Summer 2013 In Review

It’s been quite a summer. So much going on that I took a bit of a break from blogging for the past couple of weeks. Haven’t had as much time or energy to commit to it lately. But now that it’s the last day of summer, I’d like to take a few minutes to wrap everything up. Tomorrow, another school year starts, and there will be another major shift in our daily routines as a family.

One of the joys of being a stay home mom is having ‘time off’ to take care of the kids during the summers. Early mornings rushing to get to school on time turn into lazy mornings, sleeping late, and mostly unstructured days. The kids have activities, but it’s hardly stressful because there is nowhere else they have to be. I also structure learning into their days, but all in all we have a laid-back, relaxing time during the summers. Staying home with them and being with them all day in the summers also means I’m busy with them all day and taking care of all of their needs. So, it means a busier mommy with more to worry about.

My youngest is a joy. He is eight years old, starting third grade tomorrow. He is so easy-going. From the minute he wakes up, he usually has a great attitude and does whatever he is told or asked. He is still at that innocent age and has such a nice life with both parents who live with him and love him without measure. He has been taking swimming lessons and doing Taekwondo lessons over the summer as well as having private baseball lessons. My husband coaches his baseball team, so he also has lots of daddy time playing sports.

My middle daughter is thirteen years old and is starting eighth grade this year. While parenting a teenager is certainly a tough job, luckily I’ve done it once before. She spent the summer mostly dancing, attending intensive day camps as well as evening classes. After eight years of gymnastics, age 3-11, she switched to dance but was behind the other girls her age. After two years of training and practice, she officially made the Elite competition company at her dance studio this summer. We are super proud of her and recognize all the hard work she’s put into reaching her goal of becoming a competitive dancer.

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Oh yea, and she also dyed the ends of her hair hot pink again this summer (with my help).
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My oldest daughter is twenty and is starting fifteenth grade this year as a junior in college. She recently changed her major to business accounting, and this was her first summer staying at school during the summer, living, working, and taking classes. I took two trips to visit her there this summer, and she also came home for a week. How nice! When I was her age, I also lived and worked away from home, but I didn’t also stay and take classes, so it really was a new experience. Both weekends I was there, I had a blast, but I also had my first introduction to parenting an adult child. We moved her into her new apartment, and I helped her out with several other logistical aspects of her young adult life. It really made me realize how much time and energy I spend running other peoples’ lives. Just being away from the two little kids for the weekend left me with a feeling I wasn’t used to, and then of course, all the different ways of mothering an adult child were new experiences to me. I’ve never helped one of my kids move and decorate apartments, made a resume, or helped with the logistics involved with finding a job and living independently as an adult. She and her fellow classmates are living a lifestyle where they have almost everything provided for them, and all they have to worry about is themselves and their classes. It’s an amazing window of time on the verge of adulthood.

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My visits both made me reflect on my experiences as a twenty year old and on the kind of mother I am trying to be. I aim to be a different kind of mom than I had. I want my kids to be able to talk to me about anything going on in their lives. Kids are going to do what they want to anyway, so I would rather accept that and guide them than to hide my head in the sand and be an unapproachable parent. I would rather have open communication with my kids so I can try to help them navigate the waters of life. However, knowing what the kids are doing can also be quite stressful for moms. We worry about safety and well-being. We want our kids making safe, smart decisions that usually come from a lifetime of experience and a brain that is fully developed; two things that twenty year olds don’t possess. So we worry. Then we communicate and brainstorm solutions, so I think we are on the right track. I loved having the chances to get to know her friends and be part of her life for a few days!

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I’ve had a really rough summer with my food allergies. I got diagnosed with gluten sensitivity in May and have been off gluten three months now. But, I keep accidentally getting corn in my diet, ‘corn poisoning’ as I call it. I haven’t been diagnosed with a corn allergy, but I react and get sick every single time I have it, so I think allergy or not, I really need to completely eliminate it from my diet. This summer, it was a margarita (corn in the lemon/lime mixer), a gluten free pizza (corn in the dough) and a protein smoothie powder (xanthan gum – which is corn – used as an ingredient). Each time, I get sick for a couple of weeks, so put those three together and you can see that I’ve been feeling pretty sick all summer unfortunately. I’ve had such bad swelling and eczema that I finally saw my allergist the other day and got a steroid shot to make it all subside. When I have reactions to foods, my stomach hurts, I get joint and muscle pain, and I have a bad rash of eczema. So, it makes me really grumpy. Unfortunately, I’ve felt grumpy for a long time recently.

We did do some fun things too: we took our annual beach vacation in Destin, Florida. I’ve written about this place and the beach in general before. I love what the beach does to my soul. I wish we could live at the beach, but I’m thankful we get to take a yearly trip.

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I also went to some fun concerts. My husband and I saw Kid Rock, and my daughter (13) and I saw One Direction. Great times.

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Last week, we went to the Perot Museum of Nature and Science as a family. We bought a membership, so we can go back anytime we want to for the next year. There are also special events and other perks for members. I was fascinated by the architecture and impressed by all the interactive activities. I especially loved seeing the dinosaur bones, gems/minerals, and the human body exhibits. There were even slices of real people, one man and one woman, who had donated their bodies to science. They were embalmed, frozen, sliced and displayed in plastic with a light behind them. It was FASCINATING to say the least. We could see all the anatomical parts and compare the younger, healthier female to the older, less healthy male.

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I continued guitar lessons over the summer, and my son also started taking weekly lessons. We are learning “Carol of the Bells” to play together at Christmas. He loves the lessons and can’t wait to start rocking out! I am still working on improvising and have been working on a couple hard songs this summer: “Uncle John’s Band” by the Grateful Dead and “Over the Hills and Far Away” by Led Zeppelin.

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Watching the MTV VMAs on the last night of summer. Mine was Miley Cyrus “Can’t Stop.” “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke was my second favorite.

What was your favorite song this summer? How was your summer?

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Gluten Sensitivity and Celiac Disease

Entero Lab Food Sensitivity Testing

After a lifetime of symptoms, years of elimination diets and a false negative blood test (in 2009), I’ve finally been diagnosed with a gluten sensitivity after taking a stool test and gene test from enterolab.com Apparently, the stool tests are more sensitive than blood tests and picked up on my increased levels of antibodies in my gut. I also have a double copy of the genes for gluten sensitivity; that means one copy of the gene from each parent. Now that I have a firm diagnosis, it’s easier for me to follow a strict and permanent gluten-free diet.

I heard of this website and these tests from two doctors: my gynecologist and my chiropractor. Besides chronic pain and multiple surgeries as well as digestive and skin symptoms, my hormones also went out of whack. My chiropractor discovered that with applied kinesiology testing and recommended the gluten sensitivity test as well as getting my hormones tested through my gynecologist. I was pleasantly surprised when she recommended the same website for the same test. My thyroid, cortisol, and testosterone all were out of normal limits. The lab is overseen by an M.D. and after two doctors suggesting the tests to me, I felt confident in trying them. I went with Panel B (stool and gene testing for gluten sensitivity and celiac disease).

Luckily, I don’t have the genes for celiac disease, although the only way to really know if I’ve developed the disease is to have an endoscopy. In celiac disease, the villi in the intestines get broken down and then nutrients can’t be absorbed properly, leading to a whole host of other problems in the body. In the endoscopy, they biopsy a piece of the small intestine to see how much damage to the villi there is. I’m still considering getting one, but I’m not sure if the treatment is any different. Meaning, if I have celiac disease I’m pretty sure the treatment is just to stop eating gluten, which is the same treatment for gluten sensitivity.

I’ve completed about eight weeks of a gluten-free diet again after going off the wagon for about a year. In 2009, I started elimination diets and found that I react to wheat, corn/sugar, and eggs so I took them all out of my diet, lost twenty pounds and felt great. Then I got really frustrated not being able to eat like a normal person. I saw an allergist in the spring of 2012 for another opinion, and she told me to eat whatever I wanted and we would try to manage the symptoms. A year later in the spring of 2013, I had gained back all twenty pounds, felt swollen, bloated, rashy and sick. That’s when I found out my hormones were imbalanced and started seeing the chiropractor at a natural wellness center. About eight weeks ago, I started seeing a dietician also because I knew I needed to clean up my diet again, but I needed help in being more prepared with “clean” foods. When I’m not prepared, I reach for the wrong foods and then get sick. She told me she thought I sounded like a classic case of celiac disease and that I should start immediately eliminating gluten from my diet again. A few weeks later, I got the positive test results.

It’s interesting because the dietician doesn’t think corn is a common allergy and told me to try some of the gluten-free products that contain corn and sugar to see what would happen. Over these past eight weeks, I’ve had some gluten-free cookies and pizza crusts, some corn chips and corn tortillas with Mexican foods. Every time, I get bloated and sick. So, when I followed up with her recently, she told me to go gluten-free, corn-free, and egg-free for six months and then try reintroducing corn and egg one at a time. There is a possibility there has been so much damage in my gut that I can’t digest correctly and over time it might heal enough to where I could tolerate some of those foods again. If I can ever eat corn and eggs again, it will open up a whole lot more choices of foods for me.

The hardest part for me is when I’m traveling (like this week, I’ve been on a beach vacation) or just eating out in general. It’s amazing how many foods have gluten and corn and eggs. I have to be very selective and ask for food that is PLAIN! No sauces, no marinades, no spices, and that means lots of salads, grilled chicken, burgers with no buns, rice, and potatoes (whole, not mashed). It gets boring at times, and yes it is very frustrating not to be able to eat what the rest of my family eats.

I’m considering ordering the test for corn allergy (along with chicken, potatoes and other nightshades) but since it is an expensive test, for now I am just going to avoid corn since there is a clear pattern of gastric distress every time I eat it. Allergy or intolerance, I know it doesn’t agree with me. Since sugar is in the corn family, many people who react to corn also react to sugar, and I seem to fall in that category. There is no protein in sugar, so it’s more of an intolerance than allergy. But think lactose intolerance (I have that too), the symptoms are the same. For some reason I don’t process sugars right.

If you are suffering from any of these symptoms, I highly recommend you visit the website link above and order the tests for yourself. They will send your results to your doctor, who can then help you interpret and understand the results and advise you further.

Thanks for reading this entry. Peace out!

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Allergy Update

“I’ve never seen your mom order the pizza before. I even brought lemons for her salad dressing” a familiar waiter at one of my favorite restaurants said to my daughter the other day. I guess that means I am a regular: he is used to my order (appetizer-caprese salad hold the vinegar, fresh basil instead of basil sauce, dinner-Mediterranean salad add grilled chicken no feta no olives no dressing, olive oil and lemons instead). I love eating at this restaurant because they actually have a few items I can eat on my no wheat, corn, eggs, and sugar diet. The problem is they also have brick oven pizzas that are really hot, fresh, thin crusts, homemade sauce, and have delectable toppings. I know this because someone in my family always orders one, and I almost always sneak a bite or two. This time was different. This time I decided to get the ‘Super Mario’ the equivalent of a meat lover’s pizza. I used to eschew such foods because of the belly ache and rash that ensued.

It’s been a while since I’ve written about eczema, my nemesis. The first allergist I saw was on Virginia, and he explained that allergies show themselves three ways: hay fever, asthma, and eczema/hives. Our immune systems are like buckets, and allergens full up the bucket until it overflows, and we have symptoms.

Up until a few months ago I was getting allergy care from my ENT (shots and antihistamines) and dermatologist (ointments for rashes). I’ve been diagnosed with multiple allergies, to environmental stuff like dust, dust mites, mold, cats, trees and grasses. Shots and nasal sprays helped and continue to help with the hay fever, but I kept getting eczema and hives. I got patch tested and was diagnosed with allergies to nickel, fragrance, and several other chemicals omnipresent in our society. I gave my house a makeover for dust mites and chemicals. I got my eyes tattooed for eye liner and switched to chemical free makeup, shampoo and conditioner (which are all very hard to find). Still I got eczema and hives.

I was tested for food allergies then told the tests are not reliable, and that elimination diets are the only way to know for certain. So I went on a major elimination diet starting in 2009 and discovered reactions (both digestive and rashes) to wheat, corn, sugar, and eggs. My skin clears up when I eat clean, but boy is it hard to eat that clean!

In April I started seeing a new allergist. I told her I wanted a tenth opinion because it’s so frustrating to be me. I explained my long history with allergies and treatments, and vented my frustrations about not being able to eat like a normal person. Her philosophy is to help people like me learn to live ‘out of the bubble’ by identifying intolerances vs allergies and by managing symptoms. Since I don’t swell up and drop to the floor with anaphylaxis, I think mine are intolerances, not true allergies. This is a good thing. Although the fear of the face rash keeps me from eating whatever I want.

Friends who suffer from eczema-listen up, this is the best advice I’ve received so far. It’s called the ‘seal and heal’ technique. Take several baths a day. She said her worst cases take three baths a day. She told me to take two a day (I had blisters and cracking skin). Then apply ointments while the skin is still wet. I use proactiv on my face and triamcinilone on my body. Bathing (vs showering) allows your body to absorb water at a deep level. Think about it, drowning victims are bloated when they are pulled from the water. Ourbbodies absorb water through our pores. Applying moisture and ointments with wet skin seals in the moisture from the bath. I only use a towel on my hair now, and the result is that my eczema has basically cleared up. The dishydrotic eczema on my hands and feet comes back periodically, and I revert to bathing and medicating.

While I’ve been able to eat ‘out of the bubble’ and not have any eczema erupt on my face, the digestive issues remain. Because of my intolerances, when I eat gluten and sugar I get really bloated. Since April, I’ve put on a solid ten pounds. It’s bad news but I’m also happy to have enjoyed some normal food. Whenever I feel uncomfortable with the extra pounds, I remember how good those cheeseburgers tasted, how cheesy the pizza was, and how much I hated eating ‘in a bubble.’

The jury is still out, but I think I might prefer the frustration of not eating like a normal person to the bloated heavy feeling I have after eating what everybody else eats. Let’s face it, the American diet is terrible!

June has arrived

If it seems that my blog is monopolized by the subject of ALLERGIES, well that is because I suffer from a zillion allergies and they monopolize my world. Besides being a mom and tutor, I am pretty much the queen of allergies. It seems like I am always one step behind them too, trying to figure out what is it that is causing my symptoms now?? The past few nights have been awful, waking up with that roof of the mouth/sinus/deep inside my ears/head itching that won’t go away. My eyes are crusty in the corners. I have hives on my arms and legs. My lips itch. I can’t stop sneezing lately.

For the environmental stuff (dust, dust mites, trees/grasses, molds, cats, mildew etc.) I give myself two shots in the legs just about every week. I take allegra and use nasonex. For the chemical allergies (fragrances and 4 pages of chemicals) I try avoiding everything although that’s pretty hard with people spraying sunscreen and perfume and don’t get me started on guys who wear too much cologne. Foods? Well I know I’m allergic to corn and wheat and sugar since corn is related to cane sugar. I think I’m allergic to yeast but I don’t want to admit it because I love wine and yeast is used in wine making. I think that’s my next step – eliminate wine for two weeks. That should make life more interesting right?

It sure must be nice to be a normal person who doesn’t have to worry about any of these things…

Today is June 1. The kids get out of school at lunch time on June 3. Time flies. Ready for summer!

Helpful Links for Corn Allergies

http://www.cornallergens.com/list/corn-allergen-list.php

http://www.cookingallergyfree.com/allergens/allergen_listing/corn_allergy

Food Allergies

A few of my friends have asked me for information regarding food allergies. So, I wanted to blog about it to let everybody know everything that I know. I have spent years figuring out what I’m allergic to and how to avoid the allergens.

First of all, I discovered my food allergies because of my eczema. I get really bad eczema on my lips, cheeks, eyes, forehead, neck, elbows, and knees. I have been through all the testing available to humankind and found out that food allergy testing is unreliable. There are false positives and false negatives all the time. So why bother with testing? That is the topic of another blog post. Today’s post will focus on what to do next. So the testing says you aren’t allergic to foods, but you still get eczema. Itching, painful eczema is nobody’s friend, and it’s time you do something about it!

The top five allergens are wheat, corn, soy, eggs, and yeast (in no particular order). To determine if you are allergic to one of these foods, you have to take one at a time and eliminate it from your diet for two weeks. See if there are any changes in your symptoms. I get eczema and I also get a belly ache. I started with wheat and then went to corn and then to yeast. I am allergic to all three. When I have any, I get a bad belly ache and a bad rash that lasts for a few days. When I leave them alone, my rashes subside.

OK, so I’ve found the culprits, now what? I have to eliminate these things from my diet completely. That is easier said than done in today’s food market. So many things are pre processed. If they are pre processed you can pretty much cross them off your list. Corn and wheat hide under other synonyms like maltodextrin, modified food starch, xanthan gum, dextrose etc. You have to eat whole, real foods. I will follow up with a list of whole foods and meal plans you can follow.

my kids and my food allergy update

I woke up late this morning (love sleeping in on the weekends) and cutie pie Thomas announced to me that today he has a date. When I asked with whom, he informed me his pillow (my king sized pillow that he always steals and he decided to draw a happy face on)…and not only is it a date..they are also getting married! As a consolation, he told me I could be his second wife. Nice of him to include me.

Zoe helped Joe with the dishes this morning. She is pretty good at emptying the dishwasher (Sierra’s job) but doesn’t like to load it. With Sierra being gone all week, we’ve needed some extra help getting all the chores done. I took Zoe to get a haircut yesterday to get it out of the way before my surgery (I found out from the dr. he doesn’t want me to drive for six weeks – ugh) and before school starts in a few weeks.

Sierra comes home in two days…I miss her tons but I get it that she needs to spend time w/ her dad and grandparents. I have to share.

OK, now for my food allergy updates. The blood tests all came back negative, just like the skin tests a few years ago. It just goes to show they are not reliable (which the food allergist explained to me after charging me $350 for the skin testing). I don’t know about the gluten intolerance but I do know that I get a rash whenever I mess up and have any wheat or corn products. So I will stick with eliminating them from my diet despite the test results. Just the other night, Joe was trying to be helpful and picked up a yummy rotisserie chicken for dinner. He put it in a brown rice tortilla w/ some lettuce and tomato and cheese and he forgot about mayo having corn syrup and put mayo on it too! I just can’t seem to escape it. It seems like I am always messing up and having a little somehow. It takes a few days for the rashes to go down.

Food Allergies

Can I say I am amazed at how many things I can no longer eat without the risk of being rashy? I’m not talking just any rash. I get rashy (eczema) on my lips, cheeks, eyes, forehead (basically my whole face) and neck. Upon the advice of my allergy shot nurse I started an elimination diet and took wheat and then corn out of my diet for two weeks at a time only to discover that the rashes magically went away. This is after an entire lifetime of symptoms. When I was growing up, my friends called me “Susie Chap Stick” because I always used chap stick on my itchy rashy lips. Only now do I also know that I was also allergic to the chemicals in the chap stick I was using. From several chemical patch tests it became apparent I am allergic to fragrances as well as several pages worth of chemicals that are found in fragrance free products.

So far here is a list of things I can’t eat anymore:

Wheat Products:

bread

tortillas

pasta

crackers

soy sauce

beef jerky (wheat starch)

beer

whiskey (not that I was a big fan or anything)

anything with Modified Food Starch, which is wheat based (like alot of lunchmeats)

most gravies

MorningStar Farm Products (which I love) like soy sausages, blackbean/veggie burgers, and taco salad crumbles (fake ground beef)…I have been eating these products all the time for years thinking they are a healthy cholesterol alternative to meat.

vinegar

Corn Products:

Corn (duh)

corn tortillas

corn chips

anything w/ corn syrup (like sodas, gatorade, salad dressings, condiments like ketchup and mayo)

anything w/ corn starch (including some lunchmeats, enchilada sauce, hot dogs, canned chili)

popcorn

So far I have found some good alternatives thank God. If I eat at home, I can cook things like pizza with rice crust, rice noodles, potatoes, and just today I baked my first successful loaf of ric bread. It doesn’t taste exactly the same but it’s not bad, much better than the store bought stuff.