Only people who have experienced severe food allergies and dietary restrictions can fully understand the strain that these conditions put on a family. Every meal or snack requires research. Whole aisles of the supermarket are “off limits.” Eating out is no longer a “simple pleasure.” Blooming Lotus Bakery was born out of my family’s life-long struggle with dietary issues and the wish to provide safe, healthy food for everyone.
My sister was born in 1957, four weeks premature. She weighed four and a half pounds at birth and needed to be put on a feeding tube. She remained hospitalized for a month until she weighed five and a half pounds.
She was a colicky baby and seemed to cry constantly. When she was one-year-old, my mother gave her some wheat cereal. Right away she broke out in blisters on the palms of her hands and on the soles of her feet. So she was switched to an all-rice cereal. But then she started suffering from regular ear infections and her doctor suspected more food allergies. After being tested, she was also taken off of orange juice, milk and eggs, followed by cane sugar. At that point the infections subsided and her hearing began to improve. But her skin broke out in red, scaly patches and she was diagnosed as having psoriasis, an autoimmune disease. Each night my tired mother bathed my sister in tar soap, put steroid creams on her and then wrapped her in plastic wrap which was the standard treatment at the time.
The doctor put her on a rotation diet, warning my mother that "piling up" on a safe food would cause my sister to become allergic to that food also. All grains were removed from her diet. That meant there were very few prepared foods she could safely eat as they all contained corn syrup solids, sugar and/or wheat. Her diet became more and more restricted until it seemed that nothing was safe for her.
School was also a challenge. She was ostracized by the other children because of her "spots," her short stature and because she couldn't eat the same lunches they did. She’d come home crying, "I just want to be a regular girl." Even with all of these difficulties, she graduated from college with a degree in micro-biology.
At the age of 27, she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s is the chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. Our father had been diagnosed with Crohn’s when he was 19-years-old and died at the age of 27 of complications from the surgeries he had to treat the disease. By the time my sister was diagnosed, there were new medications and treatments. However, her combination of diseases - diabetes, Crohn's, and psoriasis - was extremely difficult to treat because of drug interactions. She was put on endless rounds of steroids and antibiotics. Today she has found some relief from Humira, Enbrel and Stelara.
Twenty years after my sister was diagnosed, I ended up being wheeled into the hospital. There I was handed the same diagnosis - Crohn's disease. A colonoscopy showed that I did not have even one square inch of healthy bowel tissue.
My doctor put me on steroids. He told me that I would know what I could or couldn't eat as the cramping and digestive discomfort from certain foods would be unmistakable. At first wheat, dairy, corn, peanuts and black tea came off my diet. Soon after, all grains were forbidden. That included cane sugar which, like wheat or barley, is a member of the grass family.
Even with my dietary restrictions and all the medications I was taking; I spent a couple of years cycling on and off of steroids and suffered from 3 or 4 Crohn’s attacks a year.
It wasn't until I started studying Iyengar yoga and doing a daily practice that my symptoms cleared up and I was able to get off of all medications. Most Crohn’s patients are on some type of medication for life.
I know firsthand that it takes the holistic benefits of yoga and the right diet to sustain my health. That’s why I founded the Milwaukee Yoga Center in October 2000.
Fifteen years later I’m opening the Blooming Lotus Bakery to provide safe, healthy food for families with dietary restrictions. But also for people who just want to have delicious treats.
Blooming Lotus Bakery is dedicated to my sister and mother, pioneers in the struggle for better health through diet.