In the fall of 2009, we discovered that our Little Man (then only 2 years old) had three food allergies we would have to learn about and live with.
It's been a wild ride since then. What first seemed so overwhelming has become routine...checking labels, asking questions of restaurant staff, scaring babysitters with the Epi-pen demo, etc.
I recently came across this post I wrote for a different blog when I first began to research food allergies. If you are beginning the food allergy journey yourself, I know how overwhelming it can seem as you adjust your view of food and rediscover how to feed your family. I hope this helps in some small way...
We've known for a little over a year that Little Man had a peanut allergy. It came as quite a shock, and provided to be a HUGE exercise in education and self-control for me as I come from a long line of peanut-butter-lovers. (My dad has been known to add the staple to such things as hamburgers and hot dogs!)
Just when I thought I finally had the routine down--checking labels, quizzing restaurant personnel, informing caregivers, sticking brightly-colored "Allergy Alert!" stickers all over him before putting him in the church nursery, hiding and sneaking bites of contraband PB here and there...the stakes got drastically higher.
A couple of weeks ago we visited the allergist with a simple question concerning vaccination and ended up finding out that, in addition to peanuts, Little Man is also allergic to egg and soy. Well, this provided a whole new level of education, adjustment, and more than a little stress to my life. I've known a few other moms who have struggled with food allergies in their families, but I had NO IDEA the level of stress it can cause. I have an all-new appreciation and empathy for families who deal with any type of food allergy or intolerance.
I've only begun my research, so I'm sure there is much I still do not know. But I wanted to take some time to list a few things I've discovered in the last few weeks. I hope this will be helpful to any who have, or know someone who has, food allergies.
- 1 in 4 children have a food allergy!
- Soy, soybean oil, and soy lecithin is in almost EVERY processed or prepackaged food (even organic or all-natural foods since soybeans are a natural food).
- Some sources say soybean oil and soy lecithin do not contain the protein that causes an allergic reaction and therefore are safe. However, our allergist maintains that those ingredients can and do cause a reaction. We choose to avoid them to be safe. [Update: our allergist has confirmed that Soybean oil is OK for our little guy.]
- It is important to check the ingredients on EVERYTHING! (I found soy listed on my cornstarch, and my friend found it as an ingredient in her flour!)
- Some sources maintain that only raw egg contains the protein that causes allergic reaction (because heating the egg changes the protein). While Little Man has never reacted to anything with an egg cooked or baked into it, our allergist recommended avoiding them, as it can cause a reaction.
- You can use 1/2 cup of applesauce as an egg substitute in most baking recipes. (This works especially well in muffin recipes!)
- You can also substitute 1 Tbs of flax seed and 3 Tbs of water for 1 egg in any baking recipe. (You can also use chia seeds as a substitute. Find out how here.)
- Children will likely outgrow many food allergies, including soy and egg by the time they are in preschool. The chances of outgrowing a peanut allergy is much lower.
- Those with a peanut allergy should also avoid tree nuts (almonds, walnuts, etc.), even if they do not test as reactive to those allergens, because most plants process them together and there is a high risk of cross-contamination.
- Soynut butter is a good substitute for peanut butter for those with peanut allergies. We used it for awhile until Little Man developed the soy allergy. (Yes, apparently they can develop an allergy to a food they've not reacted to previously.) Sunflower nut butter is also recommended as a substitute as it is not processed with nuts and therefore no risk of cross contamination.
If you are new to the food allergy world (and even if you aren't), the following sites are very helpful:
Like what you’ve read? Would you like to get new posts delivered directly to your inbox? Enter your e-mail address in the box to the right, and you’ll get new posts e-mailed to you as soon as they’re published. Easy-peasy. Or, follow me on Facebook , Twitter, or Pinterest.
Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.