Monday, December 3, 2012

Mom, can I talk to you . . . Alone?

Tonight my 8 year old daughter came to me and said, "Mom, can I talk to you. . . Alone?"    I felt a big lump in my throat, and I wondered what it is was she was going to say or ask or tell?   She wanted to talk with me in my room; I guess so the other kids wouldn't be around.   She laid on my bed and I laid next to her, and in moments we were like two kids at a slumber party; her legs up in the air, crossed and wiggling as she started smiling and blushing and talking to me about everything under the sun.   I watched her animated little face, her long braided hair that flows down to the middle of her back, her teeth with braces decorated with the pattern of Christmas cheer.  I listened to every word she was saying but my mind was racing back to a time that now feels so long ago; and yet as if it was only a moment ago.    That first time I held her little body in my arms, that first long night without sleep, that first night I brought her home and felt the true heaviness of what had just happened to me.  The realization as I held that little perfect person in my arms--I was MOM, and this beautiful little girl, was mine.    I watched her little face talk about school and boys and ask me all sorts of innocent questions and all I could do was hold back these overwhelming tears.    I never expected this immense love to overcome me, to change me into the person I am today.  I never imagined she could be more beautiful today than she was that first day that I brought her home and how with each passing day I love her more and more.  I never imagined how much it could hurt to love someone with this deep love, and how much worry and pain it would cause, and how I would fret about the smallest decisions about which school to send her too, or how much joy and laughter could be found in just eight short years.   I sat with her and just soaked in the goodness of God to give me this gift and the gift of all my children; That He would trust someone like me with little ones, so precious.   I prayed in my heart that I will take more moments like tonight.   To just listen, and just BE with her in the moment.   Rather than rushing to and fro, trying to keep up with the busy demands of life.   I prayed that somehow God could slow down time so she could be with me forever, but I know that time is slipping away, so I prayed to make the most of it.   I prayed I will cherish every moment of this childhood that is quickly passing.  In eight more years she will a be a young woman.   I prayed I could somehow model how to gracefully become a woman who fears and follows God.  I prayed that she would know the DEEP LOVE that the Father has for her and be secure in that love.   I watched her smiling beautiful face and prayed she would know how perfect she is exactly as she is right now, and that confidence she exudes now, would never be stolen from her heart.   I thank God that she wants to talk to me right now, that she wants to tell me about her day and ask me her questions.   After we were done talking she said to me, "Mom, I love you so much."  I just soaked those words in, "I love you too" I said through tears.  


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Amazing Apple Cider Vinegar

I never imagined my children would actually drink vinegar, nor did I imagine that they would ask me for it on nearly a daily basis!    However,  if I look around my home, a lot has changed over the past year since we've embraced GAPS.    I never imagined I would have vegetables fermenting in my pantry, Kombucha tea always stocked in my home, or 24 hour broth in my crock pot daily.   I never imagined I would be making all this fresh food and cooking all the time, but I never imagined the healing my son and my family would gain from GAPS.

For those of you new to GAPS some of these things might be foreign to you.  I  suspect that "Kombucha" is likely not part of your regular vocabulary.  (That link, by the way, is my FAVORITE site for brewing Kombucha and is sure to lead you to a successful homemade batch).   Last week I accidentally, offered a taste of Kombucha to my sister-in-law.   I think the name alone terrified her so  I wont begin to imagine what she though about the brain-like SCOBY she saw floating in a glass jar in my refrigerator.   Needless to say, I think she's a little freaked out right now.  Hum, maybe that's why she's not returning my calls?   So a little advice from personal experience: work slowly when telling your family and friends about your new found love of GAPS, some people need to be eased into the whole idea of drinking something that is actually ALIVE.    For those of you new to this "health thing;"  Don't worry, you'll learn the lingo, and in time, you too will have SCOBYS floating around your refrigerator and will be scaring your family members as well.    I might come back to the Kombucha info later, I got a little side tracked.   Today I want to talk about something awesome and easy to come by:  Apple Cider Vinegar.    Though not a particular part of GAPS, Apple Cider Vinegar has had it's place in healing my son and my family, so I'd like to share some interesting health aspects of this simple concoction.

When I talk about Apple cider Vinegar I'm talking about Bragg's Apple Cider vinegar.  There is a difference,  and you need to know what that is.  Bragg's is made with the MOTHER, which is similar to the familiar Kombucha SCOBY.   SCOBY simply stands for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast.    See, I actually had a purpose for bringing it up earlier, besides just freaking everyone out.  It is LIVING thing that gives the Cider it's powerful healing potential, and that's why you need Apple Cider with THE MOTHER! 

 Here's a quote from the Bragg Website: " Natural (undistilled) organic, raw ACV can really be called one of Mother Nature's most perfect foods. It is made from fresh, crushed apples which are then allowed to mature naturally in wooden barrels, as wood seems to "boost" the natural fermentation. Natural ACV should be rich, brownish color and if held to the light you might see a tiny formation of "cobweb-like" substances that we call the "mother." Usually some "mother" will show in the bottom of the ACV bottle the more it ages. It never needs refrigeration. You can also save some "mother" and transfer it to work in other natural vinegars."

You can't have the same healing affect by drinking white distilled vinegar which has been processed and devoid of all nutrients.    Apple Cider Vinegar has amazing healing properties and helps heal inflammation in the body and also helps with reflux as we have seen with Henry as well as with my own mother, (not to be confused with THE MOTHER) who had pretty severe reflux and arthritis herself.   If you are interested in finding out more details of all the aliments that ACV can heal I would suggest reading Patricia Bragg's Book on Apple cider vinegar, you can find the Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar at your local health food store or order it online. 

While I am promoting Apple Cider Vinegar, I don't promote the vegetarian diet that the Bragg family lives by.   The best way to have healing from ACV is to take it daily.  We make a big batch and drink it each day, my son likes it warm and calls it "tea."

Basic Recipe

1/2 Gallon Distilled water
1/2 Cup ACV
1/2 Cup Honey

Warm up the1 cup of the water and dissolve the honey and then mix into a container with remain water and ACV.  Drink at least 8 oz daily. 

ACV does amazing things for the joints and bones and prevents and heals arthritis and eliminates stiffness from the body.  It contains many enzymes and minerals as well as "potassium, phosphorus, natural organic fluorine, silicon, trace minerals and pectin as well as many other powerful nutrients!" (Bragg's website).

It boosts the immune system and destroys germs.  People clean with vinegar right?  At the first sign of any cold symptoms we all start drinking our ACV more regularly.  If we ever have a sore throat, we gargle with it--you would not believe the relief it gives to a sore throat or the things that it draws out of your throat that you end up spiting out that you didn't realize were back there!  Yuck! 

It is also a powerful healer of sinus infections.  I use one tsp of ACV to 8oz of water and mix in my Netty pot.  It will give you a healthy burn, but will draw out all sorts of junk from your sinus's.  A few weeks ago the doctor told me I had an ear infection, I had a fever and she wrote me a script for an antibiotic.  I never filled the prescription because I used my Netty pot with ACV and in 3 days my sinus were clear and my ear pain was gone.   I mixed 1/8th of a tsp in my sons salt water solution (I didn't want it to burn as much for him) and put several drops in his nose the last time he had the start of a cold along with having him drink the ACV tea and he was better the next day. 

Drinking ACV every day in the winter is a great way to prevent colds and other viruses.  Also, if you have heart burn or a child with reflux I recommend making the recipe above and work up to 8oz a day.  If you have arthritis, stiffness, aches and pains, or your children have "growing pains" the best solution is to take your daily ACV.    

So the best way to see the power of ACV is to start taking it yourself.  Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Avoiding GAPS Intro Pitfalls

So I admit my introduction to the GAPS diet didn't go as smoothly as I would like.  Rather than wallow in self pity, I thought I would pick up the pieces and try to figure out where I failed and maybe by sharing a few tid-bits with you, I could save you from the same demise.

The GAPS introduction involves six stages and ends with the person being on full GAPS for at least one to two years.  Myself and my family have been doing the FULL GAPS program for about ten months.  I wrongly assumed that the introduction diet would be no big deal since I've been eating so healthy all these months.  My youngest son went through the introduction back in November and has had amazing improvement in his GI symptoms as well as improvement in his growth and weight.  I was wanting to start the intro because in spite of eating FULL GAPS for the past few months, I have developed a new stomach pain and GI upset and reflux and I'm not sure if the cause is dairy related or from years of chronically abusing myself with coffee and Ibuprofen.  Probably both.

With no further adieu, here's what you can do to succeed on the intro:

1.  Plan ahead. 
       - Make your bone broths ahead of time and plenty of it, have the next batch going in the crock pot each day.  Here's a link on making broth
       - Have plenty of fresh veggies on hand that are intro worthy, that you can boil into your broth or soup.  The first few days, you might not have a lot of energy to go shopping or cook so make it easy on yourself

2.  DON'T GO TO ANY SOCIAL FUNCTIONS.  Okay, so I am sort of joking, but if you do go to a Birthday party, again plan ahead and bring your broth and more broth and more meat and veggies.  You will be smelling all those processed foods and getting hungry, you need to have your broth to sip on.  This is where I failed, I decided I would just "FAST" during the event, a cousins birthday, which went all day and then into the evening.  I started feeling really sick so I had some salad and meat, but on the intro you aren't supposed to eat RAW veggie yet.  Oops.  Not the worst of sins but just wasn't what I had planned to do.

4.   Eat and drink broth often.   This is also were I messed up.  I think that some people really do require more veggies/carbs to feel okay.  I could only stand feeling horrible for so long while trying to take care of and feed five other people in my family as well as work in the evenings.  Eating more frequently keeps your blood sugar from crashing.  Also, adding in the allowed veggies will also help prevent this, along with sipping on plenty of broth.  Obviously if you have persistent diarrhea then you need to back off on vegetables as Dr. Natasha suggests in her book.
5.  You are going to experience some die off.   Yep, even if you think you are a supper start healthy eater,  be prepared to feel more tired, sleepy, achey than normal.   I'm sure the more sugar and processed foods in your diet prior to the intro the worse you will feel.   If you are able,  I would suggest prior to the intro, that you limit your intake of even GAPS treats, honey and fruit so your body has time to get used to the lower sugar levels.  The biggest issue that I struggled with was headaches, I think that eating frequently helps this as well as drinking plenty of liquids.  If you normally drink coffee, cut it out several weeks before starting the intro or you will suffer.
6.  Your fluid needs will go up.  This is some what related to eating more protein, but you really need to drink plenty of water, as much as your body is telling you that you need.
7.  Make your family do the intro with you.   At first I thought it would be more difficult to have the entire family doing the intro but here is my new take on this.  If you are only eating broth and soups, and are feeling tired and want to rest while your body detox's, do you REALLY want to be cooking all day for everyone else?  Keep it simple, if you can't put everyone on the full intro diet, then just tell them you are making mostly soups for the next few days, it will be so much easier then having to stand up all day and cook for everyone when you feel like sleeping.
8.  Start on a weekend   So you have someone at home to help you, I guess if all your kids are in school maybe during the week would be better for you so you can nap while they are gone!
9.  Get a massage or take a bath with epsome salts.  I did a foot soak which really helped my headaches.  I think you really need to pamper yourself if you can, take naps and go to bed early if you are able.
10.  Join a support group or enlist your friends or extended family to do this with you, the more the merrier!
11.  If you make a mistake, as I did, just try it again and this time be prepared!   If your life is hectic with work and family, then just try a slower approach.  Start by eliminating the processed foods in your home.  Vow to not eat anything out of a box or package.  Give up coffee, give up sugar.  Then start making and drinking broth and probiotics (see my post on the four things to try now).  I think even though I messed up on the intro it helped me to  realized the things that have benefited me and that help my digestion.  If you can add any one thing to your diet now, start with a good probiotic.

Are you doing the intro?  Let me know your thoughts on what worked for you and helped you to succeed. 

Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

This is a delicious grain free chocolate cake that is super moist and sure to wow even your NON-GAPS friends.  Enjoy.

3 cups almond flour
1 can pumpkin (or equivalent of fresh pumpkin)
6 Eggs
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup coconut oil or butter softened
1 cup raw honey (optional)
2 T almond butter

1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Mix all ingredients and pour into two WELL greased 9 inch round cake pans 
3. Bake for 25-30 minutes,  when tooth pick comes out clean it's done
4.  Let cool for 20 minutes before taking out of cake pans or they will not stack well.

Cream Cheese frosting (optional)
One 8oz package of cultured cream cheese or you could use homemade soured cream
1 stick of butter, softened
6 Tbs honey

Mix on low with mixer until smooth.  After cake cools apply frosting between cake layers and on outside of cake. 


Monday, September 10, 2012

Four things you should add to your diet now

Maybe you are a little overwhelmed at the idea of drastically altering your diet right now.  I understand, it's was a HUGE life change when we decided to take gluten out of our diets.  I was overwhelmed at first, but with in a month or so we had adjusted and found a slew of alternatives to incorporate.  Later we stopped eating all grains and all processed foods, when we started the GAPS diet last fall.  I didn't throw away ALL the food in my pantry.   Some things I gave away.  I started by not repurchasing ANYTHING that came in a box.  When the kids finished off the last few boxes of gluten free cereal we didn't purchase anymore from then on out. 

Sometimes you have the ability to start slow.  Other times, when given the diagnosis of pre-diabetes or Myasthenia Gravis, you are told by the doctor you MUST change your diet now, or else!   Here are the four things that have impacted my health the most in the past eleven months and they are things you can start doing right now.

First, begin by taking a good probiotic.  A good probiotic supplement will contain many different species of bacteria not just lactobacilli.  After taking antibiotics your doctor might tell you to eat more yogurt.  This is not enough, you need a mixture of strains and at least 8 billion bacterial cells per gram (Gut and Psychology Syndrome, Dr. Campbell-McBride,p.  251)  Probiotics can also be taken in the form of probiotic foods such as sauerkraut and other fermented foods, kefir, yogurt and kombucha.   You can start first by taking the liquid or juice from the fermented foods and then work your way up to having more probiotic foods in your diet daily.  Probiotics are particularly helpful if you are suffering from either diarrhea or constipation.  Both conditions indicate that there is an imbalance within your gut. 

Secondly, make and drink bone broth.  Try to make broth from organic grass fed animals or fish broth from freshly caught fish, red snapper makes the best broth, while fatty fish like salmon is more difficult to perfect.   I make my broth first by roasting chicken in the oven with carrots, onion and garlic.  The family eats it as a meal and then afterwards I leave the meat on the bones and add water to cover the chicken and add a Tbs of salt and let it cook for another 12-24 hours.   If the broth has a layer of fat at the top and is gelatinous when cooled, you know that you've done it right.  Some people also add a Tbs of vinegar when cooking the broth to draw out more nutrients from the bones.  Try to take broth before every meal.    If you are not used to eating fatty foods, you may be nauseated when you first drink the broth.  Broth made from lamb and beef is particularly fatty and gelatinous and is more difficult to digest at first.  Add some of the probiotic juice to every cup of broth after it has cooled a little, so to aid digestion.  Sipping it rather than drinking it fast also helps it to be easier to tolerate.  If you always have bone broth handy you will be ready at the first sneeze to start giving more of it to your family to help boost immunity or sooth a sick tummy.  

Thirdly, add cod liver into your diet as a daily supplement.  Dr. Natasha recommends fermented cod liver oil.  I buy a flavored one from the health food store and haven't tried fermented yet.  Cod liver oil contains vitamins A and D.  Most of us are deficient in vitamin D.   Low levels of vitamin D can lead to chronic pain (which I was having before I started supplementing), muscle weakness, poor ability to fight infections, mental illness, anxiety and a host of other problems.   Vitamin A and D work together and Cod liver Oil contains both.  Make sure which ever source you buy is pure and GMO free.  Follow the dosing on the package. 

Lastly, pure virgin coconut oil.  Prior to starting GAPS I read a book called, Eat Fat, Loose Fat by Sally Fallon.  I had been complaining to a friend of mine of how fatigued I constantly felt.  She told me that coconut oil had been a miracle for her and to read the book.   I purchased it and took one Tbs in a cup of tea.  I was instantly sick, dizzy, and vomited!    Again,I can't emphasize enough start SLOW, especially if you are used to a low fat diet.  Coconut oil contains lauric acid which has antimicrobial properties that can help fight parasites, fungal infections, and viruses that cause food poisoning.  Coconut oil contains medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) which are easily digested compared to other fats.  Also, coconut oils structure does not change when it is heated as vegetable oils do.  Therefore it is healthier and safer to cook with coconut oil or lard than with vegetable oils.   Coconut oil can naturally lower your cholesterol, which has been exactly what it did for me.  Prior to using it, I had never been able to increase my GOOD cholesterol (HDL), even with exercise and weight loss.  After using it my numbers are right where they should be, I just had my blood work done last week to prove it!   Coconut oil prior to meals causes satiety or the feeling of being more full and you are likely to eat less than you would had you not had it.  Finally coconut oil gives me a rush of energy that I did not have prior to using it.  In fact, I have to be careful to not take it too late in the day, or I will be up all night due to it's energy boosting effects.   Coconut oil is amazing for the skin and hair.  Put it on your hair and face before bed, I put it all over as it helps with dry skin.  I also recommend it for diaper rash and eczema, as it has anti fungal properties and can help prevent yeast.  Recently, Henry had what looked like cold sores or blisters on the outside of his lips, I put coconut oil on them for the past two days and it did spread and is starting to heal.  Amazing!

Of all the dietary changes we've made, being consistent in taking probiotics, bone broth, cod liver oil and coconut oil have given us the most bang for our buck.   If I start to slack on any of these things, I feel it in my energy levels.  In general I have noticed that our family has been less sick with viruses, stomach flu and respiratory illnesses since we've been more consistent especially with probiotics and cod liver oil.   In my next post I'll discuss more on staying healthy this up coming winter!


Friday, September 7, 2012

A Cure for FPIES?

Doing the GAPS intro has definitely given me some insight into how Henry must have been feeling during those early days on GAPS.  I remember him being very quiet, tired and taking a lot of naps the first few days.  To be honest,  I didn't blog during Henry's introduction to GAPS because I was afraid.   I was afraid it wouldn't work, that he would loose more weight and I didn't want to blog about a failure.  I was afraid to start GAPS in the first place.  Henry's GI doctor had suggested an elimination diet and that I journal for a six weeks to try to determine what foods were causing Henry's FPIES.  We had reached a point in his elimination diet where we weren't making any more progress.  Henry seemed stable, but even though he was willing to eat some gluten free foods, he wasn't gaining weight.  His diarrhea wasn't as profuse but it wasn't completely resolved either.  His appetite was decreasing to the point that after a while it was a battle to just get him to take a few bites of any food, he even refused sweet foods like pancakes and gluten free donuts. 

I had heard about GAPS but I honestly was so skeptical.   Could I seriously take my already starving child and put him on just broth?  Of course I hadn't read the GAPS book, so taking only pieces of information I assumed the entire idea was ludicrous.  As a nurse, I even questioned the safety of such a diet on a young child.  Yet when Henry stopped eating all together, broth seemed like something more nutritious than water or pedialyte, I KNEW I had to do something, and I had to do it fast.  I read the GAPS book.

For those of you who are skeptical, I understand.  I can tell you what GAPS is not.  GAPS is not a FAD diet.  Contrast to what I originally thought, it is not the ADKINS DIET, which was sold as a high protein diet for weight loss.   The GAPS Introduction is not intended to be followed for life, it is a short term nutritional plan to help quickly heal and seal the gut lining.   After reading GAPS and following the program, I doubt that you will ever be able to go back to eating a processed diet full of sugar and boxed foods, but you will not have to follow the strict introduction diet indefinately.  It is suggested that the Full GAPS diet be adhered for six months to two years depending on what ailments you started with..   Now that we've been eating this way for ten months, the thought of eating processed foods at all makes me feel ill. 

If your child is failure to thrive or has  FOOD INTOLERANCE'S that are not true allergies, I can tell you that GAPS is the best answer.  Will it be hard for you to change what you are doing and start GAPS?  Yes.  But FPIES was harder.  Not having any safe foods to feed my child was much more difficult than putting him through the GAPS program. 

What did your doctor tell you that FPIES was?  Food Protein Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome?  What is enterocolitis?   Inflammation within the colon or because of the word "entero" the inflammation can be anywhere throughout the intestines or colon.   You see this first hand when your child vomits instantly after eating, or has diarrhea for days after, blood in the stools, or cries in pain when eating a benign food that a normal child should be able to eat.   This diagnosis of FPIES is sure to be a frustrating one.  If Food Proteins are causing this Enterocolitis in your child, what are you to do?  Every food has protein in it!   Some of you have tried the broken down protein formulas like Neocate.  Sometimes this calms the body for a time, unfortunately my son and many other FPIES kids cannot tolerate such formulas.   Why would a child react to even a hypoallergenic formula?  Because the FOOD PROTEIN is not actually the problem.  Your child's intestines, his or her gut is the problem.  Something is wrong inside.  The body tries to tell us, we put a food in, and the child instantly rejects it, either by vomiting, diarrhea or both.  The reactions to the food can be violent.

 Did you think about how  the same thing happens when you have a stomach flu?  Why is that?  There is a virus lurking in the intestines, causing inflammation and for about 24-48 hours most of what you put in comes back up, this is the bodies way of protecting itself, it rejects food and sometimes liquids.   Doctors call the stomach flu gastroenteritis.    Interesting, that word sounds a lot like enterocolotis, that "itis" part also means inflammation.  What do pediatricians suggest when you have the stomach flu?   That you rest the gut, start with small sips of fluid and eventually add probiotics into the diet to help heal the gut lining which has been attacked by whatever virus you had.   Sometimes after an acute gastroenteritis patients will develop an irritation of their stomachs that last for even a month after, it causes symptoms of reflux, heart burn and intolerance to certain foods?  Interesting how similar this seems to FPIES, only it is more temporary.

FPIES is like living in a constant state of gastroenteritis or the stomach flu.  Imagine the entire gut being inflammed all the time.  Or imagine how you feel when you have the stomach flu.  Do you feel like eating  much of anything?   Maybe you start to feel better so you try a bite of banana, instantly you have severe abdominal pain and then start vomiting.  Now you NEVER want to try a banana again, or at least for a long time.   Do you see how when you are in this state of inflammation NOTHING is easy to digest.  The food isn't the enemy, your GUT is.  You have to heal the underlying inflammation and sickness inside you.  Along with the inflammation inside of you,  your body has been also been depleted of the good bacteria that normally keeps the gut in balance.  Many things can cause this disruption in normal healthy gut flora, vomiting, diarrhea, the use of antibiotics which kill the good bacteria along with the bad, and other medications.   Even doctors suggest that you try increasing probiotics after a bad case of the stomach flu.  Why is this?  Research has shown that probiotics help aid digestion, decrease diarrhea and reflux and they are important to over-all gastrointestinal health. 

The GAPS diet is a nutritional program that is designed to first heal the gut, there is an introduction diet that is very strict, but so is an elimination diet or the limited diet you are now on because of FPIES.  The beginning stages of GAPS are intended to rest the gut, you are giving only things that are easy for the inflammed stomach and intestine to digest.  You avoid fiber, which as you can imagine is grainy and difficult to process when you have adhesion's and inflammation in your intestines. 

There is a huge focus on increasing the amount of probiotics that you are taking.  Not all probiotic supplements are the same.  A good probiotic should have at least 8 billion of bacterial cells per gram and have a mixture of several strains not just lactobacilli.  Many of our children have intolerance's to food so finding an allergy free probiotic can be a challenge.  We have found one we love called GUT PRO, the entire family uses it and I would suggest it as a place to start.  Probiotic foods can also be added into the diet to aid digestion.  The GAPS program suggests starting with a little sauerkraut juice first added to broth and slowly increase.  Bubbies brand makes both pickles and sauerkraut with live bacteria cultures.

Today I was speaking to FPIES, because it is on my heart and I know that many people are looking for hope.   My son Henry had numerous endoscopes, bronchoscopies, stool studies, allergy testing and the like.  We tried NEOCATE and could not tolerate it.  I came to the GAPS diet desperate to heal my son, not just put a bandaid on a growing wound and wish it would go away on its own.  The doctors ran out of ideas for his failure to thrive, even force feeding him through a G-tube didn't fix it, because he had so much diarrhea he wasn't absorbing any nutrients. 

There is a reason that Doctors do not understand FPIES and do not know how to treat it.  American medicine hasn't linked our diet to disease.  Some doctors understand a little bit of the connection, but not to the extent that is needed to help people with serious ailments.  Once a Russian friend of mine told me that in her country she had never gone to a doctor who didn't first ask her, what is your diet like?  I found this interesting that other cultures look at the WHOLE person, the diet, the enviroment ect.  Of course there are many enviromental issues that go into how our food is processed today, including mass production, GMO foods, hormones added to foods, and antibiotics.  Also, we are exposed to numerous chemicals and toxins in our every day enviroment that we aren't even aware of, her is a short film about the chemicals in our daily lives. 

Of date, there are no medications to specific to treat FPIES, although I believe they will try steroids in the future, because this is the way that medicine deals with inflammation in the body.  The only problem is that steroids have numerous side effects and actually decrease the good bacteria in the gut, encourage the growth of Candida Albacans or yeast, and decrease the bodies immune system and natural ability to fight disease.  Doctors hope you will grow out of FPIES but they don't understand why it is occurring in so many children. 

I find it interesting that most of us mothers of children with FPIES also have issues with our guts, either IBS, celiac, thyroid disease, PCOS, or various other autoimmune diseases.  Is it any wonder that we passed down unhealthy GI tract to our babies?  Also, due to many of Henry's early issues he spent his infant days on many antibiotics, steroids and breathing treatments, which though temporarily helped his symptoms, I believe damaged his gut further by upsetting the balance of good bacteria in his gut and lead to further inflammation.

Today the only evidence of Henry's past struggles with FPIES is a tiny scare on his belly, which he thinks is a second belly button.  It is the scar left from the G-tube, and it reminds me that all the efforts I made to find an answer finally paid off, that my prayers were answered and God lead me to find the GAPS program.   I can hear the skeptics calling out?   My kid is so sick, you have no idea what I'm going through.  You are right, I have not walked in your shoes.  But my son was very sick and I was once told that he may never be able to eat like a normal child.  I can hear the exhausted mothers saying.  "It's too hard, I just can't do one more thing right now."   

I know it's hard.  But you can do it, one step at a time.  If you can't do the introduction diet right now, here are a few suggestions.

Read the book on GAPS, arm yourself with some information, even if you don't do the full program you will learn about foods that can help heal and rest the gut.

Start your child on a probiotic, find a good one like I suggested above.
If you can't do the intro right now, try to just start by going gluten free and getting started on an elimination diet first if you aren't already and then try to go to the FULL GAPS diet which is less restrictive.

For FPIES, I believe if you really want to have full remission of symptoms and the ability to eat more variety of foods the GAPS Introduction and going through the stages is necessary to allow the gut to have a rest and to heal.

Is there a cure for FPIES?   For us GAPS was that cure.   I am happy to report that my son can tolerate many of the foods he could never eat before, he can tolerate milk in all it's forms now which previously caused vomiting, diarrhea/sometimes with blood, and becoming limp and lifeless.   'We've only been on GAPS for ten months.  Only a few months after starting GAPS my son was slowly gaining weight for the first time ever in his life and was not having reflux or chronic diarrhea as he had prior.    Please feel free to contact me with any questions and be sure to check out the GAP kids link.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

GAPS Intro: Day One Here I go!

Last Novemember we started little Henry on the GAPS diet.  At that time he was considered failure to thrive, he weighed just a little over 20 lbs at 30 months old.  In an effort to help Henry heal his issues with chronic aspiration, difficulty swallowing, chronic diarrhea, lack of growth, reflux and asthma like symptoms;  I put the entire family on a gluten-free-dairy-free diet for close to a year before we even discoverd GAPS. 

The GAPS Diet is based on Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride's book Gut and Psychology Syndrome.  The purpose of the introduction  Diet?  In her own words "To heal and seal the gut lining quickly."    I personally like the words "quickly."  This of course can mean different things to different people.  She mentions that most people will need about two years to heal their body, some more, some less.  Many people come to GAPS with a host of medical and or psychological problems.  While others may only have  simple digestive issues.   I can't recommend more highly,  that you begin by reading the book, no matter what your situation.  The book will  help you to understand the basis behind the diet and why.  I personally feel that no matter where you fall in the spectrum of chronic issues or if you feel you are in optimum health,  you can still benefit from the diet and the principles Dr. Natasha teaches about having a healthy gut.   She discusses how chronic health issues, autoimmune diseases, autism, celiac, seizures, OCD, schizophrenia and basically all disease originates in the gut.  If you can heal your gut, you can heal your body. 

Last November, we put Henry on the introduction diet and went through all the stages with him until just a few months ago  he was able to "graduate" to the FULL GAPS diet it.  Eleven months later Henry has gained four pounds and he has grown several inches in height.  He can eat many foods that he could not tolerate prior to GAPS including dairy, which used to cause him to become very sick.  This included abdominal pain, vomiting and having days of diarrhea sometimes with flecks of blood and weakness afterwards.  I am AMAZED at the healing that has transpired in my son due to his progress on the diet.   The rest of my family remains on the FULL GAPS diet which allows for most fruits and vegetables but is free of grains, starchy vegetables and most beans except white beans, lentils and green beans.   Our family hasn't tried lentils yet.

I didn't personally do the GAPS Introduction Diet because I felt that I couldn't handle my body detoxing while I was trying to start Henry on the Intro.  Everything GAPS was so new to me at the time and I felt really overwhelmed as I started the diet for him.  I felt that I needed to have the energy to cook for him and so I just started eating the full GAPS diet which is less restrictive.  Over the coarse of the past few months, just doing full GAPS I have improvements in some of my symptoms which included abominal pain, body aches and fatigue.   

Prior to beginning GAPS I was dealing with what I thought was" chronic care giver fatigue".  I don't know if that is the official terminology, but that's what I call it!    You mom's know what I'm talking about, this is the fatigue that comes from taking care of a sick child night and day.  It is the fatigue that comes with fighting what feels like a loosing battle when doctors run gamuts of tests and tell you they have no idea what is wrong with your child and they aren't sure if they can ever fix it.  It was the fatigue of me working night shifts and trying to also take care of a sick child and three other children; at the time my husband was unemployed and then under-employed for almost two years during the most difficult time of Henry's illness.  Naturalpaths like to call this adrenal fatigue.  The adrenal glands are responsible for your "fight or flight" hormones.  News flash, you aren't supposed to LIVE in fight or flight mode for years at a time!  Warning:  If you do, you drain your body of certain hormones, you end up with chronic fatigue or adrenal insufficiency.   Eventually your body just says: I've had enough.   Most days I was so tired I wanted to just sit around and do nothing.  Note: working nights shifts doesn't help this any.  I felt like I had constant brain fog.  I started to use caffeine as a way to stay awake, the only problem was I had to keep drinking it all day to stay awake.  Then I couldn't sleep at night.   I KNEW I was addicted to caffeine, but I couldn't give it up--wait, isn't that the definition of an addiction?    Also, for the past several years I had this horrible abdominal pain on the right side under my ribs.  Sometimes it would be associated with nausea, bloating and feeling like I   couldn't eat for hours.  I had every test run because it really seemed like my gal bladder, but everything came back negative.   Then I started just feeling like my bones ached ALL the time, I started to feel like an old woman and I am only thirty-two.  Some days it hurt to walk.  I knew that I needed to exercise but I was having too much pain and I was too tired to imagine even trying.

Like every other mother, I pushed my own health aside and focused on my children.  A few months ago, with Henry finally feeling better on GAPS I decided to have my labs drawn.  I found out that my vitamin D levels were extremely low.  I'm happy to report after just a few weeks of being on a vitamin D supplement, the fatigue improved, the bone pain and body aches resolved.  Man that vitamin D is important for a lot of thing!   I also felt like prior to starting the vitamin D supplement I was feeling anxious and also easily frustrated, that too went away after supplementing. 

So now that Henry is on the Full GAPS Diet and GAPS itself is a regular routine in our home.  I'm ready to take the plunge into the GAPS INTRO.  Remember how I mentioned that I WAS addicted to caffeine?  I gave it up about a month ago.  COLD TURKEY.  I did the unthinkable.  I stopped drinking it one day.  Not because I wanted too, but because I had too.    Even though I've been on FULL GAPS for ten months, I never had given up coffee, I was drinking a pretty strong brew, and almost a pot a day!   Suddenly one day after drinking it, I started having severe abdominal pain and nausea and the chills.  Not sure what it was but, every time I drank it I would feel this way.  I assumed I must have burnt a hole into my stomach from drinking so much coffee, so I quit.  With the last major hurdle out of the way, I was ready to begin the GAPS INTRO.

So hear I am, I started it today, I'm ready to finally take the time to heal my gut once and for all.  Have I been avoiding the intro?  Of course, I am so scared of detox and more fatigue!   Only this time, I KNOW what's around the corner; because I put my son on the intro and there is an amazing difference in his health today.  What's the secret thing that Henry and I share that I like to pretend isn't happening because I'm so used to my body being ill?   Every day of my life for as long as I can remember I've had cramping followed by diarrhea several times a day.  I always attributed it to "lactose" intolerance.  On the FULL GAPS diet, the bloating and pain has significantly decreased.  But I still have the runs, more often than I'd like to admit.  I'm just used to it.  But I know this isn't normal.  Much of my fatigue, bloating and stomach pain has improved on Full GAPS, but I still have reflux and pain from time to time that I would like to get rid of once and for all.

So here I am, FINALLY trying to take a step in the direction of taking care of myself, so I can hopefully be healthy long term and have the energy to take care of my family.  Today is DAY one of the intro and it looked like this:

Took my GUT PRO pro-biotic powder with water
Drank my chicken broth and had some grass feed beef that I had cooked for over 24 hours in my beef meat broth, mixed in my homemade pickle juice for a good pro-biotic source, you can also try kraut juice, and if you can't make your own check out Bubbies!  .
Had my cod liver oil--not fermented, gonna have to work up to that--I know it's the best kind!
Snack:  Drank my Kombucha, probably not recommended for the intro for kids, but I've been drinking it for a long time and it really sooths my stomach, it has an affect much like apple cider vinegar for me as far as aiding digestion.  I LOVE Kombucha and might have to post about it some day, but for now check out the link to make your own.
Lunch:  Grassfed/beef meat broth, with a little whey mixed in
Snack: Chicken broth with whey
Dinner:  Haven't had it yet but more of the same

So as you can see, the preparation part is pretty easy.  Just make a bunch of broth and be sure to have your probiotics, cod liver oil available  before you start. 

How I'm feeling today:

When I first started GAPS last November I felt REALLY nauseated when I drank broth, and then EXTREMELY tired.   If  you are doing the intro and are coming off a TRADITIONAL American diet, be prepared to feel a little off.  Start out slow and be nice to yourself.  Start the intro on a weekend so you can rest and have someone home to help out with the kids.   Mixing the pro- biotic juice from sauerkraut really helps with the nausea and digestion. 

Thankfully, because I am used to eating good fats like coconut oil, lard, real butter, raw milk and cream I'm not feeling nauseated even drinking broth that has oil pooling at the top of it.   What I do have is a headache brewing and I feel really sleepy and a little irritable, watch out family!  I'm also extreemly thirsty and having to drink much more water than I normally would.  I think I will go to bed early tonight, hum maybe I'll do a detox bath, that sounds relaxing.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

When is Reflux normal? Or is it?

This is what I would have liked to read long ago when I was sitting for hours with my baby who screamed night and day wondering what was causing his pain.  Or when I was wondering why my son was so sick but no one seemed to have any answers.  This is for all of you who are not okay with the answer to just give your child medication, but hope to actually find out why your child is in so much pain?  and ultimately a solution to the problem: 

Reflux is something that the medical community recognizes as normal.   We are told that every baby refluxes due to the natural looseness of the esophageal sphincter that tightens and corrects itself as we become more upright.   As a parent with my first child I was told that some children are just colic, they just scream all the time.    Yet , as a mother, I KNEW without a shadow of a doubt that my child was in pain.  I was not satisfied with the diagnosis of COLIC, and neither should you be.   Colic is a symptom, a symptom of discomfort and pain, NOT A DIAGNOSIS.  How many adults with chronic abdominal pain would be okay with the diagnosis of colic?   Oh, wait "irritable bowel," well that is another story!   I believe that any practitioner who is satisfied with this explanation for constant crying in a infant, is both outdated in practice and without empathy.   I hope and believe that someday in the future, the diagnosis of REFLUX would also be an outdated ideology as well.   Many practitioners still believe that reflux is painless and usually does not cause complications, apparently none of them have every had heart burn.   Nor have they held a screaming baby night after night watching him arch in pain, wanting to cry for him, wanting to make his pain go away.

I believe that mild reflux, for example spiting up after burping or a little after a feed can be normal for some babies, if it does not bother them or interfere with weight gain.   This mild symptom will improve as the child grows and starts to spend more time upright.   However, just because a child is gaining weight, does not mean they do not have a problem with reflux or possibly a food intolerance. I think food intolerance and leaky gut  should be explored in any child with persistent reflux.  I know this is not as easy as just prescribing Prevacid, but antacids are not a long term solution to reflux in children.   They are over prescribed, and in many cases don't appear to help and may even cause harm.   Let me be clear, I am not criticizing ANY parent for putting their colicky baby on these medications, I did this as well.  At the time, I did what I thought would help my child be free of pain.  What I am saying is that in the long term, reflux medication did not address the main issue.  Which was that Henry was reacting to the foods I was giving him.  Constantly eating these offending foods was causing inflammation in his entire body and making him sick.  I do not think that the type of reflux that Henry had was or is normal in any child.   Severe reflux or GERD is a symptom that something is not right in the body.  It should be a warning that something is unbalanced and adding medication might reduce acid, but it doesn't actually stop the child from refluxing.  What you didn't know this?   Many parents falsely believe that the medications will actually stop the child from refluxing.  It is no wonder they are then surprised when their baby continues to spit up feed after feed.    This is not how the medication works.  The medicine is designed to reduce the acid content of of the stomach or stop acid from being produced.  In my son's case even after trying Zantac and Prevacid he continued to reflux.  I felt that his pain was actually worse, he cried more not less.  I tried to explain this to the doctors.  Yet even though the medication actually has abdominal pain listed as one of the MAIN side effects my doctors ignored what I said; "oh, just give it more time."   Henry continued to reflux, and he  continued to aspirate liquids into his lungs,   The doctors take was "well at a least the fluids he was aspirating were not "acidic."    What kind of logic is this?  I guess it is an "as good as we can do," sort of mentality.   We can't STOP the reflux, so lets just try to make it less painful.   Unfortunately, this logic allowed for more and more damage to occur in my child's throat, as I continued to feed him the foods he wasn't tolerating.  His aspiration became worse, he started having more and more difficulty breathing after just nursing.  He was put on breathing treatments three times a day for wheezing episodes that occurred ONLY AFTER he would drink.  When that didn't help they put him on steroids.  Each time I reluctantly complied, even though I knew in my heart the medications were not helping.  How could they?  It was a vicious cycle.  Every time he drank the fluid would come up, irritating his airway, the more inflamed it became, the more it spilled over into his lungs.  I kept telling the doctors about how red his bottom looked, I knew he was in pain, inflamed from top to bottom--the question that no one could answer was why?

I vividly remember the night Henry got his G-tube, and not fondly. I remember I could hardly look at the hole in his stomach; I felt a huge amount of guilt, and still do. It was as if I had put it there myself, because he was too young to choose. I chose between two terrible options, and I chose to save his lungs with the only option I was given.  They told me it would stop the reflux, because they also tied his esophagus around his stomach: the Nissan wrap.  They told me it would fix his aspiration.  I thought it would stop his pain.  I wish that surgery had been the answer.  Unfortunately the main problem still was not addressed--why was Henry's reflux so unresponsive to medications?  What was causing it?    I cannot reverse the past. It is hard to relive those G-tube days, they were dark days indeed, in which I fought to keep my hope alive.

If someone had known that Henry had FPIES, I don't believe he would have ever had the G-tube.    Of course now that I know more about leaky gut and GAPS, I actually don't believe that FPIES is a TRUE diagnosis either but another SYMPTOM of the underlying problem of leaky gut and imbalanced flora, but that information will be for another post!    It frustrates and enrages me that some doctors are okay to just TREAT the symptoms, with medication rather than discover the underlying cause. I believe this attitude lead to a delay in Henry's healing and possibly many unnecessary procedures.  

The truth is, even if the materials are not "acidic" they are still materials that should not be moving constantly up and down your esophagus.  When liquid and food is constantly moving up and down it is going to irritate your throat, whether it is acidic or not.   Likewise, when liquids that should never be in your lungs are going into your lungs, they are going to damage your lungs, because fluids should not be in your lungs whether they are acidic or not!

I think that doctors are not asking the right questions and the right research is not being done.  When I asked my doctors if I should change my diet, they told me it wouldn't make a difference.  Yet at the same time one GI doctor told me to stop nursing and just put my child on formula because he obviously wasn't tolerating my breast milk.  Now this guy actually had part of the idea right--he made an observation that my child wasn't tolerating my breast milk.   Thank GOD I didn't follow his advice and stop breastfeeding, because I later found that my son couldn't even tolerate the most hypoallergenic of formula's NEOCATE, so we would have been in a lot of trouble.    Yet, I find it interesting that this doctor believed in "intolerance" even to breast milk, but rather than exploring the "why" he wasn't tolerating it, he simply suggested I give up breastfeeding entirely.  This to me is terrible practice.  It would be like going to the shop because your car engine was making a funny noise.  The mechanic tells you, your car has something wrong with it.  "What?" you ask.   "I don't know, but you better not drive it anymore."  Seems ridiculous for the mechanic not to try to fix your car, but when it's your child no one seems to think twice about the lack of advice being given to concerned parents.

All this being said, this is how I think maybe you could approach the situation if you've been told that your child has reflux.  First ask yourself a few questions. 

1.  Is there any family history of food allergies or intolerance's?  Is there anything that upsets my stomach when I eat?
2.  What are your child's bowel movements like?  Does he have diarrhea?  Is there blood in it?  or is he constipated?
3.  Is his belly often bloated, does he pass a lot of gas?  Is he fussy?  When?
4.  Does he get any rashes?  Where?  What do they look like?
5.  Does he have a diaper rash that is raw with red spots?  (this is a common presentation of yeast and can also appear with food intolerance's)
6.  If your child is refluxing so severely that they are having asthma symptoms such as chronic cough, reoccurring ear infections or chronic sinus issues,  wheezing--  make an appointment with a pulmonary doctor and and allergist.  If the allergy testing comes up negative, insist that your child have a swallow study to rule out "aspiration,"  to see if the child is refluxing so badly that he is in hailing particles of fluid or food into his lungs
7.  Does your child seem to be in pain after eating certain foods, or if you are nursing do you notice him being more fussy, gassy, irritable after you ingest certain foods?  Try to keep a journal to see if you notice a pattern.  If your doctor wants to put your baby on reflux medications, consider first eliminating the most common food allergens:  Dairy(casein, whey), wheat, nuts, gluten/wheat, corn if your child is still refluxing or having colic symptoms put yourself on the GAPS diet (see below)

TRY to answer the above questions to best of your knowledge so you can present this information to your pediatrician, GI doctor, pulmonary doctor or nutritionist.

Advice for you:

1.  Do NOT STOP breastfeeding
2.  If you've already had to stop breastfeeding consider making a liver based homemade formula ( if you choose to do this continue under close medical supervision to monitor growth and development)
3.  If you want to fix the underlying problem with your child's digestion and prevent future issues when starting solids, read the book GAPS and follow this advice about adding solids to your babies diet 
4.  Get your baby on a good pro biotic that is at least 10 billion CFU's, we use GUT PRO and if you are nursing take a good pro biotic too!
5.  If you are nursing start taking apple cider vinegar yourself--this helps with reflux and the underlying inflammation that you might be passing down to your baby.  Make your own batch: 1/2 gallon water, 1/2 cup of honey, 1/2 cup ACV. warm the water by itself and then add the honey until it dissolves then after that mix in the rest of the water and ACV.  NEVER GIVE YOUR BABY UNDER 1 YEAR OLD HONEY. 

If your baby is under one year old you could try mixing small amounts of JUST (diluted ACV same amounts as above but without the honey) into your pumped breastmilk.  Be prepared for him to make a face because it is strong tasting.  start with a drop of diluted ACV in your pumped breast milk you can just drop it in his mouth when he is having symptoms or once in the morning and once at night, if your baby is under one you can make the mixture and start with 1/2 a tsp and work up.
6.  Never stop being your child's advocate, if you have a gut feeling that something is NOT RIGHT, ask your doctor about it.  Journal any new symptoms, try to keep tract of how often your baby seems fussy or when spiting up increases.  Try to connect the dots and see if your baby reacts to the food you are eating. 

Before Henry got the G-tube I did an elimination diet and found out that he was very sensitive to my eating any milk, whey or casein products as well as soy while I was breastfeeding.  I wish I had taken it a step further and eliminated wheat and gluten, but my doctors discouraged me from limiting my diet further. 

Remember that you are your child's best advocate.  You are with your child all day and you know what a painful cry sounds like, you know the difference between just spiting up and vomiting.  Trust your instincts and find a practitioner who will listen to you and help you.  Find support from other mom's who know what you are going through.   You can help your child be well and find the solutions to the problems rather than just medicating them. 

Disclaimer:  This is not intended to be medical advice, if your child has symptoms of severe reflux, GERD or aspiration, see your pediatrician, consult with your doctor before starting new treatments or nutritional programs. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

For the LOVE of coconut!

In an effort to come up with something to satisfy a craving for chocolate yet avoid any processed sugar I came up with this little recipe in which I surprised even myself with how amazingly rich and delicious it was!  

I think this will be a great alternative to  Halloween treats, Easter candy or other situations when you need a healthy GAPS alternative. 

Coconut Candy
 2/4  Cup Artisana Raw coconut butter (softened)
1/2  Cup melted coconut oil
1/4  Cup honey
1/2  Cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4  Cup  almond butter
1/2   Cup shredded unsweetened coconut

Mix all ingredients well.  Pour into unbleached muffin tins, put in refrigerator for 2-3 hours until solid.   Enjoy cold or freeze to save.  
Try with peanut butter instead of almond butter or experiment with peppermint or vanilla for an added twist.

Disclaimer:  If you are not used to eating healthy fats and oils resist the temptation to eat more than one of these at a time, they are very rich!  Coconut oil has amazing health benefits, but when I first started taking it, I could only tolerate small amounts at a time.  I made these in regular muffin tins, but mini muffins tins would make the perfect size candy. 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Mom, we have 203 pets!

So said my eight-year-old daughter this evening, in reference to the fact that we now are the proud owners of our twenty-month old labradoodle, two domestic rats and now two-hundred red wriggler compost worms! Had you told me a few years ago that I would be a worm farmer, I'm not sure I would have believed you.  But alas, this evening my four year old and I embarked upon a new journey which involved creating a home for our kitchen food devouring new pets; which we hope will aid our little urban garden with some natural pesticide free compost in the upcoming months.

Of course a lot has changed besides just Henry and his health. As our family has been eating more fresh produce and organic foods, it has become blatantly obvious that healthy food is expensive. I've been slowly trying to figure out how to grow my own fresh produce, and I can tell you for certain that I do NOT have a naturally green thumb, it is closer to yellow, which has often been the color of my wilting house plants.

My efforts started with a curiosity about how amy neighbors on both sides of me seemly grew their flowers to robust proportions.  Somehow all this gardening I saw them doing became "catching."  In an effort to make my front yard a little more presentable (compaired to theirs)  I started adding little things at a time.  The more I practiced it, the better I've became, although I am still learning.   The more I garden, the more I enjoyed it and wondered how I had not known about this hobby years before?   It is so fun for the kids to watch something start as a seed and then bloom into a plant and then something that is actually edible.  I think I am actually more facinated than the kids. I watch in total amazement and school girl glee as I see that little sproutling pop up.  It's such a miracle to me! Also it is shear proof of God's existence that anything I plant actually grows into something wonderful!

My "green" journey and conviction to "conserve" and take care of the earth, began when my husband got laid off the same day that I found out I was pregnant with Henry.   It was then that I was forced to be more thoughtful simply because I was trying to conserve money.   In doing so, I became more thoughtful and convicted that God commands us to take care of the earth and its resources. In a desire to also be able to GIVE more, I tried to find realistic ways to save more.  I found switching to cloth diapers and no longer purchasing paper towels helped that effort.  I also tried to find more natural cleaning products or made them my own.

At the time, I wanted to start composting, but I didn't for two reasons.  One, I was overwhelmed with Henry's G-tube and couldn't really take the time to figure out the "how's" of composting.  Secondly, I live in a town house and wasn't sure that my neighbors would appreciate heaping piles of trash within feet from their home.   Yet, considering that they weren't picking up their own pets droppings, it's possible they may not have noticed the smell of rotting food that paled in comparison, but that is a different story entirely.

So now that we are in a place of healing, the G-tube is gone and life is a bit easier; it seems the proper time to purchase two-hundred worms and start a farm in my basement! All joking aside, I've been researching the worm composting idea for quite some time and it seems a great alternative to stinky compost pile on my small patio.  So here are some reasons to start your own bin and I'm sure we'll come up with more as I share the progress of our worm’s growth and development over the next few months.   Be sure to check back for some pictures!

Reasons to start your own worm compost bin

1. The healthiest known compost is vermicompost, filled with all kinds of nutrient rich soil and worm casings to help your plants thrive

2. Worms are cool and kids dig them, literally

3. Throw your kitchen scraps into a bin and watch them disappear, how cool is that?

4. Worm compost doesn't stink

5. You are reducing waste and doesn't that just make you feel great!

6. Free compost--yes, we love things that are free!

7. Worm composting is easy, the entire project took me about 20 minutes including purchasing the worms--more to come on how to get it set up!

8. You'll just want to peek in there and see what in the world they are doing? What? Eating a pound of kitchen waste a week--amazing!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

There is a season . . .


A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,  
 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
What do workers gain from their toil?   I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race.    He has made everything beautiful in its time.    He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.    I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.   That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.    I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.   Ecc 3:1-14

A few weeks ago was Hannah AND Henry's birthday.  Yes you heard that right, they share the same birthday exactly five years apart.   Hannah wanted to take this picture of the "Birthday Twins," as she affectionately refers to her bond with Henry.   Hannah turned eight and Henry turned three.  I cannot begin to tell you the joy and thankfulness in my heart as I look at little Henry today.  I wish I could have shown this picture to my former self, sitting in the hospital with Henry when he was eight months old, crying the day that he came home with his G-tube, wondering if he would ever be able to eat or drink by mouth.  I wished I could have told myself. . . he is going to be okay.

Even after overcoming our challenges with aspiration; Henry continued to have major intolerance's to the proteins in foods.   After being diagnosed with FPIES,  we took Henry off of many foods but he continued to have diarrhea, sometimes bloody.  He also had chronic abdominal pain and lack of growth.   Finally  in November of 2011 we embarked upon the GAPS diet in an attempt to heal Henry's body from the inside out.

It was a huge change for us, even though we had been gluten free for months.  We took all processed foods out of his diet and started him on bone broth and then added in specific vegetables from the various broth--fish, chicken, beef, lamb.    In a few days his chronic diarrhea stopped.   We moved fairly quickly through the different stages of the GAPS diet following the book by Dr. Natasha.   I know many others whose children's have FPIES have not been able to move forward this quickly and for his progress I am grateful.  He did have some weird rashes, many respiratory and even GI illnesses along the way, but we just keep pushing forward.   He slowly started to add to his weight, which was something he had not been able to do consistently since birth.  I noticed that when he was sick, he did not loose weight as drastically as he previously had before GAPS, his immune system seemed to be stronger.

Last week Henry had his three year old well check.   He weighed 27.5 lbs and was 36 inches tall!  He is now in the 10th percentile for his weight.  Prior to GAPS Henry was UNDER the third percentile, and he is in the 25th percentile for his height, which is where he was at birth.  He has not been this tall since he was six months old and all his breathing and swallowing problems began.

We only have raw, grass fed unpasteurized delicious milk in our house.  Never-the-less, Henry has never been able to tolerate milk.   I remember vividly putting it in his G-tube when the Dr's told me to add more calories; but he instantly started violently retching and also had diarrhea at the same time.   A month and a half ago Henry grabbed some of Hannah's milk when I was in the other room and drank an entire cup.  I fearfully waited for the results.   NOTHING.   And that was the end of Henry's issues with milk.  Now he eats raw cheese, homemade ice cream,  yogurt, any really any milk product. 

 Nothing is what it was. It is as if the past has been erased, it is a new beginning. When I look at Henry today, it is sometimes hard to remember the darkness of the days before. It like entering the promise land after forty years in the wilderness, I never imagined this land flowing with milk and honey--literally!    Today Henry went to his second swimming lesson, there is a little scar where his old G-tube site is, that scare is the only thing to remind me of what was. During the day he is a dancing, happy, healthy little boy. 

I remember reading the above scripture a few years ago when Henry was anemic, not growing, and had his G-tube placed and yet continued to not grow or tolerate foods.    I wondered why things had to be so hard, I wondered why Henry had to endure so much pain, I wondered why God was allowing this in my life, I wondered if it would ever change.    The more scripture I read, the more I realized that I didn't  know the answer to the why?    I started to ask a different question.  What?  What do you want from me Lord?    What should I do?    And I started crying out to Him for help.    "He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end."   I don't know that I understand God any more than before.  But  I have found that as I face trials, I do long more for eternity, I do long for a time when God will answer, when I will see Him face to face, when all of us will be perfectly healed by his grace and love.   I long for a deeper relationship with the only One who can help me through these times on this earth.

 I cannot thank and praise God enough for choosing to heal Henry, as I know that He did not have too, but He did.   While I do believe that God lead us to the GAPS diet, I believe it was God who healed Henry not the diet alone.   While I am so thankful, it has taken me a long time to post our progress because I am so deeply burdened by the pains of others whose children God has not healed yet.  While I rejoice for Henry, I continue to weep and pray for you.   I cannot tell you why you are suffering, and my heart breaks for you.  I know the heart of God is tender towards those who are suffering.   He is near to the broken hearted, He is the one who binds up their wounds.    I have found comfort reading the psalms and seeing David's heart for God during his trials.   I have found encouragement from friends and sisters who have helped me believe when otherwise I was struggling to keep hope.  I thank all of you who have traveled this journey with me.    I am in a season of dancing, and also a season of introspection, trying to gather all that I have learned over the past years and store it up to be prepared for the next season, whatever that might be. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Rashes are confusing but here's my attempt to explain . . .

I know a lot of you were concerned about this rash, as was I, so I felt it necessitated an update.  After a few days on Prednisone which is a steroid, Henry's leg pain seemed to subside.  The doctors also put him on hydroxyzine,  an antihistamine, which helped significantly with the itching.  You should know that any time a child or anyone has  PURPLE rash, this is a red flag and the child should be seen immediately.  The doctors were concerned when the rash changed color.  The most concerning part of a purple or bruised looking rash is the cause of bleeding.   Does the child have low platelets? Platelets are the part of our blood that helps us to clot.   Reasons for low platelets would include cancers like leukemia or other blood disorders.   After a few days the purple rash faded,  and Henry did not continue to have any fevers or symptoms of illness.   This is the reason that we didn't look any further into the cause of this rash.   From my own study and experience with children, there is something that I remain suspicious of as the cause of his rash.   It is something called Henoch-Schönlein Purpura, which is the most common cause of vasculitis in children.  There is usually a triad of symptoms which include abdominal pain, joint pain or arthritis like symptoms, and usually a palpable purpuritic rash.   While Henry did have purpura it was NOT what I would classify as palpable.   So it is unclear if he actually had HSP or not.   As suspected, the pediatrician confirmed, that after the fact, there is really nothing that we would do differently to treat Henry, as HSP usually resolves on its own.   I should be clear, that there are some children that develop very severe symptoms and often significant abdominal pain.   It is important that constant abdominal pain always be investigated and not ignored, as was the case when I brought Henry into the ER several months ago and found out that he had intussusception, in which his bowel was telescoping onto itself and cutting off the circulation to his intestines.  This is a medical emergency and without intervention the bowel will actually start to die.   The treatment for such an emergency is an air enema, which is exactly what it sounds like, air is pushed into the bowel via an enema, in order to straighten it back out.  If this does not work surgery is necessary to fix the issue.   I found it interestinga complication of  HSP is often intussusception.   That is why, if your child has been diagnosised with HSP, it is important to NOT ignor the symptoms of intermittent severe abdominal pain.   Furthermore, I should note that Henry's intussuception did not present as typical.   It started with intermittent episodes of very short severe abdominal pain, in which he would curl up and scream.  Minutes later he would be running around as if nothing ever happened.  This continued all day and became more and more frequent, but he was completely happy and pain free in between the episodes of intermittent pain.  Many times this pain can be timed as to occur nearly every fifteen or twenty minutes.   Some children will vomit bile, Henry did not.    I thought it odd that he was having abdominal pain but not having vomiting or diarrhea.   This was actually something that signaled  me that something was seriously wrong, usually when Henry had abdominal pain vomiting or diarrhea always followed, why just the pain alone?   It didn't make sense.  Later his abdominal pain seemed to subside, but the regular intervals continued, only this time, rather than pain, he became extreemly sleepy, he would fall asleep in my arms, at times he was very difficult to arouse.  This is another huge red flag, if a child is hard to arouse, you need to go straight to the ER, which I did.  Trust your intuition, and know that there is always an exception to the rule, if your child doesn't seem right, have him examined.    

Thankfully Henry's intussuception was fixed without surgery.   Did he have HSP?    I can't say for sure.  One of the more serious complications of HSP are that the kidneys can be affected.  Oddly my doctors didn't take a urine sample to test for blood or protein in his urine.   This seems an easy an non-invasive way to rule out any kidney involvement and should be standard practice for any child who has had suspected HSP.    Since no lab work was done, I have just been watching him closely for reoccuring symptoms and so far he seems to be well.   I will mention doing a urine test the next time we go in, as it is simple and can be done in the office. 

Henry has had some odd rashes this week, and I am not sure what they are related too.  They appear to look like hives and are very itchy.   I keep looking him over, afraid they will turn back to purpura as they did a few weeks ago.  Sometimes HSP can resurface, so it is something to watch for.   Rashes can be tricky and it takes some experience to know the differences between different types of rashes, this is something I've been studying recently.  It is helpful to go to a doctor if you or your child have any persistant rash, so it can be diagnosed correctly.   It has been extreemly windly lately and pollen is in the air, so Henry's hives could be enviromental, or it could be a food that he's been eating.   I am a little suspicious of strawberries.  After he falls asleep, I think I am going to rub some strawberry on his skin and see if I get the same affect, I'm sure he'll love that!

Okay, so the take home points are as follows:  Rashes are confusing.   Purple rashes MUST be assessed immediately to rule out serious causes like bleeding.  Rashes that occur with fever, or symptoms of illness, also need to be assessed for treatable causes of the fever.   Rashes that don't go away need to be assessed to know what you are dealing with and even if you want to treat them naturally, it helps to know if it is hives or eczema or psorisis--all of which seem to have inflammatory components and are related to over reactive immune systems.     HSP is a common form of vasculitis seen in children, doctors are not sure what causes it exactly, maybe a response to a virus, or a drug reaction, it is treated by treating the symptoms of the rash with steroids and antihistimines if needed.  The  person needs to be monitored for kidney involvement or complications of worsening abdominal pain.

There are of course many natural treatments for rashes, I will not explore this now.  I can say that Henry used to have chronic hives and some eczema prior to our elimination diet which proceeded the GAPS diet which we are on currently.   Rashes are tricky, there are definatley some enviromental componants for some children and often times rashes like eczema are emotionally draining and trying to figure out the root cause of the rash is grueling and frusterating for parents.  The GAPS diet is a great place to start. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Drug reaction or something else?

It's been a while since I've posted.  It's been a hard winter for our family with illnesses.  Two weeks ago I took Henry to the ER in the middle of the night for another bout of what appeared to be severe stomach pain, he was refusing to walk for several hours and drawing up his legs and crying. I feared that he had intussusception again, which is when the bowel telescopes into itself and basically cuts of the circulation to the intestines.  The did an x-ray in the ER which confirmed she did not have intussusception. He had a fever, so the ER doctors suspected a viral gastroenteritis and sent us home.  The fever continued over the next 48 hours, as did the stomach pain.  Henry kept saying that his legs hurt and wanted me to hold him a lot.  I figured it was body aches from the fever.  I brought him into the doctor after 48 hours because his stomach was hurting so much and then he said his ear hurt. Although he did not have a sore throat, the doctor decided to test him for strep due to the fever and stomach ache and sure enough Henry was positive.  Much to my chagrin, they started him on amoxicillin for strep and an ear infection. I upped his probiotics to counter the effects of the antibiotics.   After a few days Henry seemed to be feeling better.  While still on the antibiotics, Henry developed a new fever, this time up to almost 105.  Again his stomach and legs were hurting.  The other children  had fevers the day before so I figured it was just a new virus.  That night Henry woke up with stridor, the tight breathing sound that is part of an infection called croup.  He had to take steroids that night to help him breath and Motrin to control the inflammation.  The next night the stridor came back, but I in an effort to withhold the steroids, I made a "mist" tent by draping sheets over his crib.  He thought this was novel and quite enjoyed the tent, and it really helped his breathing. I too breathed a sigh of relief when his breathing calmed down and I didn't have to give him any more steroids that night. 

The fever didn't go away, so I brought him back to the doctor.  They swabbed his throat only to find that after 8 days of amoxicillin he still had strep, he also had influenza A, which may have been contributing to the breathing issues at night.  The doctors ordered a new antibiotic and wanted me to also put him on Tamiflu.  I felt so frustrated that we have done so much work over the past few months to heal Henry's gut with our special GAPS diet, only to have him on all these medications. While killing the strep bacteria we are also killing all the good bacteria we have been building in his body over the past few months.  I did not fill the Tamiflu prescription, because it is known to only decrease the flu symptoms by perhaps one day, and we were already on day two of fever. Tamiflu also has many side effects, including stomach pain, and Henry was already suffering from that with out adding anything else on top of it.

I gave him the new antibiotic and put him to bed.  The next day he woke up with a few hives, he was itchy but his fever was gone.   I know that hives can sometimes be part of a viral illness, he only had a few, but I called the doctor.   She thought we should continue to antibiotic and just give him some Benadryl, as it would be more important for us to get rid of the strep infection.  So I gave the Benadryl and then three hours later gave him his antibiotic.

He got more hives a few hours later, I gave more Benadryl and gave him a bath.  The rash continued to spread and he was severely itchy in spite of all the antihistamines I had given. I called the doctor back and we decided to watch and wait.  Then the rash started to change, it became a darker red, and it flattened out and continued to grow.  He started to have more and more pain in his legs, feet and elbows.

I got really nervous, he didn't have a fever and he was due for more Benadryl so I gave it in hopes that this time it would help with the rash.  With in 30 minutes the rash when from this picture above, to the images below.  I knew something wasn't right.

When it started to show up on his face I took him to the ER.

In the ER they examined him and since he did not have a fever they told us that he had serum sickness.  Serum sickness can be the body's reaction to a drug, a virus or bacterial infection like strep.   It usually presents one to three weeks after starting a medication, so if he had serum sickness he most likely would have been reacting to the amoxicillin, not the new antibiotic which we had just started the day before.  Serum sickness can cause joint and stomach pain.   It is a form of a drug eruption.  The  ER doctor told me that Henry had presented with something called erythema multiform, this is a description of the rash that he had at the time that we were in the ER.  It is considered a more mild reaction to medications and the person usually recovers in a few days without complications.  They gave Henry a LARGE dose of prednisone called a loading dose and also gave him a more potent antihistamine for his now painful itching.  It of course knocked him out and we went home. 

I couldn't sleep when I got home. Even after the predinsone the rash continued to change over several hours.   It darkened and started to looked bruised, the medical term for this is purpura.  The picture is a little blurry, but you can see how the rash progressed from red to the more bruised look in these pictures.

I took him back to the doctor and he agreed that the rash looked more like purpura and he wrote for some labs.  I continued to give Henry the prednisone and antihistamine over the weekend, the rash faded to a more brown color and now has mostly disappeared.

He is still having stomach pain, little appetite and intermittent joint pain. He just wants me to hold him and he spent most of the day sleeping today.    I am concerned to say the least.  As I have watched his rash progress and done my research this weekend I have become suspicious that this rash may not have been the erythema multiform that was originally diagnosed.

My concern is that Henry's rash started as hives or wheels, this is a raised rash. True hives usually move around, they are not in a pattern or fixed. This was the first clue that Henry didn't really have hives, the rash never moved, the spots were fixed and then started to flatten out and grow,  and they were extremely itchy.  The rash changed from raised to flat and then from red to purple, to brown.  Here is an excellent article explaining the difference between the erythema multiform rash, which Henry was diagnosed with in the ER and a different drug eruption called urticaria vasculitis.

I am concerned that Henry is still having joint pain and stomach pain after he eats.  We see the doctor tomorrow, and Henry will have some labs drawn.   They also plan to check his throat again to see if the strep has cleared yet.    I am worried it is still lingering due to his ear hurting again, which was how he originally presented with strep.

I am again reminded that although I have made valiant efforts to control my sons diet and help heal his body with nutrition, I am NOT in control.  There is much beyond my control and when my heart and mind swell with anxiety I remember this verse:

"I lift up my eyes to the hills, from where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.  He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber.  Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand.  The sun will not smite you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will protect you from all evil. He will keep your soul.  Psalm 12:1-7"

Should I loose sleep over worrying about my son, I do, but this verse tells me that the LORD is keeping watch, He doesn't sleep, so that I can.  He will protect me and my children.  He is my keeper, He is my help in a time of trouble.   I am not in control, though I with all of my being, fight to have this control.  

I bow my knees, I raise my hands, I surrender that control to the One who is in control of everything. . .