Do you ever feel that you’re making progress and then something hits you out of the blue and you feel like you’re actually going backwards?! This is how I’ve felt the past few weeks with Miss Gracie’s niggly issues.
Shortly after I published how I cleared Gracie’s Eczema I started to notice to my horror mild eczema developing on the back of her legs and went into full mother panic mode!! I think I jinxed myself writing this piece!
Since completely clearing her eczema nearly a year ago she’s never had a flare up and whereas before there was a more obvious connection to why, this time around I’m totally baffled.
We were just in the process of starting to reintroduce some foods (I can’t see a connection with these foods yet) so that has now gone on the back burner. I’ve now stopped giving her Mutaflor (specific probiotic to help chronic constipation) for a couple of weeks to see if that makes a difference, but again so far it seems to be getting worse not better so I’m thinking of just reintroducing this again!
To make everything else compounded we have just gone to get a second opinion with a Paediatric Gastro for her chronic constipation issues that just aren’t getting any better. The Gastro felt her stomach and said that she was ‘very’ full of poo and that we would need to clear her out. She will also need to be on laxatives throughout the entire summer (we’re currently in winter in Australia).
When discussing how it all started his attitude towards Grace having a sensitivity to dairy was as I imagined it to be – disregard! As her allergy testing came back negative, in his mind he thinks there isn’t an issue and that it’s a coincidence and to do with introducing solids. I knew this would be the mindset of a doctor in the mainstream and this is why I normally choose to see only doctors in the integrative/functional space, but sometimes you get to the point where you can see things aren’t improving and you need to exhaust every avenue to get back on the right track.
I did explain that our issues initially started when we transitioned to cows milk and that within hours of consumption she would break out in hives, eczema and then the chronic constipation started. Was I just imagining this? Was there another reason? Either way poor Gracie is literally full of poo and it needed to be cleared, so I have spent nearly the whole week of last week clearing her out. What should have taken one day, had taken three days and this mamma is strained and stressed.
So now we are going to wait for her next check-up with her Gastro and see how her eczema is then and look to book in to see an Integrative Dr to work alongside her current treatment plan to try and get to the bottom of her current eczema flare up.
So that’s where we are currently at, checking, waiting, hoping and writing food diaries!!
I understand this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea to read, but when you become a parent things that never crossed your mind sometimes end up being your day to day worries with your child – cue my life right now!
I’ve not really mentioned this openly over on my social media accounts, but the past few weeks have been very, very difficult at our home. After Grace had a 24 hour gastro bug which was horrific in itself, she’s not been the same since.
Unfortunately when a child who already has a sensitive gut like Grace gets Gastro, it completely upsets their system and we are still feeling it weeks afterwards. I feel like we’ve gone completely backwards with treating her chronic constipation, every couple of days she’s becoming blocked and it’s affecting everything, including her sleep (which we didn’t think could get any worst!) and eating.
As I mentioned in previous posts, Grace is on supplementation twice a day as well as a small amounts of laxatives for this. Everyday I monitor her bowel movements to try and see if I need to give her more or less. At the moment I’m trying to get her supplementation and laxative amount just right, which is becoming a near impossible task.
The older she gets, the more I’m starting to notice the psychological aspect of all this, and the vicious cycle it’s all becoming. She gets a flare up of constipation which obviously makes her uncomfortable and sore from straining and basically holds it in for the fear of being in more pain, which of course only makes matters worse.
When we first started our journey to sort out her issues it was really obvious that food intolerances were the root cause. However nearly two years down the line I’m starting to question everything as I don’t understand why she is still suffering with it, especially as we’re so careful with her diet.
We’re seeing her Integrative Paediatrician next month, which really can’t come soon enough. Initially when we first started seeing our current doctor she said we could test her gut flora. We decided to wait and see if we saw improvements, which we did, but even before the gastro hit we had started to plateau – I now think this will be an essential thing for her to get tested.
All we can do now is hope and pray that her gut starts to settle down with the help of the prebiotic food I give her and the supplementation….. and roll on May!
I’m really interested in connecting with other parents whose child/children suffer from chronic constipation and the reasons why. So if that’s you please send me a private message or comment below so we can connect.
Vivian is a Doctor originally from the UK and has recently relocated with her family to the States. Both Vivian’s children have suffered from severe allergies which has lead to the creation of her fantastic Blog ‘Allergy Families‘ which is an amazing resource for families who have allergies and food intolerances.
I recently caught up with Vivian to find out more about herself and her blog.
What made you start your blog?
I’ve wanted to start a blog for a long time now…. but just never found the time juggling being a GP and mum to two young kids.
It is incredible how unaware the general public and medical professionals can be with allergy. They don’t take it seriously and many medical professionals miss the diagnosis because symptoms can be so subtle and there are just no good tests for some allergies. My daughter was hospitalised and tube fed at 8 weeks of age because no doctor (including myself) recognised her symptoms as being caused by milk allergy. People thought she had reflux, then behavioural issues, because she just stopped feeding. She would cry with hunger, drink a little bit of milk then push the bottle away, arch her back and turn her head. She cried all the time and I was desperate and sleep deprived. It wasn’t until I did my own research and found a dietician with expertise in the area that she got the help she needed. Thankfully it is probably more widely recognised now, but if it was so hard for a doctor to help her own children with allergies, I can’t imagine what it is like for non-health professionals.
Since I started researching and learning about allergies, I have been able to be an advocate for my patients, friends whose children have blaringly obvious food allergies (to me anyway) but undiagnosed by their own doctors.
That’s why I started my blog – I didn’t want my help to be restricted to those who knew me. I knew that if I started a blog my reach could be much wider, and I would be able to help more people. I wanted to share my journey, tips and useful medical information I learnt along the way.
There are many things which I found out that are helpful for kids with allergies which my allergists never told me. Things like probiotics – which a lot of allergists still insist has no good evidence but I believe gut health is key to children outgrowing allergies.
Do you think being a Doctor made the process to get a diagnoses and treatment plan easier?
Yes and No. To this day I still have massive mother guilt for missing the diagnosis in my own daughter. But I had access to a network of top healthcare professionals and I’m sure my daughter’s diagnosis would be even more delayed had it not for my own contacts.
Treatment plan is another matter – I was in desperate search for things that would help my daughter outgrow her allergies. Maybe I was in denial, maybe I just did not want to spend the rest of my life constantly worrying about accidental ingestion and walking on eggshells. This was where I felt like I was up against a brick wall. No one gave me any answers. Everyone told me to just avoid the food and hope they outgrew their allergies. But I did not want to do that. So I did my own research and reading, attended all the allergy lectures to gain a better understanding. In a way, being a doctor has helped because I knew where to look for reliable information, and I had access to all the allergy training events.
What advice would you give parents who suspect their child has a food allergy or intolerance?
Trust your gut instincts – you really do know your child best. Read my blog post on subtle symptoms of allergy (http://allergyfamilies.com/food-allergies/how-to-know-my-child-has-a-food-allergy/) – it is not all lip swelling/rash/wheezing. The symptoms can be so subtle: constipation, abdominal pains, aversive feeding, diarrhoea. If you suspect your child might have an allergy – don’t stop looking for a doctor who takes you seriously! Western tests are good at picking up IgE mediated allergies (but these are really easy to spot anyway, you don’t need a test when someone’s lips swell up after eating something). But it is the non IgE allergies which are being missed all the time and it is a shame that children and their parents are suffering unnecessarily because doctors are not trained to spot these. Just because a skin prick test or blood test is negative, does not mean your child is not allergic to a food. Elimination is actually the gold standard but this should not be done without consulting a healthcare professional first.
How are your children now?
My daughter is 8 and she was allergic to milk, egg and peanut. She has outgrown all these now. My son is 6, and was allergic to milk, egg, wheat, kiwi, peanut, walnut, pecan, cod, lemons and now ‘just’ allergic to milk, peanut, walnut, pecans. He is currently on the milk ladder where I am introducing boiled milk at small increments to see if he can tolerate it, and he appears to be starting to grow out of his milk allergy too (touch wood)!
What’s been your biggest learning curve?
Broadening my mind and horizon to what I didn’t know. Before my kids, I was a pretty narrow minded doctor who would laugh at anything holistic or complementary (e.g. homeopathy) because the scientific evidence for these are weak. However, mainstream medicine failed me when I needed it. I was not able to help my daughter and it was so frustrating for me as a doctor. The more I read, the more I realised that the gut is central to a lot of diseases. And actually, focusing on ‘allergy’ without assessing gut health is treating surface symptoms without the root cause, I became more open minded through my own research and reading; I realised that, actually, integrative medicine is the best way to practise medicine. Now I use nutrition and natural remedies in combination with mainstream medicine.
What are you favourite gut boosting foods?
Fermented foods because they contain enzymes to help us digest the food, probiotics and prebiotics
Bone broth – there is a reason why this gem is found in culinary traditions around the world – it contains amino acids and collagen which is healing for the gut.
Fibre – a high fibre diet supports the growth of beneficial bacteria in your gut, and if probiotic supplement is not supported by a high fibre intake, the expensive bacteria wouldn’t survive in your gut anyway. Children do need calories to grow, however, so be careful to balance this as most high fibre foods are not calorific.
Find out more about Vivian and her blog here (sign-up to her newsletter to receive her weekly tips): www.allergyfamilies.com
In an oven or over a grill, char the onion, bulb of garlic and ginger - I normally put it on a top rack in the oven and put on full heat grill. The onion and garlic will char first - remove these, and let the ginger char slightly. Let it cool down, and remove the completely burnt bits.
In a pan, roast the cloves, star anise, cinnamon, black peppercorns - low heat, this brings out their flavor. When cooled, place into a spice bag (you can get these in asian supermarkets, or make them yourself from muslin/cheese cloth. If you don't mind the odd bit of peppercorn in your soup, you can also just drop these loose into the pan.
Parboil the bones - in a pan, put the bones in and cover with just enough water, and bring to boil with lid on. Let it boil for 2-3 minutes. Drain and wash all the impurities that have come out in the boil with water.
Put parboiled, cleaned bones back in the pan, put in 18 cups of water. add the spice bag (or just drop the spices in loose).
Bring back to boil. Then switch to low heat and leave on stove for at least 8 but up to 24 hours ( I normally do 10, by that time you really start to see the broth turning cloudy which indicates all the amino acids, collagen being boiled into the soup).
You can make bone broth using any vegetables but I like to add herbs that are good for the digestion/gut to give it even more goodness:
Cloves - great for digestion, and rich in antioxidants (fights tissue and free radical damage)
Black peppercorn - again fabulous for digestion and also increases bioavailability of lots of nutrients, helping the body to absorb them
Star anise - anti fungal, anti-bacterial, and antioxidant
Cinnamon - anti-inflammatory (helps body repair any inflamed or damaged tissue), improves insulin sensitivity, reduces heart disease
Since starting our journey to get Gracie’s gut and skin issues better I’m often asked what we use and why, even more since documenting on Instagram and connecting with other families in similar situations as to our own. So I thought I would give an overview of what we currently use.
Ancient Mineral Magnesium Bath Flakes – we use this almost every night, around 1/2 a cup of flakes. This is to assist with her chronic constipation.
Weleda Calendula Cream – applied morning and night to moisturise her skin
1 drop of tea tree oil into the bath – helps get rid of the bacteria on the skin that eczema sufferers’ tend to have
Probiotics – to support gut health
Vitamin C – helps with softening bowel motions
Magnesium – for muscle relaxation can aid constipation
Vitamin D (in winter months) – support for the maintenance of healthy skeletal, cardiovascular and immune systems
B12 spray – to support the nervous system
Zinc drops – Zinc can improve frustration tolerance, boost the immune system and improve appetite
Fish Oil – reduces inflammation/assists Eczema sufferers
As I mentioned, Gracie’s eczema has basically cleared up since eliminating the foods that had came up on her food intolerance testing and giving her these supplements. Her gut still isn’t 100% and she is still reliant on a small amount of laxative, but compared to what she started off on it’s nothing. My aim this year is to get her off the laxative completely and to reduce her supplement intake as much as we can. I also want to get her food intolerances re-tested and to then be able to slowly re-introduce more foods back into her diet.
Please note, this post is not intended as medical advice. If you have health concerns about your child please seek medical advice.
As there’s only so much you can write on Instagram, I wanted to finally introduce ourselves properly and where our journey began.
I’ve actually written this piece so many times (and in my head!), it’s actually quite emotional and therapeutic in some ways to share our story and journey so far.
So here we go…..
I had an amazing pregnancy with Gracie, no complications apart from needing to have my thyroid levels monitored as I have Hashimotos autoimmune disease – thankfully my then functioning thyroid liked being pregnant and my levels were always within range.
Unfortunately nothing could have prepared me for the horrific labour, delivery and year afterwards, to say it was probably the hardest time I’ve experienced physically and emotionally is an understatement.
Because of the serious medical complications I suffered from, and the time it took to get diagnosed and treated, I never produced enough breast-milk (yes I tried everything including natural alternatives, medication and lactation consultant to no avail). Therefore Gracie was mixed fed up until 7 months old and then exclusively formula fed until 12 months.
Up until then there were no signs or symptoms from what we could tell that she had any issues at all. However all this changed when we transitioned her to cows milk…
At first it was her skin, she started to break out in bright red eczema patches in a few places and then more and more popped up, all over her body. I took Grace to our local GP who initially said she would “grow out” of the eczema and that her skin “wasn’t bad enough” to warrant being referred on, much to my frustration! A couple of weeks later I returned as nothing had changed and this time the Dr suggested that I could do a stop giving Grace fresh cow’s milk and to give her toddler formula for a few weeks to see if it made a difference.
As I was desperate at that point, I stupidly tried for a couple of weeks. It didn’t make much difference to her skin but I feel this is when I started to notice she was becoming constipated.
After being fobbed off, getting no-where and poor Gracie’s situation getting worst I started to do my own research. I was able to locate a holistic paediatrician who kicked-started getting her on the right path and my huge learning curve on gut health.
Unfortunately we got to the point where Gracie’s progress started to plateau and as time past I became increasingly frustrated and decided to start researching again to find someone/a way to get her issues resolved.
As I started my search for another doctor to get us back on track, I decided to get Grace tested for food intolerances. She had previously had a range of blood tests done (allergy, vitamin deficiencies, FBC etc) and nothing of consequence had showed up – much to my frustration to get answers!
Within a week we got the results back – to my horror over 30 foods had a reading from slight to strong reaction. As we thought, Cow’s Milk came top of the list, however more surprisingly rice came up with quite a high reading. At this point Grace had been gluten-free for quite sometime and the majority of gluten-free products are made with rice flour – finally it was starting to make sense why we couldn’t get on top of her getting better.
Around the sametime I happened to stumble across a post on a Facebook Mothers’ group about a fantastic Integrative Paediatrician, I couldn’t make the appointment quick enough.
The Doctor worked like no other I had ever come across. She told us that we needed to immediately stop all forms of dairy and basically all the other foods that had shown up in the results, it all needed to be eliminated to help her gut heal.
We were told that she had Leaky Gut Syndrome and that dairy was most likely the root cause of it.
As well as cutting out all these foods, we would need to give Grace a variety of different supplements to assist in building her gut flora up again, reduce the inflammation and to get her bowels functioning again as they were currently in a very sluggish state.
So where are we today?
Grace’s eczema has virtually disappeared and her skin texture has completely changed, her allergy shiners under her eyes have gone! Her gut is a million times better than it was and she no longer longer suffers from constant tummy discomfort and cries when she needs to poo (my poor baby!).
We still have some way to go, but for now we are thankful we are on the right track. Some weeks it’s one step forward and two steps back but this is our journey and I know we will get there to heal Gracie’s gut.