Monday, October 31, 2011

Life in Allergy Town

I was thinking to myself how I often say many foods are on the "suspect list" and that led me down this train of thought...

We didn't even know we lived in Allergy Town, when my daughter was younger.  All the food items milled around town and were innocent until proven guilty.  Then, some crimes started occurring:
  • Speeding violations - the speed at which milk would be projectile-vomited from my poor baby was criminal!
  • Burglary - many of our precious sleep hours were stolen, due to reflux, stomach pains and general discomfort...
  • Vandalism - rashes were painted on my sweet baby's face and body...
As we saw the food-crime level increasing, we sought answers and found a few of the culprits.  They were put on the Least Wanted List and we put a restraining order on them.

We started out believing most of the occupants of Allergy Town were innocent, but when so many Allergens started popping up around town, everyone started to look suspicious.

Whenever a new crime occurs in a previously safe neighborhood (my daughter's stomach, lungs, skin, etc.), we canvas the area for the "usual suspects" and if they aren't present, then any other suspicious bystanders are locked up in "Food Jail".  Then, we watch the "crime" level while the suspects are locked up.  If the crime level decreases, then we let one of them out and see if any mischief resumes.  If not, they are free to go.  Sure, we've definitely locked up a few innocent foods, before, but that's just part of life in Allergy Town.  We may, eventually have to let a few inmates out, due to overcrowding, but for now, they are on strict lock-down.  I'm the Sheriff of Allergy Town and I'm watching all you foods (and medications, lotions, etc.) VERY closely!

Recipe Tweak - Take 2 - LW Easy Dairy-Free Dinner Rolls

In my previous post, I tweaked the recipe, and they came out fine, but I am suspicious of the xanthan gum.  I fed the bread to my daughter for the past few days and her legs broke out with quite a rash.  I had her eczema relatively under control, so it was a surprise.  It could also be a latent reaction to her last round of antibiotics, but xathan gum is going on my "suspect list".

So, I tweaked the dinner roll recipe, again, this time omitting xanthan gum.  I also substituted applesauce for the oil, because I read some recipes that omit xanthan gum fare better with fruit purees in them.  I also, completely by mistake, left out the tablespoon of sugar, but it didn't seem to hurt the recipe much.  Here is the second tweaked recipe:

  • 1 "egg" (using Ener-G egg substitute)
  • 1 1/2 T. rice milk, warm to the touch
  • 1/2 c. rice milk + 2 tsp. rice vinegar (substituting for yogurt, with a substitute for buttermilk)
  • 1/8 c. applesauce (2 T.)
  • 1/2 tsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 c. King Arthur Flour Gluten-Free Multi-Purpose Flour*
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder (corn-free, if needed)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F
  2. In a small cup or bowl, place 1/2 c. of rice milk and 2 tsp. rice vinegar, let sit
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the "egg", warm rice milk, "buttermilk" mixture, and applesauce, mix until well combined
  4. In a stand mixer (if you have one), mix GF flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, and salt (I used the paddle attachment)
  5. With the mixer on low speed, add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients.
  6. Using a cookie scoop, place mounds on a lined/greased cookie sheet
  7. Bake for 40 minutes
*KAF GF MPF Ingredients: rice flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, whole grain brown rice flour --Risk of flax seed cross-contamination

I baked them for about 35 minutes, but I think they could have used another 5 minutes.  They were definitely different than the first batch and I was not sure if they'd work out, but I think they came out OK.  They did not rise as much, of course, but I was able to make a little sandwich for my daughter's lunch.  Here are a couple of pictures:

Recipe Tweak - LW Easy Dairy-Free Dinner Rolls

I found a recipe for "Easy Dairy-Free Dinner Rolls" on the Living Without website.  I needed it to be dairy-free, corn-free, and yeast-free (I don't know for sure if yeast is a problem, but it's on the "suspect list", right now.)  So, here is the modified recipe that I used to make a 1/2 batch:

  • 1 "egg" (using Ener-G egg substitute)
  • 1 1/2 T. rice milk, warm to the touch
  • 1/2 c. rice milk + 2 tsp. rice vinegar (substituting for yogurt, with a substitute for buttermilk)
  • 1/4 c. canola oil
  • 1/2 tsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 c. King Arthur Flour Gluten-Free Multi-Purpose Flour*
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder (corn-free, if needed)
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. xanthan gum**
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F
  2. In a small cup or bowl, place 1/2 c. of rice milk and 2 tsp. rice vinegar, let sit
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the "egg", warm rice milk, "buttermilk" mixture, and oil, mix until well combined
  4. In a stand mixer (if you have one), mix GF flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, salt and xanthan gum (I used the paddle attachment)
  5. With the mixer on low speed, add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients.
  6. Using a cookie scoop, place mounds on a lined/greased cookie sheet
  7. Bake for at least 40-45 minutes
*KAF GF MPF Ingredients: rice flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, whole grain brown rice flour
**This can be derived from corn, so if your corn allergy is severe, please be cautious. 

Notes: If you do not have a stand mixer, you should be able to mix by hand.  From what I've read about gluten-free baking, you usually don't want to over-mix the batter, so as not to flatten it.  The recipe above made about 6-7 rolls.  I flattened the dough scoops, after placing them on the pan, because I've noticed it's hard to get gluten-free items to cook all the way, in the center, so I try not to make the rolls too high.

Here's a picture of the last batch I made: (I had made 3/4 of a full batch, but only 4 are in the picture.)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Review Your Child's Medical Records

When I was preparing to start this blog, I was trying to piece together the timeline of events, over these past 3 years.  I contacted the pediatrician's office and requested her complete medical record.  (I'm still waiting on her records from the allergist's office and I also need to get her dermatology records.)

The pediatrician's office information was provided on a CD.  I was sifting through the various PDF files, and I noticed that there was no record of the fact that my daughter had 2 bad reactions to her flu shots.  They did have a document for my phone call to the office after one of her reactions, but it didn't have any details and just basically noted that I called.  I also noticed that her food allergies are listed as "notes" and aren't shown in, what I would consider, a prominent location on her record.  I believe this is why they didn't immediately remember that she should probably not get the flu shot, or at least have it done under the care of an allergist.

I think it also helps to review your child's records, not only to find mistakes/omissions, but to see if you notice any patterns.  Sometimes, things are only obvious in retrospect.  When I stumbled upon the Wikipedia article for atopy, while Googling, as I'm prone to do, it was like I was reading an article all about my daughter.  When I went back over her records for her many doctor's office visit, it was all there in black-and-white, if I had known what I was looking for.  They list my husband's family history of eczema and asthma.  She had several visits for rash, reflux, trouble sleeping, etc.  I wish I had read that Wikipedia article sooner, and gone over my daughter's records, sooner.  We could have begun the process of allergy testing and diet modification well before she was 18 months old.  I'm also surprised that the pediatrician's office was so skeptical about the possibility that she had food allergies, with my husband's family history.  Even though they didn't have food allergies, he had eczema and asthma, which are risk factors for developing food allergies.  Oh well, if you've read this post, you know how I fell about that.

Friday, October 28, 2011

It's a team effort, but you are the captain!

As you can see from the Medical Timeline, we started by asking questions at the pediatrician's office, then we were referred to a dermatologist, and later to an allergist.  Have you ever heard the saying, "when you're holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail"?  Well, the pediatrician thought it was a general problem (a little rash/eczema, a little milk intolerance), the dermatologist thought it was just eczema and not caused by food allergies, and the allergist, well, the allergist is lucky, because we already had our blood test results in hand when we went to see them, so we knew she had food allergies at that point.  However, the first allergist we saw didn't think to give us a home nebulizer (for her asthma issues) which we were given by the Urgent Care staff, after my daughter's accidental exposure to milk protein.  I suspect if we had taken her to a gastroenterologist, they would have suspected some GI issue.  Each doctor has missed something along the way.  It's not that they were wrong, necessarily.  They were just missing the big picture. 

Even if they miss things, sometimes, you need that team of healthcare experts, to give you pieces of the puzzle.  I believe all of them have something to offer, especially the pediatrician, who has access to your child's general history (growth charts, immunization records, colds/illnesses, etc.)  The problem is, they are all really busy people and don't always put 2 and 2 together.  Doctors often have just enough time to listen to the list of symptoms and provide a treatment recommendation.  The truth is that they often just don't have time to sit back and think about why the symptoms are occurring in the first place.  For the most part, I suspect that they see plenty of children who are doing just fine, aside from the occasional cough or cold.  They don't deal with specialty problems, day in and day out.

Even though I have a great respect for doctors, I believe the most important member of the team, the captain of the puzzle-solving team, is YOU.  YOU (your child's primary caregiver) are the one who goes to all of your child's appointments, you are the one gathering all of the pieces of the puzzle, over the course of the various office visits.  (If you share that duty with more than one person, then you need to convene regularly to compare notes!)  Each doctor or specialist is only seeing their piece of the puzzle, and those puzzle pieces are all mixed in with others from other boxes.  They get to spend about 15 minutes with you (yes, I am generalizing) and have the daunting task of making a diagnosis with the limited amount of information they may have been presented.

As much as we'd like to rely on doctors to help us, we need to do our homework and "help them help us".  I know it can be an overwhelming task, but we have to take the information we have and Google things and try to make sense of it.  I don't think we should self-diagnose (or diagnose our children's conditions), but I think we need to gather as much information as we can, to provide our children's healthcare providers with leads that might spark something in their minds and lead to a diagnosis/treatment.  If the doctor isn't cooperating as well as you'd like, gently persist in your quest to have tests done, or to get a referral to a specialist.  Here are some excerpts from Dr. Robert Wood's website:

"If your GP seems reluctant to refer you to an allergist, don’t be quick to blame your insurance company. In most cases, your GP’s reluctance is based more on the fact that your GP really does not believe that you have a food allergy. If your doctor is unwilling to assist you in obtaining a referral to an allergist, become more proactive. Contact an allergist yourself, and see if your allergist can obtain the insurance approval you need. "
"Remember: GPs often have the mistaken notion that allergists can’t perform allergy tests on children until they’re two or three years old. This is clearly wrong. The consensus of food allergists is that the GP should make the referral as soon as possible after concerns of food allergy arise, even in a two- or three-month-old. The medical community has plenty of evidence that early diagnosis and treatment greatly benefit children and their families."
Even with as much as we've learned about my daughter's issues, I know the puzzle isn't complete, yet.  My days are spent looking for new pieces and all the while, the puzzle itself is changing.  She's growing and changing at a rapid pace and I'm doing my best to keep up.  She's still struggling with allergic rhinitis, so that's our current target.  All we can do is keep on trying, gathering the pieces, working with the doctors, talking with other parents, hopefully improving things as we go along.  Maybe one of these days we'll find the box top!

My Petition on's "We the People" Site

On the site, the Obama Administration has launched a site, "We the People", where you can submit a petition.  If the petition reaches the signature threshold within 30 days, it will receive a response from White House staff and be directed to the appropriate department(s) for review.  I submitted the following petition:

Update the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) of 2004 to include sesame and mustard seeds.

Here is the petition text:

We would like to request that the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (Title II of Public Law 108-282), also known as FALCPA, be extended to include labeling of items containing sesame seeds and mustard seeds.

Sesame seed, for example, is sometimes hidden in ingredients, under the name "tahini", "spices", or "natural flavoring". Individuals with food allergies need to know exactly what is contained within a food product, for the sake of their health and safety. Approximately 3 million Americans are affected by sesame allergies and accidental exposures can be fatal, for some.

Food allergies are on the rise, now affecting 1 in 13 children, in the U.S., according to the latest study sponsored by the Food Allergy Initiative.
We only have 1 week remaining and over 23,000 signatures are still needed.  Even if we do not reach our goal, I'm hoping that this will bring some awareness to the food allergy cause.  I believe the labeling laws should be amended to include other food items, too, such as corn, but I thought we should start small and work our way up.  I believe the Corn Lobby (or whatever you want to call it) would fight tooth and nail against labeling corn, since it's in "everything", and they've recently fought to change "high fructose corn syrup" to "corn sugar" on labels.  That's a step in the wrong direction.  Anyway, it would be great if you'd sign the petition and share it, as well.  Thank you!


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Flu Shots and Severe Egg Allergies - Our Experiences

I've read a couple of articles, lately, stating that "everyone", even those with egg allergies, should get their flu shot.  I saw this poster from the CDC, but I decided to add my own graphic to it:

I don't know why the CDC would make such a poster, when even they would admit that not every single person on the planet should get the flu shot.  Most people, yes, but not EVERYONE.

I am not a doctor, but if your child has a severe egg allergy, or a suspected severe egg allergy, you should definitely discuss it, in detail, with your child's pediatrician and/or allergist.  I would, however, like to share my daughter's experiences.

My daughter wasn't diagnosed with food allergies until she was 18 months old.  She had her first flu shot at the age of 9 months.  The third night after the shot, she woke up with a high fever, and was choking, seeming like she was trying to vomit, but couldn't, and was breathing rapidly.  I got her up out of bed, and managed to give her some ibuprofen and held her in the glider for a while.  (I cannot remember if we gave her any Benadryl, as it was a sleepless night and this was before we were as hyper-aware of the signs of anaphylaxis/allergic reactions.)  I stayed up with her most of the night/morning, and she recovered, but looking back, that was most likely an allergic reaction.  Here's an excerpt from the Mayo Clinic website on drug allergy

Many allergic reactions start within minutes of taking a drug. However, it's possible to develop an allergic reaction to a medication after you've been on it for up to several weeks.
Drug allergy symptoms include:
  • Skin rash
  • Hives (urticaria)
  • Itching
  • Fever
  • Facial swelling
  • Shortness of breath
  • Anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction
My daughter experienced all the symptoms in bold.  I called the pediatrician's office the next morning and they basically said, "Uh huh, OK, that's normal".  They didn't even put it in her medical record. (Which will be the topic of another blog post.)

Flu shots are cultured in egg and sometimes contain egg protein.  At the time, we didn't know she had a severe egg allergy. At her 12-month appointment, it was time for her "second dose" of flu vaccine.  Again, that night, she spiked a high fever and was choking on vomit.  It was a scary night, but luckily, her reaction did not progress.  I try not to think too hard about what could have happened.  I took her to the doctor a couple of weeks later for an ear infection, and she was put on antibiotics.  I can't help thinking that her second flu shot was somehow related.  It's not that I think it specifically gave her an ear infection, but her reaction to it might have contributed to her developing one. 

When her 2-year appointment came around, the doctor said she was up for her flu shot and I said, "but she has a severe egg allergy, remember?" and he said, "Ah, yes, that's right, it's contraindicated, never mind."  I was glad I wasn't going to be forced to go through that, again.  My daughter does not go to school, and is at a low risk for contracting the flu.  We, that are around her, (husband, grandparents, etc.) need to get OUR flu shots to protect her, but she will not be getting another flu shot until either her egg allergy lessens, or the need outweighs the risk.  I keep her up-to-date on all her other immunizations, though.  She has asthma, which is aggravated by any respiratory illness that she contracts, but we have always been able to keep symptoms under control with her nebulizer/albuterol.  Personally, I cannot see giving her a guaranteed adverse reaction, in the hopes of preventing an unlikely viral illness.  It could have been the egg, or another component of the vaccine that she reacted to, but either way, for now, it's off the table.  It's important to reevaluate, of course, as circumstances change, but this is where we're at, presently.

Excerpts from articles I read:
Flu Shots OK for People with Egg Allergy - WebMD article:
"Caution is still advised in certain scenarios. For example, there is still some question on whether people with severe egg allergy can receive the flu shot, he says."
Flu Shot and Egg Allergies from The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology's website

"Is there an alternative flu prevention for high-risk people with egg allergy who are unable to take the flu vaccine? Yes. A high-risk person with suspected egg allergy can use other flu medications within 24 hours of developing flu symptoms. The medication alleviates or prevents the progression of the flu." 
(I believe they are referring to TamiFlu, which is what one of our pediatricians mentioned.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Important Information

There are so many things to learn when dealing with food allergies, eczema and asthma and sometimes I come across information and I think to myself, "EVERYONE needs to know this!"

  • Benadryl (antihistamine medication) has NO life-saving capabilities.  It can help with hives and itching, but it cannot help with breathing difficulties during a serious allergic reaction.
  • The "mild food allergy" myth - A previous reaction's severity is not an indicator of the severity of a future reaction.  Evaluate each reaction independently, and if the signs point to anaphylaxis, then administer epinephrine. 
  • Always carry TWO (2) epinephrine autoinjectors, at all times!  A second dose may be needed as soon as 5-10 minutes after the first dose, if the reaction continues to progress.     
  • The typical guideline for administering epinephrine (Auvi-Q, EpiPen or Adrenaclick) is the involvement of 2 or more systems:
    • skin (S)
    • gastrointestinal system (G)
    • respiratory system (R)
    • cardiovascular system (C)
  • Possible signs of reactions of these 4 systems include:
    • difficulty breathing (R)
    • tightness in the throat or feeling like the throat or airways are closing (R)
    • hoarseness or trouble speaking (R)
    • wheezing (R)
    • nasal stuffiness or coughing (R)
    • nausea, abdominal pain, or vomiting (G)
    • fast heartbeat or pulse (C)
    • skin itching, tingling, redness, or swelling (S)
  • If in doubt, USE EPINEPHRINE!  Believe me, I know how scary that injector can seem, but it is a very thin needle and will not harm you (or your child), even if administered "unnecessarily".  Time is of the essence when your child is experiencing a serious allergic reaction.  Delaying treatment beyond 15 minutes can have disastrous, fatal consequences.  I don't like to sound so dramatic, but anaphylactic shock is serious business and you can't "wait and see" if your child will be OK.
  • "Asthma — People with asthma are more likely to have more severe respiratory problems during anaphylaxis. The combination of food allergy (especially to peanuts and tree nuts) and asthma seems to put people at risk for life-threatening episodes of anaphylaxis."  One must also be aware of cases where an acute asthma attack is actually anaphylaxis.
EpiPen, Anaphylaxis & MedicAlert -
Serious Allergic Reaction - Anaphylaxis -
Patient information: Anaphylaxis symptoms and diagnosis -

    Food Allergies for Dummies by Dr. Robert Wood - Excellent Reference!

    In discussing several of the topics I want to cover, I find myself continuously referring back to one book, in particular.  That book is Food Allergies For Dummies, by Dr. Robert Wood.  Here is an excerpt from his bio:

    Robert Wood is a professor of pediatrics and chief of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology at Johns Hopkins, and professor of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

    Wood is an internationally recognized expert in food allergy and childhood asthma and has published over 100 manuscripts in scientific journals, including the New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA, Pediatrics, and the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, as well as two books and numerous book chapters.

    I must admit that I bought this book and let it sit on the shelf for a while, because the title didn't inspire much confidence.  That was silly of me, though, because I have other "For Dummies" books that are great references for their respective topics.  The flippant title belies the indispensable nature of this book!  When I finally read it, I learned so much and wished that I had picked it up, sooner.  I will be quoting sections of this reference throughout my blog posts, so I wanted to make sure I dedicated a post to promoting it.  I think the book should be covered by insurance and handed out at the allergists' offices. ;)

    Saturday, October 22, 2011

    Allergy Friendly Cake Pops/Cake Balls!

    I am SO excited! I ordered the Nostalgia Electrics JFD-100 Cake Pop & Donut Hole Bakery and it works great!  (There's also the Babycakes CP-12 Cake Pop Maker, Purple, 12 Cake Pops that seems to be more readily available, and makes smaller cake balls.)  I picked the donut hole maker, because the smaller cake balls seemed like a choking hazard, to me, for the little ones.

    I had tried, and failed miserably, to make traditional "cake balls" with an allergy-free cake recipe and allergy-free frosting, because the cake didn't crumble the way I needed it to and when I mixed it with the frosting, it didn't adhere properly and just made a mess.  I thank my lucky stars for this donut hole maker, because it makes them in the right shape, without having to mix, roll and set in the freezer.  Now, I know that part of the appeal of a cake ball is that it is frosting and cake mixed together, but when you're trying to make it allergy-free, you do what you need to do.  I can still decorate them on the outside and it even came with an injector, for injecting fillings, but I haven't tried that, yet.  I think there's plenty that can be done to spruce these up and get pretty close to a traditional cake ball that's (generally) allergy-safe.  (I write "generally", because some have potato allergies and the GF flour has potato starch.  Anyone can be allergic to anything, so nothing is ever truly 100% allergy-free.)

    I made substitutions to their "Quick Donut Holes" recipe, which resulted in the following recipe:
    • 2 c. gluten-free flour (I use Authentic Foods GF Classical Blend)
    • 1 tsp. xanthan gum*
    • 1/4 c. sugar
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
    • 1 tsp. baking powder**
    • 1 "egg" (I use Ener-G Egg Replacer) (1 1/2 tsp. egg replacer powder + 2 T. warm water)
    • 1 1/4 c. rice milk + 1 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar (to substitute for buttermilk) ***
    • 1/4 c. canola oil
    1. Mix dry ingredients (flour, xanthan gum, sugar, salt, baking soda, and baking powder)
    2. Stir in wet ingredients (milk mixture, oil and "egg") and beat with a fork
    3. Use a cookie scoop to drop batter into donut hole cavities
    4. Cook 3-7 minutes (mine took 5 minutes)
    *I called Ener-G, to ask about their xanthan gum.  They said it is grown on corn, but that all corn is removed during processing.  If you have a severe allergy, you might want to find one that is not derived from corn.
    **Use corn-free baking powder, if needed.
    ***You can also use hemp milk, or any other safe-for-you, non-dairy milk and add 1 T. of lemon juice or vinegar (rice or apple cider vinegar), to make the "buttermilk".
      Here is a picture of one of the cake balls, with a golf ball next to it, for reference.  They are slightly larger than "golf-ball size".

      Update: Since switching to Authentic Foods GF Classical Blend
      they are now 
      EVEN BETTER and SO FLUFFY on the inside!

      Buying this machine was definitely worth it, because I can also use other recipes to make all kinds of small, portable treats for my daughter.  I can make small "dinner rolls", or use a pancake mix to make "pancake balls", etc.  For me, it would be otherwise impossible to make a perfectly round ball using any of the other methods I've tried, before, so I am very pleased!

      Thursday, October 20, 2011

      Singulair - Not worth it, for now...

      In late August, Mimi developed a little cough and an alternating stuff/runny nose.  I gave her albuterol treatments with her "fishy mask" and that seemed to help.  After her cough went on for almost 2 weeks, I took her to the pediatrician's office.  The doctor said that her lungs sounded good and she didn't see any signs of infection.  She said it was just allergens and that I was doing the right thing by administering albuterol, as needed.  She did offer me samples of Xopenex, which she said has less incidences of sleep disruptions.  The cough got better after a few days, but the stuffy/running nose continued.  I Googled and figured out that she has allergic rhinitis.  After we neared 6 weeks of sinus congestion, she got a mild fever, so I took her in, again, and the doctor said it looked like a sinus infection and prescribed an antibiotic (Augmentin a.k.a. Amoxicillin Clavulanate) for 14 days.  A few days later, she had an appointment with her allergist and I asked what we could do for her allergic rhinitis.  He said he had seen great success with Singulair.  I had told him, before, that I was worried about the potential side effects.  The website states:

      SINGULAIR may cause serious side effects.

      Behavior and mood-related changes have been reported. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you or your child have any of these symptoms while taking SINGULAIR:
      • agitation including aggressive behavior or hostility
      • bad or vivid dreams
      • depression
      • disorientation (confusion)
      • feeling anxious
      • hallucination (seeing or hearing things that are not really there)
      • irritability
      • restlessness
      • sleepwalking
      • suicidal thoughts and actions (including suicide)
      • tremor
      • trouble sleeping

      My daughter tends to get the "rare" side effects of the medicines she takes, so I was a little hesistant, but we decided to give it a try.

      UGH!  It was like someone flipped a switch on her.  She is a toddler and, of course, prone to mood swings, but these were markedly different.  Her highs and lows were even more dramatic.  She was throwing things, hitting at me (more often), and was in an all-around grumpy mood.  She had trouble sleeping at night and would cry for me, describing these scary dreams that she was having.  It's not that these things hadn't ever happened, but they were just amplified.  Now, it could have been the fact that she was on Zyrtec, Augmentin AND Singulair at the same time, but either way, Singulair is off the table, for now.  If she was having symptoms of uncontrolled asthma, then I think taking Singulair would be worth enduring the side effects, because I have heard many reports from fellow moms who say it worked miracles for their children.  I would agree that if your choices are "be in a good mood, but struggle to breathe" or "breathe and be grumpy", that one would choose the latter, but we weren't using it for her asthma.  Having a stuffy/runny nose just doesn't warrant Singulair, at this point, so I'm back to pursuing other alternatives.  I think we might have to get serious and replace the carpeting in our house.  If I can somehow contain/control her exposure to the aggravating allergens, then maybe we won't need any additional medication. 

      Monday, October 17, 2011

      Hemp Milk Information

      If after reading my "Thank Heaven for Hemp Milk" post, you'd like more information on hemp milk, then read on!

      I will compile another comparison amongst some other non-dairy milks, but first I would like to share some information on the hemp milk brands that I have encountered.  There may be others, but I have not seen them at my local stores, so please forgive me if I have left any brands off the list.  Reminder: I am not a doctor, nor am I a nutritionist.  This is just a compilation of information from the various product websites.  Please consult the manufacturer's website, to see if there have been any changes to their products.

      The brands I have encountered, are as follows: Living Harvest -Tempt, Manitoba Harvest - Hemp Bliss, and Pacific Natural Foods.

      Follow this link, for Ingredients...

      Follow this link for the Nutrition Facts Comparison Chart...

      Hemp Milk - Nutrition Facts Comparison Chart

      Can you tell how much I love hemp milk, yet?  I have pages and pages dedicated to glorious hemp milk. ;)

      As I've said, I hope to get around to the comparison between other non-dairy beverages, but it wasn't long before I was settled on going with hemp milk and then had to decide which brand to give my daughter.  I will be presenting some consolidated Nutrition Facts information, so that you can make your own decisions, based on what is necessary for you and your (or your child's) dietary needs.  I will say that we ended up choosing Living Harvest Tempt Vanilla hemp milk.  I chose it because it had less sugar, a flavor my daughter enjoyed and a good mix of vitamins and minerals.  They use carrageenan as a thickening agent, which some have said has been linked to cancer, but their website states that those studies were done on another variety of material and not the type they use in their products.  I'm comfortable with that, but it's up to each family to make their own decisions.  I also consulted my daughter's pediatrician before offering her hemp milk, in the first place.

      Sorted by Brand: (Click on an image to view full-size.)

      Sorted by Flavor: (Click on an image to view full-size.)

      Hemp Milk Ingredients - Part One

      These are the ingredients lists for the various hemp milks that I have encountered.  Each brand typically has an Original, Vanilla and Chocolate flavor and sometimes unsweetened variations of those flavors.  Sweeteners, thickening/binding agents, and flavorings are color-coded within the list.

      Please see "Hemp Milk Ingredients - Part 2" for additional information.
      I would like to note that I am not concerned about the carrageenan in Living Harvest Tempt milk and you can read the blurb about it in Part 2.

      (updated 5/8/2015 - I noticed they removed carrageenan)
      Unsweetened Original: 
      Hemp Nut Base (Filtered Water, Hemp Nut [Shelled Hemp Seed]), Natural Flavors, Tricalcium Phosphate, Carrageenan Gellan Gum, Sea Salt, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D2, Riboflavin, Vitamin B12.
      Hemp Nut Base (Filtered Water, Hemp Nut [Shelled Hemp Seed]), Brown Rice Syrup, Organic Evaporated Cane Juice, Tricalcium Phosphate, Carrageenan Gellan Gum, Sea Salt, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D2, Riboflavin, Vitamin B12.
      Unsweetened Vanilla: 
      Hemp Nut Base (Filtered Water, Hemp Nut [Shelled Hemp Seed]), Natural Vanilla With Other Natural Flavors, Tricalcium Phosphate, Carrageenan Gellan Gum, Sea Salt, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D2, Riboflavin, Vitamin B12.
      Hemp Nut Base (Filtered Water, Hemp Nut [Shelled Hemp Seed]), Brown Rice Syrup, Organic Evaporated Cane Juice, Natural Vanilla With Other Natural Flavors, Sunflower Lecithin*, Tricalcium Phosphate, Carrageenan Gellan Gum, Sea Salt, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D2, Riboflavin, Vitamin B12.
      Hemp Nut Base (Filtered Water, Hemp Nut [Shelled Hemp Seed]), Organic Evaporated Cane Juice, Cocoa (Processed With Alkali), Natural Flavors, Tricalcium Phosphate, Carrageenan Gellan Gum, Sea Salt, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D2, Riboflavin, Vitamin B12.
      *New ingredient mid-2012 - definitely in Vanilla, wrote to them to confirm the change, need to check other flavors...


      Hemp nut base (filtered water, whole hemp nut [shelled hemp seed]), Brown rice syrup, Disodium phosphate, Xanthan gum, Calcium phosphate, Vitamin A palmitate, Vitamin D2, Riboflavin, Vitamin B12.
      Hemp nut base (filtered water, whole hemp nut [shelled hemp seed]), Brown rice syrup, Natural vanilla with other natural flavors, Disodium phosphate, Xanthan gum, Calcium phosphate, Vitamin A palmitate, Vitamin D2, Riboflavin, Vitamin B12. 
      Hemp nut base (filtered water, whole hemp nut [shelled hemp seed]), Brown rice syrup, Calcium phosphate, Cocoa (processed with alkali), Chocolate, Natural flavors, Disodium phosphate, Gum arabic, Xanthan gum, Carageenan, Vitamin A palmitate, Vitamin D2, Riboflavin, Vitamin B12.

      Hemp Milk Ingredients - Part Two

      In Hemp Milk Ingredients - Part One, I listed the ingredients for the various brands and varieties.  Below is some additional information from each brand's FAQ.

      LIVING HARVEST - TEMPT (Click here for their website.)
      • What is the difference between hemp and marijuana?
        Hemp is a completely different plant than its psychoactive cousin and has no drug value. Hemp is so nutritious that it is rapidly gaining popularity as one of the most valuable sources of quality plant-based protein. It’s also a rich source of Omegas, amino acids, vitamins and minerals, making it an ideal alternative for vegetarians and anyone with allergies to soy and dairy.
      • Will I get high eating your products?
        Hemp has no “drug” value and contains 0.00%THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the psycho-active component found in marijuana. The hemp seeds and hemp foods used by Living Harvest are certified by Hemp is legal and safe to consume and consumption of hemp foods will never cause failure on any type of drug test.
      • Are your products organic?
        Living Harvest Hemp Protein Powder and Hemp Oil are certified organic. Tempt™ Hempmilk and non-dairy frozen dessert are not certified organic; however, the large majority of the sugars, flavorings, oils, and gums included in Tempt™ products are certified organic.
      • What is carrageenan and why is it added to Tempt™ products?
        Carrageenan is derived from a wide variety of red seaweeds and is a commonly used food additive. The carrageenan used in Tempt™ products is extracted using a multi-step process to avoid any degradation. After careful washing, the seaweed is dissolved in warm alkaline water and filtered.
        There has been some negative publicity about carrageenan that is based on a different compound derived from seaweed called poligeenan. The latter is used strictly for industrial, non-food uses. While poligeenan did demonstrate unfavorable health effects in studies, food-grade carrageenan has no known toxicity and is considered Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) by the US Food & Drug Administration.
      • I have allergies. How can I be sure your products are safe?
        Tempt and Living Harvest products are free of soy, gluten, tree-nuts, and dairy. They are also vegan, non-GMO and contain no trans fats or cholesterol.  Our products are processed in facilities where there may be traces of peanuts and tree nuts. All of our suppliers have extensive and strict guidelines for cleaning and adhere to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) in order to help ensure that cross contamination does not occur. 
      • What are natural flavors?
        The natural flavors in Tempt Hempmilk are natural, liquid vanilla. They are gluten, soy, tree-nut, and dairy free. They contain no eggs, MSG, rye, oats, barley, malt, wheat, rice, or citrus.
      • Does Tempt™ Hempmilk separate?
        Yes. Like most non-dairy beverages, Tempt™ Hempmilk needs a vigorous shake to ensure all the nutrients, including calcium, are well-blended. If not, some separation with the product may occur. In unshaken hemp milk, separation may appear as white specs – most often these specs tend to be calcium. Note that this does not mean the product has been compromised, it only means it needs another shake! Tempt™ Hempmilk will quickly go back into solution and have no affect on taste, flavor, or the safety of the product.
      MANITOBA HARVEST - HEMP BLISS (Click here for their website.)
      • Manitoba Harvest no longer makes hemp milk, but the above link shows a recipe for making your own.
      PACIFIC NATURAL FOODS (Click here for their website.)
      • What process do you use to avoid cross contamination between non-allergenic products and products containing an allergens?
        To further reduce potential for cross contamination, a thorough cleaning and flushing of all equipment also takes place after running any product containing allergenic ingredients. The same cleaning is also performed between runs of non-organic and organic products to maintain the integrity of the organic ingredients.
      • Your labels read “Natural Flavors”’ what are these natural flavors?
        The Natural Flavors used in the Vanilla flavored Hemp Milk consist of natural Vanilla Flavor and Plant Aromatics. Our “Natural Flavors” are all natural, vegetarian, contain no artificial ingredients, and are free of gluten, dairy and animal products.
      • Regarding the “Other Natural Flavors” statement, what are plant aromatics?
        An aromatic is an essence from a plant which is recovered through an extraction process. Plant aromatics refer to a blend of natural ingredients used to strengthen the dominant flavor by enhancing it with certain notes of additional preferred flavors. All these additional notes originate from plant sources and are less than one percent of the flavor. The percent of aromatic actually in the finished product is miniscule. The names of these plant sources are proprietary information.
      • What if I am allergic to something in the natural flavors?
        When any of the regulated allergens (milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, or soy) are included in the natural flavors or spices, we list those allergens on the label according to The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act. None of these are listed on the Hemp Milk labels.
      • Both flavors have “Xanthan Gum” in the ingredient statement. What is it? Is it a natural ingredient?
        Xanthan gum is an all-natural ingredient obtained through a natural fermentation process. It acts as a thickening agent and will bind water, the latter being the reason why it is added to our Hemp Milks – to keep water from separating out and forming a layer on top of the beverage.
      • What process do you use to avoid cross contamination between non-allergenic products and products containing an allergen?
        Pacific Natural Foods does not produce products with eggs, sesame, shellfish, or peanuts in our facility. We do produce products containing dairy, soy, tree nuts, and corn. Every 24 hours, production shuts down for a total cleaning and sterilization of all equipment. Complete cleaning and sterilization is also performed between runs of dairy and non-dairy items.

        To further reduce potential for cross contamination, a thorough cleaning and flushing of all equipment also takes place after running any product containing allergenic ingredients. The same cleaning is also performed between runs of non-organic and organic products to maintain the integrity of the organic ingredients.

        Nonetheless, we cannot guarantee that every minute particle of an ingredient from the previous product is removed. If you or a family member has a serious allergy to ingredients in any of our products and are concerned about the possibility of cross contamination, we recommend that you do not use our products.

      Sunday, October 16, 2011

      Thank heaven for hemp milk!

      After getting the background information up on my blog, one of the first things I wanted to discuss is my ardent love and appreciation for the existence of hemp milk!  My daughter's cow's milk allergy, mixed with a mild soy allergy, left us searching for a milk alternative, when she was a little over a year old.  I went to the store, to see what was available.  They had almond milk, coconut milk, oat milk, rice milk, hemp milk and even a grain milk.  With her peanut/tree nut allergies, almond milk and coconut milk were out of the question.  Coconut is safe for many people with tree nut allergies, because it's not a true "nut", but sometimes people with an allergy to tree nuts also have an allergy to coconut.  Morgan later tested positive for a coconut allergy, so I'm glad I never tried it. (Well, turns out she was not allergic to it, after all!)  I was not too comfortable with oats and grains, because of her wheat allergy (I later found out that oats aggravate her eczema), so I bought a carton of rice milk and hemp milk.  I called the pediatrician and asked if hemp milk would be OK, since the ingredients listed "Hemp Nut Base (Filtered Water, Hemp Nut [Shelled Hemp Seed])".  I was assured that this was not a "nut" in the same sense that tree nuts are nuts.  Hooray!  Peanuts are actually legumes, which I already knew and was not concerned about that relationship.  The rice milk was a little watery and didn't have the level of nutrients that I wanted.  Hemp milk won me over with its amazing nutritional value. 

      Here is the description of hemp milk from Wikipedia:

      Hemp milk or Hemp Seed Milk, is a drink made from hemp seeds that are soaked and ground into water, yielding a creamy nutty beverage. It is marketed in health and fitness publications as a "new health food darling".[1]

      According to Dr. Andrew Weil, hemp seeds contain no THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive substance found in marijuana[2] but instead, contain a three-to-one ratio of Omega-6 and Omega-3 essential fatty acids and other nutrients include magnesium, phytosterols, ascorbic acid, beta-carotene, calcium, fiber, iron, potassium, phosphorus, riboflavin, niacin and thiamin.

      Hemp milk also contains 10 essential amino acids, making it a good vegetarian source of protein as hemp protein does not contain phytates, enzyme inhibitors found in some soy protein that can interfere with the absorption of essential minerals. Hemp protein may also be more digestible than soy protein because unlike soy, it doesn't contain oligosaccharides, complex sugars that can cause flatulence if not properly broken down during digestion.

      Dr. Weil also maintains that as far as allergies are concerned, hemp seeds do not pose the threat that tree nuts do and that anyone allergic to soy or dairy should be able to safely consume hemp milk.[3]

      The bottom line is that hemp milk is AWESOME!  I honestly believe it has contributed to my daughter's advanced learning speed.  One of my friends calls it "brain milk".  I will be adding a post, comparing some of the alternative milks and the various hemp milk brands, but for now, I just wanted to let everyone know that my personal choice for a non-dairy milk is HEMP MILK!

      Thursday, October 13, 2011

      It all started with a rash...

      I was trying to think back to where all of this began.  It all started with a little rash.  Mimi had a bit of a rash, when she was about 3 months old.  Many babies have rashes, so I didn't think much of it, at first.  I was looking back over my old blog posts and I see that it was a long, confusing road to get to where we are, today, but here's the gist of it.  I'll explain in more detail in future posts, but it's pretty hard to sum up 3 years in a single post.
      • 3 months old - We took her to the nurse practitioner, who immediately recognized the rash as eczema and gave us a topical steroid gel (Desonate) to treat it and suggested fragrance-free, hypoallergenic lotions, to keep her skin hydrated.  She said it could be caused by a milk protein allergy, or she might just have sensitive skin.  She really didn't think it was caused by a food allergy, though.
      • The eczema spread beyond just her face, to the rest of her body.  I took her back to the pediatrician's office and asked, again, about food allergies.  They said it was too early to test her and didn't think it was food allergies, anyway.  
      • 4 months old - Visited a dermatologist, who also did not suspect food allergies (stating that food allergies caused eczema in only 1% of cases), and said to reduce the frequency of baths.  We were giving Protopic, triamcinolone and Epiceram (topical treatments).
      • 4 months old - At her 4-month pediatric appointment, the pediatrician said it just might be a milk protein allergy and suggested Nutramigen, which is a hypoallergenic formula.  It is VERY expensive!  She was also suffering from reflux and we were given a prescription for Zantac, which we did not use.
      • We purchased a "Tucker Sling" to help with her reflux, but it didn't work out.  
      • 4 1/2 months old - Another pediatrician's office visit - a different doctor...The doctor said she was suffering from "well fed baby" syndrome, and this was causing the problems with her bowel movements.  He said "everyone" is allergic to milk, to some degree, because it's really not meant for human consumption and the rest of the world does not drink cow's milk, the way it's consumed in the U.S.  He suggested trying soy formula.
      • I continued pumping my breastmilk, in case the soy formula didn't work out.
      • 5 months old - switched the soy formula - HUGE improvement in her eczema!
      • 5 1/2 months old - still experiencing some eczema and developed a small staph infection.  Dermatologist prescribed Mupirocin (antibiotic ointment), and an oral steroid, but we didn't have her take it, because of our apprehension around oral steroids.  (Those fears would later prove to be unnecessary.  We should have given them to her.)
      • 9 months old - Flu shot - bad reaction - high fever, vomiting/choking.  Also had an ear infection.  Was prescribed Augmentin (amoxicillin).  Developed a "non-allergic rash".
      • 14 months old - For some reason, my memory of this is hazy, but we still weren't 100% sure about her milk allergy and tried a small amount of 2% milk, which was promptly projectile-vomited all over the place.  We then switched to soy milk.
      • 15 months - She developed an upper respiratory infection.  She had trouble breathing one night and I will her to the doctor the next morning (in retrospect, I should have taken her in right away) and they administered albuterol via a nebulizer, for the first time.  She did NOT like it, of course, but now she's a pro and loves her "fishy mask".  We were given a "puffer spacer" and an inhaler, but I cannot remember when that was given to us.
      • 18 months old - I still suspected food allergies and insisted on the blood test.  I did not want to subject her to the skin prick test, because of her eczema.  The results were stunning - Class 5 allergies to peanuts, milk, and eggs.  (The egg allergy partially explains the bad reaction to her flu shot.  I will explain more of that under another blog post.)  She also showed a Class 4 allergy to cat dander, Class 3 to dog dander and Class 2 allergies to wheat, walnut and soy.  All of those food items were removed from her diet and her health and eczema improved greatly.
      • 19 months old - we discovered hemp milk!!  (There was a glitch along the way, where we tried goat's milk yogurt, with another case of projectile vomiting.)
      • 25 months old - The infamous "baked milk incident" of New Year's Day 2011.  After an accidental ingestion of bread with milk protein, due to a gross error on my part, we made a trip to the ER.   
      • 31 1/2 months - Couldn't stand it any longer and requested additional blood tests.  She was still itchy with mild eczema and the occasional bout of wheezing/asthma, so I requested a list of foods to be tested.  Results: Class 4 - flax seed (bummer!), Class 3 - sesame and coconut, Class 2 - strawberry, avocado and banana, Class 1 - peach and pineapple.
      • 32 months - Ate mustard - threw up all over the place.  Mustard is off the table.
      • 33 months old - Given the mustard mishap and the fact that so many foods had come back positive, I couldn't help but want to know about more foods, so we did two more sets of labs.  It was one more blood draw, but they added on additional tests with the remaining blood sample.  Class 4 - almond, Class 3 - oats, Class 2: corn, potato, orange, Class 1 - raspberry, honey.  Second lab set...Re-tested peanuts, milk, eggs and wheat, to see if there was any improvement since her 18 month tests.  NO.  Her class 5s for peanuts, milk and eggs were still Class 5, and higher numbers, at that.  Wheat had gone from a Class 2 up to a Class 3. :(  She also had a Class 3 result for Lemon, and Class 2 for green beans and pumpkin.  (NOTE:  This was back when I thought the "Class" level meant something.  I also feel that I should not have tested for so many random foods, in hindsight.  Please see this post for an update.)
      • 34 months old - Developed a runny nose and what I believe to be "allergic rhinitis"
      • 35 months old - Given that the allergic rhinitis persisted for 6 weeks, we decided to try Singulair, but the side effects were unpleasant and we discontinued it.
      • 36 months old - Mystery rash developed - current suspect - hamburger patty's "spices and natural flavorings."  She was able to have a successful Chuck E. Cheese's birthday party, so that was great!
      • Age 3 - Her skin cleared up, tremendously, so we decided to try and re-introduce corn to her diet.  That went well, so we added some soy back and that was also successful, though I use soy in moderation.  We discovered that being outside in the cold was a bigger trigger for her eczema than some of the foods we suspected.  I had her skin perfectly clear when I kept her indoors for several days, during a cold snap, but I know I cannot keep her indoors all the time.  She has resumed her regular outdoor play, weather permitting, and some of her eczema spots have returned, but we're working on it.
      • One month before age 4 - first experience with epinephrine...
      • 4 years 1 month - Started Qvar, to attempt to control asthma (beware of milk proteins in other asthma medications)


      Greetings!  I am mother to an amazing little girl who, at the time of this writing is about to turn 3 and she's smart as a whip!  She has known her colors, shapes and letters for quite some time, now.  She amazes me with her memory and recall, reminding me of things that happened months or even almost 2 years ago!  She can write some letters, and her own name, with some coaching.  She can name quite a few U.S. states, and find them on her puzzle/map.  She has a great sense of humor and almost always has a smile.  She is my amazing little Sweetie, but she also happens to be atopic.

      What does atopic mean, you ask?  Well, according to Wikipedia, "atopic syndrome is a predisposition toward developing certain allergic hypersensitivity reactions."  When I stumbled upon this Wikipedia page, I felt like I was reading all about the things she experiences.  "Atopy (atopic syndrome) is a disease characterized by a tendency to be 'hyperallergic'. A patient with atopy typically presents with one or more of the following: eczema (atopic dermatitis), allergic rhinitis (hayfever), allergic conjunctivitis, or allergic asthma. Patients with atopy also have a tendency to have food allergies."

      Yes, yes, maybe, yes and oh yes, that, too.  My sweet Mimi has all of those, except for allergic conjunctivitis, which she has managed to avoid, thus far.  My daughter is such a trooper through it all and she teaches me so much, every day.  I know that she is much more than the sum of her ailments, but the focus of this blog mostly be on her "allergic trifecta": eczema, asthma, and food allergies.  I have other blogs in which I document the other sides of my daughter's life, but the purpose of this blog is to share stories, experiences, and any other information that I think might be helpful to others.  It also acts as an outlet for me to get some of what's in my head, out on paper.  I think doctor's offices should hand out a blogging site when they diagnose your child with something.  It's a must-have for many of us mommies!