Imagine my dismay when, as a new momma and long-avowed foodie, I learned that my son has food intolerances. A food intolerance is different than an allergy in that it is temporary and more of an irritant to the digestive system, rather than something that causes a severe reaction.
As a breastfeeding momma, the only way to determine a food intolerance and solve the irritation is to go on an elimination diet to determine the trigger food(s), and stop eating it/them altogether. By eliminating potential intolerances from my diet, my son will no longer ingest them via my breastmilk, and in about a month his digestive system should be clear of whatever food that is bothering him.
My understanding is that dairy and soy are at the top of the list, followed by other top allergenic foods such as eggs, nuts, seafood, etc. So, of course I’ve cut all of this out of my diet and then some, just to be sure we solve this issue. Casting a wide net seems like the best approach here, because it’s highly likely that whatever food is bothering him is disrupting his ability to sleep well—and lord knows this momma could use some more sleep after 4.5 months and counting of sleeping in 1-2 hour stretches at night, and catnapping with the baby during the day.
In an attempt to “clean” my breastmilk of allergens and help my son feel and sleep better, I’ve begun living by the Auto Immune Protocol (AIP). This diet, or rather lifestyle, is intense. The AIP is essentially the Paleo diet but even more strict—I’ve also had to remove fish, nuts and eggs as well, because they are top allergens. As a foodie, you can understand my shock in having to live by such a strict diet regime, literally cutting out everything besides fruit, vegetables and meat. It has changed our lives drastically, from how we shop to how much money we spend on groceries to what we plant in our garden, and fully restricted us from eating out. This is just about as intense as it gets for a foodie like me. Not being able to eat out ever is killer. And in fact, I learned the hard way by going out once when I was 2.5 weeks into this diet regime and backslid by accidentally eating a lunch that had dairy in it—boy did I pay for it the next couple days when my son very clearly reacted negatively. Having to hit the reset button and start over in my month-long cleanse countdown was devastating. Lesson learned—no eating out. (Happy to report I am now 2 weeks "clean" on AIP again with no intention of eating out anytime soon. And at least now I know dairy is a major trigger food!)
This drastic shift in my lifestyle has been a challenge for me, because so much of my identity is wrapped up in food and drink. I’ve never lived a life with a restricted diet and it’s hard cooking restricted meals for myself every day. At first, I wasn’t very creative and was making simple dishes, but then I got bored and started to do some research.
I've got a couple cookbooks from the library and Pinterest recipes by my side now, and I’ve taken it upon myself to try and make some delicious dishes—despite all the restrictions. Let me first say that coconut is a lifeline! I use the milk for sauces/bases and the flakes for crunchy toppings. And I’ve learned to get creative with ingredients I’ve never really thought about combining—like apple slices as a burger "bun".
I make a “yogurt” for breakfast out of avocado, mango, strawberries and spinach, with a splash of coconut milk. It’s absolutely delicious, and when topped with fruit and toasted coconut flakes, it mimics a yogurt and granola combo quite well! For smoothies I use frozen bananas as a thickener and opt for coconut milk in lieu of any dairy. For lunch I’m mostly enjoying salads with a ton of raw veggies and grilled chicken on top, or for a quick-fix lunch my go-to is chicken sausage and avocado slices. For dinners, I’ve made a few soups/stews, but generally just cook up a cut of meat and make a side of veggies and/or salad. I’m still looking to expand more for dinners, but it can be tough to spend time scouring recipes when I’ve got a 4.5 month-old demanding every moment of my attention.
As I continue on my AIP journey, I'll be sharing my experiences and recipes. Below is my very-own green breakfast smoothie recipe!