Monday, November 5, 2012

Tweaking Recipes

With Jeff and Joshua just getting over an awful head cold, and me just starting on one, some comfort food was in order.  One of my favorite recipes from before we started GAPS was the Crock Pot Chicken Pot Pie from Crock Pot 365.  I have really been missing it as the weather has gotten cooler, and finally I decided that if I could find a grain free biscuit recipe that I liked, there was no reason to be deprived of this tasty dish.

Finding a grain free biscuit recipe was the challenge, really.  There are several out there, but like 75% of them include coconut flour, and since Jeff is allergic to coconut that is off my list.  Then another chunk all include baking powder.  This one really irks me, because baking powder is *not* grain-free.  It includes corn starch.  Even the good non-GMO baking powder is enough to give me migraines and joint pain (that is my reaction to non-soaked or sprouted grains, it turns out).  What I usually do is take a recipe that uses almond flour, and use my home-ground SunFlour instead (Jeff is also allergic to almonds).  Finally, I found a decent recipe for the biscuits.  It was dairy free, though, and we're not, so I replaced the "soy-free buttery spread" with...BUTTER.  I think lard would work well, too, honestly.

Now, the trick to baking with SunFlour is knowing that everything is going to turn green, and forcing yourself to mentally adjust to this fact.  Apparently -- while all seeds and nuts contain some chlorophyll -- sunflower seeds contain quite a bit more than most.  When combined with the leavening agents (eggs, baking soda, etc) a chemical reaction takes place that changes the pH of the dough or batter, and allows the chlorophyll coloring to become more apparent.  How green the mixture becomes seems to depend on how finely the SunFlour is ground.  The finer the grind, the more pervasive the green.  It is definitely something it takes some time to adjust to, but it has me getting very excited about St. Patrick's Day (especially since it is very possible I could have a St. Patrick's Day baby this year)!

So, the biscuit recipe is from Elana's Pantry, and here it is with my adjustments:

2 ½ cups SunFlour,
½ teaspoon Real Salt
 ½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup butter
2 eggs
1 tablespoon honey

I did not follow the directions at Elana's pantry.  Instead of including the butter with the eggs and honey, I cut it into the SunFlour with a pastry blender.  First, I mixed together the SunFlour, baking soda, and salt. Then I cut the butter into smaller pieces, and worked it into the SunFlour  with a pastry blender. Then I added the eggs and honey, and mixed thoroughly.

I rolled out the dough between two pieces of waxed paper, like she recommends at Elana's Pantry.  Cut the biscuits out, and layered them over my crock pot full-of-goodness.  Below is the recipe for the chicken pot is not exactly in "recipe" form.

None of the typical gravy thickeners are allowed on GAPS, not even arrowroot powder, and I did not feel like experimenting with gelatin.  So we are quite aware that what we will end up with will be a little soupier than this recipe usually is.  However, we always found this recipe a little dry (as did the blogger who wrote it), so I am not thinking we are going to mind.

We used whatever veggies we had on hand: peas, butternut squash (cut into chunks), carrots, onions, bell peppers, and garlic.  I used an entire butternut squash...I would call it "medium-sized."  Because the squash is so absorbent and we had a large amount of it, I used about 3 cups of chicken broth (homemade) and half a cup of milk.  We were low on meat so I used about a pound of chicken breast, but this recipe could easily handle two.  I used most of an onion and about 5 small cloves of garlic, and one medium bell pepper, with a small bunch (no more than half a pound) of carrots half of a quart sized freezer bag's worth of peas.  The seasoning is as follows:

--1/2 t marjoram
--1/2 t thyme
--1/2 t celery seed
salt and pepper to taste 

We cook this on low for 6-8 hours, with the lid vented so that the biscuits can cook thoroughly and get a decent crust on top.

The biscuits had barely been in for an hour and had already turned from the light brown dough color to a bright green.  This one is going to be interesting, for sure!

OK, what is comfort food without a delicious, warm dessert?  Again, because of coconut flour issues, I have had a hard time finding a good brownie recipe.  I found a recipe for "Peanut Butter Brownies," but this just made me upset because there was no chocolate in them.  I hear or read "brownie" and I instantly think "chocolate," so I felt slightly lied to, haha.  But the recipe is SCD compliant, and while cocoa is ok on full GAPS, it is not SCD-compliant, so no chocolate brownies in SCD recipes, right?  But then I realized that I could easily tweak that recipe, too.  The blogger who shared it said 1/2 c honey, but then that she uses 1/4 c and that was "plenty sweet." So I figured, if the extra 1/4 c of honey is what I would need to sweeten about 1/4 c of cocoa, this would be no problem!  I was right! The brownies are amazing, and are our favorite flavor combination (chocolate and peanut butter).  Without further ado, here is the recipe:

1 c peanut butter
1/2 c honey (plus 1-2 tablespoons if you are new to GAPS and need it a little sweeter)
1 egg
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup cocoa

Blend ingredients thoroughly and pour into a greased 8x8 baking pan.  Or blend it not-as-thoroughly and have swirls of peanut butter.  It's up to you.  Bake at 350 for 25 minutes, or until edges have pulled away and center is set.

We may have eaten a few of these right after they were done, instead of waiting for dessert tonight.  Can you blame us?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Rays of Hope

Where we last left off, Joshua was doing well.  Shortly after my last post, though, he started to self-restrict to fruits again, on top of us seeing the return of his chronic diarrhea, and we went about the process of figuring out what went wrong.  We were completely shocked and more than frustrated to learn that Xanthan Gum, a thickening agent used in many children's medicines (as well as in pretty much all gluten free products) is corn-derived.  We had no idea, because since corn is not one of the main allergies (the "Top 8"), it is not necessarily required to be labeled.  Joshua is very allergic to corn, and at that point in time had been teething pretty hardcore, so he was getting one dose of ibuprophen daily at bedtime for about a week, so that he could sleep without being disrupted by his aching mouth.

As if that was not enough, I had a major "Should have known better" moment about reading ingredients.  ALWAYS read ingredients, even in products you would not think an issue.  We had some of our herbal tea that we make for the farmers market left over.  Non-caffeinated and only sweetened with a bit of honey, we thought it would make a nice treat for Joshua.  He drank a little every day for several days straight (during the time in which he was taking the ibuprophen).  Well when looking at the box a few days into this, I was horrified to see that there was SOY in my herbal tea.  They added soy lecithin as "raspberry flavor,"  (just so you know, folks, this was Celestial Seasonings Red Zinger).  Joshua is very allergic to soy.

Well any time that Joshua has a substantial allergy trigger, he craves sweet foods, so now we knew what was going on.  We omitted the offenders and started trying to get him back on his regimen.  This meant no fruit, no seeds, just meat and seedless (or de-seeded) veggies that have been thoroughly cooked.  We of course started with his puree that he had been eating, and he flat out refused to eat anything for about a day and a half. Then he started with some cooked butternut squash and broccoli, finally, and started eating meat again.  He still (a month and a half later) will not eat anything pureed, so now broth is completely missing from his diet.  I had a gut feeling that it was key in reversing the chronic diarrhea, so I started getting creative.  I added plain gelatin and made broth jello.  He liked it for about half a day, then would not touch it.  I tried a puree with just the winter squash, still a no-go.

Finally, we decided that, if we were doing everything we knew to do and the diarrhea was still persisting, we should get some help.  We found the only certified GAPS-practitioner in the state of GA, and we also found an ND (Doctor of Natural Medicine) who specializes in pediatric gastroenterology.  She is basically a leading expert on Celiac Disease and its companion, Leaky Gut Syndrome.  From the GP we received a new probiotic to try with Joshua.  This one is entirely soil-based organisms, and is supposed to be really helpful with Leaky Gut.  The ND pointed me to a few of her blog posts, from which I found out that the amino acid Glutamine could be really helpful, as well as trying maybe a "Tummy Tea," of some demulcent herbs that are specifically geared toward intestinal health.  So we have a plan.  And we're hopeful about what lies ahead.

It is, however, proving quite true that it is always darkest just before the dawn.  Today we gave Joshua his "beginner's" dose of the probiotic we received from the GP.  Though he is still off of fruit, we gave it to him mixed in a little applesauce (it tastes like dirt, basically, and we wanted him to actually take it).

Much to our surprise and dismay, his die-off reaction (the avoidance of which is the whole reason for a beginner's dose) was immediate and extreme.  He finished his applesauce, started to munch on some (uncured) bacon, then started to whine a little.  Suddenly, he just started screaming.  He wanted up on Daddy's lap, he wanted down, he wanted up, he wanted down, he wanted Mommy, he wanted Mommy far away.  He wanted the pacifier, he threw the pacifier.  Wanted, threw, wanted, threw, wanted, threw.  He actually went as far as getting off of Daddy's lap, picking up the pacifier, and throwing it.  He basically chased that thing around the living room, screaming the whole time.  Daddy suggested shoes and socks so he could go outside, which made him smile, but he was still screaming.  They are outside now and I think he has calmed down quite a bit, but we know that we can expect the die-off to last a few days, getting a little bit better each day.  Any prayers during this time are MUCH appreciated.  We know we will need all the grace afforded to us to handle this, but we also know that die-off - just like any other condition - is subject to the blood of Jesus and prayers for peace in little Joshua will not go unheard.

There has been a positive thing or two about the past month and a half, though.  We found a multi-vitamin that Joshua can take.  It is real-food based, free of ALL of his allergens, and pretty affordable.  We particularly were concerned about the minerals, since he had stopped taking broth in any form (and it is his primary source of bioavailable minerals).  Also, the fact that he had stopped getting much taller was a slight concern to his pediatrician back in May, which had me thinking maybe he could use more calcium.  Well it worked.  He had only been on the multi a few weeks before we started to see him sprout up again.  He has not been gaining much, but with the return of the digestive distress I am honestly just happy to see him maintaining.  His grain-induced eczema has remained at bay, his sweet little face is still free of that unsightly rash.  And for the most part, he's a pretty happy camper.  He does have a minor meltdown if he so much as sees a banana (a symptom pretty common to a lot of GAPS patients), but maybe his daily applesauce w/probiotic will keep that at bay.  When he finished the applesauce and moved on to his bacon, we witnessed something we have NEVER seen when he is so fruit-frenzied.

Jeff and I are still holding our own on the full GAPS diet, and maintaining our weight loss.  Jeff went through a stage, recently after his weight loss leveled off, of just feeling sluggish and tired again.  Since most of the toxins in our body are stored in our fat cells, when he started feeling better after a few weeks we decided he must have been detoxing all over again, from stuff that got dumped back into his system as he burned toxin-bearing fats.  Now we're both feeling pretty awesome most of the time!


So we're on his fifth dose of probiotic since we started, and the die-off IS, in fact, getting less severe with each day.  On top of that, his digestion does seem to be improving.  So we are pretty excited about this development.  The next step is to start him back on breast milk (see upcoming posts on relactation), which I had NO IDEA I could do and I am pretty excited about.  Then as the budget allows we will be adding a glutamine supplement to his diet, to see if that will complete the picture. 

Also, Joshua started drinking broth today (Monday, July 23).  He did not drink a whole lot, but it was the first time he has voluntarily taken broth since being off his puree!

Monday, June 4, 2012

GAPS Update - Roller Coaster Ride

So, I ended the last post explaining that I was going to go back on soaked/sprouted grains, and I am starting this one by declaring that I am back off of grains again.  It turns out that most of my GAPS-associated improvements (including the tonsil stones) came back when I started eating soaked grains on a more daily basis.  Well, all except the weight loss.  I did not gain any weight (and did continue to lose a little more) when I was eating grains.  So, it turns out that I DO have difficulty with grains, but who would have thought that my oral health and my cycle were indicators of it?  They are the only symptoms I have ever had, and both are non-existent when I'm grain free.  Still, I am hoping that GAPS dispatches those symptoms for good, and that I can resume eating grains when my body has healed.  After all, I have Italian heritage, and I love Italian food, and I cannot do a lot of that without some wheat once in a while (again, post-GAPS, not during).

Joshua is continuing to do well, and we just took our first vacation while on GAPS.  Now, Dr. Campbell-McBride does recommend grass-fed meats, but they are not a requirement, so I knew that, for the most part, I could eat what our hosts were serving, and pick up whatever other groceries I needed for myself.  But Joshua gets pretty sick with store-bought meat (even organic) if it is not grass-fed, and I knew that grass-fed meat does not really exist in the small town grocery store I would be shopping at.  Also, he still does not drink broth, so we puree his vegetables in it to make sure he is getting enough.  Being that this was supposed to be a  vacation, I did not want to spend the whole week pureeing vegetables.  I pureed his whole week's worth of food, and made up several burgers for him (half pastured ground pork, half grass-fed ground beef), and froze those, as well.  Except for dried fruit and some vegetables, he chowed down on puree and burgers all week long.  Man, he cannot get enough of those burgers, either!  He did really well on vacation, and while he did appear to have one digestive food reaction, we seemed to do very well with avoiding cross-contamination and allergen exposure on this trip.  Just one bout of diarrhea with some rashing that typically indicates a food reaction for him, but it could have just been stress on his system from adjusting to a new place, because it was gone after 2 soiled diapers and happened fairly early on in the week.

I have a batch of sauerkraut nearly done, and we will get a new batch going on Thursday, at which point I am going to put Joshua back on intro and see if we cannot address some of these allergy issues now that we are being mindful of the celiac issues and watching more closely for cross contamination.  I really want to see these food allergies healed for good, so of course we are also covering the re-intro period with lots and lots of prayer.

Jeff is continuing to do well, wowing everyone with the weight he has lost and with his increasing energy, as well. We have not tested any of his food allergies, yet, but I think the first one we will do will be the almond, since it is the least severe reaction.  Of course, we test all of these on the skin first, then by eating the next day if no reaction is present.  He has, however, been able to eat more forms of dairy without any sickness.  When we have used store-bought live kefir or yogurt for our smoothies, he can have them without getting sick at all. Of course, just like the raw milk itself, our raw milk yogurt, sour cream, and kefir are no problem for him.  The only thing left is cheese, since we do not drink pasteurized milk, but of course if he can get to the point of being able to tolerate pasteurized milk, it does make the occasional dinner elsewhere a little easier.  My, I can barely imagine how wonderful it will be to not have to answer the question of "So what can you eat," when a friend wants to have us over for dinner!  If that can happen before we are done with GAPS, all the better!

For now, though, we are all feeling so good that most of the time we are perfectly content with our limited diet.  In all honesty, the only times it ever feels very "limited" are 1) if we forget to snack and let ourselves get too hungry (when we're that hungry we almost always want something sweet and starchy) and 2) when we are going to have food with other people and have to explain what we "can't have."

The hardest thing for me has been all the extra work, and there is certainly extra work.  But I have realized, with my time of rest (a week can do a lot of good) that I have been going about things all wrong, and trying to change the way I operate in order to get more done.  Well, God made me the way I am, with the personality that I have, and I do not have to change who I am to get more done.  It was the attempt to alter myself that was leaving me so exhausted and burned out.  Already three days back into life at home and things are going very well.  I actually had FREE time today (hence this long blog post), and I am getting things done!  A little work has been done in every room of the house, and I am washing diapers, and started off the day cooking breakfast for company.  Pretty amazing what the tiniest shift in perspective can do! 

Very soon I will have even more help in fighting the burnout.  I have been saying for some time that what I need is an "apprentice" of sorts.  Someone who is very interested in learning firsthand all the different "natural living" things we do and would want to learn how to do them by helping me out around the house.  Some of the things I can teach such an apprentice would be fermenting (kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, sour cream, salsa, other fermented veggies), Soaking/sprouting (beans, grains - for farmers market baking, seeds), homemade cleaning agents (dishwashing detergent, laundry detergent, floor and bathroom cleaners, household disinfectants), stock-making, cloth diapering, and of course skin care products.  WELL, just such an apprentice has been found.  A new friend of ours from here in town is going to be joining me a couple days a week; and I am so excited!

So that is the update.  Joshua heading back on intro, and I am getting into a pretty regular rhythm with all of this.  And life goes on as "normal."

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Too Busy! Sorry for the Long Pause!

So it has been over a month since my last GAPS update, and indeed, there is a lot to update!

Let's start with Joshua:  He is essentially on full GAPS now, although once we are sure we have eliminated all the previously hidden gluten triggers, we are going to put him back on intro.  This is because he seems to have developed an allergy to duck eggs (or he did not react until enough of the protein had built up in his system), and we have not seen any further signs of healing in his other allergies.  We do, however, feel like his part of the GAPS experience has been very successful so far.

In case you are sitting there asking why, let me expound with a few TMI points (and I will just get the disclaimer out of the way now: These posts are geared toward helping other people who may be diving into the GAPS world themselves, as well as telling our friends and families how to pray for us.  There are probably going to be many details in here that are too graphic for the dinner table, and I will not apologize for them, though I will try to mark them as TMI so that anyone who does not care about stools, cycles, or other details can ignore the "icky" stuff).

TMI - Joshua basically had chronic diarrhea from when his allergies began to manifest all the way up until shortly after we started GAPS.  Just an FYI for all of you cloth diapering mamas out there, I probably do not have to tell you that cloth diapering a child with chronic diarrhea is not a picnic.  A week or so after we started GAPS this stopped.  Now, he has had one or two days of "loose stools" in the last TWO MONTHS!  So he has not been free of all digestive upset, but it is such a drastic improvement that it has made life better for the boy (who has a significantly lower incidence of diaper rash - all the food related diarrhea generally also left that poor backside almost blistered), and much much better for this mama. /TMI.

Also, Joshua has grown.  Not much more than he had in the beginning as far as the numbers go, but none of the clothes he was wearing when we started GAPS two months ago still fit him well.  He is chattering up a storm again (he did have almost two months in there where the only words he said were "Mama," "Dada," and "Petta" for his pacifier.  This was after a couple months of regularly saying please, thank you, chicken, dog, up, down, yes, no, etc.  He also stopped most of his babbling.  He was still making noises, but it went from multi-syllabic to being all "da da da da."  NOW, he is using more words and even a phrase or two (namely "Thank you," and "What's this), and he is also back to multi-syllabic babbling, as well as singing.  His mood has greatly improved.  He's still a little (very) stuck on Mommy and Daddy when we're outside the home (and sometimes even in it), but he is throwing many few tantrums, and responding to correction when he DOES thrown tantrums.  He had a much less dramatic response to the poking and prodding at the doctor's office, today, too.  Usually he screams from when they get his weight straight through until she's done listening to his chest sounds and such.  He started out unhappy, but he tolerated much more of today's appointment without fits than ever.

Oh, and perhaps one of the biggest deals.  His eczema has all but disappeared.  This, it turns out, was not actually eczema, but Dermatitis Herpetiformis, a rash that is found in persons with Celiac, which is often misdiagnosed as eczema.

So to recap: Lack of diarrhea, GROWTH, lack of developmental delays that were hinted at before, healing in his skin.  His doctor said that him falling off the growth charts, but then recovering when we removed the grains indicated that he is not simply multi-allergic, but that he definitely does have Celiac. Other indicators of this are:
  • his chronic loose stools which normalized once we started GAPS (removed all grains)
  • His rash
  • Heredity (Jeff AND his mother are both gluten intolerant.  She said the fact that Jeff manifested typical Celiac symptoms after just spreading wheat straw around indicated that he is very likely actually dealing with Celiac).
  • His improved mood (this one goes both ways, people who are simply gluten intolerant and those who have Celiac both often experience bad mood swings after gluten exposure).
  • Appetite - his food restriction has almost entirely stopped (he is still "normal picky," prefers some meats to others, etc., but he eats a wide variety of meats, veggies, and fruits now).
So, part of the reason we are going to hit intro later is that I am feeling as though we will not see any further healing in Joshua, allergy wise, until we eliminate all the other sources of gluten.  We were not paying as much attention to environmental gluten sources, because that is generally only a problem in Celiac patients.  Now we know that we need to take that action (part of that realization is the dermatitis returning when we had to give him some medications that we wrongly thought were gluten free, he has had some exposure that we would like to eradicate before going back to the intense part of the diet.  No sense putting in all the work if we know we are going to get poorer results.  So full GAPS for now, circling back to intro later.

The Parents:

Jeff and I have been doing very well on GAPS.  Jeff has not yet seen any food allergies reversed, but Dr. Campbell-McBride does say that the longer you have had undiagnosed problems, to heal. So this is pretty much expected.  He has, however, found that his digestion has normalized quite a bit, and on top of that, we have BOTH lost quite a bit of weight.  I have lost 15 lbs, and Jeff has lost at least 30.  We both feel great and have more energy, as well as more focus.  We are both wearing clothes neither of us has ever seen the other wear.  And we have found some particularly great benefits to GAPS.

TMI Alert:  Ladies only...I mean it.
My first month on GAPS I was annoyed by something that was also incredible.  My period actually caught me by surprise.  Now, some of you have experienced - as I did - that this glorious time was made even worse post-childbirth, and then worse yet again post-weaning.  Seriously, I have never had a full week of cramping prior to starting in my life, but once I had weaned Joshua, that is exactly where I found myself.  Well, after being on GAPS I can say that I no longer deal with the full spectrum of PMS symptoms.  I am still a little on the emotional side, however all the cramping, all the bloating, all the joint pain (we all have weird symptoms others do not seem to, mine was shooting pain between all the joints between my hips and my toes on one side of my body or the other, it changed each month), and best of all, all the migraines....DISAPPEARED.  Honey, I can take a few extra tears for a few days if I do not have to ALSO be in pain.  In case you are worried that it was a fluke, my second month on GAPS had the SAME story.  None of that PMS pain.

Still TMI: I have, however, found that one thing about GAPS does not suit me at all.  The lack of grains.  Now, I can live without them, but my digestion becomes a bit sluggish.  And by "a bit," I mean very.  For this reason I have decided that I may just not be a GAPS patient.  I might be one of those people who does poorly without grains.  I tried just about every single remedy Dr. Campbell-McBride mentions (short of enemas, I just cannot do it), and NONE of them had an effect.  SO, I have decided to add soaked/sprouted/fermented grains back into my diet. Other than that, I am still following GAPS protocols (broth, probiotics, no sugar, no potatoes).  I am not sure what I am going to do about pregnancy and nursing, though, now that Joshua has an actual Celiac diagnosis and the possibility for other sibs to need the same restrictions at first.  I may just leave off the glutinous grains at first and see if that allows me my digestion and the Future Bullers their allergy-free existence.  Or maybe we will see divine healing before then (Just FYI, we are praying for healing, and I believe we will see it.  These conditions, however, are reversible through dietary measures, so I do not think that healing HAS to be an outright miracle.  I believe that whether we are healed through the laying on of hands or through the GAPS diet - or both- it is God and God alone doing the healing).  /TMI.

So that's the basic update.  Jeff has more energy and is sick much less, as well as having lost 30 or so pounds.  I have lost weight and seen other tremendous improvements, but am going to be adding soaked grains back into just my diet (so technically I am not on GAPS anymore, but I am still doing mostly GAPS things).  Jeff and Joshua are both on full GAPS, but Joshua will revisit intro at a later point. 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The End of the Tunnel (Intro Is Drawing To A Close)

Wow! I cannot believe we have been at this for 24 days already, and at the same time it is getting routine enough that it feels like this is how we have been doing things for some time.

Some interesting things about the GAPS diet:

It totally changes your "meal clock."  I wrote a few posts ago that I still was not going to eat fish for breakfast.  And then just a few days later, I did.  I have grown accustomed to having sauerkraut on my scrambled egg & avocado in the morning, too (sometimes with a bit of homemade sour cream to top it off).  Hey, you never know until you try it, right?  The first few days of just soup do something radical, they totally reorient your brain and palate, or so it seems.  Suddenly my concept of what is "breakfast food" and what is "dinner food are not that different.  Funny, right?  Before starting GAPS I could not fathom how we were going to manage with all these odd foods at odd times of day, and now it really is not a big deal at all.

Here is a typical day on the GAPS diet for us.  Since we are all on different stages, I will start with mine, and then show where Jeff's and Joshua's varies (I am on stage 5, Jeff is on stage 3 but moving toward 4, and Joshua is on stage 2):

First thing in the AM (After I get Joshua fed) I have about 4 oz of freshly pressed juice mixed with kombucha.  Then a little while after that I will usually have a cup of coffee.  Dr. Campbell-McBride recommends not eating anything until around 10, because until that point the body is still in detox mode (from 4 AM to 10 AM).  So a little before 10 I usually have an egg, lightly scrambled in ghee (clarified butter) with some onions, topped with some avocado, sauerkraut, and a bit of homemade sour cream (as mentioned above).  Usually I will also have a mug of broth with this.  And water.  I try to keep up on my water intake, and our well water is really great.

With such a late breakfast, I do not usually have a mid-morning snack or anything.  Lunch is usually a salad with peeled & sliced cucumbers.  Today, I added carrots.  I dress the salad with a little olive oil and squeeze a lemon quarter over it.  I have this with a mug of broth, and mix a raw egg yolk, a spoonful of ghee, and some sauerkraut juice into the broth.  It gives the broth a rich, but salty and slightly tart taste.

For an afternoon snack I will usually have a "pancake."  These pancakes have only 3 ingredients: a nut or seed butter (we use peanut but when Joshua reaches this stage we will make his with Sunbutter), cooked & mashed winter squash, and egg.  I use a 1:1:1 ratio, where an egg is about 1/4 cup to make 2 medium sized pancakes).

Dinner varies, but it is usually either soup or "deconstructed soup," which is meat and veggies with the broth on the side in a mug.  Again I usually mix an egg yolk, ghee, and kraut juice into the broth.  We use different soup recipes to keep things as interesting as we can.  Technically I can have meats cooked by roasting or grilling, now, but roasting for one is a little wasteful, so I am holding off on that until Jeff & Joshua catch up.

For dessert, I have recently started having baked apple.  If I am still hungry, I will have a few tablespoons of sour cream with a little honey drizzled over it.

Jeff's diet is similar, except that he is not on the raw veggies stage yet, so he often has soup or deconstructed soup for lunch, too.  Also he has not fully introduced dairy yet, so no sour cream dessert for him, either.  He is putting ghee in the soups, and tonight or tomorrow night we will do a skin trial for him with whey.  That is the next step.

For Joshua, we have introduced duck egg yolks successfully, but we could not get many, so tonight we will trial chicken egg yolk on his skin.  He has shown some healing in the allergy department already, so we are just hoping and praying that it extends to the egg allergy, too.  He has eaten some non-pureed meats and veggies, but he still prefers some of them pureed.  While he has eaten some meats that were re-heated in ghee, we have not officially introduced it yet, so generally I stir a little pastured lard into his puree instead of ghee.  Tomorrow I will offer some mashed avocado, and in a few days the sunbutter pancakes.

Joshua is gaining weight (3 lbs over his starting weight already) and growing taller.  All of this is happening so quickly that it absolutely blows our minds.  He went from 4 months with no growth at all to gaining 3 lbs and 3/4" in a few weeks.  He is babbling more (as he had stopped for a while), and getting back more of his old demeanor.  He is literally trying to eat us out of house and home!  He is sleeping better, though he is still waking wet pretty early in the morning most nights.  Overall, though, we have fewer nights where he is waking just to cry, and that is a blessing.

Jeff reports feeling better, overall.  Including having more energy than he used to when he is out working on the farm during the day, and improved digestion. He is not feeling hungry all the time anymore (he did for a bit in the beginning), and he has lost some weight.

Other than my own weight loss, I was not sure I was getting too much out of this, until Istarted looking at my finished to-do lists.  I am self-starting much more readily than I ever have, and I have to "think out loud" much less often, too.  I was also looking for some resolution regarding an itchy scalp issue I was having (and had linked to possible yeast issues), and while I did not get it through diet, I did about the craziest skin care thing I have ever done and made a kefir scalp mask last night.  Nothing fancy.  Washed my hair, worked kefir through my hair and massaged it into the scalp, and wrapped my hair in a towel for 45 min or so.  Rinsed it out, shampoo as usual, conditioned, and was done.  My scalp is feeling MUCH better today.  I think I am going to do that with every shampoo over the next week or so, just to make sure the change is a permanent one.  I am now a hippie health and beauty QUEEN.  Even if I was NOT yet experiencing more focus and motivation, it is nice to be back in clothes I have not worn in over two years!  But yes, all this extra motivation is so helpful.  Today I was a rockstar in the kitchen AND I did laundry (folded it AND put it away).  I did a lot of "extra" kitchen stuff today so that I can have the next couple days pretty free.  Namely, I want to be able to enjoy some Sunday rest tomorrow, and get caught up on "non-GAPS housework" on Monday.

OK, so that is our update!  GAPS is going well on all fronts and we are feeling better than ever.  Praise God!

Monday, March 19, 2012

GAPS Update: Stages 1, 3, and 4.

Wow, has it been a crazy week in the kitchen! I am having a lot of fun, though, as we figure this GAPS thing out together.  I joined a "GAPS Support" Yahoo group this week, and it has been a wealth of information (as well as a good opportunity to see where others are on this journey.

We were not able to get duck eggs at the market last week, but they said they would have some for us this week (most likely).  If not, I may just get brave and trial actual egg yolk on Joshua's wrist.  Either way, we will definitely be moving him into stage 2 by the middle of this week.  He is doing great on stage 1, so it is time to move on to the next round.

We have seen some interesting signs of healing in Joshua.  For one thing, for the first time in several months (and since he was measured at 30.25" AGAIN at the doc's office 4 weeks ago), Joshua has grown!  He is now 31" even.  Praise the Lord!  He grew 3/4" in just a few weeks!  And he no longer wakes in the night unless he has had a diaper leak (the problem here is that he is now soaking his diaper every night).  Apparently polyuresis (excessive urination) is a sign of the detoxing/cleansing process his body is going through.  So he is still waking up every night, just no longer waking up for no apparent reason.

It has not been a perfect GAPS experience for him, he did manage to get into some of his cousins' chocolate graham crackers.  I do not know how much he got, but when I found him he had a thin chocolate ring around his mouth, and a bit on the inside.  However, in the past when he has gotten into those (or their chocolate animal crackers) his eczema flairs up and he has horrific diarrhea (sorry if it is TMI, but this is a GAPS blog, after all) which makes his whole bottom break out in a rash. Not pleasant.  This time, he was certainly cranky all day after eating them (which has also happened in the past), but his eczema is no worse and he did not have any diarrhea at all (in fact, we are on practically 2 straight weeks of solid, normal BMs, and this is a miracle for him)!  So, he still appears to be somewhat allergic to the wheat, but less allergic than he was, for sure.  I am very curious to see what his most recent blood test tells us, 1 week after him having been on GAPS.

The only difficulty with Joshua is that, as of today, he seems pretty bored with his food.  He will not eat any meats or veggies unless they are pureed, and we have been varying the puree quite a bit each day, but he is not as interested in it, all the same.  He showed interest in what I was eating today, but it was scrambled egg w/mashed avocado, so I could not share it with him (yet).  I did offer him a piece of my sauerkraut, but he was not interested in that.  So I think I am going to just start offering some of the unpureed soup along with the puree at meal times, to see if we can get him eating what we are eating, anyway.  Pray for us in all of that, please.

Jeff is moving through stage 2 and into 3.  He is handling the peanut pancakes pretty well and is pretty grateful for the added variety in his diet.  Personally, I cannot wait until he's on 4, because I am not going to roast or grill meat for myself, I need someone else to feed who is on stage 4 with me.  But actually, I will be moving to stage 5 within the next few days.  Hooray, salad!

Jeff and I are both losing weight, which is a nice perk to all of this, even if it was not the point.  Yesterday I fit into some shorts that I have not been able to wear since before Joshua!  Wooo!  Talk about a celebration!  As far as Joshua and gaining weight, he actually lost a tiny bit in the beginning (about half a pound)but has been pretty steady since then (and he grew taller!).  We are hoping that as we add on more foods he will start to gain more. Not only that, but Joshua's demeanor has already improved considerably (less fits.  We do know that he is in that place between 1 and 2 that means lots of tantrums, but he was throwing some that were concerning me and those ones are consistently decreasing in number.

I am glad to be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel for myself (Full GAPS), and cannot wait until Jeff and Joshua are there with me.  Thanks for your prayers, and keep 'em coming.  We still have a long road ahead of us, but it has been a good experience so far!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

We Survived Making Fish Stock!

Alright, when I am in the mood, I enjoy the taste of fish, but I have never (ever) really enjoyed the smell of seafood in general.  So even though I know there are plenty of good things for us in bone broth made from fish...I have been sort of dreading this first endeavor at making it.  I was terrified it would make my whole house smell gross.  But we knew we had to get it over with, so we took another plunge.

First, let me just say that I found Jeff's fish-buying experience hilarious.  He went to the World Market in Decatur because we knew they had a great selection of very fresh seafood.  They also have all kinds of weird things you might not find at other grocery stores in just about every department of the store.  So we figured, this was the place to go in order to find whole fish.  Well we were right, but Jeff said the guy kept trying to make sure that he was actually looking for an entire fish with the head and all, like he just could not believe that was what Jeff was after.  But finally, after about 20 minutes of looking for a fish that had not yet been cut up, he returned to Jeff with a humongous cod, and then managed to find him some red snappers that were in the same condition (and then the sardines for my "fun" fermented fish fiasco/fiesta...we will decide which f completes the alliteration later).

The laughs just keep on rolling in over this fish situation, as my 4 year old niece walked in on Jeff fileting the fish. "Uncle Jeff, what are you doing to that fish?" When he explained that he was cutting it up so he could eat it, she looked horrified, and asked, "But why isn't it in the ocean?"  He again explained that it was so he could eat it and she said, "But it has EYES!"  Poor girl has just learned that sometimes we eat things that have (rather, used to have) eyes.  The fish will no longer have eyes when we eat it, though.  That is a little too much for me to handle.

Anyway, so today Jeff fileted the fish and we threw it in the stock pot with ridiculous amounts of garlic (to help cover the smell), as well as some onion, peppercorns, a little Apple Cider Vinegar (again, for the fish taste), and some Celtic salt.  What can I say? I am a bit of a baby when it comes to fishy smell.  Or so I thought...

I was getting some things done in another room, when I came out into the living room and smelled the stock right away (from three rooms away).  But it was not that bad!  It actually smelled kind of buttery (like the time we sauteed some sea bass in butter, lime, lemon, and garlic).  No butter here, but plenty of buttery fish smell.  And then, when we took the pot off of the heat, we had some errands to run.  A couple of hours later we came back, and the fish smell was already gone!

I am actually looking forward to eating the fish soup.  I had to strain some kefir (for the upcoming fermented fish I will need kefir whey), so I thought the thicker kefir left behind would make a great "sauce" for the fish.  I added copious amounts of dill and garlic and that is sitting in the fridge as we speak, awaiting lunch time tomorrow (I cannot do fish for breakfast yet.  I know Jesus could, but I am just not there yet).

So we survived the experience of making fish stock, and I think that I will even be able to do it again with the red snappers later.  One more "new GAPS experience" off of my list!

Monday, March 12, 2012


I am truly amazed at the progress we have made in the last several days.  Joshua has been eating three meals a day of GAPS-legal foods since Thursday AM.  We started with butternut squash boiled in broth (and pureed in that broth); but I was a little disappointed that he was not eating anything else.  He ate butternut squash for three meals Thursday.  By the next day, however, Jeff had a stellar idea.  "Let's puree the pork in with the squash!"

As an experiment I tried the pork pieces shredded up but not pureed.  He ate all the squash but did not touch the meat.  He did want seconds though, so I took my immersion blender and pureed the pork in the remaining squash.  I did have to push that first bite.  I took a moment when his mouth was open, screaming, and stuck a dab on his tongue.  And he was mad, but then he swallowed.  So he reached for another bite, swallowed, then yelled (at me) about it.  But he kept going, even despite his yells, until he silenced himself altogether except for exclamations of "Mmmmm." 

Sunday we added spinach to the puree, along with a bit more broth so it resembled more of a thick soup than "mashed potatoes."  He ate that readily, even though the color changed.  Today we added carrots, and decreased the amount of squash (up until today he has been going through one entire squash per day) by half.  A little more broth, and we have been putting a small spoonful of rendered lard.  Initially we had added a few drops of honey, but now we are leaving the honey out entirely.

So as of today he has had three full meals with more of the broth, three different vegetables, and a good amount of meat.  But that is not the ONLY progress we have made...

Joshua is starting to vocalize with more syllables than "da da da" for the first time in a few months.  The words he has lost are already starting to return.  Just this morning he would wave "bye bye" but what he said sounded like "da da."  By tonight, he said his first "Bye bye" also in a couple months.  I was so flabbergasted that I was tempted to think it was all in my head, but he waved and everything.  And his overall demeanor has improved greatly.  Fewer tantrums and fits, more of the joyful laughter he had us so used to.

Now the update on us...

Jeff is still in stage 1 of the intro, but considering adding the egg yolks in soon.  We will do the skin test before we introduce the ghee, just to make sure.

I have been eating the raw egg yolks, soft boiled eggs, and ghee with my soups, and I am loving it.  I am feeling less hungry, and the flavor it adds to the soup is pretty fantastic.  I have not tried the fermented fish yet, but I have been making kefir, so tomorrow I will strain some to make kefir way, and then I will make my first batch of cultured sardines.  I am not exactly thrilled or excited about it, haha, but I figure if it is part of the protocol, I should at least try it.  Then I will be moving on to stage 3 of the intro (hooray, mashed avocado and almond butter "pancakes")!

Tonight we tested egg yolk from duck eggs on Joshua's skin (he is allergic to chicken eggs but I have read that many people who cannot tolerate chicken eggs can have duck eggs).  Since stage 2, which we will be moving him into in a few days, has egg yolks as part of the protocol, we want to see if the duck eggs might be an option.  I do not think we will test ghee on him, though.  Since we already know he is allergic to dairy, Dr. Campbell-McBride's suggestion is to go through the whole intro (all six stages) and then introduce dairy in a very structured approach, beginning with the ghee and moving forward from there with increasing "allergen potential."  So I will render chicken fat so we can add that to his soups, and render more lard for cooking the foods in the subsequent stages of the intro.

Right now the fact that we are not all on the same stage is not that tricky, but I am hoping that we will all catch up at some point (maybe while I am waiting for the fish to culture before I move on to stage 3).  Either way, I am preparing myself for the eventuality of being on full GAPS before my guys, and preparing myself to juggle the two.

For the first couple weeks trying to find a rhythm has made consistency in just about every other arena very difficult, but I think we are finally getting back into the swing of things.  This has not been easy.  It has challenged us on multiple levels, but I am very glad we are doing it.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Yogurt Nog?

So, I think it goes without saying that soup three meals a day can get old really quickly.  Now that I am on stage 2, I decided that I should mix breakfast up a bit.  I have been gradually increasing the amount of homemade raw yogurt I've been eating, and today is when I started with egg yolks.  That gave way to this glorious idea:

Yogurt Nog

1/2 to 3/4 c plain homemade yogurt
2 pastured, organic egg yolks (carefully separated)
honey to taste

Blend on low speed, pour and enjoy!

Now, I actually had adapted that this morning when I had it, I poured it over some butternut squash puree (the puree we have been making for Joshua, butternut squash boiled and mashed in bone broth).  The tartness of the yogurt combined with the sweetness of the squash actually made it taste peachy.  It was like I was eating some kind of creamy peach porridge.

I know, it is a very simple recipe.  But after a week on soups for every meal, glorious is the most appropriate word, because having something not-soup for breakfast made the rest of the day so much better for me. Also it was surprisingly filling, and is really soothing for the stomach.  Dr. Campbell-McBride says that raw egg yolks are so readily absorbed that they require almost no digestion. And of course the yogurt is probiotic, so it is good for the stomach as well.

So, there you have it. Healthy, good for the digestion, GAPS legal. My new favorite breakfast (until I get scrambled eggs back in the lineup!)

Little Victories

So, just one day later, I am happy to report that Joshua ate three meals today and one snack, all GAPS-legal foods, though not a lot of variety.  Most of what he ate today was butternut squash (that had been cooked in homemade beef broth) and broccoli (also cooked in the broth).  The squash we actually mashed in broth, and also added some pastured lard, and a bit of honey.  So, he did get some broth and some good fats.  However, he is still not drinking the broth on his own (but I have "dream fed" him a little bit here and there while he was sleeping. We are going to work more on the broth, and continue the (diminishing) juice with (increasing) kombucha.  I am very hopeful.  My child who refused to eat for two days ate every meal today. Praise the Lord!

As for Jeff and I, we are doing pretty well.  While we have had some mild die-off symptoms, it has been a pretty gentle intro for us.  I had a bit of a rough time today with nausea (that seemed to be related to blood sugar).  I have had a hard time getting enough to eat in a day because of course there is not a lot of variety in stage one of intro.  Textures easily put me off, as does too much repetition.  So I have been eating, and not skipping any meals or anything, but maybe not eating as much as I should be.  And I felt it today.  Nausea aside, though, I am feeling pretty good.  A little tired, which is probably also due to not quite getting enough to eat.  But my sinus infection is clearing itself up with no antibiotics (just PRObiotics), and my mental clarity is already improving some.

Jeff has had no problem always keeping a cup of broth nearby, and eating several bowls of soup per meal.  He has a man's appetite, which maybe supersedes the issues of repetition that I struggle with.

Tomorrow I am moving into stage two of the intro, while Jeff is going to stay on stage one a little longer (as is Joshua, of course).  I am not presently dealing with any digestive issues and my die-off seems to be slacking off, so I'm going for the extra nutrients and a little variety.  I will start by adding an egg yolk to my breakfast soup, and maybe add some ghee to lunch and dinner's soups.  I am not sure if I am brave enough to try the fermented fish recipes yet, but I am working up to it.  With a few more options to get some good nutrition on stage 2, I will not hurry it too much, because I want to take my time on each stage to make sure I am letting the diet do its work.  That is going to be hard, though, because stage 3 of intro is when I can start having the "pancakes" made with almond meal...not to mention ripe mashed avocado.  Those will certainly add some nice variety and substance.

One thing we're trying to do is not eat one kind of stock for too long.  Right now a batch of stock lasts us about two days, and we alternate types of meat.  Tomorrow morning we will be finished with the beef stock, and we will switch to pork (made from uncured ham hocks and neckbones).  With the pork we like to do winter squashes and spinach and other greens.  With the beef we have done a lot of yellow squash and zucchini, broccoli florets, and carrots.  We are making a special trip to a market in Atlanta tomorrow, where we will get some fish for fish stock.  Jeff is working on his Whiz-Bang Chicken Plucker, and after that is finished we will have some chickens to add to the mix.

Things I am starting to notice already - my skin is getting a more youthful glow again already, and that makes me happy.  I have heard from some others that the ample supply of collagen in the broths would have that effect, as well as possibly healing things like stretch marks and that lovely "extra skin" from pregnancy from the inside out.  These are not the reason I am doing GAPS, but hey - what a perk!!  I have not seen any effect yet on stretch marks, but seriously I will just be content when people go back to guessing way too young for my age.

Some of the less positive things:

I really miss bread.  Jeff, who has been bread free for much longer, does not seem to empathize with me much in this craving.  I went from regular (soaked or sprouted) bread eating to none at all far too quickly!

The grocery store.  Oh my word.  We needed to stop in and get a few things we did not expect to run out of, produce wise.  Let me just tell you that going through a grocery store when you are in the first week of GAPS intro is basically pure torture.  Shiny pictures of processed junk that I otherwise do not have nearly so hard a time turning down turn me into a drooling mess.  And there is chocolate around every corner!  We do not really shop in actual grocery stores very much, and maybe some good planning would have prevented this trip.  So, if you are starting on GAPS and you have good farms/farmers markets where you can get what you need, avoid the grocery store until you get that gut flora in check.  Yeast totally exacerbates carb cravings.  Kick the yeast, and THEN go to the grocery store.  (On a totally Trekie side note that will make my father and my friend Monique very proud:  Jeff and I have had several conversations about how yeast (and bacterial overgrowth, too) are basically The Borg.  Think about it, they take over, they speak in the royal plural, and they are very difficult to refuse.  "Resistance is futile. Chocolate can be assimilated.")

There are ups and downs, and we have experienced many in just the short time we have been doing this.  But even with the downs, I whole-heartedly recommend GAPS to anyone who is dealing with children with multiple allergies (or if you have multiple allergies), signs of digestive distress, or even just mild indications that your gut flora might be off.  It is not easy, but it is worth it.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Getting your child to eat GAPS Foods...can it be done?

So, this is where we are right now.  Jeff and I are fully on intro, and Joshua....Joshua is not really eating. We were offering him "transition foods," by putting homemade sweet potato chips in his broth, or letting him have a banana at the beginning of the day, but the starchiness of those foods perpetuate the problem (feeding the bad gut bacteria) and prevent him from getting hungry enough to start eating the GAPS foods.  We are offering him plenty of food, and he went most of the day Monday without eating any of it; then he devoured lots of cooked-in-broth broccoli florets that night for dinner.  He went to town.  But he maybe overdid it, and he did not get a lot of the FAT from the broth the broccoli had absorbed, and so now....he is constipated.  Being constipated, he is not very interested in food.

Addressing the constipation is interesting.  I know it is partly because he needs more fat, and the source of fat that is most accessible is the fat in our broth.  He will not drink the broth (even though before he started self restricting he LOVED to drink broth) while awake, so we have been waiting until he is asleep.  We hauled the bottles (that we used twice back when he was nursing, haha) back out of storage and cleaned them.  Then, we put some bone broth in the bottles once it had cooled sufficiently (but the fat was still liquid, very important). Joshua gets to a certain point of sleepiness where the pacifier just falls straight out of his mouth, and I waited for that moment to slip in the bottle. He sucked a few times (though a little trickled out of the side of his mouth) before realizing something was up.  He started to wake, and I quickly slipped the paci back in and he settled back down.  We did this several times with him in my arms like when he was nursing.  Eventually he woke enough to roll over onto the bed, he put up with me giving him one or two more sucks like that, and then  rolled over onto his belly.  I did not want to aggravate him or interrupt his sleep further, so I left it at that.  We'll give it another go at bedtime (maybe rocking him in the rocker at the same time?).  Anyway, the broth is so he gets enough fat to help move things along.  Also, we are giving him some kombucha with each cup of juice he drinks.  Dr. Campbell-McBride talks about probiotics being key in resolving constipation, and her other suggestion is an enema (with probiotics included in the water).  But with all the frequent diarrhea Joshua has had in the past, he is really touchy when it comes to his "diaper area," and I am just not prepared to create one more battle by trying to give him an enema.

The juice is totally not GAPS legal, but it is the only thing he'll drink right now, and is a great vehicle for the kombucha.  Honestly it is mostly water, with a splash of juice, and a little more than a splash of kombucha.  It was more juice, but we have been gradually stepping that down.  So he is still drinking plenty of liquids throughout the day, and I am confident that once we resolve the constipation his appetite will return and he'll eat the veggies.

If all of this seems a little drastic (as I am fully aware that it may) I should explain that Joshua is your "typical GAPS patient."  Every time we have removed a food he is allergic to, he is fine and symptom free for a little while, and then develops a new allergy. Milk and eggs were the two at the beginning, and all his eczema began to disappear and his bowel movements normalized very shortly after removing them, this lasted a few weeks.  Then he was suddenly reacting again, this time to wheat and corn.  We remove those, and he develops an allergy to coconut (we had been giving him coconut milk) and to oranges (and this is when we discovered his allergy to our much-avoided soy and peanuts).  He develops an allergy to peas (related to soy), we get all of this out of his diet, and then after the typical symptom free period, he develops an allergy to rice and (apparently, though it has not been tested yet) quinoa.  I mentioned this tendency to his ped and she shrugged it off.  But, because of this trend, I am fairly confident that if we keep removing foods, he will keep developing new allergies. This is something Dr. Campbell-McBride has said is standard to GAPS patients, and I had mentioned my concerns about this to his doc long before reading Gut And Psychology Syndrome.

So, basically, we are covering all of this in massive amounts of prayer.  How can I let my son go on eating only one or two foods, and foods that will worsen his condition, at that?  But waiting this out feels pretty cruel, too.  Massive amounts of prayer are the only way I am getting through the day right now.  Still, I am convinced that this is the best route.  Because of all his allergies, the foods on full GAPS are basically the only foods he is not allergic to, but how can I get him to eat any of those foods without resolving the gut flora issues that have him craving starchy foods? Prayer needs to be (and is, now) my first response, my constant practice.  God gave us this boy, and He is obviously the one we should look to in caring for him.

Friday, March 2, 2012

GAPS Days 1 & 2: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

So yesterday we officially started GAPS, and we survived!

We are easing into the intro, since we still had some perishable non-GAPS foods to get rid of, and we are moving nice and slow so we do not overwhelm Joshua.  He is not eating a lot right now, and from what I have heard about young toddlers on GAPS, that is pretty normal, but I am a mom so of course it is a little hard for me.  We had a breakthrough, tonight, though, and I will get to that a bit later.

First, let me tell you about the few weeks before we started. This is a little long, but bear with me (especially if you have kids with food issues).

Joshua developed yet another food allergy (rice), and when we removed all the rice from his diet he started self-restricting his food. He has done this before, when we removed corn.  Basically, whenever we discover and remove an allergen, Joshua restricts what food he will eat a little more.  Some of his allergies never had the chance to cause this problem.  We knew he was allergic to dairy since before we started him on solid foods, and we knew about the eggs shortly thereafter. We never gave him anything with peanut because we know his cousins are very allergic.  And we never gave him anything with soy because it is a phyto-estrogen and therefore we follow a "no unfermented soy for our family and no soy for growing boys." policy.  But we were giving him organic grits, blue corn chips, and things like that.  He loved the blue corn chips with salsa.  At that point he would also happily eat whatever we put in front of him. He gnawed on strips of pastured pork chop or grass fed steak, and hungrily ate up bacon and sausage.  He ate a whole host of vegetables, including green beans, broccoli, carrots, summer squash, collard greens sauteed in rendered bacon fat, swiss chard cooked the same way, raw cucumbers,.  He ate all kinds of fruits, bananas, strawberries, oranges, melons of myriad varieties, apples, and pears.  We took the corn away, as well as oranges and wheat.  It was a big transition, and he responded by restricting his foods even further. He would still eat potatoes and sweet potatoes, but he stopped eating most other vegetables except for broccoli and carrots, he stopped eating all fruits except bananas and strawberries. And he was eating rice chex and veggie straws (not proud of that but they were non-allergenic snacks that traveled well), as well as occasional Enjoy Life bars and fruit squeeze pouches. 

Well, a week and a half ago we went to see the allergist for the first time.  He explained that he was not a fan of the type of machine that our pediatrician did Joshua's blood test on, and wanted to reconfirm a few of the allergens with a scratch test.  Well, that told us that some of the allergies he had actually were much stronger than the blood test showed, AND that he is allergic to rice.

We pulled the rice from his diet and suddenly Joshua only wanted to eat bananas, sausage, potatoes, and fruit squeezes.  He would not even touch broccoli (which was definitely his favorite vegetable until that point).  Other things were concerning me, namely that Joshua used to use the new words he was learning all the time.  He would look out the window and say "chicken" while pointing to the chickens.  Now he just says "da" for a lot of those same things.  He still says "Mama," "Dada," "Please," and "Detta (for shupetta)."  But a lot of his other words are being replaced with "Da."

Now it is confession time: I only read the second half of Gut and Psychology Syndrome at first.  We were only concerned with food allergies, so I only read about the food.  In the few days before the diet, I started reading the first half of the book, and I kind of went a little nuts.  I started reading about they "typical GAPS patient," and felt like I was reading about Joshua.  Suddenly limiting his food is something Dr. Campbell-McBride spent a bit of time on.  Then I was reading the blog of another GAPS mom and she talked about her child losing words and mentioned some behavioral things I had been picking up on in Joshua, too.  Beyond that, I learned that this was a long time coming.  Joshua, like many GAPS patients and like this one blogger's kid, had persistent cradle cap and a persistent yeasty diaper rash as an infant.  My whole world was spinning for a minute as I realized that Joshua is not just a kid with food allergies.  He is a GAPS patient.  But now I had something new to panic over, if he is so intent on self limiting his foods, how am I going to get him to eat the GAPS foods?

I am going through all of this here on the blog because I had no idea some of the "quirks" I was noticing in Joshua's behavior were common to other GAPS kids.  I had no idea that sudden self-restriction of foods was a sign that behaviorally a child could be headed toward the Autism Spectrum, or that the persistent cradle cap and diaper rash could have been my first clues that his gut flora was off in a way that could trigger food allergies and all the things we are dealing with now.  And right now you might be thinking that your highly allergic child is just that, and maybe a lifetime of eating around those allergies is not so bad, after all.  Especially because GAPS can be so intimidating at first glance.  But if your child is like the "typical GAPS patient," maybe it is worthwhile to pursue.  Dr. Campbell-McBride also mentions the fact that for the GAPS patient, simply removing allergens only goes so far, as the patient will likely develop other allergies if the condition is untreated.  This definitely seems the case for Joshua.  It seemed like he never reacted to at least half his allergens until he had been eating them regularly for some time.

OK, finally, tonight's breakthrough.  We tried to use the ABA method that Dr. Campbell-Mcbride talks about in the chapter "Oh No! It's Feeding Time," of GAPS.  We had limited success.  We stuck to our guns, and offered Joshua a sweet potato chip (homemade and fried in pastured lard) for every spoonful of broth he ate.  But he never willingly ate any.  We did give him some in a dropper, and gave him a chip after each time that he swallowed, but he didn't ever choose the broth.  I know it is a process, but we were not sure if we could handle more nights of screaming fits.  Tonight, we dipped the sweet potato chips in his soup puree, and it worked!  The idea is that:  as we gradually give him probiotics and feed him the GAPS approved foods, we will also decrease the quantity of the non-GAPS foods, and then he'll be fully on intro.

And our mistakes so far:  I have regularly been making kombucha, kefir, and other probiotic foods at various points over the last three years, so when she says to start with like a teaspoonful of sauerkraut juice in some cooled down broth, I scoffed.  We have all consumed a good amount of probiotic foods before, so why start so small.  Well, Joshua had horrible diarrhea and diaper rash today, and I know it is because I put a splash of kombucha in his drink not once, but 4 times.  My intentions were good: correct the gut flora imbalance and he won't crave those horrible starchy foods, but we have to start small because it is a marathon, not a sprint.  For me, I have had monstrous headaches all day long (like, I can feel my pulse in my teeth).  I also overdid it on the kombucha yesterday.  What we are experiencing is called die-off, and it is the release of toxins (and therefore, these wondrous symptoms) that occurs when the pathogenic bacteria and yeast die off.  This is why you start slow.  I backed way off today on the probiotics for both Joshua and I, and slathered his poor backside with coconut oil.  By tonight he was already looking better.

So that's it, the good, the bad, the ugly.  I think we are going to make it.  I know that this is exactly what we need, so we are going to take baby steps all the way through intro and into full GAPS.  I am glad, reading other GAPS mom's experiences, that we have at least one medical professional that is fully supportive of our endeavor (Joshua's new allergist/immunologist, who said that though he'd never heard of it before, the premise makes a lot of sense). I have a feeling that his support is going to be necessary.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Taking The Plunge: GAPS

Many of you know that we have dealt with food allergies for some time.  While my only food allergy is to MSG (so I do not care if it ever gets reversed, because MSG is an excito-neurotoxin that can harm your brain, is addictive, and causes weight gain and I am glad I have a reason to avoid it that is "acceptable" even to non-health conscious people), my husband is allergic to dairy, coconut, and (as we recently discovered) to almonds; as well as being gluten intolerant.  Our son is allergic to dairy, soy (hooray, but still), corn, peanuts, eggs, coconut, and oranges; as well as appearing to be gluten intolerant.

When it was just dairy and coconut for Jeff, I was more than content to just cook around them.  I mean, 2 allergens does not make for a complicated kitchen routine.  We were already making just about everything from scratch, anyway, so it did not really interrupt our routine much.

Gluten intolerance, though, certainly mixed things up a bit.  We were making everything from soaked or sprouted whole grains and loving it.  While we were fairly low-carb, we did enjoy those carbs coming from whole grain pasta or a nice loaf of homemade whole wheat bread.  Gluten-free living was a definite and drastic switch.

Add to it Joshua's allergy to many of the foods we love (eggs, peanuts, oranges,etc) and this was one overwhelmed mama.  So here I am trying to make us all one meal and not use too many gross substitute foods and keep everyone satisfied.  Overwhelmed.

I had long been hearing of people going through GAPS or the Specific Carbohydrate Diet to reverse their food allergies, but I just figured that it would be too restricted for my husband to enjoy and too restricted to feed my toddler well.  Until suddenly it was not too restricted for Jeff.  He wanted to at least check it out.  So we ordered Gut and Psychology Syndrome off of Amazon (Can you believe they did not have it at our local library, or anywhere in the GA Pines library system?), and we got it yesterday.

While we still have a lot to read about the how's and the why's, we looked at the parameters of the diet.  Guess what we discovered?  It basically included the diet Joshua already eats (meat and veggies); but with the prerequisite that those foods be boiled in the broth.  We can handle that.  Not to mention that the broth is a good source of calcium, something that we have to work at with his dairy allergy.

So, all though the original plan was that Jeff go on GAPS (and I go through the intro phase with him for moral support), we have decided that the whole family is going on GAPS together, starting in March.  The delayed start is to give us the time to prepare, stock up (pun semi-intended) on soup bones from our friends at the farmer's market, join friends for dinner one last time, etc.

Initially I was really intimidated about going on GAPS, but now - while I know it will be a challenge - I am pretty excited about it.  We know it is a long term commitment.  We are talking about 2 years of a diet that takes some major commitment before we will even know if it worked for our food allergies.  But the possibility that we can take these two years and turn it into a lifetime of enjoying a variety of nutritious whole foods, that is pretty incredible.  So we are joining the myriad of real-food bloggers who have already taken the plunge, and we are going GAPS.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Learning Winter

Earlier this fall I learned that I can, in fact, be consistent in things.  And so, I have been striving for more consistency every day (though it has not made its way into blogging, yet, really).  I always thought that I could never really keep a house, and so I never have.  I always thought that any new venture I began had to fizzle out after only a few tries.  And the five month long lapse in blogging might seem to confirm, that, except...

I have been learning to keep my house, really be consistent in menu planning, and get beyond the kick-off in the things I am doing; it just has not left me a lot of time to blog, as of yet.  I am learning that, after 29 years of believing myself to be a flibbertygibbit, the only way to kick that habit is in layers.

My sil and I are keeping a rotating schedule w/the kitchen chores (we share a kitchen). One of us empties the dishwasher, and the other sweeps.  This has proven really instrumental in keeping a kitchen, and the rest has kind of revolved around that.  So for the past several months I have been consistently keeping the kitchen clean.  I really think starting with a shared space was the way to go.  A few months back I added in the dining room (you know how when you are clutter prone everything seems to land on the dining room table?). On top of my heavily junk-magnetized table, we also have my dear Joshua, who gets a little too enthusiastic at meal times (i.e. some food ends up on the floor).  So now I am keeping two rooms, and working on the living room next.  I almost had that one down, but Christmas happened.  Since there are no room-rearranging holidays between now and next Christmas, I plan to be so solid in my routine that it does not take me a month to recover my living room.

Now, this may not seem like very much to accomplish in several months time, but here is the other side of the story.  Food Allergies.

This summer we discovered that Jeff was intolerant to gluten, and rearranging our lives around that was challenging, but not impossible.  We also knew that Joshua was allergic to milk and eggs.  So Trying to keep a consistent meal plan and eat around everyone's allergies was getting a little trickier.  Well, Joshua turned one in November, and with that came an allergy test.  It turns out that he is actually allergic to milk, eggs, peanuts, soy, corn, oranges, and coconut, and is sensitive to wheat and raw tomatoes.  It looks like he is intolerant to gluten in general, as well.  While the soy allergy really does not interfere with anything, all of the others do, and so in the last couple months our diet was pushed over the edge from mildly primal (not-as-strict paleo) to almost full-on paleo.  We still eat (raw) dairy, we just do not let Joshua.  In the midst of all of this, we are looking at going on GAPS to reverse Jeff's food allergies and gluten intolerance.  This is going to be a two-year project, though Jeff is going to be the only one who is exclusively GAPS for now (I want to see how it goes with Jeff before trying it with Joshua, also we want to make sure there is a nutritionist/dietician we can include to make sure Joshua is getting everything he needs if we DO put him on GAPS).

It is my desire to chronicle this journey on the blog, and also post as many allergy-friendly recipes as I can to help other parents of children with multiple food allergies.  That said, I have learned that some days it is more important to make sure I have everything prepped to make the meal than it is to blog about the meal.  I am learning about (and striving for) balance, and such sudden and drastic dietary changes can be overwhelming, so we are taking this one step at a time and just trying to be as content and healthy as we can where we have found ourselves.

A word to other new "allergy moms:"

It is so incredibly easy to stress out about food.  Especially when your allergic to everything child wanders into his cousins' room and you find him with a ring of "chocolate animals" around his mouth.  The other day Joshua had some "digestive issues" and I was racking my brain, recounting every minute of the few days prior, sure that he did not have exposure to any of the allergens we know about, when it suddenly hit me: Maybe he is just teething, or has a bug, or has been having large helpings of fruits and veggies in those few days (which, he had).  If you have found yourself in this position, you have also heard the (seemingly) hollow advice of others (who are not in your shoes) to relax, take a breath, do not stress out.  As difficult as it might seem, or as silly as it sounds coming from the mouth of someone who you (I) feel is unqualified to speak into your situation, it must be done.  You have to find a way to calm down, take a deep breath, and then take a look at where you are and what the next steps should be.  This is going to be a long road, and it will be very challenging at times, but you are not alone.