Monday, June 17, 2013

stumbling towards clarity

The body of our most food-sensitive child seems to be a barometer for our family's health. There are times when I can only describe him as clear, or bright. I can't pinpoint what exactly this means. It is as much about the look in his eyes as in his ability to "get" jokes, to take challenges on with a smile, and his patience and affection for his little sisters. I've seen this look come and go over the years, and each time it takes energy to tune in to what is creating the change.

A few weeks ago we started dabbling in the Paleo way of eating. Basically, we focused on fruits/veggies, meat, eggs, and 'good' fats (avocados and coconut), omitting grain, legumes, and dairy. Within days, we were all feeling very good. Jude has been dairy and gluten free for years, and at first I was hesitant to remove more choices from his diet (rice crackers and hummus being a staple on his school lunches). 

Jude eats what he's served with enthusiasm and without complaint, and once again I saw that 'bright' look in his eyes. But as lovely as Paleo is in theory, it requires a lot of preparation, creativity, and yes, money to sustain variety and flavor. Things got busy, and I found there were days when it seemed that everyone was dipping their heads into the cupboards and fridge. I caved and brought back the rice crackers, the rice cakes, the hummus, the popcorn (our favorite snacks).  I concluded that I just can't afford the time or money to spend so much of each day preparing costly food.

Over the past few days, we've noticed some quirky behaviors in Jude. He's been hitting his sisters immediately if they bug him in any way (which is unusual). The other day he wanted some boiled eggs, so I walked him through how to make them himself. I sent him to find a pot and he came out of the cupboard with...a bowl. Then a strainer. This seemed kind of weird and funny, but upon reflection, it was concerning. He just seemed confused, like he knew what a pot was but couldn't put his knowledge together with the concrete item.

This morning I sent him up to get dressed for school with a clean pair of shorts in his hand. This is one of those routines: get dressed, brush teeth, come down, comb hair, put on socks, then get ready to head out the door. But this morning it was as if he were stuck. Ten minutes later when we checked on him, he was in his room in his undies with no idea where he'd put his shorts. Robin first reprimanded him (getting any eight-year old boy to focus on a task when toy soldiers beckon can be a challenge), but I soon found him hugging Jude. Jude just look kind of confused and off. 

The light bulb in my mind clicked on then, and I know what we need to do. We need to get this kid off grains altogether. The change is so subtle to begin with that we don't always notice it, but when this bright, loving, patient boy starts seeming confused and short-tempered, I know there's a change coming. In pieces, the symptoms are vague and bewildering and seemingly unrelated. But when I have a moment to step back and survey it all from a distance, it becomes clear to me.

I called his bus driver and the school to let them know he'd be staying home today. He's going to come to the library with us, read his first Percy Jackson and the Olympians book, rest, and build his Roman army.

As we prepare to start Norah on her first solids, we'll be doing things a little differently than we did with the older crew. We'll be avoiding grains altogether until she's older (or maybe forever) and will work towards 'weaning' her older sisters off the breads, pastas, and crackers they crave. It's time for this family. 



13 comments:

  1. Good luck! If only all of us were as attuned to our children's small changes!

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  2. that is a big challenge. The hardest part is finding something to replace it with. When you find that, the transition will be easier. Hope the sisters are able to continue. And mostly, good for you for recognizing the problem to find the solution. Fingers crossed it works quickly.

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  3. You are the second person in a matter of days to be commenting about health in this fashion, the other person was hosting a meal planning workshop at work and in sharing her personal story commented that a lifetime a health issues has been largely mitigated by following a mostly Paelo diet. As it would happen she makes her living as a holistic nutritionist. For what it's worth, I'll send you her link. Maybe she has some recipies or tips that will help extend your grocery budget? She's a young mother and struck me as very approachable - it's worth a shot. Her business: http://lovewhatyoueat.ca/ Her blog: http://shortgutmom.com/

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    1. Thanks for the referral! Budgeting is a challenge, getting the picky eaters to eat is a challenge, and making sure everyone feels satisfied with the quantity and variety of food is a challenge!

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  4. Well, as you know I have avoided gluten and dairy for many years now but lately I had been eating cheese again. Still, I wasn't feeling my best and decided to also try a modified Paleo way of eating. I mainly cut out all dairy, all grains but kept some chick peas as I love hummus and I love them on my salad. This weekend I was away and indulged in a gourmet gluten free pizza as well as amazing gluten free toast and cheese was involved in three of my meals. I feel very rough today....bloated, sluggish, foggy, dizzy and gassy (TMI!!). I now know that although I do not get violently ill from dairy or gluten free grains, my body does not welcome or need them. And besides, I picked up a RAW carrot cake for Father's day and it was DIVINE. There are great RAW alternatives that are grain free/ dairy free/ etc. and can be sued as a treat here and there. Good for you for noticing and taking control. Jude will be so much healthier. xo

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    1. Seems to be a lesson we need to relearn periodically! Cheese is hard to give up because there are no real decent substitutes. But I look forward to trying out the Raw Curious Kitchen in Renfrew!

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  5. ARG! I just wrote a novel of a comment here then lost it. First of all - how do you stay this in tune to your boy while you juggle your other 19 children? Amazing. Second of all, I wish someone had figured out my similar sensitivities when I was a kid. I swallowed so much barium to no avail! I do SO much better when eating GF and DF... though I seem to end up repeating the lesson way to many times. I'm intrigued by the paleo diet... Rice cakes and hummus are pretty much a staple around here. What oh what do you replace that with??!!! If you write a post about your meal planning and snacks list I'd eat it right up. Especially snacks.

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  6. How wonderful that you are so attuned to Jude.
    Once you start to get it figured out- please send me (and prob Mom) a list of goods and bads for feeding our beloved nephew and grandson. We will be spending a week together this summer and it will help with menu-planning! :) Thank goodness, Julie is well-versed in eating GF and DF so she is a great resource for us all.

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    1. It's funny how your perspective changes. DF seemed a challenge when I started. Then DF and GF together...wow. Now, to give up grains too...well, I can do anything! DF and GF are easy compared to this! :) But I'm up for the challenge if everyone is feeling better. The thing with Paleo is that it's more choice than strict diet...if you eat grain you just feel like crap! So you can choose to feel like crap if you REALLY want that cookie/pizza/bread, but the longer you do it, the less likely you are to want to feel like crap!

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  7. My husband and I were just talking about 'first foods' last night and we have decided to hold off on grains as well and plan to start with avocado, sweet potato, banana and organic meats etc instead of 'pablum'. I have been suggesting the same to my patients. It just makes so much more sense to introduce 'real' food rather than, what are essentially, 'products' and fillers for babies. Good luck with your family's food journey!

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    1. I highly recommend "Super Nutrition for Babies"...gives lots of good advice for feeding in this "old fashioned" way (people used to eat liver!)...grated liver, soft-cooked egg yolks, and stock are high up on their healthiest things to feed baby list!

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  8. I can across " ancestral eating" ( also referred to as Paleo)at a First Nations Dietary conference about 8 years ago- the success it had in treating the absolute epidemic of Type 2 diabetes in the First Nations populations was phenomenal and got my attention. Most Aboriginal groups in Canada were never exposed to cereal grains until European contact, and with it has come disastrous health consequences. I gave little thought to grains impact in my own health( Northern European) until GI isssues flared about 5 years back and my family doctor suggested I eliminate gluten. Fast forward a few years when I received my sjogrens syndrome diagnosis. Upon research I was reminded what I learned in nursing school that the first stage of grains digestion is entirely dependent on abundant amylaze- an enzyme produced in our saliva. With sjogrens syndrome my salivary glands are destroyed- no spit, no amylaze, no possibility of grains being properly broken down for digestion.Big trouble for the body!I have been grain free for close to two years and have all but eliminated the digestive issues I was once plagued with!So wonderful you are in tune with your son's unique physiology! I hope it spares him the development of a further more serious chronic condition later in life!

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