Allergic to Everything: Part Two – Eliminating Foods

My son was always a picky eater, so I was thrilled when my daughter liked fruit. I just never expected to find out that she was allergic to all the fruit and food that she loved. We saw an allergist to discover if any food or environmental allergens were causing some of the intense flare-ups in her eczema/atopic dermatitis.  I covered her allergy to pets last week.

She was tested for twenty seven common foods such as milk, egg, wheat, rice, chicken, and numerous fruits and vegetables. She came back allergic to every one of them. There was no way to eliminate everything. What would she eat? The allergist said to eliminate anything over a level 3 allergen so that included peanuts, carrots, lamb (don’t know how this was on the list as she had never eaten it), green beans, grapes, peaches, strawberries and yeast.

His recommendation then was to simplify her diet and whatever we fed her needed to be what she ate every day. So even though she was allergic to oranges if that is what we wanted to feed her, she needed to have it every day. This is kind of the principle behind allergy shots. They give you some of what you are allergic to in the hopes of your body getting use to the allergen.

Lexie’s feet in Dec. 2010.

We tried this for several months but by January even with all the pets gone and the dietary changes, she was still experiencing a lot of scratching. Her skin looked horrible. We decided it was time to start eliminating other foods from her diet one at a time. Since eczema is often linked to milk that was one of the first things to go. She didn’t like milk to drink, but she did love yogurt and ate it daily. I went through the pantry and removed anything that had milk as an ingredient. All butter, ice cream, and yogurt were off her diet. Sadly, I couldn’t see that this stopped her from scratching. Then one day as a test, I gave her a yogurt and within 20 minutes of eating it, she was scratching like crazy. The next day the same thing happened so we knew milk was definitely one of the things causing her itching.

Next, with milk still gone from her diet, I decided to eliminate wheat. I decided if wheat was going, I might as well go all the way and remove gluten. Anyone on a gluten-free diet can tell you that gluten-free products are more expensive. And I am sorry to report that most of them do not taste as good as the products we were replacing. But removing gluten didn’t help. Adding it back into her diet didn’t provide the same results that milk did, so we assumed wheat and gluten were okay.

For several weeks, we tried eliminating and reintroducing numerous foods that she tested allergic to. Some you could see a definite reaction while others there was almost no change. But even with all the things we eliminated, she still was scratching and bleeding and just miserable. So we decided to try something totally different to see if we could relieve her symptoms. Next week, I will discuss what we tried and how it helped us reintroduce both milk into her diet and the cats back into our house.

Allergic to Everything: Part One – Getting Rid of the Pets

Lexie was two and a half when we finally had her tested for allergies. We had been seeing the dermatologist for a year before he agreed that her eczema might be related to allergies. The allergist ordered a blood test to determine her allergies. I was eager to find out what she might be allergic to especially if it helped relieve her itching. There was no way I was prepared for the results; she was allergic to everything.

They tested thirty-seven items – ten environmental things such as dust, pet dander, grass and twenty-seven common food items. She scored a Level 2 classification or higher on all of them which indicated an allergy. And one of the highest allergies was to cats (Level 6) and dogs (Level 5). The first words out of the allergist’s mouth was get rid of the pets.

We had three cats and a dog at the time, and they were part of the family. One of the cats had been with us longer than Lexie. None of us wanted to see them go so we decided to try everything we could to keep them. We made her room a “safe” room. We cleaned it and kept the door closed and the cats out. And since dust (Level 6) was another high allergen, we bought dust mite protective stuff for her beds and installed an air filter in her room as well as the living room. We tried putting anti-dander solution on the pets and cleaning more often. We even replaced the carpet in our living room and on the stairs and put in laminate flooring to reduce her exposure to dust and pet dander.

We received her allergy test results in October.

Lexie in December 2010.

By December, Lexie was miserable. It was clear that the animals were still causing her problems. While my parents were willing to take the cats for a while to see if that helped, we had no one who would take in our black lab that had just turned one. Seven days before Christmas, my parents took the cats. I cried like crazy the day they left. But Lexie’s reaction to their absence was immediately noticeable. Every winter, Lexie’s nose always seemed to be running like she had one long continuous cold. The instant the cats were gone, her nose stopped running. She still itched around the dog who we were keeping in the kitchen, so we found her a new home. She left us the day after Christmas.

The house was extremely empty without our pets, but Lexie was doing a little better but not great. Clearly the pets were not the only problem. It was time to start eliminating food from her diet to see if we could uncover which foods were causing her the most problems. I will address eliminating food next week and the following week I will tell you how we were able to bring the cats back nine months later.