The Mysteries of Allergies

The web of small red bumps draped around the left side of Logan’s mouth is stubbornly staying put. It emerged more than a month ago, and ever since, we’ve been trying to pinpoint its mysterious cause.

“We better cut out dairy,” we’d said.

That initially seemed to help. The bumps faded and seemed to be healing—but they never disappeared completely, and then returned, just as strong.

“It could be impetigo,” his doctor had said. “You better start Bacitraicin.”

That, too, initially seemed to help. But just like before, the red bumps started to diminish but then came right back.

Or maybe they never faded at all—by now, it’s been so long, I’m struggling to remember. Did I only think the bumps were fading because I was hoping they would, because I was sure they would?

Cranberry gummies

Cranberry gummies

What new foods had he eaten?  Jason and I struggled to list them. By now, we were in Stage 3 of GAPS and had introduced the Halloween pancakes I wrote about here. “But he’s had pumpkin before,” I frowned. “And I can’t remember anymore if the rash started before we added pumpkin or not–I think it was before.”

Even more frustrating is the fact that following the GAPS protocol is supposed to help isolate these things – the diet calls for adding new foods one at a time and waiting to see if there is a reaction before moving on. And that’s what we were doing—and still, here we are, with a mysterious rash we couldn’t puzzle out.

“Could it be honey?” Jason asked.

But no, I was positive the rash had started before we’d started allowing small bites of honey.

“Then we’re back to the pumpkin,” I sighed. 

“Or the can the pumpkin comes in—“ Jason said, and as he did, I heard echoes of our nephews.

My son gets a rash around his mouth from tapping the eraser-end of a pencil on his face, Jason’s sister had once told me. It’s the nickel in the pencil’s metal.

My dad could never wear a belt, she’d also said. The metal buckle would give him a rash.

“I think you’re right,” I told Jason.

We immediately stopped making his favorite pumpkin pancakes, which broke my heart. Basically his one gastronomic pleasure was gone once again. But Logan actually took it in stride, as long as he could have sunny-side eggs—NOT poached in broth like he’d had to have in Stage 2—instead.

We’ll try pumpkin pancakes again, I promised my sad boy. We’ll buy some fresh pumpkin this week.

Of course, this threw my pattern suddenly far of course. Pumpkin pancakes weren’t the easiest thing to make, but I’d gotten it down. Now that I was using fresh squash instead of canned pumpkin, my pancakes were pathetic. Instead of smooth, cohesive batter that could be poured into small drops in the pan, mine plopped disjointed off the ladle, landing in clumps that refused to stick together. Flipping them was impossible.

Failed pumpkin pancakes

Failed pumpkin pancakes

Jason suggested I microwave the squash first and mash it in the food processor. He even did it for me once, and this batch turned out acceptable though the batter was extremely runny and the pancakes were paper-thin.

When I tried this method, the batter was horribly runny—so much like water it’d be impossible to make anything from it. I thought I’d be clever and add a bit of hazelnut flour to get them to stick together, since we’d decided to move to Stage 4, where nut flours are acceptable, but that made things worse. Now instead of spilling out all across the pan, the batter turned crumbly and fell apart at the slightest touch from the spatula. Again it was impossible to flip; they cooked instead in a pile ad turned into breaded squash pudding instead of fluffy pancakes.

God, I hate cooking. I really, really do.

Then suddenly, his rash worsened. But he hadn’t had pumpkin pancakes in a few days!

The basil in the pesto I made? The olive oil, also new? The cranberry gummies?

Or the can the coconut milk for the cranberry gummies came in?

This version of our gummy treats had a great tart taste.

“He hasn’t really ever had canned food before,” Jason said slowly. “Except for a time or two—maybe it’s the accumulation of suddenly having it every day, from the pumpkin or the coconut milk.”

Two things support this could be true. One, a study from the Journal of American Medical Association found that BPA levels in people who ate one serving of canned food every day for a week increased 1,221 percent because almost all canned goods are sprayed with this chemical. And two, canned goods contain nickel, and when we ingest it, it accumulates in the body. It builds and builds in the body until the body begins to react.

Without canned goods, Logan’s rash is definitely fading this time. This weekend I found organic, puréed pumpkin in a box and decided to try it instead of the maddening fresh version. I also wanted to see if the rash returned in full (mystery solved: a reaction to pumpkin) or not (mystery solved: canned goods). Logan was thrilled to get pumpkin again, and together, we made pumpkin cookies.

A few hours later, he threw up.

“He could be just sick,” Jason pointed out.

What are the odds he’d get sick at the same time as battling an allergic reaction? Instead of solving the mystery, I only deepened it.

Feeling: Baffled

No-Bake Pumpkin Cookies*

  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup honey (or less)
  • 1/3 cup almond butter
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin
  • 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spices
  • 2 cups unsweetened, shredded coconut

Mix everything except the shredded coconut in a big glass bowl and microwave for 20 seconds to meld the flavors. Stir in coconut. Spoon small dollops onto a cookie sheet or plates and refrigerate for two hours.

*I love these, and Logan initially liked them, too–but since he was sick, he won’t touch them.

 

The Five-Skittle Setback

“How was Halloween? Your kids in sugar overload?” asked a coworker on Monday.

I chuckled a little. “Sort of,” I said. “Logan had five Skittles this year.”

My coworker’s eyes went wide. “Five Skittles? That’s it? How’d you manage that?”

What is this food in a box?

What is this food in a box?

I’m always at a loss for what to say when I have to explain our diet. Especially when I’m pretty sure I’ve explained it to this guy before. “Well … those five Skittles are the only sugar he’s had in an entire year.” As I said it, I realized it was true and was also struck by the incredibility of it: Last Halloween was the last time Logan had any candy or anything sweet. “Even fruit, for the most part,” I added.

On one hand, I’m feeling pretty proud of surviving Halloween with only those five Skittles and happy Logan was able to have a bit of a treat. On the other hand, I feel awful I allowed those five Skittles and worry about their effects. (At least it made for a good example of a paradox for my poetry students today.)

And there were effects. I was being truthful when I told my coworker the five Skittles had caused sugar overload. The following day Logan was crabby and defiant, after a rock star week. This morning, too, he seemed to be trying to push buttons, initially refusing to take his supplements and then refusing to walk into the garage and climb into the van to go to daycare. But at least I have an explanation for this recent behavioral setback.

Amazing what five Skittles can do!

And despite the Skittle skirmish, I think we’re seeing good progress. Logan’s IEP meeting was yesterday afternoon, and his teachers and therapists agreed that speech and occupational therapies are no longer needed. In fact, it sounds like Logan is one of the most talkative and brightest kids in his preschool class! Of course, social skills are still lacking and will remain goals on the IEP, but everyone at the meeting felt confident Logan will be ready for a mainstream kindergarten class next year.

As always, the question is, did the diet–GAPS or BED–cause all this progress? Is it the probiotics, the supplements, the vitamins? Or would we be in this exact place even without having gone through (and continuing to go through) this journey? As Jason and I talked last night, he indicated he doesn’t know if he buys it. It’s a hell of a lot of work, he said, for something we’re not able to prove.

And as usual, he’s right–technically. We can’t prove any progress can be attributed to diet. But the Skittles, and the correspondence to a sharp mood swing, suggest a link to me. Those five bursts of color and sugar might have caused a minor setback, but they also helped support my decision to stick with GAPS, as tough as it is.

And it’s getting easier! On Halloween, armed with honey-roasted walnuts, flourless pumpkin muffins and peppermint gummies for Logan, we hit a friend’s Halloween party with the kids. But it turned out our preparations wouldn’t have even been necessary–I can’t tell you how stoked I was when we learned the couple throwing the party follows the Paleo diet. There were actually a few things at the party Logan could eat! (Many thanks to Angi and Fred!)

Here’s to everyone eating healthier these days!

Feeling: Sugar Rushed

Honey-roasted walnut "candy"

Honey-roasted walnut “candy”

Honey Walnut “Candy”

We made these for Logan as an alternative to all the junk food he got trick-or-treating, and he loved them (thank God)!

  • ¼ cup honey (or less)
  • ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 Tbsp ghee
  • 2 cups raw walnuts
  1. Melt together honey, ghee and spices
  2. Spread walnuts over wax paper in a cake pan, and drizzle melted honey mixture over them
  3. Toss until coated
  4. We simply put the pan in the oven and left it on as low as it would go (250 degrees F), for a couple hours.

Easy!

 

 

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