How My Son Grew out of His Food Allergies

April 14, 2016

shawty2How did my son “grow out of” his food allergies? Short answer: He didn’t. Getting my son to a place where he is no longer allergic to food took lots of work on my part, my husband’s part, and my son’s part.

When we started our journey of biomedical interventions to treat the underlying medical issues he faced as part of his autism diagnosis, food allergies or intolerances played a large role. Early on, we did a full battery of tests, many that involved assessing his immune function. His immune system was responding to many things it shouldn’t be responding to, but not the things he should be responding to like viruses and bacteria. As a result, he reacted strongly to many things in his environment, like foods, chemical cleaners, laundry detergents, etc. Yet, when he did get sick, like with chicken pox at six months and then again at 3 ½ years, he did not run a fever. Go figure.

What are food allergies or intolerances and why are they important to understand? As we begin to discuss food allergies, it is important to note that not every food allergy will result in anaphylaxis. While that is the most commonly understood form, it only accounts for a small percentage of overall allergies/intolerances. Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) says that an estimated 9 million, or 4%, of adults have food allergies. Nearly 6 million or 8% of children have food allergies with young children affected most. This is usually considered IgE-mediated or type-1 food allergy and is often diagnosed with the prick test, though blood tests can be used and are generally safer. With type-1 food allergies, the immune system begins creating a specific type of antibody called Immunoglobulin E (IgE) to certain foods. One side of the IgE antibody will recognize and bind to the allergenic food. The other side of the antibody is attached to a specialized immune cell packed with histamine, called a mast cell. The IgE antibody now waits for re-exposure to that food. When you eat the allergenic food the next time, IgE antibodies latch onto the food. Histamine and other allergy-related chemicals (chemical mediators) are released from the mast cell, quickly setting off a cascade of symptoms which can include stomach cramping, diarrhea, skin rashes, hives, swelling, wheezing, or the most dreaded of all type-1 reactions, anaphylaxis.

terri's kids

Another type of food allergy (often referred to as food intolerances, type-3, or IgG-mediated food allergy), which is also indicative of underlying inflammation, creates responses that are harder to assess. They may not be immediate, and they may not end with anaphylaxis or even gastrointestinal distress. This category of allergy comprises a larger group of people than IgE-mediated allergy. Food intolerances can result in headaches, joint pain, fatigue, brain fog, heart arrhythmias, eczema, rashes, behavioral problems, problems focusing, depression, and the list goes on. Prevalence rates for food intolerances have been quoted anywhere between 45 and 60%(!) of the U.S. population depending on the source you look at. Symptoms can begin from several hours to several days after the food is eaten. Wow! The testing is usually done by blood, either blood draw or finger prick. This is the type of food allergy my son had.

When we first started testing him for IgG food allergies, many foods were in each of the high, moderate and low categories. This was indicative of immune system activation for much of what he ate. We focused primarily on the high and moderate levels, otherwise he would have been left with very few options to eat. Plus, our physician explained that, as we calmed his immune system in general, we would see a reduction in immune activity to the foods he was eating. And it isn’t always the foods themselves your child reacting to; it could be pesticide residues like glyphosate (Roundup), it could be genetically modified foods they are reacting to, or MSG and the many forms of glutamates, salicylates, food dyes, etc.

Our “food” these days contains a lot of chemical additives, all of which can contribute to food reactions. We would see red rings under my son’s eyes as a reaction to food and environmental chemicals. We started keeping a food diary to try and pinpoint reactions such as sleep disturbances, bowel movements, potty accidents, behavioral issues, etc. It became very easy to start seeing patterns, especially behaviorally, and we cut foods out that caused reactions. We cleaned up his diet in general, eating as close to nature as possible to reduce the number of chemical additives in his food supply. But we also paid attention to what our food ate. When we moved to the mountains and got our own chickens, we finally got over the hurdle of egg allergies! My son had more than likely been reacting to the soy which is common in commercial egg feed. When you see “vegetarian-fed” think soy and corn. So when we got our own chickens and put them on a soy and corn-free, non-GMO feed, no more egg allergy! We did other immune supports like low-dose naltrexone (LDN), which is a prescription immune modulator that the great Jacqueline McCandless spearheaded the use of in the autsm community so many years ago.

terri's son

We started seeing fewer sleep issues, tantrums, and meltdowns and fewer red rings under his eyes. We also began to see appropriate immune responses like running fevers with common colds. We worked with Julie Matthews, a nutrition consultant who specializes in diets for autism. We focused on the foods he could have and got creative.

Food allergies are becoming alarmingly “normal” these days. A trip with my daughter to the American Girl Store showed me just how normalized this issue was becoming. I browsed the accessories and saw a “Food Allergy Lunch Kit.” It even came with an EpiPen! What’s more, this issue is not getting better. As a matter of fact it only continues to get worse. Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) states on their website, “According to a study released in 2013 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food allergies among children increased approximately 50% between 1997 and 2011.” Yikes! And five more years have passed since then.

When is it going to be enough? Something has certainly changed in our world such that so many children have issues with food allergies and intolerances. But to say that “nothing can be done” or that they will “grow out of” them really does a disservice to the individuals suffering from them. Chronic and sustained exposure to foods that stimulate the immune system can set a person up for autoimmune issues in the future. We have already seen a dramatic rise in childhood autoimmune disorders, so this issue is an important one.

It has taken eight years but my son no longer has his food intolerances. Our recent IgG food allergy test showed one food in the high range, pistachios. He would eat pistachios every day if I let him. But the body can develop an immune response to anything it gets on a regular basis. So, for now, we will cut them out completely, and in a few months I will allow them back into his diet on a rotational basis. The key for my son is rotation. Now that his gut has healed significantly, we can open his diet back up to previously offending foods and note any reactions – but this has come only after the work of the past eight years of healing. A large part of his gut healing is a quality probiotic. The science is catching up, and there is recent research showing the efficacy of probiotics in alleviating food allergies. We frequently eat bone broths, gelatin from grass-fed cows, cultured foods rich in natural probiotics, plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, and organic meats. We try and limit our grains as they were problematic for things like yeast and bacterial overgrowth in the gut which he struggled with for years.

We also ran an Organic Acids Test (OAT) when we ran an IgG Food Allergy Test. His gut dysbiosis is also resolved, and all neurotransmitter markers are also in reference range. When his food allergies and gut dysbiosis are high, neurotransmitter markers are also out of whack. This speaks so clearly of the gut-brain connection that science continues to validate. We can see that behaviorally also, with emotional outbursts and mood regulation issues (we are entering the teen zone!). But what a huge empowering moment to get back these “normal” test results!  It Illustrates so clearly the fact that we have the power to shift immune function, food allergies, mood issues, gut health, etc.

Food allergies do not have to be a lifelong albatross hanging around your child’s neck. You can do things to help change this trajectory and improve your child’s overall health and wellness. It takes work, creativity and dedication, but it can be done.

~ Shawty 

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21 Responses to How My Son Grew out of His Food Allergies

  1. chelsea less says:

    My daughter and I have tons of allergies- we are allergic to more than we are not allergic too! So you find that LDN can help with food allergies? I was prescribed it in the past but never actually started taking it. I do have mast cell activation syndrome. Wondering if it will help with that?

  2. Janet Cook says:

    How can one find a good Functional Medicine practitioner?

  3. Doctor Jack says:

    I read most of these comments but did not see anybody define what “allergy” means so I’ll do it here. When it comes to infants, the only food or substance that should enter the infant’s body other than clean air and water is pure, uncontaminated mother’s milk. The mother-to-be should have her milk tested prior to delivery. If the milk is pure, great. If it’s not, one should look for breast milk tested wet nurse and pay her for her milk. Ideally, this should be the only food for baby for up to 4 or 5 years. Certainly the substances mention above are inappropriate and it’s no surprise the baby will react to such substances since they are inappropriate for a newborn. So these “allergic” reactions are right action not wrong action. Mother Nature is telling the mother not to feed ‘x’ to her baby. And, of course, babies should never be vaccinated or subjected to any other toxic chemicals including the ones the hospital personnel insist on like the silver nitrate in the eyes when they are just born. That’s idiotic and should not be submitted to. Nor should one submit to ultrasounds and many other medical treatments. Of course, it’s good to prepare your body at least a year in advance of becoming pregnant so that the baby will develop correctly with no birth defects. Of course love and affection at all times for the mother and the developing life plus appropriate exercise, sunshine, clean air, water and lots and lots of sleep, 10 hours per night. Best to you all…

    • ProfessorTMR says:

      “Pure”? You’re not going to find anyone with “pure” breast milk anymore. The best thing to do is detoxify to the extent possible before getting pregnant. And there is virtually NO ONE in an industrialized country who is going to feed her baby nothing but breast milk for 4 to 5 years. It is not practical and should not be necessary with an intact digestive system with an appropriate distribution of intestinal flora.

  4. Seth Bittker says:

    Congratulations on your success. One idea on food allergies, which I think may be overlooked by some is that with autism one often has low blood sulfate levels. In my opinion this may be due to some combination of inflammation from environmental factors, insufficient consumption of sulfur containing compounds, or genetic risk.

    One effect of low sulfate levels is decreased mucin production which means that the wall of the gut is unprotected and therefore in my view much more likely to become inflamed and lead to development of allergy. Therefore, it seems to me it would be desirable to raise blood sulfate levels if possible, and taking Epsom salt baths is one way to do this. In other word, I think Epsom salt baths may be a good low risk way of decreasing the risk of allergy.

  5. Mary Kay Bachman says:

    Great article Shawty.
    Three of my five children had some issues of allergies that I contributed to their father and my genetic makeup. I ate to prevent them prior to prenancy and during , but when I became pregnant with twins at the end, my nutritional method changed and they weren’t burdened with allergy issues.
    My Functional Medicine doc ran the Alcat Food Sensitivity tests on all of them, and the IgG on my firstborn, and the only one vaccinated with DPT as a 3 month old.
    So much information for parents in your article. I was a pioneer with a tremendous doctor in the early 90’s. I am happy to see more parents question status quo and search for alternatives to their child’s allergies.

  6. Marena says:

    I have a 7.5 year old w/ serious egg and nut allergies. At 8 mo we took him off of regular formula and gave him goats milk, the horrible eczema cleared up. At 16 mo of age we had a 94 food panel IgG test and from that look him off of many foods, including most grains, gluten, milk, soy, etc. He was totally gluten free for the next 3 years until we met a practitioner of NAET. He had many NAET treatments and we cautiously began to reintroduce gluten after she assured us he was cleared. His skin stayed clear and there weren’t any increased attention issues so we figured it was fine, she was never able to make a dent in the egg allergy and never attempted anything w/ nuts. Two years ago when the thought of sending a child w/ 2 serious allergies to school was too much we started taking him to Allergy Associates of LaCrosse for their sublingual allergy program. We had friends w/ a very allergic child who highly recommended them. After two years on their program his peanut allergy is according to their tests reduced by half which sounds good. My question is by giving him the drops under his tongue (micro doses of his allergens) everyday are we actually causing more inflammation in his body/gut? His eczema has been really bad again the last 6 mos and we are trying to figure out what is going on. We did get a puppy for Christmas but the dog is only ever in our laundry room and outside and on his last test dogs were pretty low. Just trying to figure out if its that or if he needs to go completely off gluten/dairy/etc. again to give his body a break. Does anyone have any experience w/ sublingual allergy drops?


    • ProfessorTMR says:

      I don’t believe you ARE causing more inflammation with SLIT. The idea behind it is to use a “neutralizing dose,” in other words, that dose that actually reduces the symptoms of allergy. Logically, it would seem that it MUST be reducing the underlying inflammatory response.

    • Peyton says:

      I think SLIT may cause inflammation. Things like grass/dog/cat/pollen, etc. do not belong in the digestive tract. If you google Nicole Smith and SLIT she has some great info on it.

  7. It warms my heart so much to read this! Great job doing all this hard work for your son and not giving up! Moving to the mountains and raising your own chickens is pretty darn impressive! You did a really great job with the article too!

    My youngest son also had major intolerances, eczema, and especially adhd and asperger’s like behaviors until we radically changed his diet and healed his gut. We did a ton of testing but we didn’t have someone as awesome as Julie Matthews helping us at the time. If fact, we sort of gave up at one point because it was all so stressful for my family (teens included) with not enough return (looking back, we were only doing GF/CF but he needed more). However, after some other therapies that helped (OT/PT/SLP, etc) and needing to fix my own neglected health and support my teen athlete, we stumbled back into eating a healing diet at his inquiry (listening in to a podcast I was had on in the car). Funny, it was Paleo. His triggers were the grains and probably soy – and the lack of fat (we had been on a low fat diet – ack). The transformation after our family went mostly Paleo (also one of Julie’s therapeutic diets) was so dramatic it inspired me to go back to school to study holistic nutrition. Julie Matthews is amazing. I’m an NTP and am taking her advanced training in BioIndividual Nutrition right now after hearing her speak at this year’s Nutritional Therapy Association conference.

    Thanks again for sharing your story!

  8. D Ann says:

    I recently read an article by a mother in a well known Australian blog saying there is no known cause and no cure for allergies. I had to comment and put my 2 cents in. Yes, there are known causes. Even my daughter’s immunologist says cesareans, exposure to antibiotics and being too clean are the leading causes aka leaky gut. Of course immunisations are not a consideration. I too have worked on her immune system with bone broth, probiotics, fermented foods and supplements. Her skin is perfect now, no trace of eczema and in just 11 months she has lost her tree nut allergy and quite possibly milk as it is at such a low level he wants to do a challenge ASAP. Egg and peanut remain. I am feeling confident though as he is certain there will be a cure for peanut allergy within 5 years. He said there are great results coming out of Melbourne where they are in some way introducing peanuts along with probiotics into the body.

  9. carolyn says:

    pistachios! my goodness, i love them but only ever eat them at christmas when people give me them as gifts. last year i did Tom Malterre’s Elimination Diet and within an hour after eating a handful of pistachio nuts (raw, organic, no color) i had a massive full blown asthma attack.

    since then other people have told me that pistachios can be trouble. this hit me between the eyes

    i’m so glad your work has paid off and your son is much recovered

  10. Jsackmom says:

    Oh wow I’m crying while reading this post because I honestly could’ve written it myself! My son has inflammation but hasn’t tested high enough to pinpoint what’s causing it. He’s scheduled for a tonsilectomy and adenoidectomy as his condition has led to obstructive sleep apnea. I’m going to print off your post here and take it to his sleep specialist and ENT. Thank you so much for sharing your journey. 😊

    • I am so sorry to hear you are going through that with your child as well! I am so glad that sharing our experiences may be of help to you. I am wishing you all the best in pinpointing and addressing what is going on.

  11. Congratulations to you and your son for all of the hard work you have done! I’m so glad he is doing so much better! And thanks for sharing your experience – it will be very helpful to others.

  12. Kathryn Berg says:

    My son was allergic to almost everything when he was little. Not sure why. He isn’t vaccinated. I literally could feed him about 20 things. He was allergic to foods by families, so it was easy to figure out what to avoid if we figured out one food in the family.

    We took him to a homeopath. He got over his allergies at a MUCH more rapid pace than his doctor had anticipated based on the norm.

    He is still allergic to nuts and peanuts, but he is 19 and isn’t interested in working on it at the moment. Maybe when he is older.

    Thanks for the info you provided. It is important.

    • ProfessorTMR says:

      It’s awesome that homeopathy was so helpful! Another thing that helps a lot of people is an acupressure technique called “NAET.”

      Vaccines are definitely one path to allergies, but food allergies are often caused by what they call “leaky gut,” and that can exist in the complete absence of vaccination (though vaccination is thought to be a factor in its development for many). What happens is that large particles of food, that should be digested and/or filtered by a healthy gut lining, get into the bloodstream where they are recognized as the “invaders” they are and the immune system starts making antibodies.

      I hear ya on the teenager that isn’t interested in “working on it.” 😉

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