About Collins and Collins Cooking

I have always seen Collins as my little miracle. After having a horrible car accident several years ago, I have several health and pain issues that were a big concern while carrying a baby. I also had a fairly difficult pregnancy, but despite my struggle, Collins was always considered healthy during those 9 precious months. I can remember saying time and time again how thankful I was that it was ME having a difficult time, and that she was doing fine.
Unfortunately this would soon change.
Collins had her first diaper rash the day we came home from the hospital. It was pretty severe, and she was also having 10-15 dirty diapers each day and fussing constantly. I questioned whether this was “normal” or not, but I talked myself out of that gut feeling that something was wrong. Soon her body was covered in what seemed like a horrible rash. Again, my motherly instinct told me that something was terribly wrong, but others that saw it or that I told them about it said that it was just bad baby acne and that it would go away. I hate that I allowed my insecurity of being a first time mother overshadow my instinct. I will never do that again.
When she was almost a month old, my sister and her mother-in-law, Vicki came to visit. Vicki noticed that Collins had a green diaper and commented on it. After they left, her dirty diapers began to look like they had…well…the only way I know to describe it is that it looked liked canned spinach. She was breastfed and obviously not eating solids yet, so I was pretty alarmed. That evening, her fussiness got worse and worse, and when I went to change another dirty diaper the following morning, I saw the unthinkable: blood.
When we saw the pediatrician, he assured us that she just had a slight irritation. It was probably just a fissure causing the blood. But the blood continued and got worse. She was now having about 15 bloody dirty diapers each day, her skin was covered in a rash (I was convinced now that this was NOT baby acne) and my poor baby screamed all day and night.
After another visit to a different pediatrician, he told us that she probably had a milk protein issue. This was a fairly common issue, and he told me to try to just cut out the “obvious” sources of dairy. I tried this, and nothing changed. I was keeping a food journal, and I started to feel like soy was also bothering her. When we went back, her doctor told me to cut out dairy and soy. This time, I cut out ALL traces of dairy and soy. She had some improvement, but not much. She was still having bloody diapers, rashes, and screaming out of discomfort many hours of the day and night. So, our next step was to give her the hypoallergenic formulas:  Alimentum and Nutramigen. Her pediatrician told me to continue to pump during this time, which ended up being crucial. I will be forever thankful for this advice.
Alimentum and Nutramigen break down proteins in the formula, making it easier for babies with milk and soy intolerances to digest. After a few weeks of trying both of these (in the liquid and powder form), we had no luck. So, we took the next step. We tried Neocate, which actually removes the proteins from the formula, so if a baby has a more severe milk or soy protein intolerance, the proteins will not be present to cause any reaction. This was a sure answer, or so we thought. After trying this “last resort” formula for weeks, we still had a poor baby covered in rashes, bloody diapers, and crying day and night in discomfort. It was nothing short of heart wrenching.
I often thought about my pregnancy.  I was so thankful that she was healthy while I was feeling poorly. I now ached to take her pain. It was terrible.
Her pediatrician referred us to an amazing gastroenterologist in Birmingham. After evaluating her, my food journal, performing an upper GI, and reviewing her pediatrician’s detailed records, he was able to give us an answer. Collins has a fat intolerance and acid reflux (GERD). Her body can only break down simple fats. The answer sounds simple, but the treatment is not! A fat intolerance does not mean that she has to be on a low fat diet. If there are more than 8 carbons on the fatty acid chain of a food, then her body can’t break it down. There are many common foods that are longer stranded (more complex) fats: ALL traces of dairy, soy, beef, pork, many oils, and higher saturated fats. She can tolerate nuts, olive oil and avocado because although they have a higher fat content, it is a shorter stranded fat.
So, it was up to ME to feed her. The reason the special formulas did not work was because they addressed the common protein issue. Her body has no protein issue. It has a fat issue, and there is not a formula that caters to this need. Thank God I pumped and maintained my milk supply. I drastically changed my diet, and we soon saw improvement. But, she was still not well. Collins was now only having occasional bloody diapers, but her skin was awful. She had puss-filled scabs all over her scalp, lesions on her face, and rashes everywhere else.
We were sent to a pediatric allergist who found that she also had egg and soy allergies, eczema, and probably several environmental allergies.
Now, in addition to cutting eggs outs of my diet, we also added another oral medicine and a new skin routine. We have to wash her once a day in Robathol and Cetaphil (even Johnson and Johnson baby wash irritates her), and pat her dry, and then put a prescription ointment on her when her rashes are ‘normal’ and a steroid cream on her when they are severe, and then finish with Cerave’ cream.
After making these changes, we were eventually able to get to a point of maintenance. Collins always has rashes, but we are able to manage them. Most importantly, she does not have ANY bloody diapers, and seems to feel good most of the time!
I am so thankful for our progress, but I will also never forget where we started. Nor will I ever forget our journey. When I was first faced with the task of completely changing my diet and lifestyle, I was left with little information. I quickly realized there simply isn’t adequate information or support out there for those with food allergies, intolerances, or for mothers that are nursing babies with special dietary needs. I spent countless hours researching and searching for information and recipes and would often come up empty handed. I know that it is rare to have a fat intolerance, but there are many with allergies and intolerances. My hope is that through my blog, people with dietary limitations can learn to adapt and live a “yummy life”! 

Here are a few pictures of Collins before her diagnoses and my lifestyle changes:

Here is Collins - healthy and happy - at 9 months old:

About Collins Cooking:
My name is Leah, and I am the mother of a little girl named Collins who has some very special dietary and skin needs. She has been diagnosed with a fat intolerance (which is rare), egg allergy, soy allergy, peanut allergy, cashew allergy, several food dye allergies, eczema and many environmental allergies. Collins could not tolerate ANY formula (not even Neocate). Because I nurse her, I am now on HER diet…which is pretty complicated at first glance. Here are the foods I avoid: all traces of dairy, soy, pork, beef, egg, peanuts, cashews, large amounts of citric acid, most food dyes, green beans, okra, strawberries, heavy carbohydrates and other foods with complex fats.
Like most southern women, I have always enjoyed eating mac-n-cheese, breads, mashed potatoes and gravy, and about anything else that could successfully clog your arteries. However, now that I am responsible for eating FOR Collins, I have to be extremely careful with what I eat. When I was first told what I would not be able to consume, I was SO incredibly overwhelmed. I would spend hours and hours researching and searching for recipes and education, and I would find little to nothing. After almost 8 months of research and creative thinking, I decided it was time to put my knowledge to work for others.
Collins Cooking contains recipes, tips and education for those with food allergies, intolerances and other special dietary needs. I was never able to find a one-stop site for everything I needed to accommodate my new lifestyle, and my hope is that I will be able to provide you with recipes, encouragement, tips and education to make living with your special needs a bit easier.

Collins Cooking may help if you are:

• Dealing with food allergies or intolerances to: dairy, soy, beef, pork, egg, peanuts, cashew, food dyes, or complex fats
• Trying to eat a “cleaner” diet
• Wanting to eat healthier, lower fat diet
• Nursing a baby with allergies, milk protein intolerance and/or a soy protein intolerance

December 2011:
I love Christmas..

I love Christmas trees, lights on people's homes..the white ones, anyway :), apple cider, snuggling in bed under the covers, the spirit of giving, time with family, and the celebration of our King's birth!
This holiday season started out rather rocky for our family, however. I had a car accident in August and while waiting for treatment from worker's comp, my company decided to let me go. Meanwhile, my husband's commission only job was not working out. So, with Christmas approaching and our health insurance and income leaving, it was very stressful. At first, I kept thinking of how awful this was that all of this happened during Christmas. Our society puts such an emphasis on buying gifts, having parties, eating out.. and just spending money during this season, and it is so easy to get stressed out right now about the things we cannot buy, the tangible gifts we cannot give, and the activities we cannot pay to do.

I've always loved Mary Engelbreit's quirky whimsy art and sayings..and here is one of my favorites:
“If you don't like something, change it; if you can't change it, change the way you think about it. ” Well, I am now choosing to feel that all of this happening to family during Christmas is such a blessing. While we don't have and can't do as much this year, I am so thankful for the things we have..and the biggest blessing is the change in Collins' health. I grimace as I recall how sick Collins was last Christmas. The constant crying, the rashes, the lack of sleeping..and me and Brandon's feelings of helplessness. I remember being at my parents house and wanted her to sit in my lap and look at the presents yet all she did was scream..for hours on end. It was so sad...and now what a WONDERFUL Christmas this year will be! Because of our diet, her medicines and other lifestyle changes, she is doing so well..and THAT is my Christmas miracle.

Merry Christmas!