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    Signs of Food Allergies

    June 3, 2010 by Brandy Vencel

    I‘ve been considering writing a new series of posts, but in mapping it out in my mind, I’ve realized how much our family life has been impacted by food allergies. Food allergies, food intolerances, food “incompatibilities” {for lack of a better word}–these are extremely common today. I used to think I knew why. I really thought it was vaccines. However, we didn’t {and haven’t} vaccinated our younger two, and yet our fourth child, at the age of seven or eight months, was allergic to everything we had introduced him to, save carrots.

    Therefore, I declare that I officially do not know what causes allergies.

    However, comma, I do know the signs.

    Well, I know the signs now. How I wish I had known the signs when my oldest was an infant! In fact, that is part of my future series, too: the vast majority of my parenting regrets so far are related to not understanding the signs of food allergies, and because of that I think I made mistakes, mistakes that, no matter how minor they may appear to outsiders, I regret.

    I could go on, but I want {try} to keep this post to a single subject: the signs of food intolerance and allergies. Many folks think they know because they have the simple, traditional list down:

    1. General skin rash
    2. Eczema
    3. Diaper rash
    4. Swelling, especially of the face or throat {these are mainly the life-threatening, anaphylactic kind of allergy}
    5. Hives
    6. Itchy skin

    Parents are more informed now than when we began eight years ago–I can’t believe how much has changed in such a short period of time–and so they understand some of the digestive symptoms such as:

    1. General tummy ache
    2. Diarrhea
    3. Constipation
    4. Alternating diarrhea and constipation
    5. Vomiting {another more extreme and rare reaction}

    But there is really much, much more. Before I give my list though, I think we need a disclaimer. If a child has these symptoms {I’m thinking here of something really general like “colic”}, it does not mean he necessarily has food allergies. There can be other health problems instead, or, in the case of colic, the baby could possibly have been born with an underdeveloped digestive system {which would be greatly helped by remaining entirely grain-free for the first 18 months of life}. So here are the things I can think of off the top of my head:

    1. Dark circles around eyes, especially in the inner area by the nose {commonly referred to as “allergic shiners“}
    2. Bright red, flushed cheeks {regularly, not just that healthy glow from running around}
    3. Ear infections, especially if they are not eliminated by a round or two of antibiotics {not that I generally recommend antibiotics, but still}
    4. Gas, especially foul-smelling
    5. Loud, rumbly tummies
    6. In infants, arching the back and/or drawing up the legs while exhibiting a painful cry
    7. Colic
    8. Unexplained almost-constant fussiness
    9. Inability to nap appropriate amount of hours for age
    10. Needing far too much sleep for age
    11. Constant runny nose
    12. Unexplained cough or cold symptoms {but no fever}
    13. Crying a lot, even as an older toddler
    14. Lethargy, low-energy
    15. Developmental delay {late sitting, late walking, late talking, etc.}
    16. Asthma/difficulty breathing
    17. Regular infections
    18. Shiny, watery eyes {usually, this is caused by environmental allergy, but not always}
    19. Wanting to be held an inordinate amount of time each day, even when at the age where he should want to be down playing and running
    20. Child seems to catch “everything” going around
    21. UPDATED TO ADD: tics or involuntary/compulsive body movements {large or small…can’t believe I forgot this MAJOR one on the first try!}
    22. Behavior issues: hyperactivity, compulsions, inattention, lack of self-control which does not respond to consistent healthy discipline
    23. Unexplained sadness, especially in very young children
    24. Pale or sickly complexion
    25. Vitamin deficiencies
    26. Skinny arms/legs with a bloated tummy
    27. Poor weight gain, or weight loss

    I don’t know that this is all I’ve got, but it’s certainly plenty! Like I said before, we can’t think that all of these things are necessarily signs of allergies, but if this list sounds like a description of your child, you might want to have the child tested by an NAET practitioner.

    Briefly, I thought I’d tell the story of our fourth child, as I haven’t done that before {our third child has, mysteriously, never had allergies}. He had a rough start, but after that, he settled in nicely and did remarkably well. Because of my chronic low milk supply, I had to also supplement with formula. I was a bit fearful of the formula because of our problems in the past, but he did well on it and thrived…until he was about seven months old and I began to introduce solid foods.

    This child had a marked, dramatic personality change within the first few weeks.

    He went from being consistently cheerful, bright, alert, and yet a champion sleeper–a model of contentment in a baby–to a grumpy, fussy, whiny baby who groaned in his sleep almost all night long. His stomach growled loudly. He was gassy. Worst of all, our normally happy baby had become unhappy, all in less than two months.

    At first, I didn’t think it was allergies because I was being so careful. I used carrots as his first food, completely bypassing grains {he wasn’t given grains until 12 months, and wasn’t given gluten until 18 months}. But I realized that I needed to have him tested, especially since our family history pointed to allergies being the most likely culprit.

    I was astounded when he tested positive for being allergic to everything–his formula, sweet potatoes, even foods I hadn’t introduced yet, but were in our home–everything but his beloved carrots.

    Thankfully, we have a wonderful, talented, skilled NAET {and so-much-more} practitioner who eliminated most of his allergies that day. Within a month, he was the happy baby we remembered. It is so comforting not to have to do the years of special dieting as we did with our older children.

    But it also makes me remember the days when I thought my oldest child was born grumpy and demanding. Yes, all children are born with a sin nature, but had I known then what I know now, I would have approached him with a lot more compassion and understanding. But I’ll talk about that more sometime in the future…

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  • Reply Liz February 24, 2014 at 5:45 pm

    I suspect that our son has night terrors, sleep walking and general bad dreams as a result of food allergies / intolerances. I have no proof though and my dear hubby thinks I’m crazy… I realize this is an old post but if anyone has observed this or knows of information about this, please pass along. Thanks!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 24, 2014 at 6:02 pm

      I don’t know for sure, but my oldest — and most food-sensitive — child DID have nightmares and sleepwalking. Night terrors *can* be a sign of a B vitamin deficiency. I don’t know how old your child is, but before you go through the difficulty of some sort of elimination diet, you *could* try a high quality B complex and see what happens.

  • Reply Danielle March 2, 2011 at 12:56 am

    Thank you so much for the extra info. I will check out the GAPS diet. It seems to continue our journery on the path to quality healthy foods for healing which began a year ago with the help of a holistic health consultant. Our son’s allergies (dairy/eggs/nuts/amoxicillin/dogs)have been a blessing in diguise. We are all benefiting from the improved diet; stable moods, more energy, clearer skin, and an easier pregnancy. Our son is getting better. As proof he was accidently given dairy yogurt today and only sufferred a few hives instead of vomitting. I am so thankful that God blessed me with such a supportive and wonderful husband who embraces this healthy journey.

    My dad’s shell fish allergy began in his 50’s. He’s now 62. His doctor tested him for other allergies and found reactions 30 different environmental substances. He will began the allergy shots this summer.

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts March 1, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    Danielle, I am so glad you were able to figure out what was wrong with your son!

    You can check the Neurolink practitioner directory and the NAET directory for practitioners, but I have found them to be few and far between. The more folks I have talked to who do NAET alone, the more I realize the importance of doing Neurolink first. Unfortunately, the Neurolink directory only includes doctors who have PAID to be in the directory. This means there may very well be one in PA, even though he or she is not on the list! SO FRUSTRATING.

    A new option that I think is worthy of consideration is using the GAPS diet. This is, to some extent, harder because it involves using a special diet. But, unlike something like the GFCF diet, where it is simply avoiding allergens, the goal of the GAPS diet protocol is to stimulate the healing of the gut. In the last year’s worth of reading, I have come to the conclusion that allergies start with poor gut health and/or liver issues.

    As far as your father is concerned, if this is an adult-onset allergy, it will probably be more likely to heal than a child-onset allergy. Some severe allergies are not treatable. This is especially true with children with birth defects. My nephew, who has a genetic disorder and was born with bilateral cleft palate and lip, has a citrus/Vitamin C allergy that we have tried to eliminate for years, but the treatments never “hold.” Even the practitioners admit that it is his brain, which does not seem to follow the traditional rules.

    I hope that your next child is born allergy free! That would be a real blessing. I would highly suggest consuming a probiotic supplement, such as Biokult, through the remainder of your pregnancy. Population of the gut (including YOUR gut) is the first line of defense against baby’s allergies. The baby will use your bacteria to populate his own gut by ingesting your bacteria during childbirth and again during nursing, which means having your own gut bacteria in balance is essential.

  • Reply Danielle March 1, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    I would also like to add pale complexion, vitamin deficiencies, skinny arms/legs with a bloated tummy dispite regular BMs and suddenly dropping off their growth chart to the lists.

    Wish i had found this sooner.. i too have “mothering” regrets like not being more pushy with drs when i knew something wasn’t right with my son at 2 months but i was a FTM and trusted drs. i thought maybe i got lucky with a “good” baby. He was rarely fussy, very compliant but really his body was so worn out from the allergies he didn’t have much energy left to exert his will. After tubes and vitamin supplements and cutting out the allergies, at 2 yrs old he’s back on his growth curve. He is a willful 2 yr old, which i’m enjoying oddly enough.

    I’m due in april with boy#2 and am hoping this issue passes him by. he is already so different than the first.

    It would be great if i could find a doctor like yours in PA. Keep your fingers crossed. Is there a minimum age for the treatments? As a side note my dad also developed allergies and he is really missing shellfish maybe the NAET could work for him as well.

    Thank you for sharing your struggles.

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts June 17, 2010 at 9:55 pm


    Goodness, I am glad you were able to identify your daughter’s allergies! Actually, that was why I wrote the post…because I needed something just like it years ago. πŸ™‚

    It has taken me this long to be able to write a list. Having had healthy children for a while now, I can see more clearly what was allergy and what was not.

    I totally know what you mean about a language explosion. About a week on the GFCF diet, and our second child doubled her vocabulary! We weren’t even doing the diet for her! It was just easier to feed both children the same food. Truly amazing…

    By the way: I can’t believe a doctor would say that vomiting was an attention-getting mechanism in a child so very young! Unbelievable…

  • Reply Murmer June 9, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    Where was this blog a year and half ago when we started (unbeknownest to us) our walk with food allergies. My dd had no rash and her only symptom of a milk allergy (on milk formula) was a runny nose until she was 16 months old and then we got vomitting and acceleration of symptoms which we where told where merely attention getting behaviors. When we mentioned the cough and vomit the dr said that is wierd. Had I had this list I hopefully would have been able to identify earlier what I was doing to my dd! Looking back I see so many more of the symptoms such as extreme screaming fits of over and hour, a slow language development (that off milk has exploded). If only I had known. I hope so many other families read this and are able to deal with it earlier than I was able to.

  • Reply Kimbrah June 5, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    Brandy- I think what you added about behavioural issues was perfect! The part about not responding to healthy discipline was the perfect addition. I knew you would come up with something! πŸ™‚

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts June 4, 2010 at 10:41 pm


    I know that our doctor is a bit different because she combines NAET with all of the other allergy techniques she’s learned. However, comma, I’d say something sounds not quite right with you ND’s diagnosis of your husband. I didn’t want to say anything earlier in case she is your Favorite Doctor in all the World. πŸ™‚

    With that said, it IS nice to have a doctor in the back pocket who gives you that kind of freedom!

  • Reply Mystie June 4, 2010 at 10:28 pm

    Our assumption is that he wasn’t a candidate for it because it wasn’t actually allergies; however, the practitioner wouldn’t go so far. Unfortunately, due also to other misdiagnosis and experiences, my husband doesn’t trust her opinion or treatment at all anymore and we only take the kids there because she’ll allow us to pick and choose vaccinations and do it on a different timetable (we do tetanus when the kids are older).

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts June 4, 2010 at 9:33 pm


    You make me laugh! Of COURSE elimination diets are worse. Unless, of course, they make you better. I had a bad attitude about our diet almost the entire time we were on it. Now, I find myself cooking sans gluten most of the time without realizing it because it became habit! Funny thing, that…

    Not a candidate for NAET? I have never heard of that before. I have heard of not being a candidate on that particular day, but not being a candidate ever? I’m not saying it’s not possible, but I can’t help but wonder why.

    I feel a science project coming on. Ooh, if you guys lived closer…

    Just kidding. πŸ˜‰

    I’m just glad he found something that helps him!


    I am trying to think of how to phrase it so that it doesn’t sound like an excuse for bad behavior. I DID add tics/compulsive behaviors, and that is part of it, too. I want a short sentence.

    Maybe: “Behavior issues: hyperactivity, compulsions, inattention, lack of self-control which does not respond to consistent healthy discipline.” That seems short enough. Hmmm…

    I also need to add “unexplained sadness, especially in very young children.” That was definitely our older daughter. When kids are older, they probably call it depression. The bad digestion causes B-vitamin deficiencies…


    I am so glad that Doc was able to help Rebecca! I didn’t realize you had taken her in. I am so glad she blessed your family. She is truly an amazing lady. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Jennifer June 4, 2010 at 1:31 am

    I have had Rebecca in with the lovely doc Linda twice this spring. What I thought was a simple grass allergy ended up to be a whole list of allergies! She was so itchy and rash-y all the time. I felt horrible for her and I couldn’t fix it! I eliminated citrus and sugar and switched to raw milk but it was still there. But Doc Linda has cleared her since, and our spring has been much more enjoyable. God is so good to bless this town with such a capable, knowledgeable woman. We love her!

  • Reply Kimbrah June 4, 2010 at 12:12 am

    I feel like I should make time to blog about our food issues soon. Your list is very accurate Brandy. I would definitely add behavioural issues to the list, because that has been one of the biggest clues for us. It is difficult to describe unless you have been through it, but from the beginning, my instinct told me that it was more than just that sin nature working.

  • Reply Mystie June 3, 2010 at 11:45 pm

    My dilemma has been deciding which is worse: dry, rashy skin or elimination diets. πŸ™‚ And, of course, it is more the social aspect than home. The easiest way to do any diet is to not eat with other people.

    My husband took a blood allergy test a number of years ago, it showed multiple allergies, but eliminating them did nothing and our naturopath said he was not a good candidate for NAET. After nothing food-related helped (and some made it worse — he has a high metabolism and simply couldn’t get enough calories on a cheap elimination diet), he went to a “regular doctor” (well, 2, since the first thought anti-depressants would fix everything) and was diagnosed with high stomach acid. So now, despite hating being on maintenance meds, he has no food issues while on an acid-reducer. Ever since that experience he’s been skeptical and cranky about the naturopath options. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts June 3, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    Mystie, I almost put “behavior issues” but deleted it at the last moment! The reason is simply that it is SO hard to explain if you haven’t been there or had someone describe it to you in detail. My oldest especially had major behavior issues (starting around age 4–his allergies were very physical behaviors like tics–gasp! I have to go back and write tics on the list!) that were direct results of his allergies and went away on the exact days that his allergies faded. Interestingly enough for him, it didn’t matter if he ate the food or not in regard to his behavior/self-control struggles, which tells me his brain was simply impacted by the bad overall health of which allergies were a symptom.

    By the way: we always disciplined him regardless, because our goal was for him to grow up to be normal. However, we were able to have compassion, knowing that there were health issues aggravating him.

    Allergies are tricky. I have read papers that say that multiple exposures to one allergen can CAUSE other allergies (soy is a major culprit in that). I have also read papers that say that leaky guy can cause an allergic reaction to any incompletely digested protein that seeps through the intestinal wall. And then there is the idea that with some kids there is an underlying issue that is taxing the body and “causing” (sort of, but indirectly) the allergies in the first place. With our oldest, he had a huge combination of things (liver problems, yeast problems, etc.) and once he was treated for that, almost all of his allergies just disappeared. Allergies are weird! If fact, sometimes, I want to call them “allergies” because they don’t always seem to be exactly what we think they are. πŸ˜‰

    Elimination diets are a pain, but if you have excema in your family, chances are there is something going on with food. If you ever decide to do one, there are different variations, and I’d love to talk with you about your plan before you start. I made some mistakes early on that made the elimination diet take longer than it had to!

  • Reply Mystie June 3, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    My husband’s younger sister had food allergies that manifested through behavior issues. Turns out after years of “discipline trouble,” she was allergic to oatmeal, which they ate for breakfast *every morning.* πŸ™

    One thing I’ve always wondered is how there can be a food allergy that doesn’t seem to give any symptoms until later. Is it a build-up issue? You said here O. was allergic to his formula, but he had been having that for months and was still happy. Do you think it was the addition of more/different/worse allergens that triggered it?

    My kids all have eczema, and 2 at least also have environmental allergies (many people who live in this area eventually develop seasonal allergies). There aren’t any other symptoms to suggest food allergies (any more, my oldest grew out of an allergy/sensitivity to corn syrup), but sometimes I wonder if I shouldn’t try out an elimination diet to see if that helps. Sigh.

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