Going to School with Food Allergies

All three of my girls went back to school yesterday. I know for some of you, your kids have been in school for a month or so. The beginning of a new school year brings excitement, but also much anxiety for kids with food allergies and their parents. We send our kids off to be monitored by other adults that don’t always understand our situation fully. Most of them can’t fully understand our situation because they aren’t in it. Schools have protocols set in place for kids with multiple food allergies, you can request a 504 plan that states your childs needs and all of the ways your child will need services and/or support with their food allergies. The school nurse typically contacts the parents to get more information, collects the necessary medication (epinephrine, benadryl, etc.), and stores these items unless your child can carry their meds themselves.

I have found that there are several other steps that I like to take to ensure the safety and health of my three girls and their food allergies and intolerances. These are things that I have learned over time and hope they are helpful for you. If I missed something, feel free to let me know. This list is how I have worked mostly with teachers and not the school in general. I mentioned a few ways to work with the school above, but that is not what I am writing about today. All of the teachers are informed of students in their classes that have severe allergies. What I have found is that most teachers don’t know any information beyond that. Here is a list of things that I talk to the teacher directly about.

1. Tell the teacher exactly what food/s my daughter is allergic or intolerant to. I haven’t had any of my daughters teachers know the specific foods they are allergic or intolerant to. It is very important that the teacher knows exactly what foods my daughters can and can’t eat. With this, it is not their job to monitor my daughter and what she chooses to eat. This is to make sure that the teacher is aware and when they need to be extra vigilant. It is my job to ensure that my daughters have food that is safe for them while they are at school. This puts my mind and the teachers at ease.

2. Tell the teacher exactly what reactions my daughter has to each food. This is extremely important. Food reactions have such a wide range of severity and how they present themselves. Even with anaphylaxis allergies the reactions and how they present themselves can be very different from person to person and with different foods. This is a time to educate the teacher and to really know what symptoms should be of concern to them. I never assume the teacher knows what to look for or be concerned about.

3. On the first day of school I come with a box of cookies that are safe for each of my daughters to keep in the classroom. There are so many parties and other events that include dessert that I make sure my girls aren’t left out. Some birthdays happen right after school starts so I make sure they are prepared from day one. My daughters or their teachers let me know when their cookie supply is running low.

4. I request that the teacher let me know in advanced when they will be having activities that include food other than birthdays. There are several parties throughout the school year that involve pizza, ethnic food, popcorn, 5th grade camp (two days overnight), etc. I let the teacher know that I will always provide food for my daughters that is the same as what the other kids will be having or something similar. This ensures that my girls aren’t left out and they have safe food for them.

5. I request to teach in the class about food allergies. I did this last year because my middle daughter was having issues with kids in her class not being safe or kind to those with food allergies. It was a great way for me to educate the kids and teachers in my daughters classes. The majority of people don’t understand the severity of food allergies or understand the consequences of cross contamination. The teachers really appreciated me coming in, learned a lot, and requested that I come in the following year as well. Education goes a long way with people.

6. Check in. I check in regularly with my daughters and their teachers to see how everything is going. Is my daughter almost out of cookies in the classroom? Do you have any questions or concerns? How are my daughters feeling about their food allergies and intolerances at school? Is there anything I can do to make this easier?

I hope these are some helpful tips when sending your precious kids to school that have food allergies. It can be tough, but it can be done. Let me know if there is anything I missed or another topic you would like me to cover. Happy to school year to you all!

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My daughter Zippy

I have three girls who I absolutely adore. All three of them are vastly different and also have many similarities. Each of them have food allergies and/or intolerances. Today, I’m going to share about my youngest daughter, Zippy’s journey with food. Currently Zippy is four, about to turn five in about 6 weeks. Zippy arrived a week early and was the sweetest and calmest of my girls in the newborn phase, except for eating. By the time I took her for her one week check up, I knew she had feeding problems. I told our pediatrician, who we knew very well, that Zippy aspirated when she ate. He suggested that I find a premie nipple for the bottles I was using, but I couldn’t find them anywhere. I was stuck using a level 1 nipple and Zippy continued to aspirate. She would get a little bit into her feedings fine and then start screaming profusely. This went on, for a LONG time. More on that later.

I don’t produce enough milk to feed my girls properly so I have had to use formula for all three of them. With the first two girls I attempted to breast feed, pump, etc. and nothing worked to create enough milk for me to feed them. With Zippy, I didn’t even try because it was so much work and I knew it wouldn’t give her the nutrition she needed. I had someone very close to me that was willing to give me breast milk since she produced enough to feed triplets. She also happens to be dairy free and pretty much soy free as well. I got almost 5 weeks of a milk supply from her which was nothing short of amazing. Sorry if that grosses you out, but it was an amazing blessing for my girl! After the 5 weeks, it wasn’t possible for me to continue to get milk so I had to switch to formula.

The first formula we tried was dairy formula, remember my middle daughter Peppy’s food allergy journey? I was prepared that Zippy might not do well with dairy, but NOTHING prepared me for what was to come. The first try with dairy, I sat on the couch, covered myself with a towel as a precaution. Let’s just say that Zippy could have won a prize for how far and much she vomited! I thought my middle vomited a lot, but Zippy put Peppy to shame, no joke! My husband came in after I yelled as loud as I could and asked, “WHAT IN THE WORLD HAPPENED??” I was covered, Zippy was covered, the precautionary towel was covered, and part of the couch was covered. Honestly, the mere volume that came out shouldn’t have been possible. We both had to shower, there was no other way to clean us up. I’m sure we tried dairy on more than one occasion, but I can’t remember. Clearly, she was allergic to dairy. We moved onto a soy based formula with the same result. Then onto Nutramigen, a hypoallergenic formula, and she still had the same result. This was not new for us, so our pediatrician referred us to the same GI at Seattle Childrens Hospital that was treating Peppy for food allergies as well. After reading her medical history, listening to me share, and knowing Peppy’s history, he believed Zippy also had severe, though non-life threatening, food allergies to dairy and soy. We put her on prescription formula and she thrived right away. Thankfully this process was SO much faster with Zippy than it was with Peppy since we had been down this road before.

The vomiting and diarrhea stopped immediately with the new formula, but the screaming with feedings didn’t. I persisted with our pediatrician and GI about Zippy aspirating with feeding. Let’s just say the medical process can be slow sometimes even when you love your practitioners and know them well. When Zippy was 9 months old, she finally got referred for a swallow study. By that time, Zippy was drinking an 8oz bottle several times a day. When she got to 3-4oz she would always start screaming and not want to drink anymore. Being the persistent lady that I am, I knew she needed full feedings, so it would take me an HOUR each time I fed her. It was literally a part time job to feed her with her screaming through most of them. Sure enough, when Zippy got her swallow study done, she aspirated between 3-4oz and then would scream because it hurt going down the wrong pipe. We are really lucky that she never ended up with pneumonia from all of the aspirating. She got put on a thickener that got mixed with her formula. That was quite a tough transition. Now that the formula was thicker, which was good for her to not aspirate, she got frustrated really easily because it was so hard to suck out. We struggled for about a week before we got her to drink full feedings and not scream. You guys, can I tell you what a miracle this was for me? Nine months of a baby that screamed with every feeding and took an hour to complete a feeding was draining in every way.

Around the same time we found out that Zippy had swallowing issues, she had also quit rolling over and sitting up. She was referred to Occupational Therapy (OT) with issues of being high tonal. We loved her OT, and through her we figured out that Zippy also had sensory processing differences. I could have a whole separate blog for that. My guess is that all these issues also played a part in her aspirating. Zippy ended up being on thickener for several years and then “graduated”. YAY!

umpalaRAIN- Zippy

As Zippy got older, she too had more and more food allergies and sensitivities. When she was just over two years old, she started having a lot of bowel issues. She had been potty trained since she was 21 months old, but she started having uncontrolled bowels. We took her into the Dr., they did an x-ray on her stomach and her bowels were very backed up. The Dr. decided to also take stool samples. On multiple occasions Zippy tested positive for malabsorption but no one could figure out why. We headed back to her GI for more testing and still no one could figure out what was wrong with her even though her symptoms persisted. About 6 months after we started this piece of her journey, we had a GI appt with someone filling in at the clinic. Our GI was on vacation. This new GI took one look at her hair and asked me if I ever thought her hair wasn’t normal, it was VERY short, didn’t grow well, was wiry, and thin. See picture above. I just figured all kids got hair at different ages so I never thought very much of it. He did several tests on her and they all came up negative, so we were back to not knowing what was wrong with her. I was in close communication with her pediatrician and she told me to rack my brain about ANYTHING new I had added to her diet around the time the symptoms started. Since Zippy had several food allergies at this point, I was careful about adding new foods, but I racked my brain anyways. All of a sudden I realized, it was NUTS! I called the pediatrician and she agreed that could be the culprit, even though it would be a bit strange. Right away I took nuts out of Zippy’s diet and the results were amazing! Zippy’s bowels returned to normal almost immediately. What is even more amazing? She started growing hair! Within a few months she had a head full of hair. A year after we took nuts out of her diet, she had full hair down to her shoulders. The summer after we took nuts out of her diet she picked up a handful of cashews that Peppy was eating. I told her to put them down because she was allergic to them. She proceeded to lick the cashew dust off her hands and within minutes she couldn’t control her bowels. That all the more solidified what we already knew.

We have done oral challenges on Zippy, with the ok of her GI, for dairy and soy. The challenges did not go well at all for many years, until this current year. Zippy is now just intolerant to both which is HUGE. We still avoid them, but don’t worry about her accidentally getting sick from cross contamination when we are out. She is still allergic to grapes, corn, nuts, and is intolerant to dairy, soy, and gluten. Our journey with her has been long and exhausting. She currently has reflux (again) so bad that she wakes up most nights feeling sick. UGH! The poor girl is quite a trooper though. She has suffered well and proven she is very resilient. In her honor, I’m giving you the recipe of one of her favorite foods, Sloppy Joes. As always, I would love to hear from you if you have questions or if there is any way I an support and help you through your food allergy/intolerance journey. I’ve been there over and over and I believe we are thriving and would love to help you thrive as well.

umpalaRAIN Sloppy Joes

Tomato Free Sloppy Joes

Ingredients
1 T Olive oil
2 t Onion powder
1 t Salt
2 pounds Ground beef
3 C Red pepper sauce
2 large Carrots
½ C Cauliflower
1/2 C Chicken or beef stock
2 T Worcestershire sauce
2 T Red wine vinegar
3 T Coconut sugar
1 t Italian spices

Directions
Brown the ground beef until it’s almost all the way cooked through. While the ground beef is cooking, steam the carrots and cauliflower until they are fork tender. Once they are done, blend them until they are a paste, then add the pepper sauce in with them and blend them all together. Put the sauce and the rest of the ingredients together in the pan and mix until well combined. Simmer together, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes. Take the meat mixture and place it on a bun or French bread, then top with cheese. Enjoy!

Our journey of Severe Food Allergies- Can you relate?

I have been asked to write more about our personal journey with food allergies. It feels like this has been a very long journey, but that is probably just because it has been all consuming. Today I am going to tell you about the journey we have been on with my middle daughter. I am starting with her because her allergies have been the most severe and greatly helped us to recognize food allergies in our youngest when she had them as well. In due time, I will write our journey with my other two as well. I think all of their stories are worth sharing as all of us have different journeys with food allergies but similarities too. This food allergy community is one that I am so thankful for and happy to be a part of.

Peppy newborn

From the moment my middle daughter, “Peppy”, was born she screamed most of the time. At her one week appointment I told our pediatrician, who we love, that my daughter cried all the time. He said that it couldn’t be colic at that point because colic doesn’t start until 6 weeks or so. From then on, we kept in pretty close contact with our pediatrician. Peppy continued to scream, vomit, and have diarrhea often. I think I cried almost as often as she did. My oldest, then three, was having a hard time adjusting to having a new sister and all of the crying as well. Truth be told, we all had a hard time adjusting to the crying. I knew that something was wrong with Peppy, but no one knew what was wrong with her. Those days were long and exhausting. I remember for months that all I knew to do when Peppy screamed was to hold her and sing “Amazing Grace”. It was all that got us through that dark time. Every time I hear that song now I cry for many reasons.

I was formula feeding because I didn’t produce enough milk to feed Peppy so my pediatrician suggested trying different brands. We went through as many dairy formulas as we could think of still with no change. Then our pediatrician suggested trying soy formula so we did that and the screaming, vomiting, and diarrhea persisted. Realize all of this probably took two months since we needed to try new formulas for long enough to determine if they were helping or not. Our last ditch effort was to put her on Nutramigen which is a hypoallergenic formula and also begin stool testing on her. Peppy continued to have the same symptoms on Nutramigen and also tested positive for blood in her stool two out of three times. By this point she was also failing to thrive as she couldn’t keep very much formula down. My pediatrician finally referred us to see a pediatric gastroenterologist at Seattle Children’s hospital. The GI clinic is so far booked out it was probably a month before I could get in.

By the time we got to our GI appt we were a mess, just hanging by an emotional and string. Peppy was 11 weeks old when we finally made it to the GI. Our new GI came in, he was the sweetest, most helpful, and understanding Dr. He carefully listened to Peppy’s story, looked over her , her chart and test results, and simply said that Peppy had severe food allergies to dairy and soy. At that appointment he gave me a few cans of EleCare prescription formula to try and said she would be fine. I was hesitant to believe that this formula was going to work, but I was willing to give anything a try at that point. We went home and I started the EleCare and I had a new child instantly. It was nothing short of amazing for us and also laid on some serious mom guilt. I felt like I had been poisoning my child, unknowingly. It was horrible, but I am just thankful that the EleCare worked for Peppy. Peppy remained on EleCare until she was four years old to keep up her weight and keep her food allergies at bay.

We continued to see the GI regularly as Peppy got older for weight monitoring and also as we added new foods into her diet. I am so thankful for this team of Dr’s, nurses, and nutritionists that cared for Peppy for many years, they always gave me hope and support. The more foods we added to Peppy’s diet, the more we found that she was allergic to.

When Peppy was about 18 months old we went on vacation to Arizona to see my husbands family. A few friends from home were also going on vacation there so we met up at the house they were renting. In the basement of the rental home there was a movie theater so all of the kids were watching a movie. Our friends kids were eating shelled peanuts and throwing them on the ground when they were done. My husband was with Peppy and she picked up a peanut and put it in her mouth. As soon as she got the peanut in, my husband noticed and took it out of her mouth. Immediately after, Peppy began to cry. It was a long day without a nap so we figured it was time to get her to bed. She cried and cried as we gathered all of our things and buckled the girls in the car. On the way home she continued to cry really hard and began scratching her tongue saying “owie, owie” We couldn’t figure out what was going on so we took her home and got her ready for bed. At this point we put her down but she just kept screaming and scratching her tongue. This was really abnormal for Peppy, she loved to go to bed. All of a sudden, it clicked, THE PEANUT! We immediately called our consulting nurse and she told us to take her straight to Childrens ER in Phoenix. That felt like the longest drive ever! We arrived at the ER and a nurse checked Peppy right away to be sure her throat wasn’t closing. Her throat was still open so we waited to get a room. Upon entering the ER we retold the story, along with the fact that my mom has an anaphylaxis allergy to peanuts. The nurse and Dr left and quickly came back with benadryl and a shot of epinephrine. Peppy quit crying for the first time in 7 hours. From the moment the peanut went in, to getting benadryl and an epinephrine shot was 7 hours!! :/ We spent the rest of the night in ER to monitor her for a secondary reaction. At 7 am we were released, it was Mother’s Day 2011. We went straight to a pharmacy to pick up an epi pen and benadryl, our lives forever changed that day.

We saw Peppy’s GI not long after her anaphylaxis reaction to peanuts. He suggested staying away from all nuts since her reaction was so severe from such a small amount and my family history of allergies. Peppy’s list of allergies continued to grow as she got older. It’s honestly hard for me to remember all of them because they have changed over the years and my youngest daughter also has severe food allergies. I think Peppy’s list at one point that she was allergic to was dairy, soy, tree nuts, peanuts, eggs, wheat, corn, peaches,tomato, and some other fruit I am forgetting. By the age of three Peppy’s GI didn’t think she would grow out of any of her food allergies. We had tested and re-tested all of the foods in office when needed but she had no change.

This is where my very in-depth baking for multiple food allergies began. I had been baking for food intolerances for many years at that point, but not for severe and multiple food allergies. While I loved our team at Children’s I never had someone to explain in depth what food allergies are, what kind Peppy had, when to use an epi pen, how to use an epi pen, how to make the food she needed to eat to keep her safe and gaining weight. What I have found is that none of these were the job of the specialists we saw. Peppy had severe, though not life threatening food allergies (except peanuts) and had all GI reactions. Allergy testing was never helpful because food allergies that effect the GI tract don’t show up on a prick test. We didn’t have an allergist that followed us for that reason. Our nutritionists were amazing at giving us the kinds of food to feed Peppy, but their job wasn’t to find recipes for us, teach us how to bake safely, eat our safely, etc. This is exactly why I started my business. There is a huge gap in service. The practical piece of how to live this food allergy life once you leave the Dr’s office can be so hard and overwhelming. I am passionate about helping people through the practical steps of living with food allergies. You can contact me and also sign up for my newsletter for more helpful information.

I am happy to say that Peppy passed an in office prick and oral peanut test when she was 6. The rest of her food allergies have gotten so much better the older she has gotten. All of them are now either intolerances or she can eat them just fine. Currently she is intolerant to gluten, dairy, soy, corn, and tomato. There is hope whether that means allergies go away or this life becomes easier as we live with them longer.

Hello Toothpaste

My husband works for a dental lab and attends many trade shows. He finds new products at these shows and brings them home for us to try. This one in particular, Hello toothpaste, he was very excited about and thought I would be too since it is a natural toothpaste. I’ve honestly never thought about using a natural toothpaste, but it only makes sense since I am very careful to use natural products in most areas of our lives. Hello toothpaste sent us a free sample to try along with a guide telling us about their company and products. I have given you several photos below out of their guide.

I posted the picture above on social media about a month ago and had several people ask questions about natural toothpaste, fluoride, and it’s safety. On Instagram I follow Gena (pronounced Jenna) at Symplynourished. Can I just tell you for a minute how much I love following Gena? She has been the sweetest, supportive, and encouraging lady. If you’re on Instagram go on over and follow her and check out her new blog with the link above. There you will find information about holistic health, great recipes, and life with a food allergic child. Gena is a dental hygienist by trade and has worked in a traditional dental office and a holistic dental office that didn’t use fluoride treatments. When I posted on Instagram that I was going to test this toothpaste out and others had questions about it, Gena was our sounding board. She has kindly written a very thorough post answering all of our questions about oral health in regards to traditional toothpaste vs. natural toothpaste. It is a must read, I learned a lot from reading her post and know you will too. 🙂 Thanks Gena for a great and informative post!

I have now been using the Hello Toothpaste for about a month. It is important to me when I am writing a review to be sure I have given a product enough time to give an accurate review. Here is my honest review of the Hello Toothpaste. When I thought about using this toothpaste, I’ll be honest, I was apprehensive. I have sensitive teeth and have grown accustomed to using traditional whitening toothpaste. The sample I received in the mail from Hello was about a month’s worth so I figured I could use it until it was gone. I tried the extra whitening, but there are several other flavors including a sensitive one on the way.

Hello Adult Toothpaste

Here is a picture of the ingredients.

Hello Toothpaste Ingredients

I was very pleasantly surprised with this toothpaste. When I brush my teeth, the most important thing to me is that my teeth FEEL clean and smooth, the sweaters get removed well. 😉 The Hello Toothpaste definitely left my teeth feeling clean and smooth. The next important thing to me in a toothpaste is that it gives me fresh breath. I will give this toothpaste and ok in this department. The flavor of the toothpaste that I tried has a mild minty flavor with a hint of coconut. Now, I think the flavor of this toothpaste is very good and refreshing, but it doesn’t leave me with super fresh breath like traditional toothpaste does. Whitening is at the bottom of my list of what I want in a toothpaste, but I like to keep my teeth at their “normal” color. I haven’t used this toothpaste for long enough I don’t think to make a great judgment call on whether this toothpaste is good for whitening. In the month that I did use it I will say that my teeth stayed the same color which is a good sign to me. The Hello Toothpaste I noticed doesn’t foam at all. This isn’t a bad thing it is jsut different from traditional toothpaste and takes getting used to. All in all I was very impressed with this toothpaste and will continue to use it. It does have fluoride, though I’m not sure which ingredient is the fluoride.

They also have kids toothpaste that I have heard great things about, but my kids haven’t tried it yet.

Hello Kids Toothpaste

The price is more than traditional toothpaste, but not as much as I anticipated. I would love to hear your thoughts if you try it!

*There are affiliate links above for your convenience and helps support my blog 🙂 always be sure to check ingredients to be sure the items are safe for you.

Living in Africa with an Anaphylaxis Allergy

In 2011, my family left our home country to live in Rwanda, Africa for six months. At the time, our oldest daughter had just turned 5 and our middle had just turned 2. We headed half way around the world to fill in for the executive director of a home for former street boys. Our health journey leading up to us leaving was exhausting in many ways. Six months before we left, our middle daughter had an anaphylaxis reaction to peanuts while we were on vacation. She also had severe, though not life threatening, dairy and soy allergies. Due to these two allergies she was on prescription formula. Before we left, we had long conversations with her pediatrician and her gastroenterologist. They were both amazing and supportive of our upcoming trip and encouraged us to not let the food allergies keep us from going. With the stamp of approval from her doctors, along with many other pieces coming together, we prepared to head overseas.

baggage

As you can see, we took a whole lot of baggage! Flying internationally allows each person to have 2 suitcases up to 50 lbs and 2 carry-ons. We took full advantage and took all 16 bags, a stroller, and 2 car seats. It was quite a spectacle at the airport. We arrived three hours before our flight took off so that we had plenty of time to make it to the ticket counter, through security, and onto the plane. The woman that checked us in was amazingly helpful and patient with us. One item that we purchased for this trip and still use everytime we travel is a hand held baggage scale. It works like a charm and is very small, I highly recommend getting one if you don’t have one. I made sure that we had enough, and extra, food to get us all the way to Rwanda with delays if they happened. We called the airlines ahead of time to ask what they would be serving on the plane. There wasn’t a whole lot that we could eat, but that is pretty common for us. I had Dr’s notes for the epi pen, Benadryl, and medically necessary food in case anyone gave us a hard time. If I remember correctly we had at least one whole carry on full of food with ice packs. No one gave us a hard time, it just took us a very long time to get through security lines. We were prepared for that so it was ok.

While my middle daughter had severe food allergies, the rest of us also had food intolerances. At that point, our family couldn’t have nuts, gluten, dairy, soy, egg yolk, tomato, and garlic. We had a friend in country that was able to help us decide what we needed to pack for our time in Rwanda. Two of our suitcases were full of food and kitchen items. The first one of these suitcases was full of 40 cans of prescription formula for my daughter. We couldn’t leave the country without the formula since my daughter couldn’t drink any milk alternatives and she also failed to thrive without the calories she got from the formula. Our carry ons also held several cans just in case our bags didn’t show up. The second suitcase full of food had xanthan gum, one pot, one pan, and as many boxed mixes that we could stuff in. At that time, we used Chebe pizza mix, Bisquick GF (gluten free) pancake and waffle mix so we packed many of those, and a few other random mixes as well. We knew that we could easily buy GF flour so we didn’t need to bring flour with us. It was amazing to have GF flours so easily accessible and also launched me into baking full time.

Chebe pizza

Our friend that was in country was able to get us a loaf of GF bread upon our arrival from a sweet friend of hers. Along with the loaf of bread was the recipe as well. All of the corner markets carried GF flours for very little money. I could get brown rice flour, white rice flour, tapioca starch, millet flour, and I think teff as well. Before we went to Rwanda, I had used many boxed food items for our allergies, but hadn’t done very much baking with my own mixes. This trip changed all of that in a heart beat. I was able to get many recipes from other Americans that we had become friends with, but I had to figure out how to convert them to fit our dietary needs. Our internet connection there was far slower than dial up, if it even worked at all. I didn’t have pinterest or any other sites that I could get recipes from. So this began my crash course in allergy friendly baking. I spent hours upon hours in the kitchen there with my two daughters to make enough food to sustain us. Meat in Rwanda is VERY expensive so it was only for special occasions. Other than that, we ate a ton of rice, eggs, salad, avocado, fruit, and vegetables. While we lived there I managed to make bread every other day since we only had a small refrigerator and the heat made the bread mold quickly.

Kitchen
Breakfast

We worked at a home for former street boys and all of us would spend a full day together there each week. From the first time we met the staff and boys, we were VERY clear with them about our daughters severe food allergies. We made a rule that no one was allowed to feed her. While people in Rwanda don’t have food allergies, the staff and boys were amazingly understanding. They all took her allergies very seriously which we were so thankful for. English is the national language in Rwanda, but hasn’t always been. Thankfully all of the staff at the home spoke fluent English and we also had an interpreter with us most of the time so we could communicate effectively.

boys

There is a very close knit group of ex-pats in Rwanda. We made sure that we connected with them right when we got to Rwanda. This made our transition much easier to find safe restaurants, large grocery stores, learn how to navigate the market we lived next to, and also gave us friends right away. When we lived in Rwanda we ate at home, or home made food, about 98% of the time. This was the easiest way for us to ensure our daughters safety. There were a handful of restaurants that we frequented, there is a list of them below. We lived in the capital city of Kigali, so there were many options for us to choose from. All of these restaurants had staff that spoke fluent English, were originally from an English speaking country, and/or were high end that catered to English speaking people. These three criteria were important for us to stick to so we knew our daughter would get safe food. Many of these restaurants also let us bring a few of our own food items. We made sure to call ahead to ask if this was ok and also to talk to them about our daughters food allergies ahead of time. Thankfully we made it through six months living in Rwanda without needing to use an epi pen!!

Our Safe Restaurants
Mr. Chips- this is a small burger shack that is owned by a Canadian man. It is frequented my many English speaking people and all of the staff speak English

Sakae Japanese Restaurant- This was a brand new restaurant when we lived there. They serve amazing asian food of all sorts and kinds. All of the staff speak English. We called ahead of time to talk about our food allergies. They were fantastic! We went for early dinners so the staff wasn’t rushed. They allowed us to bring our own GF soy sauce for those of us that could have it. All of our food was checked closely by the staff to ensure that it was safe for my daughter to eat.

Zen Oriental Cuisine- We had the same experience here as we did at Sakae. They were a bit on the busier side, but still great!

Aromas Coffee- This coffee shop was a few blocks away from our house so we went there several times. We would get smoothies and nothing else. I wasn’t comfortable eating food there, but the drinks were great.

The country of Rwanda is very small in terms of land mass. It is easy to go on day trips to other parts of the country. This was very helpful for us to see other parts of the country without having to find safe food in small villages. While there, we went on a safari trip. We used Bizi Danny’s guided tour and they did a great job. They picked us up very early in the morning because the animals are most active then. I packed all of our food for the day so we didn’t have to stop at any restaurants along the way. Akagera National Park is on the east side of the country that borders Tanzania. The park is split between both countries so the animals are free to roam between them. We had the opportunity to see zebras, hippos, topee, gazelles, water buffalo, baboons, giraffes, and many species of birds. The day we were there the elephants and lion were in a different part of the park. We were told that the lion typically stays on the Tanzania side of the park. This is one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. It felt surreal the whole time we were there. I would highly recommend doing a safari trip.

Zebra
Topee
Hippo
Giraffe

At the very end of our trip we headed west to Nyungwe rain forest. The scenery in the rain forest is stunning to say the least. We found a little hotel and restaurant to stay in just outside of the forest. This hotel wasn’t fancy in the least, but it worked for us. We had fun guests outside our room every morning. Our girls loved having baboons so close. The drive through the rain forest is slow but beautiful so we just learned to enjoy the scenery as we made our way through. Towards the west side of the forest there is a ranger type station. This is where you can find trail maps and hire a guide if you want. Many people go to Nyungwe to see orangutans, but they don’t allow kids to go on those hikes. We hired a guide to take us to see colobus monkeys. It was a pretty steep mile hike down before we found the monkeys, but worth every step. There were probably 1oo monkeys playing with each other, screaming, and flying from one tree to the next. If you ever go on this hike, or any other hike in a rain forest, it’s a good idea to hike in tall rain boots or gators. Take it from me, biting ants in the pants are no fun! :/ After our hike we drove through the rest of the forest to see what was there. There are miles of tea plantations in a gorgeous setting. In the middle of one tea plantation is an amazing hotel. The next time we go we will be saving our pennies to stay here. Our time in the rain forest was magical.

Baboon
Tea Field

All in all, our trip to Rwanda was a great success with food allergies! It took a lot of planning ahead and time in the kitchen while there, but it was all worth it. My current baking is a direct result of our time in Rwanda, so I am abundantly thankful for that. It pushed me far beyond my limits in many ways which helped me to grow in ways that I wasn’t expecting. If you are contemplating a trip with severe food allergies, it can be done, if your medical team approves it. I am so thankful that we had a medical team that cheered us on and encouraged us to make this trip. They prepared us and helped us in many ways to make this a safe trip. I hope you enjoyed learning about our overseas journey and feel encouraged that it is possible to travel with severe food allergies!

*all photos are mine

Asthma and Food Allergies- Part 2

Today Dr. Ana-Maria Temple is sharing about Prevention and Functional Medicine Treatments for asthma. I’m so thankful for all of her work, she has helped educate me in many ways. You can find her website at www.familywellnesstips.com. Thanks again Ana for sharing your expertise with us!

Functional Medicine Tips for Reducing Asthma Symptoms and the need for Medications:

Asthma is a disease of chronic inflammation of the airway. It likes to manifest along with eczema and seasonal allergies. It’s called the allergic march. All 3 are inflammatory conditions.
Like many chronic diseases, Asthma has a genetic background.
– 1 parent with asthma = A child has 30% risk of developing the disease
– 2 parents with asthma = A child 60% risk of developing asthma
– If a child has eczema before the age of 2yrs old, they are at an increased risk to develop asthma later in life. (1)
– We discussed the link between food allergies and asthma in a previous post

However, genetics DO NOT mean that the disease will occur 100% of the time. In other words, in most chronic conditions genetics do not define the outcome. Genes put us at risk, BUT its Genetics + Environment (triggers) + what we do in our every day life (mediators) = disease.

Let’s talk prevention:

What to do before becoming pregnant:

Many studies in animal models are suggesting that pre-pregnancy maternal health is as important as health during pregnancy in determining children’s health. (2)
– do not smoke. Not inside, not outside, not anywhere.
– eat fruits and veggies 8-13 servings a day. Both egg and sperm carry genetic
material. How we eat and treat our bodies determines how our genes are being expressed in our bodies and in our offspring.
– start or maintain a fitness routine to empower your body with strong heart and lungs that are imperative in delivering oxygen and nutrients to the future fetus.

What a mom and dad can do during pregnancy:

– do not smoke. Not inside, not outside, not anywhere.
– eat fruits and veggies 8-13 servings a day. Yep, I have to say it again for those who
skip the top part.
– regular fitness routine is important for so many aspects of pregnancy, including
asthma prevention in the offspring. 30 min a day, every day can make a life long
impact on the child. It can be yoga, walking, swimming, cross training, etc.
– control your stress levels. Stress alters your Cortisol Level which affects almost all
other hormones in your body. The hormone shifts have an impact on the fetus.
– sleep – see hormones above. Furthermore, a recent study showed a relationship
between less sleep and less good bacteria in your gut. (3) Pregnant women need great gut flora for nutrient absorption by the fetus, prevention of infectious illnesses that can adversely affect the fetus, and hormone regulation.
– build your gut health, see below in supplements

After delivery:

– breast feeding is one of the most crucial steps to asthma prevention. Even small amounts can make a huge difference. Yes one ounce every feeding can help.
– Vitamin D is a powerful anti-inflammatory that has been shown in numerous studies to decrease asthma symptoms. Formula fed babies need about 32 oz a day to get enough vitamin D, while nursed babies do not get Vitamin D from mother’s milk.

Weaning to solids:

– When it comes to food introduction, forget rice cereals, they are processed flakes in a box mixed with arsenic (sorry but it’s true). Start babies on fruits and veggies.
– Spices like turmeric, cardamom, pepper, cumin, cinnamon can be used for babies 6 months and older. Here is a great Blog on this topic: http://spicespicebaby.com
– When it comes to finger foods for babies and toddlers – NO Food Coloring! If Fruits/ Veggies are not always avail, packaged foods with ingredients you can pronounce and can identify as food, no more then 5 ingredients per package.
– NO JUICE, unless you juice at home. NO store bought juice ever in your house. EVER!

Toddler years

– At the age of 12 months, if a child has been suffering from chronic issues with ear infections, wheezing, bronchitis, eczema, continuous runny nose and congestion, I would NOT transition to Whole Milk. I prefer Almond Milk, Coconut Milk, Hemp Milk, or Non-GMO soy milk – if they are non-allergic. Dairy has been shown to be an inflammatory food in some children. Proceed with nutritionist guidance.
– If at 12 months, the baby is healthy without medical issues, I would start Organic minimally pasteurized whole milk, despite family history of Asthma. I am not a fan of Raw Milk (not a controlled substance, not regulated, who knows how the milk is stored and where, illegal in many states, high risk of bacterial infection, etc)
– During the Picky Years when toddlers start chucking food at your head and refusing food because they are not growing as fast, do not give in and supplement their discarded healthy meals with pasta, bread, crackers, milk in larger quantities, cheese, cereal, and other white/beige foods.
– Eating habits begin now and are easier to correct at 18 months then 4 years down the road.
– A white/beige diet = asthma, allergies, eczema, weight gain, hyperactivity, increased levels of tantrums, developmental delay, poor brain development.
– Ensure the family eats 8-13 servings of fruits and veggies a day

Beyond the Toddler Years:

– a white/beige diet = asthma, allergies, eczema, weight gain, hyperactivity, increased levels of tantrums, developmental delay, poor brain development.
– ensure the family eats 8-13 servings of fruits and veggies a day
– do not keep soda, sports drinks, juice, or other sugar ladened drinks in the house.
– sugar => blocks the immune system for 5hrs after ingestion. More viruses => more
asthma
– if your child likes to overdose on crackers and snacks, stop buying it
– simple carbs => sugar => asthma
– nightly family meals around the table without electronics have been shown to
decrease asthma exacerbations in kids

More Tips Applicable to Everyone:
– dosages to be discussed with your doctor

Reduce the use of antibiotics –
children who received antibiotics during their first year of life are twice as likely to develop asthma before the age of seven! Most ear infections do not require antibiotics. Great and amazing blog post here about ear infections.

Reduce antibiotics in foods –
Buy grass fed /organic meat and dairy to reduce exposure to antibiotics from animal products.

The Mediterranean Diet – see below
Has been shown in many studies to reduce the risk of asthma and to reduce the use of medications in those suffering from asthma (7) (8)

Vitamin D – is anti-inflammatory. Low levels of vitamin D have been associate with Severe Asthma. A current review of the literature (1) showed vitamin D to be effective in reducing asthma symptoms in adults and children with moderate or severe asthma (4)

Magnesium – relaxes the airway and has been shown in adults to help in those with moderate Asthma symptoms(5)

Zinc – is a mineral that is important in controlling histamine response . Having a diet rich in zinc is important in reducing the risk of developing food and environmental allergies.

Vitamin C – can decrease the risk of getting the common cold, which triggers asthma. Furthermore it can relax airway swelling in those with exercise induced asthma symptoms. (9)

Probiotics – moms, make sure you are taking a probiotic, drinking kefir, eating fermented foods, or drinking kambucha during pregnancy under your doctor’s supervision. Your healthy bacteria gets transferred to the baby during birth. Baby guts colonized with healthy strain of probiotics show less health issues at birth and later in life (6)

Quercetin – a kind of antioxidant called a flavonoid, helps to reduce the release of
histamine and other allergic or inflammatory chemicals in the body. Histamine contributes to allergy symptoms, such as a runny nose, watery eyes, and hives

Allergy testing for food and environmental allergens – an important part of the treatment plan for Asthma. Reducing exposure to allergens may significantly reduce asthma exacerbations and need for asthma medications.

Bottom Line –

• Look with your doctor for the common causes of asthma. Is it food allergies?
• Is it environmental allergens?
• Is it mold?
• Is there something wrong with the bacteria and microbes in the gut?
• Is it a toxin?
• What about stress or a poor diet?
• All of these things are potential triggers for asthma and all chronic disease.

Mediterranean Diet – The 8 Pediatric components
1. 2+ fruits every day
2. 2+ servings of veggies every day
3. 2+ whole grain servings a day
4. eat beans, legumes, 4 or more times a week
5. eat nuts and seeds daily
6. use olive oil as a source of fat (no vegetable, corn, palm oils)
7. eat fish 2 times or more a week
8. eat red meat once a week or less

Things to Know About Asthma:

Asthma Symptoms:

– cough with running and playing when well
– cough at night more then 2 times a week when well
– wheezing
– difficulty breathing, shortness of breath with colds or with activity
– constant coughing

Asthma Evaluation:

– all kids may wheeze one or two times under the age of 3 before we diagnose them with asthma
– Criteria for Asthma diagnosis of children under 3years

– wheeze with every cold,
– hospitalized with wheezing more then once,
– they need albuterol with every cold,
– they need oral steroids more then once a year

– there is one test that can help with the diagnosis of asthma in kids older then 6years old – Spirometry. However, it can be a tricky test and results may vary. The best way to diagnose asthma at this time is from the history and illness pattern.

Asthma Triggers:

allergies, mold, foods, pets, cold or hot environments, exercise, stress, viral infections, sinus infections, poor diet, poor gut health

Asthma Pathology:

– this is chronic inflammation of the airway. With chronic inflammation of the airway, the lungs become very sensitive to changes in temperatures, allergens, exercise, colds, etc. Poor nutrition decreases the ability of the immune system to function properly. More toxins are absorbed by those who consume

Asthma Treatment (2 treatments that are misused):

– Albuterol
This is a medicine delivered in puffer or nebulizer form and it is used for coughing or wheezing. It is a temporary relief that generally lasts 4hrs. If your doctor has prescribed this medicine and your child is coughing and you wonder if you should use it, the answer is always yes. In my clinical practice, I find that most parents are afraid of using albuterol for various reasons. If albuterol has been prescribed and is used at the onset of cough and/or wheezing, the symptoms resolve much faster and with less doctor visits.

– Inhaled Corticosteroids
This is a medicine that is prescribed in puffers or nebulizers and is used twice daily (generally) independent of cough, shortness of breath, or wheezing. If your doctor prescribes it, use it. This is a preventative medication that helps keep airway inflammation down, so a cold is just a cold and coughs don’t worsen leading to Emergency Room visits or hospitalizations.

Fun Fact: a medium strength inhaled steroid used twice a day for 365 days of the year, has to be used for 5 years to equal ONE ROUND of Oral Steroids of 3-5 days duration.

IN THE END – KNOW YOUR SYMPTOMS AND YOUR TRIGGERS. FIND THE ROOT CAUSE AND IT WILL HELP YOU REDUCE MEDICATIONS AND DOCTOR VISITS!

In Good Health,
Ana-Maria Temple, MD

Citations:
1 – https://bmcpediatr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2431-12-168 2 – research happening in New Zealand at Wellington Hospital, results are not
published yet
3 – probiotics – http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon/audio/
201845643/sleep-guts-and-bugs
5 – https://nccih.nih.gov/research/results/spotlight/021110.htm://www.cochrane.org/
news/high-quality-evidence-suggests-vitamin-d-can-reduce-asthma-attacks 6- infant guts – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4350908/
7 – mediterranean diet – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18782109
8 – mediterranean diet – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4651981/
9 – vitamin C – http://www.bmj.com/content/349/bmj.g5517/rr/797361
4, 10 – summary of asthma and alternative options – http://www.umm.edu/
health/medical/altmed/condition/asthma

Asthma and Food Allergies – Part 1

To help celebrate Food Allergy Awareness week, I asked my followers on social media to tell me what they would like to hear about. Due to so many requests, I decided to answer questions throughout the whole month of May. The last request I received was about food allergies and asthma. I am not equipped to answer this question myself, but I am thankful that I know someone who is. Last week I introduced you all to Dr. Ana-Maria Temple who is a pediatrician. She is a wealth of information and has kindly written a two part series for all of us on this important topic. Her and I decided to do this in two parts because there is so much information that we would like you all to have. This week Ana-Maria will be teaching us about food allergies and their affect on asthma. Next Friday, she will be teaching us about how to prevent asthma and also functional medicine treatments for asthma. Be sure to come back next week. Thank you Ana-Maria for everything you do to educate us!

The Relationship between Food Allergies and Asthma

There is a close relationship between asthma and food allergies, though the actual relationship is

not yet fully understood. Here is what we know so far based on the latest medical

literature.

General Information:

• Asthma and food allergy may often coexist.

• Up to 45% of children with asthma have food sensitivity by food sIgE.

• Food-allergic children were found to have 29% chance of having asthma by the US National

Center for Health Services (NCHS)

• Food allergic individuals with asthma are at higher risk for severe asthma then individuals

that have asthma and no food allergies.

• Food allergic individuals with asthma are at a higher risk for severe allergic reactions to

foods, particularly if the asthma is uncontrolled.

• Children with asthma and food allergies are less likely to outgrow their food allergies, then

those with only food allergies.

• Food allergy should be considered in children with acute life-threatening asthma

exacerbations with no identifiable triggers.

• Food allergy should be considered in children with moderate to severe eczema and with

severe persistent asthma. (Editorial note: I would consider this connection even in

children with mild to moderate eczema and asthma combo)

• Being sensitive to more foods and having higher levels of sensitization is associated with

increased severity of asthma. See Photo Above

• Food allergies often affect young children, can develop before the onset of asthma, and are

considered a risk factor for persistent, problematic asthma in young children.

• Studies indicate that children with food allergy present with asthma at an earlier age than

those without a history of food allergy.

Looking at Individual Foods:

Table outlining the foods that have the highest association with the development of Asthma

(red). Blue arrows show the other factors associated with increased risk of

developing Asthma.

asthma and allergies table

• Sensitization to egg, one of the most common food allergens in childhood, has been shown to

be a risk factor for developing environmental allergens and asthma later in life

• A specific study examined the role of clinical peanut allergy with asthma. The authors

reported that having peanut allergy (based on a positive history of reactions, peanut-
specific IgE > 15 kU/L and positive skin test to peanut) was associated with increased

rates of hospitalization and use of systemic steroids as compared to asthmatics

without peanut allergy.

• A 2009 study found that having cow’s milk allergy is a predictor for subsequent airway

inflammation. Children with IgE-mediated milk allergy at 7 months of age diagnosed

by oral food challenge had increased risk of elevated airway inflammation at 8 years

of age.

• The presence of asthma is a predictor for persistent cow’s milk allergy

• Wheezing infants, who have test for specific IgE of >or=0.35 kU/L to wheat, egg white, or

environmental allergens are at higher risk for developing asthma later in childhood.

Consequently, detection of those specific IgE antibodies in wheezing infants may help

with the early diagnosis of asthma, especially in cases with no clinically evident

eczema.

A Word of Caution:

• Cross-reactivity between foods and environmental allergens can lead to positive skin tests or

serum IgE levels to foods that may not be clinically relevant. For example, people

with birch tree pollen allergies can test positive to peanut and those with dust mite

and/or cockroach allergies can test positive to shrimp

In Good Health, Ana-Maria Temple, MD

Citations:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3155248/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2990684/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20146729

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12859453

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10981525

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16210063

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17469157

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2922978/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20618346

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12612281

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15867869

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19389315

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3070157/ – charts authors

Camping with Food Allergies- Part 2

Now that we know how to have fun camping we’ll tackle how to eat safely and well when camping. My husband is the one that encouraged me to write a post about food allergy eating and camping. This came as he ate the meal that you see above. He thought it was AMAZING!! I’m so glad he thought it was amazing as it really was simple. My goal when we go camping is to eat as normally as we can while also eating some “junk food” that we don’t normally eat (hot dogs). Half the fun of camping or vacation of any kind is being able to eat food we don’t normally eat.

To make all of our food dreams come true on vacation, it has taken my husbands creative mind to make it happen. Our trailer has a small gas stove that fits two medium sized pans, barely. I can cook this way, it just takes much longer than it takes me at home. When on vacation, I try to do my best to not be in the “kitchen” as much as possible. My husband came up with this contraption below that is a DC converter to AC. We run this off of our car battery while camping to use our microwave and toaster oven. How cool is that?! I know that kind of defeats the purpose of “off grid” camping, but so be it. At home my toaster and microwave get a whole lot of use so it makes our life in the woods so much easier for meals.

UmpalaRAIN DC Converter
UmpalaRAIN Outdoor Kitchen

Here is a list of the meals that we ate for the three days and two nights that we were out. I have listed for you what I made on site and what I brought along. It is possible to eat really well without a whole lot of time in the “kitchen” while camping.

Day 1

Lunch- My family had pizza in the woods the first day! 🙂 I made it for dinner the night before and brought the left overs for lunch. I popped them all in the toaster with tin foil to heat each piece up. That made for some very happy campers. I ate a tortilla sandwich from left over chicken we had earlier in the week and plantain chips that I made in the toaster oven. We also had potato chips, fruit, and carrot sticks.

Dinner- Hot dogs roasted over the fire for the girls while my husband and I both had hamburgers. I used an oat tortilla as a bun and I brought homemade buns for the hamburgers and hotdogs. My husband always RAVES about my buns! We also had rice noodles that I made on site, and roasted broccoli.

UmpalaRAIN hot dogs

Dessert- S’mores every night over the fire of course. I made the chocolate, marshmallows, and graham crackers all at home. The marshmallows and graham crackers both freeze really well so I make large batches of both. That way I have them ready when I need them.

UmpalaRAIN S’mores

Day 2

Breakfast- Pancakes which I made at home and brought frozen, sausage, and eggs. My family eats Jimmy Dean sausage because that is what my husband grew up eating. It’s definitely not clean eating, but they love it none the less. I also had an oat blueberry muffin that I made at home and brought frozen.

Lunch-Sandwiches with bread toasted that I made at home, lunchmeat, lettuce, mustard, home made mayonnaise made at home, potato chips, fruit, and carrot sticks. I had an oat tortilla sandwich.

Dinner- This night was a smorgasborg. My youngest had a fire roasted hotdog, my husband and oldest daughter had chicken which I put spices on from our trailer. I have about 7 spices that live in a tupperware in my trailer so I’m always prepared. My middle daughter and I had hamburgers with buns I brought from home and oat tortilla as a bun for me that I made at home as well. I had left over rice in our refrigerator at home and decided to bring it for one of our dinners. This turned out to be brilliant. I was able to make a simple fried rice very quickly since the rice was already made. The whole family was so happy about the fried rice which I put carrots and onions in. I also had a can of green beans, not healthy, but good anyways. This picture is at the top of the post.

Dessert- S’mores over the fire again. Even I had something similar to a S’more. Oats to the rescue again which allowed me to make a graham cracker! 🙂

Day 3

Breakfast- The girls were hungry early on this morning and couldn’t wait until the pancakes were done so they crumbled up home made granola bars and added rice milk to have “cereal”. They all loved it. It’s important to get creative sometimes. I brought a homemade pancake mix for this morning as I only had 7 frozen pancakes. Using the mix was quick enough as I just had to add coconut milk, olive oil, and egg whites. They were done pretty quickly. We warmed up the pure maple syrup in the microwave because no one likes cold syrup! I also made eggs, sausage, and warmed up one of my blueberry muffins as well.

Lunch- Sandwiches with bread toasted that I made at home, lunchmeat, lettuce, mustard, home made mayonnaise made at home, potato chips, fruit, and I ate plantain chips made in the toaster oven.

Snacks
– Homemade Granola bars (2 different kinds)
– fruit leather from Costco
Dairy Free Cheese crackers (Top 8 Free)
– Oat Crackers
– Dried fruit

Going camping can be a lot of work, but I have learned that it is worth it. My family loves camping and some of our favorite memories are made when we do. The one thing I have learned that has greatly helped me with food when we are camping is to prepare ahead of time. I have a list of our typical food on an excel spreadsheet so I can look at it the week before to know what I need to prepare before we go. This has saved my sanity and made for happy eaters while we are out. The day before we head out, I put all of the meat we will have while gone and put it in zip lock bags with marinade, then pop it back in the freezer. When we head out the day of camping I put the frozen and marinaded meat into the cooler. This helps keep everything else cold and also allows our meat to marinade for a good long time. Every morning while camping, I putt out of one the meat zip locks to thaw for the day. By dinner the meat is ready to BBQ. Having my freezer stocked with all of our staples like tortillas, buns, graham crackers, bread, english muffins, and pancakes, greatly helps to save me a ton of time as well. This year has been a year of learning to bulk bake more than I ever have. It has saved me so much time for situations like this. I have always baked in bulk, but now I bake about 2x what I used to which seems to be the best for my family. I hope that you find this post helpful and encouraging that you can go camping even with food allergies. Having all of our safe foods makes camping doable. If you need to be close to a hospital in case of a reaction, be sure to find a campsite just outside of town. Here in the Seattle area, there are literally camp grounds in town. There is one about 10 minutes from our house. If you really love camping but you don’t feel comfortable going far away, see if you have camping close to home. It’s still fun to get away and feel like you are on vacation right in your own town if need be.

Camping with Food Allergies- Part 1

Over on social media, I do Tuesday Tip’s where I share helpful tips about baking, living with food allergies, and my favorite kitchen items. This week, my Tuesday Tip was to have fun. I know that doesn’t sound all that helpful. For those of us that live with or have family members with food allergies, our lives are consumed by food and keeping us or our loved ones safe. We eat 3-6 times a day so by nature, we are consumed by food allergies. What else do you do 3-6 times a day that could make you really sick or even worse, land you in the ER fighting for your life? Probably nothing. It’s no wonder that the stress level of people with food allergies and their families are so high. That’s why my tip is to have fun. Since our lives are consumed with food, it’s safety, and our loved one/s we can become isolated and all consumed. Having fun and doing things other than thinking about, planning, and preparing food are of utmost importance for us.

My family lives in the burbs and enjoys the burbs, but our hearts are in the woods and traveling internationally. My family comes alive when we are out. The weather has finally turned for the better here so camping season has officially started for us. We headed east of where we live into the Cascade Mountains to enjoy a weekend camping “off grid”. There were no hook ups, water, or bathrooms. Thankfully we own a little tent trailer that holds several gallons of water and has a battery for minimal electricity, only when necessary. The trailer isn’t fancy, but it’s just right for our family. It gets us up off the ground and gives me an indoor place to cook when it’s hot or raining. A win both ways! I will write a post tomorrow all about how we eat with multiple food allergies and intolerances while we camp so be sure to come back.

UmpalaRAIN Archery
UmpalaRAIN Archery

Today’s post though is all about FUN. I have added a few affiliate links in case you want to check out these items. This is how we have had fun while we are camping. Hopefully some of these ideas will be new for you or good reminders. We have three girls and no boys, but that doesn’t stop us from having a great time in the woods. If we let our girls, they would wear dresses while hiking and rock climbing. 🙂 A year and a half ago, my husband had the idea to get a bow and arrow along with a sturdy target. We took it camping then and our girls just loved it. The bow we got for them was just right for our, then, 9 year old daughter. It was a bit challenging for our, then, 6 year old daughter. Now they are 10 and 7 and can both use the bow and arrow really well. Our 7 year old is quite the sharp shooter! Having the bow and arrow is a great way for all of us to have fun together, cheering each other on, and working together. I never would have thought of this, but I’m glad my husband did. This set always goes with us when we off grid camp. We also use it in our backyard.

UmpalaRAIN Hiking

We love to hike and explore the woods. There is an awesome little trail that is in our camp spot that leads to a large rock face. We scramble up the rocks to the bottom of the rock face together. I just love watching my girls scramble, they are awesome at it. My youngest takes it as a huge challenge and does a great job. This trip she learned how to follow kairns. 🙂 That is a very important skill to have here in the northwest since we hike so much and trails can be hard to find sometimes. My husband was sad that he didn’t bring his rock climbing gear. Next time we will have to bring it. We have taken our girls to a rock climbing indoor gym here and they love it. It would be fun to see them climb outdoors as well. As for me, I just belay everyone because I’m afraid of heights. On our way down the trail we found some unwanted hitchhikers, TICKS. YUCK! I wasn’t expecting ticks, but thankful I knew what they were. We found 4 on our trip enjoying their new home in our hair. :/ As far as we know, we left them all there.

UmpalaRAIN Hammock

This hammock lives in our backyard all summer and is a hit with our girls and all of the neighbor kids. It is typically full of kids with lots of laughter. Bringing it camping is great fun as well. There are always a large amount of trees where we camp to put it up.

UmpalaRAIN Scavenger Hunt
UmpalaRAIN Scavenger Hunt

My girls think I’m a little silly, ok maybe a lot silly. One night, we had the girls do a scavenger hunt in the woods. They had to find all of the items or they couldn’t have s’mores. LOL! Thankfully they are good sports and did the whole list and enjoyed it. Yes, I know, I’m terrible that I make my girls find poop. I did tell them it had to be dry. 🙂 It’s all fun and educational. The s’mores were worth it!

UmpalaRAIN River

There was a neat river close by so we found a safe area for my girls to wade in rain boots, skip rocks, and play with water skeeters.

UmpalaRAIN Craft

Now, I know we went camping, but I do think that a craft bin is a MUST! There will always be times when kids need time to chill. I have found the craft bin is great when I am cooking or the girls are simply done playing outside, which I get. Several hours in a day, my girls were in our craft bin and had the best time together. These are items that are different from the ones we have at home, so that makes it fun too. My bin is about 32 inches long, 25 inches wide, and 8 inches deep. That’s not exact, but a good guess. It is large, but it is so worth it to us. This bin stays in our trailer.

Craft Bin items
1. Playdough- make sure you have an allergy friendly one that is safe for your family. I make traditional playdough with regular flour because we only react to ingested gluten. I know that isn’t safe for very many of you so I won’t give you my recipe.

2. Coloring books of all kinds- I have coloring books that fit all the ages of my girls so they can all find something they enjoy

3. Crayons- I love these Melissa and Doug ones because they don’t break!

4. Crayola Markers– Crayons just aren’t good for all purposes so pens are a must too

5. Crayola Magic Markers and Paper– if you have a little one these are great! No mess or coloring on anything you don’t want them to. My older girls still really like these as well.

UmpalaRAIN Card Game

6. Playing cards- my girls love to play card games

7. Old Maid– because everyone loves Old Maid! 🙂 We can’t control our laughter, ever!

8. Melissa and Doug reusable sticker books– my girls spent so much time doing these this weekend

9. Plain paper for coloring

10. Bubbles– everyone always loves bubbles!

11. Water balloons– if it is hot when you go, these are a must, so quick and easy

12. Slip and slide– we only take one of these when we are in a camp ground, not off grid camping. None the less, they are super fun!

13. Water guns– Who doesn’t love a good water gun fight?!

We have realized that going camping doesn’t mean that you just have to sit around and enjoy the woods. Trust me though, we LOVE the woods. It’s ok to bring other things for the kids to do and it will make your life much better too. The things that we remember and enjoy the most are things that we get to do together. When we are home, we are distracted with life and don’t get as much time to spend face to face with our kids as we would like. That’s what camping does for us, it’s a lot of face to face fun together. What are some fun things that you like to do when camping?

Why are Food Allergies on the Rise?

I often get asked why food allergies are on the rise. While I have my own opinions as to why this is, I don’t have a medical background to give facts and data. This is why I turned to my friend Vivian who is a general practitioner. She is a wealth of information, well researched in this area, and has a son with severe food allergies. I am so excited to have her guest post for me on this important topic.

Why is allergy on the rise?
I’m always asked ‘What is the cause of allergies?’ – and it is a difficult question to answer, and you can probably talk about it all day because there are so many factors at play, which I will highlight here.
Food allergies among children in the US increased approximately 50% between 1997 and 2011 – allergy is now an epidemic in many of the developed countries. And it’s not just children – adults are starting develop food allergies for the first time in their adulthood too.
So the million dollar question is… WHY?

Genes
There is no denying that genes play an important role in the development of allergy – if you have a family history of atopy (food allergies, asthma or hay fever) you are more likely to develop allergies but the rapid rise in the incidence of allergy must be linked to the environment too as our genes cannot evolve that quickly. Some interesting facts:

• foreign-born Americans have significantly lower risk of allergic disease than U.S. born Americans.
• your risk of developing allergies increase the longer you reside in the U.S.
• this tells me that it is not simply down to the genes but must be also due to environmental factors too

In 2013, Dr Silverberg of St Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Centre in New York found that foreign-born children who moved to the U.S. had an increased risk of developing allergies, and this risk increased the longer they resided in the U.S. So this supports the theory that environmental factors are causing more allergies.

“Why is the environment making us more allergic?”

Whilst there are many theories out there, so far no one has the definitive answer. There’s the Hygiene hypothesis (that we are too clean and the immune system is not stimulated enough – I’m not a fan of this theory though).

Personally, I believe the gut and the food we eat has a lot to answer for…

All disease begin in the gut – Hippocrates

The father of medicine said this about 2000 years ago – and I think we are only beginning to find out there is truth in his wisdom. Obviously, I don’t necessarily agree that ALL disease starts in the gut. Congenital and genetic conditions that you are born with, for example, do not. However, I am convinced that a lot of chronic medical conditions which are on the rise begin in the gut e.g. autoimmune, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, allergies… just to name a few.

Research has shown:

• Antibiotic use in infancy is linked to increased odds of developing food allergy in childhood
• The bacteria found in stools of children with food allergy is significantly different to those of children without food allergy.
• Beneficial bacteria in the gut produce substances which alter the integrity of the gut barrier to the outside world, and the way the gut presents food particles to our immune system.

The Gut

Did you know that the gut is a major immune organ?

As well as digesting and absorbing food, the gut also plays a significant role in healthy immune function. We are seeing a worryingly rapid rise in allergy and autoimmune diseases (e.g. Hypothyroidism, Lupus, Rheumatoid, MS), and although allergy and autoimmune diseases are different entities, there is a common theme – all of them result from a malfunctioning immune system: in autoimmune disease, the immune system attacks the body itself, whereas in allergies the immune system attacks food/environmental allergens.

The allergy epidemic has gone hand in hand with a period in the developed countries of increasing antibiotic usage, GMO foods, intensive animal farming, pollution, increasing cesarean sections rates, formula feeding, and a low fiber/highly processed foods diet….just to name a few!

For example, you may think you are ok because you don’t take any antibiotics, but the antibiotics that livestock has been fed/injected from intensive farming probably stays in the meat, so you are most likely ingesting some antibiotics inadvertently when you eat meat farmed this way, and similarly with milk and dairy products.

Why does it matter?

Antibiotics kill bacteria – as well as killing the bad bacteria that causes infection, they also kill the good bacteria you need for health. There are trillions of bacteria in the gut – weighing around 3 pounds, and these are necessary to maintain normal gut function. A combination of environmental factors listed above has led to an altered ‘microbiome’, the healthy bacteria missing and instead the gut has ‘bad’ bacteria which can release toxins, cause the gut to be leaky and therefore leads to an increased risk of allergies. The way it does this is by allowing food proteins to enter the blood stream when normally these food proteins would stay in the gut. When food proteins are circulating in the blood stream, these may trigger an immune system or “train” the immune system to become allergic to that particular food.

The gut bacteria is so important in regulating how food proteins are presented to our immune system – if they present food in the wrong way, we end up with an allergy.

SO it ALL begins in the gut! Somehow, the gut is presenting food wrongly as foe… Why the immune system produces the wrong signal is an area of rigorous research. It has been suggested that beneficial gut bacteria produce many of the important messengers involved in the correct signalling process and with the altered gut microbiome caused by environmental factors, these important beneficial gut bacteria may be missing thus changing the signalling process in the gut. Due to GMO farming, modern day food no longer resembles what our ancestors used to eat. Wheat and soy are both heavily altered to withstand harsh conditions for improved crop yields, and this is also having an impact on our health.

As well as the gut, food allergens may also be presented to the immune system through the skin – and this is particularly relevant for eczema sufferers where the skin barrier is broken and may explain why infants with eczema have a higher risk of food allergies (good eczema control is particularly important in infants to prevent this theoretical mechanism of food sensitisation). It has been suggested that if your immune system is ‘seeing’ allergens through the skin but not encountering it in the gut as food, an allergy may develop to that particular food when you start to eat it. The LEAP study (2015) conducted by Professor Lack’s team in London has shown that early introduction of peanuts into the diets of high-risk infants can reduce the incidence of peanut allergy developing later on (see my blog post on this next week). So it is important that the gut sees these allergens, identify them as food and ‘accepts’ them early on before the immune system starts playing havoc and misleads the body into attacking it.

For me as a doctor, the rise of allergic and autoimmune conditions is both alarming and frustrating as we are not good at treating them. We have strong and toxic medicines to dampen the immune system with but these can cause serious side effects and we don’t like using them. Apart from these toxic medications, we can only treat surface symptoms without ever getting to the root cause: food avoidance for allergy, painkillers for rheumatoid arthritis, steroid creams for eczema.

I really think that Hippocrates was way ahead of his time, and we are only beginning to unlock an important piece of the disease puzzle by looking at the gut. The modern day life assails many assaults on the gut and as a result, we are seeing a rise in conditions which were rare a couple of decades ago.

Watch this space.

In the meantime, look after your gut.

Thanks Vivian for a great piece on the rise of food allergies! Here you can find more information on gut health from Vivian. She is such a great resource so click through her other articles as well!