Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Diet's Impact on Neurological Struggles: Not Everything, But Hardly Nothing

This morning, I came home from Crossfit to a couple of very hungry girls. My five year old had already gotten them each a banana (hey, maybe in another 5-7 years I can have her making us all eggs and bacon!), but they were looking around eagerly for the next course.

They were delighted to realize I had a pomegranate in the house. We normally classify pomegranates as fancy holiday fare, because of their more typical $2.50+ price tag, but I'd stopped into a Food Lion by chance yesterday, and they were selling them for $0.99 each!

I used a chef's knife to crack open the pom (YouTube has a TON of videos on pomegranate prep, watch them for great tips!), and after pulling it apart into sections, I could hardly pry the seeds out of the inside fast enough for the four little hands to grab them off the plate.

Their faces and hands quickly slicked with the delicious red juice, my youngest started counting the arils, "One, two, three." She has made real, very noticeable strides in the time since we overhauled her diet. When we first started buckling down on diet, after her diagnoses, she was 26 months old, using around 20 words clumsily, incompletely and inconsistently. She wandered around in a fog, with little eye contact. At most we were getting her to try one new word in a week, but those rarely stuck. Her language development essentially froze sometime in the middle of her second year of life, and stayed stuck until we changed her diet - this dietary jump-start to her progress was observed and acknowledged by my mother-in-law (a retired speech therapist) and our current speech therapist.

At six weeks shy of three years old, she now counts to twenty, knows all of her colors, all of her shapes, and recognizes the entire alphabet and numerals on sight. Her language development is pacing nicely - she recently tested as being developmentally on track for her verbal articulation skills, and her spontaneous combinations of 3-4 words have been increasing in frequency. Instead of being roughly a year behind on language (as she was this spring), she is now probably only a few months delayed in certain aspects of language. Her sensory processing disorder symptoms have also been blunted a bit - she does not grind her teeth or squeeze my arm until it hurts as intensely and as frequently as she used to. Perhaps most charmingly, she has developed a lot of social skills that I had not seen before - saying, "Hi!" to strangers in public places, making steadier eye contact in general, and mentioning friends, classmates, and teachers by name.

Has diet fixed everything 100%? No. But it unquestionably got the ball to recovery rolling, and has bolstered and supported a diligent therapy schedule. My daughter will probably always have sensory issues to manage, but I rest in the knowledge that her progress now reflects a future with increasingly fewer, if any, limits.

This blog post is an explanation of personal experiences for entertainment purposes only, and is not to be misconstrued as medical advice. Please consult your trusted primary care physician with any questions about major changes in your diet and your family's diet, and remember that decisions about your diet are your own to make based on your own health and circumstances. Every family and child has unique nutritional needs, and those are for you and your health care providers to identify.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Boo Bites (Paleo / GAPS Diet Halloween Treats)

These little guys came to me in a moment of inspiration. I was already mixing up a batch of coconut manna and honey, with a pinch of sea salt. My copy of the GAPS book suggests that patients with blood sugar regulation issues might benefit from taking a combo of coconut oil and honey between meals, and I think that in my youngest daughter's case, having this combo around every other day or so has helped to keep her calories up and her blood sugar from crashing.

I was mixing the stuff up when I thought to myself how like playdough its consistency was. All of a sudden I knew what I could do; I rolled the "dough" into little balls, flattened the balls, and then pinched out little wispy ghost feet. Two miniature allergen-friendly chocolate chips for eyes and a raisin for a mouth going, "OoooOooooo!" and my Boo Bites were born. My 5 year old gets a huge kick out of these and likes to make ghost noises when she is talking about them. While I think they would be cute in lunches, they do require a certain amount of cold, so it would have to be in a lunchbox containing an ice pack, or one kept in the fridge.

This is a great, safe kitchen project for kids to help! The ghosts don't have to look perfect, and the decoration of the eyes and mouths will definitely keep your little ones busy.

While GAPS keeps sugar absolutely out of the diet (and thus mini chocolate chips with sugar are a no-go), you could easily cut a raisin into two smaller pieces for the eyes, making the treat consist of coconut manna, honey, sea salt, raisins, and if desired, GAPS-legal vanilla. Presto! Totally GAPS compliant. Another option for the eyes could be a couple of unsweetened cacao nibs.

Boo Bites
Makes 6

  • 1/2 cup coconut manna, slightly warm and soft*
  • 3-4 tablespoons honey (adjust to your sweetness preference, buy locally or find a good quality one online)
  • Pinch sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract (Rodelle is one gluten free, junk free option)
  • Raisins, for decoration
  • Mini chocolate chips, appropriate to your dietary needs (I like the allergen-free Enjoy Life chips)
  • A tray or dish lined with parchment paper or wax paper, the right size to fit into your freezer

*One way to soften your coconut manna is to put about 1" of hot water in a larger bowl, and then place a smaller bowl containing the coconut manna into the larger bowl, double-boiler style. After about 10 minutes the coconut manna should be nicely malleable. Remember that coconut manna consistency varies from brand to brand and even jar to jar - you are going for a play-doh style consistency, so if it seems too runny, add more manna. Not runny enough? A little more honey, or even a little added coconut oil.


Stir together all ingredients except for the raisins and chocolate chips. See above notes on consistency; once you have achieved a nice doughy consistency, roll a chunk of mix into the size of a large marble. Flatten the ball, and then use your fingertips to "pinch out" some ghost feet. Place the ghost on the parchment paper. Repeat with the rest of the coconut "dough" until all the ghosts are made. Decorate the ghosts with the chocolate chips for eyes and the raisins for mouths. Place the dish into the freezer to allow them to set. Serve chilled.

This post is participating in Stacy and Matt's annual Paleo Parents Halloween Recipe Roundup.

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