My Son and The Blessing of Food Allergies

This is my son, Nathaniel.

He doesn’t enjoy a Full Strength daily like his dad has.

He doesn’t eat eggs for breakfast or enjoy a glass of dairy milk for his growing bones.

He’s never had a PBJ sandwich nor a Reeses peanut butter cup, a Hershey’s kiss, or anything that I knew as candy as a kid.

In fact, he doesn’t eat a lot of things most kids eat.

You see, Nathaniel is one of 3 million kids in the US that (suffer from) live with severe and life threatening food allergies. He’s allergic to dairy, eggs, peanuts, sesame, coconut, hazelnut and we used to think raspberries and I don’t even recall why. But not raspberries. 🙂

At least three million American children suffer from a food or digestive allergy, and the problem is growing, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Between 1997 and 2007, the figure rose 18 percent.

Yes, like many parents we found out the “hard way.” Sparing you the traumatic details, we’ve had some very scary times especially when he was a baby.

Angie and I feel we’ve been blessed with this opportunity to learn, and grow and we like to believe Nathaniel came to us because we could provide a great, healthy place where he can thrive. Fact is he eats better and more freely than most kids his age. He has a great appetite too.

Nathaniel Enjoying Vegan Birthday Cake

He has cake at birthday parties and ice cream (from rice, or almond) just like the other kids. His amazing mother devotes herself to making sure he never has to be without, the odd-kid out. Angie has perfected the art of baking allergy free cakes and treats that are so amazingly delectable that the non-allergy kids don’t even notice.

If anyone ever wonders why we eat at Tokyo Joes so often, well, first, it’s delicious, healthy food. But it’s also a place where they do a masterful job of handling our allergies. Every time we step into a restaurant we are putting life at risk. So, as you would, we take it very seriously–as does Joe’s. They are what I call, “Food Allergy Friendly.” They got it handled.

That said, every party, every sleep-over, every time we leave him somewhere is an event that requires preparation and planning. Angie bakes cupcakes in advance. We pack food or plan deliveries. We have to get special “safe” pizza made and deliver it mid-party or take buns we know are safe, pack our own bread. Whatever. It’s all part of the deal. That’s all.

And should anyone ever give us the, “Oh, I’m sorry. That seems so hard,” We offer, “no, it’s aninconvenience.” There are some real health challenged children in this world and we…We have an inconvenience.” And that’s a real blessing we are reminded of every day.

Nathaniel doesn’t want anyone feeling sorry for him either. There’s no reason. In fact, in his life is a lesson for most everyone else—a truth that many people miss about food, and emotional attachment.

What Food Should You Give Up?

One of the great lessons in all this life has been getting much clearer on food and our deep attachment to it. I hear so many people in the “dieting” realm agonizing about the loss of sweets, or the sacrifice of giving up nightly wine or whatever it is; and I think… Really?

How is that story and it’s attached emotion helping you or is it weakening you?

Learn from a boy with allergies and his simple wisdom: The foods he is allergic—and it’s a lot—he doesn’t eat.

Let me say that one more time: We just don’t eat them. We don’t have an energy about it. We don’t have to suffer for it. We just don’t eat them.

I say, “We,” because it’s a collective decision and experience. It impacts us all. Even if Nathaniel were great with his allergies, if we showed sadness or drama about it, it would deeply affect him.

What if the foods that made you fat, that robbed your energy, that you know aren’t getting you any better, you just stopped eating? And rather than make some loss about it you just chose to accept that they are killing you.

Think about it this way; Nathaniel has a drop of milk and he’s at least in the hospital, drugged up, if not a lot worse. So, we don’t eat it.

What if you took this wisdom for yourself and just stopped? Don’t eat it. Don’t do it. And don’t have drama about it.

Take one food or category and just don’t eat it. Don’t’ waste your time, energy and life agonizing over it. You just don’t. And that is it. Drop the energy, drop the story, drop the loss, drop the pain and embrace everything else out there.

This isn’t about loss, it’s about life. In our case, it’s literally life and death but we’d be kidding ourselves to pretend it’s not the same for many others out there. The “stuff” you eat may not kill you today but one day it’ll be that day.

It’s about choosing life now and how.

A Sad, Sad Reminder

This is Cameron. A perfectly normal, healthy 19 year old except he had an allergy to peanuts. And he knew all that right things but knowing isn’t always perfect.

As a reminder of how threatening food allergies are (and we do need this reminder now and then) here’s a boy, a little older than Nathaniel, who was going on about his life in a normal 19 year old boy way, only to be struck down by a cookie.

This is a reminder that no matter how great things are, with allergies you can be in trouble in an instant. You can’t not take a day off—you don’t get a “free day.”

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  1. Janice April 29, 2014 at 9:05 am #

    I love the focus on the things your son CAN have, instead of what he is deprived from. My baby girl (age 5) is allergic to peanut, and also has a milk allergy that she is slowly outgrowing, but still not completely free from. I try hard to not focus on what she can’t have, but what she can. We keep trying to instill that concept in her siblings too. Children don’t want to be left out. Thanks for sharing what works for your family!

  2. Marty Goldman April 8, 2013 at 6:33 pm #

    Wow Shawn so well said!! I am humbled by reading this!!!

    Great share to the world I hope many read this!!

    Marty

  3. bill (cycleguy) April 5, 2013 at 8:56 am #

    Shawn: I came by way of Melanie Wilson’s blog. this was truly a good post. My almost 38 y/o daughter was diagnosed with Medullary Sponge Kidney Disease a couple of years ago. Through a lot of trial and error (mostly error by the medical community) she has finally figured out soy and gluten deeply affect her condition and forming of stones. She has since changed her diet, started running, lost 30 pounds and is running a half marathon this Sunday.

    I am a cyclist (60) and couldn’t be more proud of her. She has been a school teacher for close to 12 years and has decided to change professions to being a health coach. She is taking a 2 year on line course (so she can continue working) because she wants to focus on children’s health. Here is a little bit of her story. Any advice to her would be appreciated.

    http://journeytoahealthylife.blogspot.com/2013/04/the-big-dream.html

    Thanks again for the post and any help/advice.

    • shawn_phillips May 7, 2013 at 1:40 pm #

      Bill,

      Thank you for sharing. What a story… good deal on the discovery. I get it.

      Food is a strange beast for many of us these days. I have no medical advice for sure but sounds like you’ve found the way and sharing the journey is a great way to pay it forward.

      To Your FullStrength,
      Shawn

  4. Jaime Perez March 19, 2013 at 8:27 pm #

    My son Beau is in exact position and have similar food allergies. He just turned 3, and I am inspired by the courage you and your family has done to make this unique situation as normal for your son to the best that it can be. I would love to connect with you to get more information about your wife’s recipes for Nathaniel amongst other things. I would really appreciate it and more power to you and your family.

    • shawn_phillips March 20, 2013 at 11:21 am #

      Yes, for sure… let’s talk! It’s not easy but it is… and there’s much to learn and share.

      Thanks!

  5. Kevin March 17, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

    Shawn that was a very good article. I had food allergies or sensitivities and had the ALCAT blood test done. It was very informative but costly though. It can be purchased through them or a naturopathic doctor. I determined I had leaky gut syndrome. I found large amount of probiotics,l-glutamine and aloe vera juice helped immensely including a digestive enzyme with each meal. Look for the book “Disease in Disguise” by Dr. Carol Bateson-Koch it is a good read. I wish you and your son all the best in the journey.

    All the best
    Kevin

  6. Kevin T March 17, 2013 at 11:43 am #

    Shawn…your writing has been so crystal clear lately. God bless Nathaniel, great looking kid(!)and your fantastic fam. There’s some kind of roll you’ve been on lately, man…and it’s snowballing. Thanks
    For this treat today.
    ~Kevin

    • shawn_phillips March 17, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

      Thanks Kevin… your support is always met with open warm heart. I love hearing how things are really showing up out there.

      It’s important to know when one reaches deep that it’s resonating with some group. It does feel different.

      Peace, Strength…
      Shawn

  7. Jack Chang March 17, 2013 at 9:47 am #

    My son also has food allergies. He has learned to not eat anything without knowing where it came from or what it is made from. The most important thing of all, he does not eat if there a a doubt. Some sees him as a picky eater, but he needs to be. The worst part for my son is that he doesn’t need to eat food like dairy. He has contact allergy to it also. He can get a reaction just touching it. Unfortunately, an Epi-pen is a constant companion, just in case.

    • shawn_phillips March 17, 2013 at 2:51 pm #

      Jack,

      Yes, it’s a trip… right? Doubt… knowing that people understand what you are saying is critical.
      We’ve walked out of many restaurants because a lack of clear eye-contact.

      Best to you and your family!
      Shawn

  8. Carlo Verzeletti March 16, 2013 at 8:08 pm #

    Amazing story of life. Thanks for the details.

  9. Roger Chauvette March 16, 2013 at 4:55 pm #

    Many thanks, Shawn, for this great post. All the best to Nathaniel! He couldn’t have landed in a better environment nor with more caring parents. While his allergies are life-threatening, mine seem minor by comparison. If he follows in his father’s footsteps, he’s find a cure in unexpected places and be all the stronger for it.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The 5 Most Deadly Foods | Strength for Life | Shawn Phillips - September 17, 2013

    […] know this one all to well for as you may know we have food allergies in the family, as I shared in The Blessing of Food Allergies, including this one. Peanuts are one of the more common allergies in kids and more lethal. There is […]

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