A Pizza Mystery
I’ve had a looooong day. Okay, a looooong few weeks. With the road trip and then jumping into back to school season, I’m mentally and physically burned out. This post will be a little shorter, and on a more personal level. In fact, much of my future blogs will be on the shorter side from now on. More on that below…
Let me just start with the fact that I allowed my girl some “real” cheese pizza this weekend, after many weeks without cow’s milk products. And I say “real” loosely, because truly, I have no idea what Mo’s puts in their pizza. Mistake. More on that below, too.
I recently learned from some readers that kids who have dye-sensitivity can react to unlabeled petrol-based preservatives in dairy products too (the preservatives were present to keep the “added vitamins” from going bad). The same readers told me that many of these kids used to have a serious dairy allergy as babies, but the symptoms had now evolved into something less physical and more behavioral – like spacing out, defiance, aggression, hyperactivity, and not listening.
I found this intriguing. My daughter had a true dairy allergy as a baby – she used to experience full-on anaphylactic symptoms with cow’s milk and cheeses. Within five short minutes, her body would be covered in welts, she would projectile vomit repeatedly, her eyes got itchy, she’d start wheezing, and her throat would close up.
So, feeling skeptical and a little worried, I eliminated dairy from our diet for many weeks. I found vegan shredded “cheese” and shelf-stable packs of Rice Dream rice milk “classic” (which has no added vitamins). I noticed that my own skin looked better – the adult acne was slightly better and the painful dry lips healed up smoothly for the first time in three years. And I’m sure that we were consuming way less fat than before…bonus.
Also a few months ago, another reader told me about reactions to a natural food colorant called “annatto”. Some folks apparently process annatto in their bodies the same way they do Red 40 food dye. At the time, I didn’t think it was a problem for us, and kept on buying lots of “all natural” crackers, cheeses, and snacky stuff colored with annatto. Well, you may have read that I soon discovered that both my daughter and I seriously react to annatto (see Hindsight, Regret, and This Dye-Free Parent’s Learning Curve). For her, it was pulling out eyelashes and body hair. For me, it was an inexplicable moody anger, similar to my reaction to synthetic Red 40 food coloring.
So I stopped buying all the annatto-colored stuff at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and other health food stores. This was NO easy task. Annatto is in a LOT of “all natural” products – even in white cheddar crackers. We did great without it for a long, long time. But occasionally we’d eat out and my daughter would start showing her old symptoms again. For instance, during and just after our summer road trip, my daughter was yanking out eyelashes compulsively for days and days. Then it stopped.
Then when school started, I cooked eggs every morning for her first week…and she pretty much pulled out both eyebrows, almost completely. I thought it was back to school nerves or even anxiety over the bully who was making her life hell. I reminded myself that egg yolks were made more vivid with annatto in chicken feed. I had mistakenly bought the wrong eggs. So I switched to pasture-raised eggs instead of grain-fed chicken eggs. The problem went away again…
This past weekend, we were super busy with other events, out in the sun all day, and I was dead tired at dinnertime. So we ordered pizza – with “real” cheese, not the usual Daiya vegan stuff I’d been using. Since then, she’s had clearly recognizable problems with impulse control, general bounciness, spacing out, seemingly ignoring me, emotional sensitivity, and lack of attention.
But the worst, WORST part is that she came home from school today missing a whole. bunch. of. hair. Like she had a for-real baby bald spot. Right up front and center. As if she took an electric razor to her hairline. It was my Wonder Woman doll haircut in the 70s all over again (thank goodness kids’ hair doesn’t sprout from one spot at the top of their head in a font of plasticky waves). *sigh*
Now I’ve always taught her that looks aren’t so important (hence my Wonder Woman mohawk experiment as a kid), but seeing my beautiful little child with a little hunk of that gorgeous wavy golden hair ripped out of her precious scalp brought me to tears. She had promised she would stop, but clearly, she couldn’t seem to control this. She apologized, BEGGED me not to take her to the doctor, and kept promising to stop doing it. She even threw the whole “it doesn’t matter what I look like!” thing back at me.
I felt terrible for her.
And yet I heard myself saying in a gently roundabout way….yes it kinda does matter, when you are bald, sweetie. The things we never thought we’d say, before we had kids. I told her that there are many ways to respect herself like eating healthy, bathing, brushing teeth and taking good care of her hair, etc.
I didn’t want to make her feel bad, but she could tell from my awful poker face that I was at a total loss. I asked her about all the usual sources of stress and anxiety…schoolwork, the kid who had been bullying her since last year, friendships, etc. She didn’t seem bothered by anything (except for yet another bossy kid who is now bothering her – my sweet-natured and kind-hearted kid seems to have a target on her back). But while she was a little upset about this new kid problem, she seemed confident in herself, and she acted out her plan for standing up to the bossy kid.
So, why did she do it?
She said she just wanted to see what the hair roots look like. *sigh* How to deal with THAT? I mean, I almost think I can handle any other reason besides THAT. I encourage scientific inquiry in everyday life, but come ON.
It pained me to tell her that if she doesn’t stop pulling hair, eyelashes, and eyebrows out, she may not be able to take a school picture and be in the yearbook. It’s killing me to tell her that. The unconditionally loving mom in me wants to let her go wave her freak flag like Ramona Quimby, and perhaps have something to laugh about with her own kids in her later life. The proud part of me wants to carefully write her name, age, and grade on the back of ten thousand weirdly-sized copies of her picture to frame and mail off to relatives – eyebrows intact.
But we also talked about a reward for keeping her hands off her hair until Picture Day (at least). I told her that not only could she have her picture done and be in the yearbook, but I’d also take her to get a super special surprise that day. Hell, I’m ready to hand over my savings account just to get her to stop.
I’ve looked into some kind of fidget jewelry, but I can’t find anything that is a) Strong enough to withstand her chewing/bending, b) Free of petrol-based colors or dyed fabrics, or c) Free of lead and other baddies.
But treating the symptom is just one thing. I know I need to be more vigilant about what goes into her body. Here I was thinking that I fed my daughter healthy stuff – I avoid dyes, preservatives, and flavorings – and yet every few months I’m learning something new.
Most of what I was learning seemed to be coming from the same group of “Feingold diet” parents. I’m told by many Feingold parents that you really have to do it 100% “by the book”. So I think I have to dip more than one toe into the hardcore Feingold elimination now, just to see if there’s anything else we missed.
We hadn’t jumped in all the way because Gary was an early “target” in the 70s (that’s what you call your kid who is affected by certain food additives). It was only a mild attempt back then, but to this day he still talks about some kind of pumpernickel bread (?). Luckily, things have changed A LOT since those early days. Feingold kids eat well, and enjoy all kinds of treats.
So now he’s on board and ready to try this for our girl. I think the visual of seeing your gorgeous little daddy’s girl with something just a little “off”, like missing eyebrows, is enough to convince any proud papa.
Who knows, maybe we won’t learn anything from the Feingold elimination. Maybe my kid is just…quirky.
But I’ve already learned a lot from the Feingold parents on their web site and their Facebook group. I have the membership, the food guide, the Feingold website discussion forums, and the restaurant guide. I may even buy the cookbooks…
It won’t be a breeze – we’ll need to avoid salicylates (found in some veggies and fruits, like my girl’s favorite Pink Lady apples, and incidentally – in annatto), dyes, flavorings, and preservatives. This means that we’ll have to stay away from our favorite and easy go-to meal of pizza for a few weeks just to start. (But to be honest, there aren’t that many places that serve phenomenal pizza). It sounds hard but there are supposedly tomato-free pizza and spaghetti sauce recipes available out there.
All I need now is the guts. This may get a little hairy.
Please bear with me in the mean time. My daughter needs me so much more lately, at the very least, to do more home cooking! I may not be around here quite as much, but my passion for this subject is no less fiery, and I’m sure you will understand that my time is being well spent. For the Greater Good.
Do you have any personal stories to share with me about diet-related trichotillomania (hair pulling)? Please share in a comment below.
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