Food Allergies, Holistic Nutrition & Pancakes: A Mom's Perspective
I had long suspected that our daughter, Lili, had food and environmental sensitivities. At age 5, she developed an atopic dermatitis-like condition and every time she ate dairy or my husband mowed the lawn, she would itch. (My husband gallantly offered to stop cutting the grass…right!) We began to strictly limit her dairy intake and after a few weeks, she seemed just fine.
However, this past August, Lili (now 6 ½) had an intense allergic reaction. An angry red flush encompassed her neck. Her glands became swollen and her entire back became covered in angry, itchy bumps. She recovered, but suffice it to say we got our first Epi pen shortly thereafter and began to make some serious changes.
I reviewed everything she’d done, all she’d eaten and any other potential culprits for her allergic reaction. We had definitely grown complacent about the dairy – too much great ice cream in Portland – so adios to that newfound habit – maybe I’d even be able to button my jeans again. However, I suspected it was more than that. So the next day I took her to the doctor and we decided to test her.
Bye bye, favorite foods?
Her tests results showed what I’d suspected, allergic response to casein and all dairy forms. In addition wheat and gluten were high on the list, as was soy. (Bye bye, soy sauce and the ubiquitous soy lecithin!) What I didn’t expect was an off the charts reaction to eggs (white and yolk), honey, nuts, and green peas, the latter a random wildcard as it was not as if a green pea had ever passed the lips of our daughter.
Did I mention she is also a picky eater?
She would sooner perform every household chore possible, while listening to Wagner’s Der Ring opera, rather than eat a vegetable, or even most fruits. Her favorite foods prior to all this were egg noodles, rice with soy sauce, teriyaki chicken, edamame, eggs, honey toast, strawberries and yoghurt. After her test results, the only things we could salvage from this list were (plain) chicken and rice. Everything else had to go.
What was my picky eater going to do?
Holistic nutrition meets family realities
But wait a second. This is what I do. I am a Certified Holistic Nutritionist. I can do this can’t I? I can’t tell you how grateful I was to have my training. I first worked with her doctor to develop a treatment protocol. Remove all allergens and heal the gut. Ok. Done! I cleaned out our refrigerator, freezer and pantry of any and all items containing even a trace of one of the listed offenders. I made a list of all of her daily supplements and herbs and stocked our herb cupboard.
We had a family meeting to discuss our overall approach. We voted to make this a collective family experience. Well, Lili and I voted to make this a family experience and after a fleeting argument of “but I like eggs…” my husband agreed. Then Lili and I started looking at recipes online (our new hobby) and altering them to fit our needs. We have experimented with lots of recipes and have folders on my laptop labeled, “Recipes to Try”, “Recipes That Need Work”, “Recipes That Will Never Work” and “Approved Recipes.” The latter we are building out to create “Lili’s Cookbook,” which we hope to print up once we have enough recipes.
The results? After 2 ½ months of “clean” eating, Lili’s skin has completely cleared up. Her tummy upsets have decreased significantly and her energy has improved. (I love how responsive kids are!) Thankfully, we haven’t had any other emergency incidents and I am hopeful that over time she will heal enough for some of the lesser culprits to become sometimes options for her.
The challenge of special nutritional needs
This experience reminded me how scary and overwhelming it can be for parents when faced with special nutritional needs for their kids. Trying to keep your child safe, dealing with the social ramifications of these special nutritional needs, and keeping food and meals an enjoyable experience for all can be an incredible challenge.
While I haven’t been practicing much these past couple of years, I am so grateful for my training in holistic nutrition. (I graduated from The Wellspring School pilot Wholistic Nutrition Program in 2008 and it’s been my passion ever since – along with running the school and keeping up with my daughter.) I also feel a renewed vigor to get my own practice back up and running…. I feel a specialty area coming on!
And now: pancakes!
I thought I’d leave you with a recipe. Sunday mornings have historically been pancake breakfast days at our household. Creating the “perfect pancake” became a highlight of our recipe testing. The one here is adapted from “Ben’s Friday Pancakes” in Cynthia Lair’s Feeding The Whole Family. These are now considered “Lili’s Favorite Pancakes.”
1 cup steel cut oats (You could also do buckwheat groats. Oats work for us.)
1 ¼ cup rice milk or water
1 TBS flaxseed meal + 2TBS water (or ¼ cup applesauce)
2 TBS unrefined cane sugar or other sweetener of your choice
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
Combine oats and rice milk or water in blender bowl. Cover and let soak overnight in the fridge. In the morning pull out and set on blender base.
Add the 2 TBS water to the 1TBS flax meal and stir in small cup. Add to the oats in the blender.
Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. You can add a little more rice milk or water if it’s too thick. If it’s too runny, you can add a little oat, coconut or rice flour.
Preheat an oiled (We use coconut oil.) griddle or skillet. Pour batter onto pan in whatever size works for you. Cook about 2 minutes per side.
Serve with maple syrup, coconut butter, strawberry preserves or whatever you like.
Prep time: 15 minutes plus 8 hours soaking time
Makes 6-8 pancakes
(Photo by jrandallc on Flickr.)