Tag: Dairy Free

Eating Allergen Free – Buffalo Wild Wings

Fish is now living gluten free, dairy free and egg free. Sounds easy right? Just don’t eat foods with gluten, dairy or egg in them right? Yep, that’s it. *Snort* if it were only that easy.

Seven years ago, we discovered that A-Man’s migraines were caused by maltodextrin, a thickener, I started reading labels and stopped purchasing about half of the convenience foods normally in my pantry. I learned how to make home made versions of dips, crispy coatings and gravies and other processed foods I’d come to rely on. I knew from my previous label reading experience, in removing all of Fish’s trigger’s from her diet would be no picnic, but I honestly had no idea how complex it would be.  Most labels don’t say “contains gluten”.  Elizabeth Hasselbeck’s book The G-Free Diet has 12 pages of information about ingredients that can contain gluten.  Some labels say “gluten free”, but then I have to look for dairy and eggs and their derivatives. 

Don’t get me wrong, there are many more gluten free foods in the grocery store than there were even 5 years ago, but you still have be very careful especially with multiple sensitivities. Many people were quick to point out that Udi’s makes the best gluten free bread, but their breads contain egg whites, so they aren’t an option for Fish. The same is true for a number of GF pastas. I read every label and I try to remember to read them every time I shop (manufacturing practices can change quickly).

I can honestly say that eating out and quick meals have been the hardest part of this whole process. It’s one thing to stand in a store and read a label and be able to make a judgement about the safety of the food with regards to your child’s allergies, but it is entirely another to rely on a perfect stranger who has limited knowledge what goes in to the food he or she serves and doesn’t really understand the consequences. Then there’s cross-contamination, when a “clean” food comes in contact with an allergen during preparation. For example when french fries are cooked in the same oil as breaded onion rings or chicken nuggets. It’s enough to make you never eat out again. Oh, but some nights, some nights, eating out is the only option.

Recently we ate at Buffalo Wild Wings. I had heard they had a number of allergy friendly options on their menu. One had just opened nearby and the kids had been nagging me to go. We don’t have that many restaurant choices locally, so anything new is always a novelty, especially a potentially allergy friendly option.

When we sat down Fish immediately notified the server of her allergies and asked if they had a gluten free menu (it’s the easiest place to start). The server said she’d be right back. When she returned, she brought with her 5 lamented sheets of paper. Every menu item was listed along with a complete ingredient list. There was a also grid that listed each menu item and which of the most common allergens it contained. I was floored. This meant we could also determine if any of the sauces would trigger a migraine for A-Man (best as I could tell, none would). If only it was always that easy!

5 laminated pages of allergy information at Buffalo Wild Wings

It was small print (hey you can’t have EVERYTHING), but we poured over the sheets until Fish identified some wings that sounded good and were allergy free for her. She loved it and it was nice to watch her relax and enjoy the meal. Mim ordered his standard grilled cheese and fries and I had a combo platter with cole slaw and fries.

I’ll be straight with you, this is not gourmet cuisine, but it was decent and reasonably priced. I would make different choices next time, (I didn’t realize the boneless wings were breaded and deep fried. DOH!) but I’d go back for the allergy friendly environment alone. I wish more restaurants would follow their lead.

Have you found any restaurants that handle food allergies well?

Live Free or Feel Like Crap

'allergies?' photo (c) 2009, miheco - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/ Almost 3 years ago *shudder* Fish started to complain that she wasn’t feeling well when she ate. She felt nauseous and was having some difficulty swallowing. At first it seemed this only happened when we were eating something she didn’t want to eat. She’s always been a selective *ahem* eater, but this was pushing it. She was also beginning to have trouble with dairy. Lactose intolerance runs in my husband’s family, so this issue wasn’t a total shock.

We started buying Lactaid, but after six months she was still complaining, even if there was no dairy in the meal, so it was off to the doctor. The first idea was acid reflux, after 3 months on otc medications, there was no improvement. Time to up the stakes and make a trip to a pediatric gastroenterologist. You have to be a special person to talk about poop with kids and actually get more than giggles. Dr. Anthony Repucci is that person. Let’s face it burps, poop and tummy troubles are the stuff that giggle fits are made of. Dr. Repucci owns his profession. He’s great with the kids and reassuring and explanatory with parents. If we had to go down this road, I’m really glad we got to go with him.

After more than a year of office visits, medications and testing, including an endoscopy, a swallow study and an MRI, we still didn’t have a distinct cause for the problem and she was still in pain. The next step was an off label use for a long term medication.

'Gluten Free tag at New World' photo (c) 2007, Aidan - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ I’m not against medications, but I felt we hadn’t exhausted all of our investigative options. It seemed like Dr. Repucci had exhausted all of his diagnostic tools, but I felt there was still more learning to be done.

After talking to a family member who was diagnosed with food sensitivities, I decided it was time to explore that. We had nothing to loose. If we struck out on this path, the medications would still be waiting for us. I didn’t want Fish to suffer, but I really wanted to find a cause rather than just Band-Aid. Enter, Dr. Kristen O’Dell, a naturopath and physicians assistant. After an office visit and a food sensitivities panel and we had a theory. Fish showed level three sensitivities to eggs, dairy and gluten. *Facepalm*. Eggs? EGGS? Seriously EGGS?

Somewhere in the midst of this diagnostic process, the Lactaid had stopped working. As a result, she’d basically already removed dairy from her diet. Next up was removing eggs. Not a huge deal until she discovered all of the cookies and cakes she likes to make have eggs in them. Grumble, grumble grumble … until, a week passes and she’s starting to feel a little better and then another week passes and things are still improving. Hmmm, might be something to this.

Fish made the decision to drop gluten just for two weeks. I’ll be honest, I really wanted to solve the whole problem, but I was hoping it wasn’t gluten. Of course, I should be counting my blessings it wasn’t corn, but still. One week without gluten and she’s feeling better. Two weeks without gluten and bingo! We have a winner.

In the two years that we’d been exploring these issues, Mim had expanded his palette and I’d finally gotten to the point where most nights I was making one meal for everyone. *fist pump* The thought of going back to 2 different meals just made me want to cry. That’s the selfish side. The upside is that she IS, finally feeling better.

I ache for her because although food allergies are more common (a topic for ANOTHER blog post). It’s still a tough row to hoe. Until you live it, you don’t understand the complexities and the fear that accompanies food sensitivities. We’re fortunate her reactions are not anaphylactic, but no one wants to see their kid in pain.

After about three weeks, we had an incident that confirmed we were on the right path. I pack dinner when we ski, but the “treat” is an order of french fries. On this night, about an hour after eating, Fish came to me and said “I don’t feel good, I feel nauseous like I used to.” Oh crap. I knew what I prepared was allergen free so that left the french fries as the only variable. It turns out, the snack bar at the ski resort also cooks chicken nuggets and onion rings in the same grease as the french fries. Welcome to the world of cross contamination. So much to learn, but we are SUPER fortunate to have a ton of support. We’re getting better at this every day.

Dr. O’Dell feels there is a chance she’ll out grow at least some of these issues, but there is also a chance she won’t. The plan for now it is to keep her eating “clean” as much as possible. She’s done an amazing job adjusting. There are times when the limits are frustrating, and she has “cheated”, but her body reminds her why cheating is not the best idea. According to others who have followed this path, it gets easier the longer the toxic-to-you foods are out of your system.

Despite the challenges, I’m glad to finally have a diagnosis.

Do you have food sensitivities? How do you deal with them?