Long-term readers of Foods Matter will remember Rhiannon whose early years were filled with gastric tubes and horrendous allergic reactions. Well, Rhiannon is now nine and a half and although she is much better than she was her troubles are not over. However, she has become an extremely keen harrier! Here is her mum, Sarah’s, latest report.

To recap: Rhi is allergic to milk, egg, nuts, kiwi, fish and intolerant to lamb and moderate amounts of wheat. She had allergic reflux, untreated, for the second six months of her life (along with severe eczema) and once that was under control, virtually stopped eating and was fed largely on Neocate via a gastrostomy tube for two years. While she had improved enough by the age of four for this not to be replaced, we've had an ongoing uphill struggle to maintain and increase her weight, the pattern being for her to lose weight in the summer and put it back over the winter.

I did get hold of some colloidal silver as recommended by your kind correspondent, and administered it to Rhi when she was diagnosed with tonsillitis and prescribed antibiotics (no thank you!). Despite dire warnings from a colleague about the GMTV Blue Man (who'd splashed it on his face and gone out in the sun) it seemed to do Rhi a power of good; not only did she recover quickly but I noticed a definite reduction in her occasional wheeziness. (Wonder if this ties in with the asthma/fungal sensitivity that was in the news recently?) Incidentally I could find no information on colloidal silver dosage, so guessed at 10ml a day which seemed to work fine.

However we faced a fresh crisis this year as Rhi went into P4 and her class was suddenly exposed to the full vagaries of the lunch rota. The first week of term they were in last, and Rhi must have been left with hardly any time and/or was beyond hunger by 1pm – her packed lunches were coming home more or less intact and I was once again going spare.

So I emailed the deputy head, to say that I could easily get a doctor's letter asking for her to take an early lunch on medical grounds. Not necessary – the following day the deputy head collected Rhi and a friend from class and escorted them in first for lunch, and this has continued. If only all problems could be so swiftly and efficiently solved!

We still have to employ bribery and/or imaginative menu changes periodically. Her prescribed rice bread is no good for sandwiches that have to wait four hours to be eaten so it's a rota of chicken salad with crisps, bean salad and soya cheese slices with crackers – plus soya yogurt, bars etc. But generally she is eating better than she ever has. The proof of this came on our last hospital visit. As Rhi explains, she is ‘back on the pink line’ – after floating below the growth chart for eight years of her life, she's finally hit the third centile for her height and weight!

However with one problem under control, another pops up. Rhi struggles with her schoolwork and her wonderful, conscientious speech therapist did a huge battery of tests that found her short-term memory was two years behind where she should be. She gave us strategies and re-tested her a year later – to find absolutely no change; she is now three years behind in audio sequencing and 2+ years in comprehension, spelling etc).

I give her flaxseed Omega 3 oil (only a teaspoonful a day, mixed with honey – working on increasing this!) and her reading is improving gradually, but her writing and spelling are appalling. However she now sees a new learning support teacher who is much more positive and sympathetic. (The previous one had announced that Rhi was ‘extremely immature – I take it she's the youngest in the class’ when in fact she's the oldest. Full marks for sensitivity and background knowledge!)

I was pushing for specific testing for dyslexia but am now happier that the school is addressing all Rhi's personal difficulties, if not under that umbrella heading. And finally the educational psychologist has agreed to see her, after meeting me twice!

We do wonder whether there could be some other nutritional or intolerance-related reason for her problems. She can remember things like film plots and medical explanations in great detail and often appears quite intelligent despite her mixed-up speech and emotional immaturity. It's been suggested that this is because she's making up for her early years when she was too ill to live life to the full, does anyone know of similar cases? She does eat very healthily (with at least five-a-day fruit and veg), apart from a few sweeties and a relatively high proportion of meat as she can't have fish or eggs... Venison sausages are a current fave!

So we're doing OK – I just hope her weight hasn't started dropping again since she's been a member of the Hawkhill Harriers running club (where Liz McColgan started off!). Rhiannon adores running as it's something she just does naturally well, and she often does an extra relay lap at the end of the training session, little show-off. Two puffs of Ventolin before she sets off are enough to see her through, and she doesn't need any at the end. It's just lovely for her to achieve something that's not incredibly difficult for her.

PS She came first in her group of five in a 400m time trial at running last week, and they're talking about putting her in for some inter-club races. Woo hoo! She needs a lot more practice at staying in lane for sprints though – do hope she's got the hang of that before she starts learning to drive – eek!

First published in 2009

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