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.

 

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Starting a Sea of Supplements

Drops of blood spurted out as I sliced my finger with the knife. Red drops dotted the bottom of the stainless steel sink and the bright orange carrot I’d been trying to cut in mid-air.

I sighed. How long is this going to take to clean up, I muttered. I tried wrapping my finger in a paper towel to stop the bleeding, but a puddle of red seeped through. I cursed; I was going to have to take the time to run upstairs, clean the cut and find a Band-Aid.

Logan’s favorite breakfast, pumpkin pancakes

It was already 5:35 a.m., and I still had to mix Logan’s pumpkin pancakes, cook them, and get the roast in the crock pot for supper that night. I still had to spoon his CocoYo yogurt into a thermos to bring as a snack. And, of course, I hadn’t packed a lunch for myself yet.

This was Monday morning. The rest of the week went much the same–without the finger slicing but with the addition of Logan and Sadie standing in the kitchen, wanting to play, from about 5:40 on. Both cases mean less time to put together lunch, breakfast, two snacks for Logan and a lunch for myself for the day.

But other than crazy mornings, we’ve been plugging along steadily with GAPS. We’ve gotten to add some delicious new foods, like fermented vegetables and pumpkin pancakes, which we told Logan are special Halloween pancakes. We’ve also started making our own coconut milk.

I barely stomach dry, boiled chicken anymore, but with boiled carrots and fermented red cabbage, it’s suddenly delicious.

The pancakes have lead to a little more wiggle room with breakfasts, though snacks are still pretty boring. We have two options: the CocoYo yogurt (that I’m not entirely sure is legal in this stage) and the Peppermint Gummies I wrote about last time.

Results are also back from Logan’s blood and urine analysis tests, and we met with his MAPS doctor to discuss any abnormalities. Little surprise, there are quite a few.

“His thiamine levels are low, and his B-vitamin levels are low, and he has a high need for glutathione.” The doctor dived right in. “His need for a few B-vitamins is a potential indication of some methylation needs.”

I’ve been reading about nutritional supplements, the methylation process and other biomedical treatments for autism for the past year — basically nonstop, in fact. I have piles of articles and studies I’ve printed out with highlights and summary notes, where I’ve translated the scientific jargon into my own words. I thought I understood it all fairly well. Yet, sitting in that insanely hot exam room, I felt like I was drowning in it all. Magnesium glycinate what? Orthomolecular intestinal huh?

11 supplements (some twice a day) ... is this too much of an overload?

11 supplements (some twice a day) … is this too much of an overload?

When it was all over, the doctor had given us recommendations to begin seven new supplements — on top of the four Logan already takes – and had ordered four additional tests. On my drive home, I couldn’t help but think about all the other articles I’d read, the ones on gullible parents spending a fortune on worthless “cures” for autism when of course everyone knows there isn’t one.

But isn’t there? I then think about Joanna, the woman I met from White Bear Lake, whose two sons are no longer on the spectrum due to dietary changes and supplements. And all the stories, like Quinn’s and Darren’s, from Talking About Curing Autism Now, that offer evidence some children do recover from autism from diet and therapy.

Even as I flip-flop between feeling gullible and progressive, Logan’s new pills now pile on our kitchen counter, and looking at them, I’m filled with either dread or hope, depending on my mood. We’ve separated them into a pill box to keep a week’s worth all organized. But still. Not only are they expensive – yet another recurring cost each month, this one about $200 – there’s just so many of them. I can’t fathom having to swallow that many pills every day for the rest of my life. Right now, Logan’s really excited about them – Jason’s been telling him the’re super pills. Will the novelty wear off once Logan realizes these are for the long haul?

At least the diet has an end date. We’re still lingering in Stage 3, but soon we’ll move into Stage 4. We simply have to. I admit I’m filled with dread more often than hope lately, and that part of me that wants to quit seems to grow bigger every day. This diet is hard. The supplements seem insurmountable. And my chest feels gripped by a tight fist that’s making it harder and harder to breath. Some days, I simply can’t tell if this a better alternative to junk food and meltdowns.

Feeling: Clueless

The one good thing from this week is we discovered Logan LOVES Halloween pancakes!

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 can of purred pumpkin
  • Dash of cinnamon

Blend ingredients (Jason uses a blender; I just use a fork). Grease skillet with coconut fat (we save the fat that solidifies when we make coconut milk to use). Drop small dollops of batter onto a hot skillet and cook — like regular pancakes, little air bubbles pop up in the center when they’re ready to be flipped.

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