This is a series focused on personal journey with eczema while managing a certain aspect of life. Today, we have Judy Converse, founder of Nutrition Care for Children LLC, whose son showed signs of eczema in his first two months. Today, she shares how she managed her son’s diet. Judy is a licensed nutritionist and a registered dietitian for more than 20 years, and had shared on Eczema Kids Nutrition here.
Marcie Mom: Hi Judy, thanks so much for returning to take part in my Friday blog series ‘Someone has Eczema’! Let’s start with you sharing a little of your son’s eczema history – when did eczema start and what’s the severity?
Judy: My son’s rashes became visible just after birth. It was confusing – he was breast fed; I had received no medications or interventions during delivery. There seemed to be nothing, as far as I knew, that he could have reacted to. Within the next few weeks, it was bad enough that he might bleed from scratching at it, unless we covered his hands for sleep. I know this is controversial, but we came to strongly suspect this was part of an adverse reaction to his newborn dose of hepatitis B vaccine, which had been given without our knowledge.
Marcie Mom: I understand that you got into your current field to understand more about helping your son.
Share with us: What perplexed you so much when you were managing his diet that spurred you to be a nutritionist and dietitian?
Judy: I became a dietitian years before my son was born, and had already worked in this field. But I had not been involved with pediatric nutrition up to that point, other than some work in the WIC program in my training. My son’s circumstances are what triggered me into this niche. What perplexed me – or I should say – stunned me – was that even though he was having rashes and many other concerning symptoms, we were repeatedly told it was “normal”. He had projectile vomiting, terrible hard screaming (one nurse said to me “he’s too young to have colic” when he was just a few days old and screaming until he was blue), seizure like events, and runny liquid stools – at 8 or 12 months old, he would have 10 liquid runny mucousy stools a day, that ran up to his neck and down his legs. Even my father, then about 70 years old, brought it up to me. Five kids plus three other grandkids and he’d never seen poop like that. But the doctors insisted it was normal. It isn’t normal. It’s clearly a sign of a problem with digestion, absorption, inflammation or all three.
My son was born full term weighing 7 lbs 8 oz, but slid down the growth chart so that by age 2 months, he was hovering at the 5th percentile. This was the wrong direction. Obviously, his digestion was not working normally. But I could not get any of my son’s pediatric providers to see that. I found this quite disturbing, to see that a baby’s nutrition, growth, feeding and eliminating were not a priority to them. My training had given me thorough evidence based information about how crucial these are for normal brain development and learning. It was a shocker to me that no one was concerned. No one seemed to realize this can impact a baby’s brain.
Marcie Mom: Was it easy to figure out his allergies or did the allergy testing not corroborate with your observations?
Judy: Though I had excellent training in my undergrad and graduate nutrition studies, allergies in infants was new territory for me. I had no guidance from my son’s health care providers. I reached out to La Leche League, which I knew about because one of my graduate advisors had been involved with them. They gave me helpful information about breastfeeding an allergic baby. This was in 1996-1997. No internet to speak of. I opened my text books and dove into learning as much as I could. I requested allergy testing when my son was 8 months old. This is young for this testing, but he had dramatic allergic responses to several foods he had never eaten. The doctor apologized, saying my son would probably have asthma and eczema for the rest of his life. Neither came true – I was determined to redirect that.
I later learned that these reactions were only part of the story. These were IgE allergy reactions. When my son was about two years old, we checked IgG food sensitivity reactions. There were several reactions there as well. They didn’t correspond to the IgE. It filled out the rest of the story, and confirmed he had other foods we had to prioritize. This is something I have seen often in my practice since. There is plenty of debate about IgG food allergy testing, especially in children as young as 2 years old. But once we mapped both the IgG and IgE reactions, we could make a more effective plan. My son was eczema free and has been his whole life since. His stools and growth normalized. He was happier. Over the years, he has had a few asthma episodes. Every time we are offered an inhaler, he seems to use it once or twice, then it sits in a drawer and expires before he needs it again.
Marcie Mom: One final question – now that your son is an adult, did that shared experience managing his diet give him fond memories of your care and love for him?
Judy: My son is in high school – not always the moment when parents feel appreciated by their kids! But he understands all the effort made on his behalf. We as a family have learned to enjoy many foods that we never would have discovered if it weren’t for his needs. He is sort of a foodie. He loves good food, is interested in cooking, and has an adventurous palate, because at a very young age, we had to have other options for him. He has taught me a lot.
Marcie Mom: Thanks Judy for taking time to share your journey on managing your son’s diet – am sure many moms like me are inspired to study to help our children!