This post chronicles my own personal experience with an elimination diet. It is not meant to be taken as or replace medical advice. If you are experiencing a medial issue, please consult your doctor.
Warning: really long post ahead.
If you’re interested in things like breastfeeding, elimination diets, gluten free vegan diets, or just little old me, keep reading! If not go make these cookies and enjoy life.
If you are interested in the aforementioned things, welcome! We’re going to talk about rashes and food, hang in there with me.
When Wiley turned two months old, a rash started to sprout on her cheeks near the corners of her mouth. I had seen it before, on Casper. He’d had the same bright red, occasionally weeping rash for the better part of the first year of his life.
The doctor had put him on a steroid cream which helped a bit, but I didn’t want to go down that road again. I had already tried the other creams and lotions recommended by the doctor and knew there must be another way.
I felt like I could tell Wiley’s rash flared up when I ate certain foods, but it was hard to tell. I started researching elimination diets and, not wanting to jeopardize my own nutrition too much, decided to cut out the main culprits.
The elimination diet
On top of my already pescatarian diet, I began eliminating all dairy, eggs, wheat/gluten, and chocolate. I did eat chicken a few times over the course of about two months, although not much at a time.
The rash didn’t change at all for the first week of elimination. Then on day seven, it completely disappeared, aside from what looked like a little scarring (it had been weeping and bleeding previously).
Wiley also had a lot of congestion and “gunky” eyes (which you can see in the picture below), but it was hard to tell if it was just a normal baby cold or if it was also related to food allergy. This also cleared up in the one week time period, so it seemed pretty unlikely that it was just a coincidence.
By this time I was SO ready to eat one of my “forbidden” foods, so I had a bowl of yogurt for dinner. The next morning, lo and behold, the rash was starting to flare again.
I waited a couple of days until it went away, and decided to test gluten (the best way possible). Again, the rash flared up. Over the next few months the rash never fully went away again, but was much more under control than before I started cutting things out.
It was pretty frustrating because I didn’t know if I had chosen the right foods to eliminate and I wasn’t feeling great. My stomach was upset all the time and I was seriously lacking energy.
The first few days of cutting out gluten I was hungry all the time, but that evened out and I just felt kind of weak after that. I had to stop running even though I was eating tons of protein and having small meals pretty much every two or three hours.
My emotions also seemed to be really extreme. I felt myself get pretty low in about two week cycles (maybe related to how strict I was being with my diet).
Does anyone out there watch Homeland on Showtime? Once I finally caved and ate a pesto chicken sandwich my husband lovingly referred to me as “Carrie off her meds”. I was bouncing around the house full of life and ready to get things done.
Overall I wouldn’t say I did a great job eliminating things. Since the primary problem was just a rash (albeit a pretty bad one) I allowed myself to cave in to an eliminated food about once a week. This continued to make it difficult to know if the foods I was cutting out were actually causing problems or if I should also be eliminating soy, citrus, or something else.
About a week after Wiley turned six months, it’s like a switch turned off in her body and the rash completely cleared up. She still has a few baby acne bumps, but seriously, nothing like what it was before. She has the smooth, soft baby cheeks I always dreamed of.
After the elimination diet
I was surprised how mentally difficult it was to go back to “normal” eating. As much as I missed all these foods, it had become easier to just avoid them because I couldn’t bear the guilt of knowing it would cause a rash.
I realized that just because I was able to eat dairy, gluten, eggs, and chocolate, didn’t mean I needed to eat them all the time. As you’ll see below, I came to love my new breakfasts and lunches, so I’ve still been eating them quite often.
So what have I learned about my own nutritional needs during all of this? Maybe it would be different if my body wasn’t under the physical demands of creating breast milk, but I feel like my body NEEDS gluten and dairy. Whenever I would have a stomach ache from eating so many freaking vegetables, I was seriously craving breads. As soon as I started eating them again my stomach felt amazing, with the exception of feeling incredibly full.
As much as I love dairy I found I won’t die if I leave cheese off my taco of veggie burger (although they might revoke my Wisconsin resident status). I’ve never been a huge fan of eggs, so I still haven’t really been eating those much, but I really, really missed chocolate.
I can’t believe how many foods contain chocolate, especially snacks and recipes labeled gluten free and vegan. It’s like, you can’t eat anything else, so you’re only going to eat chocolate.
One thing I will say, my skin felt amazing while eating this way. I’ve never really noticed my skin before. I haven’t had terrible skin in recent years, but it hasn’t been perfect either.
I guess I didn’t realize how baby soft my skin could feel until it did. Like no joke, I would feel the baby’s skin and then I would feel mine and they felt THE SAME. Good on ya, ridiculously restrictive diet.
Let it also be known that I ate significantly less sugar while cutting out dairy and gluten. It’s not like I was avoiding sugar, but as it turns out most sugary things I eat come in the form of dairy and gluten.
What I ate during my elimination diet
So what was I actually eating? I want to share with you my go-to meals and snacks during this time in case you also are going down this road. Nothing here is sponsored, they’re just the real brands I found to be most delicious and satisfying.
Side note: I hope I don’t offend anyone, but gluten free flours are disgusting. At least the three kinds that I tried. If I ever eat another homemade gluten free baked good it will be too soon. If you think I’m wrong, tell me your waaaaays.
I had these granola bars (I left out the chocolate chips) pretty much every day for breakfast, smeared with almond butter. Even though I don’t have to any more I’m still doing this because it’s SO GOOD.
Lunch was often hummus drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with tons of crushed red pepper (or garlic and balsamic tomatoes if I was feeling fancy), baby carrots, sliced cucumbers and radishes, a spring salad mix, Back to Nature rice crackers, and Qrunch burgers topped with ketchup and chipotle mustard. Sometimes there was half an avocado mashed with lime and salt and eaten with Food Should Taste Good Multigrain Tortilla Chips. It sounds like a lot of food, but I NEEDED IT.
This General Tso’s Tofu is amazing. It just happened to be vegan and gluten free, but I think it would satisfy even the most voracious meat eater.
Roasted chickpeas are always a staple around here and a super yummy way to add protein to a salad, wrap, or pretty much any meal. If you’re not into the cajun flavor replace it with salt, oregano, or thyme.
It seems like total bird food, but I really liked baking a sweet potato and topping it with my favorite spinach and white beans.
I enjoyed loading up a burrito bowl with salsa and avocado and didn’t even miss the cheese.
I would often broil fish and serve it with mashed potatoes loaded with roasted garlic, almond milk, and Earth Balance Organic Buttery Spread.
I found Barilla gluten free pasta to have an acceptable taste and texture, but to be honest I wasn’t loving how gluten free pasta made me feel. Strangely enough it almost felt like it made my blood sugar crash and I got hungry again quickly.
Surely someone must know the science behind this? If the gluten free pasta doesn’t bother you, or you’re not giving up gluten, some great dairy free pasta recipes include spaghetti aglio olio, roasted garlic and broccoli penne, and skillet lasagna (just leave out any cheese, or use a vegan substitute).
These sweet potato and lime taquitos were like major comfort food when dipped in guacamole. And the colors!!
I was surprised to find some of the GoPicnic meals were vegan and gluten free. They were pretty tasty too, but are fairly expensive for what they are, so were definitely a sometimes treat for adventuring with the kids.
My go-to snack for stashing in my purse was Enjoy Life Sunseed Crunch Bars. They’re a little bland but when you’re not eating as much sugar you get used to it and they aren’t too bad. Chewy peanut butter bites were also a sweet and salty snack that wasn’t too hard to make.
Dessert became crucial for maintaining my mental satisfaction. I fell in love with this maple peanut butter fudge (definitely add extra peanuts) and I ate Enjoy Life gingerbread Spice cookies almost every day. These almond butter bars were ok, but were definitely better with the chocolate (I made some with and some without and cheated by stealing a chocolatey bite).
Obviously I’m not a doctor, or a dietician, or even your best friend, so don’t take any of this as medical advice. It’s just my experience, and I would love to hear yours! Also if you have any gluten free, vegan, chocolate free recipes that you love, please share!
Update 08/22/19: We have since found out that Casper is allergic to dairy, so I’m wondering if that was the issue with breastmilk on his cheeks. I’ll be curious to see if Wilder has the same issue as she gets older!