My 5-year-old son often asks me “when can I eat all the other foods, the ones my friends eat”?
I have to admit, each time I hear this question a part of me feels crushed inside. It opens up all the guilt, anger, frustration, grief, and I hear the many queries that people ask me about his several, life threatening food allergies:
- was he full term?
- did you breast feed?
- did you have trouble with your pregnancy?
- how was your diet – when you were pregnant?
- do you or your husband have allergies?
- was your home too clean?
- did you have a pet – they are known to prevent allergies.
- did you think he will grow out of it?
- oh my God, can he eat anything?
- it’s just an intolerance it’s not life threatening?
But of course I don’t show him my vulnerability, I go over my many mantras, “it’s a matter of time, one day you will eat all of those foods, in the meantime you are lucky because all your food is made by Mummy, it has special love in it, to make you big and strong.”
So today, a big day, we did a coconut food challenge and he passed! Whoo-hoo! Another small milestone in the journey of adding new foods, and coconut has so many health benefits too, for example it’s high in Omega-3 fatty acids, it also has a saturated fat called Lauric Acid which is good for nutrient absorption and even better, it’s stored in your body as energy, not as fat.
Last year we had three food challenges, they were for pea, salmon and banana, and he passed all three, a good year!
This year we have been on a ‘go-slow’, with my son starting pre-school, and having caught every bug known to affect kids on the Planet; except for gastro and nits, and for that I am grateful.
With food challenges, you have to be well, you must not have had an anti-histamine for seven days (prior to the challenge), so given that its Winter here, it has been a bit tricky to schedule a food challenge.
Food challenges need to be staged carefully and tightly controlled, our Specialist has a risk management strategy which dictates where the food challenge is conducted:
- minimal risk foods are tried at home; but if you need support she is happy to do it in her Surgery (coconut was done at home today!);
- low risk foods are done in her Surgery; where she can monitor progress ( we did the banana & salmon in her Surgery);
- medium risk foods are done in the Outpatient Department of the local Children’s Hospital; (this is where we did the pea challenge);
- high risk foods are done on the Ward of the Children’s Hospital; more intense Nursing supervision (almond challenge coming up in three weeks).
- Prior to the high risk challenge, a lung function and a skin prick test (testing the food on the skin) is conducted, I find this comforting, because if the results are not good, you can withdraw (ie watch me run out of the hospital with son) from the challenge.
There is also one more important requirement with food challenges, as a parent, you need to feel strong, confident and in the right space. I have done a high risk food challenge that didn’t go well, it ended up with me administering the Epi-Pen (the Nurses coach the parents through the process), he was 3 years of age and has no memory of it; I am now proficient in administering the Epi-Pen. But the memory of this and other allergy reactions, make me feel nervous/anxious every time we try a new food.
Today was the day for the coconut challenge, and after much procrastination, the coconut and chocolate muffins were made; I always try to put the new food into something he would be interested in eating, and chocolate is always a winner!
What a relief that it all went well, my son now can enjoy the texture of a cheesecake, Thai curries and macaroons and so much more.
So TYG (Thank You God) I am feeling grateful and just savouring this little, yet big milestone.
I am confident that one day we will all look back on this and smile.
If you would like to read more about the health benefits of coconut you can check out this post.
Picture Credit: Eat Fit Food Blog