We live in a world where everyone’s in a hurry and food conveniences are valued more than food knowledge and quality. That is not at all the case for food allergy families, so in many ways it’s ideologically isolating. For us, peace comes with thinking things through, taking our time, and learning to “accept the things we cannot change.” Our daughter’s severe allergy has, for us, highlighted the fractures in our food supply from farming and growing agriculture to manufacturing, labeling, distributing and marketing. It’s a nightmare of red flags, cross contamination, and lack of knowledge regarding food allergy safety.
It’s insane that our extended knowledge on food quality and ingredients prompts a negative reaction from people. Our society places such immense and oblivious trust in the conveniences they enjoy with food, without considering the dangers hiding behind the mass profit and intentionally misleading labeling. The understanding food allergy families are so blessed to learn connect us universally to those living similar roles and lifestyle within the food allergy and health conscious realm. We read everything, know the practices of the factories of brands we buy, and work diligently not to consume, touch, or breathe any milk proteins ( or other relevant food allergens). Along with and connected to avoiding food allergens, my family has also learned to avoid chemicals/ pesticides and GMO’s early last year from the guidance of a Doctor with real approaches to living with anaphylaxis.
Back in the college I took a sociology course and my final was a research paper titled “Food: The Universal Connection to Humanity.” At the time, my thesis was how food transcends language barriers and cultural divisions. Relating food as a basic human need that elevates the symbolism and power of how “breaking bread” with others can establish a relationship at a deeper level than learning the language or customs. In hindsight, it’s so ironic is laughable. It’s ironic that I chose to focus on the food relationship and that, even before it was apparently relevant to me personally and to all of us now socially, I was preparing for a deep understanding of the power of food, it’s relationship to emotions, and it’s relationship to divisions. It’s these ah-ha moments that make you understand how your whole life has led you to where you are today, down to this very second.
My husband and I began our parenting journey already in the role of food allergy parents, and it has shaped our whole parenting style. We needed to learn what to avoid, managing a milk allergy early on through our own research, by our own accord, finding little resources and no one informed well enough about today’s milk allergy to offer a blue print or exact science toward avoidance. We needed to learn of the hidden ways milk is present in the world around us that our society isn’t commonly aware of. The doctors had offered a straight “avoid milk” warning “or else”!!!
Then, one day ,after we had started Food Allergy Resources & Mentoring (FARM) www.fa-resources.org, we met a Doctor on a radio promo while advertising our FA advocacy campaign. He was the first doctor to tell us what we COULD do to help our daughters well-being, more than just avoidance. The FIRST person! To paraphrase him, he said that close to 80% of our immune systems are in our guts. Those affected with food allergies (among other conditions) have a disconnect in their digestive tract, which is essentially not functioning properly with an overreaction and development of IGE attacks. Thus making their bodies hold onto toxins more than that of a person with a typical immune system. So many of today’s rising ailments : asthma. Autism, ADHD, cancers etc.. are a result of these toxic guts.
In our daughters case, she holds onto toxins and has an exaggerated IGE response to milk. Her body holds onto chemicals, pesticides- toxins in general that, therefore, affect her allergic reactions from going away in a reasonable time. This was the first time it made sense. It made sense that her allergic reactions would subside then reappear day after day within our isolation of foreign exposures. He said the first thing we needed to do was eliminate the added chemical obstacles that her body has to work cleaning through. We’ve all heard about eating clean, THIS is what that means. After years of avoiding and doing the same things and getting the same results, we finally had real answers and advice– so organic, non GMO we became to take our efforts a step further.
He advised this organic, non GMO diet to start with since this would be the biggest and hardest thing to change entirely. He then said to make sure she was always drinking water, a natural detoxifier, and to put her in Epsom bath soaks to detox through her skin ( the integumentary system is our biggest organ), especially following a reaction. We added two things that we learned from a local natural health store owner: daily vegan probiotics and 5000 mg daily of absorbic acid crystals (raw vitamin C). Probiotics, to keep her system fully flushing toxins daily and regularly. Vitamin C because it’s an amazing and natural antihistamine, antibiotic, and antioxidant. It’s really been downplayed regarding its amazing qualities. We literally mix raw vitamin C, Absorbic acid crystals into a mini shot glass sized cup with juice and take a “shot”. We can literally see instant results by doing just this for her allergic reactions–like within 5 minutes her symptoms are subsiding, instead of waiting 30 minutes for the Benedryl to work. It’s immediately absorbed sublingually and diminishes the histamine response from the red blood cells bursting around the lungs. One teaspoon equals 5000 mg of the vitamin. A vitamin we don’t store naturally in our bodies and desperately need. As previously mentioned, Vitamin C is a natural antibiotic, antioxidant, and has ample case studies easily locatable online about how in megadose concentrations, it’s curing cancer!
Living with a life threatening food allergy has created a complete connection to one another within our household, and others within the food allergy lifestyle we’ve met on Hello Mamas. We have family discussions that last hours and our needs really make us work as a team. I always refer to my family as a team because all families are, some just don’t realize it, or use the power in it. I’ve found that this motivates children to want to find their place/role and be helpful. It makes them feel part of what’s going on and feel a natural sense of responsibility each day. When a child cleans up their room, they’re more likely to appreciate the work it takes to maintain a clean home. When my 6 year old is having an allergic reaction, my 4 year old runs to her side and helps any way I need her to.
She has compassion, something that is taught through the example of others early in life. Compassion is not feeling sorry for someone. It’s being deeply touched by someone leading you to act in a proactive way for them- not for your self elevation.
I know compassion is a learned trait by the comparison of other children who undervalue or taunt my food allergic daughter. Someone in their home has expressed a lack of concern or compassion and introduced their perception toward food allergies– that carried over to the child. In example, I know of a child who loves cheese and crackers. Each time we would be in their presence, the child would ask for her favorite snack and her mother would tell her she had to go without because of my daughter. This sends the message that, being around us, means “sacrifice” which carries over to a child as a negative thing.
So why not say to the child “I don’t have that snack today, but I do have x-y-z ” (all safe of course), which would lead the child to understand there are other options and, maybe through deductive reasoning, understanding it’s because of my daughter, without rudely calling her out on it. It really is no different than saying you can’t go play soccer because of your friend in a wheelchair– it’s just horrible and thoughtless. It really makes me thankful for resources we have made through Hello Mamas and Food Allergy Resources & Mentoring.As I see the progression of awareness of food allergies, it brings me hope for my daughter’s future.