Starting a Sea of Supplements

Drops of blood spurted out as I sliced my finger with the knife. Red drops dotted the bottom of the stainless steel sink and the bright orange carrot I’d been trying to cut in mid-air.

I sighed. How long is this going to take to clean up, I muttered. I tried wrapping my finger in a paper towel to stop the bleeding, but a puddle of red seeped through. I cursed; I was going to have to take the time to run upstairs, clean the cut and find a Band-Aid.

Logan’s favorite breakfast, pumpkin pancakes

It was already 5:35 a.m., and I still had to mix Logan’s pumpkin pancakes, cook them, and get the roast in the crock pot for supper that night. I still had to spoon his CocoYo yogurt into a thermos to bring as a snack. And, of course, I hadn’t packed a lunch for myself yet.

This was Monday morning. The rest of the week went much the same–without the finger slicing but with the addition of Logan and Sadie standing in the kitchen, wanting to play, from about 5:40 on. Both cases mean less time to put together lunch, breakfast, two snacks for Logan and a lunch for myself for the day.

But other than crazy mornings, we’ve been plugging along steadily with GAPS. We’ve gotten to add some delicious new foods, like fermented vegetables and pumpkin pancakes, which we told Logan are special Halloween pancakes. We’ve also started making our own coconut milk.

I barely stomach dry, boiled chicken anymore, but with boiled carrots and fermented red cabbage, it’s suddenly delicious.

The pancakes have lead to a little more wiggle room with breakfasts, though snacks are still pretty boring. We have two options: the CocoYo yogurt (that I’m not entirely sure is legal in this stage) and the Peppermint Gummies I wrote about last time.

Results are also back from Logan’s blood and urine analysis tests, and we met with his MAPS doctor to discuss any abnormalities. Little surprise, there are quite a few.

“His thiamine levels are low, and his B-vitamin levels are low, and he has a high need for glutathione.” The doctor dived right in. “His need for a few B-vitamins is a potential indication of some methylation needs.”

I’ve been reading about nutritional supplements, the methylation process and other biomedical treatments for autism for the past year — basically nonstop, in fact. I have piles of articles and studies I’ve printed out with highlights and summary notes, where I’ve translated the scientific jargon into my own words. I thought I understood it all fairly well. Yet, sitting in that insanely hot exam room, I felt like I was drowning in it all. Magnesium glycinate what? Orthomolecular intestinal huh?

11 supplements (some twice a day) ... is this too much of an overload?

11 supplements (some twice a day) … is this too much of an overload?

When it was all over, the doctor had given us recommendations to begin seven new supplements — on top of the four Logan already takes – and had ordered four additional tests. On my drive home, I couldn’t help but think about all the other articles I’d read, the ones on gullible parents spending a fortune on worthless “cures” for autism when of course everyone knows there isn’t one.

But isn’t there? I then think about Joanna, the woman I met from White Bear Lake, whose two sons are no longer on the spectrum due to dietary changes and supplements. And all the stories, like Quinn’s and Darren’s, from Talking About Curing Autism Now, that offer evidence some children do recover from autism from diet and therapy.

Even as I flip-flop between feeling gullible and progressive, Logan’s new pills now pile on our kitchen counter, and looking at them, I’m filled with either dread or hope, depending on my mood. We’ve separated them into a pill box to keep a week’s worth all organized. But still. Not only are they expensive – yet another recurring cost each month, this one about $200 – there’s just so many of them. I can’t fathom having to swallow that many pills every day for the rest of my life. Right now, Logan’s really excited about them – Jason’s been telling him the’re super pills. Will the novelty wear off once Logan realizes these are for the long haul?

At least the diet has an end date. We’re still lingering in Stage 3, but soon we’ll move into Stage 4. We simply have to. I admit I’m filled with dread more often than hope lately, and that part of me that wants to quit seems to grow bigger every day. This diet is hard. The supplements seem insurmountable. And my chest feels gripped by a tight fist that’s making it harder and harder to breath. Some days, I simply can’t tell if this a better alternative to junk food and meltdowns.

Feeling: Clueless

The one good thing from this week is we discovered Logan LOVES Halloween pancakes!

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 can of purred pumpkin
  • Dash of cinnamon

Blend ingredients (Jason uses a blender; I just use a fork). Grease skillet with coconut fat (we save the fat that solidifies when we make coconut milk to use). Drop small dollops of batter onto a hot skillet and cook — like regular pancakes, little air bubbles pop up in the center when they’re ready to be flipped.

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Week 19: A bare cupboard

My alarm clock chimed at 5 a.m.  But not for me to get up and run (especially not since it was -50 degrees outside in Minneapolis) but for me to get up and cook.  Cook.  Ugggghhh.

I tried to be optimistic as I slipped on my slippers and robe.  I had an hour to cook Logan breakfast and lunch to send to daycare, leaving me 30 minutes to shower and dress before I had to wake the kids.  Plenty of time.  I found a pancake recipe in my GFCF cookbook, one where I actually had all of the ingredients (buckwheat flour, baking powder, corn oil, salt, vanilla, water.  Well, I actually didn’t have corn oil.  But I had coconut oil.).  I mixed and stirred confidently, until my batter looked like this:

GFCFSugarF Pancake batter

My batter … so far, so good …

Note the pretty picture next to it.  The recipe said “if needed, add water until batter loosens slightly.”  That was odd, I thought, since my batter was super thin and watery–I felt I needed to add more flour so the pancakes would actually be thicker than the paper the recipe was printed on.  Anyway, I’ll skip over the long, whiny story.  Here’s what they ended up looking like:

Not enough swear words in the world for these …

Nothing like the pretty picture above.  I couldn’t possibly feed these to Logan, and now it was 6:15 a.m.  I still hadn’t showered.  I had thrown together a lunch for him, though, of leftover GFCF chicken strips my husband had made for dinner the night before, and packed three small containers of vegetables: cabbage, green beans, and squash.  He’s been doing a pretty good job of eating all his veggies at home for dinner–though I suspect not so much at daycare.  And luckily, I can get ready in under 15 minutes (refusing to wear make-up or do anything beyond brushing my hair really comes in handy some days).  I’ll simply tell daycare to cook him some of the gluten-free oatmeal I had given them as back-up, I decided.  If pancakes like the ones above don’t justify a back-up, nothing does.

This scenario repeated pretty much all five days last week, though one day I successfully made scrambled eggs to send.

Out other food adventure this week was eating out for the first time since beginning our diet journey.  We went to Buffalo Wild Wings, which Logan had always referred to as “the mac and cheese restaurant,” since that’s what he ordered the first time we were there…and, therefore, the only thing he orders every time.

“They don’t have that anymore,” we told Logan as we pulled into the parking lot.  “You’ll have to order chicken.”

I’ll spare you a video clip of the meltdown that followed that.  But, amazingly, after about 10 minutes he calmed down and agreed to order and eat chicken.  And we ended up having actually a great meal, and because his chicken strips were “naked,” with no breading, the it was also acceptable for the diet.

So dinners so far have been a win, lunches have been about even, and breakfasts utter failures.  But we’ve only been on this strict phase of the diet for about two weeks, and just the last week while I am back to work full time.  It’ll either get easier as we get into routine, or it’ll get harder as I lack more and more sleep.

And is it working?  Is it worth it?  So far, it’s hard to tell.  Logan had an awful week, with minimal focus and maximum aggression.  But a number of things were working against him.  It was his first week back to daycare after two weeks’ vacation.  He was still getting over strep and an ear infection, and he had picked up a cold.  He’d been taking antibiotics, which likely killed off all the good bacteria we’d been building up in his gut.  And, to make matters worse, he also turned out to be allergic to the medication, so his skin is covered in a red, blotchy rash.  He looks awful, and I imagine he must be feeling pretty poor inside, too.  I hope that as the rash fades away, after he’s back to healthy, and after he’s back in the routine of daycare and preschool, we’ll be able to assess if his behavior is more social, empathetic, and regulated–and if the diet is a likely cause of those changes.

And as Logan’s adjusting, I hope we adjust, too.  I hope I get better at cooking and it becomes a more natural part of the day.  And I hope we can find more items and recipes he can eat.  With not-OK foods on top and OK foods on bottom, our pantry now looks pretty bare.

Feeling: A bit like Old Mother Hubbard

Week 15: Let the baking begin

For someone who’s never really cooked, December was a veritable cooking and baking storm.  Early in the month, the kids and I visited my mom’s house, and the first casein-free, gluten-free, sugar-free foods we tried to make were pancakes.

Who needs measuring spoons?

Who needs measuring spoons?

Let me start by saying there is a reason I am such an awful cook*.  My mom and I had a few options.  She had found a packaged pancake mixture that said it was gluten-, dairy-, and sugar-free, but its directions also called for you to add milk and sugar yourself.  I also had a recipe from Elena’s Pantry, which was gluten- and dairy-free, but not sugar-free, and I had a recipe from a blog called Tula’s Story that follows the same restrictions.  The only problem with that was it called for a few ingredients we didn’t have.

But, we figured, why let that stop us.  Ingredients are more like suggestions than requirements, right?

We needed:

  • ½ cup organic pureed pumpkin (Check—except the can my mom had in her pantry listed 4 grams of sugar, which is natural sugar and pretty low, so we made an exception)
  • ½ cup organic peanut butter (Check, though my mom grimaced when she took a bite of it—it needs sugar, she said.)
  • 4 tablespoons ground flax (Hmm…I’m not sure what this is, nor do we have it.  Oh, well.)
  • 6 eggs (Amazingly, check!)
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon (Check!)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder (Check.  Wait, no—baking powder is different from baking soda, we realized.  We only have baking soda.)

We tried searching online for substitutes for baking powder and found we could use a combination of baking soda and cream of tartar instead, but of course, we didn’t have that, either.  So we shrugged, sprinkled in a small amount of baking soda, and called it good enough.

Everything blended nicely, and Logan and Sadie had fun helping us mix.  Then we ladled our batter onto the griddle, and crossed our fingers.

And who would have guessed—they turned out just fine.  Well, we’ll say just OK.  Mom didn’t like them, but I suspect she was wanting them to taste like pancakes should taste and be light and fluffy like pancakes are supposed to be.  They weren’t very light, and they didn’t taste like pancakes, butter, and maple syrup.  They tasted like peanut butter, mostly.  But Logan and Sadie ate them and didn’t even ask for syrup (which I had—sugar-free!)  All in all, it was a pretty good start to a holiday baking season.

Feeling: Light-hearted

*Love you, Mom!

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