Living With a Chemical Sensitive Child By Herbalist Kristine Brown

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.

 

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  1. Dean
    366 days ago

    I think Sage might be lucky to have the sensitivities. I think most people of his age have them too but the symptoms are attributed to other things. You have diagnosed his and made the adjustments needed (with good results) but some parents would haul their kid into a allopathic doc and the kid would end up on some mind altering drug(s). If he were in public school, the school nurse would have him on drugs. So I think you have done great with Sage.


  2. ChristineMM
    366 days ago

    My older son had food problems starting at age 2. He had selected down at age 1 to mostly wheat and dairy. Whole raw local milk & home baked bread. We cooked from scratch. He ate goldfish crackers but trust me mostly everything else was slow food. I eventually stopped having goldfish in the house bc he would refuse to eat real meals and just eat that. I won’t list all the symptoms he had, everything from mouth rash to red ears to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde tantrums for 45 minutes over some little thing.

    (Read the new book Salt, Sugar Fat by Moss.)

    Long story short he was off dairy and wheat for 3 years. A month into eating soy he developed an allergy to that. Then we put dairy & wheat back and he seemed okay.

    He has, I believe, suffered with a poor immune system. We lived in CT in the woods & he wound up with no fewer than 5 cases of Lyme from age 3-14. He also had mono at 12. This is 20/20 hindsight. It has been suggested that eating the offending foods with seemingly “no symptoms” was causing a weak immune system. I don’t know.

    At age 8 he began having visual processing problems with his homeschool reading work. This was after Lyme. Or it could be from food…

    He is 15.5 years old now. He goes through bouts of food issues over the years. He pretty much avoided dairy other than ice cream and a small amount in cereal. But last fall I found a local raw milk dairy and he started drinking almost 2 gallons a week (a growing teen who is supposed to consume 4-6K calories a day due to his varsity intense sport). He wound up having problems again. Irritable, rages, low energy even after waking up in the morning, mood swings, headaches, black circles under his eyes. He had hypoglycemia symptoms. We took him off dairy and reduced the wheat to very low. He also got brain fog from something. He was also on daily antibiotics for acne. There are reports of teens having mood issues when on such daily acne meds. He chose to go off them.

    A trial in January of no grains at all, no dairy at all, and no sugar (but one banana a day) brought back the old him, the super nice kid with no mood swings. Also off the antibiotics at that time. He refuses to keep up with that diet now.

    A friend and I have been reading and there seems to be a cycle for some people (kids).

    Food irritates their system. Their gut flora gets out of whack. They develop leaky gut. They are unable to absorb nutrients, they become vitamin and mineral deficient, they then start to have negative results from eating foods (sensitive or allergy – a controversial choice of terms).

    The key for both of our kids involved no use of regular antibiotics i.e. daily acne med.
    Take probiotics.
    Avoid the offending foods during that time.
    Take nutritional supplements as advised by HCP.
    Take fish oils, especially if they don’t eat fish, 5000 IU a day, high quality.
    regular sleep
    reduce stress
    eat whole foods
    drink a lot of water
    reduce or totally avoid sugar

    This heals the gut, which then allows proper food digestion so the body can get nutrients from the food they eat.

    They may have to stay off certain foods for months or years.

    It seems the worse they are with symptoms, the longer it takes to heal.

    It is really hard to get a teen to comply with a diet that eliminates much of what is in the Standard American Diet, even if the family doesn’t eat that way. My son has chosen to eat offending foods at his sport team events, robotics team events, and at birthday parties, and when out on a date with his girlfriend. I can’t control everything. He is slowly coming around to accepting that he can’t be like every other teen who seems to fill their body with crap and they have no immediate negative health effects. Teens hate feeling different or abnormal so this is an issue.

    I have heard also from Dianne Craft that kids with food issues who later add them back in the diet have symptoms of various learning disabilities and/or ADHD but if the diet is changed and supplements plus fish oil they get better. So in other words at different ages/stages the food issue can affect thinking and learning = brain fog, inattentiveness, etc.

    My son just finished a workup for hypoglycemia and they refused to do a 6 hour GTT but otherwise he was negative. He is often in the low 70s but the Dr. insists this is normal.

    Son has come to the conclusion that he should limit sugar, only drink water, no soft drinks. Nerd energy drink made him rage, so no energy drinks at all. No candy. Dessert about once a week. Cow milk & cream cheese make him have an instant problem. He has to limit wheat, this may be due to the glycemic index, converting to sugar. He can eat butter just fine, and aged cheeses.

    My son also has a crazy sensitive sense of smell and certain perfumes or chemical smells in stores give him an instant headache.

    We don’t know why but frozen ICEE type drinks and Dunkin Donuts doughnuts make him instantly irate.

    Hope my rambling helps someone, especially that foods can cause some kids to have LD symptoms.

    Not all our doctors are on board with this, we just left the pediatrician for a new one. It is frustrating when HCPs do not believe it is real when you know it is.


  3. Amy Keegan
    366 days ago

    the child is NOT the problem nor does he have a problem= the CHEMICALS IN THE FOODS are the problem. he is the canary in the mine. We all must take heed. Fools will not follow wisdom. ever. they will persecute those who shine the light. Shine on and be strong. The battle is fierce. Do the right thing for your children, for yourself and the world.

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