Tag Archives: OCD

Milk-Soy Protein Intolerance and Living Dairy-Free

8 Jan

I had never heard of milk intolerance before becoming a mom.  Lactose intolerance, sure.  But milk protein intolerance is completely different.  Not really an allergy, MSPI (milk-soy protein intolerance) is when the body is unable to safely process the large protein molecules found in cow’s milk.  As a result, the stomach may overproduce acid and the intestines become irritated, leading to mucus and sometimes blood.  Both my babies were born with an MSPI.  And, being a first-time parent, my first baby suffered for 3 months because I just didn’t know enough to ask more questions of the pediatrician or to advocate for myself.  But as it turns out, all my knowledge and experience still left me unprepared for my second baby’s MSPI as well.

Bean was 8 weeks old when I finally called “uncle” and went to a lactation consultant for help with my screamy baby who was clearly hungry but fussed every time I attempted to nurse her.  She had gone from the 35th percentile to the 10th but the pediatrician didn’t have any ideas for me other than to try formula.  Every feed was a nightmare and getting her to eat required a combination of baby wearing and bouncing on a big exercise ball in the bathroom with the fan running.  It was exactly the kind of horrible breastfeeding experience that prevents new moms from nursing long-term. But I never suspected a milk intolerance because her symptoms weren’t as severe as her big sister’s.

My oldest would projectile vomit after feeds, her diapers were filled with mucus, and the pediatrician found signs of blood in her stool.  But with the littlest, the only symptoms were her fussiness and her trouble breastfeeding.  I spent 8 weeks convinced it must be something else before the LC suggested I visit a pediatric gastroenterologist who diagnosed her right away.  Grudgingly, I went on a dairy fast, giving up any food with soy or milk protein.

Within a week, I had a whole new baby.  She was sleeping better, screaming less, and after two weeks, had jumped back into the 30th percentile.  It was, quite frankly, a miracle.  I had seen similar results with Doodlebug, but giving up the dairy was so hard on me emotionally, that we ended up using hypoallergenic formula with her.  I remember rocking her in the big reclining rocker at my parents’ house sobbing “I’m sorry” over and over as I filled her up with formula.  Looking back, it was absolutely the best thing for both of us.  She thrived on the formula and it immediately alleviated much of the anxiety I was suffering from.  With Bean, giving up the dairy didn’t seem as daunting, perhaps because I had already had some practice.  Also?  My overwhelming PPD and OCD the first time around made breastfeeding torturous, let alone an elimination diet.  With Bean, I was mentally healthy enough to take on the added challenge.  And is is a challenge.

It’s been 2 years, and though we keep attempting to introduce dairy into her diet, every week spent with milk results in sleepless nights and a cranky toddler.  I’ve been able to reintroduce cheese into my own diet (I could hear angels singing, folks), but for the first 18 months, I was completely dairy-free.  I wouldn’t wish such a difficult diet on anyone, but it is possible, and for some mom-baby pairs, may make life much easier overall.

So let’s be honest.  Dinners weren’t so hard to modify.  After all, spaghetti and meatballs is dairy free, as is most grilled meats, fresh fruits and veggies, and many breads.  But how did I live without cheese (and ice cream, and milk, and cookies, and chocolate)?  While there are really no good soy and milk-free cheese substitutes (I really did give them a fair shot), I found that hummus often worked in place of cheese in fajitas and even sandwiches.  Whole Foods sells a cheese-free pizza with roasted veggies that is pretty yummy for those days when you Just. Want. Pizza.  And So Delicious makes coconut milk yogurt, ice cream and my favorite, coffee creamer.  I actually prefer the coconut coffee creamer now.  Coconut milk is great for baking, as is Earth Balance soy-free margarine, and to my surprise, cocoa butter isn’t actually butter and contains no dairy!  So as long as your chocolate doesn’t list casein, milk, or whey as an ingredient, you can eat it!  Lindt makes a dark chocolate that we really love here, but my favorite trick is to buy a huge 1 pound block of 65% chocolate from Whole Foods.  We chop it up and snack on it for a month!  The key for me was finding substitutes for my favorite foods so I didn’t feel like I was depriving myself of the comfort foods I loved.

Here are some of my favorite MSPI and Dairy-free resources:

MSPI Mama – tons of recipes and resources, including a QUICK START recipe list for the first few weeks of MSPI eating when everything is so overwhelming.

MSPI Mama links to restaurant allergen information HERE

More facts about MSPI

The differences between allergies and intolerances from PIC (Protein Intolerant Children)

Tasty Eats at Home – my friend Alta writes about her food journey and has many recipes and resources for eating dairy and gluten-free

The best advice I can give you is to be realistic with yourself about how the MSPI diet is affecting your happiness.  If it makes you miserable, it may not be worth continuing to breastfeed your MSPI baby.  But it DOES get easier with time.  After about 6 months I stopped missing cheese, and these days, I don’t even mourn the ice cream any longer.  Truly.  It also had the added benefit that watching my diet carefully taught me to be aware of my food.  I eat a much healthier diet now, just because I learned to read ingredients and to cook more food from scratch. But each mom has to decide what’s best for her family. Hopefully you have enough support no matter how you decide to address your baby’s MSPI.

Don’t Call Them “Happy Pills”

15 Apr

It’s no secret that I take medication for my anxiety and OCD.  It’s in my intro on the sidebar, for crying out loud.

Every morning, it’s 1 1/2 antidepressant pills and 2/3 of a long-acting anti-anxiety medication.  And in the evening, another 2/3  of the anti-anxiety, along with my prenatal vitamin for lactating moms (yes, I’m still nursing), and lately some ibuprofen for my earache.


I don’t take them lightly.  After all, these medications are altering my brain chemistry.  I’ve worked closely with my doctors and therapist to find a medication combination that works for me while balancing the side effects.  I’ve considered the risks and have researched their effects on breastfeeding.  I’ve adjusted doses and schedules more times than I care to count.  And this is all after spending a year fighting against taking anything at all because of the stigma and my misunderstanding of how psychotropic medications work.

My antidepressant works by soaking the nerve cells in my brain with seritonin.  Seritonin is a neurotransmitter that is responsible in part for regulating the intensity of moods.  See, a normal brain releases seritonin, exposing the nearby brain cells, and then reabsorbs it.  My brain either does not produce enough seritonin or reabsorbs it too quickly.  SSRI’s (selective seritonin reuptake inhibitors) work by blocking the reabsorption process, thereby allowing the nerve cells to bathe in the seritonin for longer.  In my case, more is better.

The long-acting anti-anxiety medication increases dopamine levels and, along with melatonin,  has been shown in studies to rebuild neurons.  Dopamine is part of the “reward system” of the brain and is responsible for many functions, including mood, movement, working memory, learning, and motivation.

These medications work together to relieve the crippling anxiety and buzzing energy of my OCD and anxiety disorder, both of which have contributed to depression in the past.  They allow me to strap my children into my mother’s car and watch as she safely drives them for a sleep over without slumping to the floor in paralyzing fear that they will crash during the ride.  They help regulate my reaction to hormones like cortisol (the stress hormone; think fight or flight) during arguments with my 4-year-old.  Without this regulation, I am susceptible to anxiety-induced rage.  And most importantly to me, I couldn’t have slugged through the messy, emotional work of therapy had my seritonin and dopamine levels been unbalanced.

What they don’t do?  Is make me happy.  Instead, they allow me to feel the happiness that my unbalanced brain chemistry was robbing me of.

So do me a favor and don’t call them “happy pills.”  It makes you sound ignorant and makes me feel stigmatized.  It’s medication for a medical condition.  Period.


** I don’t have to remind you that I’m not a doctor, right?  I’m just one person sharing her story.  Medication decisions are personal and are best made with your doctor’s supervision.**

Giving Up Control

31 Aug

My mom is ever the boy scout.  Prepared for anything and everything.

Yesterday while we were out shopping she picked up a microwavable syrup bottle.  Apparently my dad fails to read warnings and almost melts Mrs. Butterworth on a weekly basis.  When we got back to her home I noticed that she had saved the packaging.  She explained that it had a 5-year warranty, and should any of the seals leak, she wanted to have the paperwork handy.  After stapling the receipt to the warranty, she filed them together.  I don’t know about you, but I figure when I spend $5 on a syrup bottle that I’m accepting a risk.  If it should break after 5 years of dutiful syrup-warming, then at least I got my money’s worth.  If it falls apart after three days, I call it a $5 lesson.  But not my mom.   I told you.  She’s prepared for everything.

I truly admire her organization and preparation, and I have to say that it’s come in handy on more than one occasion. When I have forgotten my toothbrush on a weekend at the lake, she always has an extra.  She has sterile strips for paper cuts in her bathroom cabinet that I have used more than once.  Need a foldable luggage carrier?  Boom.  Apple corer? It’s yours.  Forget about your gynecologist appointment and need someone to watch the kids?  She kept the day free just in case.

She was a stay-at-home-mom and cared for me and my two brothers in much the same way back then.  She is an amazing mom, and the best grandma a kid could hope for.


I’m beginning to think all those years of being prepared for absolutely everything played a part in the development of  my OCD – specifically my need for control.  Deep down when things go wrong, I find myself sure that I could have prevented them if I just had just planned better.  And thus I tend to anticipate anything that might go wrong and overcompensate by over-planning.

It’s as if I’m waiting for the house to spontaneously combust for no reason.  But instead of the typical safety precautions like smoke alarms and fire extinguishers, I’ve summoned the fire department and sit patiently aiming a fire hose at the roof just in case.  It’s difficult to relax when you’re holding a fire hose.  For one thing, it’s heavy.  And its exhausting trying to maintain control over its pressurized contents.

I want to be clear.  I do not blame my upbringing for my mental health issues.  But I do think it’s helpful to look at contributing factors like societal conditioning, personality, birth order, and life and childhood experiences when I’m trying to work though my anxiety.  If I can find fault in an idea I always accepted to be true based on my past, than I just might have a chance at letting it go.

Giving up control of the world around me means giving up responsibility.   It’s liberating to give myself permission to simply respond to difficult situations instead of feeling the need to prevent them.  I don’t always succeed at this venture, but when I do, I feel my anxiety melt away.

I’m truly grateful to my mom for teaching me responsibility.  But in the spirit of self-care and mental health, I’m going to try to be a little less careful from now on.  But only a little.


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