Saturday, March 10, 2012

Allergy-Free Wednesday Hostess Highlight: Tessa

Please say hello to Tessa, The Domestic Diva.  
Tessa is one of the seven Allergy-Free Wednesday Hostesses I will be highlighting over the next few months.  So stay tuned for more hostess blog highlights.

Tessa runs an incredibly wonderful allergy-friendly blog packed full of delicious, simple meals.  Tessa and I met via one of my blog posts discussing eczema, where I shared pictures of my son's skin as a baby.  We instantly connected due to our son's common skin condition.  But we also share uncanny similarities in so many other aspects of our lives (and we often joke about how eerie it is).  Tessa's blog features recipes and gluten free flours/baking tips, but also tips on how to organize your kitchen and life, gardening, and how to stretch your dollar feeding a family of 5 with special diet needs.  Tessa's my baking guru and always so helpful with substitutions and baking suggestions.  She also emphasizes this on her blog, so take advantage!  Please read her story below; it's inspiring and encouraging.  I'm so proud and honored to call Tessa my friend and fellow blogger.  

I've made a bunch of Tessa's recipes.  All amazing!
Here are two of my favorites:
Millet-Almond Banana Muffins with Chocolate Chips
Gluten Free/Dairy Free Cheese Crackers 

Hop on over and explore her beautiful blog.

Even as a child, I was drawn to food and how it is was made.  My mom spent time as a Home-Economics teacher before having three girls, so I guess it was only natural for at least one of us to want to be in the kitchen with her while she baked and created with a limited number of ingredients, and very little money.  Over the years, I learned, crafted, and experimented with all sorts of recipes.  But it has only been since the birth of my son that I have become a real cooking scientist: pushing the boundaries of what I knew, using completely new ingredients, and learning more than I ever thought possible. 

In September of 2010, my third child was born, healthy and happy.  12 hours later, eager to get home, we tried to start checking out, and my son starting showing the first signs of infection: fever and rapid respirations.  Very quickly, he was put on 2, hard-core IV antibiotics to save his life.  It was a week of torment and anguish, as anyone who has ever had a sick child will know.  But we went home a week later, ‘healthy.’ 

Almost immediately, he started with the colic symptoms.  Since both of my girls were the same, I did what I did with them: cut out the dairy.  When that didn’t do it, I was at a loss…..if not dairy, then what?!  My brain had never been anywhere but dairy-free, where was I to go?  Meanwhile, my son continued his inconsolable crying, and our family struggled.  Living with a baby who cries all the time is so exhausting.  And the torment!  Seeing your child so obviously uncomfortable is torture.  I eliminated all major allergens.  Then I discovered corn was another huge catalyst for reactions.

We did major gut repairs regimes on him AND me.  Hardcore probiotics, glutamine, tinctures, sacro-b…for 4 weeks, we somehow managed to get these things into his system.  But there was no improvement.  He regularly looked like he was in bar fights, inflamed skin, raw patches, and severe eczema.  Oh the frustration when my pediatrician touted, “It’s just really dry skin, eczema.”  REALLY?!  I knew there was something causing it ad that I shouldn’t just stand by and let it do its thing.  My son’s body was screaming: I AM NOT HAPPY.

I struggled to find doctors that could help with the next step: testing.  Most allergists don’t like to test young babies as their immune systems are so immature and testing is not too accurate.  I knew naturopath could help, but they aren’t covered by our insurance, and I knew all this testing was going to be pricey.  But I needed somewhere to start.  I found someone who knew what tests to order, but not how to interpret them.  In the meanwhile, I tested my eldest child too to see if there were triggers and if elimination might help her ADD.  Both kiddos had whole blood work ups to test for deficiencies, and system functions: all normal.  
They had IgE environmental panels: one dog, one grass.  They had IgG food panels: and here we found the culprit: over 20 hits for both of them.  If this wasn’t leaky gut (damaged/inflamed intestines), I didn’t know what was.  Then we recently did some IgE foods and came back with flax, wheat, and peanuts for my son.  Both of their stool tests came back that their lower bowels had gross over-growths of bacteria: they were inflamed.  So still, all of these things are pointing to unhappy guts.  BUT WHAT IS CAUSING THIS?!!  We are currently with another new doctor and are hopeful he can help us heal. 

So here I am today, still plugging away.  Our bodies are so complex, no wonder figuring it all out can be a maddening journey of ‘maybe,’ ‘possibly,’ ‘it could be.’  There is rarely a black and white answer, just whole bunch of shades of gray.
My blog and my recipes are born from my desire to help other just like me.  I know first hand how painful it is to feel like you are on an island and how it can feel like no one in your community can understand or empathize with your struggle.  I know how completely overwhelming it can be when you have to think about how to feed your child so that their food not only doesn’t hurt them, but manages to nourish their growing body.  And we all know it needs to taste good, otherwise, what’s the point?! 
I am grateful for this online community of people on special diets. There is great comfort in knowing I am not alone.  My hope is that my recipes help people enjoy food again.  To see that eating well can be tasty and that it is possible.  It’s inevitable that there will be bumps along the road, but I know there are many of us out there ready and willing to support you and answer your questions.  
Here’s to good food and LIVING your life fully.


  1. Tessa Domestic DivaMarch 10, 2012 at 8:36 PM

    you make me sound so amazing...but then that is your gift...your warmth and exuberant generosity of spirit!

  2. It's all you friend! You're a benefit and resource for us all. I'm simply stating the obvious. :-)

  3. What a positive person Tessa is, despite all the problems she's facing! I do hope she manages to find the answers! Sometimes the main cause is difficult to find. I was discussing allergies with a friend who lives in Canada and her friend suffers from very bad eczema. The doctors ordered special tests and I wish I could remember what it was that she was allergic too but I do remember it wasn't a specific food it was a chemical present in food. So it's not always as easy as cutting out a food group!

    I wish Tessa well, it's terrible to see a child suffer in this way.

  4. Thanks Vicky! You're so right, it's incredibly difficult to watch your child suffer. Interesting about the chemical present in food. I'm curious to what it was! From personal experience with my son's eczema, so many things seem to be the cause, from food, to the weather, to hay fever. Some days it's really bad, others it's manageable. You just do the best you can!

    My hope is that others will learn from Tessa's experience, especially with all her extensive testing and knowledge around this issue. It can be very scary. She's so great about offering support and advice.


  5. The pictures of your baby look the same as my son when he was under a year old. The only thing that worked with him was vaseline all over his body every night after a bath. I have also started the journey of a gluten-free diet and appreciate the link to the other blog.

  6. Hi There Diane,

    I'm glad you are finding some support. And that's a big step - going gluten free! Good for you. I have some wonderful resources here in the right side bar (for gluten-free/allergy-free blogs).

    I say, whatever works! I make my own lotion here at home for my son. It's so easy and very, very cost effective.

    Here are two I have posted:



    Also, check out this post about Colloidal Oatmeal and how it can help with eczema:

    Best to you on your journey!

    Be Well,


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