Sunday, March 18, 2012

Food, allergies, intolerance and our solution

Our middle daughter has always had terrible issues with sleeping, with skin allergies (eczema, prone to hives) and other digestive issues which I won't go into detail on a blog about (since I'd appreciate the same privacy). Anyway, her last few major reactions were really a wake-up call to us about the changing foods we're all buying and eating these days. I have long been a proponent of eating everything in moderation. I had no issues with an occasional fast food burger (in fact I LOVED them) or sweets or candy now and then. I also love fresh veggies, and cooked mostly from scratch. I thought that if you ate mostly healthy foods, it would kind of balance out. But when our little girl had such a major reaction, we really had to re-think our food strategy. I don't know what all of the answers are. My guesses are that because of so many more chemicals and artificial additives in our foods now, there are just an increase of this build-up in our bodies when we eat these types of foods. I mean if you look at the ingredient lists on many foods in the stores (especially those marketed for kids, which I find especially despicable) it's just overwhelming.

With the help of my daughter's pediatrician, and by a process of elimination, and lots of detective work, we realized the common denominator in the foods she had reacted to was MSG or Monosodium Glutamate. Now, if you are like me, you might vaguely remember some uproar about MSG in Chinese foods a few years back. There was a big media blowup about it, which was followed by "no MSG" signs popping up at all the restaurants. That is the last I remember hearing about MSG.

The reason it was so hard for us to pinpoint what our little girl was reacting to at first, is that MSG is labeled in so many different ways so that it is not easily distinguished by the consumer. Probably in a reaction to the consumer backlash about MSG, the food industry has developed many, MANY new labels for MSG. Natural flavors, whey protein, gelatin...these are only three of many titles for ingredients containing MSG.

Here's a very helpful chart I've found (and bring grocery shopping with me now). Thanks to for this very informative list. It has been such a help to us!

Another reason it was so hard to determine what was causing the issues was because I thought we normally ate pretty healthy foods. Her major reactions were mainly when we were on the go, buying several convenience foods that we never had at home. But at home, I routinely used her favorite ranch dressing (homemade from the package) for her raw veggie dip and barbeque sauce on the chicken drumsticks we grilled, oh and pre-packackaged pancake mixes. All of these have MSG (bbq sauce listed with other names) as one of the first ingredients. For her, it seemed that the cumulative buildup of the Easy Mac, French Toast sticks, and Frosted Flakes on our rv trip (items we NEVER bought or ate at home) just proved too much for her little system. Looking back, I feel horrible about how long it took us to piece all of the clues together. But I am thankful that we finally realized what was going on so we could help her.

On a positive note, after changing our diet and our grocery shopping habits, we have seen a hugely marked improvement in her health. She is sleeping wonderfully, has had no further itching skin or hives, her behavior is much better, she is happy and active and our little sweetie pie again. She is also looking much healthier (less frail) but that could be just a normal growth spurt...whatever...we'll take it since she is doing so well!

As an added bonus, our whole family has moved to a more whole food based, "from-scratch" way of eating which has led to tremendous improvement in all of our family's health. We all eat the same foods together. I could not believe the transformation in how I feel, and have seen it in the rest of the family as well. So, it does take more time for food prep, but the benefits have hugely out-weighed the negatives in our case. Most of the recipes I find online can be easily modified to fit our needs. As a mom, I'm so happy to finally have some answers for my little girl, and am so thrilled to see her thriving again. So if you see different ingredients in my recipes, this is the reason for that. Feel free to substitute as you like. I've really found that most recipes are fairly flexible.

It's now been four years since I wrote this original post, and our family began our healthier (for us) way of eating, and we are all happier, healthier, and fully content with our new eating habits. And I don't think any of us are suffering in the food department, that's for sure!

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