Blake, Anna, and I met with a holistic pediatrician at the beginning of the new year to ask some questions that have been on our mind for some time. More and more we've been hearing about the impact food sensitivities can have on sleep, sensory processing, mental and physical health. More than one health professional I know recommended exploring these possibilities with an expert in the area. I don't even remember how I discovered the book Gut and Psychology Syndrome a couple of years ago, but the ideas inside of it have been percolating in my brain for that long. It didn't take much experimenting with dietary changes and supplements for me to get some significant improvements in my anxiety and digestive health, improvements that are quick to fade if I deviate too much. Knowing that I do not tolerate dairy or soy products well, knowing Anna was colic-y and uncomfortable as an infant, knowing she has digestive difficulties among other things, Blake and I wondered if there might be something we can do to help her feel better.
I guess we expected much of what the doctor said pre and post test results. At our initial meeting, after a detailed history, she recommended running a number of tests, including food sensitivity tests, immune function tests, stool tests to assess digestive health, and a urine test to measure the presence of undigested gluten and casein proteins in her bloodstream. We were due to get blood work for the allergist anyway, so we said OK. Then we waited.
I met with the doctor last week to review our results. For some reason, even though I kind of knew we'd get some answers, I was still pummeled by the information (and maybe a bit by the way it was delivered). It all made sense; Anna has an IgA deficiency, which explains her frequent gastrointestinal illnesses; her body is unable to properly digest casein, the protein in cow and goat milk; there is an absence of certain good bacteria in her gut and the presence of other potential pathogenic bacteria (despite probiotics); and her body is showing a significant IgG antibody reaction to casein. Given this information, it was recommended that we completely remove dairy from Anna's diet for 3-6 months. New probiotics and supplements were recommended to help 'heal' her gut. We retest. Then, depending on the results, we can reintroduce raw dairy (this is the easiest to digest as it still contains the beneficial enzymes). We watch to see the impact of this reintroduction. We assess next steps.
So, Anna and I are dairy free for the time being. We're still not sure if we will follow these recommendations exactly. I think time will tell...if we see significant changes for Anna, we'll obviously be more likely to follow the suggestions. But, I'm learning more and more everyday as I do research. As with any area of medicine, the experts don't always agree on how to proceed with the kind of information we have. It's overwhelming to me, both the information and the changes we are making. So, I'm conflicted at best. I've been alternating between feeling angry and sad for Anna, because how unfair is it that she can't have traditional mac and cheese in the bathtub or pizza or quesadillas as she's grown to love them AND feeling relief and gratitude that we know something, that her dairy sensitivity is just that - a sensitivity and not a life threatening allergy. If nothing else, this will be an adventure in learning about new foods and new ways to cook. Today we bought nutritional yeast at the grocery store along with rice milk, plenty of coconut milk products, lots of seeds, a crisper full of greens, beans of all kinds, and more meat than usual...but no milk, cheese, or yogurt. Anna is handling it remarkably well, minus the occasional requests for macaroni and cheese, she's not really missing yogurt or cheese too much (or if she is, she's not mentioning it). Fortunately, she never really drank milk. She's a smart kid. She seemed to get it when we talked to her about it. We just keep emphasizing for her sake and ours that this is, hopefully, just a temporary change.
I think I'm sharing all of this because this has been such a large part of what's been occupying my mind in the last week. It's some of what's been happening in our lives, and this blog is a record of the Stuff that makes up our days. AND, I really hope that our journey to this point, the answers we get in the future, and the culinary adventures we embark on as a result might be helpful to someone else.