A New Journey

Our family’s story is a long one, health-wise. If you want the long version of this story, call me up and invite yourself over for tea. I’ll tell ya the whoooole thing. The short version is, we had lots of health issues. And when we went to get tested (by Dr P, a naturopath who uses muscle testing), the list of things bothering us was….um….insane. Most recently, we have had Hannah and Audrey off of gluten, soy, dairy, citrus, corn, eggs, yeast, salycilates (which includes all berries, apples, anything “spicy,” almonds, and lots of other stuff), and nightshades (tomato, pepper, potato).

Before you lump me in as one of “those” moms, whenever Audrey would get one of these things, her eczema would flare, and she would literally scratch her own arms and legs bloody. It was awful. When Hannah would get something, particularly the salycilates, she would wet her pants 5-6 times a day. She’ll be 5 in April. She wasn’t even aware she had wet herself, and would get sores where her wet pants rubbed on her legs. These were extremely painful and would take 1-2 weeks to heal. Personally, I gave up eating out, ever. Anytime I did, the soy oils almost every place cooks with would make me sick enough that I didn’t sleep that night, and felt like my insides were raw for two days. We were kind of a miserable group. In addition, we all had terribly dry, flaky skin (somewhat normal in Colorado in winter, but still!), blood sugar issues, and lots of other stuff.

I have at times reflected on what we would have done had we not had Dr P and understood nutrition. I’m honestly not sure. Steroid creams ease the symptoms of eczema, but don’t fix the problem. Hannah might have had to just wear pull-ups, but she didn’t potty train at all until we put her in underwear. I guess God gives us the kids He does, for a reason!

So this fall, I started to get sick and tired of being sick and tired. I HATE having to keep my kids off all those foods all the time. It’s one thing to tell them they can’t have junk food, it’s another thing altogether to tell them they can’t have…an apple. (Even the junk food I’d love for them to be able to cheat on now and then without practically breaking out in hives!) I have been accused of being somewhat obsessive at times, (really? ME?) and my obsession became researching healing food allergies. As I looked, I kept finding “Leaky Gut” as the problem. The symptoms we had all pointed to that. We’ve all done yeast cleanses with no improvement to our health, so I knew it was not necessarily candida we were dealing with.

The first move was acquiring some water kefir grains, after reading that often helps eczema. (I’ve posted about this before and probably will again!) That was the turning point for Audrey. Even though we had been giving her a powered probiotic, something about the water kefir worked better than the $35/bottle probiotic. I began reading numerous blogs about traditional food preparation, and becoming more fascinated the more I read. I talked to my mom about the stuff I was learning, and she knew all about it – she had done the same research in the 70’s and 80’s, reading things like Laurel’s Kitchen and the classic farm book written by Carla Emery. I talked to Dr P about it, and he encouraged me further. Just this week I finally got a copy of Nourishing Traditions, which I’ve been devouring (pun intended!) 🙂

So, as it stands, we are eating tons of raw goat dairy with no problems. We are eating pastured eggs several times a week. We are eating our own sourdough gluten free bread that contains wild yeast. I can eat out every couple of weeks with no symptoms. Audrey is down to two tiny itchy spots on one arm. Hannah is making eye contact easily (a first for her), and doing better with the potty. We are still all avoiding soy and gluten, and the girls don’t do salycilates or nightshades either. We have been completely off gluten for two years, the amount of time it takes for digestion to heal from gluten-related damage according to several sources. I’m so excited!

As I’m reading Nourishing Traditions, I’m very excited to try…well…all of it. So, with a nod to the movie Julie and Julia, I’m going to blog about it. We’ve already had some fun experiences, and I can’t wait to tell you about them. I also anticipate being able to one day soon report that our food sensitivities are gone for good. There are some unusual things in NT that we are encouraged to eat, for very good health reasons, and I’m feeling adventurous. I’m ready to be well. I hope you’ll enjoy hearing about our journey!

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Food for a nursing mommy

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This was my lunch on Friday – toasted GF bread, half an avocado, and 2 fried eggs with salt and pepper. Yum! People often talk about nutrition for pregnant women, but I rarely see much about nutrition for nursing women. The demands of making food for another person are pretty intense – most women need 300- to 500 additional calories per day than they did to maintain their pre-pregnancy weight, particularly when nursing a young baby. Also, drinking enough water is important.

I find that I get cranky when I have not eaten enough fat and/or calories for the day. Breastfeeding is designed to help you lose weight gradually and in a healthy way. Depriving yourself of the healthy foods your body needs can lead to bad moods and low milk supply.

Some great foods to eat while breastfeeding are: Avocado (provides healthy fats and B vitamins), eggs (great protein source and vitamin A), Fish (omega 3’s, protein), Flax seed/oil (omega 3’s), Sweet potatoes (fiber, lots of vitamins), yogurt (organic with low sugar is always best, contains healthy fats, protein, and probiotics for colon health and to help prevent yeast issues like thrush and cradle cap).

Eggs

Oh eggs, how I love you so…

Two years ago, I realized that every time I ate eggs, even a tiny amount of them, I was sick as a dog. I’ll spare you the details, but my stomach wasn’t happy. I was basically miserable every night. You wouldn’t believe all the things that contain eggs!

So, I quit eating them. Around that same time, we had the kids tested for food intolerances. Eggs showed up for both of them. Then I tested positive for gluten sensitivity also. In the midst of cutting out everything-under-the-sun, I sadly gave up eggs. Tending toward hypoglycemia, these have been a go-to cheap protein source for me, for years. Instead, we began eating meat for breakfast every day. Turkey sausage or bacon usually, which eventually led to me having to make our own to avoid the spices that were bothering Audrey’s eczema. Blah, blah…

I grew up with chickens as pets. We always had fresh eggs. I’ve wanted to get chickens of our own since we first got a yard, but it seemed rather pointless to raise chickens when you can’t have eggs. I decided to research raising chickens anyway. I was interested to find out that chickens are fed high amounts of soy in their diets, because they must have protein to lay. Soy makes me sick as a dog, almost as bad as gluten. So, I wondered offhand if it could be not really the eggs, but the soy that bothered me. If babies can get gluten in breastmilk, surely soy comes through when a chicken lays eggs, right? It was just a theory, and there wasn’t much online about feeding chickens without soy, so I kind of laid that aside and forgot about it.

A couple of weeks ago, I was looking at a website of a local ranch. I was really looking for raw goat’s milk, something I want to try again (we tried it with Hannah, back before the gluten diagnosis), but happened to see that they sell pastured eggs, and the chickens are fed a soy-free diet. Finally! A way to test my theory!

That same week, I tried baking with “regular” eggs. I found I could tolerate a couple of cookies made with them (which is a vast improvement that I attribute to the broth I’ve been drinking), but a couple more cookies the second day and I was hurting again.

So Friday, Nick brought home two dozen of these soy-free eggs, which they sell through the local mom & pop health food store (love that place). Figuring there was no other good way to test it, I cooked for myself two eggs over-medium, LOVED them, and waited…..nothing! The next day I made some for Hannah and Audrey….nothing! Two days later I tried baking with some, because often sensitivity comes back with repeated exposure…..nothing! H&A had some for dinner and were fine. Yesterday I had some for lunch and am fine.

Folks, this is a breakthrough! Now, to figure out how to build a chicken coop and what exactly those people feed their chickens. Easter with real baby chicks will be fun around here! 😉

Mulligatawny Soup

I came across this recipe online a few days ago, and knowing Nick’s love for all foods Asian-inspired, and my love for all things curry, I knew it would be a winner. I threw in some cooked chicken, left out the rice, pureed only half the soup to keep some texture, and added some fresh bean sprouts to the top. We were in the mood for something a bit different, and this was perfect! It’s a bit labor-intensive with all the chopping, particularly when you don’t have sharp knives (I don’t), or an immersion blender (gotta get one of those), but was worth the effort!

(P.S. Like my new camera?)

(P.P.S The kids had scrambled eggs. That’s another post altogether)

Water Kefir

I need to take a picture of this someday soon, but I tend to not think of it until it’s too dark. 🙂

A couple of weeks ago, I put a message on a Yahoo nutrition board that I was looking for spare water kefir grains, if anyone had any. I got one response – from a man who said they weren’t using theirs and would be happy to send them to me for free, so I held my breath and sent him my address, hoping he wasn’t a criminal. 🙂 A few days later, a package of grains showed up in the mail, along with a couple of recipes to get me started. He didn’t even tell me who he was or send a note with them. The whole thing was kind of weird, but I threw together the recipe and watched. It did exactly what it was supposed to do according to the reading I’d found online, so we tried it. Instant hit! Since then, I have made several different flavors and used several different types of sugar, as well as played with the fermentation length, and man – the batch we tried tonight was delicious!

The best part of all of this? Audrey’s skin looks better than it has in years. Nothing else has changed. I can’t help but think these living probiotics – maybe more broad spectrum than the ones I’d been buying and giving her in powder form? – are fixing the problem in her gut.

Curious? Here’s more info:

What’s so great about water kefir?

How to make water kefir

Dom’s kefir making site – seems to be the classic standard everyone works from

A 24-hour ferment time gave me an almost syrupy sweet, heavy flavor, but 48 hours seems to be perfect. We also really like agave as the sugar, rather than the sucanat or rapadura. I know that’s not very NT, but agave doesn’t give me a sugar buzz like the other two. I’ve been using dried figs as the fruit in Dom’s recipe, and they add a touch of fruity flavor without it being necessarily recognizable. Next I want to try Wardeh’s ginger and vanilla recipes… Very fun!

Turkey Lentil Soup

I have decided to take the leap into Nourishing Traditions-style cooking. After years of having to take enzyme pills and pay for expensive probiotic powder, and wonder why I was sensitive to everything under the sun, I finally got motivated enough to figure out what might fix that. I have to credit Wardeh for much, if not all, of the inspiration for this, since she has taken her family from a similar limited diet to traditionally prepared foods and found that her family’s sensitivities are going away. So, that said, I’m soaking everything I can think of. 🙂

While looking for something to make for dinner a couple of nights ago, I noticed I had several bags of dry beans and lentils that I had forgotten about. Obviously those wouldn’t make a quick dinner, but I decided to put them on to soak anyway. I changed the water a couple of times, soaking them for 30-ish hours, and last night decided to throw a soup together. Here’s more or less what I did:

Drain soaking water from the lentils. In a stock pot, cover lentils with broth (I had turkey broth that I made from our thanksgiving turkey!), and simmer until tender. Chop and add carrots, celery, onion. Turn heat up slightly until veggies are tender. Add a cup or two of chopped leftover turkey. Season with basil and salt (no pepper, because my kids can’t eat it right now.) The hardest part was getting the salt just right. If you don’t use enough salt with lentils, they taste awful, I think. But it took quite a bit more salt than I expected. Then, I turned the heat all the way low and allowed it to simmer for another hour or two, just to let the flavors come together. I actually didn’t eat any last night, aside from tasting it for salt, but this is one of those better the second day kinds of foods anyway. Yummy!

Current Food Experiments

*Do soaked gluten free oats hurt my stomach like unsoaked ones do?

*Can I make coconut milk yogurt in my oven with no other heat source except the oven light?

*Does drinking homemade broth every day help my stomach?

-I’ve already noticed it seems to be helping my lips not be so chapped – more oils in my system, perhaps? And I actually enjoy drinking it. Warm and comforting.

*Can I start another gluten free sourdough starter easily, or was it just a fluke the first time?

-So far, looks very positive!

*And last but not least, how much food can I possibly have ready/frozen before the baby comes? 🙂

Update on Audrey

We took Audrey in to Dr P again last week, to check on her progress. He was very happy with how her skin looked, although somewhat puzzled at the fact she was still having flareups now and then. After much discussion (this guy schedules 15 minute appointments and always seems to happily spend 30 with us!), we deduced the all natural/organic lunch meat we’ve been feeding her quite a bit needed to go, and that we needed to try a straight cod liver oil to get some Omega 3’s into her, since so many sources of that contain allergens. Her skin has been terribly dry and she obviously needed some supplement in that area. We also have quit asking her to eat meat that is not ground, because she seems to have a hard time chewing/digesting it. I’ve been feeding her ground turkey, chicken, and beef, which she eats happily and (for her) quickly. No more mealtime battles=much easier, even though I often have to cook separately for her.

 

Since then, I’ve noticed a couple other products I’ve been using that I’m sure caused flare-ups, so I’ve made my own chicken broth instead of using the boxed kind (really easy – don’t know why I haven’t done that before, and it made my house smell WONDERFUL), cut out using the Ener-G egg replacer (potato), and realized the spray “Grapeseed Oil” I greased baking pans with has all kinds of soy in it. Um, thanks for that? WHY DOES SOY NEED TO BE IN EVERYTHING?? Sorry for all the yelling. I’m done.

 

Anyway, with those changes, her skin looks better than I’ve seen it in years. Last night Nick got the girls up from their nap, carried them downstairs, and 30 minutes later Audrey came to me with bright red eyes, face, and hands. Oh brother. We finally figured out it must have been Nick’s sweater that hasn’t been washed since last winter. He just pulled it out for the first time this year. Stuck her in the shower and the whole reaction quit and she looks normal today. So bizarre…

 

So, I feel good about where we’re at as far as healing her skin. Now research begins to figure out how to heal her gut so she’s not so terribly sensitive. Looking into Nourishing Traditions ideas, as well as Bioset. I’m just happy to have found something that works for her!

I may cry….

Oh man, rice crispies treats are already my weakness…this may call for a trip to Whole Foods for gluten free/chemical free expensive marshmallows…

A place to start

People often tell me they want to eat healthier, but don’t know where to start. Here’s a great post with 5 tips to get started!

And while you’re at it, read this too. Interesting thoughts – you value what you spend money on, therefore you eat less if you buy more expensive food. Do you find that to be accurate?

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