It became apparent very early that my second child Finn had problems with food.  As mentioned in my earlier blog I had an emergency operation when Finn was three months old, which meant he was given several dairy based formulas as I couldn’t breastfeed.  He came out in rashes around his mouth and neck, he was vomiting, had upset bowels and was writhing in pain.  The last two symptoms had been a common occurrence since birth, so after discussions with the paediatrician I knew it was time to make some adjustments in my diet as he was getting exposed to dairy through my milk.

He was also diagnosed with reflux at the same time so I had hoped with the elimination of dairy from my diet and better management of his reflux, as detailed in my previous blog, his sleeping and general discomfort would improve, but there were more hurdles ahead.

His paediatrician suggested the slow and careful introduction of solids at four months to help keep the reflux down and he also referred me to a paediatric allergist.   Now that I knew that there was a problem with food I was on the lookout for the aggravation of the symptoms connected to my diet.

It quickly became apparent that Finn’s discomfort worsened after I had eaten wheat and soy so I also eliminated these from my diet.  As we slowly introduced foods a couple of other problem foods surfaced – apple and sweet potato also triggered symptoms which is unusual as sweet potato is usually recommended as an early food as it has a low risk of response.

When Finn was six months old we saw the allergist for the first time.  We were lucky enough to see someone who was involved in establishing allergy research and testing at the Royal Children’s Hospital. This was a really helpful process and skin prick tests showed that he wasn’t anaphylactic currently but would be re-tested over the next couple of years.  

The most common food allergies are caused by cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, treenuts, soybeans, wheat, fish and shellfish and we were to avoid them for the time being. I was told that his symptoms indicated a stomach allergy, which can make children very sick and that it was important to understand the difference between an allergy and a food intolerance.  A food allergy as an immune response, where your immune system reacts to a substance as if it’s toxic and releases chemicals into the body. The effect can be severe and sometimes life threatening.  A food intolerance is a reaction to a substance in a food that isn’t an immune response and the symptoms are not as severe but can still cause discomfort, such as migraines, rashes and gastrointestinal symptoms.

Our paediatrician recommended that we see paediatric nutritionists to assist with Finn’s diet.  I initially didn’t make an appointment for the nutritionist as we have a varied diet that included lots of healthy organic fruit, vegetables and meats and we eat minimal processed foods. However, Finn was struggling to put on weight and would really get knocked around if he was sick so I ended up making an appointment.  This ended up being really helpful.  I was given a comprehensive guide to introducing foods which was specific to Finn’s allergies.  Simple food suggestions were also beneficial – such as chicken thighs and wings were nutritionally better for Finn, he should be having a minimum of three teaspoons of oil per day and making the occasional homemade potato chips out of good quality oils would help to fatten him up.

Finn was desperate to try any new food he could and would get so excited and say ‘mmm yum’ before even trying something new.  This was in direct contrast to my eldest son who is an extremely fussy eater who has a meltdown if a new food is even put in front of him.

Finn eating

One of the challenging parts of these diet restrictions besides Finn having to see his older brother eat food that he couldn’t, was how many meals I was cooking a day.  Finn and I would have a cooked breakfast and lunch and at night time I was cooking three to four different meals a night.  Catering for myself and Finn’s restricted diet, my eldest fussy eating and my husband who works late was exhausting.

It was hard constantly monitoring both Finn’s and my diet so thoroughly, and I hadn’t even thought about the vitamins I was taking.  By the time Finn was fifteen months we were having more success with managing his food issues. However, I was concerned about my calcium levels with the elimination of dairy so I started to take a calcium supplement.  Over a period of four days Finn’s discomfort was escalating rapidly to the point he was waking every twenty minutes in so much pain.  I hadn’t introduced anything new besides the vitamins.  After making several phone calls it came to my attention that the new vitamins I was taking had a tiny amount of soy in them as a filler/binder.  He is so sensitive to soy that he was reacting to the calcium supplements I was taking.

As Finn has gotten older we have been able to introduce more foods.  At eighteen months we were excited to successfully introduce goat’s milk and at twenty one months we had what felt like a life changing event with the successful introduction of wheat.  Finn is one of those children who puts everything into his mouth and I always had to be so vigilant that he wouldn’t get his hands on his brother’s toast and sandwiches.  It was such a relief to stop worry about this happening.

We have more skin testing to come but we are excited with the prospect of expanding Finn’s diet as he gets older and we are so grateful that it looks like he will grow out of his allergies.

While Finn’s allergies have been challenging there has definitely been some benefits.  As an adult I have never eaten this healthy.  Through this process I have learnt that I am better off without wheat in my diet.  I have less swollen glands, headaches and joint aches when I’m not eating wheat and I have so much more energy.  Furthermore, my knowledge of food and cooking has improved drastically.  I used to always follow recipes to the letter, I have begun to play around with recipes to work around the foods we have to avoid, which I will discuss in coming weeks. We are using healthier ingredients and I have expanded my diet to eat foods I used to avoid.