Sunday, May 1, 2011

Going Gluten Free, Dairy Free, and Much Else

I love cooking. I love being adventurous with food. I love being able to walk into the grocery store, note the sales on healthy, single ingredient items, and stock up on them. I love being able to cook based on what is cheap, and creating varied delicious menus for only pennies per serving.
Only, I don't know how easily I'll be able to continue doing that, at least for the next little while.

Last week, I shared with you readers that I've discovered that my little one, Ike, has eczema. I hadn't noticed it until now because it never really had gotten so bad, until a week and a half ago. Once I've noticed how my little one is suffering, I decided I had to take action and do something to cure that eczema.

The Role of Genetics
After posting, I called up my dad the doc, to find out if there was any occurrence of eczema in my family, just in case there was a genetic link that I was unaware of. Lo and behold, I discovered that skin conditions are rampant in my family. My father has eczema, one sibling has extremely irritable skin, another has psoriasis, my first cousins have eczema, as well as a plethora of other people on my dad's side. I also know that I have quite a few relatives on my mother's side with either psoriasis or eczema.
Holy cow!
No wonder my son has it- it's definitely in his genes!

Now that I am aware of the genetic aspect, I started looking to see if there were other genetic components that could help me figure this one out and how to deal with it. I know my dad is sensitive to gluten, possibly even has celiac. My dad, brother, and I all are sensitive to dairy. (I was lactose intolerant as a kid but seemed to have outgrown it, but my brother is probably allergic and my dad is still lactose intolerant.)
Upon doing research, I've discovered that food allergies and sensitivities can show up as eczema, with gluten, dairy, and eggs being the most likely culprits on that list.
Hrmmm, I thought to myself. In my family we have lots of skin sensitivity, gluten sensitivity, and dairy sensitivity. How much do you want to bet that those are all interconnected?


The Diet
I decided to put Ike on an elimination diet, a strict diet cutting out all foods that might possibly be causing this reaction.
The diet will be no:
Gluten (wheat, barley, rye, and spelt, and also oats because of possible cross contamination)
Dairy (including butter, cheese, milk, yogurt, kefir, etc...)
Eggs
Nightshades (eggplant, tomato, peppers, potatoes, and also spices like paprika and chili powder)
Coconut (coconut oil, coconut flakes, and coconut milk)
We anyhow avoid soy 99% of the time for health reasons, but while I was going to make sure to eliminate this entirely, I noticed that many gluten free foods contain some little bit of soy, so I'm not going to add this to the list yet.
And as usual, we'll be keeping our food as natural as possible, with no preservatives, artificial colorings, flavorings, etc...

Gluten, dairy, and eggs I explained why he'll be avoiding it above, but I decided that nightshades and coconut would also be avoided because:
Ike and Lee have both had allergic reactions to eggplant and tomatoes in the past that showed up on their skin. Because of this, I am more inclined to put nightshades (when there's a sensitivity to one, there frequently is a sensitivity to them all) on the suspect list, especially as we use nightshades quite frequently.
Coconut isn't the most common allergen to cause eczema, but it is possible, and as we use a lot of coconut in our home, and in the week that the eczema flared up we used lots of coconut, which puts it on the suspect list. Additionally, I was planning on ordering a huge amount of coconut oil soon, and if we go gluten free, I was going to get lots of coconut as well to use as a flour substitute. Before I spend all that money on coconut, I want to make sure Ike isn't sensitive to coconut.

While officially only Ike and I will be on this elimination diet (I'm still nursing him, so anything I eat gets passed on to him), I'm only planning on cooking the permitted foods (my rule is I only cook one meal, not alternative meals for different people- but I will cook two types of noodles, for example, on gluten free and one not, to save costs), so for the most part, the whole family will be on this diet. (Things that don't require cooking will always be available to my husband and son, like oats and milk for breakfast, or raw tomatoes to add to salads.)

The way this elimination diet will work is that we're going to start off eliminating all the foods on the list above (just as soon as I go shopping for some of the foods that are permitted). We'll be eating none of those foods until the eczema goes away entirely. If after eliminating all those foods for a month, the rash is still there, we'll be cutting out further foods, including corn, sesame, cocoa, nuts, peanuts, citrus, etc... but I have a feeling it won't be necessary. As it is, we've been going mostly dairy and gluten free the past few days and the rash seems to be getting a lot better, so I have faith that the first round of our elimination diet will work.

Once the eczema goes away, we'll try adding back the least suspected foods one at a time. First will be potatoes, then coconut, and then peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants. If we can introduce those foods again without causing problems, I'll try out soaked/fermented oats, and fermented dairy (kefir and yogurt), eggs, and then fermented/soaked gluten. Hopefully we'll be able to add back as much food as possible, prepared in their traditional forms, without causing a reaction. Once we get a reaction, we'll eliminate that food again until the reaction is gone, and only then try to see if we can add other foods without problems.
This way, I'll hopefully pick up on any sensitivities my son has, and be able to solve the eczema issue without needing a trip to the allergist or expensive skin creams.

At the same time as we're doing all this, I'm making sure to wash my son only with warm water, no soap, and moisturizing him with a natural moisturizer.

Why All This?
You might think that I'm a little cuckoo for doing all this, spending all this extra money and going to all this extra effort just because of a stupid little rash my son has. But the thing is, it's not just some "stupid little rash". Eczema is an autoimmune response, a sign telling you "something wrong is going on in my body". If you eat foods that are bad for you, this effects your immune system in a negative way. In fact, many times eczema and Celiac disease are related, and Celiac doesn't always have such obvious symptoms, and if left untreated, Celiac disease can have far reaching consequences, like osteoporosis, cancer, and infertility.

I'm doing this in the hopes that I can heal my son's issues, strengthen his body, and make his eczema go away. If it does go away, I am going to go with the theory that perhaps he is gluten intolerant, perhaps even with celiac, and it's definitely a worthwhile endeavor. My dad the doc who is so anti any "natural health stuff" that he calls it quack medicine, said that if a rash is being caused by a certain food, its important to avoid it, not just because of the rash, because you don't know what the far reaching consequences could be of eating those foods that are bad for your body.

Not only that- if I spend a little extra money now on groceries to make this elimination diet transition, hopefully his eczema will be cured and I won't need to spend so much money on all sorts of creams and treatments that just put a bandaid on the issue instead of solving it from its roots.

Another thing I wanted to mention- the more I've been reading up on Celiac and gluten intolerance, the more familiar it sounds. I've got so many of the symptoms written about Celiac disease, and I do know that eating seitan makes my stomach upset and I feel nauseous for quite some time after eating it (not because it's gross- I want to eat more of it it, but I feel like puking instead), so its quite possible that I have undiagnosed Celiac, and this diet will help me as well.

Even if none of us actually have Celiac, there's room to argue that going gluten free and possibly dairy free can be beneficial for everyone. Such a diet is used to help people with autism, ADD/ADHD, liver issues, stomach issues, depression, skin issues, weight loss, fatigue, muscle cramps, etc...

I have a few more posts on the topic of going gluten free, dairy free, etc, that I'll be posting within the next couple of days. They are:
Timing of Starting a Massive Elimination Diet
Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free, Nightshade Free- Cheaply???
My First Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free, Nightshade Free, Coconut Free Shopping Trip.
Hope you'll enjoy them, and for those that don't find the topic relevant, I'll be back to my usual posts as soon as those is finished.

If your kid was showing a skin rash, would you do an elimination as strict as the one I'm proposing? Or would you say "Come on, what's the big deal- it's just a rash- it's not worth the money"?
Have you ever done an elimination diet? How long and how many tries did it take before you were able to pinpoint the exact foods that were causing the issue?
Or would you sidestep the whole thing and just go to an allergist, even though not all food sensitivities can show up through allergy testing?
Do you know any people with Celiac disease? How old were they when they were diagnosed?

1 comment:

  1. i'm starting my 14 mo. old son on a dairy free diet. pretty sure it's the main culprit in his eczema as it coincides almost exactly when he completely quit (I mean, completely) nursing and i switched him to raw cow's milk. my 3 yr old can't get enough cows milk. within a few days, the rash appeared and has only gotten progressively worse over 2 mo. it's only day 2 for us and no change, but it's early, i know. how long did it take your son's rash to clear? did you find out which foods were causing his eczema?

    for what it's worth, we're also on a gut healing regime - lots of bone broth, probiotic foods, and a nutrient dense, whole food diet.

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