It was March 4, 2015. The day that I had internally dreaded and battled for weeks and weeks now had arrived. Today would be TJ’s first food challenge where he would ingest coconut for the first time.
But before we recap that day, what is a food challenge?
According to Foodallergy.org, an oral food challenge is “a highly accurate diagnostic test for a food allergy.” It is done with an allergist at a medical facility due to the potential risk of an allergic reaction. See more here:
Oral Food Challenge – Resource 1
(Check out the link below for this awesome resource…)
Oral Food Challenge – Resource 2
Since TJ was 10 months and allergic to most varieties of milk (almond, soy, cow’s, goat, oat, coconut), we were trying to figure out what route to take after I stopped breastfeeding. I do not regret for one second doing that crazy strict elimination diet from December through June to continue breastfeeding as I know that it was best for TJ’s health and safety during that time. However, we prayed that TJ’s body would mature and be able to thrive on another option as well. I could not breastfeed forever.
Therefore, his doctors analyzed his blood work to devise a plan. To complicate matters, testing for allergies via blood work is not always accurate. People can have false negatives and false positives within their results. (For more about blood tests and its accuracy, click here.) Because of his dermographism, skin testing is not an option right now. His skin reacts to many substances due to being hyper-sensitive, not only due to allergies. According to blood work IgE levels, coconut was his lowest level of his allergies. Therefore, in theory, he had the least chance of having a reaction to coconut.
(Despite that, it is important to note that there is ALWAYS a chance of a mild or even severe reaction at any level. With an IgE level of 0.6, I was never told to eliminate coconut from my diet during the six months of the elimination diet. Our doctor, allergists, and nutritionist all agreed, this was PROBABLY not a true allergy.)
Click here to see my post on Allergy Classification.
Still I did not find comfort in the “probably.” Actually, I’ve never found comfort in the “probablys” in life. (Ask my parents… I drove them crazy growing up, insisting on a “definitely” if I was ever told “probably.” Now, I am still that same persistent self…. my poor husband … )
Anyways, I prayed and prayed that God would guide us and protect TJ.
On the morning of the challenge, TJ woke up and he nursed like usual. After feeding for a few minutes, he unlatched and puked all over. This had never happened before even before our elimination diet. This was different. It was not allergy related. It was his first stomach bug. The food challenge had to be postponed, and later cancelled until further testing.
I took it as a sign back then that his body wasn’t ready for any food challenges and that we would wait until his allergies were retested around his first birthday to come up with a plan. For me, the exact timing of the stomach bug was not a coincidence. Instead, it confirmed that this was indeed God’s way of protecting TJ and showing us not to put him in the food challenge back in early March. How amazing is that!
4 months later (in July)…
After his first birthday, TJ passed both a soy and pea oral food challenge. He was and continues to do wonderfully with both. It was recommended that he also participate in a coconut milk challenge then at 14 months old. This time around I was not as worried as I had been in the past. His body seemed to be making such progress with allergies. But we would soon learn why that word probably is often used…
TJ’s blood IgE level for soy was higher than coconut ever was. He passed soy and consumes it every day since. However, his body would reject coconut milk and cause him to mildly vomit and develop an itchy mouth when he went on to challenge it with his allergist. Therefore, despite levels, coconut is a true allergy and soy may have never been. It is either crazy frustrating or fascinating … but all depends how you chose to look at it. All of this drove me crazy for awhile but now I accept it as part of this world of food allergies…
Looking back, I truly believe TJ would have had a worse reaction to coconut if he had challenged it back in March. Thank God for that “”perfectly-timed” stomach bug… . Never thought I’d say that…
Most importantly, thank God for protecting him not only that day but every day, giving us more reasons to smile on even if it is without coconut…
What are your thoughts on or experiences with food challenges?
Looking back, has anything negative like a stomach bug ever come at the “perfect” time for you?
I’d love to hear what you have to say.
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