinic, during which we fed Thora an incredibly limited diet of meats, vegetables, and fruits, and cooked everything from scratch. We had a really hard time finding any prepared foods that would be safe for her given the sheer number of foods to avoid.

I wasn’t sure what the visit to the allergy clinic would entail, and the doctor we got was… not my favorite.

She seemed unclear why we were even there, and kept interrupting and talking over me when I tried to explain. She was incredibly dismissive about our concerns, declared Thora’s eczema as “not that bad” without doing an examination on her or even looking at her legs which are always the worst, vehemently disagreed with our decision to meet with a nutritionist (“No, no, no. That’s… Ugh. You don’t need that.”) and dropped her arms down and her head back in annoyance when we mentioned the phrase “gut health” within the context of Thora’s high IgE number. She also seemed to not believe that Thora could have a sensitivity to dairy even though she didn’t test as allergic and sternly told us that strictly avoiding foods was how you make allergies worse. It really felt like she thought we were enormous idiots for eliminating the foods she tested positive to on the IgE test.

The allergist also had zero concerns about Thora’s high IgE number and told us we could give her some Zyrtec if she’s itchy but otherwise feed her whatever we want.

However, she did agree to do the skin prick test to confirm/deny her allergies to many of the foods on the initial list, plus dust mites, cats, and dogs.

Thora showed as allergic to LITERALLY ZERO of the items.

Skin prick test showing no allergies
Not allergic to corn, egg whites, egg yolks, milk, peanuts, soy, tomato, wheat, almond, hazelnuts, walnuts, potatoes, or bananas according to the skin prick test.

It’s hard to describe how completely bewildering this was. It seemed to validate the allergy clinic doctor’s (perceived) opinion that we were bananas for even showing up there, and completely invalidated Dr. M’s advice to avoid those foods.

The allergist’s parting words were basically “forget the blood test, feed her all the foods.” The only thing she did seem concerned about was Thora’s reaction to the kiwi last fall, and she wanted to bring us back in at the end of summer to do a skin prick test for kiwis in addition to an Oral Food Challenge where they feed the kid the food they’re supposedly allergic to and see what happens. That way, we know for sure that she’s allergic before she starts school and we can make sure she has an EpiPen in case she needs it.

We left that appointment even more confused than when we went in. I was obviously incredibly relieved that she didn’t seem to have a skin reaction to any of the foods the blood test said she was “allergic” to, but… why the disparity? Is she allergic or is she not?

Nutritionist

Meeting with the nutritionist was so helpful. She laid out the science behind the different kinds of allergy tests and the antibodies the tests are looking for. She also described the concept of “leaky gut” and how that can relate to allergies and Thora’s high IgE number.

Her take was that the IgE test results are (more or less) a symptom of a larger gut health problem for Thora. If her guts were healthy and not-leaky, those IgE antibodies wouldn’t be able to enter her bloodstream to create that high number. Because her guts and intestinal flora have been damaged somehow (possibly through antibiotic use?), they’re spilling this stuff into her bloodstream which is causing the eczema and the alarming IgE test. This also helps explain why her skin prick test showed negative to all these items – she has antibodies for them in her bloodstream, but they haven’t risen to the level that they cause an obvious histamine reaction on her skin.

We made a plan that includes gut-friendly foods like bone broth, good meats, and organic fruits and vegetables, and does not include GMOs, corn, dairy, or wheat. It feels hard but do-able, unlike her initial elimination diet! We are also adding in probiotics, vitamins A, D, E, and K, and I think some digestive enzymes though we haven’t received those yet. She said we should see results within about a month – kids’ tissues heal quickly so she’d be surprised if it took longer than that.

I felt so much better after meeting with the nutritionist! I am still somewhat irritated that Thora’s doctor treated the IgE test like it was gospel without explaining more of the science behind it.

For instance, there was no indication to me that those test results could change in the future OR that simply because she has antibodies, it doesn’t mean we have to, like, clear the house of those things. I was already envisioning changing Thora’s shampoo and conditioner and our bathroom cleaner because they’re formulated with coconuts, and not letting her play with Play-Doh because it contains wheat. Those things are still fine for her, but that was definitely not clear to me from that initial meeting.

It also helped explain several things, like why she had never had an ear infection until about the last 18 months, and why she got a UTI right before her fourth birthday, and why she always seems to have a cold. Her body’s immune system is so preoccupied with this leaky gut issue and creating antibodies that it probably doesn’t have anything left to fight off basic infections.

I am also incredibly irritated at the allergist and her dismissive attitude. Even if she felt we didn’t need to be there, EXPLAIN WHY and don’t make us feel stupid for being worried about an alarming test result and trying our best to help our daughter.

We are still in the thick of things and haven’t started the enzymes or the probiotics yet (they have yet to arrive in the mail!) but I’m glad we have a plan going forward! Here’s hoping it helps her eczema and her overall health.

Comments Off on Allergies

November 28, 2013 9:55 pm

Thanksgiving 2013

This year, we only had one Thanksgiving to attend! It was a nice change. Daniel and I volunteered to bring pumpkin pies and then Daniel got a wild idea and decided to also attempt sweet potato pies. So we made four pies, which was about two and a half pies too many for the number of people attending.

Wesley really liked my grandma’s sweet potatoes, probably because they had a bunch of marshmallows on top. He claimed he didn’t like the turkey but I am pretty sure he didn’t actually try it.

We let Wesley skip his nap, and he did so well that I couldn’t figure out at first why he had fallen asleep on the drive home at like 7pm. Usually it’s pretty obvious through his behavior that he’s missed a nap!

Right as we were leaving, we discovered that my brother’s horrible ancient old cat had peed on Daniel’s scarf! The scarf must have fallen on the floor when someone grabbed their coat earlier, and the cat thought it looked like a nice spot to pee. Ugh. The worst! That smell never really goes away.

My grandma gave me two books for Wesley and was thrilled that he knew some letters in sign language. Other than the scarf incident, it was a nice mellow afternoon.

Comments Off on Thanksgiving 2013

November 24, 2013 11:35 pm

Friendsgiving

Our friends host a Thanksgiving dinner every year, and this year we volunteered to bring stuffing and a pumpkin pie.

Mostly I volunteered the stuffing because I love boxed stuffing mix! Everybody tries to get all fancy with celery and whatnot and I’m just not into it.

Our pumpkin pie recipe is actually vegan, but if I say that then it sounds weird. The main difference is that instead of using eggs as the base, it uses silken tofu. I’ve served it to my very meat-and-potatoes family before and they totally couldn’t tell it was made from tofu – it’s really good.

1 Comment >

April 9, 2013 3:55 pm

I’m A Machine

Last month, inspired by Melissa’s success, Daniel and I adopted a quasi-paleo diet. I say “quasi-paleo” because Daniel is a vegetarian and it’s very difficult to be fully Paleo while veg unless you want to eat eggs for every meal (no), and because I am a wuss and I don’t want to spend every waking moment counting carbs.

Food

I went from eating a big bowl of cereal with 1% milk every morning to eating two eggs with a bit of olive oil.

I went from eating a dry english muffin as the main part of my lunch to eating chicken cooked in olive oil and balsamic vinegar with a giant kale / sweet potato / roasted mini pumpkin seed salad on the side. Sometimes the salad is my main lunch item. Sometimes I bring spaghetti squash topped with spaghetti sauce instead.

I eliminated my morning snack of (sugary and/or fake-sugary) yogurt.

I went from eating crackers and cheese (or a Snack-Pak chocolate pudding, or a string cheese, or two mini Fruit Roll-Ups, or all of the above) as an afternoon snack to eating beef jerky or blueberries or some pistachios.

Daniel and I also made modifications to dinner, like having food-processor-shredded cauliflower as a base for yellow curry instead of white rice, and I like it better than the rice! I also tried making “pizzas” with mushrooms as the base instead of dough. (Just for me though, because Daniel hates mushrooms.)

I cut down on my evening chocolate fix, and did not go obscenely overboard in buying Cadbury Mini-Eggs this year. I think I only bought four bags, total? And I still have a half of one left in the cupboard.

I’m finding I have a tendency to be “afraid” of being hungry; small meals make me worried that I am going to be starving later and not have anything to eat. I am slowly training my body to understand that it’s okay to have a small meal because I can always eat more later if I need to.

C25K

In addition, I took up Couch to 5K. I run three times a week now, and I find myself looking forward to my runs. Me! The person who only runs if A) I am being chased by a bear, or B) I need to catch a bus.

I took a week off for a wibbly-feeling knees and only ran twice last week (repeating the last day of C25K Week 2) because of said knees. If my health insurance didn’t suck so terribly (catastrophic-only, super-high deductible, etc.) I might have thought about visiting a doctor for it, but both my knees feel great this week so – fingers crossed – no doctor for me.

I’ve also been going to free yoga at our public library 2x/month for the last few months, which has been fun.

Changes

None! I haven’t seen any positive changes (weight loss, inches lost, mood, etc.) but I am hoping they will happen eventually. In the meantime, I just get to feel really virtuous about my kale salads.

5 Comments >

February 29, 2012 10:41 am

Meal Planning

I have finally figured out the key to family dinners, and me helping to prepare it (or preparing it entirely).

Meal planning.

(“Duh!” you are saying. I know.)

Meal plan calendar

Apparently, all it took was me printing out a calendar and writing in dinner ideas. (I like the ones from Waterproof Paper, as they are full-page, free from ornamentation, and have spaces big enough to write in.) That way, if I know Thursday is “Stir Fry Night,” I can start the rice and chop veggies before Daniel gets home, so when he arrives all he has to do is throw the veggies in the wok for a few minutes.

It has revolutionized my life. For realz.

My problem was that it would get to be 5:15pm and I would start asking myself what I/we should make for dinner. If you are not already aware, this is a horrible time to plan dinner. I’m at least kind of hungry by then (I eat lunch at noon, usually) if not flat-out starving, I have no energy after taking care of Wesley all day, and I’m really bad at coming up with ideas for what to eat.

The meal plan solves all this! If I know what dinner will be, I can mentally prepare for prepping it instead of running out of steam by then, it makes Daniel less grouchy because he doesn’t have to come home from a long day of work and then spend forever making dinner, and we all sit around the table like a Real Family instead of scattering about the house with TV or the computer or a book.

I only plan about two weeks at a time, and stuff does get shifted around due to plans changing or too many leftovers or whatever, but it’s been a good system so far and I’m very pleased with it.

Some of our dinner ideas are: Spaghetti, stir fry, quinoa patties, “Moroccan food,” homemade pizza, and different soups.

So! If you are like me and have trouble thinking of things to make at dinnertime, spend about 15-20 minutes every two weeks to write down some dinner ideas, and you too can have a revolutionized life!

6 Comments >

January 12, 2011 9:26 am

Food at Daycare

What Wesley eats at daycare is one area in which I am continually annoyed, baffled, or unsure.

He was exclusively breastfed until six months, at which point we started giving him some of whatever we were eating. He seemed to hate everything except pears, so we didn’t push the issue.

Then a couple of the girls at daycare got pushy with us about starting him on rice cereal, and even though we had tried it at home in a last-ditch effort to find something he might like and he HATED it, I gave them the go-ahead to try some to see if he would eat anything for them.

They agreed that he hated it, and since then I’ve mentioned a few times that they could give up on the cereal because he hated it, but they still try some every day. Which… whatever. If he doesn’t want to eat it, he won’t, and it’s their cereal, not mine, so I am not too worried about waste, but it is still dumb.

Over Christmas, since we were traveling and more or less unable to make our own food while on the road, we bought several varieties of jarred food to test them out to see if he would eat any of them. To our surprise, he was willing to try pretty much anything and ate jars of food with gusto.

Once we started back at daycare, I was excited to report that we found several things he would eat and started sending a jar of food with him each day. He would eat about half of it, twice a day. This seemed okay at first, they would write down what he ate and send home the empty jar.

Yesterday though, we had brought two jars just for the sake of having options, and put both in the fridge for him. When Daniel came to pick him up, they reported that he ate basically nothing but handed him the two empty jars.

When he told me that, we were both like, WHAT? They… they were both EMPTY? And they said he only ate a few bites? WHERE IS THE REST OF THE FOOD?

I have no idea where it went. Maybe they throw out what he doesn’t eat? I think you’re supposed to spoon the portions into a separate bowl instead of feeding them from the jar due to bacteria, but either way – BOTH jars were gone! Did they dump out the whole jar into a bowl and when he wouldn’t eat it, they threw it all away? That stuff is EXPENSIVE. Only portion out half! If he doesn’t eat it, then only half is wasted instead of TWO. WHOLE. JARS.

AND, they are still persisting with the rice cereal. I don’t think the cereal is that good for babies and I don’t really want him eating it, especially not if he will eat other, more nutritious foods. Stop with the cereal already, daycare! Argh.

So: today, I brought in a jar I know he will eat, and wrote “½ jar of food, 2x/day. No rice cereal.” so hopefully they will adhere to that. I am just so annoyed that both of those jars were gone (in one day!) and one of them was the bigger, taller jar, and they reported that he basically ate nothing. Perhaps I just need to be much more firm with them?

6 Comments >

November 11, 2010 9:14 pm

The Hoarding of the Oat Squares

I can’t start my day without breakfast. (Well, I can, but it makes me miserable.) I typically have a bowl of cereal and eat it while I peruse my RSS reader and read new posts.

One of my most favorite cereals to eat is Oat Squares. Problem is, they are RIDICULOUSLY expensive at our local grocery store. We are talking $4.60 for a measly box of cereal. That’s almost FIVE DOLLARS a box. Obscene!

Recently, our grocery store had a sale for $2 boxes of Oat Squares. (“Twoooooo dollarrrrrrrrs!”) I was so excited! We bought a few and ate them almost immediately. So we bought more. And ate those. And bought some more and ate those too. And then Daniel decided to stock up and bought like eight boxes. And after eating some of those, he noticed that the sale was almost over and bought several more boxes.

So! Now we look like crazy Oat Square cereal hoarders but we should be well stocked for a while.

5 Comments >

August 27, 2010 2:44 pm

Chocobaby

I have a weakness for Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Covered Caramels. When I was pregnant with Wesley I got on this huge chocolate kick and often wanted chocolate with caramel, so these candies were perfect, and I still get them occasionally as an after-dinner treat.

Their only downside (besides the obvious caloric one) is that the chocolate flakes off easily when bitten, and there were several occasions in which I would go to change into my jammies after dessert and realize that I had chocolate bits melted on my décolletage or on my face.

Last night, however, took the cake.

We had the lights mostly off in the living room so we could watch some episodes of Veronica Mars. (Season 2, no spoilers please, am now in love with Logan Echolls.) Wesley needed to eat, so I sat on the couch and nursed him while munching on a caramel.

After the episodes were over, Daniel started playing his new video game. During a particularly bright sequence that lit up the room a bit, I noticed something weird about Wesley’s face.

“Oh gross. What in the world.” I thought. “BUGS? WHAT.” And then…

Oh no.

He was COVERED in chocolate. My caramel had flaked chocolate bits all over his face, where they had instantly melted. It was in several spots on the side of his head, all across his cheeks, there was a big spot on the underside of one arm, a tiny one on the back of his onesie, and traces of chocolate smeared near his mouth. I was horrified.

And then I started laughing uncontrollably. Daniel was like, um, what is going on over here? And I was like LOOK AT OUR BABY, LOOK WHAT I HAVE DONE TO HIM.

And I am not going to tell you whether or not I cleaned him by smooching the chocolate off his face.

(He was delicious.)

3 Comments >

February 16, 2009 7:40 pm

The Quest for the Perfect Pancake

Several months ago, Daniel started making pancakes on the weekend. Usually Saturdays. We went through about a box of pancake mix before we realized that, hey, most pancake mixes contain trans fats (I KID YOU NOT). Which, ew. He was pretty sure he could come up with a homemade pancake mix that would withstand our discerning tastes.

Our pancake requirements are as follows, and yours may or may not be different:

  • Thin. I myself do not mind fat pancakes much, but the most delicious ones are thin, almost like crepes but not as flimsy.
  • Taste good. So many pancakes make the right texture but are all off taste-wise. I like that tangy taste the batter has when it’s good.
  • Texture. The pancake should not resemble a frisbee.

After much trial and error involving DM’d pancake recipes on Twitter, calls to mothers, and various tips gleaned from coffeeshop customers, Daniel came up with a recipe. These pancakes result in delicious tasting, thin pancakes that do not resemble a frisbee in either taste or texture. In case you are also on the hunt for the perfect pancake, I can wholeheartedly recommend these.

(I asked Daniel what I should name these, and he said, “Delicious Pancakes. You can add a ‘.net’ if you want.” So there you have it.)

Delicious Pancakes by Daniel

Just short of 1 C flour
3T sugar
3/4 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt (DO NOT SKIP THE SALT!)
3 1/2 T vegetable oil
1 egg
Just over 1 C milk

Mix ingredients until lumpy. Make pancakes. I think we each get about three 4″ pancakes out of this recipe, but you could easily double it if you need more.

(I was going to do an approximation of this recipe in the Metric system, but… I never really learned it and the conversion calculators confused me and gave weird units of measurement. Do you normally measure things like flour in grams? What about butter? Milk?)

If you try this recipe out, would you let me know what you think? Enjoy!

10 Comments >