If your children are suffering from mysterious health and skin issues, food allergies could be at the bottom of it! Here’s how one mom found out why her child was constantly sick!
This post is part of the Dear Mom Letters series.
Dear Mom Whose Child is Constantly Sick,
Have you ever considered: Are food allergies making your children constantly sick?
The other day I wrote a post empathizing with you. Because, I have been you.
For the first two years of my second daughter’s life, she stayed sick. I could probably count the number of times I sat through a church service during that time on one hand. It was that bad.
It was mostly respiratory–RSV, croup, bronchiolitis, pneumonia, and, finally, an asthma diagnosis…But she (and our whole family, actually) also had a terrible bout with the norovirus when she was about a year and a half.
We kept passing it back and forth, and she got it the worst. Baby Girl was knocked down an entire month from that one.
I don’t know why it never really occurred to me to try changing her diet during this time. My husband has mild asthma, so I kind of blamed it on his family genes since I was never really sick as a kid, and our firstborn was never sick.
I blamed myself, too. I knew I must be doing something–something–wrong.
We had made the switch to whole foods and natural medicines and cleaners even before she was born. I was doing it all. I wasn’t feeding my baby junk!
It was hurtful to see so many comments on my Facebook page the other day accusing parents whose children are sick of not taking care of them, of feeding them poorly, of using too much “conventional medicine” and cleaning products, etc. Of not doing enough.
It was hurtful because I’ve been that mama that did try it all–and it all didn’t seem to work. It was mostly hurtful because I see so many of you in the place where I was a little over a year ago–at your wit’s end and wondering if your child will ever not catch every single virus that comes her way.
I hated seeing you all lash out at each other and make children struggling with illness a debate. Are we so incredibly prideful that we can’t put ourselves in others’ shoes for a few minutes and stop blaming the mama next door for not being perfect when none of us are? We have all and will all be humbled–so, so humbled.
But here’s the thing, dear mama whose child is constantly sick,
If I were to leave you with that encouraging post alone the other day, I would not be helping you much. I want my site to be about both encouragement and education for natural mamas–and about empowering you to rise above your circumstances.
I mentioned in the original post that when we finally discovered my little girl’s food allergies, she got well.
It is true. All that time, our oldest daughter had been gluten, egg and dairy-free, yet I had still been eating all three–and mostly dairy. I was nursing my baby during this entire time.
When I finally went off dairy, the respiratory infections stopped. Her immune system strengthened, and she became like a new person.
We never did give her much cow’s milk. I actually gave her almond milk for about a year–until we discovered that tree nuts bother her as well. She now drinks rice or coconut milk. And we do just fine.
Was it my fault? No, I don’t think it was. I could beat myself up all the live long day for eating cheese during the time I was nursing her: But here’s the deal–I needed the protein, and I simply did not know.
No one had told me that dairy allergies can cause extra mucous which can cause fluid build-up in the ear canal which can lead to ear infections.
No one told me that dairy allergies can cause asthma.
I simply did not know.
But that is why I’m telling you.
Now as to why my child was born with a dairy allergy? I still don’t know. But I don’t think it was my fault. My oldest child cannot tolerate gluten, dairy or eggs. For a while, I beat myself up over whether it had been something I ate while pregnant, whether it had been vaccines we had given her as a baby, whether it had been this or that during labor.
Even if it had been: I did not know.
We live in a polluted, sin-filled world. Nothing we do to our bodies will ever perfect them. We are not in control.
Because of this, there will be unexplained allergies. There will be unexplained sickness. There will be unexplained pain. It’s a part of life.
In this world you will have trouble, but take heart: I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
Dear Mama Whose Child is Constantly Sick,
I want to go beyond encouraging you. I want to educate you. Will you try an elimination diet? Especially if your child struggles with eczema, digestive issues or respiratory illness or asthma, it may be dairy.
It could also be gluten. It could also be a whole slew of foods that aggravate his or her immune system.
Try not to get overwhelmed. Take it one day at a time. Try eliminating just one food, and see if it makes a difference.
I have learned so much over the past two years–I, the mom who said her whole life: “Food allergies?! Ha! We have none.”
I’ve been humbled.
Just try it, Mama. Just try. But don’t beat yourself up, OK?
I’ll tell you what my oldest daughter’s integrative doctor told me when we discovered her food allergies at age 3: “It’s better to know at 3 than at 30.”
Go in grace, Mama. Go in grace.
What do you think: Are food allergies making your child constantly sick?
My Recipe Index contains a number of allergen-free recipes. I also have several more posts on dealing with food allergies.
I recently discovered my 1year old daughter’s allergy to dairy. Her severe eczema and horribly painful diaper rash was leaving me feeling frustrated and confused as her pediatrician kept brushing it off. After discovering the link to dairy on my own, everything cleared up!! I was soo relieved that my baby could live each day happily and pain-free. The diaper rash has come back here and there, a little more and more often, so I have been wondering if another allergy is beginning to show it’s face, but I am not sure what it might be. I am very anxious to read your next post and get to the bottom of this struggle. Thank you for being so encouraging and educational! Your story is helping us!!
Is elimination the only way to figure it out? Or are there tests that are faster to find out for sure? Our little guy had tubes put in his ears at 16 months from so many ear infections…and I feel horrible that we didn’t really try anything. I knew in my heart that he seemed to have seasonal (as well as some other allergies), I asked the specialist and he brushed it off. We changed to a different dr in the office, and he tested positive to being allergic to things such as feathers, dust, tree pollen, and few others…his favorite blanket was feather/down! After I removed the blanket and got him a pillow cover he quit being stuffy everyday! I feel so guilty for not pushing sooner!
I think (and this is my opinion, which is not expert!) that elimination is the best and most conclusive way to figure it out. There are blood tests for food allergies, but they are notoriously untrustworthy. (We have a friend who’s had anaphylactic reactions to nuts whose blood allergy test came back totally clear.) Elimination diets are free (unless you buy lots of substitute foods) and they certainly don’t hurt.
My little guy has had to be dairy free (and me too, while I was nursing) due to significant digestive discomfort. The first few days and weeks are the hardest because you’re making new eating routines, but you do have to give it several days (even a few weeks) to make sure all the dairy is out of the system before you decide whether or not it’s helping.
I hope that helps and I hope you figure out just the right things that work for you and your family!
A person can test negative to food allergies but still have a sensitivity or intolerance. An elimination diet is the only way to know for sure.
Allergy testing has always been accurate for my boys. My oldest has severe, life-threatening allergies to milk and beef. My younger son had an allergy to eggs. When we had him tested at about 3 months old with a blood test, he showed positive for eggs and eggs only. I removed eggs from my diet and his issues went away. I prefer to do allergy testing first if I suspect an allergy. Then if multiple things come back positive do an elimination diet/trial with those things. My oldest had several things come back with low positives when he was about 1 1/2. We cut it all out for 2 weeks. Then re introduced one at a time, very slowly while watching careful for any sign of reaction. Turns out he was only really allergic to milk and beef.
Thank you for this post. I actually have a daughter who had a milk allergy as a toddler but she ‘outgrew it’ (I’m thinking maybe not now). She also had RSV as a toddler and has dealt with Reactive Airway Disorder (which is pretty much asthma) and bouts with pneumonia ever since the RSV. I also have a son who was diagnosed with acid reflux as a baby and was on medication for it until he was off formula and on cows milk. Then he also ended up hospitalized for a respiratory problem that they didn’t even know what it was. Now he also has Reactive Airway – will definitely have to check into the possibility of dairy allergies with them.
I am the same mother. My son has dairy allergies. He has had testing done and that was the only thing that showed up, although sometimes I wonder if he does have other issues with allergens because of how his belly gets upset. I have a baby girl who is 5 months old. I nursed her for 3 months, then she starting having blood in her stools and after elimination diet for me, and several formulas, found out she is allergic to protein. She is now on an amino acid based formula. I’ve been stressed. I’ve cried. I’ve hated not letting my son go to birthday parties and preschool class parties. His class is having a party today for Halloween. He can’t have the same stuff. I don’t give my child “much” junk/sweets, etc. and if we do, it’s for an occasional treat.. We try to eat natural and keep things simple. You have to when you have allergy babies. I’m scared for when we get to let baby girl to try food. I’ve blamed myself. I’ve wondered what I did wrong. I’ve cried. I’ve thought its not fair because they can’t have normal childhood. I’ve cried. There was a time during bible school this year my son couldn’t have most of the snacks that were provided. He looked pitiful, the other kids had what he couldn’t. It is such a hard situation. I cried.. some more. Your post is inspirational to me because I am that same Mom. Thank you for your encouragement.
He also has had pneumonia, RSV, ear infections like CRAZY, and now has ear tubes. The milk allergy=ear infections made a light bulb come on! Thanks for your information.
There is a book called “What’s Eating Your Child” which was an excellent resource for me when I was learning about my son’s food allergies. The author mentions that gluten is the main suspect when a kid has digestive problems. Have you tried a GF trial?
It is difficult when kids can’t have the same things that other kids are eating. My son currently has to avoid dairy, egg, wheat, coconut, tree nut and barley. That cuts out a lot of food! But I am sooo glad I KNOW his allergens and I don’t have to wonder what’s making him itch constantly like he used to. And we work hard to give him safe alternatives. I think my son (and his non-allergic brothers) are learning to be grateful for what they CAN eat and empathize with other kids who have similar struggles. So while it is hard for them and us, it’s not all bad. 🙂
Sara, this is my FAVORITE book… I just recommended it to a friend earlier today! I believe that it is a post that every parent (and doctor) should read!!
Oops… I meant a *book* every parent and doctor should read, though, quite honestly, I do feel the same way about this post— Excellent!!
This post brought tears to me eyes. You’re such a special person with your tender approach and heart felt messages. Five years ago we started out with sensitivities to corn, soy, rice, tomatoes, potatoes, dairy, eggs and baker’s yeast. After the elimination phase and reintroducing unpasteurized dairy and pastured eggs not fed corn and soy and five years later, we are down to corn and soy and some rice. Now it’s time to get little sis tested and I am almost scared to start over again.
Hi, I have a quick question. I have been faithfully following these posts and receiving the grace offered…because I can’t always offer it to myself. It was through one of these that I was introduced to the idea of food allergies and their link to skin problems. Because my little has had skin/ digestive issues a lot in his little life, I’ve been trying to eliminate gluten and dairy to see if it helps. My problem is this: I need more protein and we don’t have the money to eat a ton of meat. I was using grain and dairy/ grain and legume combinations to get the protein, but now a huge chunk of that is cut out. What can I do?
Alicia, if you can eat eggs, that would be a great source of protein. Also nuts are a great source of protein, although they are more expensive. When I did a gluten free and dairy free trial I inadvertently increased my peanut butter consumption and my son had a huge flare up in his rashes. So watch out for that one if you are nursing and if you don’t know whether peanuts bother him. Otherwise, natural peanut butter is great for protein and fairly inexpensive.
And yes, do give yourself grace. It’s not your fault that your little one is suffering.
Food allergies have given me an incredible education over the past 2 years with my 4th child. After many months of searching for answers we discovered he was allergic to corn, wheat, egg, dairy, tree nuts and peanuts. Oh my goodness – I was so overwhelmed when I got this news. But by the grace of God I learned how to feed him (and feed him well – he’s a stocky 2 year old now!) and since I was nursing him until about 18 months it was a very healthy diet for me as well.
Just knowing what the allergens are made a tremendous difference in his life. I’m so grateful that we found a doctor that could help us unravel that puzzle. Now we’re praying for healing. He has outgrown corn and dairy and the doctor said it’s possible that he will outgrow some of the others as well.
When ever my small one gets allergic, she gets fever.
Amen! What a wonderful encouragement! We had no idea our son was allergic to dairy until his first anaphylactic reaction to peanuts prompted food allergy testing. He was 2 at the time. With elimination diets, we eventually found out he was also allergic to eggs, bananas and oranges. Those 3 foods are back in his diet now, and he is nine years old. But we are thinking maybe he has a wheat allergy with his constant sniffling and congestion. It will be a real struggle because he loves his wheat! But his health is more important. Thanks again for the wonderful, encouraging post for all moms of kids who struggle with sickness and food allergies!
my heart is breaking at all of the ladies posting about their babies with allergies because I know what they are going through. I was never a child who had illnesses or suffered from food allergies. I had cousins who couldn’t eat peanuts. My sister and I never had an issue. My brother is 8 years younger than me and he was allergic to eggs growing up but doesn’t have an issue with them now. My mom just about 2 years ago ate a tree nut by mistake and was hospitalized for three days, the doctors had to put her out because her allergic state was so bad.
I nursed my baby for a year but it wasn’t until we (my husband and I ) took her out the house her skin would break out, red spots, broken skin. it was bad … I couldn’t let people hold her because she would rub her face on their clothing to ease the itching pain. The docs told us she would grow out of it. I took her to a dermo doc and the meds they gave her worked but around month 8-9.. I tried to put her on formula. Everything we gave her she threw it up !!! Going to church was bad because their wasn’t one service either on Sunday morning or Tuesday Bible class she would throw up even pumped milk(I had to go back to pumping) .. I took it to the doc, they said she would grow out of it. Months went by … my baby was hospitalized at one point because she was throwing up and wouldn’t stop. After months and months of taking her to the hospital around the corner from us, we took her to children’s hospital in Detroit . I met with a GI specialist and he knew exactly upon our first conversation what was wrong with her. she had to get a scope done and they diagonsed her with Eosinophilic Esophagitis. There are allergies all on her esophagitis !!! Now she’s on strict diet and on special hypoallergenic formula. She is better than before but now she is really wanting the foods we eat… so it looks like everyone’s diet is about to change.
Thanks for bringing these thoughts to light. I think food allergies is one of the last things to come to mind when your baby is sick. I went through this with my second child. After we started giving her food as a baby she threw up A LOT! Of course the first few time I thought it was the flu but it turned out she has a strong gluten intolerance. Even though she was only a baby it took about a year and half after figuring it out for her to stop trowing up so often. And yes I do think about the what-ifs during my pregnancy with her… but that won’t change her health.
If you want to find out if they have an allergy what is your fist step? Are there easy tests that can be ordered?
Can you help my family! How do I start? What can I read? Because of two major job losses from my husbands military of 30 years service forced to retire w out pay til age 62 and most recent his job of 17 years we are more than strapped! We have two boys with ADHD and one with high functioning autism, both have skin allergies, both have had tons of ear infections, sick all the time, both are like me drink lactose free milk, antibiotics are starting not work because we have had to use them every year off and on several times because illness keeps coming back! Youngest age 6 is sick again coughing, stinging sinuses and miserable, I’m sure they have allergies like me but I don’t understand how food causes all this at all? I already watch for dies, high fructose corn syrup, msg, etc try to by organic cereal and look for small amounts of ingredients in foods less usually means not so many chemicals added I think? I’m going crazy trying to help my family with special needs and health problems! Also if i take foods out then what do I replace with? I would need help! Plus they are older 6 and 8 and special needs can make change very hard! They won’t understand why they can’t have stuff! My youngest hardly eats for us as it is! I think he may have sensory issues textures etc bother him! Please pray for us and please help us know where to start! I also am very sick a lot, stomach issues, allergies, chronic ear issues, asthma! We cut most red meet out and only eat small amounts of chicken, turkey! I mean meet is getting difficult because I’m reading bad stuff about it! It’s getting where we need to grow our own foods! Scary times we live in! Thank you!
I breast fed my son until he was 15 months, but stopped solely breast feeding when he was about 5 1/2 months. I started to notice that after I was introducing foods into his diet he started to be get up in the middle of the night crying from the acid reflux but never quite being fully awake, so he was inconsolable at times.. I found that if I would sit him up at an angle and snuggle him next to me he would fall back asleep fairly quickly. If he would let me I would try to get a sip of water down him or if I was lucky a tums and he would be fine the rest of the night. One day I was at my grandmas eating a peanut butter cracker with her, and Tristan (my son) got ahold of a piece. He was probably 11 months old at the time, and what followed I will never forget. It wasn’t a horrible reaction but it was definitely a moderate reaction… He started trying to itch his tongue and the back of his throat, his trunk broke out in hives, and he was breathing rapidly, probably from the whole ordeal. So I called the pediatrician and they said to give him some Benadryl and watch him, so I did and he was fine, but that put me on the road to an allergist. We got his blood tested and found out he has a severe allergy to peanuts, and allergies to milk, eggs and soy as well. He never seemed to have a reaction to eggs and wasn’t too fond of them anyways so we still gave them to him in foods and the like. The soy as I thought back on it he did have a problem with. When I was nursing I would occasionally have some coffee with the coffee mate creamer in it (which is made from soy) and he would have the worst gas, just writhing in pain from it. It took me the second time of drinking it to realize that the soy in the creamer was what was causing it and after I stopped he didn’t have gas like that anymore. I also noticed a similar but less severe effect from drinking milk..bye bye milk. In between this time we had my daughter (Madelynn who exhibited similar effects after I introduced food) Two years later he was still having the acid. We started cutting his food off 2hrs before bed and drinks 1hr before and that helped some. Off to a specialist we went and we agreed to an endoscopy and ph probe for Tristan (which is where they put a plastic coated wire down their nose into their stomach and measure the acid activity level). The diagnosis came back as eosiniphilic esophagitis or EOE. The primary cause of EOE is food allergies. We went to a specialist in port Charlotte fl. about an hour from us and she did another blood allergy test on Tristan and one on Madelynn. Amazingly enough she has NO allergies. We found out that he still has the severe peanut allergy, but also dairy (the actual protein, not the lactose) soy, eggs, and wheat, (yay for us =( …) why wheat? Life will never be the same.. Or so I thought. We started on the elimination diet no Eggs, Dairy,Soy, Wheat, Peanuts, Tree nuts which include coconuts, Fish, and Shellfish. I love to cook so I was now on a mission.. I tried the Bobs red mill gluten free flour (yuck, unless you like the flavor of raw beans) and many variations with bobs flour..all to beany for my sons like, mine too truth be told. After searching many, many sites I found “the art of gluten free baking” and on there, low and behold was my new best friend “Jeanne’s all purpose gluten free flour mix” you can use it cup for cup in baking recipes and for yeasted breads she gives you amazingly helpful tips. She has answered tons of questions and has many recipes to chooses from. I love it. I make her soft sandwich bread for my son, and in the mornings toast it up and but some apple or pumpkin butter on it. If you have any left over after a few days, or a loaf that wasn’t quite fluffy enough you can turn them into croutons. I make him special cookies, all oat oatmeal from the “kids with food allergies” website.. Another life saver for when we go out to someone’s house or party. I feel truly blessed because he is so understanding and cool about the whole process, but with everything we have taken away I let him help me make his new recipes to try out and he loves it.. We are 3months into the diet and though at first it was a bit pricey with all of the test loaves and “concoctions” I was now trying, I have found the Jeanne’s flour mix to be both cost effective and tasty. We may be spending more on the fresh ingredients but we are saving in the long run with no pre made or processed foods in our basket.. I hope I didn’t overwrite my welcome, just trying to help
Can I ask how old was your daughter and how much was she nursing when you discovered you needed to cut certain foods from your diet? I’m trying to piece the details together from a few different posts, but I’m having a hard time doing so. Your post sounds like it could have been written by me. I had cut gluten and dairy from both our diets when she was 4 months and then added them back in when she was about 18 months because the obvious effects were completely gone. But around that same time (start of this year) she also started getting sick constantly. It started every 6-8 weeks and is now about every two weeks she gets sick. I took gluten and dairy back out of her diet a little while back but just in the past few weeks decided to try taking it out of my own diet again as well. She only nurses once a day though. I thought she was not nursing enough for it to affect her. (Although since I also have an EBF 6mo old, I do produce enough milk for her to get what seems like quite a bit in that one session.) She also still spits up sometimes, which I guess is reflux, which my dr says can be caused by food allergies…
Thank you for your words. My second child was also I’ll for most of his first four or five years. And I didn’t nurse. So, I didn’t pass things along that way. At age seven, because they didn’t do allergy testing earlier than that back in the 70’s, he was tested on 62 foods and was allergic to all but 6. He was also allergic to grass and every tree indigenous to the Houston area. Could we have done something different? I don’t think so. Being ignorant is not bad but not researching things like this in today’s world can be a bad thing.
This post is really disturbing.
As a UK doctor who is not incentivised to diagnose any illness in a person (unlike USA doctors) it could just be coincidence that your children grew out of allergies.
There are comprehensive and accurate tests that can be performed to determine what allergy a child or adult has. The notion that an entire family is comprised of somebody with an egg allergy, another with a milk and beef allergy (etc) is rare and unlikely. An allergy is serious, in which anti-histamines are released and can cause death. An intolerance is minor and it’s simply a case of the individual avoiding the offending food items.
One thing people in the USA are obsessed by is books. The books you purchase are written by someone for profit; the notion that they are in it to help you is ridiculous. You can blame gluten/wheat/dairy on anything. Don’t trust books and don’t self-diagnose, because a sample of 1 person is not science! Trust a trusted doctor – one not interested in personal financial benefit, unlike those doctors who write books, and you’ll do a lot better in life.
Also: children get sick all the time, that we just know. We were all the same as children and the next generation of children will also be the same; it’s just building up the immune system.
I repeat: true allergies are testable in hospitals using various tests and relying on your own self-diagnosis is a sure way to an illogical result. I believe in science and facts; I do not believe in guesswork and self-diagnosis. The comments here confirm why this is a bad idea, as people jump to conclusions.
Remember: If someone has a monetary gain to be made they are probably fooling you. Try see a non US non-private doctor. Oh, and don’t trust a cardiologist who wrote a book about gluten being evil 😉
I am this mama right now. My daughter is 2 and was mostly healthy her first year of life , this past year tho she has been non stop sick. And these past few months , illness right ontop of another. I am at my wits end and cry myself to sleep right next to her almost nightly . Visit her pediatrician almost weekly and it’s always the same thing. “It’s viral” or “it’ll go away it’s because she’s in daycare” but deep down I have this feeling that no these are TOO many illnesses and it has to be something else! I am so glad I saw this ! As a baby she had to have special formula and now drinks lactaid milk , but maybe that isn’t enough ? Maybe she needs more change ? She loves cheese so that’ll suck to get rid or … oh and ice cream ! 🥺 but I’m bringing it up to her pediatrician tomorrow and starting this elimination diet ASAP ! Even tho I think it’s going to be harder than I think … wish me luck 🤞🏼🤞🏼 I am so desperate at this point .