This is Beaker:
Beaker is 3 1/2 years old and has struggled with eczema and asthma ever since he was brand new. For a long time we tried elimination diet after elimination diet, but never had consistent improvement. He had scratch testing done for allergies, but the results were inconclusive. Finally, we turned to alternative medicine and took him to see a Naturopathic doctor. His test results came back a little over a week ago and now we finally know what he is reacting to!
It turns out that Beaker is allergic to wheat, rye, barley, spelt ~ basically, he is reacting to gluten. He is also allergic to soy, hazelnuts, and garlic. We have spent the last ten days eliminating these from his diet completely and already we have seen a great improvement in his health. He hasn't needed his inhaler even a single time since the first day of allergy-safe eating. He has only had a single flare-up of eczema, the day after he grabbed a regular cookie and stuffed it in his mouth before I could get it from him. The dark circles under his eyes are disappearing, he is sleeping better, he doesn't snore as much, and he never complains of being itchy at bedtime anymore. It is wonderful to see how much better he feels now that his body isn't fighting things that are toxic to him anymore!
Of course, there is a learning curve involved, for all of us. When the results came back that he was reacting to soy and gluten, the Dude and I had a knee-jerk reaction of "but what will we feed him?!" And we realized fast that the entire house would have to be cleared of all foods that aren't Beaker safe, as the big kids are prone to leaving things down unattended, and it's also hard for Beaker to see them eating foods that he loves and not being able to have some himself. We are working on getting all of the stuff that he can't eat out of the house now, so for the next week or two the big kids will have lunches that are a little more heavy on crackers and other snacks than they usually might have. And after it's all out of the house, everything we bring into our home will be nut-free, soy-free, gluten-free, and garlic-free.
It has actually been a lot easier than we anticipated. There have been several tantrums and moments where Beaker would melt down into tears, crying "It doesn't habe gwu-en, it doesn't habe soy, it IS safe!" and that has been hard. But as we phase all of the stuff that he can't have out of the house, those moments are becoming rare and Beaker is adjusting fast. He is already learning to ask "Does it habe soy? Does it habe gar-wic? Does it habe gwu-en?" before eating anything. And the way he says 'maltodextrin' is adorable. As he gets older, this will be easier and easier for him. When he learns how to read he will be able to read labels for himself, to keep himself safe and healthy. Finding things Beaker can eat is a whole lot easier than we thought it would be. After all, most fruits and vegetables are find for him, and he loves them already.
Cooking has been much easier than I thought it would be, for sure. Finding alternatives for our normal recipes has been a cinch. We are so fortunate to live in an area with a lot of shopping options. Trader Joe's and Whole Foods carry quite a few safe packaged foods that are Beaker-safe, and we already are used to cooking from whole foods, so that hasn't been a major change. I have even been able to make a baked pasta dish which was completely Beaker-safe!
I was a little worried about preschool, but luckily those worries have turned out to be unnecessary. Beaker attends preschool two days per week, for 4-5 hours each day. He is there for lunch and for afternoon snack, and sometimes for morning snack, if we drop him off early. I was a little worried about him being there with all of that food! But it has been smooth and easy. I took in a bag full of Beaker-safe shelf-stable snacks, like Pirate's Booty and a package of EnjoyLife chocolate chip cookies for special occasions. This way the preschool always has snacks on hand for him. I also pack his lunch for him, and pack a small snack each day, too. Finding things which he likes to pack for him to take has been much easier than we thought, for sure. It is no more difficult than feeding him at home. And he is thrilled that he gets to take his Thomas the Tank Engine lunchboxes to school.
We are approaching Beaker's food allergies with a positive attitude, and it has made all of the difference in the world. We are so happy to have him feeling good and healthy that any changes we have to make to keep him that was are totally worth it! Giving up garlic has been the toughest part, because I LOVE garlic. And finding packaged foods that are free of *all* of his allergens is pretty tough. A lot of gluten-free items are made with soy or nuts, and many things which don't have those are flavored with garlic. We have to be completely nut-free, as most nuts are processed together, leading to cross contamination from hazelnuts, which Beaker can't have. We mostly don't eat nuts anyway, since the middle school where Brick and G-man go to school (and where Bean will be next year) is nut-free. We have read that a lot of people who are allergic to soy do not react to soybean oil or soy lecithin, but we won't know if Beaker is one of them until he has gone a few weeks with them completely out of his system, so that we can trial them and see if he reacts.
Our sweet Beaker is feeling so much better!
Some of the lunches I have made for Beaker over the last week - all completely gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free, and garlic-free:
In this lunch he has organic turkey breast from Trader Joe's with special Beaker-safe cereal (Fruit-Os!), a cut cheese stick, carrots cut into bits, and a fruit face with an EnjoyLife double chocolate chip cookie for dessert.
His fruity face is blueberries with raspberry eyes and a quartered grape mouth.
This is one of his packed lunches for preschool.
He has apple chunks and a hard-boiled egg car. He also has some dehydrated peas from Trader Joe's, a few rolls of organic turkey and a bit of cut string cheese, and blueberries. The chicky egg holds all natural fruit and vegetable juice gummies for a little sweet dessert. This one is gluten, nut, soy, garlic, and dairy free.
For another day, he took a Thomas the Tank Engine lunch:
The sandwich is organic turkey and cheese made with Udi's allergy safe bread. The train tracks on top are strips cut from organic fruit leather. He also has apple slices, and in the Thomas 'egg' he has a few fruit-and-veggie juice gummies.
He also has Beaker-safe popcorn (we are discovering that a lot of the prepackaged popcorns are made with soybean oil and/or cross contaminated with wheat, soy, and nuts, but Trader Joe's carries a few that are safe), and watermelon balls with blueberries.
On another day we packed a small snack for running errands:
Fruit-and-veggie juice gummies (I promise, he does not eat them every day, though it definitely looks that way from these pics!) with apple slices, pieces of string cheese, and dehydrated peas.
If you're looking for other ideas for fun and delicious allergy safe lunches, here are some great links to check out!
Creative Food is peanut and tree nut free: https://www.facebook.com/creativefunfood
And Bentos on the Bayou is peanut and tree nut free, too: http://www.bentosonthebayou.com/
Keeley McGuire has many posts which are allergy friendly, including nut-free, gluten-free, egg-free, and more: http://keeleymcguire.blogspot.com/
iPackLunch features gluten-free lunches every Friday: http://ipacklunch.com/tag/gluten-free/
Biting the Hand That Feeds You has a lot of allergy safe lunches, too: http://www.bitingthehandthatfeedsyou.net/
Wendolonia has many dairy-free lunch posts: http://wendolonia.com/bentoboxgallery/tag/160/dairy-free
Beneficial Bento has great gluten-free ideas: http://www.beneficial-bento.com/
Mommy Says has great gluten-free ideas, too: http://mommasays.net/tag/gluten-free/
Bentorific is vegan (so meat, dairy, and egg free) and occasionally gluten-free: http://www.bentoriffic.com/
MommaSays is also gluten-free and allergy friendly: http://mommasays.net/