Changes and Challenges

Egg challenge failed: hives on left upper lip at four minute mark.

Almost a year ago my kiddo had an unusual reaction. I had made one of his very favorite meals, Turkey Chili, which he gobbled up with typical enthusiasm. Towards the end of the meal, he started to get red spots on his cheeks. They weren't exactly hives and they weren't clustered around his mouth, which is where the evil red bumps usually make their appearance. We gave him some Benadryl and kept an eye on him for the rest of the evening.

The next day I called the allergist's office. They asked me to list all the ingredients in the chili and dropped an order for bloodwork in the mail to me. It looked more like a recipe than a medical document. When the results came back my son had tested positive for black beans, cumin and garlic.

I was dumbfounded. At that point he already had confirmed allergies to peanut, shellfish, egg, milk, beef, lamb and pork. We had hoped that he would outgrow at least some of them. Instead he had three more.

It just didn't seem fair. In the past I've probably been somewhat less tormented by my son's food allergies than other parents because of my family's long history with them. In contrast, this latest diagnosis seemed like a cruel practical joke by the universe. I thought I'd done what I was supposed to do, carefully cooked at home, kept him away from the allergens and managed to avoid any major reactions.

Still, he had three more food allergies. The only good news from the allergist was that my son's bloodwork showed the levels for pork had dropped off significantly. So at the beginning of the year my son had an oral challenge for pork. He passed.

Of course, I don't cook or eat red meat anyway, because it nauseates me. (I suspect a food intolerance of my own.) This didn't exactly open up wide vistas of food opportunities.

On the other hand, I have had a long, meaningful relationship with garlic.

My ceramic garlic roaster, garlic storage container and garlic press.

My son has always had food allergies and never missed what he couldn't have. He loves garlic, though, and even asked if maybe he couldn't have just a little sometimes? This was the first time he's really been upset about something he couldn't eat.

Following the successful pork challenge, our allergist decided to try an oral challenge for eggs in March. That one didn't go quite as well. Four minutes after swallowing a tiny bit of egg, his throat started to itch and he began sprouting hives on his lip.

This wasn't the end of the bad news. After many meals followed by my poor son's complaints of an itchy throat, I finally realized that almost all processed foods have become unsafe for him. Every brand of tomato sauce I have found contains garlic, which means that all the other tomato products coming from the same production line are unsafe.

Then I came to the belated realization that it's virtually impossible that any of my spices are from a facility that doesn't also process powdered garlic or cumin. I'm having trouble coming to grips with saying farewell to my entire spice cabinet right before I gear up for holiday baking. Does this mean that I'm going to have to grow all my own herbs and grind my own spices?

I feel as if I've fallen down the rabbit hole. The monumental task of cooking almost everything from scratch is completely overwhelming. I've eliminated most processed foods from my son's diet since his life threatening allergic reaction two weeks ago and he's had only one itchy throat since then.

I'm just starting to cope, and I'll post new recipes as I go. Tomorrow Sometime in the next few weeks I'll share my new Saucy Roasted Tomato Puree. I'm trying to see a silver lining, and a healthier but still delicious diet may be it.


Cristina Karekar said...

Oh, I so feel for you and your son!!! My eight year old daughter has life-threatening allergies to all dairy, peanuts, and treenuts. Life with food allergies is very hard, overwhelming for everyone, involves lots and lots and lots of cooking, planning, and praying for safety, every moment, every where. I appreciate all that you do by sharing your wonderful recipes and feelings, and journey with us, the rest of the food allergy community. May your burdens become lighter as I pray for us all dealing with this plague.

Anonymous said...

My childs allium allergy is lessening, she is now 9, and we can use onion again in cooking, so hope is there... Also, we did find that highly processed garlic, wasn't a problem, so she could do, canned Delmonte Spagetti Sauce, but NOT the glass jars of Barrilla. I know how you feel, I still have my garlic press and look at it longingly.

Linda said...

I feel for you. Everytime I feel overwhelmed by these food allergies I think of you and how well you are doing. You have saved my sanity! I don't know how you deal with all the allergies. We only have to deal with eggs dairy nuts peanuts and avocado so far. I really am thankful for that. I wish you good luck, Libby. Just know you are a shining beacon for those of us who have just been dropped on the food allergy roller coaster!

Unknown said...

Oh man! This is a tough one to grapple with. It makes me think back to my FA child's original diagnosis of multiple food allergies and how overwhelming that felt. Over time, though, we adjusted and got used to it. I suspect you're facing that (again!) and we will all benefit from your new knowledge and great recipes.

Hang in there!

Alisa @ Go Dairy Free said...

Oh I'm so sorry Libby! So frustrating. We've had similar problems buying pasta sauce due to the "spices", but honestly if my niece couldn't have garlic, I don't know what we would do! Hopefully he outgrows almost all of these. He's still young! The son of a friend just tested safe on two of his prior allergens at the age of 15. There's still time!

Jansen Paredes said...

Living with allergies is really tough. I can feel your pain. My son has allergies to dairy products too. Some friends say that he has to get used to eating the foods his allergic with so that his body can build a sort of immunity to it. But the doctor says doing so wouldn't be of any help.

-Jennifer said...

I know how you feel. My son is only 15 months old and he gains a new allergy or sensitivity each month. It's so very frustrating! Just when I think I've gotten a hang of things, his immune system decides to change things up. So far, his allergies include dairy, egg, peanut, cashew, sesame, garlic, cinnamon, and mangos. And now I think he's allergic to almonds, so now that means no more almond milk for us.