Monday, July 19, 2010

the elimination diet- warning, explicit food content follows

i have been making murmurs about putting amelia on a Food Sensitivity Elimination Diet for a while. just had to find someone to talk us through it - as in, i wanted a real pro to tell me what i could feed her and what i could NOT. the woman i eventually located and consulted is called Joan Breakey, and has been in the dietitian business for over 30 years, and is the leading person on kids and food sensitivities in australasia. she not only does research, but has had a practice over those years, and has a list of impressive results - as in truckloads of testimonials of people who saw amazing results in their kids, or in themselves.

now, in case anyone might wonder WHY we decided to go down this road; in a few years time, if we didn't find a way of damping her down, we believe that amelia would likely have been diagnosed with ADHD or similar. her irrepressible energy and determination, but also at times impossible to manage behaviour (of all sorts, from grumpy to whiney to resistant to manic high) is unpredictable and difficult to keep a lid on. we have managed pretty well so far, by devising all sorts of management techniques, and especially - andrew's favorite - of taking her to a park and swimming pool and running her completely ragged so she is too tired to do anything but eat and sleep. being with her can at times be completely exhausting, much as being with ME can be the same :( we don't want her to end up labeled as naughty, or as difficult. these are labels that can stick like the proverbial, and can hinder a kid from reaching their full potential, because they see themselves as the cause of most bad things that happen to or around them. and we definitely don't want to fall into the trap of punishing her for stuff she can't help. i am not talking about letting her run amok either. no, we still expect manners and kindness and consideration and obedience appropriate to her age. we think there is a middle road, where by tweaking her diet and environment we can help her be the delightful elf that she is, without the trappings of behaviour and responses that stem from her body being under assault by the food we give her.

add to that her tendency to hives, big fat enormous itchy hives, at the drop of a hat, skin rashes that appear from nowhere, eczema (although this is largely a past issue thanks to melaleuca - only contact eczema now), a persistent 'allergic' asthma styled cough, and the weird super high fevers that run for one to three days with no apparent cause. her hot body issue, as in her need to strip no matter what the weather, is also hard to manage. especially when she gets too hot in a supermarket aisle and drops her pants when my back is turned. she is FAST.

we have also eliminated all artificial colours and flavours from her diet, as well as preservatives, and seen a definite improvement across the board. especially with the hives . . . we had a spectacular 'proof' situation involving an icecream that had a number of identified colours and flavours in it that andrew bought without reading the label (he does now, believe you me). she got mobile hives. hives that chased themselves around her body face, chest, tummy, butt, legs etc. and scratchy moods with it. we did some detective work, found the icecream label and read it, took her off it for a few days til the hives were well gone. then andrew made her an icecream. within two hours - TA DAH - bloody great hives all over her wee body again. he ate all of that icecream himself from thereon out. a true sacrifice!

a compounding factor was the comprehensive family history the dietitian asked me to obtain, from both sides. grannIE's one was so well written the dietitian said she would like to publish it. that in combo with all the other stuff from my side added up to a fairly formidable body of forensic evidence.

in fact, when we went to the consultation, Joan looked at the document and then at me, shook her head and said, "the poor kid hasn't got a chance has she?" phew. amelia was all over the place at that appointment. climbing singing dancing fiddling talking telling me not to talk interrupting manically getting on and off her chair asking questions on a loud voice shouted over the top of ours. . . . which was excellent really, because it was a good example of her on a 'bad' day, as in when her body and energy seem to drive her to total distraction, and when she finds it hard to settle in with people and the situation around her. in the old days, you would have said it was naughty. i see it as her body and mind being so restless that she has to move and make noise to shake it off. typical ADHD etc stuff. Joan complimented me on my management, said i had some excellent techniques and then commented on how tiring it is to keep that kind of attention up. i almost cried then, because i do find it exhausting, but have never had someone who really 'knows' validate that. when i got home later that night and started to read the book Joan has written on becoming a diet detective, i DID cry. just in one paragraph that talks about people looking on at a kid like amelia and passing comments on how the parents just need to manage them better, without realising that the parents are 'managing' to the last nth of their ability, especially if the child is disruptive during the nights as well - oh, yes, that should have been in my list of 'why' - the nocturnal habits of the amelia chicken. hmmm. broken sleep for almost 3 years. torture. fine, subtle TORTURE. anyway, i digress.

so, the upshot is that amelia looks like the typical 'supersensitive' kid, as in irritated by naturally occurring elements in foods - usually foods we would define as 'healthy' (more about this later - wait til i attack organic food :0), such as amines, sulphites, salicylates, glutamates etc etc etc. they cause a multitude of symptoms in the child, starting with ears and nose, tummies, behaviour, skin issues, learning difficulties, sleep problems, behavioural issues (grizzly, whiny, angry, aggressive, oppositional defiance etc - a huge spectrum). in effect, the child has a low threshold of irritation, and once this is reached, will experience a raft of symptoms that the parents will generally seek help with - but ONLY with the symptoms, not the underlying cause. i.e. asthma will end up being treated with steroids and ventolin, which dampen down the reaction, but don't take away the cause. the irritants in the food affect the airways, and then when exposed to cold or viral/bacterial illness - the kid gets asthma. the theory is that if you reduce the initial irritants, then you don't get the reactive airways, so the child can get a cold or flu, or go out in cold night air WITHOUT getting asthma. the same applies to all of the other symptoms that are all just the body's way of manifesting its irritation.

the elimination diet starts out by not allowing ANY known or suspected irritants into the child's mouth (or environment as much as possible) for four weeks. this clears the body of all residuals. then, we do weekly 'challenges' of each group of irritants/substances and see how she reacts. the initial part of the elimination are meant to be pretty hairy, as withdrawal is experienced, and usually symptoms flare up before settling, but with a toddler it only takes one or two days to get them past this point. adults have been hospitalised with extreme migraines and asthma etc, so are advised to eliminate slowly.

it is already looking promising.

we have been going for 3 1/2 days now, had a nightmare day on the second, and an angelic day on the third, with near perfect behaviour, sleep and just general demeanour. (amelia was pretty good too). things that are normally a struggle, such as visiting a mall (takes her 20 minutes or so to meltdown on most occasions. we don't tarry!!!) were very very easy. we went to the first to meet up with a friend and her kids, and there amelia played in the playground for four hours WITHOUT any aggression, tearful meltdowns because someone did something or other to her, she also cane and sat with us to eat lunch. sitting at a table. on her bottom on a chair. eating. not interrupting. not wriggling and spazzing out all over the place. my friend veronica noticed a massive change in amelia. one that she was not being aggro to the other kids. another that she was actually sitting still. and also that she sat with us to eat, and held a pleasant conversation with her. now, this is not unusual with family, and in familiar situations. but in a mall, and public play space, it is NOT usual. i avoid taking her shopping, because she deteriorates so fast it is not funny, for anyone. this is likely her response to light and noise (other typical symptoms) especially the types of light in malls here in oz. i have been know to break into instant severe migraines in some shops and other family members have similar responses, so its not surprising. it was a real pleasure yesterday to take her to our local mall to return a library book and pick up a few more, and then to buy the ingredients for home-made ice cream (oh yummy) without her spinning out in ANY shape or form. she was compliant, giggly but manageable, companionable, and actually LISTENED to me when i outlined where we were going and what we would do there. seriously cooperative. a huge contrast to the resistant oblivious little maniac who loses all sense of perspective the minute we venture into that lighting. there was some craziness in the supermarket. lots of down-dog in the central aisles and running madly to the next thing, but no running away (which is usual), no tantrums (also quite usual) at the checkout, and her staying with me all the way. a first. is it a miracle cure? is it me projecting my hopefulness that this diet will help? or is it a combination of both? i think the latter. andrew noticed the wound-downness of the household when he came home, not having to scrape anyone off the wall at any time. and again. no meltdowns. that was the first day ever that the poor lil munchkin hasn't melted down at all. a few tears on leaving the park, but that's a kid thing. no distraught unmanageable meltdown of the usual epic proportion leaving me and her exhausted.

that's a day for the record books.

the diet is bizarre, and goes against my long held ideas of healthy food. looks more like (surprise!) a pre-war farm kids diet. as in mild fresh cheese, WHITE bread only, butter, peanut butter (not sure if that was a farm kid thing back then though), cream, eggs, white flour products only, meat - as long as it is fresh and not preserved in any way, limited veges of the more old fashioned variety (no tomatoes, capsicums, mushrooms etc), and very limited fruit - just ripe bananas, pears (no peel), mango, pawpaw, some lychees. she can drink water, some milk (it is limited), and mango nectar (made of fresh mangoes and sugar . . .). sugar is NOT NOT NOT a problem in any way. Joan's findings are that 2 families in a hundred have issues with sugar, where as about 40% of families show a reaction to home made tomato sauce.

THIS though, is the KICKER. on no account are we to let her eat ORGANIC FRUIT OR VEGES during the elimination? she is to be allowed 'mild' carrots and pumpkin - mild, mild, what the HELL is a mild carrot????? well, apparently (and again, we are talking about a woman who REALLY knows her stuff), organic produce is STRONGER than commercially grown stuff. stronger, stronger. as in my carrots could kick your carrots' butts? well, sort of. it is more that the organic stuff has to have stronger defenses against pest and viruses, so they build higher and more potent levels of the active ingredients (naturally occurring mind you) that are the culprits in food sensitivities. so, a sensitive person will react more to an organic carrot than one bought from, beause the one has been grown using pesticide, which means that is doesn't have to develop its own defences.

Joan has had truckloads of people trying alternative diets, including supplementation and the like. but BUT, her findings (again, an archive of real-life cases) show that the most effective way of improving these types of issues is by identifying the naturally occurring substances in HEALTHY foods and eliminating or restricting those within ones diet.

once the elimination and challenge period is over, then there is a well-defined list of forbiddens, but also a huge list of possibles, and Joan helps people figure out - in her words - 'as much as they can possibly get away with'. she is all about pushing the envelope, not being rigid and fanatical - hee hee.

we have to wait and see. but in the meantime, amelia is very much enjoying home-made icecream (eggs, cream, evaporated milk and sugar), porridge and cream (cream is better than milk because it doesn't have the suspect substances in it), white bread sandwiches with cream cheese, butter (same as cream - no problems), tasteless savory mince (no stock allowed >_< ) and mango juice made into a cordial . . . . and mashed spuds with butter whenever she wants. homemade cakes and bikkies galore (i am baking up a storm), and again, butter and sugar are NOT an issue. crackers and cheese (mild), the odd banana, tinned pears (TINNED are recommended due to low allergy) and lychees. rice custards, rice puddings, the list is endless. and she is CONTENTED.

i will keep you posted as to how the next few days go!

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