I’ve been finding it a tad awkward to talk about my daughter’s gluten intolerance in blog posts. Her situation is unique because even though she has an intolerance, it’s not a full intolerance to ALL gluten. It’s actually an intolerance to North American gluten. This means that she avoids North American wheat and grains, but can eat “soft” wheat or grain from Eastern Europe (this can include grains from Italy too). I know this sounds a bit “hocus pocus”, and this is your cue to say, “Hold up; what?” but stick with me here. This recommendation has come from our medical Allergist/Immunologist. So here’s the story.
DISCLAIMER * This account is based on what I understand and is not guaranteed for medical accuracy.
It was about a year ago when we visited our Allergist/Immunologist and he told us that North American gluten/grains might be “gumming” up my daughter’s immune system receptors because she may have an intolerance to North American Gluten. These receptors being “blocked” may be causing my daughter’s immune system to be overly “stimulated” or “overactive” which can cause a higher allergic response to the foods she’s allergic to. In this case, it may be causing my daughter’s food allergies to nuts and peanuts to be more severe. Because of this the Allergist asked us to avoid N. American gluten but still bake with Eastern European flours (and believe me these can be very hard to find at times in Calgary where we live). We were lucky because before we began this life altering change, we took some time thinking it through and figuring out how this would affect our family. Wow, what a difference from when we learned we had an anaphylactic allergy and had to quit cold turkey!
So before we went ahead with changing our diet, the Allergist ordered blood work to get a baseline of my daughter’s allergies to nuts and peanuts, which she is anaphylactic to. We then began the elimination of North American gluten (gluten is found in wheat, rye and barley which means we needed to eliminate all of these grains from my daughter’s diet). After 6 weeks of being strictly North American gluten free, we did the same blood test over again to discover whether there was a decrease in her blood numbers. Sure enough, there was! And this was not restricted to us either. Apparently, the Allergist was finding this with many of his patients.
So why does this matter?
The plan going forward is to keep North American gluten out of my daughter’s diet, and to have her eat the tree nuts that she IS NOT allergic to every day (at least one of each kind). Originally she was only able to eat pistachios. The doctor then told us that we could do a cashew challenge at home given that he was sure she would be ok with them. Yes, this was hard for my daughter but after some encouragement (and hidden fear from me) she did it. Then after a few months of eating pistachios and cashews every day, we did an in-office almond challenge. After passing this challenge, we’re now eating cashews, almonds and pistachios (that have been cleaned for cross-contact) every day while still avoiding N. American gluten.
When somebody has an allergy, it means their immune system believes the food is a threat to the body which is why it begins to attack the allergen. This process can cause the fatal reaction called anaphylaxis. From what I understand, eating the “safe” nuts every day is a way to expose the immune system to the nut profiles to make it feel like these profiles are not a threat anymore. Each nut profile overlaps slightly with other nut profiles. As we increase the number of nuts she eats, we are hopefully showing her immune system that the overlapping nut is not a threat to the immune system. We start with our least allergenic nuts and move up to the worst ones only after introducing the lesser ones to our immune system for at least 6 months to 1 year. All with the direction of the doctor, of course. The hope is to eventually get rid of all the nut allergies!
So although my doctor didn’t describe it as such, this seems to me like a form of oral immune therapy (OIT). And in case you're wondering, yes we are fairly strict with this diet which means if we can't find Eastern European grains, we will go completely gluten-free.
I hope that explains things a bit better so I can write about my daughter's gluten intolerance and let you know why we still eat some gluten.
What about you? Have you heard of this? Are your kids doing any form of OIT?
*This post is based on our experience and NOT to be taken as medical advice. NEVER challenge an allergen or remove a food from your diet unless under medical supervision or with a doctor’s advice. The nuts that need to be challenged will be different for everyone based on their blood numbers and allergies SO DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME without doctor supervision.