Friday, March 15, 2013

When a Food Allergy Diagnoses is a Relief

At 3 months old, my Ava started her first lung infection. We were out in a rural area visiting friends, miles from a hospital and I spent anxious night holding my coughing, wheezing little one; wondering if I should jump and the car and head to the ER. We headed to a doctor as soon as we could. A week later when she started breathing normally again I felt such relief. Such premature relief. From that point on my daughter experience lung infection after lung infection. Sometimes the infection would go for 3 weeks then we'd have a one week break only to start another one. I'm a pretty laid back mom, but sitting up with your child at night, wondering if they'll take their next breath was one of the harder things I've done. I took her to pediatrician after pediatrician looking for answers. To my frustration, I was told I just had to wait it out, that she'd eventually grow out of it. And then I'd be there again at 2 a.m., praying through tears as my daughter slept on my chest, and I spent the bulk of the night sitting up so that she was propped up enough to breath. She learned at a young age not to be scared by the loud noise of a nebulizer which we seemed to have to use constantly.

Finally, I went to see an M.D. that my friend recommended to me. This doctor felt that allergies play a big part in people's health. When we went, Ava was in the middle of another infection which the doctor said had gone into full bronchitis. The doctor tested her and found that she was allergic to dairy and gluten. She said that taking her off of both should clear up her lungs totally. After almost a year and half of infections, I was skeptical but ready to try anything. We completely removed these things from her diet, and within only a couple days her lungs cleared up and the mysterious rash she almost constantly had on her face went away. Now over a year later, Ava has had only one lung infection and has become my healthiest kid.

Since this diagnoses, I've researched and learned how much what we eat and what we are allergic to affects our health. A few months back, the same doctor did testing on me. She found a gluten allergy. And guess what? Those doubled-over stomach pains I've experienced for the last 14 years of my life? They don't come around anymore. 

But during the past month, I've learned another way that food allergies manifest themselves. It's something I never would have guessed...behavioral problems. Who woulda' thunk? A few weeks ago I was on the phone crying to my mom; telling her I couldn't do it anymore. My older daughter who could be the sweetest cupcake you ever met could also have her eyes glaze over as she went into another temper tantrum. I'm talking half-hour long temper tantrums that left me dazed. I kept thinking she would outgrow them or that she needed more sleep. But at 6 years old, even getting 11 hours of sleep a night and still clinging to a nap, she would sometimes be having two or more tantrums a day. We had tried all different sorts of parenting approaches to try to help her. Often you could find me sitting and trying not to cry with her. When the glazed over look came, she couldn't be reasoned with. In her sane moments, the amount of fits she had even bothered her, too. Flash back to that phone call when I felt I couldn't handle one more day of it. And the Lord heard my desperate mommy cries as suddenly people began to share with me information on how food allergies can affect behavior.

Fast forward to the doctor looking up at me after testing my girl, "Wow! There is something about your family and gluten!" (Did you know allergies actually can be hereditary?) After a testing, she announced that my Adriana has a strong gluten allergy.

Now fast forward a second time to my daughter's life with gluten removed from her diet. Now that the substance that was wreaking hidden havoc on her little body is gone, guess what? Yep. The full-blow fits are gone. In the last couple of weeks, the two times (did you catch that I said TWO times) that she started to have a breakdown, I was able to reason with her. No glazed-over eyes; no full blown tantrum. She also begun to respond to correction. My sister that lived with us commented on how much happier Adriana seemed. It's like our own little miracle.

Some people have expressed their sympathy over our family's food allergies. But I'll tell you what, saying good-bye to lung infections, stomach pains, and major behavioral issues, I don't feel sorry for us. I feel incredibly grateful.

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