Friday, March 12, 2010

A Change in Diet

Almost a month ago, my six year old son and I started an experiment. I was convinced that my son's digestive irregularities (the nice way of saying he's always constipated) were due to more than just a lack of fiber. This condition had, after all, been going on since he was a baby. I was the only mother I knew who hoped for poopy diapers. The pediatrician, however, just told us to give him Metamucil. We tried, but the extra fiber had no more affect than the tons of fruits and vegetables he already ate. The poor kid got bound up, then couldn't sit still, acted out in class and became a bear to live with until he was finally able to go. This had to stop.

Thanks to the vast amounts of knowledge that everyone shares on the internet, I got turned on to the book Is This Your Child? by Doris Rapp. The book deals with food allergies and their effects on the body. Was constipation an allergy symptom? Yes, it can be. Who knew? (Well, somebody knew. Just not me.)

The book suggests an elimination diet to test for food allergies. I figured it couldn't hurt, and maybe we'd get to the bottom of my son's issues, so we tried it. Not wanting my kid to feel left out during family meals, I did the diet with him. What an adventure we had.

The first week we eliminated just about every potential allergen. This was really, really hard. I had to read every label on everything we had in the house, and I spent hours in the grocery store. No wheat, no dairy, no nuts, no sugar, no eggs, no citrus fruit, no artifical colors or preservatives... I think the first week we ate only fresh fruits and veggie, rice and potatoes. Not a bad diet, really, except when the local food store has a very limited produce section during the winter months.

My attempt at making pancakes out of rice flour was pitiful.

After a week without any of the eliminated things, my son's bowel movements resembled those of a normal human. Then we started adding stuff back. The first day we added dairy. By that evening he couldn't go. Can't get more obvious than that. We took the dairy out of his diet and things started flowing again. Nothing else seemed to have an effect, except we noticed sugar made him, like many children, a bit hyper. I've always tried to limit the sugar in my kids' diets, so that didn't require much of an adjustment.

The big surprise came the day we added back eggs. Turns out that eggs make me itch. I've been suffering from eczema since I was a teenager. I always thought it was something environmental. I never would have suspected eggs, but the symptoms came out so fast while eating a plate of scrambled eggs that there was no question what the cause was. I sat there, scratching the insides of my elbows and knees, cursing myself for not thinking of this sooner. I could have avoided years of itching, unsightly rashes and cortisone scars.

Now that I knew what had to be eliminated permanently, I had to come up with a whole new meal plan. I already had to be creative to include my vegetarian daughter in meals. Now I had to make them dairy- and egg-free as well. It's okay. I needed a new challenge.

Baking has been a disaster. The vegan brownies I tried tasted like banana bread and burned our throats on the way down. At least I can do french bread.

My egg- and milk-free pancakes are getting pretty darn good, though.
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