Interview with Tracy Bush: Food Allergy Consultant, Blogger and Mother
Tracy Bush, a food allergy consultant, the founder of Nutrimom Inc., a blogger, and the loving mother of a son with several severe food allergies, shares her story.
What motivated you to become a Food Allergy Consultant?
Initially it was when my son was diagnosed with having several food allergies. At the time, I was working for a wonderful doctor, and I came back to her and I was surprised because our allergy specialist really didn’t direct me. She didn’t give me any information as to how I could feed [my son]. She just said, “Avoid these foods and here’s an EpiPen and good luck!”
I kept telling the doctor that I worked for that there is nobody that’s an in-between, that can help me figure out what to do or where to go or what products to feed him. For years, she kept saying, "You have to do this! This is something that you should be doing because you’re great with people and there’s a need for it."
What does your job entail? Who is your clientele?
It’s a variety of different people. I’ve dealt with parents. I’ve dealt with children. I’ve dealt with older people, doctors, spouses, everything. Obviously food allergies don’t only happen to young people or old people. But what I’ve learned over the past couple of years is that food allergies and food intolerances have become more widely known, and more people are getting tested and receiving better knowledge about it. The only thing that’s missing is the in-between, how to start nourishing yourself and finding replacements.
What allergies does your son have?
He is allergic to peanuts, eggs, watermelons, and uncooked dairy, which means he can’t have raw milk or yogurt, but he can have a grilled cheese. As long as it’s cooked, he’s fine. He’s also got an intolerance to gluten, and we’re not sure about shellfish. It came up on a test, but we’ve haven’t had a chance to have him try it yet.
When was he first diagnosed?
The first sign that we had was when he was 6 to 8 months old, and we tried to give him yogurt and he got hives. I think he wasn’t officially diagnosed probably until he was about a year and a half or two.
How has your family adapted since your son’s diagnosis?
Because it’s been a journey for everyone in our family, we’ve kind of revamped our diet, but for the better! For the most part, we are gluten-free, and I say “for the most part” because I’m always honest. I don’t have anything to hide.
There are a lot of products we don’t buy anymore. We used to do pre-packaged things. We were the typical family where you go and you buy frozen dinners and chicken nuggets, and we still do buy some pre-packaged things. But we’re very specific about what we buy now. We get gluten-free chicken nuggets instead of Tyson chicken nuggets, or if we’re going to do a wrap, we get a gluten free wrap.
And I’m finding that all of us just overall feel better and act better, and it’s just a better lifestyle for all of us. And I will admit that it is easier just to do one meal for the whole family. But there are days when I cook 2 to 3 different kinds of meals, just because this person doesn’t want this for dinner but we have this in the refrigerator, so he’ll have this and I’ll have that and my son will have something else. But we’ve gotten used to it, so that’s our new, normal lifestyle.
What are some of your favorite “safe-foods” for your son?
There are several, but the ones that we tend to keep on hand a lot are the Surf Sweet Gummies. We also do a lot of Enjoy Life products. Sun Butter is a staple in our home. Also we eat Barney Butter, because although we’re peanut allergic we can do almond butter. There are also some things like Cool Cups, which are Jell-O alternatives.
Do you know of any great recipe books for food allergy sufferers?
It’s funny that you say that because I’ve been working on a book of my own, and I’m currently editing it for e-book. Basically what I’ve done is I’ve collected cookbooks over the years. I have regular cookbooks and allergy-friendly cookbooks, and I kind of just mixed and matched them.
It’s just a matter of taking a recipe and saying, “What can I do with this? Can I substitute an item, but still make it healthy?” My big thing, that I always tell everyone, is “protein, protein, protein.” I try to add protein and vegetables to everything. I try to figure out, okay there’s this recipe for a cookie. How can you make that cookie not only good tasting and something the whole family wants, but also put the extra protein into that cookie so that you’re getting an all-in-one product.
What is your best piece of advice for parents of kids with severe food allergies?
The best advice I have is that, if you have a gut feeling that something is not right with your child or yourself and you know the doctors are telling you everything is fine but you still have that gut feeling, then always listen to that little voice inside.
You have to find a doctor that is going to work with you and figure out what is going on. As a parent I went to a lot of doctors who insisted that everything was fine and nothing was going on, but I knew that something else was going on, and I had to fix it.
What inspired you to create your blog?
I’ve always been a writer. I’ve written since I was a little girl, and it was just a way to share my feelings and get my thoughts out there. I try to make my blogs cheery and lighthearted and kind of humorous. Because I think that, while food allergies are serious, you don’t have to have a dark cloud over the whole process.
You have to learn to laugh also because laughter is good. Sharing is good! Even the situations that may not seem wonderful should be shared in a way that everyone can understand them whether they’re in a good mood or a bad mood or a not-so-great mood. It’s all about having the different aspects of food allergies, not just the good, not just the bad. It’s about incorporating everything.
What kind of outreach efforts have you been involved in?
I actually work with several doctors in the area, and they refer me a lot of patients and I’m very thankful for that. I do some consultations through my Facebook page, and I don’t charge them because that’s what they need. I am also currently working with FARE to set up our area’s first ever food allergy awareness walk. Also I work with The Allergy Menu, some ladies based over in Australia, and I’m on their advisory board. That’s a great site! You can go on and put in your allergy and it will spit out some great recipes that do not contain that allergen, which is great when you have kids!
To visit Tracy's website, AllergyPhoods.com, click here.
To visit Tracy's blog, click here.
A special thanks to Tracy!