Our Allergy Story

Just a heads up, this is going to be long and detailed.  I just can’t seem to write any other way…

Our Allergy Story begins when Dearie was a baby.  She had a lot of “issues” and I could never quite figure them out.  Dry skin, rashes, and of course tantrums, but at the time we thought the tantrums were just normal.  When she was little (like 2 or 3) I remember doing an elimination diet with her.  It is a hard thing to do and she seemed to react to everything.  As I narrowed it down, I remember Annato (a coloring in cheese and other things) being something that she reacted to.  But when I talked to the Doctor, she didn’t even want to talk about allergies unless it was a classic reaction to one of the “big” allergy foods.  She totally blew that one off.  So we muddled on for a few more years.

Dearie’s behavior just kept going downhill.  She had a lot of mood swings.  When she was in a good mood, she was the happiest, sweetest kid around.  When she was in a bad mood, there was weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth!  (Translate that into kicking, screaming, and hitting!)  We knew that she was different from other kids, but why?  Was it because she was a highly gifted kid?  Was it what she ate?  Was she just a bad kid?  Whatever the cause, something had to change!

When Dearie was about 6 or maybe 7 she had an asthma attack that sent us to the ER.   The ER doc said that it was croup, but when we followed up with her Pediatrician, she said that it was probably an asthma attack.  The Ped. put her on Singular and Dearie hasn’t had any breathing problems since.

A few months later, Dearie started getting headaches.  Bad headaches.  I finally printed out a scale like the ones you find in hospitals (the kind with the faces) and she would rate her headaches at 8-9.  (Now if I said that 10 meant going to the hospital to get a shot that would make it better, her numbers would come down a couple.  She hates shots.)  Ibuprofen would help but wouldn’t take the pain totally away.   She always noticed when the ibuprofen would wear off, but sometimes after it wore off, she would just deal with it for a couple of hours and the headache would go away.  Very rarely would the ibuprofen wear off without her still having a headache.

It still seemed to me that food was causing some of these problems, and so when Dearie was about 7 we decided to take a month off of eating out.  She did so much better when we ate at home (even then I cooked mostly from scratch).  The headaches got better, but there were still a few.  About three weeks into our experiment,  we had some friends over.  They brought a yummy potato chip dip, among other things.  That night Dearie had another very bad headache.  Sigh.  I thought over what she ate and the dip kept coming to mind.  Since I like to cook, I knew that the dip was made from sour cream and onion soup mix.  Since I had been reading labels, I knew that onion soup mix had MSG in it.  Since I had a friend in college whose husband had migraines, I knew that MSG could trigger headaches.  I called my friend, but she had already thrown the box away.  She did remember the brand and later that week we went to the store and looked, and sure enough there was MSG in it.  Thats when I began to research MSG.  WOW!  There was a lot more to it than I could have imagined!

The first site I found was The MSG Myth  http://www.msgmyth.com/.  I ordered their book and did A LOT of reading on the internet.  I couldn’t believe it.  I knew that we were going to have to cut out MSG, but when I read about how many processed foods can break down into MSG, I cried.  This was going to be impossible!

We eliminated all forms of MSG from our diets, but Dearie would still get headaches on occasion.  It seemed that even the smallest amount of MSG, even small amounts of MSG that was formed by processing a food high in glutamate (breaking them down into MonoSodium Glutamate or MSG) would cause a headache.  I wondered if she would ever be free of them.

When the book “Battling the MSG Myth” came, I sat down and read it.  (I like to read, can you tell?)  There was a whole section on Aspartame.  It seems that Aspartame (NutraSweet) is a neurotoxin.  In the body, it reacts much the same way that MSG does.  Now I have never let my kids have any artificial sweeteners.  I had a friend in college who would have bad reactions to Aspartame, and I figured that I would give it another 20-30 years of use before deciding that it was safe.  So I just skimmed that section of the book.  Now I don’t know how I figured out this next part out, but it hit me that the Singular that both Dearie and Kiddo was on was sweet.  Hmmm….  I went searching (you can find almost anything on the internet) and found a list of ingredients for Singular.  It turns out that the chewable form of Singular had (don’t know if it still does) Aspartame in it!  The pieces to the puzzle were finally coming together! 

I went to the doctor again, and while she doesn’t buy into the whole MSG thing, she did believe that Dearie might be having a reaction to the Aspartame.  She had seen that before.  We decided to let Dearie drop the Singular and we put Kiddo on a half dose of the adult form.  Kiddo would chew it up and say that it tasted the same as the old kind.  Strange kid! 

One more piece of the puzzle, the children’s liquid ibuprofen also had Aspartame in it.  No wonder Dearie always had a headache when it wore off! 

We took Dearie off of all forms of MSG.  TOTALLY OFF.  It was a very hard time.  Dearie took snacks with her everywhere: to Sunday School, AWANA, parties, friend’s houses…  She only ate what we gave her.  She was very good about it because she remembered the headaches.  It was hard but it was worth it. 

That was about three years ago. Dearie hasn’t had a bad headache in a long time.  We still eat mostly MSG free, however we have found that Dearie (and Kiddo too) can have some MSG without having a reaction.  (Its funny, but Honey has never had a reaction to MSG.)  The best analogy that I have found is that each kid has a bucket inside them that holds MSG.   They can have some MSG before having a reaction, but when their bucket overflows they will have a reaction.  Each person has a different size bucket and so different people can have different amounts of MSG.  Dearie was getting headaches in the beginning because she was putting MSG into her bucket every day (Singular and ibuprofen).  There wasn’t much room for anything more.  Now she can have a lot more on occasion because her bucket is usually mostly empty. 

Dearie is ten years old now.  She still remembers the headaches she used to get, but she doesn’t get them much anymore.  She is at a stage where being different is hard, so I allow her to make the choice on food.  I always provide snacks for her to take with her to whatever event she attends, but if she wants to eat what they have then she knows what the consequences might be.  She is old enough to decide if the headaches or the feelings that make it so much easier for her to blow up are worth the feeling of “fitting in.”  I don’t give Kiddo as much of a choice.  She only gets MSG when it makes MY life easier, like those rare times when I don’t want to fix dinner and we eat out.  I have to be careful though, because if it is too often then I have a house full of kids who can do nothing but whine and complain and yell and scream.  We have found a couple of restaurants that the kids don’t seem to react to and we usually stick to them.

Back to the beginning of the story, remember when I thought Dearie might be reacting to Annato?  Turns out that Annato is a form of MSG.  To bad I didn’t follow my instincts way back then.  The doctor still doesn’t really believe the kids react as bad as they do.  The Chicken Pox vaccine has MSG (not just a natural form or something that turns into MSG when processed, but labeled MSG) in it.  Kiddo is due for her booster and I refused to let her have it.  The doctor tried to tell me to give it to her and then deal with the reaction!  (But she did it in a I’m a doctor I have to tell you this, you don’t have to do it kind of way.)   It is the only vaccine that has MSG in it as far as I know.

So, that is our story so far.  The kids are used to taking snacks with them and deal with it pretty well.  Dearie has been to Church Camp a couple of times and didn’t have any headaches.  As long as we keep her “bucket” pretty empty most of the time, she can eat whatever she wants on special occasions.  I don’t know where this story will end up, but that is where we are now.

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2 Responses to “Our Allergy Story”

  1. Jenny Says:

    years, I can’t wait years to figure this out! We have done the elimination diet and the reaction continued. So we eliminated more, and more and more. I’ll have to talk to you about it.

  2. Kelly Says:

    Thanks for sharing that. We have some similarities in our stories, but ours if quite a bit different. The reactions for my crew are GI troubles, skin issues and joint pain. I have one that gets headaches fairly frequently, but they aren’t usually severe. He however has been in daily joint pain for six years. His bloodwork shows up fine and until a few weeks ago, we had never seen any swelling of any joints. That changed, so now we are being referred to a rheumatologist in May. We are now 10yrs into this, almost 4yrs of actively seeking a diagnosis/answers/plan of what they can eat and it’s so very frustrating at times.

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