Ever wondered why you feel like crap some days? Lethargic or cranky or bloated or the kids are just out of control? Me too and it’s so much easier if you know the cause! I’ve always loved food – eating it and cooking it – and I’ve also always been a little bit unwell. As a kid, I had allergies, asthma and headaches, and I was often hyperactive and always in trouble! We knew I was sensitive to chemicals, had sensitive skin and a sensitive nature, but didn’t understand food intolerance yet. As a teenager I developed migraines and when I was 28 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent surgery, chemo and radiotherapy (happily cancer free since). After that I developed rosacea and my doctor put me on 6 months of antibiotics, with no probiotics to replenish my poor gut bacteria.
While my food intolerances were probably always there and an underlying cause of many of my health issues, it wasn’t until I had my first baby in 2010, after cancer treatment and 6 months of antibiotics, that I felt really unwell. I was sensitive to everything – perfumes, wine, the smell of petrol, and I didn’t know what else. I just knew that something I was doing was making me feel tired, irritable, even angry. I would be fine one minute then screaming and feeling out of control the next. Some days would be great while others were really hard and I couldn’t cope emotionally – the chemical imbalance my intolerances were causing made me want to hit myself and I sometimes did. I also had bloating and poor digestion, which was new, and my headaches and migraines were coming more frequently. The black circles around my eyes and redness around my nose were getting worse. These symptoms, I’ve since discovered, are all signs of food intolerance.
At the same time, we were introducing solid foods to our gorgeous baby Maks and noticed a sore, red rash around his mouth that came and went, and upsetting behavioural issues (he’d become hyperactive, out of control and uncharacteristically defiant). He was constantly unwell with a chronic cough and had a massively distended, bloated gut. He was tested for allergies and had a few – eggs, nuts, crab, latex (he’s since grown out of everything except dust). So we cut those out, but he was still experiencing the same reactions. It wasn’t until I researched and came across food intolerance, as opposed to allergy, that it all started to make sense. It was a real journey to discover what we were intolerant to – we both did the elimination diet, which takes time, patience and commitment, but it was so worth it.
For Maks, it’s wheat, dairy, salicylates, amines, glutamates and anything artificial that cause his reactions. For me, it’s mainly citric acid (which I originally confused with salicylates), wheat and dairy, and a little amines. Maks is so well now, rarely gets a cough or cold or has a serious food reaction. I haven’t had a migraine in years and while it can sometimes be hard avoiding some foods, I’d rather that than being constantly unwell.
Our daughter, Sofia was born in 2014 and her chemical sensitivity took longer to show up and I’ve learnt that gut health is such a major decider in how food intolerance affects you. Both kids have eczema, which flares up if they eat cow’s dairy (sheep’s and goat’s milk are fine, probably because the protein particles are smaller and easier to digest for some people and the milk less processed – which is lucky, because we all love our cheese and yoghurt!).
So everything we make at home is gluten-free and cow’s dairy free. Some things are low in salicylates, or amines, or glutamates, and some aren’t (but in my recipes, I’ll always say). It’s all about substitution in my house, and it can work for you too. I want anyone struggling with intolerances in their home, to be equipped with the tools to make tasty, nutritious meals and snacks the whole family will enjoy.