Enjoy this amazing guest post by Kristine Brown ~ Living With a Chemical Sensitive Child.
I always considered our diet to be fairly healthy. We do eat our fair share of chips and snacks but as a mother, I worked hard to make sure the food we normally ate was wholesome, fresh and organic when possible. During the summer, the majority of our food comes from the farmer’s market and our own gardens and I visit the grocery store maybe once a month for those essentials that can’t be gotten from a produce stand.
We raise dairy goats and I make yogurt, cheese and ice cream from the milk. We also raise chickens so eggs are always in supply as well as chicken from time to time. Our pork, chicken and beef were secured through local farmers who avoided antibiotics and let them eat on pasture year round.
Bread was baked in the oven twice a week from whole grain wheat and slathered with fresh churned butter made from cream from a local source and drizzled with honey from our bees. Life in the food department was good.
Above Photo: Homemade Bread – A typical snack time pre-diet of homemade bread, homemade butter and honey with herb tea.
So, when our youngest child began displaying behavioral problems around 2 1/2, I didn’t give much thought to it. But the intensity continued and the frustration level of my family increased as there was no relief in sight. We tried many kinds of discipline trying to get through to him but nothing seemed to phase him. When he was on a bender, there was no getting through, it was as if he checked out and a demon took his place.
I started paying attention. Once, while eating dinner at my parents’ house, I watched him transform before my eyes after eating a Jell-o dish. He twitched and jerked and couldn’t sit still. He became aggressive and started hitting me for no reason.
Another day, after not having bread for a week or two, I made bread and he had his fair share of the loaf. That night, the nightmares returned. All night long in bed, he kicked me and screamed out while asleep. And he wet the bed.
During the winter when our goats were dried off, he drank pasteurized milk. His bowel movements were loose and nasty.
The aggressive, hateful behavior, the tantrums and meltdowns from little provocation, all appeared after eating bacon with nitrates and other foods with preservatives. He threatened to kill himself, kill us, kill anything that upset him or contradicted him.
So, in the interest of preserving my sanity and keeping our family from falling apart at this little fella’s demands, I put everyone on notice: Come January 1, 2012, there would be no more wheat, pasteurized dairy, preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, food dyes, non-organic/gmo free corn or other processed crap gracing our doorstep. In all fairness, I could not let others eat the no-no list if the 5 year old couldn’t have it. There was a fair amount of grumbling, the unfairness of being punished because the 5 year old couldn’t handle it and on but after a few months, everyone settled into routine and barely noticed the missing items.
Above Photo: Harvesting Herbs – Sage and his sister Jaden helping me harvest herbs in the garden
Over the course of the year we found viable alternatives for most food items. Natural food coloring allowed us to still have birthday cakes with colored icing. I was even able to find a gluten free angel food cake recipe which was so good, even my parents couldn’t tell the difference. I made our ice cream cakes from organic ice cream, gluten free cookies that we crumbled and homemade chocolate sauce, topped with whipped cream made from raw cream.
Above Photo: Typical Breakfast – Our breakfast ranges from shrimp with homemade cocktail sauce, pate or bacon, eggs (scrambled, poached, fried, or scrambled omelet) and avocados or tomatoes to gluten free pancakes, waffles or french toast with fruit, gluten free oatmeal or smoothies. I try to avoid having carb based breakfasts on a daily basis. Often in the summer we have fresh fruit with homemade yogurt and maple syrup or honey.
Trader Joe’s sells a couple different brands of nitrate free bacon. Lentil crackers proved to taste pretty good. I adapted a gluten free flour blend that worked for making biscuits, muffins, pancakes, waffles and pretty much everything we liked with gluten, except for bread which I still haven’t come up with a recipe for. A combination of flours seems to be best when substituting flour in recipes. I start with a base of brown rice flour, typically about 1/2 the amount the recipe calls for, and fill in the rest with a variety: amaranth, sorghum, millet, acorn, potato, tapioca and coconut. It is necessary to add a 1/2 teaspoon of guar gum or xanthan gum to replace the gluten purpose of binding. Rice flour pasta was a pretty good substitute for whole wheat pasta so my little dude was still able to enjoy his favorite dish: macaroni and cheese, homemade of course.
Photo: Yule Log – Part of our Solstice Celebration includes a gluten free Yule log complete with Almond Chocolate icing.
The kids still get to enjoy soda on special occasions: Virgil’s makes a variety of delicious, all natural sodas that don’t contain the food coloring, preservatives, high fructose corn syrup and other additives that most sodas contain. They come in a variety of flavors: root beer, cream, orange cream and cherry cream. My kids don’t miss the mainstream sodas at all.
Above Photo: Wonderland Tea Party – Being chemical sensitive doesn’t mean he can’t enjoy treats! This winter we had a Wonderland Tea Party and made lemon cookies, chocolate cupcakes, pavlovas with fresh fruit, miniature sandwiches and chamomile tea. Everything was gluten, preservative and dye free.
Hidden ingredients lurk everywhere, I always read labels, even for products I’ve used in the past because you never know when they are going to change their ingredients, something that has nailed us a few times. Vigilance pays off. Some brands will carry an organic version of something that is perfectly acceptable but their non-organic variety will have major red flags. Anything labeled with ‘spices’ is suspect.
Photo: Homemade Eggnog – It’s impossible to find store purchased Eggnog that doesn’t contain something on our Red Flag list so we make it from scratch.
The blessing about this diet has been the transformation and the awareness. The nightmares, bed wetting and screaming went away, the aggressive, hateful behavior disappeared and my sweet little boy returned. He still has his moments, he is after all a lively 6 year old boy full of spunk, but I can tell if he’s eaten something he shouldn’t have as his behavior rapidly descends into the spiral of darkness. And, even though he’s only 6, he asks me before eating anything. Going to potlucks was challenging at first but most of our friends and family have been on board with his diet and very thoughtful, asking questions and running food items past us before the event to make sure he’d be able to eat. Restaurants pose the biggest hurdle, we cannot go to a typical restaurant as there are too many hidden ingredients. We have found our best option if we want to go out to eat is to stick to restaurants that use only local ingredients. Unfortunately, the cost is pretty prohibitive which makes eating out a luxury.
Over the past year and a half, we have all learned to adapt and work with this new diet. And though some kids join in dragging their feet, kicking and screaming, most of them embraced this new diet, especially when they realized we could still have treats AND their little brother was really a sweet little dude when not jacked up on processed crap.
Photo: Picnicking – Any time we go out for the day, we pack our lunches. Usually we have homemade lemonade, hard boiled eggs, fruit, cheese, gluten free beef jerky, all natural lunch meat or leftover meat from the previous night’s dinner, fresh veggies and homemade gluten free brownies.
I’m not sure what the future will hold for him. Will he ever be able to tolerate these items or is this a life long sentence? While I would never wish this curse on anyone, I have to think that it’s for the best considering the decline of western health with the increase of processed and overly preserved foods. Hopefully this is a lesson to all of our children that really, traditional foods, local foods and minimally processed foods really are best for our bodies. A drastic lesson perhaps but an important one and one we are willing to embrace and make the best of, for our sweet Sage and for our own health!
Photo: A Happy Boy – A half year into our new diet and my boy is a happy child again.
About Kristine: Kristine Brown is a practicing traditional community herbalist and homeschooling mother of 4 children and 2 bonus (step) children. She teaches classes on herbalism to adults and children and is also the Program Director of the kids’ herbal program at the Midwest Women’s Herbal Conference. She is the creator, writer and illustrator for the popular PDF children’s zine Herbal Roots zine (www.herbalrootszine.com) which is published monthly. She contributes regularly to publications such as Plant Healer with articles written specifically for kids. Kristine lives on 5 acres with her husband, children and numerous animals including dairy and angora goats, sheep, chickens, turkeys, ducks, cats and a dog. They keep bees, grow fruits, vegetables, herbs and various grain crops (oats, wheat). When she is not homeschooling her youngest 2 children in the Waldorf tradition, milking the goats, making cheese, yogurt or soap, spinning angora hair or sheep wool, harvesting herbs, making herbal remedies, making soap, knitting, hanging laundry to dry or the multitude of other household and homestead tasks, she can be found coming up with ideas for the next issue of Herbal Roots zine.
You can find out more information about Herbal Roots zine and subscribe at http://herbalrootszine.com.