Friday, December 7, 2012

Allergies and ADHD

I have been remiss in posting for about 2 months, but here is why. Besides the usual craziness that is my life with a husband and 2 kids with ADHD, I had a lot going on with family. Among them was my son’s allergies not going away.

A bit of history is needed here. Both my kids and my husband have sensitive skin, so much so that they can’t use any soaps with fragrance, not any harsh stripping soaps, and at one point needed a liquid soap with oatmeal for calming effects. They are also sensitive to some fabrics, and can’t use many synthetics. Tags?!?! Let me tell you about tags!! They annoy them so much, and cutting them just makes it worse, and some tag-less brands irritate their skin even more so. So I am left with a small variety of clothing brands where the tag is softer, or the tag-less ones that the imprint is made in the dying and not by a rubbery stamp. Aughhh. Skin lotions….same ball of wax….only very mild lotions will do.

So we have those items under control, but then we have environmental issues. I have no environmental allergies, although genetically on my side of the family it is as if we were part bloodhound, and could possibly have successful jobs as food critics since we can also tell what ingredients are in a dish. On my husband’s side of the family, pollen is a foe. When pollen counts go up he can’t stop sneezing, his eyes get watery, and he is in an all out bad mood (not that its much different otherwise J). So when we discovered my son had pollen allergies when he was a mere 6 months old, it didn’t come as a surprise. This diagnosis came from a myriad of ear infections and constant colds (or so we thought they were colds).

Antihistamines have been a constant in our house. Then at 3 years old we detected this incessant blinking, which we were told was a tic and would grow out of it. But we got to a point where antihistamines weren’t’ cutting it, and now at 6 years old he was constantly clearing his throat, complaining of itchy eyes and nose, and dry skin (although no rash). We had postponed an allergy test when he was 4 as we didn’t think it was something we wanted to subject him too so young and with so few issues, but it got worse as he got older so we went back and got it done. 

Most types of grass and some types of trees were no surprise to show up on the allergy list, but was most surprising was milk, and milk protein “casein” as well. We suspected it as his throat clearing would suddenly reach new highs when eating cereal with milk. Then we noticed the same with his string cheese snacks…but somehow, since Dad has the same reaction, we thought it was just a mild sensitivity, like so many they have. An allergic reaction was not what I was expecting.

I was actually pretty sad with the diagnosis as my boy eats dairy all day every day, from milk, to yogurt, to all types of cheese…mac and cheese, egg & cheese burritos, soap with shredded cheese…and the list goes on and on. So when the allergist suggested a protocol to increase his dairy tolerance we decided to go for it, and yet the protocol was not fully approved and we would have to wait till January. So for now we would go on a dairy free diet.

The products we had already been using are almond milk from either Silk Pure Almond or Almond Breeze. At my local grocers I have a hard time finding the chocolate flavor in the refrigerated Almond Breeze, so we usually end up buying the "Dark Chocolate" Silk, but for the vanilla and original we have bought the Almond Breeze. Now that the kids have tasted both, we probably will continue to buy different brand for different flavors.

I also went on a hunt for recipes and information about dairy. I found all types of substitutions (almond milk when milk is called for, vegetable shortening without trans fat when butter was called for, and some other tricks for when buttermilk is used). I still need to try out this shortening, but hopefully it will do for all my baking needs instead of butter.

I read reviews on vegan cheese and decided my cheese connoisseur son would never go for it. We also tried 3 types of vegan yogurts, and so far 2 have not passed his pallet test (waiting to see if this odd almond/chocolate dairy free yogurt will pass the lunch test today).

I was impacted by how many foods have dairy in them, or the risk of having been in contact with dairy and still pose a threat, like chocolate chips (they are made in the same factory as milk chocolate chips, so even if they contain no milk they may have picked up some casein in the process). Aughhhh, again.

Sure, his reaction to dairy isn’t that bad…and if he is wanting a scoop of ice-cream or a slice of pizza so badly that he is willing to put up with the side effects, I’ll let him do it once in a blue moon, but both him and I have seen how much better he feels so far without it.

So I thought our dairy free time would be limited to the time we could get him in the study, but then I run into medical article after medical article, all discussing different aspects of casein and links to ADHD behavior. The gist of it was that there is an enzyme lacking in most patients diagnosed with ADHD, and without it casein (the protein found in dairy) isn’t processed appropriately, and as such causes a chemical imbalance in the brain and so it misfires in the form of inattention, lack of restraint, and even hyperactivity. In a couple of clinical studies, some patients off of dairy saw such a reduction in ADHD symptoms that they could come off of their medication. The key phrase here is “some patients” and not all, and yet this gave me enough pause to consider dairy free as a way of life. I also don’t think it is the cause, but if it will make it more manageable then Hallelujah.

As we are yet in the early stages of dairy free life (a week so far), we have yet to see what long-term results may look like. I also have to admit that I am a frugal frugal woman, and I have tons of dairy at home still, and since my daughter and I don’t have an allergic reaction to it we decided to volunteer ourselves to consume it all. My husband does have a reaction to dairy, but he decided he can put up with it for the sake of being economical. I actually think he is having a hard time giving it up as well, and so he is postponing it.

At some point, all dairy will be gone at home, and we can do a true test of how my 3 ADHDers do without it. I still think there is room for those “once in a blue moon” moments, but if living a MOSTLY dairy free existence will help, we are willing to try.

I am posting a link to one article that is more layman’s terms than others. 

What allergies changed your life?

Rossana G-A

FTC Disclaimer: I am not compensated to write this post.

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