Monday, March 7, 2011

Uncovering an Illness

Saying I have started a blog is a weird. 

The high-tech, world-wide-web community has been mocking me from afar.  Mocking my shyness.  Oh, I was aware of the advantages in joining the blogosphere; the networking,  the trading of information, conversing with people I would never run into in my regular life but,  I needed to overcome a major  obstacle first...myself.

I  had a lot of excuses running up to the  moment I posted my first blog.  I don't have the time, who could ever give a damn what I have to say, and let us not forget the biggest obstacle, my insecurity.  I can be very, very shy and unwilling to take a step into the discussion pool.  But, I became increasingly more hungry to write.  Write, not just for myself, as I have done for years, but to write in a place where maybe someone out there would read my words and react in some way.  Maybe.  Not only did I intend to write some commentary about my absurd and happy  life, but also to illustrate that a diagnosis of Celiac Disease for one of your children is not the end of Bake Sale treats or birthday cupcakes for the whole class.  Life moves on and in some ways the  sweetness of the "safe" treats is greater because they aren't making your kid sick anymore.  This is the story of how I discovered a very sick little  boy's illness without the initial help of doctors.

Elliot came into my world in a very big way.  He weighed 9 pounds 3 ounces!  My first husband and I took our big baby through the usual paces of childhood immunizations.  Never once did we question the fluid that was being shot into his body.  Why would we?  Even after I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease just 3 months after he was born ( Some studies prove  that Crohn's is a result of a immunization injury, which in turn meant that I carried the gene(s) that left our kids susceptible to the same or other immunization injuries.  Among them, Autism, ADHD, and Celiac Disease.) we just didn't ask questions.  I realize, of course, that the debate about immunizations is ongoing and very hot to the touch so I am only skirting around my opinion as it relates to my first hand experiences.  Call me a coward, if you must!

With hindsight being what it is, there were so many clues that Elliot had a serious problem much earlier than I'd realized.  From a very young age, about 4 or 5, he would muddily complain (We all know the funny descriptors that come out of a little person's  mouth and how difficult they can be  to decipher!) about his legs "feeling long" or "they're going down".  Huh?  But, this was a constant complaint so it stayed with me.  He also got gushing bloody noses several nights a week.  I am telling you, his pillows were destroyed!  Plus, he had crazy ADHD symptoms.  Since he had  started school,  each subsequent teacher would "suggest" that I put him on medication to "help him focus".  Dark circles under his eyes, even after a full nights sleep, crippling headaches, and the of-and-on hyperness started to tug at my mommy's intuition.  Oh... that's a real thing.  Believe it.  So, I started to take him to doctors and ask them to tell me how to help my boy.  As you may guess, the doctors I went to were no help whatsoever.  I was getting frustrated and PISSED!    There must be an explanation and I guessed it was going to be up to me to figure it out.  My child was getting sicker and sicker.  Let's face it,  hell hath no fury like a mommy worried about her baby!  So, I hit the Internet with an insatiable appetite drive.  Mountains  of research later and I had a pretty good idea that we were dealing with Celiac Disease.  He had all the symptoms.  Yes!  That must be it!

So,  I put Elliot (he was 8 at this time) on an elimination diet to test his gluten tolerance.  For three days I eliminated gluten in all forms.  He was almost symptom-free!  On the fourth day I gave him pasta, his favorite and BOOM!  A little boy hurricane hit our house with the force of a crazed hyena riding out a crank binge.  It was ugly and he was in pain.  His legs and headache were simultaneously so painful that he cried in my arms.  Yes, gluten was the source of my baby's pain.  Next, I had to figure out where gluten lived and to make sure we were safe from it. 

It was quickly obvious that Elliot was not completely well after ridding his body of gluten.  He continued to have bloody noses and terrible headaches.  I had read somewhere that if you thought  your child had a food allergy,  suspect the food he/she craves and asks for the most.  For Elliot, after pasta or pizza, he would beg for glasses of milk and hunk after hunk of cheese.  Dairy was the logical culprit.  So, another elimination experiment was conducted.  Voila'!  Elliot needed to spend the rest of his life avoiding gluten and dairy.  My god!  Could that suck any more? 

There was no time to waste and once I got the holistic doctor I'd been seeing for my own health issues to order a blood test, we got the diagnosis that I had anticipated...Celiac Disease.  I found out through my own research, once again (never be afraid to question your doctors' lack of opinion or knowledge.   They are human and are therefore sometimes lazy.)  that many Celiacs are intolerant to dairy due to the severe damage the gluten has caused to the villi lining the digestive tract.

So, a new journey began with gluten free bread in the forefront.  Oh. My. God.  That stuff is crap and it is sadistic to call it bread.  We needed something different, but bread seemed too  daunting to headline my new baked goods/pastries repertoire.  I started with quick breads and muffins, as those were the easiest to create once I had figured out the world of gluten free flour blends.  I went on to cakes and cookies and now am proud to feed my family and friends exclusively gluten and dairy free goodies.  We are a family of 6 and four of us are strictly gluten and dairy free.  My 6-year-old, Isaiah, showed very early signs of gluten and dairy intolerance, so after just three years, I restricted his diet too.  With Quinn, the 3-year-old, we just didn't even take any chances.  We are a happy and healthy (the kids, anyway) and we've never looked back.

One giant leap forward in time and that brings us to  today and my Gluten/Dairy/ Sugar-Free Butternut Squash and Cinnamon  Muffins.  These bad boys are tender and moist, but hold up to the scrutiny of Muffin.  Trust me.  These will make your kids beg for one right after the other, if they are anything like my kids.  As I mentioned in my last post, I am going to create three recipes that will help boost our  kids' immunity systems.  They need it!  The butternut squash contains beta carotene which converts to  vitamin A.  It has  vitamin E and vitamin C, fiber and potassium.  It's a great boost to the immune system.  Plus, and I'll say it again, they truly are delicious!

                       Butternut Squash and Cinnamon Muffins

1 1/2 cups cooked, finely mashed butternut squash, skin on
1 1/4 cups sweet white sorghum flour
1/2 cup plus, 2 Tbs garbanzo bean flour
1/2 cup plus, 2 Tbs tapioca starch
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp allspice
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups Palm sugar, broken up in blender
4 eggs, slightly beaten
1 tsp gluten free vanilla
1 cup unsweetened, natural applesauce
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line 2, 12 each, muffin tins with paper liners, or grease thoroughly.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sorghum flour, garbanzo bean flour, tapioca starch, xanthan gum, cinnamon, cream of tartar, allspice, salt and palm of sugar. (I keep an airtight container full of palm sugar that I have broken up thoroughly in a blender.  It's handy to have it always accessible.)   

In a larger bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, applesauce, and oil.  Add to this mixture the dry ingredients and mix until just blended.  Fold in the chopped pecans.

Fill each muffin cup 3/4 full.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Author's note*
After splitting one butternut squash in half length-wise, I sprinkled salt on top and baked it in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes.  Then I used my food processor to blitz it into a pulp.  I opted to leave the skin on, as I know that is where a lot of the immune-boosting vitamins and minerals live.  The texture of the muffins is not affected in the slightest.

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I look forward to any and all comments from readers. Feel free to correct me, enlighten me, and encourage me!