Increased rates of pregnancy complications in women with celiac disease

Posted on April 22nd, 2015 by Alison | Posted in Babies & Kids, Celiac Disease, Symptoms | Comments Off on Increased rates of pregnancy complications in women with celiac disease

Pregnancy Photo by Ben EarwickerI have always felt lucky that I began a gluten-free diet two years before I became pregnant with my children. Although it wasn’t easy for me to get pregnant, by the time I did, my body had healed significantly from the effects of gluten that could have led to serious complications like miscarriage, premature delivery, low birth weight or even stillbirth.

Important nutritional deficiencies (of zinc, selenium, iron and folate) associated with undiagnosed celiac disease may be partially to blame for complications in pregnancy. I was severely anemic before my celiac diagnosis and shudder to think how the lack of iron would have affected my baby.

A new study published in the Annals of Gastroenterology confirms prior research on how celiac disease affects pregnancy by concluding that compared with women in the general population, women with undiagnosed celiac disease have significant increases in spontaneous abortions (miscarriage), preterm delivery and delayed menarche (beginning of menstruation), resulting in fewer successful pregnancies.

Here are the points made by the researchers of this study:

  • Significantly fewer women with celiac disease who tried to become pregnant had successful delivery of one or more pregnancies, suggesting that women with celiac may have a significantly lower rate of fertility.
  • A significantly higher number of spontaneous abortions (miscarriages) occurred in women with celiac compared to controls, with 85% of them occurring before beginning a gluten-free diet.
  • Women with untreated celiac disease are at an increased risk of pregnancy complications.
  • Women with celiac disease have a higher prevalence of preterm deliveries (premature babies).
  • Undiagnosed celiac disease should be considered in patients with recurrent complications of pregnancy, and these women should be given blood tests to detect celiac disease.
  • (This is my point I am adding: even if negative for celiac disease, consider getting tested for gluten sensitivity or go on a gluten-free diet — gluten sensitivity can cause a myriad of health problems.)

As I mentioned above, these findings are not necessarily new — the study mentions much prior research conducted in this area. Alice Bast, the founder of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) has been sharing this information for years. By the time she discovered she had celiac, she had suffered through the trauma of delivering a full-term stillbirth, multiple miscarriages and a baby born at only 3 pounds. You can read more about Alice’s story here and here.

I encourage you to read the full study I have summarized above: Increased rates of pregnancy complications in women with celiac disease and please pass it along to anyone you know who is having complications with fertility or pregnancy. Feel free to share your own stories here to help others.


First time using the Epi-Pen and the Anxiety that has followed

Posted on January 18th, 2015 by Alison | Posted in Babies & Kids, Emotions, Food Allergies, Peanuts/Nuts Allergy | Read 9 Comments - Add Your Own »

epi pen injectionI finally used the Epi-Pen on my daughter after eight years of managing her food allergies. I used it because I had to. I used it because she asked me to.

We were in Mexico, at a place we visit every year. My daughter is extremely responsible about her food allergies, and carries her “kit” (containing two Epi-Pens, Benadryl and asthma inhaler) with her everywhere she goes, even to the pool. I also had an extra Epi-Pen with me on the trip, so we had three in our possession. The story of BJ Hom is always in the back of my mind when we travel to Mexico — it was there that this young man had an anaphylactic reaction to peanuts but the family did not have an Epi-Pen with them (he had only suffered from hives in the past so they didn’t think it could get more serious than that). We are prepared for an accident in case our vigilance about reading labels, asking questions, and avoiding uncertain foods fails.

On that afternoon at the pool, she selected a popsicle out of a popsicle cart. It had ingredients on the label, both in English and in Spanish. It was a coconut popsicle, containing coconut, cream, milk, sugar, and some additives. Nothing she hadn’t eaten before. Within minutes she came to me and told me that she didn’t feel right. As she was telling me, a large hive appeared on the skin in the lower corner of her mouth. I knew this wasn’t good. Her face had lost its color and dull, dark streaks appeared under her eyes. She said her throat felt “bumpy.” We pulled the Benadryl out of her kit and she took one, and then another. Hives popped out on her stomach, and then on her back.

That day, by our good fortune, my father was hanging out at the kid pool with us. He is a retired pediatrician and I was so glad he was right there at that moment. I showed him the hives. He suggested we head back to the room where he had prednisone in his medicine bag. Prednisone is a corticosteroid that can help reduce swelling caused by allergic reactions, but it is not an immediate treatment since it comes in pill form and takes a little while to have an effect. When we arrived at the hotel room, he gave her a dose of prednisone, but as she held on tight to her epi-pen kit, she said to me, “Mom, I want the shot.”

I looked at my dad and he and I both nodded – let’s do it.

Now, I have to admit that for all of these years I have had a fear of giving the Epi-Pen. I know my allergy mom friends have done it, I know it saves lives, my pediatrician has scolded me for not giving it in a couple of close-calls… I have no explanation for my anxiety about putting this shot in my daughter’s leg. (Perhaps I was scarred by the giant epinephrine shot scene in Pulp Fiction? But it did save Uma Thurman’s character’s life, so…)

I asked my dad to give her the shot. I sat on a bed next to my daughter, while he was on the other side of her and stuck the Epi-Pen in her leg. She was looking at me, away from the shot, and said, “That was it?” It felt like barely a pinch to her. Within minutes, the hive on her face disappeared, her color came back and she was breathing easy. She was a little worried about her rapid heart beat, but we assured her that it was the medicine taking effect and that was normal.

Normally when you give an Epi-Pen, you are advised to go to the hospital or call 911. Sometimes one Epi-Pen isn’t enough, or it is given too late to reverse the symptoms. According to the Epi-Pen website “Get emergency medical help right away. You may need further medical attention. You may need a second EpiPen Auto-Injector should symptoms persist or recur. More than two sequential doses of epinephrine for a single episode should only be administered by a healthcare provider.”

Because we were in Mexico, and we had another Epi-Pen, and my dad was there, and she already had prednisone and benadryl in her system, we monitored her at the hotel. And she was fine. And then I let myself cry.

Since then, her anxiety has risen to a new level. She abstained from eating dinner, even a bowl of rice, while our family was out at a restaurant with friends one night. She refused to go to a volleyball tournament because I was not the one driving the carpool and I wouldn’t arrive until later. Luckily, the mom driving the carpool was a trained nurse and carries an Epi-Pen, but even that almost didn’t convince her. So, this is a new chapter in our lives — the Anxiety Chapter. She strives for independence and freedom, but is weighed down by her fears. I wonder how long this chapter will last.


Food-allergy-friendly (and healthy) lunch box options for kids

Posted on August 19th, 2013 by Alison | Posted in Babies & Kids, Food Ideas | Read 3 Comments - Add Your Own »

When you have a child with food allergies, you can’t rely on any school-supplied lunches, if any are even offered. You have to make lunch every day. Any mom who packs lunches can relate to the morning drill of hoping you’ve done enough grocery shopping to find enough food to put in your kids’ lunchbox that day, while also trying to make it healthy and desirable. I feel a sense of failure when I open a full lunchbox at the end of the day!

Over the years I have figured out how to make my kids’ lunchboxes to come back empty rather than full. When you are dealing with food allergies, you have to think outside of the (lunch)box! No PB&J sandwiches, Goldfish or cheese sticks to fall back on. My kids and I have figured out lunch options that make me and them happy. That’s not to say I don’t strike out sometimes, but I thought I’d share some of our successes and hope these might work for you, or at least spark some ideas.

I can’t say enough how important it is to have a good lunchbox — one with compartments that show the food. What food is appetizing served in plastic baggies and aluminum foil? Plus, the whole no-waste thing is a bonus! I love Laptop Lunches and my kids have been using them for years. When a child opens the lunch, the entire lunch is displayed at once. It is really convenient and appetizing and there is even a fork and spoon — imagine eating with utensils!

Whichever lunch box you choose, the next step is to fill it up! Aim for variety and try to cover all of the food groups. I always put protein along with the filler food (carbs), some fruit and a veggie. And yes, I put a little treat of some kind! I didn’t used to, but I realized that it just makes my kids so much happier when there is a little sweet surprise — and I do mean little — a small cookie, a little pack of gummy candies, a homemade mini muffin.

If your kid likes a sandwich, go for it! There are now many kinds of gluten-free breads to choose from, vegan mayonnaise and allergy-free lunch meats. My kids are currently not crazy about sandwiches so I have had to come up with other options. Here are some of the things I have packed over the years:

  • Gluten-free pretzels with Sunbutter – pack Sunbutter in a dipping container
  • Apples with Sunbutter
  • Rice crackers or tortilla rounds or strips with hummus
  • Tortilla chips with refried beans as bean dip – try Amy’s Organic Traditional Refried Beans – it is not spicy at all and has a good mild flavor that kids like
  • Raw veggies – sometimes on Sunday, I wash and cut into matchsticks or rounds cucumbers and carrots. I store them with snap peas or any other veggie that the kids like in a sealed container in the frig and then when making lunches in the morning, I ask my kids to choose from the veggies for their “veggie compartment.” I have read about some supermoms that put a green salad in their kids lunches. There is no way my kids would eat a salad at lunch! But this veggie method has worked so far for us. Also, if the veggies seem a little dry because you have cut them days before, just sprinkle a little water on them.
  • Cooked veggies – I have gotten away with putting leftover green beans and broccoli (as long as they are not overcooked) in my older daughter’s lunchbox. Sometimes you have to take a risk! 🙂
  • “Breadsticks” – my kids got tired of sandwiches, so I made breadsticks by toasting the same gluten-free sandwich bread and cutting it into strips – this is great for dipping in hummus or sunbutter, or even just plain. Change the shape and it’s a whole new food!
  • Fruit – okay, this seems obvious, but let’s face it — sometimes there’s no fresh fruit left in the house! Berries, grapes, watermelon and apples are the fresh fruits my kids like, but I always have a back-up of canned pineapple chunks (the natural kind – no sugary syrup) and serve with a fork. The kids love it. If you can fit the pineapple rings in the lunchbox, that’s a big hit also! Other fresh-fruit replacements include applesauce (don’t forget the spoon!), frozen mango, and I bet those cute little mandarin orange slices would make them happy too – I haven’t tried those yet.
  • Protein sources – the beans, hummus and Sunbutter mentioned above are some. My kids like lunch meat, so I will include all-natural salami, or turkey or chicken breast. Try rolling it up and securing with a toothpick (“turkey rolls”), or with rice crackers. Since nuts are a common allergen, you might try seeds like shelled pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds — Enjoy Life makes a trail mix of seeds, dried fruit and chocolate chips, or you could make your own.

Hopefully, this list has helped you get some new ideas. I would love for you all to share what you pack in your kids’ lunches! I could use some new ideas too!


New Summer Camp for Kids with Food Allergies

Posted on January 29th, 2013 by Alison | Posted in Babies & Kids, Camp, Food Allergies | Read 3 Comments - Add Your Own »

I am happy to announce that there is a new summer camp in Oregon for kids with food allergies. As far as I know, it is the only one of its kind. When I told my daughter about how she wouldn’t have to worry about the food if she went to a camp like this, she said wide-eyed, “It would be like I didn’t have food allergies!” Yes, my love, it would. I don’t think she’s quite ready for sleep-away camp this year (she’s 8), but I want to support this wonderful camp so that when she’s ready, she has this option.

Here is the email I received about the camp:

I am happy to let you know that Camp Blue Spruce, a worry-free camp for kids with food allergies, is now accepting campers for its 2013 session, August 18-23. Loads of fun activities and OregonÂ’s great outdoors will make Camp Blue Spruce the highlight of the summer for children with and without food allergies.

We are excited about holding our first session this summer. Camp Blue Spruce will be like any other summer camp EXCEPT the food will be prepared without any of the top 8 food allergens, gluten or sesame. Up to 56 kids will be able to sit down at the table and eat all the foods that are being served — a simple gift for these children, who are rarely able to eat what everyone else is eating.  Kids attending Camp Blue Spruce will have a true camp experience without the worry and anxiety they experience daily with their food allergies. Camp Blue Spruce parents can be worry-free, too!

There are a few things you can do to help make this summer a success:

  1. Register your child for camp. Visit www.campbluespruce.org for the application. Registrations are arriving already, so sign up today!
  2. Encourage your friends with and without food allergies and sensitivities to register. We have reduced the cost for 2013 to make thecamp available to more kids.
  3. Let us know if you can leave postcards at your doctorÂ’s office, naturopath, favorite food store, bakery, library or school. If you have other ways to spread the word, please let us know.
  4. Make a charitable contribution to Camp Blue Spruce. We cannot launch this camp solely with camp fee revenue. Your tax-deductible contribution will do three important things – promote the camp, provide scholarships to campers who are unable to pay the entire camp fee, and help cover essential camp costs. Donations can be mailed to: Camp Blue Spruce, 3519 NE 15th, #225, Portland, OR 97212.

Thank you for your interest and support of Camp Blue Spruce! Please call or email if you have any questions. We look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
Louise Tippens
Camp Blue Spruce Board President
503-726-8886
info@campbluespruce.org

I really hope this camp is a success!