Here's the back story. Around 1 year old, my son started refusing meat and I worried he wasn't getting enough protein. My sister had fed all her babies peanut butter and I thought it was a good protein alternative. The Academy of Pediatrics recommendations at that time said to wait until the child is 1 year old to introduce peanuts but holding off until 2 was better.
No one in our family has ever had a nut allergy, so I thought it was safe to go ahead. I gave him a small square of toast with peanut butter. He mashed it around in his mouth and spit it out in disgust.
Within minutes his face was swollen and full of hives. I called my brother (who is a pharmacist) and he told me to crush up half an adult benadryl, put it in applesauce, and feed it to him. We didn't have pediatric benadryl or an epi-pen in our home yet.
His symptoms went away and I made an appointment with our pediatrician to discuss peanut allergy. He took a RAST test and scored a 4. The doctor indicated that meant, "mildly allergic but definitely allergic."
Over the next few years we would ask at every restaurant, read every label, and be vigilant about keeping peanuts out of our home. Unfortunately, restaurants would change recipes and there were times that he ingested peanut butter. Watch out Mexican restaurants - enchiladas often contain peanut butter.
How do I know that? My son went into anaphylactic shock after eating an enchilada. He was swollen. He was vomiting profusely. Another time, I battled him to the ground to get him to take his benadryl because he was swelling up after eating a peanut butter cookie at a neighborhood party.
We got the epi pen, filled out endless forms at school, and he was segregated at lunch. Did I mention he was not allowed to eat snacks at school because they didn't want the liability that something "might" contain peanuts. Sheesh.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. I credit my son's allergy for teaching us to eat differently. Lots of junk foods contain peanuts so they were automatically out of our house. I learned how to make almond butter, and that spurred me on to make all sorts of foods at home. We stopped eating out in restaurants.
I started looking for "cures." As it turns out, almost every human disease is centered around inflammation. So in the interest of overall health, we start eating an anti-inflammatory diet. What does that mean? In a nutshell, it means more fruits, vegetables, and fish. Less wheat. Less meat. And grass-fed meats when meat was eaten. It also meant no trans-fat, less candy, less processed anything.
And a little bit of exercise. For the parents anyway. My kids were already super active.
I also read about exposing him to peanuts little by little. As he got older, I would let him eat things that said "made on the same equipment as peanuts." Sometimes he would get a reaction. Sometimes he wouldn't.
That may sound like bad parenting, but I was always there - ready to help if things went wrong. And I usually only give him a small bite or nibble. Not a whole granola bar or whatever the item was.
I wasn't willing to grind up peanuts and slowly put it in his food. For one, because it's a little creepy. And for two, because I gave him a choice. I let him decide if it was okay if I gave him a little bit of peanuts. He was old enough to decide what goes in his own mouth. He mostly chose not too because he was afraid, but I still felt it was important to be his choice.
When he was five and headed to kindergarten, I scraped his arm with a raw peanut. He didn't react. But during that same year, he had some issues with peanuts. It turned out that ingesting them in any way, caused hives on his face.
As he got older, I really believe our anti-inflammatory diet changes made a huge difference. I forgot to mention that he also had severe asthma and animal allergies as a baby/toddler/child. He used to be on oral steroids twice-a-day, an oral anti-leukotriene medicine, antibiotics, three-times-a-day inhaled steroids and three times-a-day inhaled albuterol. Life pretty much sucked until he was about 3 years old.
We moved and our dog didn't move along with us. His asthma symptoms improved dramatically but he was still on inhaled meds and the anti-leukotriene.
I eventually weaned him off all of his medications. I gave away his nebulizer when he was 5, he hadn't used it in over a year.
Fast forward to first grade, 6 years old. He would now be eating lunch at school with tons of peanut butter sandwiches touching the tables, door handles, you name it.
I put peanut butter on his cheek. He screamed and went crazy. He didn't get any hives. Hmmm.... I become much more lenient in letting him try things that were made near or had touched peanuts. He was still against it. He can smell peanuts in anything and refuses to try them.
In second grade, I stopped sending an epi-pen and benadryl to school.
Then it happened. He was 7 and 1/2 years old. We attended a home show and the booths were handing out candy. My son grabbed a chocolate egg and popped it in his mouth. A few seconds later, with peanut butter all over his teeth and tongue, he said "mom, this has peanuts in it."
I swiped it out of his mouth and tried to get as much peanut butter off his mouth as possible. You can imagine the scene. Then we waited. Nothing happened. Nothing, nothing. Woo!
Sure, he didn't swallow any of it, but he as always been so "orally sensitive" to peanuts that this was a huge win and our worries seem to be over. The future is yet to be seen, but it seems that he has outgrown his peanut allergy. It can be done!
If you decide to adopt a more anti-inflammatory diet for the sake of trying to eliminate an allergy in your diet, it may or may not change your allergy, but it will most likely improve your health and energy levels overall. We've been lucky (peanut-wise.)
**2016 Update** My son is now 12 and has no trace of peanut or cat allergies. He is still mildly allergic to dogs. He chooses not to eat peanut products but there is no longer any "worries."
I still believe that taking a daily omega-3 pill, eating a non-inflammatory diet, and getting outside for fresh air, sun, and exercise (no sunscreen!) make a huge difference in our health and that is how we live. Best of luck to you all!