About a month ago some patches of dry, reddish skin showed up on my son’s belly. At first I didn’t think much of it, but over the course of a few weeks the patches multiplied and my husband and I realized it was probably eczema. It makes sense, my husband has eczema and it can be a genetic issue, but we were still somewhat disappointed and felt bad for our itchy little boy.
Any new parenting challenge for me means research. After reading about all the ways to care for eczema on the outside through proper skin care, I started looking to see what we could do from the inside out.
Enter the elimination diet, a process where the person having symptoms eliminates certain foods for a period of time and then reintroduces each food one at a time to determine which is causing a reaction. An elimination diet is a common non-invasive way to figure out food related health issues.
One of the most overwhelming parts for me was deciding which foods to eliminate (since my son is still nursing both of us needed to go on the diet.) There are the Big Eight (milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybean) which is a good place to start. But since Henry, my son, has never had any severe reactions, and in the interest of not having to reintroduce eight different foods later on, we both eliminated gluten, dairy and eggs on June 5.
Before getting into meal planning and shopping, it was important for me to have people I could talk with about the elimination diet. My mom is on a similar diet for different reasons and a few friends have already done an elimination diet while breastfeeding, so they were (and remain) very helpful in this process. So far the diet hasn’t been impossible, but I don’t think I’d be able to do it without any support. If you don’t know anyone personally who’s done an elimination diet, reach out and find a community online (message me on Twitter!)
While I was still in the research stage, an elimination diet seemed so complicated but it has actually had the reverse effect. Meal planning and shopping are now quite simplified because I’m only buying proteins, produce and a few convenience items (like gluten-free bread or non-dairy ice cream.) It has also made me become a bit more creative with seasonings and cooking methods. I’ve never enjoyed vegetables as much as I do now.
That said, if I see the chocolate-covered pretzels my husband has on the shelf, I will want to devour the whole bag. So I sent those pretzels off to work with him and had him hide the remaining items I can’t eat.
Being on an elimination diet has also drastically cut down how much I’m are eating out. When I do eat out I go somewhere with great salad options or a Mexican restaurant (corn tortillas + meat + salsa = win.) Be sure to read menus ahead of time if you can and let your server know what you can’t eat. Everywhere I’ve been has been very accommodating.
If you’re thinking an elimination diet might work for you or your kids, get in touch with your medical provider and do some research of your own. As long as you’re eating enough, an elimination diet isn’t a bad thing- it’s a way to discover more about your health and eat a lot more veggies while you’re at it.