Life StoryAug/Sep 2014 Issue

We've Got "Issues": Averting a Meltdown

Irreverent solutions to your real life allergy drama

Photo by Oksana Charla

Dear Issues,

I’m a single breastfeeding mom who works full-time and goes to school part-time. If that weren’t challenging enough, I noticed shortly after having my baby that she would violently spit up and cry for hours after I ate certain foods. I took her to a specialist and discovered that she has allergies and/or intolerances to gluten, dairy, eggs, corn, walnuts, almonds and fermented foods.

I now have to make almost everything from scratch and it costs a fortune. By the end of the work week, I’m exhausted. Every spare moment at home is spent in the kitchen trying to keep up with meals for both my baby and myself. This diet has literally consumed my whole life and a sizable chunk of my paycheck.

I’ve found some great recipes and learned a lot about cooking and healthy eating, but even when I try to simplify things by using a slow cooker, making large portions for leftovers and using a lot of rice and potatoes, I still feel overwhelmed with how much time and money it takes. I don’t want to switch to formula because I feel that my daughter deserves quality food but I would love to order a pizza and take a night off.
How can I make this easier, cheaper and less time-consuming?

One Extremely Tired Mommy

Dear Mommy,

Girl, you need a break and a pizza. While breastfeeding is an amazing way to give your baby a head start, especially when she already has food allergies, some baby formula is not going to harm that little bundle of joy. Please know that I’m not telling you to stop breastfeeding your baby. What I am telling you to do is to take into account your own health and emotional wellness.

Consult your baby’s pediatrician for an allergy-safe formula that can help occasionally supplement your breast milk. This may give you some space to indulge once in a while in the foods you’ve been missing. Ask the doctor’s office for their assistance in connecting you with local social services to help fund the formula and for any other resources that might aid you and your baby.

Studies show that babies who are breastfed benefit in countless way, including a lower risk of developing food allergies. Although that train has already left the station for your baby, feel good that you’re doing everything you can to protect her little immune system. And you are. Using a slow cooker and eating less expensive (yet wholesome) single-ingredient foods, like brown rice, beans, potatoes and greens, are good things to do not only for your baby, but for you. So if you feel you can hold on, keep cooking and maintain your diet until your baby gets just a little bit older. At 4 to 6 months, your pediatrician will have you start introducing solid food. Your pediatric allergist will probably test her again to see what foods she can tolerate. Some food allergies can—and do—go away as babies age.

Hang in there and know there is an end in sight. Your little one needs a happy, healthy mama (along with some allergy-friendly formula). And you, new mom, need to know you’re doing a great job.

Gluten-Free Eating at the Campground

Dear Issues,

My family has decided to go camping with two other families and I’m pretty excited about this adventure. I’m also wondering if I’m just not thinking clearly as I fantasize about sleeping under the stars surrounded by giant pine trees. I feel pretty confident that I can maintain my gluten-free diet while outdoors. After all, we bring all our food with us. But I have a nagging suspicion that I’m not considering something that could knock me out of commission and keep me from enjoying the trip. Since my symptoms are mostly digestive, a misstep could be a pretty big deal out there. You know what I mean.

Scared of the Dark

Dear Scared,

I’m with you, mostly. I mean, I’m not going with you as you sleep outside and poop in the woods because I’m never doing that again. But I share your enthusiasm that fun times are ahead.

Vacations are awesome. Safe vacations for those of us with serious food issues are even more awesome. Since you bring your own food, you’re in control of the situation and, therefore, much safer. However, let’s look at the factors that could interfere with your good time. Here’s the checklist I’d use if I were to ever consider vacationing in the dirt again. (Hint: I won’t.)

• BYOs: We all love s’mores, right? But those of us who can’t eat normal graham crackers are already on high alert. Pack your own gluten-free graham crackers in anticipation of the campfire’s crackle and don’t share your stick. It’s a recipe for cross contamination.

• Foil, Foil, Foil: If you’re sharing a grill with someone else’s hamburger bun or gluten-filled sausage, wrap your food in foil and cook away. OK, so you won’t get grill marks on your burger. You also won’t be in the outhouse all night.

• Water: Food issues or not, everyone should stay hydrated when spending time outdoors. You, however, have two other reasons to carry your own water: No sharing. And staying hydrated is important if you get…uh….compromised.

• Snacks: You don’t want to feel deprived when other campers wave their cookies in your face. Bring your own faves so you can indulge when everyone else does.
A Pan Don’t let gluten-grubby cookware contaminate your dinner. You should have at least one small pan that’s dedicated gluten-free.

• Wipes: Whether it’s to clean your hands after you move the buns or to wipe off flatware that looks suspicious, keeping your food area clean when you don’t have indoor plumbing requires extra help. Heck, if I were you, I’d even pack a small bottle of rubbing alcohol to kill germs. You never know when you may need to create a sterile environment.
Toilet Paper Just bring it. If anyone is going to need it on this trip, it’s you.

April Peveteaux is author of Gluten Is My Bitch: Rants, Recipes and Ridiculousness for the Gluten-Free.


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