Mary Jo Koslosky
I am the mother of a food allergic daughter and a co-founder of Thrive Dairy Free.
Diagnosis & Adaptation
At 7 months old, our daughter was diagnosed with Anaphylatic food allergies to dairy, egg, and peanut after her lips touched a spoon containing a trace amount of whole milk. She is also sensitive to “touch” which means if I have the allergen on my lips or hands and touch or kiss her, she will have a severe reaction including hives, itching and extreme discomfort.
Upon diagnosis, I immediately sprang into action. I needed to understand just what I was dealing with, how to deal with it, what to feed her, how to read ingredients years before packaging was labeled and allergens identified, learn what the ingredient words meant, how to introduce new foods introducing only one new ingredient at a time, how to integrate her into main stream society and most importantly how to educate her. I quickly found out that I was a “pioneer” in the food allergy world!
Initially, our pediatrician tried to recommend a coffee creamer as a dairy substitute, but upon closer examination, it contained a derivative of dairy and therefore, was not allowed and definitely not “safe.”
My research started…I could not rely on the advice of our trusted doctor and needed to find a way to feed our 7 month old baby girl. I would go to the grocery store late at night and take one aisle at a time and just start reading ingredients on products. I immediately realized that most of the food she would eat would be made from scratch. If I didn’t trust the labeling, I could not take a chance and introduce it into her diet.
Joining the Food Allergy Network
Over the next few months and years, I joined the Food Allergy Network out of Fairfax, Virginia, was a founding member of the Wisconsin Food Allergy Network which was affiliated with Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and was repeatedly asked to be a presenter at the Wisconsin School Nurse Conference in an era when the words “food allergies” were just becoming part of our vocabulary.
There was so much education that was needed in schools, hospitals, and within the family. No! She cannot just have “a Little.” No! This is not a sensitivity. No! we cannot afford to take any chances when it comes to eating. Can you imagine that just ONE bite could make someone so sick they could stop breathing and if they didn’t receive their EPI-Pen and medical attention immediately they could die!
It was a struggle to educate family, friends, medical personnel, teachers, and anyone who came in contact with our daughter. It took time, energy, research, education and patience. I have learned and grown over a quarter of century and just want you to know it is possible to flourish and THRIVE Dairy Free.
There are so many aspects of Food Allergies that need to be discussed and I will address them in the future months. Some topics include Always Being Prepared, cross contact issues, keeping your kitchen safe, creating an Emergency Plan for home, school, travel etc., how to read ingredient labels and understanding packaging, dining out at fast food restaurants or sit-down restaurants, how to stay safe during the holidays, birthday parties, at school, and especially teaching your child to take care of themself.
Dealing with Food Allergies has been and will always be an evolving journey. Once you think you know something for sure, it will change. Let your guard down for one minute and risk an unintended reaction. Think you don’t have to read the ingredients every time you buy the product because you have purchased it before and it looks the same, think again. Ingredients change without notice all the time. You must always stay alert!
On a personal note, above and beyond the need to be informed and diligent as the parent of a food allergic child, I have lactose intolerance and irritable bowel syndrome. I have tried to be careful with what I ate and the choices I made, but now I have learned just how wonderful life can be living dairy free. The bloating, cramping, and pain are in the past. I am living a much healthier life, leaner and thinner. The recipes on the website are amazing and will soon become your family favorites just as they have become ours.