July 22, 2011 2:44 pm
I’m rejoining the Spin Cycle this week after almost a year long hiatus. Sorry Jen. It’s not you, it’s me. Really. Food has been a major culprit in my absence so this week’s topic of “food” seemed pretty dead on.
When we last talked about food over at HAGAY, I was spewing a dye-free lifestyle on the world. Which I totally stand behind but we’ve since added a few (hundred million it seems) other no no’s to the list. We are currently gluten, casein, soy, artificial dye and preservative free PLUS we are on a low phenol/salicylate/amine diet. When I say we, I mean Graham and Elliot since I am a coward and do not practice what I preach. I have my own health concerns and should really be following the same restrictive diet but I have yet to do so. Shame shame, I know your name. It’s Casey.
In addition to their limited diet, my kids also suffer from chemical sensitivities. That means cleaning products, paint fumes, gas fumes, new carpeting/construction smells, perfumes, perfumed soaps, shampoos, sunscreens, CHLORINE, the list goes on. It manifests itself a little differently in each kid but there is no denying the symptoms that come on when they are exposed to such toxins. Which sucks because hello, people dump perfume on by the gallon before leaving the house. And preschools try to be proactive and Lysol the shit out of their classrooms. All things that a normal child would be fine with but my poor kids are far from normal.
When people ask about the kid’s allergies, I see it as an opportunity to inform them of the unhealthy food supply we feed our kids by the pound-full. By the time I get to talking chemical intolerance, my mouth is talking a mile a minute. As I talk, I can see their eyes grow big and their mind start to say “cuckoo cuckoo, that bitch is CRAZY”. And I am crazy, but I have seen firsthand what the effects of toxic (and some not so toxic) foods and chemicals can do to a child. I have spent countless hours reading and rereading the medical research on on the subject. I have earned a PhD from the College of Google.
My kids have what’s called a Phenol Intolerance. Just a brief exposure to any of the above mentioned toxins and we’re in for a few days of hell. In addition to the chemical phenolic compounds (food dyes, perfumes, chlorine, fumes), phenols are in most foods too, foods otherwise considered healthy. The biggest offenders are tomatoes, grapes, apples, berries, cucumbers, citrus, bananas. Vinegar, vanilla, lemon juices, cinnamon and most spices used in cooking. Pretty much anything with flavor is off limits for them. Symptoms from eating offending foods (for my kids) are: difficulty going to bed and staying asleep (read: UP ALL EFFING NIGHT), hyperactivity, aggression (fighting each other violently), dark circles under the eyes. Graham gets really mean and defiant and he can’t sit still. He walks around with his fists bunched up all day and will hit us if we come in his path. Elliot turns into Linda Blair and gets headaches. She gets a swollen, itchy rash if any perfumed soaps or fabrics touch her skin. She is still recovering from wearing a hand me down dress over a week ago because the dress was washed in scented detergent. I get the urge to get in my car and drive. But I don’t, because I know their behaviors are the chemicals talking. I try to calmly buckle down and wait it out, but it’s hard. I have the same allergies and get restless leg syndrome and insomnia if I eat tomato sauce or dairy for dinner. It is seriously crazy shit.
I’m not exactly sure why my kids are so sensitive to all of these things but I have some theories. They both had prolonged antibiotic use (from both having ongoing ear infections early on) which weakened their immune systems and they haven’t fully recovered. Graham is more sensitive to things but they definitely both react. They are genetically predisposed to the food sensitivities because everyone in my family seems to have them.
There are only a few things we can do to limit their symptoms. I send their own hand soap and cleaning supplies to camp when they go. We have a salt water pool at home which doesn’t seem to affect them but other pools do. We usually avoid highly chlorinated pools but I let Graham go in the splash park at Busch Gardens this week. He is still reeling from the effects of the chlorine and his behavior has been horrible. We give the kids nightly Epsom salt baths to help their bodies release the toxins. We recently started using a product called No-Phenol to help them process the phenols but I’m not sure how well it’s working. We put GABA-magnesium cream on them daily to help and give them amino acid supplements that naturally help their bodies process toxins. The rituals are crazy but necessary. Because he has the same gastrointestinal and behavioral symptoms as kids on the autism spectrum, Graham sees a DAN doctor for guidance with his supplements.
So, their diet is seriously limited. Pears and thickly peeled Golden Delicious apples are the only two fruits they can have. I make their own “ketchup” out of pears, brown sugar and citric acid. I scour the internet for safe recipes to make that won’t make them crazy (BTW, here is an awesome meatball recipe where you can hide vegetables in and they won’t even know! I know!). We make batches of pancakes and waffles to freeze in advance. We supplement the shit out of them to make sure they’re getting enough nutrition and I buy every cookbook containing ideas to sneak nutrition into them with their limited diet. I join the Facebook groups and newsgroups on the subjects and benefit from other people’s wisdom. We are still working out the kinks in their diet and it seems like we have more bad days than good but we are getting there slowly but surely. In the meantime, I maintain that I’m not crazy. You believe me, right?
Some GREAT resources for limited diets (all three have cookbooks available to purchase):