This month we have a guest article from one of our members, Jenn Spangenberg.
A flashback to summarize …
When worse came to worst, Karley was just three years old and we spent the night in the ER trying to figure out what was going on. After X-Rays and blood work, IVs, poking and prodding, we were sent home to search for ourselves looking for the root cause of her rapidly growing physical symptoms. They were so bad that she could not get off the couch, her belly swelled up like she was pregnant, she rolled up in a ball on the couch because of her pain.
We praised the Lord that nothing immediately life threatening was causing these symptoms as the ER doctors told us, but we were so confused and frustrated because we did not know where to go from there. We decided after taking the advise of some close friends to take all gluten out of her diet and she improved. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and oats. She improved, but still something was wrong.
By the time Ava could start eating solid foods we ended up in the ER after giving her a small piece of egg. It was one of the scariest things I’ve ever faced, holding my limp, pale, gagging one year old in my arms. After that incident we got Karley tested for food allergies.
Once we received the news that Karley was allergic to twelve different foods we knew a long road was ahead of us. She does not have an anaphylactic shock response; she has a delayed allergic response meaning once food is ingested it can cause physical symptoms anytime in a two week period. We have been conditioned to think of allergies in a very limited capacity. When many of us think “allergy” the first symptoms that come to mind are runny eyes, stuffed up nose, sinus problems, skin rashes, or in more drastic cases, anaphylactic shock. But allergies are much more extensive than we think.
Over the course of months and years, whether you recognize them or not, allergens slowly weaken the immune system so that the body cannot defend itself from foreign invaders and tissue degeneration.
How does this happen? When an allergen is first consumed, the immune system builds up its army of white blood cells (WBC) but as the exposure continues, the body is unable to maintain the WBC count required to maintain a healthy immune. This is when we see the population of WBC decrease until exposure to the allergen is stopped. This weakness in immune can lead to multiple symptoms (generally symptoms that you wouldn’t think could be caused by an allergen) including hyperactivity, nervousness, belching, abdominal pain, acne, impotence, obesity, bed-wetting, anemia, fatigue, and heartburn.
Generally speaking, an allergy is a result of various insults to the body combined with an individual’s genetics and their personal metabolic state. Since no single cause can be found, allergic symptoms are often ignored or attributed to physical illness, mental or emotional stress.
1. Heredity: not the specific allergy, but the predisposition to allergy is passed from parent to child. A child is between 50-100% likely to develop an allergy if 1 or both of their parents struggle with allergy themselves.
2. Infant formula: think of a baby’s digestive system like a roll of cheesecloth. Anything that is introduced to their diet will seep through the cheesecloth into their bodily systems. Because mother’s milk is high in probiotics and immune strengthening nutrients, it’s beneficial for the child’s body and completely natural for these nutrients to pass their intestinal walls. But with formula the baby will be developing antigens against the proteins in the formula at a very young age.
3. Foods: we all have our favorites so naturally, we eat them daily. Our body develops the enzymes needed to breakdown our foods. If we’re eating the same ingredient day in and day out, our body starts to run low on the enzymes needed to breakdown the food. Without the enzymes to properly digest the food, our body is unable to assimilate the proteins, leading to undigested foods potentially being passed through our intestinal walls (similar to a baby formula allergy development explained above).
4. Biochemical availability: All of us require a personalized level of nutrients depending on our metabolic processes and emotional stress levels (the more we stress the more nutrients we need). If our nutrient needs aren’t met, our organs’ ability to function at peak performance is sacrificed, and other organs and systems must compensate for the one that’s stressed. As malnutrition continues we lose the ability to function optimally, leading to an overall weakened immune.
5. Dental fillings: mercury is one of many toxins capable of contributing to chemical overload in the body, blocking enzymes and leading to degenerative disease, including allergies.
6. Toxic load: the more toxins we have in our diet and in the world around us (pollution, food colors, flavors, pesticides, and herbicides), the higher our toxic load. Our toxic load overburdens our body’s detoxification pathways, making it challenging for our body to handle regular processes.
7. Chronic infections
After removing all the allergens out of Karley’s diet she improved. I also was tested for food allergies because of the physical symptoms I’ve been experiencing since the birth of Karley. Weighing in that both of my daughters have food allergies maybe I do too. My results surprisingly came back as similar to Karley’s.
We changed recipes, shop with great precision, and make chicken nuggets with bean powder. Life is full of experiments, mistakes, challenges and substitutions. We try things that work and things that don’t work. Some new food we can manage to get down, and some make it directly to the trash can.
Will this ever get any easier? Some days are quite difficult as we are excluded from sharing in dinner out, birthday parties or even some family gatherings. Even eating in Junior Church is a prepared menu. I have found that the cereal Kix is a safe snack for children’s classes. It is basically just corn and sugar. We think ahead, plan often, it is all a bit overwhelming. What happens if I don’t feel good and don’t have the energy to do all of this? What happens if someone gives our girls something they cannot eat? Will we ever eat pizza again?
And then, God reminds me that we can still eat, we are working towards getting better, there are many people with much bigger health issues. The strength we need is available through God’s word and His encouragement. We all have struggles, and God gives us each different trials. Maybe we are going through this in order that one day we might be able to help someone else. Or maybe, we are growing strong through all of this. After all the black bean flour, gluten-free, and highly expensive choices that still have no taste, we are still blessed to have another day and count our blessings. Our two little precious girls are God’s gift and we will work hard to continue to raise them as God leads. We are blessed to be living in the age we are. I praise the Lord for Wegmans – without their allergy friendly products I believe we would need to stick with fruit, veggies and meat. I’ve learned all about teff flour, arrowroot, guar gum, xanthan gum, egg free replacer, etc, etc, etc. Honestly the first few months were devastating, the Lord has carried us through and He shows me ways to be creative. A key is planning ahead!!
The Lord knows and carries us each and every day. One day there may be strawberry cream pie on my plate, until then pass the kale chips and black beans, please.
Have not I commanded thee?
Be strong and of good courage;
be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed:
for the Lord thy God is with thee withersoever thou goest.
I’ve been meditation on Joshua 1:9 lately, realizing that it is a command. We are to be strong and of good courage being not afraid, being not dismayed (lowering of one’s spirits, make downhearted, discouragement, feeling of despair in the face of obstacles, alarm, a sudden or complete loss of courage in the face of trouble or danger, to terrify, to render lifeless, struck with fear…). For the Lord our God is with us, wherever we go or whatever we are going through!
Here is a snack recipe we enjoy:
Gluten Free “Goldfish” Crackers
4 oz. Cheddar Cheese, shredded (For a dairy-free, soy-free version, try using Daiya Cheddar Shreds…I also added a bit more cheese, about 4 1/2 oz.)
4 Tbs. Butter (for dairy-free: use Earth Balance buttery spread)
3/4 c. Cornstarch
1/4 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. Xanthan Gum
1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
2 Tbs. Milk(for dairy-free use your favorite substitute, I used a splash more so when I rolled out the dough with additional cornstarch it wouldn’t become too dry)
Topping: salt, dried herbs or spices if desired
Preheat oven to 400 F. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
Combine all the ingredients, except the milk, in a medium size-bowl. Mix until the mixture resembles a fine crumb. Add the milk and beat well.
On a lightly greased surface (I sprinkled the surface with cornstarch instead), pat or roll the dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into 3/4 inch squares or another small shape that you like. You can also cut the dough into larger round or square shapes, just extend the cooking time.
Prick the tops of the crackers with a fork and sprinkle lightly with your desired topping (I just used salt). Bake on the prepared baking sheet until golden brown and crisp, approximately 10 minutes (Mine came out perfect at 8 minutes with my convection oven). The crackers will be light and crispy, although barely browning at the edges. The bottom of the crackers will have a bit more color.