Have you ever taken your little one to hospital? That smell of disinfectant, yet still you’re scared to touch anything… your child so sick and you so worried, but immediately you feel relieved once you’re there, knowing you’ll be helped soon. Well that was us a few days ago, with little 2 year old Sofia. Sick again with croup and asthma, something she’s had regular bouts of since the beginning of the year (and the start of daycare). Not to mention chronic eczema, which also flared up when she started daycare. She’s ok now, but on a lot more medication than is good or right for such a young person (and isn’t that so common these days!?).
So here’s me, once again, knowing that there must be a cause for my baby to be so sick (other than my faulty genes I passed on), and desperate to work out what it is, so we can get rid of it! From my experiences with my son and I, and 3 years of studying nutritional medicine, I know that there can be many causes for asthma and eczema and while you can’t cure these genetic conditions, you can relieve symptoms enormously by removing all known triggers. Secondly, you can build up a strong immune system and healthy gut, so the viruses which can trigger an attack or outbreak, can’t take hold. Triggers are commonly dust allergies and intolerances to certain chemicals found in foods and products around the home, pool and garden.
Which leads me to my next question. Have you ever done an elimination diet? Cutting out groups of foods, then adding them back in one by one, to find out what is causing symptoms? It’s a slow process and difficult to control, especially when you’re eating out. But despite that, it’s still the gold standard test for diagnosing food intolerances… and it’s time I did it again.
The first time I did an elimination diet was when Maksim was 18 months and had a constant cough, bloated belly, runny nose and rash around his mouth. I did it for me too, as I was getting a lot of headaches, bloating and generally felt run-down and exhausted since Maks had been born. We discovered a range of intolerances in both of us, but it took even longer to discover the ones that aren’t included in the most recognised elimination diet, designed by the Royal Price Alfred Hospital Allergy Unit. It focuses on salicylates, amines and glutamates, as well as artificial colours, flavours and preservatives, but assumes you already know whether you’re intolerant to gluten or dairy. It also encourages citric acid, which turned out to be the source of my lifelong headaches and migraines. While it’s not perfect, it’s still the best elimination diet out there and just needs a bit of tweaking for the individual.
For Sofia, with her eczema and asthma, we thought her main trigger was cow’s milk and cut it out over a year ago. Her eczema disappeared, and so did Maksim’s. But this year, when she started daycare, it has came back and won’t go away. Just recently we noticed a reaction to soy – an instant rash around her mouth from some gluten free wraps made with soy flour. Because daycare has been giving her large servings of soy yoghurt and soymilk to substitute her lack of dairy, we’re wondering if that may be the cause.
While a cure for asthma or eczema is not possible, a reduction in symptoms is completely doable. And for that reason, the pain of an elimination diet is well worth it. There are always going to be triggers, and if we can find and avoid even one of them, we can help Sofia lead a much happier, healthier life… and the sooner, the better.
A lot of chronic health concerns can be treated this way – diarrhoea and constipation, rashes and eczema, asthma and constant coughs and even behavioural and sleep issues. Each can have triggers (which are often foods) and removing these triggers can lead to less symptoms, better health and even a reduction in medication. It might be hard to undergo an elimination diet, but surely it’s worth it in the long run, to be free from nagging health complaints or crazy mood swings or a defiant attitude in your child, don’t you think? A good nutritionist can guide you through it and ensure your nutritional needs are being met.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll document our progress with the elimination diet – what we’re doing, how we’re managing, what we’re cooking and how the food challenges go. Stay posted for more of Sofia’s elimination diet discovery mission. See you next time!