Posts filed under ‘food allergies’

first appointment with the rheumatologist

I am pleased with how the visit went at the doctor’s office (pediatric allergy, immunology clinic at UK). We were there for over 4 hours and I was physically and emotionally exhausted by the time we got home.

Jackson was so cooperative with everyone except the last doctor we saw. He let the nurses examine him and then a female doctor who works with the rheumatologist came and got a detailed history and Jackson cooperated with her and let her examine him from head to toe. Then that doctor came back in when the rheumatologist came in.

I don’t know if Jackson just didn’t like the doctor or if he was ready to go home but he was done letting people inspect him=) By the end of our visit, Jackson was crouched underneath my chair, facing the wall, with his pants pulled up, scratching his legs to death. Kind of cute in a way, but also very sad and pathetic. Poor little guy!

The doctor looked at him and went to get his camera and came back with 4 more people (students, other docs in the practice; I’m not sure) I guess he thought Jackson was an anomaly or he just wanted to document everything and use him as a teaching moment=) I also think he was getting pictures for insurance purposes.

The doctor would like to do skin treatment in the hospital for 3 days. Yes, for those of you who don’t see him regularly, my little guy looks terrible and he scratches himself more often than not. Wanting to admit him validates my concerns and I know that yes, he is really bad and that it isn’t just a little bit of eczema or rash! This outpatient treatment is something that needs to be pre-approved by insurance.

In the meantime, I am doing a process called wet-wrapping him at home. With only 2 treatments on his left arm and leg, Todd noticed a huge difference from his right side. I talked with the nurse and told her what a drastic improvement has been made and asked about doing it on his whole body at home and perhaps delaying the hospital admission until our next appointment to see if we can get his skin healed up at home and maybe avoid the hospital treatment altogether. The nurse agreed and thought that was a good course of action.

The doctor said he has severe atopic dermatitis or severe atopic eczema. This is not a new diagnosis. Every doctor he has ever seen has called it this. The doctor is leaning towards him having hyperimmunoglobin E syndrome (HIES or hyper IGE)  He also mentioned a few other auto immune disorders and has ordered several blood workups. We will not know for sure what’s going on until the results come back and maybe then, we still won’t know. You can read more at the link if you’re interested, but again this is just a guess and he may not have it.

This is the first doc who said he probably won’t outgrow the eczema. Everyone else has said, hopefully he will; most people do. But this doc said that because it started in the first month of life and because his rashes/redness are head to toe—and not just in patches, those are indicators that this is not going to go away.

I was dreading going to the lab for the blood draw. But Jackson did fabulous. He didn’t want to sit on my lap and was making a fuss but I pulled him up there and then he had quite the conversation with the lady. (with his 30 word vocabulary) He said ouch, but then he sat absolutely still and was fascinated by what the tech was doing to him. I’m glad because I was getting weak just thinking about the 7 vials of blood she was collecting.


November 14, 2009 at 5:08 pm 3 comments

awesome turkey breakfast sausage plus Wed and Thur menus

I’ve never made homemade sausage before, but I was browsing Nourishing Traditions, one of my favorite cookbooks, and the recipe seemed easy enough.

Here’s my version that I made below which I adapted to serve the needs of my son with multiple allergies. Another son called the sausage, “awesome.”

one pound ground turkey
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp sage
2 tsp sea salt
1 T ground flax seed
2 T oats

Mix all ingredients very well. Chill. Form in to patties and cook.

I cooked about half of it for breakfast and then saved the other half to use in stuffing for the cornish game hens we had for lunch. Super duper delicious.

Wednesday meals

eggs (our family used 12 today)
english muffins

homemade chicken soup with carrots and peas
spelt bread
oyster crackers and rice cakes for J

Todd took the leftover shepherd’s pie
the rest of us had leftover buffet

oatmeal cookies
bars for Jackson

Thursday meals

breakfast turkey sausage
eggs and english muffins

“personal chickens”
sausage made with turkey sausage oats and rice cakes
salad with carrots

cheese roll-ups
soup for J
Todd took leftover potatoes and chicken to work

oatmeal cookies

Do you want to do the $100 grocery challenge with me?  Read more about it.

November 5, 2009 at 10:21 pm Leave a comment

shopping tips for a corn allergy

With the long list of foods my son is allergic to, corn is by far the hardest to avoid because it is in almost everything and the FDA does not require manufacturers to clearly list it on products.

Corn photoAvoiding corn isn’t as simple as ruling out corn on the cob and cornbread and things sweetened with corn syrup. The problem is that corn is in almost every food manufactured in America today and the label doesn’t have to say corn on it.

I think the most important rule to follow is to assume something has corn in it unless it explicitly says, no corn or does not contain corn. If it doesn’t say that, then you won’t know whether it contains corn unless you understand what absolutely everything is or what it is derived from. Some labels are easy to read. Some have chemical names and are not easy to read unless you’re a chemist or a food scientist.

corn goes by a thousand different names

Read the label. If it has any ingredient ending in ose, assume that ingredient is derived from corn. Call the manufacturer or e-mail them and ask them if their product contains corn. (I have often called a company while standing in a store with package in hand.)   If they say no, then ask them the source of such and such an ingredient.  Often that mystery ose item is derived from cottonwood instead of corn, so you’re good to go.   Sometimes the answer is vegetable. This answer has been quite annoying, but sometimes that is the only answer readily available.  For a corn allergy, one must assume that vegetable really means corn, because usually it does.

Starch or food starch most likely means corn. You need to ask what the source is. Citric acid is often derived from corn (sounds like it would be from citrus, doesn’t it?)

corn is in many vitamins and medications

Look at all medications and vitamins. Most vitamins (except oils) are grown in corn. There are a few companies dedicated to making corn free vitamins.  Corn is used in both over the counter and prescription medications.  Depending on the severity of your corn allergy, perhaps taking the corn product outweighs your allergic reaction. For others who have severe breakouts, hives or anaphalactic shock, it’s necessary to avoid corn no matter what. Zyrtec, Claritin, ibuprofin, aspirin, etc. all contain corn.

corn is added to meats

Read your beef, pork and chicken labels. You need to look for contains up to 4% retained water (or similar percentage). Most chicken is enhanced with or contains 12% natural chicken broth.  This natural broth usually contains corn. Avoid it! Don’t go by the word “natural” on the label. Look for the teeny weeny fine print that says what has been added or retained.

You’ll probably need to stay away from deli meats and pickled items as these all could contain corn. Unless you verify with the manufacturer, you must assume that corn was used in the pickling or aging process. Here’s an interesting page all about curing agents.

corn is often added to fresh produce

That beautiful shiny apple at your grocery store could contain corn. Just yesterday, my son turned all red and splotchy from an apple he ate even though I scrubbed it like crazy to remove any waxy coating.  So watch your fresh fruits and vegetables. Sometimes buying organic is necessary (but don’t assume because something is organic that it is safe).

corn is in table salt

Yes — believe it not, corn is used in the iodization process in common table salt.  That means that anything that contains salt at the store could contain trace amounts of corn. Because my son’s corn allergy is so severe and he reacts to trace amounts of corn, I look for products that contain sea salt or that are salt free.  Use sea salt in your cooking. You can find this right next to the iodized salt at the grocery store, but read your label. Some sea salt contains anti-caking agents that (I’m not sure) could contain corn. I buy mine from the bulk bins at Whole Foods or the Good Foods Market.

so what can I buy and where do I shop?

  • Whole Foods has removed products containing high fructose corn syrup from their shelves. That helps a lot: It doesn’t mean that all corn has been removed from the store, but it does mean that you can find more safe products. I buy a lot of their 365 store-brand products, especially oils (but I’m shopping to avoid a lot more allergens than just corn.)
  • Trader Joe’s (I don’t have one) is a good place to shop.
  • the natural foods section of your regular grocery store
  • the perimeter of your regular grocery store.  Remember that all packaged food from most manufacturers — cereal, crackers, granola bars, etc. — likely contains corn, and those products are all in the aisles.
  • look for organic on bottled, boxed, and canned food. Organic doesn’t guarantee corn free, but it does usually mean it’s sweetened with something other than corn syrup or HFCS. I buy things like organic ketchup.   Some stores are coming up with their own organic labels which are cheaper than other organic lines. Meijer has its own organic label, for example.
  • Look in the markdown area of your store. I often find products that have been discontinued and drastically reduced (priced twice as much as other stores, so that’s why they haven’t sold).

This thorough website has extensive lists of corn ingredients and advice in living with a corn allergy. Check it out, you may find it helpful.

What are your tips for shopping and cooking corn free?

If you liked this article, please read tears for soy and corn and help, no wheat, no corn, no eggs allowed.

November 3, 2009 at 11:59 am 8 comments

tears for soy and corn

Several months ago when my son just wasn’t getting any better, when his hives kept appearing every night and he continued to wake up itchy and irritable, I went on a quest to figure out what was causing his allergic reactions.   First, I tore apart his room, thinking or hoping I might find a huge colony of dust mites or something that was affecting him at night. That would have been a simple solution.  No such luck.

I have previously written about my son’s allergies and our first trip to the allergist and about day 3 of reading food labels.

I had eliminated all known foods from his diet and someone suggested that  I needed to find out the unknown. What was lurking in my son’s food and supplements?  I examined everything that my son put in his mouth. It turns out his multi-vitamin contained corn; so did the papaya supplement that I occasionally gave him.

I was giving him 3 different antihistamines as recommended by his allergy doctor. Two OTC and one rX.  Let’s just say that my local pharmacist and manufacturer of the store brand were very helpful indeed. (as opposed to the Zyrtec people who were vague and refused to give me any real ingredient info and kept their stance as the finished product has never been tested for soy.  grrr) It turns out that sodium acetate is derived from soy.  Go figure.  Voila’.  I had been unwittingly giving him a product that was not labeled as containing soy, a product as “prescribed” by his allergy doctor who very well knows that my son is allergic to soy. I cried and cried. I was angry. I guess that’s why it’s taken me this long to write about it.    I wasn’t angry at anyone in particular (like the allergist or the manufacturer), just angry at the whole situation. And overwhelmed.

Thanks to the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 , there are 8 common allergens that must be clearly labeled on food and drug products.  This makes my grocery shopping a little simpler than if this act hadn’t been passed. However, I sure wish corn was on the big 8 list!

Out of all my son’s allergies which include wheat, dairy, soy, corn, eggs, tomatoes, berries, just to name a few….corn is the hardest to avoid because it is not one of the top allergens required by law to be clearly labeled on the product. This Corn Allergy website has been very helpful to me.  Did you know that simple table salt contains corn because corn is involved in the iodization process?

In addition to corn, soy is also very hard to avoid because soy fulfills so many different roles in American manufactured food (binder, propellant, filler, etc.)    I have compiled a list of common foods below containing soy.  Which of the following product does not contain soy?

  1. Cheerios
  2. Hellman’s real mayonnaise
  3. Nabisco Honey Maid Graham crackers
  4. Meijer Applause snack crackers (like Ritz)
  5. Olive oil cooking spray (aerosol can)
  6. Marzetti organic Parmesan ranch dressing
  7. Starkist solid white albacore tuna in water
  8. Chex Party mix seasoning packet
  9. Vitamin E
  10. Celestial seasoning raspberry tea
  11. Grey Poupon spicy brown mustard
  12. Oscar Mayer hot dogs
  13. Ceterizine (over the counter antihistamine)
  14. Oat Dream oat drink
  15. Hershey’s semi sweet chocolate chips
  16. Worcestershire sauce

The answer appears at the end of this article.

Below is a picture of what trace amounts of soy or corn can do to my son. When I say trace amounts, I mean the amount of soy or corn is so minuscule that most people don’t react to it so manufacturers don’t feel the need to label their products as containing the ingredient.   He used to look like this every single day before I finally figured out that it was his antihistamine that was doing this to him.  This photo was taken as the hives were fading.  (in other words, they were often much much worse than this picture conveys.   Here the hives are red marks on his skin, rather than being upraised and angry red.)


The last time my son broke out in his hives was about a month ago. His older brother had left a piece of taffy-like candy out and Jackson ate a bite (just one small bite) before his brother grabbed it away from him.  A couple hours later, his whole body turned red like he had a sunburn then his lower body was covered in  hives. All this from one little bite of candy containing corn syrup.

Now the answer to the little quiz above. It was a trick question. All of the mentioned products (as of this writing) contain soy. I included the name of  the brands because similar products in other brands do not contain soy. Most notably, bumblee tuna in water does not contain soy because it truly is in water, unlike the aforementioned brand of tuna that is in actuality packed in broth. This fact is clearly labeled in small print on the back of the product, yet it is still called, tuna in water. Very annoying, indeed.

Now when I am at the store and discover a new product that is potentially safe for Jackson that I haven’t purchased before, I call the manufacturer and ask them before buying it. I was looking at a loaf of rice and millet bread at Whole Foods. I called them and they said no corn or soy. Then I asked what the source of the methyl-cellulose was (anything ending in “ose” is usually derived from corn.)  The answer was cottonwood. Hmm. really? Cottonwood?  So I bought the bread and Jackson devoured it!

Another time I bought some turkey bacon someone recommended to me. I read the label and it seemed safe. After eating it and thoroughly enjoying it, my allergy boy broke out in hives so I e-mailed the company. Their response was, “Thank you for your inquiry. The lactic acid starter culture in this product is derived from corn. There is no soy present.” Who would  know that lactic acid is corn…it says it is non-dairy, but it doesn’t say that it’s corn. Why can’t they let everyone know that it came from corn?

What has been your experience with food allergy and reading labels?

If you liked this, you might like my other posts about dealing with my son’s allergies and eczema:  Top 5 products that have helped our severe eczema and adventures in homemade cleaners.

August 26, 2009 at 12:18 am 18 comments

top 5 products that have helped our severe eczema

My two year old son has had severe eczema since birth.  As I  continually find more and more things that cause his rashes and hives, I have also found things that help his skin the most.

  1. sheabutterNatural Shea butter from Vermont Soap Works. This comes in a 64 oz tub for only $35 which is much cheaper than buying 4 oz at a time at your local store for $20.  This shea butter is so creamy and there are never any crystallized lumps (like the brands I’ve gotten at the store.)  If you’ve never used shea butter, it’s very thick and you just scoop a little bit onto your finger then rub into your hands to melt it and then smooth it on your skin. It soaks into the skin and provides relief to anyone with dry, thirsty skin. This is pure shea butter with only a little rosemary added as a preservative.  Also available in a 2 oz tin for $9.99. Those with nut allergies may not be able to use this product.
  2. Pure soap from Cal Ben Soap Company. I’ve tried several different soaps including castille soap (all without sodium laureth sulfate, etc) and this is the one that seems to work the best–leaves the skin feeling clean and moisturized as opposed to feeling parched and itchy.  Cal Ben has several other  non-detergent products that we use and loqh100ccobtrve including their five star shampoo.
  3. Queen Helene 100% Cocoa butter in a stick.  This is available in most drug stores for less than $2 a stick.  Don’t confuse this product with brands that contain additional ingredients. I’ve never seen another 100% cocoa butter, but please tell me if you know of another one. This is a solid stick that is loose in the tube.  To use, just hold it in your hands until it starts to soften, then start rubbing the stick directly into the skin. I can’t tell you how many evenings, my son’s skin has been dry and hurting and as I rub this into his skin, he just relaxes and lets me do it because it really gives him relief.
  4. mabelwhite1Mabel’s Miracle liquid castille soap.  I’ve only been using this for 3 weeks but I’ve loved it since day one.  I’m using it for laundry soap as well as in the mop water for my wood floors throughout the house.  I have the unscented pearl (I chose this one simply because it is buy one, get one free.)  Even though it is unscented, it smells heavenly! I am sensitive to many chemical odors (natural scents too,) but its mild scent doesn’t cause us any type of reaction.   For laundry, I am using only 1 Tablespoon (much less than the recommendation) per large load plus 2 Tablespoons of a borax/ washing soda mixture that I keep in a jar. (equal parts of each so it would be 1 T of each if done separately.)  I started with the recommended 1/4 cup and then just cut back until I reached 1 T and it’s still effective at cleaning clothes.
  5. This last thing is not a product to use, but rather products to avoid.  I first read about detergents causing eczema at solve eczema.  We don’t use any lotions, “normal” soaps that contain SLS, or body washes  because of the drying, stinging ingredients they contain (even natural, herbal, supposed to be for eczema lotions.)  We don’t use any products with detergents in them. More about that in this post.

What products have you found most helpful in treating eczema?

April 7, 2009 at 4:05 pm 12 comments

moist and light banana muffins free of many allergens

If you have to bake for someone with several different food allergies, it’s tough to create a muffin that isn’t too heavy or that doesn’t crumble all to pieces. This recipe has NO wheat, eggs, dairy, soy, corn, vanilla or cinnamon. It turned out pretty well and my little allergy boy probably would’ve eaten them all in one sitting had I not hidden them away. He loved them.

1 cup oats (I used quick)
1 cup rice flour (I already have mine mixed with some tapioca flour)
1 cup oat flour
1/3 cup ground flax seed
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup rice milk
1/2 cup canola oil
2 mashed bananas
2 t xanthum gum
1 tsp baking soda
couple dashes of nutmeg
couple dashes of salt

I mixed this in my stand mixer. It made 11 regular sized muffins plus about a dozen mini muffins. This was a thick batter which worked pretty well. The amount of liquid may need to be altered depending on different brands of flour or humidity levels.

Bake at 350 about 15-20 minutes until done.

December 20, 2008 at 9:39 pm Leave a comment

mmm…rice shreds for people who can’t have normal cheese

I was thrilled to find rice shreds at Whole Foods Market. Up until today, I haven’t found any dairy substitute for my son with extensive food allergies. Most are soy based which he is also allergic too. I think that perhaps going dairy free has been the hardest for him. The only reason I say that is because I’ve caught him with the asiago cheese, sour cream, cream cheese, and milk. (he’s a toddler who just acquired the new skill of opening the fridge when no one is looking.)

He does drink rice and oat beverages but he obviously longs for cow’s milk that I took away from him a couple months ago when his allergies were diagnosed.

The real test came when I gave him the rice shreds and he ate it and wanted more. I bought the cheddar flavor (not pictured) and put them on some rice tortillas. The rice shreds don’t melt as quickly in the microwave as regular cheese does and it gives off an undesirable odor.

I tasted one little shred and didn’t like it, but I don’t need to like it. My little allergy guy needs to like them and he does!

Allergy note: these do contain casein, milk protein. But they are lactose and dairy free. (soy, wheat, corn free also.)

September 24, 2008 at 10:16 pm 3 comments

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