Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Cinnamon Allergy - AHA!

Ellie is allergic to cinnamon. I just figured this out. Here's how it happened.

During our coconut trial this winter Ellie was having a snack - pumpkin "cheesecake" - that she loved. Everytime she ate it, though, she got a red rash around her mouth. And if some cheesecake got on her cheek, a red rash would appear there too. This struck me as odd, and I started to wonder if it was a sign that coconut was not going well. When we pulled the coconut back out of her diet, and therefor pulled the cheesecake - I stopped noticing the rash.

That was until one morning when I gave her a breakfast "porridge" I make her sometimes. It's a mix of ground pumpkin seeds, walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, stevia and cinnamon that you pour hot water over and it turns into a yummy, goopy porridge. Well she was eating it and suddenly I noticed that same red rash on her face. How odd. So I compared the two recipes and looked for what they had in common. I decided stevia was the prime suspect, since I had recently read that people with fructose intolerance often can't have stevia and decided to pull that out of her diet.

Last Monday I made Ellie the porridge again, this time leaving out the stevia. It just happened that it was that morning that we had an appointment with a new allergist. We went over Ellie's lengthy health history and my frustration that she has not been doing well for months, despite being on this extremely restrictive diet. The allergist noticed that Ellie had very chapped lips and asked about that. I told her that Ellie has been picking at her lips for months and I could not for the life of me figure out why she was doing this. The allergist pointed out that this can be a symptom of a contact allergy. She suggested it could be a reacting to a toothpaste. "But we don't use toothpaste for Ellie!" I said. "I can't take that kind of risk - I can't even give my kid toothpaste because I don't have time to waste trialing toothpaste!"

But the comment kept me thinking. Contact allergy? Huh.

In the week that followed Ellie really didn't pick at her lips and they were very close to healed. Then yesterday morning I fed her some Chia Goodness and sprinkled a bit of cinnamon on top. By midday Ellie had pulled two big chunks of skin off her bottom lip and they were blistering. I thought back again. The pumpkin cheesecake. The breakfast porridge. The Chia Goodness. What did they all have in common? CINNAMON. AHA!!!

Just to be certain I was right, this morning I made a paste out of water and cinnamon and spread it across her tummy. I asked her to sit very still and wait, and Ellie calmly laid still and studied her tummy. A few minutes passed and I started to think I was crazy, and just barking up the wrong tree. I got up to get a rag to wipe her tummy off and Ellie suddenly cried out "Mama, the cinnamon is hurting!" I ran back and the area had turned a deep red. I wiped the cinnamon off and there was my proof.

I felt so tremendously elated. Seems weird to be excited you found out your kid has an allergy. But I was so relieved to have found an answer. Finally! After so many months of things going south for no clear reason, here was at least one answer.

About a half hour after I took this photo Ellie's rash turned into a huge white raised welt that stuck around long enough for her doctor to see it hours later (at an appointment we had scheduled for another reason).

Now I will puzzle over how much of the troubles we've experienced the past few months can be attributed to cinnamon. Now we can completely remove it from her diet and see what type of an improvement that brings. There's not a ton of information online about cinnamon allergies so I don't know if it primarily creates just a skin rash or if GI symptoms could be attributed to cinnamon as well. There's always more to learn.


  1. Wow Annie. Another piece of the puzzle!! I love reading your blog.. I feel like I'm sharing the journey with you. Though my kiddos have none of the problem your little one has, I'm cheering you on!! Way to go!!

    1. Thanks Magda! Definitely another piece of the puzzle! Just today I decided to try to get Ellie back on her Fermented Cod Liver Oil, which I stopped giving her last month because it seemed to be causing problems. I pulled it out of the fridge and realized it's CINNAMON flavored! Funny how figuring out one thing can make about 100 mysteries suddenly make sense.


  2. Hi Annie, yep, cinnamon is not good here either. It did give J intestinal issues, so it was a little easier for me to discover. It's amazing, all the things that can make the little tummy hurt.
    I just listened to Chris Kresser podcast where he talks about thyroid and how different kinds of vegetables can influence thyroid and how to prepare these when on paleo-ish diet. It is quite interesting. Here is the link, if you have some time:
    Take care,

    1. Yes, of course now that I've figured it out I've heard from several people for whom cinnamon is a problem. We were just at Ellie's dentist this morning and he said he doesn't carry cinnamon toothpaste because it causes problems for so many kiddos. Who knew!?!

  3. Oh, also I forgot to mention that he also discusses the danger of going too low carb on paleo, which can cause hypothyroid symptoms - I know this is definitely true because that initially happened to me. I wish I would have known...

  4. Thanks for sharing this with me! I have definitely felt worse when we are very restricted on carbs. I will be sure to listen to that podcast - I am really impressed with the stuff I've read from Chris Kresser!