Wednesday

Has our Food Changed?

That's a good question. The first time we really began giving more thought to the food we ate (or that I ate at least) was after our 2nd child was born. From about 6 weeks on I noticed that she was very fussy at times and would scream in pain. Her face would also break out in an itchy rash. I couldn't figure out what was going on with her and began asking other moms if they knew what it might be. Some suggested eliminating dairy from my diet (I was breastfeeding). I figured I would give it a shot, but after trying it for a short time it didn't seem like it was helping. I began researching on the internet to see if I could get some answers and found that I needed to completely eliminate it from my diet for 2 WEEKS before it would be out of my system and hers. Eventually I realized that I had to cut out EVERYTHING that had milk in it--even in a processed form (e.g. cheeze-its). She was that sensitive!


When she was about 4 months old I introduced rice cereal to "help her sleep better at night" because she was a bigger baby. It didn't help, so I took her off. Then, I was working one night and my husband fed her rice cereal while I was gone. When I got home she had been vomiting and then proceeded to vomit for several hours afterwards. She was ashen white and lethargic so at this point I knew it was a reaction of some sort and we took her to the ER. They did an ultrasound on her abdomen to check to make sure there wasn't a blockage of any sort, but found nothing (thankfully). They told me she had the stomach flu and that babies didn't have allergies. I knew it wasn't the stomach flu because she was completely fine until she had the rice cereal.

Then a few months later I let her have the baby cereal called Puffs--you know, the kind that melt in their mouth? Sadly, after having those she vomited through the night. I couldn't believe it!

Then another time someone gave me some blueberry baby food with DHA in it. She gobbled the whole thing up and then about 1 hour later proceeded to vomit, go limp and turn ashen white again. At this point I was getting pretty concerned about her (aka trying not to flip out) and assumed she had a grain allergy of some sort. I kept thinking "Where in the world did this come from??" I hadn't had to deal with any of this with our oldest child and never dreamed it would be an issue with any of my children. But, here I was dealing with it.

Fast forward a bit and our third child was born. Bless his heart, the moment he came out of the womb his face was already dealing with "that despicable rash" that I had come to dread. I was in denial about it (wouldn't you be if you had to give up ALL dairy, chocolate, crackers, dressings, breads, etc. for the next 8-10 months?!?) and chalked it up to "newborn skin." But THEN, he developed this horrid scaly nastiness on his scalp and an even more horrid weeping open disgustingness (is that a word?) on the side of his head by his ear. (and no, I don't have pictures. I refused to take a picture of it because it was so gross! Although later the allergist said a picture of it could have been put in a textbook. Nice.) It was so bad I was embarrassed to take my newborn out of his infant carrier when I ran into people out in public. It really was awful.) I took him to the ped and he was put on antibiotics to prevent staph (looking back I think he would have been fine without the antibiotics) and then she referred me to a dermatalogist. So, I took him, they put him on creams and of course, they didn't help.

Then we took him to an allergist (we had taken our daughter and she tested positive to milk and soy) so we assumed that is what our youngest was dealing with as well. However, his eczema was so severe the allergist wouldn't do the poke tests on him because the risks were too great.

It was after this that I wondered if these crazy skin issues on his scalp and next to his ear were due to a milk sensitivity/allergy.

So, I began my extreme dairy elimination and go figure, his skin cleared up. I did not reintroduce dairy of any sort until he was about 10 months old and I started small--I'm talking a couple crackers here and there (for me, definitely not him). I would know if it was too much because if I had something I shouldn't have, his face would break out in a horrible itchy rash or he would spit up. He wore socks on his hands for months to keep himself from scratching his face off! :( I also realized that if I ate eggs his eczema would flare up. He has also reacted to carrots, almond butter and strawberries.

Now, he's 18 months old and I can drink milk again, eat cheese, chocolate, whatever and he's fine...although if I have too much he will spit up.

But, all that to say, this made us wonder "what is going on in the food today??" When we grew up we'd never even heard of peanut, milk or soy allergies! So why are so many kids dealing with them now? When you walk into various classrooms at our church there are inevitably signs with a child's picture on them warning teachers of food allergies. Some schools are even becoming entirely peanut free.

Thankfully, my husband is interested in farming and while he was reading about it, he came across books that talked extensively about what is going on with our food these days. In case you're interested in some of the interesting {and disturbing} things about our food, here is a list of sources my husband compiled. Although I doubt we could fully endorse everything that is compiled in all of these resources, I believe they do have some great information to offer.
  • Food, Inc. (DVD)
  • Fast Food Nation (the book)
  • The Omnivore's Dilemma
  • Seeds of Deception
  • The World According to Monsanto
  • books by Joel Salatin

As my husband would share information with me, I would try to figure out how I should be feeding our family, and of course, how on earth I was going to do it on a small budget. Because, let's face it, eating healthy isn't always cheap. (although if you've followed on here long you know I'm finding ways to make it more budget-friendly!) Truth be told though, I'd rather spend more in the store on some lovely asparagus (hee hee) :) and organic apples than I would on copays at the doctor's or on meds. (For the first time I really believe the saying, "You are what you eat.")

I'm not an expert on all of the Genetically Modified Changes that have been made to our "food" but it does give reason to be concerned for sure. I would say the rise in food allergies is due to something and I believe fake food just might be it.

I want to give you a link to a video where another mother, Robyn O'Brien shares her story about her first encounter with a food allergy. I think it is very eye-opening to what has gone on in the genetically modified foods. You'll definitely want to check it out.


As for other resources to help me make better food choices, I frequently visit websites like Passionate Homemaking and Keeper of the Home. I think you'll also find The Enviornmental Workers Group compiled list of the Dirty Dozen to be helpful. It informs you about which fruits/veggies are more important to buy organic. I also reference books like Real Food on a Real Budget.

As a side note, if you decide to make changes, try not to become overwhelmed. It's easy to let that happen.  Most of these changes will not happen overnight, but every small change you make helps the bigger picture healthier. :) A good reference book to help you know where to start is Healthy Homemaking: One Step at a Time.

I wish I could make some more major changes (like only buying organic milk, only buying grass-fed beef, etc.), but I need to be content with the changes that have been made. I believe there's a fine line between being content, but still striving to make things better. I think the key is how I respond in my heart. I am constantly fine-tuning what I do to see if I can do better, but not go over budget. It's a tough job! Ultimately, my trust is in God and I do not worry about the food that I don't have control over.

I have also since realized that food can be a sensitive subject for many people. Not everyone is understanding when it comes to food allergies. Prior to my own kids dealing with them I was sympathetic to those that I knew had them, but until I had dealt with it myself, I had no idea what all it could involve (and the ones we were dealing with weren't as severe as peanut allergies!). We ought to be compassionate and sensitive towards those that have certain restrictions when it comes to food.

Although the following thoughts don't have anything to do with how our food has changed it stood out to me about the impact that food has on our heart (and I'm not talking about the one that can get coronary disease.) :)

Currently I'm reading through the book of John to prepare my heart for Easter and recently I came across this passage in John 6. I thought it was interesting because in this account, the people were more interested in the food Jesus provided than in Jesus Himself. This is probably often the case in my own life.  This particular passage is following on the tails of Jesus' miracle of feeding the multitudes from only 5 loaves and 2 fish. See if it strikes you the way it did me.

After Jesus did this miracle (feeding the multitude) the people wanted to take him by force and make him king, so he went away alone into the hills. (John 6:15) The next morning the crowd was gathering on the shore waiting for Him. When they found him, he said, "'The truth is, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you saw the miraculous sign. But you shouldn't be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that I, the Son of Man, can give you. For God the Father has sent me for that very purpose.' They replied, 'What does God want us to do?' Jesus told them, 'This is what God wants you to do: Believe in the One he has sent.'" The passage continues and talks about the manna that Moses gave the Israelites. The people continue in verse 34 by saying "'Give us that bread every day of our lives." (Sadly, they're still only thinking about food for their bellies, not their hearts.) "Jesus replied, 'I am the bread of life. No one who comes to me will ever be hungry again. Those who believe in me will never thirst.'"

The passage really struck me because during this whole food transition that we're going through, (i.e. simply trying to eat more food made by God and less of it made by man.) the Lord has shown me that my satisfaction needs to be in Him, NOT the food I eat. It's very easy to have food satisfy me and make me feel better. Now that I'm thinking more about the food I eat, I realize how easily I can eat whatever makes me happy rather than what is good for me. God has given us abundant real foods for us to enjoy and He wants us to enjoy them. However, when I desire food more than I desire God it has become an idol.

The people in this passage didn't get it and sometimes, neither do I. Yes, Jesus met their physical needs by providing their lunch (in abundance!) but more than that, He wanted to meet their spiritual needs. My prayer is that my heart would be more passionate about receiving food from God's Word more than I'm passionate about seeking Real Food. Matthew 26:41 "Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!"


Obviously, food has an important role in my life :), but recently I've been seeing how much my choices in the grocery store reflect my relationship with God. That sounds severe perhaps, but when I'm tempted to buy things that aren't in the budget or things that really aren't healthy for us, I have to go back to what, or Whom, do I love more. Am I going to throw the budget to the wind and buy something because I feel I "have to have it" or am I going to pray that the Lord would give me necessary restraint and stick to the list that I've carefully prepared? With out a doubt, God needs to be a part of the choices I make minute by minute and I would do well to constantly submit my plans and choices to Him. 

I'd love for you to share how you've been making small choices towards healthier eating in your family. Please leave a comment and let me know what kinds of changes you are making--then you can inspire us all! :) Thanks!

6 comments:

Melissa K Norris said...

My family and I raise our own beef and also sell 1/4 to a 1/2 of the whole beef. It is organic, raised on our pasture, and we only charge $1.50 per lb. It costs $.50 a lb for the butcher to cut and wrap it, but still, organic beef for only $2.00 lb is a great price. We only raise two beef a year, but I would check out your local farmers or ask a local butcher if they know of any small farmers w/ beef to sell. Plus, you get to chose which steaks and cuts you and your family want.
I've started buying our milk from a small local dairy. It is hard to do this w/ everything, we raise a garden and I can as much as I can.
Thanks for sharing your studies and info. :)

bUrMaN's said...

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?" Matthew 6:25

I appreciate your post, Becky! We are called to be wise and glorify God with our bodies! That does mean what we put in our bodies as well- but not to be consumed and fearful about it!

I, too, have many many food allergies- so do my kids. I have 7 of the 8 major food allergies- plus lots of other ones, my kids have dairy and wheat. I haven't eaten out in a restaurant in years. It can be overwhelming and expensive to eat healthy and on a budget- plus though in allergy free foods and flours! Yikes!

We are growing an organic garden and raising 25 organic chicken broilers this spring/ summer!!

We are also looking for a good source of organic bulk beef- I noticed the post above from Melissa Norris- is she local? If she is- would you mind asking her if I could get her information on the beef?

I appreciate your insight and willingness to stand up for what you believe in is right for you and your family! The wonderful thing about having your own blog- is that you get to post information YOU are interested in, touched you, helped you, and through it try to help others for God's glory!

Thank you!

calamity jane said...

i had no idea your kids' allergies were that severe! i am so sorry, becky :( we have had our share of (milder) food allergies with sky, as you know, and taking him off dairy was a life changer for us.
it is sooo expensive to buy healthier/not processed/no pesticide or hormone food, but i look at it the same way you do, the 'food is medicine' approach. although there are lots of weeks for us that grass-fed beef and organic milk is only a pipe dream :) my mom always says, 'do your best and God will take care of the rest', and the weeks where i look at food that way - appreciating it but not OVER-emphasizing it (as i tend to do!!) - are the best ones.
you are doing an awesome job of feeding and nurturing your family!!

Becky @ purposefulhomemaking.com said...

Amy,
Carlee is MUCH better than she was. She only struggles w/dairy now that I know of. She does fine if I limit it, but if she has milk or ice cream she still has a hard time so we stick to Rice Dream. :)

I'm still waiting for Caleb to hopefully outgrow his, but his seems to be more widespread than Carlee's was. :( It was def really tough w/Carlee to see her get so sick from "food".
and your mom is right! we do our best and God takes care of what He wants! :) I don't stress over food (thankfully) but just figure that all the little changes I make here and there will help the overall picture be better and I know that God has made our bodies fearfully and wonderfully to help combat the junk that we still have to deal with.
thanks for your encouragement! i know you too are doing an awesome job--especially for Sky!!!

tskell said...

Have any of you considered a food co-op? I have "organic" friends who belong to one. they buy in bulk from organic supplies only and with several families who buy in bulk, they are given wholesale prices. their co-op is full, but if interested, I could get name of supplier, and you could start your own. The food is delivered once a month, everyone involved must be there to help unload, someone is "book keeper",etc - so you have to be serious to be involved - big commitment.

Becky @ purposefulhomemaking.com said...

we've considered a co-op but i'm just not "there" yet...I think it'd be nice someday, but just not sure when or how to make it happen right now. it is something i think about for sure though! thanks for posting about it! there is one local to us but for some reason the prices didn't seem all that great. maybe it was just them. feel free to send me the info though and i can hang onto it!

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