Seeing as I get so many questions from other ADHD parents about food allergies and sensitivities, it seems like a good time to share what I have learned so far on this issue.
So many parents are now having to ask themselves some difficult questions when it comes to feeding their children. Food allergies and sensitivities are becoming more prevalent than ever…or are they? The debate rages on about whether food allergies and sensitivities are becoming more common or whether we are simply armed with more information now to recognize that our children’s symptoms are affected by what they eat.
This is not a debate I wish to enter into. What I do know is that within Jack’s family and mine, there are many factors that increase the chances of Baby Quaid having food allergies and sensitivities like his big brother Donovan.
It is an incredibly difficult situation when a small child is sick and you need to suspect foods that you have carefully chosen for their vibrant colours and nutritional value. Suddenly the comforting cup of milk your 4-year-old is drinking could be the culprit in your baby’s recurrent ear infections. The delicious whole grains that you chose for your little one may in fact be causing their immature guts great discomfort. It’s all very overwhelming and most parents feel like they no longer know what to feed their children.
I have been there and I am still there. Nearly 9 years ago, I changed Donovan’s diet based on MANY MONTHS of trials and eliminations and now I have a baby that I hope to protect from a similar fate.
With Donovan, I eliminated nearly everything except rice and then slowly and carefully reintroduced the different foods, while watching for symptoms of a Type I, Type II or Type III allergy. I also watched for signs of suspected sensitivities to extras like colourings and additives. It was a LONG and difficult road and we were both exhausted (and hungry) by the time it was over.
In the end, he and I switched to a dairy-free diet consisting of only natural foods and basic recipes. And though I believed that we were eating a healthy diet before this all happened, this new lifestyle was drastically different from the traditional North American diet.
No food pyramids here and I wasn’t giving him any big glasses of milk to accompany his cheese sandwiches, like the moms in the commercials were. Actually, I frequently had to answer questions about why the kids in the commercials got to drink milk all the time or why they got cheese on their broccoli and he didn’t. I still have to answer these questions when talking to parents, teachers or Donovan’s friends because they don’t understand why I feel the way I do, when society tells them I am wrong. I’ve grown accustomed to the reactions and cynicism and I don’t let it get to me anymore.
I felt so alone and depressed back then, trying to manage the situation without any support from my family (whose notions of parenting were simple – “If it didn’t kill you, it won’t kill your kid either”). Can’t argue with that flawless logic, now can I? Even our doctors were sceptical (ok that’s generous) of what I was trying, until they witnessed the results for themselves. Then I had their attention but they still had very little data and resources to recommend to me. I had to spend hours searching databases, libraries and websites to find what I needed. Then I had to cross reference the information I had found to ensure I was making the best possible decisions, backed with the best science available. I wouldn’t wish that experience on my least favorite person. It was, and still is, exhausting.
Even after we removed the culprits from our diet and earned the support of our doctors, it was no easy road from there. I had little to work with in terms of substitutes. The little that was out there was expensive, only available in health food stores and often tasted questionable. So I started reading labels, buying fresh foods, going to the local markets and just avoiding anything in a can or box. It worked but left us with little to choose from if we got bored.
It ALL paid off in the end. The recurring ear infections and bouts of tonsillitis and strep stopped. The colds and sinus infections stopped. His asthma attacks significantly decreased and became manageable without medication. His stomach upsets stopped. More importantly though, his behavior improved significantly within 3-4 weeks and consistently over time. It made the many bowls of rice worth it.
I am happy to say that we’ve come a long way since then and there are much better resources, more support and better alternatives to ensure we can still prepare and enjoy delicious foods at home and when we’re out.
This is great news for parents facing this issue today.
Our little guy, Baby Quaid, is nearly a year old now and still on a very restrictive diet, closely based on what Canadian expert Dr. Joneja’s suggests (see resources below). We have successfully avoided dairy, gluten, egg, nuts, citrus, all berries (except blueberries), spinach, tomatoes, etc. Slowly and over time, we will continue to introduce new foods and we will carefully monitor any possible reactions. With any luck, we can prevent many of these allergies from occurring. Regardless, we are better prepared to deal with whatever comes our way. I hope the same will be true for any parent out there, whether their child has ADHD or not, because there are options and we do have choices.
To help you get started on your quest for information, I wanted to share a few resources that have helped me with Baby Quaid’s diet this past year. So if you have a baby and want to prevent sensitizing your child to allergy inducing foods (and you can!), the resource below may be helpful for you too.
If you already suspect an allergy, the resource below may be helpful in understanding the different types of testing and their accuracy.
If you would like more information, I would highly recommend picking up a copy of Dr. Joneja’s book, “Dealing with Allergies in Babies and Children” . I found this book TREMENDOUSLY helpful when planning for our second child’s introduction to solid foods. It allowed me to not only recognize the foods to avoid but also to understand the science behind each decision I was making.
PS – Want to learn more about the author and why she cares so much about this work?
Good luck to all the loving parents out there dealing with this stuff everyday! You are not alone.
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