*As with all of my posts, this should not be taken as medical advice. I am not a doctor. I am just a mom that has a lot of experience and has done a lot of research. Every person is different and responds differently to diet and supplements. Not all allergies can/will be healed or prevented even on the healthiest diet. But I hope many can make steps in a positive direction with some simple changes.*
Allergies. Whether food or environmental they are not fun. But an allergy diagnosis is also not a life sentence. There are things you can do to heal rather than simply avoid allergens.
Today I’m talking about food allergies and some of the mistakes so many people make when dealing with them. I know so many families that deal with food allergies. But I never hear much talk about trying to get rid of them. They just suffer with them.
How do I know about the mistakes so many people make? I’ve been there. I’ve made them…with both myself and my children.
Where do allergies come from? There is no single answer. Often times allergies are passed down through generations. According to my allergist they usually come from the father. So it makes sense that since my husband and my father-in-law have allergies my children do too. Keep in mind it’s not necessarily the same allergy that gets passed down. My husband and my daughter have environmental allergies, but my son has food allergies. It is still TBD if he has environmental allergies as well, but the allergist said it looks like he does.
Allergies can also be a result of the mother’s health and diet both before and during pregnancy. If you ate a lot of peanut butter while pregnant it can increase your child’s chance of having a nut allergy. Though some say the opposite is true. If you had an unhealthy gut during pregnancy your child might as well.
Also, if you have a c-section your child does not pick up your good gut bacteria from the birth canal and usually gets some antibiotics in his or her system. We deal with this situation as well. My gut health was definitely not where it should be during pregnancy. I also had c-sections for all of my children. That being said I was on a REAL food diet when pregnant and breastfeeding my son. He still developed allergies.
Note that the health of the mother can have an impact not only on her own children, but on her grandchildren and great grandchildren! It can be passed down through generations. Just as it can take several generations to make a significant impact for the better. So while my diet won’t totally keep my own children from health problems. My changes plus the changes my own children make will likely have a positive impact on future generations.
These are just a few of the many possible sources of allergies. And most people have multiple factors that play a role.
Regardless of the source, allergies are a big pain. My son was diagnosed last year with quite a few food allergies. The worst being dairy. We are thankful he never had any life threatening reactions (we don’t even own an epi-pen). But it was still not pleasant to see him suffer. He had hives, eczema, digestive issues and behavioral issues.
After our first visit with the allergist we had about three foods to strictly avoid and about ten foods to not eat very often. We tried that method for a while. The result? After six months he had new food allergies. This seems to happen to many people. The allergies aren’t too bad so you just limit the offending foods. But it doesn’t work. Then you cut them out completely. That helps. But it still doesn’t solve the problem.
What now? Here are the things I’ve learned about allergies that I hope will help you as well.
1. Avoiding does NOT heal allergies.
This is probably the most important thing to understand. Avoiding the problem foods will definitely help ease symptoms and reactions. This is an important first step. But it doesn’t actually get to the root of the problem. Allergies are an autoimmune problem. You have to heal the gut and the autoimmune system to actually get rid of the allergies. Else they are almost always going to be with you for life.
2. Work on the gut.
The gut is the source of the problem. You need a healthy gut full of good bacteria. How do you get that?
There are many healing diets you can try like GAPS, SCD and AIP. They tend to be quite restrictive and not individualized.
I prefer to follow some of the healing principles of these diets while adjusting for individual needs. So here are the main things that I think are helpful to everyone that needs healing, even if you don’t follow a specific diet.
*Bone broth – try to consume this every day if possible. It is so nourishing and healing. Even if you do nothing else, consuming real broth will greatly improve your health and your immune system. It is also a great source of calcium and other vitamins and minerals that are often missing on a restricted diet.
*Probiotics – find a good quality probiotic to take daily and rotate brands periodically to get different strains of bacteria. You can also add fermented food to your diet to obtain a variety of good bacteria.
*Gelatin – this is the main component in broth. It is also very healing and very easy pure protien to digest. You can add it to just about anything. So it’s very easy to give it to children. My kids love homemade fruit snacks. Plus I add collagen to drinks and smoothies. It does not gel and has no flavor.
*Avoid gluten – even if you are not allergic to wheat it is problematic for most people. I don’t think eating grain free is necessary for everyone (though some do benefit from it while healing). But stick to gluten free grains.
Homeopathy and parasite cleansing can also help to heal allergies.
3. Rotate foods and eat a variety to prevent creating more allergies.
One of the biggest pitfalls when dealing with allergies is eating the same foods over and over. This is the one I struggled with the most. I had no idea that eating the same food day after day can actually cause problems. But it does.
I need to clarify here – if you are a healthy individual with no gut or autoimmune issues food rotation is not necessary (though still good for you). But if your immune system is already compromised and attacking your body then eating the same foods every day will create new problems.
When I was in college I ate granola and apples pretty much every single day. Now two of my biggest problem foods are oats and apples. I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever be able to eat them again without digestive distress.
The same thing happened with my son. While his body was still at a low point we were struggling with what to feed him. If we found something he would eat willingly we tended to give it to him quite often. That is how he added new allergies to his list, like peas and avocados.
The more you give your child the same food day after day the more allergies they will develop. Although it can be tough to find anything to feed them some days you have to try.
A common allergy protocol will include a rotational diet. I’ve been on one myself before. The general idea is that you rotate foods on a four day schedule. So if you eat an apple one day you can’t have one again for four days. If you eat dairy one day you can’t have it again for four days. It is challenging to eat this way, but it can really help with healing and prevention.
I have found that we don’t need to do strict four day rotation for every type of food. But I do make sure to get variety in our diet. If I serve broccoli for dinner one night I won’t serve it again for quite a few days. I try to serve a variety of fruits, meats, vegetables and grains throughout the week. I don’t worry too much about rotating what types of fat we use. But the rest I try to make sure we get variety and rotate things.
4. Avoid processed foods. Make the diet as nutrient dense as possible.
Another important part of healing is making sure the diet is as nutrient dense as possible. That means avoiding all processed foods and loading up on the good stuff.
The good stuff includes broth, grass-fed meats (especially cuts on the bone, with fat, including beef, pork and poultry), pastured eggs, organic fruits and vegetables and healthy fats (real butter, coconut oil, lard, tallow, avocado and extra virgin olive oil).
It is critical to avoid vegetable oils like canola, safflower, corn and sunflower. These are found in just about every packaged food. Even things like cereal should be cut from the diet. It has no nutritional value and can actually do more harm than good. It may be easy, but it will hurt your efforts in the long run.
Healthy food does not have to be complicated. Snack on a piece of fresh fruit. Cook a vegetable in butter or coconut oil. Serve raw veggies with homemade sour cream dip. Eat leftover roast chicken for some energy. Keep it simple, but real.
5. Be strict about avoidance.
This is another component of healing that I did not understand at first. The allergist told us we could give my son some of his problem foods in limited amounts since they didn’t show a strong reaction.
So that is what I did. I really was good about only giving these foods once in a while. But it wasn’t enough. And those allergies actually got worse at my son’s six month check up.
Even if a food shows only a small reaction it’s still attacking the immune system every time you eat it. And it does not give the body time to settle and heal. It’s like having a cut. If you leave it alone completely it will eventually heal. But if every day you pick at it just a tiny bit it’s going to stay irritated and inflamed and maybe even get worse.
If you or your child has any degree of allergy, avoid it. Once the body has gone through some healing then you can gradually add foods back. But when the body is inflamed and very sensitive even small amounts of allergens will cause big problems.
It takes a while for allergens to fully clear from the body. So if you are periodically having small amounts of a problem food you never fully clear it out. Foods like dairy and gluten can stay in the system for as long as 6-8 weeks! You have to give the body time to fully rest.
6. Detox methods can be very helpful.
When the gut is healing detox is often an important part of the process. As you add the good bacteria and nutrients to your body the bad stuff will have to get out.
I am no expert on detox. I struggle with it myself. But I do know that one of the easiest ways to gently detox is with epsom baths. Simply add epsom salt to a warm bath and soak for twenty minutes. This even works well for kids and is very relaxing.
Another simple way to detox is by drinking lemon water. You can add a couple drops of lemon essential oil to your water or even some real lemon juice.
7. Diet at a young age is very critical.
It is very important to observe your child for any allergy symptoms from birth. From day one my little one had green bowel movements (and a LOT of them in a day), a red bottom and even blood in her stools.
She had little red bumps all over her face. Most people just ignore this and say it’s “baby acne” and don’t give it another thought. But the skin is a great indicator of what is going on inside.
Once I cut dairy and wheat 100% out of my diet she was such a happy baby. No more twenty dirty diapers a day. Normal looking bowel movements. And clear skin.
Does this mean that my baby has allergies? Not necessarily. But I’m not taking any chances. I’m going to let her body rest and heal to help prevent problems down the road.
Even when my little one starts solids I will be very careful about what she eats. Keeping children grain and sugar free until they are at least one year of age is very important. They do not have the enzymes to digest grains. And sugar is just not necessary or healthy for them.
Stick to whole foods like fruits and vegetables, bone broth, grass-fed meats and pastured eggs. Don’t forget to give them plenty of healthy fat like butter, coconut oil and sour cream. It is so important for their brains, hormones and overall well-being.
By avoiding foods they react to and filling their bodies with nutrient-dense foods you can minimize long term health problems. This is also helpful for healing allergies at a young age if they do arise. It does not guarantee your child will not develop allergies. But it will give them a good foundation for improving health.
I was on the GAPS diet myself when pregnant and breastfeeding my son. He had a very nutrient dense diet. He still developed allergies. But he had a solid foundation of health that really helped on our journey.
8. Find ways to relax. Stress will only make things worse.
If there is one thing I understand very well it’s how stress and anxiety impact your body. I am the queen of worry. Worrying about health and diet is at the top of my list.
Stress will actually weaken your immune system and cause problems of its own. If you are in the process of healing worry can really sabotage your efforts.
I find that often it is the parents that worry about the children with allergies. It’s natural. But it is so important not to let it show! Kids pick up on your fears very quickly and mimic your behavior.
If I make a big fuss over what my kids can and can’t eat when we are around others then they get uptight about it. If I act like it’s no big deal and don’t get emotional about it they think nothing of their restrictions and don’t worry about possible reactions.
Allowing your child to be a child and not worry about their allergies is one of the best things you can do for them. You need to let them know the importance of the situation, but they don’t need to worry.
Whether it’s you, your child or both that worries, find ways to relax. A detox bath can help. Also any enjoyable activities like reading, exercising or being with friends.
I have to also mention here that proper rest is critical as well. Your body does most of its repair work while you sleep. If you don’t get enough rest your body will gradually get more and more run down. You’ll see signs of it in your skin, your mood, your digestion, everything. So making sure you and your child get enough sleep is very important.
9. Picky eating is often a symptom of allergies.
I have written quite a bit about picky eating since we have struggled with it with both of my big kids. For my oldest it was related to oral sensory issues. But for my son it was tied to his allergies.
When he was very young he was a great eater. Anything I put in front of him he would devour. He didn’t even want sweets. He loved all vegetables and meats. Around the age of two he started to eat less and less. It became a struggle to get him to eat good food. That is also when his allergies surfaced.
For a while we had a battle at every meal. Just putting one bite of a vegetable on his plate sent him running and crying from the table.
This is very common in children with allergies. It’s not because they are being strong willed. It is because their bodies are run down and food actually doesn’t taste good to them. The bad bacteria wants sugar and starch. That is what they crave.
But don’t give up. Keep trying. Give them a variety of foods. Start with just a vegetable on their plates when they are really hungry. Even if they only get one bite down give them praise.
As the body heals their appetite will increase and their tolerance of a variety foods will increase as well. I am amazed almost daily lately at what my son will eat without hesitation now that we’ve been working on healing for a while.
10. Even if an allergy does not show up on a test there can still be a reaction happening.
This last point is a tricky one. You have to be very observant of how you or your child responds to foods.
Originally my son was diagnosed with an allergy to peas. But by his six month check up it went away. We were so excited. So we let him have peas again.
It took us months to figure out that peas were still bothering him. He may not have a true allergy to them anymore, but his body was still reacting to them. It took a lot of trial and error to figure it out. But once the peas were out of his system he was finally free of his digestive problems.
Even if an allergy seems to clear be sure to add the food back in very gradually (start with once a week) and observe any reactions. There can still be an allergy or a sensitivity even if a test does not show it.
We have observed a similar situation with our oldest. She does not have any food allergies. But she definitely reacts to gluten. Once she went gluten free we saw big improvements in her overall health, growth and behavior.
This is my top ten list of ways to work on healing allergies and prevent them from getting worse.
Simply avoiding allergens may relive symptoms. But it will not take away allergies. Start taking steps now to heal instead of simply avoiding. These steps do not guarantee healing. But in most cases they will at least provide an improvement.
And now for the update:
Over the last year we have experimented with my son. We’ve had times where he was symptom free. We’ve had times where we couldn’t figure out what was bothering him. He has gotten rid of some allergies and has acquired others. But we have been working hard to heal his body with probiotics, broth, gelatin, rotation and avoidance.
It is amazing to see the progress he is making. About six months ago his diet was very limited. I struggled to find more than one vegetable he could/would eat. He loved avocados (not really even a vegetable, but it was all he would eat), so I gave them to him a lot. And of course that led to an avocado allergy. When we would put one tiny piece of cooked carrot on his plate he would run from the table crying and wouldn’t come back until it was gone. If I managed to get him to put a sliver of raw carrot in his mouth he would spit it out instantly. If we got squash in his mouth he would gag and spit it out. It was that bad.
Fast forward a bit. Two weeks ago he ate an entire RAW carrot in his lunch…with no problems. When he was helping me prepare cauliflower for dinner he grabbed a piece (again, raw) of his own accord and happily munched on it. Another day he had a plate full of food for lunch, including a vegetable. He asked me if he could also have a dish of plain salsa to eat. My son that screamed at the sight of vegetables six months ago asked for extra without me even mentioning it. We used to have to force him to try one bite of a vegetable. Now he’s asking for more. The other day I made pizza for dinner. My son finished the squash on his plate before his pizza. He has even told me he loves crunchy carrots now. It’s pretty amazing.
He also used to have eczema all over his legs. He would scratch it until he was bleeding. Now his legs are totally clear.
His other major symptoms were loose bowels and frequent urination. They both subsided once we finally got all of his allergens out of his system.
In addition to the eating improvement and clearing of symptoms my son is definitely making great progress in his development! He has grown about 1 1/2 inches in the last six months. He is fully potty trained now. And he is finally showing interest in learning letters, writing, coloring, etc. He is also making great strides in his speech with just a few visits to the speech therapist. Now that his body is working better he is just taking off in all areas of development.
Last week my son had his one year check up since being diagnosed with food allergies. I was hopeful and nervous.
I am happy to say that we have healed my son of all but two food allergies!! He even got rid of his dairy allergy!!!! It is truly amazing.
The only allergies left are to banana and corn. Corn is actually a new allergy. I’ve been suspicious of that one for a while since he eats a lot of corn when he can’t have wheat or rice. And as I said above if you give a lot of one food when the body is in the healing process that is when new allergies pop up.
Now we begin the process of gradually adding foods back and seeing how he tolerates them. Of course we are starting with dairy. My son is so excited. And I’m hoping he tolerates it well. It will take a while to fully introduce dairy. Since he has not had one bite of it for a year his body will have to relearn how to digest lactose.
So far we have given him very small amounts of plain, whole milk yogurt per the allergist recommendation and a tiny bit of butter. From there we will follow the GAPS protocol for introducing dairy and see how it goes. I’m hoping he can tolerate all dairy at some point. But for now I’ll be happy if he can at least handle raw dairy.
Once we get through dairy we’ll gradually add the other foods – beans, peas, grapes, pears, avocado, tuna, rice and nuts. We’ll probably do peas and avocados last since even just a few months ago those were bothering him. We also get to try turkey finally this Thanksgiving. Last year he could not eat turkey. But I don’t think I’ve served any turkey since his allergy cleared at his six month check up.
Even though he does not have a wheat allergy we will continue to eat gluten free. It is especially important as his body has more healing to do.
It is truly amazing to me the power of real, nutrient dense food. It is also beyond my wildest dreams that God would allow us to have two stories of healing in one year. My blog is focused on dealing with infertility and allergies. This year we welcomed our third child, conceived naturally. And now we’re on our way to being a food allergy free house! God is good! Real food heals!
Do you or your children struggle with food allergies? Start taking steps now to heal. It can be a long process, but it’s worth the effort.
If you suspect your child may have food allergies I strongly urge you to get them tested. It is a simple process and then you can end the guessing game. Typical symptoms can be eczema, hives, loose bowels, constipation, frequent urination, delayed development, picky eating that is not just a short phase and behavioral problems (like tantrums and hyperactivity). For symptoms such as throat swelling seek immediate help.
If you made it to the end of this post I commend you. It was a long one! But the information is so important. I have learned so much in the last few years about dealing with allergies. I hope you can use some of this information for yourself or your children. Please pass it along to anyone you know dealing with food allergies. Real food can heal.
Do you have a story of healing? I’d love to hear it!! Do you have more questions? Ask away.
This is a great starting point for dealing with allergies. If you’d like to read more here are some other great articles:
Why I Stopped Eating Eggs | Simply Healthy Home
Best First Foods For Babies | Mix Wellness
Feeding Nourished Babies | Raising Generation Nourished
Do You Have the Guts to do the GAPS Diet? | Holistic Squid
Three Surprising Ways To Heal Food Allergies | Weed ‘Em and Reap
A Surprising Natural Food Allergy Remedy | Whole New Mom
What Causes Food Allergies | Nourishing Days
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