I became a mother in April and since then I have been experiencing the anxiety that comes along with being responsible for the survival, well-being, and healthy development of a tiny, helpless creature for the first time. If you’re a parent, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
When I opened up my daughter’s diaper one morning and saw the bright red bloody stool inside, I got nervous. Luckily, we already had a pediatrician appointment scheduled for a few hours later.
At the doctor’s office, she had another bloody stool which was tested to confirm that it did indeed contain blood. My daughter’s pediatrician then informed me that the most likely cause was a food allergy, probably to dairy foods and possibly to soy. Proteins from the dairy foods and soy foods in my diet were passing into my breastmilk and causing such inflammation in my baby’s intestines that they were bleeding. If I wanted to continue to breast-feed my baby, I would need to strictly eliminate these foods from my diet.
As a naturopath, I regularly prescribe trial food allergy elimination diets to my patients, so I understand the work that goes into them. Or so I thought.
I immediately eliminated dairy and soy. I also threw in gluten because it increases the “leakiness” of a leaky gut transiently after eating it even if you don’t have an immune reaction to it. The leakier my gut, the more proteins from any foods I eat can pass through my intestinal barrier and make their way into my breastmilk, making it more likely that my baby will react to those foods.
After about three weeks on this diet, there was no more blood in my baby’s stool. It’s been almost 7 weeks now and my new diet is working, thankfully. Unfortunately, I’m missing out on homemade ice cream season here in New England and boy do I miss cheese. Having a new baby at home, sometimes I just wish we could order a pizza.
I have to admit, I’m not sure how some of my patients stick to this diet long-term but I know that many of them do. My motivation is the memory of my poor baby’s bloody diapers and my knowledge of the overwhelming benefits of breastfeeding. Like most parents, I would do pretty much anything for my baby girl. Without that motivation, I don’t know if I could do it.
So, to all of you who are following allergen-free diets because your health is improved by it, I commend you for your perseverance in the face of our wheat and dairy-centric culture. It’s not easy. The upside for me, beyond the improvement in my daughter’s health, is that I’m learning great new recipes, resources, and products that make it a little easier and I’ll be sharing some of those in future posts and newsletters.