A break from breakfasts – now for the science bit 12

As I have worked my way through 15 breakfast options now, I think it is time to bring a bit of science back to the blog. Don’t worry, the food will be back, but I need to share our latest news, as it may resonate with some of you – and some of you may have comments or advice? Please feel free to comment.

After three years of trying to get Zac allergy tested, we finally made some progress at the end of last year and got a consultant to agree that his condition needed further investigating and blood tests were the next step. The blood was taken just before Christmas and by 21st January – after much chasing, I received the results. Zac’s blood tests were negative for cow’s milk, egg, fish, peanuts, sesame, hazelnuts, cashew nuts, wheat, mixed tree pollen and mixed grass pollen. They were also supposed to test for mango and kiwi, but in the letter they apologised for not having done this, as they had taken insufficient blood! Great.

Dr Fox had also requested for Zac to be screened for HLA DQ2 and DQ8 – which would help rule out Coeliac disease, but there was not mention of this in the letter, so I can only assume they forgot altogether. Massively unimpressed – again. I plan to discuss when we next meet the consultant.

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A cook back in time 1

I have got my hands on some priceless gems. My mother’s cookery books. My parents married in 1971 and my mum took a cookery course. Her mother was a wonderful cook but my mum was not that interested to learn until she got married and decided she needed some extra help if she was going to be a successful seventies housewife.

My favourite of all her books is an actual ‘notebook’ that she took along to her class to jot down the recipes they were taught each week. It has a wonderful brown and orange seventies pattern on the cover and the pages are now a little brown and aged. It actually has the word ‘Notebook’ embossed on the cover in gold print. As I flick through it, it always makes me laugh to see the little scribblings I made when I was about seven. As I child I went through a phase of writing my name in everything and ‘marking’ everyone’s work.

Anyway, the reason I have asked my Mum if I can borrow her books, is that the recipes are wonderful. So simple and so delicious. The two most important things for me when considering trying to cook something new. The other reason I am borrowing it is to see if I can adapt the recipes for Zac – and the rest of us I suppose. So many of my favourite home cooked foods came from this book and I want to see if I can broaden the children’s repertoire and create some new Zac friendly recipes at the same time.

If you have read many of my other blog posts you will know that I feel quite strongly that something has gone wrong with ‘modern’ food, as so many of our children are intolerant to so many things. I am not sure if it is nostalgia or my memory but I do not remember having many, if any friends, who were allergic to foods or who had asthma.

So what happened between my childhood and the arrival of my children? Have I done things differently? That is another reason I am now studying these old books. What has changed? Is it us modern mums or the shops and foods available to us? At first glance, it is clear the recipes were very much more simple. I am always more likely to try a new recipe if it has few ingredients and minimal steps.

From these recipes it is clear that they were not reliant on pre-prepared ingredients in the seventies. There is no reference to ready- made pastry etc. It seems that if you wanted a pie for dinner, your mother just went to the shops bought the ingredients and made one. No e numbers, no preservatives and no ‘junk’ ingredients.

And that is what living with an intolerant child does to you. It changes your lifestyle to one last lived decades ago. I seem to go food shopping every day. I spend my whole days cooking from scratch and when I am not cooking or clearing up from cooking, I am thinking about what I should be cooking next. Good job I actually like doing it and don’t have a ‘proper job’.

Anyway, I never rely on being able to pick up a snack off the shelves any more, sandwich shops no longer exist for us. If we are going out then I need to pack food for Zac. I often envy my sister who can just grab a sandwich for her little boy, but I always have to plan ahead and we have to pack a lunch for Zac and carry it wherever we go.

Just yesterday, while basking in the glory of my rock cakes, I suddenly remembered I had not even thought about what I would give the children for dinner. It is not like I can just pull some chicken dippers or something out of the freezer so I ended up ‘knocking up a soup’.

I just chopped up all the vegetables in my fridge, chucked them in my slow cooker, seasoned them, poured in two cans of tinned tomatoes, a couple of large squirts of tomato puree, some garlic, some herbs and a pint of stock – made using Marigold Swiss Bouillon (gluten free, dairy free – totally safe).

Four hours later and dinner was ready. I just whizzed it up with a hand blender and poured it over some freshly cooked gluten free spaghetti and watched the little ones get stuck in. Very satisfying to know that they were eating a sauce freshly prepared by me containing about eight different vegetables and very little else.

The beauty of this ‘soup’ recipe is that it is so versatile and requires minimal attention. You can leave it unblended and it is a ‘rustic’ minestrone or chunky pasta sauce, sometimes I add tuna just to really feel like I have done some cooking! I always make a ‘vat’ of it, so I can freeze several portions and make sure I am not in the same position I was in yesterday – 1pm and no idea what to give the kids for tea.

So this is my new life. Feeding my intolerant child is pushing me into the lifestyle of the average seventies housewife – but actually I love it. Yesterday was full on shopping, cooking and clearing up but watching the little ones bolt down their spaghetti and then devouring their cakes made me so happy.  Now I need to push on and attack those lovely old cookbooks. If I keep going with my new/old lifestyle will I be able to make Zac less fussy and the rest of us more healthy? Let’s hope so.

The White Chocolate buttons are coming back 1

Very excited. Just got an email from the people at Humdingers and they are bringing their ‘Dairy Free’ brand back. The chocolate buttons should be back on the shelves of Tesco by 1st July. They did not say why they are bringing them back. I suspect they received lots of letters from people like me asking them to reconsider. So now we all need to keep buying them so they don’t get delisted again.

When I first contacted Humdinger they said they had decided to abandon their dairy free range as the supermarkets were bringing out their own brands. I have not seen any evidence to suggest this is the case. Asda is the only store that has any kind of self branded ‘free from’ chocolate. The others occasionally stock Moo Free, which have become a new favourite with us, but they are not there every time we shop.

To be honest, I would say that at the moment it looks like there is less variety on the Free From shelves, which seems utterly bizarre to me, as so many people seem to need these alternatives. Aside from the all the people who have contacted me since I started the blog, it seems whenever I am in a supermarket I meet more people who have these problems.

On Friday, Zac and I were checking out in Asda and the lady saw all of Zac’s foods going through and asked what his allergies were. I explained and she said she has the same problem with wheat and gluten but she thinks the free from foods are just horrible and no better for you. She believed that the supermarkets are just replacing one lot of junk with another. She says she just makes her own food and prefers to follow a whole food diet. Sensible lady.

So that is two people in just two days, the nurse at the asthma clinic and the lady in the supermarket. With statistics like these I think Humdinger should consider expanding their ranges and not just bringing back their old products. More pressure is needed on the manufacturers and the supermarkets. Now we have got the buttons back, I think it is time to move on to those ice cream cones – just in case the summer does arrive!

Asthma clinic Reply

Today I did something I never dreamed I would be doing just 12 months ago. I took both of my children to the asthma clinic. I just can’t believe they have asthma. I know it is far more manageable than it used to be and if treated properly and early enough, children can grow out of it, but I still feel sad whenever I place the mini face mask on their cheeky little chops. But not half as sad as I feel when I can hear them coughing all night and wheezing and rattling when they have been running around or laughing too much!

The nurse was great and said she wanted us to try another medication with Sophia, as her night coughs had got worse and she had a couple of attacks since we last went to clinic. It is a chewable tablet that she has to take at teatime. Apparently, we just try it for a month and if it helps we stay on it and if it makes no difference we stop taking it. She said it treats the asthma in a different way as it caused by different triggers for different people and reacts differently to different medicines. As the nurse said, we don’t really know what Sophia’s triggers are yet. That made me think, I really need to get her allergy tested too. It seems everyone is just looking at treating symptoms and not the cause.

Next it was Zac’s turn. The nurse agreed with the advice I said I had been given by his paediatrician. As Zac has such a propensity to develop allergies, it makes sense to start giving him the preventer inhaler, in an attempt to stop his asthma developing in the way poor Sophia’s has. We have more of an idea as to what Zac’s triggers are. He is usually quite poorly on the high pollen count days. Cats also cause him a great deal of grief. He has had croup several times and always has a runny nose, so I always knew it was likely he would have problems in this area too.

So I have resigned myself to carrying inhalers and spacers wherever we go. I am happy to do what it takes to get them through this. If the preventers do their job, then they should start to get better as their lungs mature. However, if I am still blogging about their allergies and intolerances in five years’ time, I will be very disappointed.

The nurse was interested in Zac’s case and asked me about his allergies and intolerances. She agreed that it was very unfortunate that he has these conditions and that no-one is doing any further work on getting to the bottom of why his body reacts this way. She was sympathetic about the food intolerances as her daughter was dairy intolerant, her father was gluten and she was aware how hard it was to cater for them. She did say Zac could have some food on prescription if he was Coeliac, but as that screen came back negative there was nothing she could do.

So do I push harder and get him tested again? Just so we can get some free food. I have to admit it is tempting because his food is shockingly expensive. But it made him so ill last time, I just don’t know if I can put him through it. As far as I know, the only other reliable screen for Coeliac is the endoscopy, but I also feel anxious about that.

If only there was another way to get a diagnosis. In fact I wish you could get a prescription for the food if you are just intolerant, but I suppose loads of people could and would claim that, but what about the milk allergy suffers? We always seem to get overlooked. Zac is at allergy level with his dairy, not just intolerance. So why can’t I get all his dairy free stuff on prescription? As the dietician said, the most critical of his conditions is the impact zero dairy has on his calcium levels, so surely the ‘calcium containing’ dairy replacement foods are crucial and we should get some help! I feel a campaign coming on!!!

National Allergy Week research links ‘healthy’ food to hay fever 1

National Allergy Week research links ‘healthy’ food to hay fever – Yahoo! Lifestyle UK.

I just thought I would put this link up as we are in hay fever season and obviously there is a link between many allergies and intolerances.

Zac has hay fever, in fact he has a clear runny nose most of the time. He has now developed an ‘asthma like cough’ to go with his hay fever and has been given an inhaler which does help. He is allergic to cats also and this also triggers his cough and runny nose. He has also recently developed some ‘spotty’ and dry patches on his skin, starting to look like a dermatitis/eczema type rash.

When we met Zac’s first consultant he described Zac as a classic example of an ‘atopic’ person. Atopy is a predisposition toward developing certain allergic hypersensitivity reactions. So it makes sense that he has moved on from just hay fever and dairy intolerance to pretty much the full set!

Ironically, a lot of advice for people with the runny nose, asthma and eczema type reactions is to lay off dairy. He has developed these conditions since we abandoned dairy, so is it just in his genetic make up or is the ‘health food’ aggravating it? This is why I wanted to share this article link. Anyone else got any thoughts or similar experiences?

How did we get here? Reply

I am the mother of two children, Sophia and Zac. Sophia is 5 and Zac is 3. From around the time of weaning it was clear that neither could stomach too much dairy – both were violently sick the first few times I took them off formula and introduced full fat cows milk to their diet. That was an easy fix. Keep them on ‘growing up’ milk for as long as possible and then switch to soya milk after the age of one. Easy. Or so I thought.

With Zac it was a little more tricky than just swapping out the cows milk for soya in the mornings. Poor little Zac contracted swine flu around the time of his first birthday. He was very ill and had an extremely upset tummy for over two weeks. Once he started to feel better, he got his appetite back and started off with his yoghurts and breakfast cereal.  That first evening his little tummy blew up like a balloon and an hour after going to bed he was very sick. He was sick all night long but during the course of the next day bounced back and seemed hungry again. That evening the pattern was repeated. At one point I thought the buttons on his little pyjama jacket would fly off like something in a cartoon. He was sick all night and once the vomiting stopped his little tummy had gone back to normal. I worked out the culprit for myself.

The next day I made an appointment with my GP who agreed it was likely. He told me that after a prolonged stomach upset much of the natural defences and enzymes will have been flushed out with everything else. So he suggested we remove all dairy from Zac’s diet for a few months and see how he got on……..

That was December 2009. Since then we have been on quite a journey. Since then he has also suffered with very unpleasant reactions to many foods and ingredients .  And when he is not made ill by food, he is simply ‘intolerant’ or ‘intolerable’ (I can’t decide!!) and just won’t eat what I put in front of him!

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