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Posts tagged ‘allergies’

Allergies

I have dealt with seasonal allergies off and on all my life. The funny thing is how they come and go.

I used to be allergic to cats. Until our cat died. A few years later someone gave me a cat for my birthday, and I had no problems at all.

I lived in ragweed country for 5 years with no issues. Then I moved away and came back a few years later to visit… and was totally incapacitated until Mom came back from the drug store with some OTC meds that made the rest of my visit much happier!

And now it’s happened again. I’m not sure if it the lack of sleep or the post-pregnancy hormones, but suddenly I am fighting itchy, watery eyes, runny nose, and sometimes sore throat. At first I thought I had a cold, but if it were a cold, I’d have mended by now. Instead, I continue to be miserable. Oh, sure, the intensity varies, but right now my eyelids are swollen and my eyes red and my nose irritated from the dripping and rubbing. And it’s affecting how I relate to my family. My tolerance for noise has dropped, and with my eyes itching, I can’t read to my kids (not to mention that the vibrations of my voicebox make my nose feel worse, like they are loosening up what’s inside, making it more likely to drip. And who wants to interrupt a story 50 times with “Aaaaaaah, I need a tissue!“?

Last night was especially miserable. I even posted on FB that I wished I were sick–because a cold would clear up in a few days! Then I decided to research natural allergy remedies. And one thing jumped out at me.

Allergies are related to the immune system. The stronger the immune system is, the less likely one is to suffer from allergies. This I already knew, which is why I suspect that my poor sleep lately (brought on by the arrival of a baby to our home) is a major contributor to my allergies.

But food allergies are also affected by the immune system. And the more allergies one is exposed to, the more likely one is to react. In my case, I have a mild allergy to wheat. It makes me itchy a few hours after I eat it. It’s bad enough to encourage me to make wheatless meals, but not bad enough to make me give it up entirely. However, it very well could be that wheat could be making my environmental allergies worse. And right now, I’m miserable enough that if I have to give up wheat to do it, I will–at least for a while! I can make rye and GF bread, eat rice pasta, and just avoid other sources.

There is another option too. I recently tried some raw sprouted wheat on a day that I had no other wheat, and I didn’t get itchy. So I may be able to get away with sprouting wheat, drying it in the dehydrator, and grinding it. Or, if I ever get a good food processor, grinding the moist sprouted berries into dough. But I don’t have a food processor, and I won’t grind more flour until what I already have is used up. Good thing my husband just bought me a new bread machine!

So wheat free it is. I want to be a happy mom, and I can’t really be happy if I’m miserable!

I can almost hear you saying, “What is yuca?” (pronounced YOU-kuh). It is a very interesting root found in many tropical countries, from Africa to the Carribbean, Central and South America, many South Pacific islands, and parts of Asia. I learned to like it when my husband introduced me to it while we were living in Texas.

It is a very starchy, fibrous root with a kind of bark-like skin and white flesh. It cooks similar to a potato, but it is a bit drier and has a rather bland flavor. You may have heard of its other name, cassava, as it is called in many English speaking countries, such as Jamaca. It is also the root from which tapioca is made.

The other night, my husband found this site that talks about many of the properties of yuca, and we were surprised to find that it is a good source of calcium, as well as anti-inflammatory.

My son is allergic to potatoes, which makes buying gluten-free mixes and products virtually impossible. However, tapioca flour and starch can substitute very well for potato flour and starch in GF recipes, and he is not allergic to it at all.

In Texas, we used to buy it for about $1 a pound. Not terribly cheap, but still affordable. We had to remove the skin and the ends, and I learned the hard way to chop it open in the store to check for pure white flesh (instead of flesh with gray lines in it). Sometimes I would find a lot that was good, and then I would skin it all and freeze whatever we didn’t plan on using in the next few days. It could be taken from the freezer and put directly into hot water to cook, and it tasted almost the same as fresh.

Then we moved to Oregon, and the yuca here is almost $3 a pound. So we never buy it. Not to mention that I doubt it will be good quality up here. But my husband found frozen shredded yuca at a Philippino market for about $1.25 per 1 lb bag. He used about two pounds to make a yuca casserole for Christmas dinner (yuca on top and bottom with seasoned veggie burger filling), but it’s a bit expensive to use for the family on a regular basis, and takes a bit of work. However, we discovered that if we took some of the yuca (which is so finely shredded that it is more like a thick batter than anything else), added some salt, and pan fried it in small patties, Manny would devour them. He’s been known to eat more than half a pound of it at one sitting!

Lately poor Manny, who is definitely allergic to eggs, milk, and all nuts and seeds except flax and hemp, has become more and more sensitive to beans. I can’t just feed him grains–most of them aren’t a complete protein, and even if they were, the quality of protein isn’t enough for a growing child. He won’t eat greens (and with the limited amount of food he can eat, it’s next to impossible to hide greens in anything), so using greens to supplement his protein isn’t really a viable option. So we decided to try a little turkey. Daddy bought some at the health food store today. He chopped it fine, mixed it with the yuca, made the patties, and cooked them with a little palm oil (which oxidizes slower than olive oil, is flavorless, and healthier than canola oil). We started with about 2 ounces of turkey and half a pound of yuca. I’m not sure how many patties he ate, but there were only 2 two-inch patties left when he was full.

Turkey isn’t something we’ll give him every day. What we bought today cost over $2, and I’m not positive it was organic  or free range (it didn’t say it was; he bought it pre-cooked and sliced in the deli, not raw). I can buy similar turkey from Azure Standard, only it IS organic and free-range, and costs over $6 for each 6-oz package (just under $6 each if I buy a 10-pack). I figure buying it pre-cooked is better, so I don’t have to deal with raw meat in my kitchen (a friend made that suggestion, and I totally agree with her!).

As a third-generation vegetarian, feeding meat to one of my kids is something I really hesitate to do. But we don’t seem to have a lot of options right now. I really hope that he will outgrow many of his allergies eventually, and in the mean time he really needs to avoid anything that makes him more itchy. If giving him a little turkey now and again will make that easier, then so be it.

Now if we could just move to a tropical country where yuca and other non-potato roots are staples in the diet… Hey, there’s no law that says I can’t wish, is there? :)

By ozgurmulazimoglu on Flickr

Yes, that is right. I seem to have developed a wheat allergy at the age of 29. Maybe some of you know I just turned 30 last month, and I didn’t actually figure out it was wheat until about a week ago, but the allergy has been developing for the past few months now.

Let me back up. A few months ago, I started using Triamcinalon, a medium-level steroid cream on my son. Sometime thereafter I noticed that I would often get itchy right before bed in a small area, like my calf or lower back or wherever it was. For a while I thought it was that I was reacting to the medication. Maybe if I got some gloves to use while I put it on, I would be better. But I never got the gloves, and I only itched for a few minutes in the evening, so I wasn’t very motivated to do anything about it.

But gradually it got worse. I started being mildly itchy during the day, and the itchy spells in the evening became more intense and widespread. I would find myself scratching off and on for half an hour while trying to go to sleep. I also had pretty much figured out that it wasn’t the Triamcinalon, because some nights he didn’t need it, and some nights Daddy put it on, and yet I was still itchy. But I wasn’t always as itchy to the same degree every night–it would vary somewhat.

I didn’t want to admit it, so I ignored it for a while, but finally it started getting too much to ignore. I was breaking out with these little bumps wherever I was itchy, and when I scratched, it would raise welts and even get hot sometimes (though that only lasted for a few minutes and disappeared as the itch died away). Finally I decided I must be allergic to something. I suspected sugar at first (I have a gargantuan sweet tooth–which is shrinking, by the way), but I still itched even when I completely avoided it. So I figured it couldn’t be that. My next suspect was wheat.

Now, you must understand something about our diet. We don’t have the typical American diet by any means. We can go anywhere from 1-3 days without eating wheat for breakfast or lunch. We don’t eat bread with every meal. In fact, bread usually only gets eaten for sandwiches or as toast for supper. And since I don’t eat supper, there were days I didn’t eat wheat at all. So I started paying attention to how much I itched every evening, and taking note of whether I had had wheat that day or not.

And I definitely noticed a pattern. The days I didn’t get any wheat I itched very little. The night I itched the worst was the day that I had biscuits for breakfast and cornbread (with wheat flour) for lunch. And thus I diagnosed my wheat allergy. Or sensitivity, or whatever it is.

So things are going to be different around here. I’m not cutting wheat out 100% just yet–with my son’s allergies and everything I’m trying to do, that just isn’t something I am ready to do yet. But like I said, we already have many wheat-free days. So I’m going to take one recipe at a time and figure out how to substitute either the recipe or the wheat in it. Last night I took my souffle recipe and used oats instead of breadcrumbs. It turned out okay, except I think I need to increase the salt slightly, or add something else, since oats have less flavor than breadcrumbs. The texture was good, though.

I am also doing an experiment with kamut, and soon will try spelt. They are both related to wheat, but some people with a wheat allergy can eat them. So today I made cornbread (we eat it every week here!), and used freshly ground kamut flour in it. They didn’t raise quite as high as they would have with pastry flour (what I usually use), but they tasted just as good. I have also made it with barley flour, but I wanted to test the kamut. I have also made biscuits with 100% kamut flour, and they turned out beautifully. I haven’t had any wheat since Saturday, and I have been less itchy every night. If I get more itchy tonight, I’ll know I can’t eat kamut either. If I don’t, then maybe I can use it in place of wheat in some things. If not, I know I can make that recipe with barley flour (my mom does it that way), so at least I will be able to continue to make this family favorite!

I got a bread machine recipe for spelt bread, and I can get spelt flour at the grocery store. So I am going to try spelt soon. If I can handle kamut and spelt, I don’t think I’ll even miss wheat. If I can’t… well, then I guess I’ll have to get more creative!

Have you ever had an allergy show up in your adulthood? Please tell me about it! I would love to know how you dealt with it, how you adjusted. And check back soon for the results of today’s kamut test!