|Odessa PD||203 N Grant Ave, Odessa 79761|
A battle with food allergies leads two women to new lives
Mothers know best.
That adage at least holds true for two local moms: Kristi Hayes and Rebecca Hirt. Both have children with severe food allergies, and both have found ways of coping with the challenge of feeding them. In the process of doing that, not only did their children’s health improve, but their own life paths changed.
Hayes opened a bakery called the Tabor Mountain Bakehouse, which features gluten and dairy-free goods. Hirt created a blog, “Peanut Butter, Passports and Epinephrine.”
Years ago, Hayes, a registered nurse, became passionate about food because of food allergies that plagued her and her husband. But she became more serious about food issues when they started their family 2006.
“Tabor was one of the most miserable babies ever,” she said of her first child. “She would scream for hours, refused to be put down, would projectile vomit and was covered with rashes. Someone suggested she may be lactose intolerant. Within 48 hours of a dairy-free diet, she was a new child.”
Although Hayes was taking her daughter to a pediatrician, she decided to give a naturopath a try.
“We discovered not only was Tabor lactose intolerant, she also had intolerances to eggs, gluten, corn and peanuts and had anaphylaxis to black beans and sesame seeds,” she said.
She and her husband researched allergy-friendly diets, proper vitamin supplements and meal preparation.
“Within three weeks of Tabor’s new diet, she became a much healthier, happy child,” she said.
Then her second child, Noah, came into the family with allergies not only to lactose and eggs, but also pork and soy.
Having to figure out how to feed her family over these past years has inspired Hayes to share with others. She opened an allergy-friendly bakery and resource site for those dealing with food allergies and intolerances. Hayes teamed up with Angela Valencia, who owns Tinta De Toro cooking classes and is a professional pastry chef. Hayes is knowledgeable about substitutes for allergy-inducing ingredients, and Valencia brings her skills at producing tasty foods.
At their bakery, located at 1625 W. Uintah St., they prepare an array of baked goods, grab-and-go allergy-friendly salads, soups and sandwiches. You can also take classes like holistic nutrition and education, gluten-free desserts, and allergy-friendly kitchen for beginners.
Like Hayes, Hirt has two children who suffer from various food allergies, and she blogs about how to cope with food allergy issues.
“I’m also a mom whose world was turned upside down when my youngest child suffered anaphylaxis after eating a tiny bit of peanut butter cookie,” the self-confessed travelholic and foodie writes on her blog. “Now I’m navigating the dangerous waters of raising, feeding and traveling with a child who has severe food allergies.”
After her daughter was diagnosed with peanut allergies, Hirt had her older son tested for food allergies. Sure enough, he had allergies to melon and shellfish.
“His reactions have not been as severe as his sister’s. However, with food allergies, the severity get progressively worse with each exposure,” she says.
Why the blog name “Peanut Butter, Passports and Epinephrine”?
“These are the things I find myself worrying about most of all,” she said. “Day and night, they preoccupy my thoughts.”
Peanut butter for obvious reasons.
“Passports are the bane of my existence,” Hirt says. “I’m forever misplacing or losing them. Epinephrine – ‘Do you know where the EpiPens are?’ - is a question I ask myself all the time. So, you see, the blog is named in a vain and fleeting attempt to take control of the things that torment me daily.”
So for those who suffer from food allergies themselves or have children with food issues, Hayes and Hirt offer some solace from a mom’s experience. For more help there’s Colorado Springs MOSAIC (Mothers of Severely Allergic Infants and Children), a networking group of about 75 families who meet once a month. Visit csmosaic.org.
Katie Pritchard, the leader of the group and mother of a daughter who is allergic to peanuts, eggs, soy, sesame, peas and apples, is a fan of Hirt’s blog.
“I love Rebecca’s blog,” she emailed. “I love that she is raising awareness about peanut and food allergies while at the same time showing that you can live a full, beautiful life full of amazing food. I would definitely recommend her recipes.”
Pritchard says food allergies are a serious and a growing issue.
“Peanut allergies alone have tripled in the last decade and the rate of the rest of the top eight allergens in the US (peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, eggs, milk, soy) have doubled,” she said. "The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network and the Food Allergy Initiative estimate as many as 15 million Americans have food allergies, nine million adults and nearly six million children. One out of every 13 American children has a food allergy."