My Love and Hate Relationship With Dairy

As a mother of a child with dairy and nut allergies, nothing strikes greater fear than to be at a social setting where there is ignorance about the seriousness of food allergies. Some well-intentioned people say, “It’s ok. You just need to build up her tolerance. Give her a little to help her grow out of it.” I feel like smacking them and saying, “Why not just shoot her in the head? I don’t think suffocation is a fun way to die.”

These folks haven’t see her lips turn blue, her skin turn grey, and her eyes rolling up into her head, while she’s scratching violently at her throat and lymph nodes, coughing and desperately sucking in air, while weakly moaning for help. Twice we’ve been to the emergency room, and both times I found myself bargaining with God and promising to be a better mom, to go to church, to be kinder to others. Anything to spare my little girl.

We’ve been lucky that she has been able to rebound without any complications, but I know that we can never be lax when in comes to checking ingredients, even going as far as clarifying what dairy is to people who are taking our order and emphasizing the importance of watching out for cross-contamination. (There have been a number of instances we’ve had near-misses with a server who had not realized that butter and cheese are dairy.)

I find myself cursing the dairy industry with its ads (propaganda?) and the fact that a lot of foods contain dairy or is manufactured in a facility that processes dairy and nuts. Even the catering service for The Princess’s daycare/kindergarten seems to love throwing in dairy indiscriminately, so that it’s present in foods that could easily do without it. I’m sure in their minds they think they’re doing the children and parents a favor.

Nowadays I even have to be careful about soygurt, as some probiotic cultures are raised in a milk-based medium. And then there are dairy-derivatives like casein, lactose, and lactic acid that we have to watch out for as well.

The Princess is average in height and very lean, which makes her appear tall for her age. Fortunately, she hasn’t suffered from not having any dairy. On the contrary, I’m sure she is healthier—especially without the exposure to the bovine growth hormones and antibiotics that are present in traditional milk. This is not to say that she’s 100% in the clear. She has had more than her fair share of nitrates/nitrites which is present in bacon, spam, and ham, though lately I’ve been more careful lately about purchasing nitrate/nitrite-free foods.

One side affect for me is that I have become lactose sensitive, now that I don’t have dairy regularly. I can still have chocolate without any problems (which is good and bad), but having real cream in my coffee or even the non-dairy kind is like taking a laxative. Eating pizza? It’s good going down, but then I’m not loving life in a couple of hours, and neither are the people around me. I like ice cream, but same story. Sure, milk might be able to help me lose weight, but not a healthy way, or in a lasting way.

I try to count my blessings—The Princess is now able to handle certain food items that have very slight traces of dairy. She is not as bad off as certain people who cannot even be in a room where someone had just eaten a food item with peanuts. But it still breaks my heart to see her longingly look at her friends who are eating pizza, regular ice cream, and cake at birthday parties.

Nowadays, there seems to be a greater number of people with food allergies and intolerances. What’s making it so? Have we just gone overboard with the bioengineering of our foods? Are we not allowing our natural immune systems to kick in by hypersterilizing everything with our antibacterial cleansers? Was it something I ate too much of while I was pregnant? (The Filet-O-Fish or rice krispie treats?)

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