Food, Mood and Social Challenges for Those Battling Food Intolerance

This post is by Naomi Cook of Nurse Naomi.

It’s been a while since I’ve had time to blog about our food intolerance journey (see Eating Like a Cow and Food Allergies & Intolerances: Our Journey Continues). I’ve actually been busy writing a children’s trilogy called The Pharaoh Prophecies (you can read more about it on my new Nurse Naomi blog) but I’ve managed to pull my head out of my writing cave and I’m very excited to finally be touching base with you all.

We are almost two years into living on a highly restricted diet now:

  • My youngest is on the strictest, most basic food list and has a prescription formula called Neocate to supplement her diet. She even reacts to many ‘permitted’ foods (read more here).
  • My oldest daughter is equally restricted except for the fact she has limited amounts of dairy (mainly A2 milk). She can tolerate a larger variety of ‘permitted’ foods.
  • I am a vegan and I eat only from the ‘basic’ food list to be the same as the kids. I also feel better if I just stick to the basic food list.
  • My husband has eliminated wheat and gluten from his diet and is now aware of intolerance to high levels of glutamate and antioxidant 320 (a preservative often found in oils).

Moody Food
We’ve tried a few food challenges along the way – from dairy (a disastrous three month fallout after one teaspoon of yoghurt) to bananas (10 days of mood swings and ‘sad’ mood), to wheat (a moody and fatigued hubby) and to soy (a moody and fatigued mummy).

There have been a few surprises thrown in to, like my oldest daughter reacting to certain vitamins which is apparently not uncommon in very food sensitive children. And my youngest, the ‘super responder,’ reacting even to permitted foods like brown rice (rather than white) and carob. My husband has noticed headaches and fatigue after eating wheat and foods high in both natural and synthesised glutamates i.e soy sauce and MSG.

Challenges Beyond Food
There are so many challenges beyond the food and the moods. Attempting to explain the potential fallout of one tangerine (tantrums) to well meaning relatives, friends or school/daycare teachers is tough.

Then there are the challenges of trying to explain the sensitivities to health care professionals who have little background in food intolerances (I for one, did not receive any background education in this area, so I can’t really blame them). I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to try and explain why I can’t give my kids any made up medications (they contain preservatives and high doses of artificial flavours). Instead I have to make my own concoctions (‘apothecary extraordinaire’ should really be on my CV now).

Also, the list of instructions I have to dole out at daycare – no coloured playdough because the dye can sweep through the skin, use our own sunscreen because the girls will react to the fragrances and preservatives in the centre’s own, wash hands immediately after using coloured paints, the list goes on..

Food is a central tenet to socialising for most people. Many friends and family have struggled with the fact that for us it is better if socialising takes on another form. We tell people that we prefer activity based socialising, like going for a walk, rather than eating.

Then there is the fact that many people think we are total nutters for putting our children and ourselves on this restricted diet. They simply cannot fathom how we could be so healthy and energetic when consuming such a limited variety of food. I sometimes wonder what people think of me…do they think I’m an obsessive, overprotective mum? Or just weird maybe? Either way, I have to shrug it off because I know too well what happens to home harmony when we put a foot wrong, and for one tangerine it’s just not worth it!

I thought I’d share with you a really popular recipe of ours, the Mashed Potato Volcano. My girls love to help make it by placing the rocks, fish and lava onto the volcano, and because is is easy for them to serve themselves, it helps to make them feel that little bit more grown up at dinnertime.

mashed potato volcano recipe - food intolerance - elimination diet

You will need:

  • 6 large, white, thickly peeled potatoes = the Volcano
  • 1 tin of butter beans= rocks
  • 1 tin of kidney beans= fish
  • 1/2 green cabbage = the ocean or seaweed
  • Handful of shredded red cabbage and/or grated carrot (not eaten by the most food sensitive in our family as it is a ‘moderate’ food) = the Hot Lava
  • Salt
  • Sunflower Oil

To make:

  1. Chop, and boil the potatoes until they are soft enough to mash. Because we are dairy free, I make the mash with salt and sunflower oil, you might be surprised at how delicious this actually is.
  2. Next, chop and saute the green cabbage in sunflower oil slightly before lightly boiling until soft (it’s better if it’s not overcooked).
  3. Rinse the tinned beans under running water.
  4. Shape the mash into a mountain and scatter the green cabbage around to make the ocean. The kids can then place on the beans (rocks and fish) and help scatter the red cabbage (lava) on top.
  5. Eat and enjoy! Left-overs serve up really well the next day too.

Have fun and do let me know if you make it. Do you have any favourite family friendly recipes to share with other families with food intolerance kids?


  1. Thank you so much for sharing! Whenever it’s suggested that as a playdate we meet for ‘lunch’ I always cringe! Just not an option for us….plus with a picky eater he is not motivated by food to sit at all….Thanks for helping me feel ‘normal’! 😉

  2. Thanks for your comment Jamie! It’s always good to know we aren’t alone!

  3. I am new to this site and very interested in your experiences. My little guy just turned one, and it has been the year from hell as we have navigated his food allergies and intolerances (from anaphylaxis reactions that have sent us to the ER to delayed responses that caused 10 months of crying, irritabilty, insomnia, etc. ) Poor baby screamed and screamed and didn’t sleep, but the doctors just said he was “fussy.” He has been off dairy, soy, egg, and nuts for two months, and has gone from sleeping 6 hours a night (during which he would wake up and scream inconsolably) to sleeping 11 hours a night with no crying!

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