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Making the Switch: Meg's Story

Today it's my pleasure to bring you another Making the Switch story—stories of everyday people making the switch from processed to pure food. This week Meg contacted me. I was so touched by her story that I asked if I could share it with you. It's a story of resolute determination to find answers. Of pushing docs and pursuing second opinions when your gut tells you that the answers you are getting just aren't adding up. We were there, and I know many of you may be, too. 

The Chronic Cough
Meg | Atlanta, Georgia 

We have always eaten very healthy in our house. My husband has been a vegetarian for over 16 years and the kids and I stick to a primarily vegetarian diet with the occasional addition of a lean meat.

I gave birth to our son 18 months ago and at 4 months old he was diagnosed with a chronic cough. His cough was violent, gagging and choking him over 20 times a day. The doctors could not find out what was wrong with him through months and months of testing. We visited Pediatric Pulmonologists, ENT's, and Radiologists hoping that someone would have an answer.

As we started to introduce whole foods into his diet our pediatricians and specialists became increasingly concerned because his cough was worsening and he was not gaining weight. His immune system was severely weekend and he was sick constantly. Our pediatricians suggestion was that since he liked yogurt and bread to feed him as much as he would eat. She told me to cover the bread with butter and cheese followed by feeding him yogurt at every meal. She also suggested giving him chocolate milk.

Alarm bells started ringing.

I knew that it was important for him to gain weight but they had moved away from having him eat healthy fruits and vegetables entirely because they were not fatty enough. To make it worse they were now suggesting sugar-laced milk as an answer to some of our problems. I asked if he could have food allergies but the doctor dismissed my concern saying that since he had the cough while I was nursing that food allergies were not the problem.

At a year old the doctors were pressing down on us to have tubes placed in our sons ears for his, now chronic, ear infections and an invasive test that required sedation to look into his bronchial tubes.

I still had a nagging feeling that it was all food related.

As a last resort, and two weeks prior to the scheduled surgery, I took my son to a chiropractor in our area that focused on holistic medicine and worked with infants and small children. She suggested that I immediately cut gluten and dairy from his diet and mine. She confirmed that his problems could be food related and that a nursing mother can pass food allergens such as gluten and dairy to her child through breast milk.

She began adjustments to help with the ear infections and I began to alter our entire lifestyle. Within a week the cough had diminished greatly and my son had more energy than he had ever had. By the end of the 2 week period the cough was down to only a few times a day and his ear infections were gone!

We canceled the surgery and tests and really focused on our diet and lifestyle.

I am happy to say that at 18 months our son is free of his “chronic cough” and is thriving! We have a diet that is free of gluten as well as dairy and is primarily vegetarian. I stay away from processed foods and have opted to make everything I can at home, even our almond milk. The entire family is healthier and happier than ever before! We have even found through eliminating gluten from our diet that my husband has a gluten sensitivity that we weren't even aware of.  

Today I blog about our diet and new lifestlyle at Beard & BonnetSome of the my favorite tips for switching from processed to pure food can be found there. They are:

Shop your local farmers market and get to know the local growers.  

Ask to visit their farm and take your kids! We have had so much fun as a family learning about where our food comes from and how it is grown. Just a few years ago my daughter, then 8, and I helped to tend and harvest a local organic farm in exchange for fresh organic produce. The experience was invaluable for us and our daughter walked away with a new passion for food from seed to table. 

Have a family "cook" day.
For us it is usually on the weekend and everyone helps in different ways. Our daughter, Eliza, loves to cook and my husband is great about hanging out with us and washing up the dishes as we use them. He is also the designated DJ so sometimes our “cook day” turns into a dance party full of giggles and lots of laughter. Make it a fun family event that everyone can look forward to. Best of all, dinners during the week will be fast and easy because the bulk of the preparation has already been done.

  • We make a large pot of beans to use in different ways throughout the week.
  • I whip up a few storage containers of my own gluten-free baking mixes so we can whip up brownies or cookies on a whim during the week.
  • Todd makes a large batch of salsa and I make a few jars of homemade pasta sauce.

Eliminate temptation.
Upon our diagnosis of gluten and dairy intolerance I decided that the best thing for me to do in our house was to purge the pantry. If I couldn’t pronounce an ingredient on the label it was no longer allowed in our home. I donated all of the unopened food to our local food bank so that I knew it would go to someone that could really use it.

Try something new.
After I purged our pantry I set out on a mission to fill it back up with healthy choices that would keep our bellies full, our bodies healthy and my family happy. If you are lucky enough to have a Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods close to where you live they have lists compiled of all of their products that are allergen free. You can download these lists online or they will happily give them to you at the store. Our Whole Foods even has gluten-free store tours once a month! If you don’t have stores like these in your area you can also consult The Essential Gluten-Free Grocery Guide by Triumph Dining to help you navigate your local grocery aisles.


Making the Switch, spotlights everyday people journeying on to better health and well-being by choosing pure food over processed. For some, it has been gradual. For others it was a complete about-face. 

Putting the modified diet focus of this blog aside, Making the Switch is open to all. The point being to bring personal stories to light that encourage young and old to get back into the kitchen to cook real food. As JAMIE OLIVER puts it, “make only a few small changes and magical things will happen.” Whether it’s weight loss, improvements in a child's behavior or the regaining of health, magical things will happen."

WHAT'S YOUR STORY? Consider being featured on Making the SwitchCLICK HERE and drop me a line telling me a little about yourself. Someone is waiting to be inspired by YOU!

Reader Comments (5)

This sounds so much like what I went through. I was also a vegetarian, eating what I thought was pretty healthy, although still eating a lot of cheese and milk.

A chronic cough was the first clear sign of my own dairy allergy. I spent a long time trying to get it resolved, with doctors trying GERD medication, chest x-rays. antibiotics, etc. I too asked about food allergies early on and had it dismissed as not a likely cause.

I got food poisoning last December, and "coincidentally" while I was avoiding most food during my recovery, my cough went away for the first time in over a year. Dairy was the last thing I added back to my diet, and as soon as I did, the cough came back. This seemed like an obvious sign to me so I went to see an allergist and he quickly diagnosed me with a dairy allergy. I've been dairy-free and cough-free since January (excluding the rare occasion I accidentally eat something with dairy in it, then it comes back immediately and lasts for several hours after eating the food).

I totally stand by food being the answer to a lot of chronic "mystery" medical issues. It seems like doctors so rarely actually look at food as a possible cause when the answer could be so simple!

August 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChelsea

I LOVE reading stories like this. I had tubes put in my ears, chronic infections, breathing problems, etc. But the doctors said it couldn't be milk because all children outgrow a milk allergy by 1 year old (obviously the thoughts have changed, thank goodness!). So I suffered with illness until adulthood, when I discovered the problem. It makes me so happy to hear about moms who go that extra mile and prevent their children from going through any of that.

Such a great mother!

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlisa

I have been struggling with a chronic cough for over a year. Have had chest xrays (June 12) - normal and allergy tests (11-11) - minimal peanut, with no noticeable problems. Right now I am doing two allergy meds and a steroid inhaler - which I think is making things worse. I don't ever remember having reflux/heartburn before, but have definitely noticed it in the past month or so. Allergies in our family are: peanuts (me), egg whites (almost 7 year old daughter and 5 year old son), wheat (5 year old son), pears (2 year old son), pineapple (2 year old son), corn (1 year old son), and milk (1 year old son). The milk is only apparent when he drinks it, and does ok with other dairy. Could peanuts be causing this cough or could it be gluten/diary even though I tested ok with them? My cough started last summer, shortly after giving birth to our fourth kiddo. I attributed some of it to the junk in the air after the Joplin tornado, but that doesn't seem valid anymore.

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBecki

Alisa ... I am so glad you shared your experience! For those who don't know Alisa, she runs the site www.godairyfree.org and has done her share of research and reading on the topic. xoLexie

August 7, 2012 | Registered CommenterLexie

Becki, WOW! Your family has been through a lot. Sounds like you are on the right track. It's been 3 years of healing for us and things are so much better. Time will tell and time heals. Keep on keeping on you super mamma : ) xoLexie

August 7, 2012 | Registered CommenterLexie

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