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change your diet, skip surgery - how removing dairy helped my son avoid an unnecessary tonsillectomy

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A big part of our journey into getting dairy off our plate was when Jacob was about a year old. He constantly had a stuffy nose and was always breathing through his mouth. I thought a lot of kids were just mouth breathers, so I didn't think much of it. Then one winter, he had pneumonia twice, and a series of coughs and that would last for a month or more. His tonsils were constantly red and swollen; how could this kid even swallow his food?

Jacob’s pediatrician at the time referred him to an ENT (ear, nose, and throat) specialist who recommended removing his tonsils and adenoids and planting tubes in his ears.

He was only two years old! I couldn't fathom signing him up for an elective surgery. Especially because a tonsillectomy almost killed my husband. The specialist couldn't tell me why his tonsils and were enlarged and wasn't at all interested in investigating why. We had his hearing checked to make sure it hadn't been damaged from sinus drainage. His hearing was fine – I knew he could hear me when I was telling him ‘no’ for the fifteenth time.

The ENT said I had two choices, put Jacob through surgery, or take a wait-and-see approach.

He said some kids grow out of it and some kids just have enlarged tonsils. I couldn't accept this explanation.

There had to be a reason why he was constantly stuffed up without being sick. I consulted a naturopath who suggested that a food allergy could be causing his enlarged tonsils so she recommended food allergy testing. She explained the tricky part about identifying food sensitivities is that they don’t have an immediate reaction. I thought, no way he has any food allergies, he’s never had a strange reaction to any foods, and I thought he was pretty regular – 5 times a day regular.

The allergy test she recommended is called an IgG test. I had no idea this was. When I thought about allergy testing, I thought about the scratch tests where they scratch you with potential allergens and look for a visible reaction.

I learned that food allergies are a reaction to food proteins and are categorized in mainly two ways; as an immunoglobulin E (IgE)–mediated (immediate) reaction or a non–IgE-mediated (delayed) reaction. I had associated food allergies with IgE reactions, which would immediately result in itchy skin, trouble breathing, vomiting, throat swelling, or anaphylaxis.

With an IgG reaction, the reaction may take several hours to several days to present itself. Some common IgG reactions are (but not limited to) headaches, hypertension, asthma, recurrent respiratory infections, joint pain, sinus infections or weird skin rashes. Both Ryan and Talia experienced skin rashes in response to trigger foods which I’ll discuss in a later post.

Since IgG allergic reactions take hours or days after ingestion to appear this makes it very difficult to pinpoint the culprit foods.

An IgG allergy test is done by taking a blood spot from a finger prick (Jacob barely flinched). The sample was sent to a lab where it was testing against 96 of the most common eaten foods and we received the results about three weeks later. The test cost about $230, and thankfully was covered by my insurance. Even if I had to pay out of pocket though, I wholeheartedly believe it would have been a valuable investment in his health.

When healthy foods aren't healthy for you, you need to know.

I received the results in a well-organized report, which detailed what foods caused an immune reaction and how severe that reaction was. Based on this report, the naturopath recommended removing any trigger foods for a minimum of three months, then reintroduce foods one at a time, a new one every week and watch for any of the reactions mentioned earlier within seven days. With Jacob, his reactions were typically a stuffy nose or more than normal poo.

Upon review of the report with our naturopath, Jacob tested to be highly sensitive to cow’s milk, cheese and eggs, and somewhat sensitive to soy, asparagus, oranges and cod. I immediately cut these foods out of his diet as best I could.

I noticed a change in just a few weeks - he could breathe through his nose and went from five bowel movements a day to two or three. He has also avoided antibiotics for over three years. After several months with these foods off of his plate, his tonsils were visibly smaller.

He never went back to the ENT. He still has selective hearing, but I’m pretty sure that all kids do.

I never reintroduced dairy to Jacob’s diet. He'll have baked goods with traces of dairy and ice cream maybe every other year. Ice cream is usually followed by a stuffy nose the next day - totally not worth it. 

I'm fortunate to have found a knowledgeable naturopath that helped Jacob reach his optimum health.

It frightens me to think of how many parents have, and will put their kids at risk for a surgery that can easily be avoided by changing what’s on our plate.

I'm not a medical professional, and this story only depicts my personal experience. Please see a medical professional – in my opinion, preferably a naturopath or other natrual health practitioner to help you find your way to living your best life.