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.