As part of our month long ‘Rub-a-Dub-Dub, Thanks for the Grub!’ series, today we are talking about food intolerance and Pips experience so far with her 1 year-old son Teddy.
Our Food Intolerance Journey (so far)…
Discovering my youngest has a food intolerance has been somewhat of a ‘learning journey’, one we are still on at the moment, as no firm diagnosis has been given, at least not yet. His first appointment with a Paediatrician is not until November. But for me, all the signs are there.
Initially, I thought my son’s food intolerance started when we introduced cows milk after he turned twelve months. Now we’re a few months on into our journey, a little more knowledgeable (I stress a ‘little’), and a bit more equipped (with a food diary). Looking back, I actually believe it all began when we started the weaning process.
Around about the time I started introducing solids, I noticed Teddy developed a loose chesty cough and runny noise, something that was lasting weeks on end. He had a dry eczema type rash on his arms and legs, and a few dry bumps on his face. He also suffered with a little diarrhoea occasionally. So I visited his GP to get him checked out.
All his vitals were checked, and he had a clear chest, well hydrated, fantastic weight (little bruiser), perfectly healthy! The dry skin was put down to his bath ointment so I changed it to a prescription emollient, advised by the doctor. As for the cough, cold and ‘runny tummy’ the GP linked it to teething. Being non the wiser and he did at the time have teeth cutting through, I left the surgery feeling happy there was no underlying issue – and just managed this phase of teething.
Fast forward the clock a few months on to when he turned twelves months, these symptoms began to escalate.
A few weeks after his first birthday, I started to introduce cows milk into his diet in the hopes I could start moving him off formulae. Something all mum’s secretly look forward to, because it signals the end of the faff that is washing and sterilising bottles. Counting levelled measures of formulae, boiling kettles, cooling bottles. Yes…I am one of those mum’s who doesn’t have the perfect ‘Prep Machine’, and instead, did it the old fashioned way.
With my first child, this transition went pretty smoothly. So as I did before, I started by introducing cows milk in small doses, such as a little in his cereal or porridge. Then my tried and tested plan was to slowly build it up to small sippy cup measures, which would then eventually replace formulae. Unfortunately for my second child Teddy, we didn’t get passed the cereal part.
WARNING: here’s the bit were I talk about poo, in it’s finest detail! So, if you are a person with somewhat of a delicate disposition… skip a few paragraphs, you have been warned!
So, the poo… immediately his poo became lose, VERY lose!
Then came the SMELLY poo…
Honestly, it was the most fowl smelling poo I have ever had the pleasure of changing, it was rank! It’s colour… illuminous yellow with brown bits!! Not to mention the texture… very lose (wet), with what looked like mucus in his nappy. Not great… and his poor little bum was red raw, no matter how much barrier cream I put on to protect his skin. Whatever this alien like poo he was passing must have been acidic and making him sore. And if that wasn’t enough, I was knee deep in it. It was constant!
It doesn’t take a genius to surmise something wasn’t right… and instinctively I knew it was the cows milk. It had to be! It was the only change in his daily routine/diet at the time. I stopped the cows milk immediately, started him on soya and booked an appointment with his GP. I explained my concerns with his GP, whether it was teething or the introduction of cows milk and the confusion of the two.
Understanding my concerns, and listening to his symptoms, the GP booked an appointment with a Paediatrician, and I was sent packing with homework (food diary). What I didn’t realise at the time, is that it was then up to us to investigate whether Teddy had a food intolerance or not. His appointment with the pediatrician wasn’t for another 19 weeks at this point. FYI he still had a runny nose and chesty cough!
Armed with my food diary, and still a little food intolerant challenged [thick] my first approach was to remove all dairy from his diet recording what he ate and documenting his bowel movements and general well-being. The replacement of dairy with soya made a huge difference within days. His poos returned to normal and the frequency reduced massively… thank god! His bum was no longer red and sore and he was so much brighter in himself.
To test the theory that it was dairy causing the issue, we introduced a little bit such as a piece of cheese or a teaspoon of yogurt, and noted in his diary any reactions he had; which he did within 24 to 48 hours. The reaction was the same, strong smelling, lose wet poos and him feeling very irritable for a couple of days. Back to the dairy free diet and he was his normal self again. Which left us feeling fairly confident he’s intolerant to dairy.
Problem solved right? Well not really, not yet at least. Maybe for a more competent person other than myself, who knew a little more about food intolerance then I did at the time. Here’s how the dairy intolerance journey continued…
I was shopping one day with a group of mummy friends in IKEA (all stories start with shopping in IKEA when it concerns mum friends, I find) and talking about Teddy being dairy intolerant. One of the girls was lactose intolerant herself, and the other had a little boy same age as Teddy who suffered with a dairy intolerance, so I was talking to experience. This is when I realised how thick I was and needed to get ‘genned up’ pretty quick!!
I’m cringing right now writing this bit…
I was asked…”So is Teddy lactose or is it the protein?” Firstly, my thoughts were ‘ehh’… there’s two?! So my response was… “Think it’s both…he’s just intolerant to dairy”, in my most confident, assertive voice! The well deserved pointed look I got which said (this girl hasn’t a clue) was enough to tell me, I need to go away and read into this!! God I’m thick sometimes… here’s what I learnt:
When the body digests lactose, it uses a substance called lactase to break it down, so it’s absorbed into the blood stream. If a person does not produce enough lactase, the remaining lactose is left in the digestive system causing gases which can lead to discomfort. Lactose intolerance is a digestive issue, which can be inherited, developed in childhood or later in life. If lactose intolerance is something that’s developed during childhood, it’s common for the child to grow out of it. Symptoms of lactose intolerance include, abdominal pain, flatulence, gurgling and nausea, according to nhs.uk.
COWS MILK PROTEIN INTOLERANT (CMPI)
CMPI is different to lactose intolerance because this condition is about how your immune system reacts, and not your digestive system. As we know, your immune system protects you from bacteria and viruses, however, for those who suffer with CMPI, the immune system reacts differently to cows milk protein which in some cases can cause injury to your stomach and intestine, according to gikids.org.
Symptoms of CMPI in infants usually develop within the first week of introducing cows milk. These can manifest through the skin and gastrointestinal system. For the skin, an infant can develop hives, rashes, eczema. Babies can also suffer with wheezing, a runny nose, facial swelling and poor growth due to the body not absorbing nutrients. Gastrointestinal signs are vomiting, abdominal pains, blood in stool and diarrhoea. Like lactose intolerance children who suffer with CMPI can also grow out of this condition – usually around the age of 6 years old, according to gikids.org.
LIGHT DAWNS ON THIS MARBLE HEAD…
Can you spot it yet? You’d be forgiven if you’ve switched off by now, or the penny still hasn’t dropped. It didn’t for me for a while to be honest so I’ll keep it short and recap it for you.
TEDDY HAS CMPI… IMO.
At least his symptoms are pointing in the direction of CMPI. Runny noise, chesty wheezy cough, eczema, diarrhoea. The only thing that doesn’t fit, is the failure to thrive. He’s not lost any weight and isn’t poorly.
However, reading that if you do suffer with CMPI, cows milk can actually damage your small intestine! What’s a mother to do! It seems the only safest way at this time of no firm diagnosis, is to treat his condition as if it was CMPI – it’s the safest option surely?
Thinking back, I’m ruling out that it could be lactose, because there is lactose in formulae and he didn’t show any symptoms of lactose intolerance. It was only until we started the weaning process he then started to develop symptoms of an intolerance.
So convinced he has CMPI, I monitor his diet like a drill sergeant. Reading ingredients looking for signs that say contains MILK. In the first weeks I stumbled around due to my lack of knowledge, and granted I’m still no expert, but I’ve seen a huge improvement in Teddy which I’m really pleased with – and that’s the point right?
What I can safely say with authority is… It’s not teething!! 🙄 Jeeze… managing a food intolerance is exhausting! Questioning, documenting and examining every bit of food for traces of dairy. Refereeing the squabbles if Teddy sees Fin-bob with something that’s probably dairy, he wants too. Always taking a pack lunch, when you’re out with the kids, just in case you cant find any dairy free products – it does happen, even in this day and age. Preparing separate meals, ensuring you’ve not used the same cutlery in your prep, in case of cross-contamination. It goes on and on…
My top tip I’ve learnt whilst on this journey… learn to scratch cook or better still invest in a slow cooker. That way you can be sure of what your child is eating, and you don’t need to spend your day in the kitchen cooking up storms.
That’s our families journey so far. I’m hoping by sharing my experience some of you can take something from it, whether its knowing the types of dairy intolerances and their differences, or reassurance that if you feel something is not right with the whole weaning and introducing cows milk process, ask questions, push if you feel the answer isn’t right, listen to your child and trust your instinct.
I’ll report back after November when we know more!