Days 4 and 5

Yesterday started out rough. We kept Cyprian home for breakfast because we had the time, and then as I was preparing his lunchbox I realized that when I put the butternut soup in the crock pot to keep warm overnight, I had plugged in the coffee grinder instead of the crock pot, so the soup was room temperature. I pretty much broke down at that point, not so much because of the mistake, but because of the stress of trying to do everything and the frustration from efforts wasted. The whole reason we are trying this is to try to find our baby some healing, and there he was without a lunch!

Yesterday he did pretty well at daycare but today he ate “great” and even drank up his broth from his breakfast soup. So proud! We really appreciate that his teachers are being understanding and giving him his filtered water, etc.

In general, Cyprian is adjusting much better than we are. He is already used to being on a limited diet, even though he misses his fruit and “chocolate cake” (black bean brownies). As Shane pointed out last night, it is not just losing the food for us, but losing the emotional connections we have with food. When I am feeling down, Shane gets me a surprise chocolate bar or latte. When we want to do something special, we go out for tea and a tasty snack. We eat a Ben and Jerry’s when we watch a Netflix TV show. Now we are having to find new ways of showing our care for each other, ways that used to be exercised in certain types of food. For us, this diet is temporary. I do plan to not eat as much sugar and to integrate more traditional preparation techniques into cooking, but I also want to be able to enjoy food out with people…and the occasional Ben and Jerry’s.

I wonder, though—will Cyprian ever get to do that? We can only pray that he will.

Shane and I were mostly on Stage 4 today and may move to Stage 5 (RAW VEGETABLES!) tomorrow. Today after I ate my soup for lunch I mixed up chicken, egg poached in broth, avocado, and yogurt into a little salad and it was SUCH a relief from all the soup! We have also been having pancakes for breakfast—peanut butter, eggs, honey, and zucchini all mixed up in the Ninja. They are actually quite good. I feel like we are cheating a bit because we are not using homemade or organic peanut butter, but the ingredients are just peanuts and sea salt, so that is good. I am toasting almonds tonight to make us almond butter, and I already made Cyprian some sunflower seed butter. The pancakes I made for him this morning actually turned out all right even minus the eggs. He ate one (which is all you should start out with…Shane and I ate three each our first time lol) and loved it. I would have let him eat another one if he had drunk another shot of chicken juice, but he decided to pour his into my broth so too bad for him!

It is hard to have the energy and time to plan more creative menus than just the soup now that we are getting into the later stages. I am so sick of soup, though.

Cyprian’s eczema was better today, which was encouraging. He also pooped twice today! This morning I saw some undigested fat in his poop. I don’t really know what that means so I need to investigate.

Neither Shane’s nor my poops were ideal today, and I felt kind of sick (a die-off reaction, maybe?). However, we tried out the juicer I got on craigslist for $20 and it was SO COOL! It just gobbled up those carrots and made oh so tasty juice! I drank some and immediately started feeling a little better. Unfortunately Cyprian didn’t really like it…but he does love beets so I will try mixing in some beet juice tomorrow.

It was heartening to see Cyprian shovel in almost three servings of chicken soup tonight and then eat about 5 pieces of broccoli and 7 brussels sprouts that had been cooked in broth. I mean, he really is the ideal GAPS toddler, even if it is hard to get him to drink his broth plain.

I am getting very nervous about traveling this weekend. We leave Thursday afternoon. We are staying with very understanding friends, but I am nervous about having enough food and about having enough time to prepare it all. I spend my time before going to sleep at night thinking about how and when to prepare everything. I am used to always thinking about Cyprian’s food, but now it is even more intense.

Shane and I should have done more prep work tonight, but after 45 minutes of doing dishes, we needed to have some together time and watch a Netflix episode, which I am very glad we did.


Day 3

Whew. Late night–I just finished making butternut soup for Cyprian’s lunch tomorrow, yogurt, and a modified pate that I hope Cyprian will like as much as his normal pate. Since olive oil and red wine aren’t allowed yet, I just boiled the livers, rosemary, onions, and mushrooms in beef stock. I could have added some coconut oil to help it set up in the fridge, but I have been a little worried that Cyprian might be reacting to coconut oil. They use it at daycare as his bottom balm, and his bottom always looks fine, but sometimes when I put it on the rest of his body I feel like his eczema gets worse. He is used to having it in many of his desserts and I haven’t noticed an obvious reaction before, though. I hope he can still have it because it is so healthy.

Cyprian’s eczema definitely flared today, and he had some localized hives. After lunch we figured it was because he was running around naked and rubbing his body all over the floor. It is common for him to randomly get hives, especially when he is not wearing clothes to protect his skin. But I also wondered if it was the mushroom soup he ate so well for lunch. Again, he has been having mushrooms in his pate for the last month with no obvious reaction. It just isn’t clear if these eczema flares are caused by a die-off reaction, a newly-exposed sensitivity to a food, or simply environmental factors like cat hair.  Cyprian’s skin is so sensitive that things like a particular soap or fragrance can make him have small hives on the place of contact. It is just so hard to know!

I was feeling better today and had a little more energy. We not only had our egg yolks in our breakfast soup but also a soft-boiled egg each (Shane and me, not Cyprian, obviously). I know that was rushing it, but my body was very thankful for the egg. I think we did the right thing. GAPS is about listening to your body; it is just hard to know if my body is saying, “I miss the old food!” or “I am ready for more eggs now!” We are going to go ahead and move to stage 3 tomorrow–avocado, pancakes, and fermented vegetables. I might give Cyprian some fermented carrots tomorrow, but he won’t have a pancake til Tuesday morning because I have to soak seeds for sunflower butter (he can’t have peanuts or nuts). Even then, making them without eggs might not work–we’ll see!

It is just really hard on our spirits right now to feel so down and weak when we were so ready to do this three days ago. But I know we won’t feel this way forever–I had several friends today who told me about their different diet experiences and how we just need to get to day 5 and our bodies will adjust. So here’s to hoping that happens!

Day 2: Part 2

Well, the rest of the day was mixed. It was nice to have an hour of Cyprian sleeping, although all we could really do with ourselves was sit on the couch. Shane did read during that time that we have been letting our broths cook too long, and we are wondering if that is one reason we are so sapped.

Shane and I made ourselves eat chicken soup and leftover cauliflower “soup.” When Cyprian got up, he became happier after having some broccoli, and he even drank the broth afterwards. Several times he has had veggies without actually drinking much broth…but I am just happy he is eating something!

Excitingly, Cyprian pooped! It was soft with some hard edges…I know you don’t want that kind of detail but I need to write it down somewhere to remember! Sorry! We went to the park, which was exhausting for Shane and me but Cyprian had a lot of energy. When we got home, though, he was exhausted, so he took another nap, which enabled Shane and me to each take a little rest, as well. Before that Shane and I both had some yogurt and honey and broth. It was so nice to not be eating soup!

When Cyprian got up he was incredibly grumpy. Shane cooked dinner while Cyprian slept on my chest for a little longer. After Cyprian finally decided to eat some broccoli and carrots cooked in broth, he felt much better. Dinner was definitely a winner with Cyprian–butternut squash with ginger and ground pork. I wish I had bought more than two butternuts! We will have to go to the co-op tomorrow.

Today was just a day of feeling down and discouraged. Should we have started with the full diet and gone onto intro later? Is it okay for us to move quickly through intro? Is this even going to do anything productive for Cyprian? Is it pointless? It is predictable for only being on day 2, but it hard to feel so terrible on a diet that is supposed to make you feel better!

Day 2: Part 1

Wow. This sucks. And I don’t even usually use that word!

I was up with Cyprian at 6:10. Around 7:15 (after asking for a banana and being denied) Cyprian asked for some soup. I asked if he wanted chicken or beef, and he said beef. He ate a good amount of his bowl and drank a couple shots of “chicken juice” before pouring the rest out onto the table. :/ I did not give him as many time-outs as he needed this morning because I just had no energy.

I tried to get some ginger tea into me and eventually some soup when Shane got up. I initially felt better after the soup, but by this time Cyprian was starting to act up. He has been extremely clingy all morning. We finally got out to the farmer’s market, which was good, but when we got back Cyprian flipped out. He saw that we had bought ground pork and wanted “sausage dinner.” Of course, the sausage is frozen and we all need to get calories into our body asap so we prepare chicken soup and broccoli. He continues to scream this whole time, even while I am holding him. He refuses to eat any of his food, even after we go outside. He is acting sick–he developed a small cough the night before we started, but he has no fever. However, he still hasn’t pooped. I am worried about that. I guess it is good that the diet is affecting him in some way, but he needs to poop!

Shane and I had whey from homemade yogurt on our soups this morning, and I think we will move on to yogurt this afternoon. It is hard me to tell how I am reacting. Am I just wiped and miserable because of withdrawal? Because my body is still processing? Because my body needs to move on to the next stages to get more kinds of food? I am pooping a little less but still consistently, so that is a good sign. I am hoping Shane and I will move to stage 2 (add egg yolks!) tomorrow.

I just finally put Cyprian down in his crib, even though it is an hour and a half before he usually naps. He just cried himself to sleep, so now maybe Shane and I can have a chance to regroup so we don’t bite each other’s heads off the rest of the day. Ugh. Who would have thought eating soup all day would be so hard?

Day One

Whew. We are pooped.

Overall, today went pretty well. We woke up and had chicken soup that had been in the crock pot. Cyprian did ask for bananas, but he was pretty excited about the soup. We chose chicken soup for our first soup because it is a) so good, b) so easy, and c) we have it frequently so Cyprian is used to it. He ate two whole bowls for breakfast, although he was not very interested in the ginger-honey tea I served him.

We had fun gardening/playing with chalk outside and harvested three zucchini, two cucumbers, and some cherry tomatoes. It was a lovely morning together as a family! Cyprian even asked to drink a bit of “chicken juice” outside (last week I got him started drinking “chicken juice” on the steps outside of a medicine cup, so now he thinks it’s a thing!).

We had chicken soup again for lunch, and then I went to practice organ and retrieve our meat/milk/eggs order from a farm while the boys took naps. On my drive home through pouring rain, I hit a wall. I was SO exhausted. Definitely feeling the sugar/caffeine withdrawal! It felt like I had been fasting.

We all had some more chicken soup for snack and I enjoyed the coconut oil-honey treats I had frozen, although Cyprian only wanted to play with his. We then walked to Whole Foods to get some extra veggies, but Shane had forgotten to wear his shoes (surprise surprise!) so he and Cyprian just had to walk around outside (Shane has been kicked out of Whole Foods before for not wearing shoes). This was perhaps fortunate because even just coming in sight of Whole Foods make Cyprian flip out for bananas.

We were all fading fast, but we managed to get together a fresh tomato soup with ground beef, mushed and brothed cauliflower, and broccoli-in-broth for Cyprian. It was so nice to not eat chicken! I had three bowls of soup and Cyprian had two–we were all hungry.

After we got Cyprian to bed, we still had to put more broth on, shred carrots and set the ginger carrots to ferment, strain and start new kefir, and make yogurt. And do dishes. Phew. I am glad that we started on a long weekend!

I realized this morning that I had already made a mistake (I put celery in the chicken soup…too fibrous), but that’s okay–our output today seems to be on the side of needing more fiber, anyway, if you know what I mean! That’s one important part of this diet: Pay attention to your poop! Cyprian did not poop at all today, even in the morning, which is VERY unusual. He normally poops four times a day. I hope tomorrow he will get it all out of him because I do not want him to be constipated.

Time to turn in! Thanks for your support and prayers.

One day left!

Well, last night Cyprian woke up every two hours, so I figured that I needed to stop and get Shane and me some tea and coffee lattes, respectively, and pay our last respects to Guglhupf by getting chocolate and almond croissants. This meant I went to work without showering, but it was obviously worth it. While at work, one of my good friends texted and said that she decided to bring me Monuts for lunch since I can’t have it for a year. Friend for the win! I know that we shouldn’t be bingeing right before the diet–we will probably feel sick tomorrow as all our sugar-loving yeast and bacteria die off–but it’s hard to say our last goodbyes! Therefore we also ate our last pint of Ben and Jerry’s tonight while watching an episode of Leverage.

I have had several moments of being stressed out today because I feel unprepared, but I am trying to keep several things in mind.

1) We will do what we can, the best that we can. Okay, so we only have a Brita filter and not an expensive get-the-flouride-out filter. I only have sauerkraut fermenting right now and nothing else, and I just started my milk kefir tonight so it probably won’t be ready to eat right away. Um, I think I read we are supposed to start the day with a probiotic…we still need to get that! But you know what? That’s okay. I am a perfectionist and am always comparing myself to others, but we are going to try to follow the book, do what we can, and pray that God does the rest.

2) I don’t have to do everything at one time. I can do a little bit each day. So what if we don’t have all our produce for soups tomorrow? We have chicken soup in the crock pot for breakfast, a second round of broth going in the other crock pot, and we can go to the store tomorrow because we are all off for Independence Day.

3) Changing the way we eat is a very big thing, but there are lots of things about our lives we aren’t changing. We can still watch Netflix on the computer without eating Ben and Jerry’s. We can go on walks and enjoy life and proceed perfectly normally, just with a little more food prep and a more limited menu. Many things will go on just as normal.

4) We are equipped. I sometimes feel bad that we didn’t go to a GAPS practitioner to get advice, but when I heard that a 40 minute consult would be $75, I balked and imagined that I would probably know most of what we discussed in the consult anyway. But I have read the book, we have an extra cookbook, we aren’t completely new to whole-foods cooking, and I visit lots of other blogs to get ideas and advice. Will we make mistakes? Yes. But it won’t be the end of the world.

I have contacted both Cyprian’s PCP and allergist about the diet. His PCP wanted me to check with his allergist about possible signs of ketosis during the initial stages when Cyprian can’t have fruit. The allergist today wanted me to contact a nutritionist about that. I struggled because I wanted to follow his advice, but we have been preparing to start tomorrow and I didn’t want to delay. After consideration, we are going to go ahead and start. We will watch for signs of ketosis, but we will also try to move him through the intro stages as quickly as we can so that he is assured of getting enough carbs through fruit, especially because he is unable to have any eggs or dairy.

In good news, one of his daycare teachers affirmed that it is fine if we bring him a bottle of filtered water and she understands having to deny him fruit for a week or two, as difficult as that will be.

Shane just mentioned to me that he wishes we had talked to Cyprian more about the changes coming. He is so right. It is easy to assume that he can’t think that much about the future, but he really can and now he will be a little blindsided. I did tell him that he was having soup for breakfast, but we didn’t talk about not having bananas for a couple weeks. In all my stress I forgot to prepare our son, who doesn’t have the same resources for coping with stress that I do. We need to take this to the Lord and pray that God will help him adjust.

Well, here we go! I am going to order our raw milk and pasture chickens to pick up tomorrow and then will be off to bed.

a new journey: background and project

Hello friends!

Many of you may know that I am not a blog person. When my husband Shane kept a blog consistently, he had to set it up to email me his posts so that I would read them. I am wary of using the internet as a primary form of communication and I prefer face-to-face interaction. However, I also want to be able to share with many of our friends and family the journey on which we are embarking.

Short version: We are starting a special diet together as a family in order to try to heal our guts. While neither Shane nor I have particular gut problems that we know about, Cyprian’s many allergies are the sign of a damaged gut wall. This diet will be intense, but we feel like the time is right to try something new for the sake of our son.

The could-be-longer-but-no-one-has-that-kind-of-time version:

Our son Cyprian was born in September 2013, four weeks into my second year of graduate school and six weeks into Shane’s second year of teaching middle school special education. He was a very healthy nine-pound baby and nursed well, even though it felt like he hardly slept.

He had eczema from pretty early on. I tried a variety of lotions and moisturizers. We were prescribed steroid creams, which I had no desire to use. We changed our shampoos, soaps, and laundry soap to non-detergents. His eczema has improved but still crops up.

When he was eight months old, we gave him some sharp cheddar for his first taste of cheese. The third time he consumed it, he broke out into full body hives. We called the nurse hotline and Shane went 55 miles an hour down a 25 mile an hour road to Walgreens to get some benedryl.

Food allergies? How could he have food allergies? Neither of us are allergic to anything, I exposed him to everything in the womb, and I breastfed exclusively for the first six months and no drop of formula has ever touched his mouth. We went to our first allergist appointment a month later, only to find that Cyprian reacted strongly to seven out of the eight major allergens on his skin test–the only one he hadn’t reacted to was shellfish.

The doctor said we would need to do blood tests to confirm the allergies. We were sent three different places to get his blood drawn because the phlebotomists were unsuccessful. When I called the lab three weeks later, the third person I talked to told me that the lab tests were canceled because of an insufficient sample. Crying, I hung up and contacted our PCP for a referral to a different allergist.

During this time I began to research other options for dealing with food allergies. I was intrigued by NAET, an acupressure technique, so I read the book about it and found a practitioner thirty minutes away. Unfortunately, for a child like Cyprian who seems to be allergic to everything, it would take at least a year of weekly treatments to make headway. At $45 a session, it was unsustainable, and although I thought we were seeing some effects, my husband was doubtful, so when we couldn’t afford it anymore we stopped. We had also had a bad experience in which he had been treated for egg and he then eaten some and had projectile vomiting.

We liked our new allergist much better; he acknowledged that he does not do much with complementary/alternative medicine and can’t endorse it, but he will respect our decisions as parents even while giving strong recommendations for what he thinks we should do. Cyprian was starting daycare and his eczema was flaring, so we agreed that we would apply the steroids to control severe flares. I estimate we apply it once every two weeks or so now.

At our new allergist the phlebotomists took his blood with no problems and we got our test results back ASAP. His numbers were off the charts: There was no way he would be eligible for the “baked egg challenge” that we had hoped for, and he recommended getting rid of our cat (which we have not done). We were upset, but we coped–he settled into a diet that consisted of a lot of beef, chicken, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, fruit, sausage, and lentil loaf. We made everything from scratch and steered clear of processed foods, most of which he couldn’t eat anyway, but he would have the occasional potato or corn chip. He had a few severe reactions but we never have had to use his epipen. Every few weeks he develops hives at daycare and gets benedryl and is fine. So we’re managing.

Yes, he may grow out of some allergies. But what do his allergies indicate about his deeper immune health? I am not at all surprised about the jump in prevalence of food allergies given the way our food industry works and the environmental toxins surrounding us. Is there a way we can help him heal so that he can eat some of the foods that are good for him, like eggs and dairy? He already feels the exclusion of not being able to eat what the other children at daycare eat and is always so excited when he can have something off the menu.

When I first heard about the cookbook Nourishing Traditions, I rolled my eyes at some of the “extreme” measures Sally Fallon suggests. But as I have searched for a way to heal my son, traditional cooking and real food makes so much sense. Cooking has always been an integral part of my husband’s and my life together, and we believe strongly in making things from scratch and eating locally and in season. But we still do eat a lot of bread and sugar and have long histories of consuming at least some processed food.

I kept coming across the GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) diet online as I tried to find ways to help Cyprian’s eczema and allergies. I was open to trying it, but I knew it looked like a lot of work, plus we live in community with other people. But after reading the book and continuing to see no real change in Cyprian’s allergy status, I began to think about starting together as a family, giving my gut a chance to heal before passing on my microbes to a second child.

The basics of the GAPS diet is this: No grains, starchy foods (e.g. potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, etc.), no refined sugar/sugar products Lots of pastured meat, broth from meat, vegetables, fermented (thus probiotic) foods, eggs and fermented dairy (which sadly Cyprian won’t be able to have), seeds/nuts, coconut oil and animal fats, honey, etc. You begin on an introduction diet that phases you into the full diet to optimize healing; the first stage of the introduction diet is basically meat stock soup and vegetables, along with fermented vegetable juice. That’s right–Cyprian is going to have to go a couple weeks with no bananas. AHH! The hope is that eventually you can reintegrate properly prepared grains and starches and have non-GAPS food again after you have healed (1-2 years for most people…I am hoping it is shorter for us!).

Then one day my husband, Shane, said, “Let’s do it.” Not because he has any gut issues–he is participating for solidarity, even though that means no beer for a year! I can’t even communicate how much it means to me that he is committed to trying this as a family. But anyways, we kept thinking, “We’ll start then…or maybe then!” Well, the time has come. We are going to start on July 3. We would appreciate your prayers and thoughts as we begin this journey, which I will try to chronicle on this blog even though I hate blogs. 🙂

One of the most challenging parts of the diet will be not being able to eat what our housemates and friends make for us. This goes against our deep value of hospitality and it pains us. We ask for your understanding and patience as we attempt this diet for a time. 

We will not only be chronicling our experience with the diet, but mulling over connections to land, theology, parenting, etc.

I know there is so much more to say, but it’s bedtime. Stay tuned for my post tomorrow, entitled, “One More Day to Get Ready AHHH!” At least, that is what I am thinking right now!

Pax Christi.