Thursday, February 5, 2009

Allergies strike again

Rose's allergies have been sneaking up again on us since Christmas. They peaked this week with her eczema attacking her neck to the point of oozing and bleeding again, just like when she was a baby. It hasn't been this bad since she was about 2.

Her worst allergy is dairy. It's not lactose intolerance, it's actual allergy to milk protein, called casein. We have her on a casein-free diet until the crisis is past, and will restrict casein for several weeks to empty her bucket.

An allergy doctor explained allergies to me this way: An allergic person has an allergy "bucket." When you eat foods you are allergic to, it fills the bucket. If you eat just a little, just a little is in the bucket, and if you eat a lot of it (or a little several days in a row), the bucket can be filled to overflowing. When the bucket starts overflowing, that's when you see reactions. If you empty the bucket, chances are you can have a little of the trigger substance before you see a reaction. The trick is that some substances clear out of the bucket in hours, others in weeks.

So, no milk for Rose for a while. I did find some hemp milk at the store, and we'll give that a shot. We've tried almond milk, rice milk, oat milk and soy milk, but she has severe allergic reactions to all of the above. When she was little, I made her some cashew milk for a while, but I didn't like the nutritional profile of that very much.

Of course, if it were just milk and cheese, it wouldn't be such a big problem. But there is casein (and corn, a food that three of the seven of us are allergic to) in almost every processed food these days. McDonald's finally admitted not too long ago that there is even casein in their french fries.

Meanwhile, Kate has been suffering from dishydrosis, an awful skin problem, on her hands. The skin gets small blisters, which itch fiercely. The blisters pop, bleed, ooze, then crust. Repeated attacks make the skin tough and leathery, then eventually shell-like. We tried like crazy to determine the cause of the problem, and finally came down to one suspect: nickel. Now, there is a little nickel in chocolate, and a little in peanut butter (two food groups, according to her), but the main source is her braces! We are very, very happy that her braces should be coming off this calendar year. I've spoken to her orthodontist, who says he can make her retainer out of tungsten or plain plastic. He says he is seeing more and more nickel allergies, something that he never saw as recently as 5 years ago.

We are working on shoring up the flagging immune systems in our family, and plugging any leaky gut issues, as those are reported to worsen allergies. It's been a nice couple months, just totally ignoring the allergies, but it's time to be vigilant once again.


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