How One Mom is Opening Up the Food Allergy Conversation

When her daughter needed help eating solid foods, Caili Elwell learned about food allergies — and found hope. 

Evie Elwell is a preschooler who loves to dance and sing. She’s also a bit of an expert on dinosaurs.

And she adores food.

Now, that last fact might not seem as fun as the first two. But trust us when we tell you it’s one of the most remarkable things about Evie.

Because, back when she was an infant, food could be downright scary for her.

It made her break out into a full-body rash. It made her sick. It made her parents wonder how she would get any nourishment at all.

“I remember thinking, ‘What do I do? How do I feed my kid?’ ” says Caili Elwell, Evie’s mom. “It’s the scariest question a first-time parent can ask: ‘How do I feed my kid?’ ”

Caili Elwell says it took time and dedication to find an answer. We wouldn’t have the food-loving Evie of today without the Elwell family and a team of healthcare providers, including her doctor and an allergist, committed to figuring out which foods were safe for her to consume. Caili says further testing confirmed that Evie’s food allergies included peanuts, eggs, tree nuts, milk and soy, among others.

Throughout this journey, our EleCare amino acid-based infant formula supported Evie’s nutrition while her food allergies were identified.

It was the bridge that supported her transition to solid foods — and her now-favorite food … tinned smoked trout fillets.

How’s that for a fun fact?

Let’s get into that and more, with her mom’s help. After spending so many of Evie’s early days feeling like she was all alone, Caili Elwell is sharing her family’s story as an ambassador for EleCare to raise awareness of food allergies. Here’s our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity.

Can you set the scene for what you were going through and how you felt emotionally before you found the doctor who explained what was going on with Evie?

I’ve always been aware that food allergies exist, but they never presented (in an extreme way) in my life until it happened with my daughter.

She was only 2 months old, and she had a rash from head to toe that would bleed sometimes. We tried every ointment, every lotion, every cream.

I had to stop breastfeeding her myself because I was so stressed out and my milk dried up, and she was just getting more and more sick.

It was very frustrating. It was very isolating. I felt hopeless, sometimes. I felt exhausted.

You feel very powerless as a parent because all you want to do is help your child, make sure your child is healthy.

Thankfully, my daughter just had the natural disposition of being a really good sport. No matter what, she was just always so content and happy.

At the same time you were visiting with doctors, did you try to find information about Evie’s condition in any other ways?

At the time, I felt like I couldn’t find anything on the internet.

I really hope that, by reaching out to other moms and working with other parents, that we can really be there for each other and really open this conversation up.

There are resources out there that can help. There are doctors out there that will talk to you about this. There is hope. There is a life beyond food allergies.

And honestly, if it wasn't for EleCare, I don’t know what would have happened, because I was losing so much hope at that point.

How old was Evie when your doctor recommended EleCare? Can you take us through your journey?

She was about 8 or 9 months at that point.

We had tried giving her different things, but they weren’t working.

One day, after she had a bottle, she began throwing up. I rushed her to the emergency pediatrician.

He was the first one to look at her, then look at me and say, “OK, how long has this been going on? What foods have you tried?”

We literally started going down the list.

So, when we then tried EleCare, I was like, “OK, she’s not throwing it up. She’s not fussy, She’s not gassy. Let’s see how this goes.”

Within one week, her rash started to clear up. Within a month, she started to have a lot more energy. She was on that for a year and a half. And I got my kid back.

What is day-to-day life like for you? Are there extra considerations that parents of kids with food allergies have to make?

I feel like there are a lot of layers for parents who have kids with food allergies.

There are a lot of extra steps that we go through that are unfortunately necessary for our kids to be comfortable and safe and happy and healthy.

The extra steps that we need to take with Evie really just have to deal with managing her comfort. For her, most of the time, that’s her eczema, which is agitated by her allergies.

So, for example, one thing is her baths. It was terrifying to me as a first-time parent to hear the term “bleach bath,” but it was necessary.

A bleach bath is a full tub of water with 1/4 cup of household bleach. And we call it “Evie's special potion.” 

I do what I can to make the necessary things fun for her. Any time we have needed to manage her symptoms, I tell her, “Let’s go make your special potion and get rid of those cheetah spots!” We make her a bleach bath, and then she gets her prescription lotion and a layer of household lotion.

And how about mealtimes?

There are some nights where all four of us eat completely different things. And then there are some nights where I’m like, OK, all of us can eat this one pasta dish. It’s super quick and easy for me to make, so that’s what I’m going to do.

We have a little binder that’s clipped onto our fridge of all the things that are safe for Evie to have and everybody can eat.

There are recipes that I’ve printed off and I’ve scratched things out and put substitutions in. You know, it’s not one-size-fits-all, ever. It’s day by day. “What is everybody craving?”

It has come to a point now where I’m not going to stress over it, because food shouldn’t be stressed over.

Food is there to be fun and make you feel healthy and good, and comfort you. I don’t ever want my daughter to feel like she’s a burden, or like food is the enemy.

What are Evie’s favorites?

At a grocery store near us, you can get this tinned smoked trout, and my daughter goes wild for it.

It’s so cute and funny. She’s like a little old lady with her tinned trout, cucumber and gluten-free toast, and that’s her favorite lunch.

But what’s really great is that she’s not a picky eater. As long as she can eat it, she’ll try anything once. We’ll walk into the store and I’ll be like, “Go for it!”

Last Christmas I got her her own little cutting board and these child-safe cutting knives so she can chop vegetables or fruits with me. I thought it was really important for her to understand where the food was coming from and how we prepare it.

It was really important for me that she loves food — and she does.

Caili Elwell is a paid ambassador for EleCare. The views expressed are not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice. Individual symptoms, situations and circumstances may vary.