There is a lot of confusion out there about how to eliminate foods for yourself or your nursling, and what a person can or can’t react to. I certainly didn’t kow anything about it before two years ago. I thought that if you reacted to something it must be that it wasn’t healthy. Now, obviously, I know that isn’t true.
I think that is why some people get a tad weird if you start talking about food intolerances. If it isn’t a peanut, well-known for being serious in causing reactions, people think you are trying to tell them what *they* can eat. I told someone at the Farmer’s Market that we’d eliminated eggs for a while to see if they affected Ada, and they started a conversation with me about how healthy they are. Which I was never disputing.
Anyway, what’s bugging me today is that impractical advice given to people, especially moms with upset little babies, trying to figure out if its a food. I see some myths repeated over and over, perhaps for the sake of making things not seem too hard for a person to think about. It’s true… when I pondered going gluten free for Ada, I was more than a little daunted. But what would help me, is support in that it IS doable.
Myth 1: Cutting back will help.
Many moms talking to me about stopping dairy say “well I don’t eat a lot of dairy” or that they can just cut back and see if it makes a difference, before really committing. Perhaps at times you can cut back on something a see a change, but it does back to the scientific method here, people. You’ll never truly know if you don’t commit and cut it all out. Then you will have wasted your time “cutting back” and probably end up still having symptoms in either you or your baby. This is true, especially, for skin reactions. They don’t clear up from ‘cutting back’.
I also thought I didn’t eat a lot of dairy. But here’s my question to you…. if you insist you don’t eat alot so that isn’t what is causing your psoriasis, or acne, or fatigue,or joint pain, or your baby’s colic and rashes…. then why is it hard to give up? If you don’t eat “a lot”. I’m not being harsh here, I know how hard it is! Just trying to be practical. I feel the food eliminati0n world is full of impracticality. If you can’t bear the thought of giving it up, you are addicted.
I know someone who tells me “I couldn’t live without it.” She feels it’s easier to give up gluten than dairy. She just has to have a littl e dairy each day to feel normal. Hm. so if we replaced dairy with “cocaine” would we all think it’s okay?
Myth 2: You have to do an extreme elimination diet to figure things out.
Extreme elimination diets are rarely necessary. Most people can figure out what is causing their headaches, skin problems or fatigue through a simpler elimination and addition diet. There is one example of an extreme elimination diet for a colicky baby on Dr. Sear’s website, and while I love Dr. Sears, this has led women to believe that this is how you go about it. Extreme elimination diets are hard and likely to make you so frustrated you give up.
It’s much smarter to eliminate the big offenders, and then any suspects or known allergies in the family after that. Don’t wait a set time, like three weeks, or “until dairy has cleared from the system”. That’s another myth. The food is gone after a few days, but waiting for the body to heal, that’s another story. You eliminate your list until symptoms go away. After a week, if nothing has changed at all, eliminate more suspects, but DON’T add the first eliminations back in or you’ll never know if you/your child react to more than one thing.
For example, with Ada, I eliminated dairy when she was 3 months old. It got a little better so I stuck with it. After three weeks, she was clearly still reacting to something, so I did away with soy and eggs. Three more weeks and symptoms were getting worse, so I added gluten the list. Four days later she had her first healthy bowel movement. Nothing extreme was needed at that point. Sometimes you never even trial something back in because the change was so dramatic. Eggs were trialed back in with success, and dairy and soy are coming at some point.
Myth 3: Peanuts and shellfish are the first thing to be eliminated.
Nuts and shell fish get the attention because they often cause anaphylaxsis. But they account for a smaller percentage of foods that really cause all these common problems. Dairy and gluten are by far the two most common intolerances, regardless of if a person has a dairy allergy, that tests positive with IgE, or true celiac disease.
After that soy, eggs and corn are up there. Potatos and nightshades and the avocado/banana family after that. Any person can react to anything. It’s highly individualized, and yet, nearly everyone I know who has a kid who reacts to stuff, has had to eliminate gluten and dairy.
Myth 4: I don’t have any food intolerances.
This one is interesting to me, because it’s what I would have said two years ago. But the fact is, you don’t know if you’ve never eliminated a food to see if you feel differently when you don’t eat it. I was so much more exhausted at the end of the day, had so many more headaches, a really really sensitive gag reflex, and often didn’t feel well after eating, but I couldn’t ever pinpoint how I felt. Not nauseated, not hungry, not full. I also had low iron, despite eating lots of raw spinach, red meat and taking supplements. Many people discover harder to explain differences when they don’t eat certain things. They can shake depression and anxiety easier (or completely rid of anxiety acts), are less emotional or irritable, no longer have PMS, etc.
I had no food intolerances either. Now that I am gluten, dairy and egg free, I have energy, headaches or few and far between, I rarely get back aches any more, I can brush my teeth without gagging, and I have a healthy relationship with eating. I don’t feel weird after I eat, I tend to feel good.
Myth 5: Hypoallergenic formula can’t cause reactions.
It’s really a shame that so many mothers are fed this line. It was suggested to me that I use a HA formula with Ada, and they all contain corn, soy and/or dairy, all things we were eliminating. Many women report back that they regret starting the formula, that their child was never truly healthy on it, and they wish they’d just kept nursing while eliminating foods.
The bottom line is doctors tell women their babies won’t react to HA formula because this is what the pharmaceutical reps have told them. Their goal is to make money, not to safeguard your child’s health. Even if that is their goal, they are misinformed and misguiding about the rewards, difficulties, and health benefits of just eliminating foods and sticking to breastmilk.
Myth 6: Dairy myths.
There are alot of myths about dairy, in particular. That you can eat goat milk but not cow. That you are just lactose intolerant. That butter isn’t really dairy. That lactose doesn’t have the protien in it so it’s okay.
Just like with any other elimination, you eliminate it all, then trial one by one. A small, repeat *small*, percentage of people can eat goat or sheep dairy if they react to cow’s milk protien, but that is the exception and not the norm, as many people think. Lactose intolerance is the normal state of the human stomach after age 5 or so, when a human would have stopped nursing, long long ago. So those of us that still make lactase are the exception, not the rule, again , when compared to most humans. Sometimes there is lactose in a pill and a doctor will say it’s okay because the protein isn’t there. And it may be a trace enough amount that you or your baby don’t react, but no on can promise that. You trial it separately, just like everything else.
Myth 7: You should avoid “allergenic foods” while pregnant, nursing, or introducing solids or avoid all nuts or all seeds.
This one is undetermined, scientifically. But the take on it that I have heard and tend to agree with, is, if you have eliminated other foods, and have *no* reason to suspect something like nuts or shellfish, then there is no reason to eliminate it and restrict your diet further. Ada had some nuts before she was two, and we trialed eggs with her before then too. Why wait because some people react to it? She already doesn’t eat dairy and gluten. So we gave her other vegetarian proteins and she was fine.
Another thing is people are often told to avoid all nuts and seeds. Botanically, food family wise, one seed isn’t any more likely to cause a reaction that another. So just because you react to peanuts, a legume, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat sunflower seeds. Tree nuts have been lumped together but are often botanically different as well. The big complication here is cross contamination, and so some people should avoid all nuts if they haven’t sourced them carefully themself, meaning ordered then in the shell and washed, for example.
There are food cross reactions, but they might surprise you. Bananas, avocados, papaya and latex are more closely related (reaction wise) then walnuts and almonds.
For more on this, you can read here.