When Food Allergies Enter the Equation
Written by Christina Tibesar of Elevated Wellness for AllergyKids
As you may know or can imagine, having a child with multiple food allergies is not easy. My two year old was diagnosed at age 1 with allergies to wheat, soy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts and more recently, sesame. I knew little about food allergies prior to this, so it was a big wake up call for me as a parent.
For the average person, mealtime, and food in general, are such a natural part of our day to day lives – food is a symbol of love and affection, it is part of how we socialize, and in many cases, we take food for granted. As a society here in America, we eat meals without thinking much about how each bite impacts our health and well being.
When food allergies enter into the equation, the way in which we think about food and consume food shifts dramatically. Each meal and snack must be thoughtfully planned. There is a lot of educating and explaining that needs to happen at gatherings with family and friends.
For “allergy parents,” food has to be at the forefront of every part of each day. Beyond making sure that certain foods are eliminated, we also have to be very proactive about our child’s overall diet and nutrition in order to make sure they are getting all of the nourishment that they need without the foods that they cannot eat.
As our son grows older, my husband and I have to begin to help him understand why he may not be able to eat particular foods (such as cake, pizza or other snacks) at a friends’ birthday party or at other social gatherings (and make sure to provide things that he can eat when attending these events). We will have to explain to him why he cannot order off the kids menu when we eat out at restaurants, even though his cousins or his friends can. As an “allergy parent,” the thought of having to protect our children in this way as they grow older can be overwhelming! I know that I try to keep perspective and take this journey day by day in order to keep my sanity in check!
I am blessed with family and friends who have shown a great amount of compassion for my son’s situation and do what they can to accommodate, but I know so many who are not as lucky. If you do not have a child with food allergies, it can be difficult to understand. There are so many who do not comprehend or even believe in just how serious these food allergies can be for a child.
In light of some of the very publicized recent news about food allergy related deaths at schools and with all of the awareness being raised on blogs and through organizations like Allergy Kids, I am optimisitic that the mindset around food allergies is shifting.
Parents of children with food allergies are not looking for sympathy. We want our kids to lead normal lives despite their dietary restrictions.
Unfortunately, for kids with food allergies, the simple act of unknowingly taking a bite or drink of an unsafe food or beverage can be a matter of life or death. We are simply asking that all parents are conscious of this fact and have a heightened level of awareness and compassion when they encounter children with food allergies in their childrens’ schools or social circles. I can assure you that the parent of the child with food allergies will appreciate this so much, and that they will take care of the rest!
I do not want to send the message that a food allergy diagnosis is just doom and gloom! In the case of my family, there are a lot of positives that have come from our son’s food allergy and asthma diagnosis. After reading hundreds of blog posts, online articles and numerous books, I began to realize that so much of the healing process for my son will stem from food itself, despite the limitations we may have in what we can eat.
My family’s diet has taken a dramatic shift for the better. I am now so much more conscious about the foods I prepare for my family. We eat organic produce whenever possible. We eat organic, pasture-raised and/or grass fed meat more often than not. I am happiest when I know exactly where the food I am eating came from. I purchase very few processed foods and instead make all of our snacks from scratch (many of our favorite snack recipes come right from this blog and Susan’s eBook)! My son loves whole foods and will eat just about anything that I put in front of him! In the end, my family’s long term health has benefitted signficantly from my son’s food allergy diagnoses.
Whether or not you or someone in your family has food allergies, I hope this post and my blog will help you and your family to “elevate wellness” in your daily lives and to be more aware of those around you that are challenged by food allergies each day.