It was a cold, snowy night in December 2008 when my 3-year-old daughter, Madeline, came downstairs from her bedroom after we had already tucked her in. She said, “Mommy, I don’t feel well.” I looked at her and I could see that she had a couple of hives on her face. So, I went to the cabinet that was fully stocked with Benadryl (a requirement in any allergy house) and gave her the regular dosage.
Within 20 minutes she was covered head to toe in hives, she was having problems breathing and then began projectile vomiting. We called 911. It took 7 minutes for the ambulance to come to our house because they could not see the house number through the snow. At that time, we only had one epi-pen, and that was at school. We had given Maddie Benadryl, and we were praying it would kick in as we waited with white knuckles for that ambulance to come. Fortunately, the Benadryl was enough this time. To this day we still don’t know what triggered her anaphylactic attack.
Here are some food allergy statistics from the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The most recent data per the CDC is only through 2011.
- Researchers estimate that up to 15 million Americans have food allergies, including 5.9 million children under age 18. That’s 1 in 13 children, or roughly two in every classroom.
- About 30 percent of children with food allergies are allergic to more than one food.
- The Center for Disease Control & Prevention reports that the prevalence of food allergy in children increased by 50 percent between 1997 and 2011. Between 1997 and 2008, the prevalence of peanut or tree nut allergy appears to have more than tripled in U.S. children.
- Per the CDC website, “There is no cure for food allergies and reactions can be life-threatening. Strict avoidance of the food allergen is the only way to prevent a reaction.”
How I discovered that my children had food allergies.
From the moment Madeline started eating foods at 6 months old, she developed eczema. Per her pediatrician’s recommendation, we got her tested for food allergies. Allergies, asthma, and eczema often go hand in hand.
We went to a highly recommended allergist at a prestigious Boston hospital. They did a full panel RAST test on her back. For those of you that have not been through this, it is a grid filled with needles of the allergens that the doctors are testing the patient for. They press it on their back all at the same time, so you basically get pricked by 20 needles at once. They can also do the needle pricks one allergen at a time, but neither is well received by a child.
The worst part is the torture of watching your child needing to itch, but not being able to. Imagine being pinned down and tickled for 10 minutes… and you can’t do anything. We had to hold down Madeline’s hands when all she wanted to do was tear her back apart and scratch.
Surprisingly, all of the allergy tests came back negative.
We asked the doctor about the head to toe eczema as this was so impactful to Maddie’s quality of life. I will never forget what he said in verbatim, “Your daughter does not have food allergies, she has a skin condition”. At this point my mother’s intuition kicked in, and I remember thinking, “There is no way that this is not being caused by food. She has so much inflammation.”
I left there in tears not knowing how we would help my daughter.
When Maddie was 18 months old, she ate scrambled eggs and broke out in hives. That sent us back to the hospital to get her retested. This time she tested positive to egg. We were a little overwhelmed, but I remember thinking, “OK, we can handle this.” So, I taught myself how to bake and cook without egg. The thought of Maddie watching the other kids eat cupcakes and birthday cake at parties was crushing for me.
A year later, when Maddie was 2 ½ yrs. old, I remember going into a natural food store and just breaking down in tears. I had lost it. I was so desperate. I remember begging the man in the shop to tell me how I could help my daughter because not only did Maddie have food allergies, but she was covered head to toe in eczema. She would scratch all night until she bled. Most mornings she would wake up with her sheets covered in blood. When I changed her sheets, it felt like there was sand in her bed from the dried skin. This was the norm. I also had a newborn daughter (Julia) that was only 2 months old, so this definitely added to my delirium.
After that day, I embarked on a crusade. I vowed to read, research, investigate, network, etc. to do whatever was humanly possible to help my daughter. While egg was the only food coming up positive on the IgE blood test, I knew there was something that we were missing. Then we heard about a place in Cambridge, MA called the Marino Center (ironically Marino is my maiden name, so I knew this was the right place).
We waited for 3 months and finally were seen. We met with an amazing medical doctor that was also open to alternative medicine. We did a food sensitivity screening. (This is different than an allergy test). It is a blood test that measures your IgG levels which looks at food sensitivities vs. a true allergy. There are 4 main types of immunoglobulins— IgM, IgG, IgA, and IgE. Each immunoglobulin has a special role in both immunity and disease.
What came back high were oats, dairy, wheat, gluten, and sugar. We removed these from her diet and her skin significantly improved. It was overwhelming to remove this list of foods because in the beginning, we did not know what to feed her. However, after 13 years of living and breathing food allergies, I discovered so many allergy-friendly recipes that are still staples in our house: chicken tortilla soup, tacos, American chop suey, homemade chicken soup, roasted rosemary potatoes, stuffed peppers, etc.
This is how was my life has been impacted by anaphylactic food allergies.
After Maddie’s anaphylactic reaction we did another IgE blood test. This time milk, egg, almonds, pistachio, dairy, peanuts, and dog came back positive.
Prior to this we thought Maddie had more food sensitivities, so we were not super strict if something said “may contain or made on shared equipment with” on the packaging. However, after the attack and the new test results, the change in lifestyle became significant. We stopped eating at restaurants and any family party, we had to bring a bag of safe food for her. Birthday parties, soccer games, play dates, sleeping at Grandma’s house, etc always required a special bag of safe food with clear instructions that Madeline was not allowed to eat food from outside the bag unless I previously approved it.
If we did go to a restaurant, we typically brought her safe gluten-free pasta that we had previously made at home. Or we would order steamed broccoli at the restaurant, but frequently it came with butter on it even though we explicitly stated she had a dairy allergy. Many people don’t realize that butter has cow’s milk in it.
In October 2009, my 3rd daughter, Brooke, was born. She showed all the same signs that Maddie had with the eczema, so we just fed her the same foods. Gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, nut- and peanut-free, etc. Now my baking skills were really tested. Baking gluten-free and vegan. It’s pretty tough to get good consistency without using egg when baking gluten-free, but I persevered. Brooke did not have any issues on this restricted diet other than moderate eczema, so we did not get her officially tested until she was 3 years old.
When we finally did it was pretty overwhelming. Her IgE numbers were significantly higher than Madeline’s. Her dairy (cow milk) was greater than 100 and peanut was 96.8. Brooke had tested positive to:
- brazil nut
- cow milk
- egg yolk
To manage the plethora of food allergies and sensitivities with all 3 of my daughters, I created a massive spreadsheet with a column for each daughter and a list of over 100 foods. I worked full time and this allowed me to easily hand this schedule over to each new au pair that arrived. We had five different au pairs over a 10 year period. If my girls could eat the food, there was a green check in the box and if they could not eat the food, they had a red X. It was definitely a shell game for the food sensitivities, especially for Brooke. You could give her a food one day and she would be ok and then the same food two weeks later and she would react.
What I know now from my allergy training is that a person’s reactivity level can get heightened during different times of the year, especially if you have seasonal allergies. Think about a bucket full of water, and the bucket is your immune system. When your water level is to the top, anything that you add to the water will make it overflow. When you have seasonal allergies and you eat certain fruits and nuts cross-reactivity can occur. You can feel tingling in your mouth or a flare in eczema because of your overloaded immune system.
How I discovered the possibility that there may be a way to overcome food allergies.
Fast forward to 2012. I spoke to a fellow allergy mom at my kids’ school who told me about this “woman” in Lexington, MA who was helping kids overcome their severe food allergies. She was known in the community as “Allergy Amy,” and she used a holistic approach to cure food allergies. A non-invasive approach? Sign me up!!! I did not care how long I had to wait.
For 4 years, I saw this allergy mom regularly at school functions. She had been accepted into the A.R.T. Allergy Release Technique® program for her two daughters. I knew her daughters had multiple allergies and they were even worse than my daughter’s. I remember her telling me that her daughter’s wheat allergy was 700 for the IgE blood test. I honestly did not know the numbers could go that high.\ Every time I saw her, I would ask her so many questions about the process. I was so amazed that her kids were eating these things, but at the same time, I was also envious.
The call came in December 2016. There was one spot open for Brooke. I later found out that Amy decided to give two people an early holiday present and brought the two worst kids forward on the list. Brooke was one of those kids. I knew from all the discussions that I had with my fellow allergy Mom, that it was a huge time commitment, but nothing was going to stop me. I was willing to put in whatever was necessary. Two months later, a spot opened for Madeline….and so the journey began.
What is the A.R.T. Allergy Release Technique® program?
It is based on the philosophy that the body has powerful and innate healing abilities. The process focuses on strengthening and building the immune system so that body can function the way that it is supposed to. While this process was developed for severe food allergies, it helps with so much more.
It has helped clients with Lyme Disease, digestive disorders, lactose intolerance, eczema, and skin issues, oral allergy syndrome, etc. The process uses a radio frequency machine, called a Bioscan machine. Using the bucket analogy previously described, this process works to calm the heightened immune system. We do this by working on common allergens such as mold, dust, additives in foods, chemicals (glyphosate, cleaning products, scented candles, etc), animals, EMF (Electromagnetic Frequencies), etc. Then we use the machine to regularly check for viruses, bacteria, mold, heavy metals, etc. After the immune system is calmed, a food screening is conducted on over 200 foods. The allergen foods are eventually introduced slowly, in a very precise and methodical process.
There have been many instances where we have detected various strains of streptococcus bacteria in Brooke on the Bioscan machine. I will immediately take her to her pediatrician to get a swab test and she usually comes up positive for streptococcus bacteria.
Under A.R.T. Allergy Release Technique we discovered that Brooke had Lyme Disease and also suspected she had PANS (Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome). We did pull a tick off Brooke when she was 4-years-old, and after that, her eczema and many of her other conditions got much worse. Shortly after, Brooke developed severe OCD issues specifically with clothing, fabric texture and foods. In first grade, she would visit the school nurse 5-15 times a day because of severe anxiety, which caused her to itch and bleed from her eczema.
Additionally, she did not sleep at night because of the incessant scratching. In the 95-degree hot, humid Boston summers, she would only wear long-sleeve shirts and pants. She refused to wear shorts because she was so self-conscious about the eczema and what other kids would say when her legs and arms were exposed. We also had to put her on a special 504 plan at school to accommodate her needs as she was really falling behind academically. Thanks to the amazing support of the teachers and aids at her school she has since caught up.
How has this process impacted my family?
The drastic improvement for Brooke is completely attributable to A.R.T. Allergy Release
Technique®, which strengthened her immune system, and to The Emotion Code, which
cleared away blocked energy in the meridian pathways (based on Traditional Chinese
Medicine). These processes have given Brooke her life back and allowed her to be a
kid again. To run and play in shorts and t-shirts in the summer, swim in pools (chlorine always exacerbated her eczema) and eat ice cream and popsicles because it is the summer…. It is a freedom that I cannot describe. As a parent, watching your children transform in front of your eyes is truly a miracle.
For me the proof is in the results. I’ve seen the life of my family change so significantly that it’s hard for me to express in words. Neither of my daughters had ever tasted their friends’ birthday cake or had a doughnut from Dunkin Donuts (a staple in Boston).
Now my girls can eat out at restaurants, enjoy family parties and enjoy their Nana Mimi’s homemade zucchini bread with walnuts. We have had a lot of amazing firsts in the past two years: Fondue restaurants, pizza, eating Halloween candy, and peanut M&M’s, Benihana’s (Japanese Steak House), and traveling to other countries without having to bring an entire suitcase full of safe foods.
Brooke is still receiving weekly A.R.T. Allergy Release Technique® sessions, and we are using some additional holistic techniques such as magnetic therapy to help with the PANS.
What differentiates A.R.T. Allergy Release Technique® from many holistic modalities, is that it addresses the anxiety component to food allergies. These kids and parents who have experienced these life-threatening and debilitating situations have so much fear and anxiety around foods. Amy Thieringer, the founder of A.R.T. Allergy Release Technique®, worked with a Boston University Professor to develop an anxiety protocol for A.R.T. Allergy Release Technique®. This is a big part of the process. The process includes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and also some energy work.
I left my corporate job in 2017 as Director of Analytics at Converse, Inc. to pursue holistic health and to share my journey, educate and work with clients to help them get their lives back. What became very apparent to me during this process is how powerful the mind/body connection is. Regardless of the condition someone is struggling with (whether physical or psychological) there is always an emotional component that needs to be addressed.
When we first started in the A.R.T. Allergy Release Technique® program, Brooke would look at a picture of peanuts and break out in hives. The mind is so unbelievably powerful that a thought alone can create a physical effect in the body. I have started to include various healing modalities such as The Emotion Code and Reiki when working with clients which, has resulted in amazing success. I have started to include various healing modalities and energy work when working with clients with amazing success. I am grateful to be on this journey and to share my experiences to help others.
Laura Dillon is the founder of Allergy-Freedom, Inc. (a holistic health practice located North of Boston in Stoneham, MA). After working in the corporate world for over 21 years in Accounting/Finance/Analytics at prestigious companies such as Nike/Converse, Franklin Templeton Investments and Deloitte & Touche, Laura left to pursue a career in holistic health. Her eyes were opened to the true meaning of holistic health when two of her three daughters were born with severe anaphylactic food allergies to egg, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, and a plethora of food sensitivities and severe eczema. She is certified in A.R.T. Allergy Release Technique®, The Emotion Code, Reiki I & II and has her nutrition certification as a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner
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