Dairy-free brownies and other sacrifices

It has been almost three months now that my diet has been more or less dairy free. Shortly after Sorenne turned two months old, she became plagued with eczema. Her pediatrician never recommended I change my diet, as he was satisfied that she continued to gain weight, but I couldn’t stand watching her turn red and try to scratch herself with little hands that she could barely control. A friend of mine, and many articles I read, suggested cutting dairy. My first reaction was – that will be the end of nursing. I am a cheese addict, I love butter, and really, dairy is one of my main sources of protein. Soy is fine – but giving up cheese? How cruel can life be?

I eventually decided that cutting dairy for a couple of days would not kill me, and Sorenne did seem to get a little better. But Doug and I were really not sure if it was the dairy or any number of other variables in our daily life that could be affecting her. I had changed detergents and soaps and made sure she wore only 100% cotton material in the meantime.

The first two weeks of avoiding dairy were very difficult. Giving up cheesecake was almost painful, but I eventually found substitutes and cheated a little here and there when necessary. Sorenne had flare ups that I attributed to a dairy allergy, but we really have no way of knowing for sure. Sorenne doesn’t complain – neither does Doug – and I brought this challenge entirely on myself. After I discovered tofutti cream cheese and (yes it’s gross) veggie cheddar, quitting milk no longer seemed like such a big deal. I noticed I’m generally less gassy (pleasant for everyone around me) and Sorenne vomits significantly less.

For the past week Sorenne’s skin has been almost entirely clear. Today, while contemplating the dairy-free brownies I was about to make, I realized that living dairy free is a challenge I enjoy. I still salivate thinking about Roquefort, but I lived without most of my favorite cheese throughout my pregnancy due to the risk of listeria. (At least now I can eat pâté without much worry.) Finding substitutes has been somewhat enjoyable with some pleasant side effects. For those who cannot enjoy dairy due to serious allergies or lactose intolerance, the diet may feel more like a burden. Worse yet, it’s scary to not know if an allergen has contaminated your food when you’ve been careful to protect yourself or your child. I’m fortunate to have a choice and a knowledgeable partner tolerant of my neurotic parenting.

Don’t let allergies ruin the enjoyment of Christmas treats

Of all the holiday feasts our family has each year, Christmas is my absolute favorite.  Sure the turkey and stuffing are wonderful during Thanksgiving, but nothing can beat the wonderful sweets that are available during Christmas season.  Chocolate-dipped pretzels, sugar cookies with icing and sprinkles, peppermint bark, homemade fudge… Chocolate chip cookies are a staple at our house during the holidays.  We keep some around in case of a chocolate emergency (Quick! I need a cookie!), or if my Uncle Scott and his family come over.  Uncle Scott loves my Mom’s cookies; they taste terrific and are guaranteed to be nut-free.

Uncle Scott is one of nearly 7 million Americans that suffer from a true food allergy, and one of 3 million who are allergic to peanuts and treat nuts.
While many people often have gas, bloating or another unpleasant reaction to something they eat, this is not an allergic response, it’s considered a food intolerance.
In people suffering from food allergies, some foods can cause severe illness and, in some cases, a life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) that can constrict airways in the lungs, severely lower blood pressure, and cause suffocation by the swelling of the tongue or throat.

The most common foods to cause allergies in adults are shrimp, lobster, crab, and other shellfish; walnuts and other tree nuts; fish; and eggs.  In children, eggs, milk, peanuts, soy and wheat are the main culprits. Children typically outgrow their allergies to milk, egg, soy and wheat, while allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shrimp usually are not outgrown.

Uncle Scott is allergic to tree nuts, so he is extra careful to avoid certain homemade Christmas treats that typically have nuts in them.  He also has the lucky ability to tell if something has nuts in it within the first few seconds he puts it in his mouth, which allows more time to get the Benadryl.  Not everyone is so lucky, many don’t know if the food was contaminated with allergens until their throat starts to close up or they break out into hives.

If you or someone you know suffers from food allergies, there are a few different steps you can take to help them enjoy the holidays worry-free.  First, knowing what allergen to avoid allows a host/hostess to prepare a special side dish or treat for the allergic individual so be sure to let your host know of any allergies.  Cross-contamination must be taken into account when preparing the allergen-free dish.  Preparation surfaces and tools should be cleaned thoroughly to remove germs and also any trace of the allergen.  For example, it’s not a good idea to prepare sugar cookie dough in the same place that walnut cookie dough was prepared.  It often doesn’t take much of the allergen to affect an individual.

Enjoy those holiday treats, just prepare them safely and make sure allergic individuals are aware of the contents.  For some food-allergy-friendly recipes, you can visit the websites below:
Food Allergy-Free Holiday Recipes from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology

Food Allergy Recipes and Special Diets from About.com Home Cooking