My husband, bless him, took time recently to help me write this handout for dads who are about to find themselves in the world of food allergies.  A dad’s role in helping the mommy deal and investigate food allergies is paramount in the successful healing of your child, and the survival of your marriage. In this handout, we educate you concisely on how your child’s allergies happened, what to look for, how to support your partner, how to heal, and what the long term prognosis is…

How did this happen?

This is often the first question Dad’s will have, especially if their own family history does not show any tendency towards allergies.   A number of factors could have contributed to your child’s allergies, none of which are you or your partner’s fault.  Below are a few of the causes of allergies

~ Leaky Gut/Candida
in mom or baby or both
~ Starting Solids Too Early ~ Antibiotic Use
~ Nutritional Deficiencies ~ Genetic Polymorphisms
like MTHFR
~ Low stomach acid
~ Enzyme Deficiency ~ Genetically modified foods(GMOs) ~ Heavy Metals Toxic Load
~ Environmental Toxins ~ Blocked Detox Pathways

The causes of food allergies and their rise in the last decade are not very well explained, nor researched by the medical authorities.  The most recent calculations by FAAN state that 1 in 17 children under 3 years old has at least one food allergy.  This number is likely under reported, as delayed or gastrointestinal food allergies are very hard to diagnose and are often masked by other symptoms.

What types of allergies are there? What symptoms should I be looking for?

There are two classifications of allergies and food sensitivities as most doctors see them: immediate (usually anaphylactic) and delayed (also called gastrointestinal).  Anaphylactic allergies can be life threatening, and extreme precaution must be taken to ensure your child does not have a reaction, and if they do, that you are properly equipped to handle that reaction, with an Epi Pen.  Anaphylactic reactions are caused by IgE antibodies and reactions are usually seen within an hour of exposure.  Blood tests and skin tests that your pediatrician or allergist can order can properly diagnose IgE reactions.

The more difficult to diagnose reaction is the delayed or gastrointestinal reaction.  It can take days or even weeks to show an intolerance to a food.  These GI allergies or intolerances are not detected on common blood tests that a pediatrician might order.  The most accurate way to diagnose these is through accurate food journaling, rotation diets, and ELISA or ALCAT IgG blood tests.  Many doctors do not know about these tests, as they are provided by private laboratories, and they haven’t been accepted into the mainstream because they are only 50 to 80% accurate.

One of the hardest concepts to grasp when learning about food allergies and sensitivities is that there is a range of symptoms way beyond what mainstream medicine has taught the public to recognize.  Hives and wheezing are the gravest reactions and deserve the most attention, but reactions can range from sleep disturbances to reflux, from mucous in stools to constipation.  Below are signs to look for

~ Wheezing ~ Hives ~ Eczema
~ Sleep Disturbances ~ Reflux or Colic ~ Excessive Gas
~ Visible or Occult
blood in stool
~ Diarrhea/ Constipation ~ Dark circles under eyes
~ Eye wrinkles ~ Aggression ~ Constantly stuffy nose
~ Whacking ears/Fluid &
Ear Infections
~ Screeching ~ Persistent or intermittent
Fever without cause
~ Perspiration ~ hiccuping ~ Red Ring on Anus

* Bolded items are ones we experienced with our son

Lots of the above symptoms seem innocuous on their own, or even don’t seem like they could possibly be a reaction to food, but they are.  It is imperative that you pay attention to every single change you see in a child, physical and emotional, when introducing a new food, so you can catch these reactions and connect them to the offending food.  The more you get accustomed to this, the more in tune you will become with your child and their reactions.

How can I best support my partner?

According to a recent survey on the Mothering.com Allergy Board, many women have said that their child’s food allergies negatively affected their relationship with their partner.  Having a sick child is difficult in and of itself, but food allergies are a proverbial black hole, with no clear path out.  Having few clear answers from doctors leaves a mother feeling vulnerable and helpless, with the added stress of feeling like it is her responsibility to find that path out.

This is going to be a stressful time as you get to a proper diagnosis and start making changes to better your child’s life.  It is a good idea to check in with your partner often and ask her how you can help.  You and your partner will be sleep deprived if sleep disturbance or reflux happen to be your child’s reaction to an offending food.  Let each other rest when you can (the housework can wait, we promise!)  Acknowledge to each other that this will take an emotional toll, and be a big life adjustment.  Here are some suggested books to read, and you won’t believe the bonus points you will earn if your wife catches you reading one of these without her asking you to!

The most important thing will be to keep an open mind and ask a lot of questions.  The information you and your partner will learn in the coming months will be overwhelming, so checking in with each other and bouncing ideas back and forth is the best way to stay on the same page.  Realize that dealing with this now, at an early age, can prevent you from having to deal with much bigger healthy and psychological issues down the road.  Also, acknowledge Mother Instinct, even if you cannot understand it.  Many times Mom’s can see reactions where a Dad may not, and it is just because Mom’s are so in tuned with their children.

What is the long-term prognosis?

For IgE/Anaphylactic allergies, these will usually be life long.   Avoidance of the food is usually the only safe option.  Luckily, manufactures are catering to the growing allergic population by providing alternatives, and there are many new cookbooks on how to cook allergen free.   Laws are being passed to protect consumers, ensuring their safety even while dining out.

For IgG/Gastrointestinal allergies, there are more options for treatment and kids usually outgrow a lot of these allergies.  At 1 year of age, many parents see the beginning of improvement in symptoms and tolerance of foods.   Because reactions can be caused by nutritional deficiencies or an inflamed GI tract, resolving these issues with supplements and/or nutritional healing can help the body tolerate a food.

Alternative medicine seems to be the most effective treatment course for those moms on the MDC allergy board.  DAN! doctors and integrative medicine specialists are successful at treating the underlying causes of allergies, and alleviating the symptoms.  There are diagnostic tests, diets, and supplements that they can prescribe.  Unfortunately, this course of action is often not covered by insurance, so it can become an expensive venture should you and your partner go this route.  Allocating a budget towards treatment can help keep you and your partner on the same page, and alleviate some of the stress this can bring.  Remember that food allergy spending and health spending over 7% of your adjusted income is tax deductible, so save your receipts!

Conclusion

While having a food allergic child is no walk in the park, there are some great things that can happen.  It can strengthen your parental instinct, make you and your partner a more cohesive unit, and open your eyes to your own health.  While some days you may feel like having an allergic child is taking over your life, take the time to appreciate all the little moments and small milestones.  Babies are small for such a short time, enjoy every minute you can!

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