Monday, November 8, 2010

Maybe your kid CAN eat more foods

I'm back from my weekend trip to New Haven for the science writers' conference. A smashing idea, getting about 500 of us in the same place and giving us drink tickets. The hubbub of eager networking (freelance writers have to network nonstop if they want to eat) at times almost drowned out the science-themed standup comedians and a cappella groups.

My trip was a success not only professionally, but because twice in the space of two days I got up at 4:30 am, endured the stress of making a flight, sat for 7 hours in the dry, recirculated, funky air of a Boeing 737, ate at McDonald's (Hartford airport is no food paradise), and downed my share of beer and wine-- and here I am at the end of it with dry skin, yes, but no eczema to speak of. Score!

I'm going to continue the food allergy thread today. There's a recent study out of National Jewish Health Center in Denver that found that many children with eczema are unnecessarily leaving foods out of their diets, for fear of food allergies that don't exist. The main issue the authors are making is that the proof of most food allergies is in the eating. Blood test results for IgE allergies are not believable unless they show you are positive for cow's milk, hen egg, fish, peanut, or tree nuts.

If a test shows your kid IS allergic to one of those five things, you definitely shouldn't eat it. But David Fleischer and colleagues (including Donald Leung, leader of the Atopic Dermatitis Research Network, who appears to be the heavyweight author) took 125 children who had been on restrictive diets based on IgE tests, and, in a controlled fashion, let the kids eat food that they had previously avoided. The result: "Depending on the reason for food avoidance, 84 to 93 percent of foods being avoided were restored to their diets."

This matters because your young child needs a balanced diet to develop properly, and also because substitute foods (goat milk, almond butter) are expensive.

I find the study personally interesting because Voov (18 month daughter) has been on an extremely restricted diet for many months. Skin prick tests showed allergies to a number of things and the allergist recommended, at first, some ridiculous diet--seriously, like "she can only eat sweet potato, broccoli, and chicken." Completely unreasonable, and after Hidden B protested, and we got advice from a nutritionist, the allergist relented a bit and permitted these items:
  • zucchini
  • broccoli
  • asparagus
  • sweet potato
  • pears
  • bananas
  • chicken
  • turkey
  • rice
  • soy
That is what Voov has been eating for at least six months, over and over. (She's also breastfed.) We're allowed to pour canola oil over her food so that she gets some omega-3 oils for her brain. She's a happy enough kid, but still has eczema flares, and she has to be getting pretty tired of this food by now. I know that I'm getting bored of making it, when it's my turn to boil the zucchini.

Fleischer et al. don't say whether skin prick tests are as useless as most IgE blood tests. But I sure would like to expand Voov's diet, so she can experience some new tastes. Wouldn't it be great if she could just eat the same things we do!


  1. Poor baby! Can she eat coconut products? They've been a life saver for us with the So Delicious coconut milk, yogurt, and ice cream. We also use Nutiva Organic Coconut Oil on almost everything, from bread to potatoes to frying in a pan. There's also a good line of allergy friendly baking mixes by Namaste, most call for eggs but I substitute applesauce or bananas.

  2. Thanks for the suggestion, EM! Right now we are stuck with just the shortlist, unfortunately. But sometime soon we will begin to add things-- and coconut milk sounds great. Good and fatty. I think that for a long time yet we'll be giving her very simple food, to avoid the chance that there's some unusual ingredients that could cause trouble.