Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Diet

*This may bore you to tears unless you're interested in the food/gut/brain connection.

The diet that our family is using now...well, it's a pain. When I first looked at the list of legal/illegal ingredients I knew there was no way we could ever do it. That was about a year ago. I think the diet is just so difficult to follow that you have to reach a certain level of desperation before you're willing to make it work. We knew we had a serious problem on our hands when M ended up in the emergency room last year. Despite treatment with Miralax, her colon became so impacted and distended that her urethra was compressed and she was unable to urinate. We knew this diet could make a dramatic difference in her health, but with the pending move to Hawaii and new baby on the way, we just didn't see how it would be possible until life settled down.

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) is a diet designed to treat people with Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn's Disease, Diverticulitis, Celiac's Disease, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The premise is that many of these disorders are caused by an imbalance of gut flora; that the beneficial bacteria in the gut that promote health and digestion are being overrun by pathogenic bacteria. The pathogenic bacteria thrive on sugars and starches and grains, so those foods are eliminated from the diet. This includes wheat, corn, potatoes, sugar, milk (lactose is a sugar)... The list of "illegal" ingredients is quite extensive. The good news is that there are several GREAT cookbooks out there based on the SCD. We had good luck just experimenting with a few recipes from the books until we found enough to incorporate into our meal-time repertoire.

The Gut And Psychology Syndrome Diet (GAPS, for those of you I haven't lost yet) is based on the SCD, but it's *tweaked* a little bit to treat conditions such as Autism, Schizophrenia, and ADHD. Since many people with those disorders struggle with serious gut issues, parents and providers discovered that many of them found relief on the SCD not only from their intestinal symptoms, but from their neurological conditions as well!

When I first read the GAPS book for M's sake, I was struck by many of the conditions they described: ADD, clumsiness, eczema... I thought to myself, "Why, this isn't M! This is A they're talking about!" So I actually made A our guinea pig for the diet. He has never struggled with any gut issues, but he will spend 13 1/2 hours folding a single load of laundry. I wanted to get all the kinks ironed out before I put M on the diet, because M just really isn't verbal enough to tell me how she's feeling physically for me to approach the diet confidently. To be totally honest, I really didn't expect to any changes in A from the diet. The whole thing just sounded too far-fetched. So, with a healthy dose of skepticism, we started the diet in early December '09. He seemed to be doing better. He was more focused and able to complete his schoolwork and chores in a reasonable amount of time. He was DEFINITELY less lazy and less whiny. He was also more fun to talk to and do things with and wasn't getting hyper-fixated on odd subjects like before (He must get that from me. Sorry, A).

Confirmation came when one morning about a month ago A woke up completely covered in eczema and was a whiny, ADD mess. We quickly discovered that he had been *poisioned* with illegal foods twice within the past 24 hours due to our negligence in label-reading, and we had our old pre-SCD A back. So we adjusted our pantry accordingly, and in a few weeks again saw very positive results with him. The change was so dramatic! Even my parents, who got to spend time with him in Colorado this week commented on what a completely different kid he is now than a couple of months ago. It's fascinating how the foods we use to nourish our bodies can have such an impact on us!

We put M on the diet (sort of an SCD/GAPS hybrid) last month, and she seems to be doing well. There's an introductory phase we're supposed to go through for maximum benefit before doing the full diet, but I'm waiting to start the introduction until the end of March. I'm definitely still in the learning phase though and making mistakes. It's especially sad when you know your mistakes will hurt your kids. For instance, bananas with brown spots are allowed because they are less starchy than yellow/green bananas, but apple bananas (those cute little ones) are not allowed regardless. I couldn't figure out one week why M was having such horrible intestinal issues after making such good progress until I read something online about the banana issue. And those little baby carrots? ILLEGAL. They are washed in chlorine, which is not what you want to expose your good gut flora to. Tap water? ILLEGAL. Chlorine again. Filtered water is fine, though.

I'm gradually finding my groove. We do devotions, music and math in the mornings, then the rest of our school day takes place between 2:00 and 5:00. There is really not too much you can cook quickly on this diet with all the shredding/chopping/grinding/blending you have to do, so if I start dinner at 5:00, it won't be done until 7:00 or 8:00! I'm trying to do more planning ahead by bulk-freezing and utilizing the slow-cooker. Drive-through and pizza delivery are not options. I try not to dwell on that because I'll start feeling sorry for myself-sometimes I just want to order a pizza, ya know? I've found a few slow-cooker recipes I'm going to try to use more of, and I'm on the lookout for more! We try to keep plenty of foods on hand for quick snacks-fruits, veggies, nuts, yogurt (homemade yogurt is virtually lactose-free).

I took the girls camping this week, and we just brought a cooler of chicken thighs, hamburgers (sans the bun of course), apples, oranges, carrots and cucumbers with us. A and P went to Colorado with Hubs this week, and I packed fruit, nuts and SCD legal cookies for A to take on the plane, and e-mailed recipes to Mom a week prior to give her time to plan it out (Thanks, Mom!).

Tonight we venture out for our first restaurant experience since M began the diet. I called Hale'iwa Joe's last night to see if they could accommodate special dietary requests. The chef is sitting down with us at 5:00 to go over the menu.

Hard, yes. But, Do-able.

Updates All Around

Well, it's been a busy few weeks at the Hale Mele Academy! We had P evaluated by the speech therapy department at the local Army hospital who reported to us that he is about a year developmentally delayed in ALL AREAS. Are these people eager to label my kids, or what? She asked me at the end of the evaluation if P's behavior during the evaluation was typical, and I answered yes, as in: "Yes, it is very typical of P to run around in circles laughing at himself instead of sitting quietly and cooperatively." Really, she should have asked, "Does P actually know how to do these activities/say these words/follow my directions but he's just too busy being a 2-year-old to be bothered?" Then I could have answered her appropriately. She referred P to the Developmental Pediatrician (the one whom M was already slated to see) as well.

Yesterday we spent the entire morning at the Army hospital with the Developmental Pediatrician. He was a nice man who managed to get my little people to cooperate with all sorts of procedures. He agreed with me that P is developmentally normal with the exception of some distorted speech patterns. I was pretty proud watching my little guy sitting there putting together all these puzzles and stacking blocks and things. But it was pretty painful to watch when it was M's turn. Dr. C had some pretty simple drawings (horizontal lines, vertical lines, and circles) that M was supposed to replicate, but she just couldn't do it. I wanted to help her so much, "Look, M! See the direction the line is going? Can you do it that way?" But I was a good m.o.p. (mother-of-patient) and didn't interfere with the testing process. I talked to him about some of the learning challenges we saw in M, and ways we've been able to help her learn. He recognizes they both need speech therapy, of course, but he thinks it's very likely that M will catch up with her peers in time-provided we take the responsibility for helping her meet those educational milestones either at home or at a preschool. I have actually been amazed at her progress just this last month. In the past we've worked with her regularly, but haven't really pushed the issue because we knew she was a slow learner and didn't want to cause her frustration. This month we were determined that M would finally learn her colors, so we worked on it in every way we could think of every chance we got. Not only did she learn her colors this month, but her shapes, too! So we're feeling optimistic all around. We're to follow-up with Dr. C in 6 months.

We're still in quite a conundrum regarding speech therapy. Our insurance company will not pay for speech therapy services since the schools offer services for free. The school district here says that their special education services are only for public school students, not for homeschoolers or private schoolers. And we've already discussed why we don't want to send M to preschool. I'm planning on scheduling a meeting with the special services coordinator at the school, but I would like to wait and hear back from the special needs coordinator with the Home School Legal Defense Association first.

In the meantime, our family is soaking up the gorgeous Hawaiian weather. R is out kayaking to an offshore island with her dad for a picnic today. A just got back from a trip to Colorado with his Dad and P, and is now wandering around the house because he has "nothing to do". It's nap time for all the little people in the house, and I am catching up on my never-ending to-do list today.