Sunday, September 28, 2014

Belated Update: The Sequel

It got worse.  Turns out that phytic acid is in most of the things that are good for you to eat.  It's in seeds, nuts, grains, brown rice, berries, beans/legumes...  That discovery wasn't the worst part, though.

No, the worst part was the day I realized that Mr. Adorable wasn't the only one who was allergic to phytic acid.  So was his older sister, who had been suffering undiagnosed for 7 years.  (Sorry, kiddo!)

After that realization, things changed in my kitchen.  We discovered that if we were careful, my two youngest kids could still eat all the things we love.  We lower the phytic acid content in the foods we eat however we can (by sprouting, soaking, cooking, and/or sometimes simple portion control), keep an eye on their daily phytic acid intake, and make sure they get lots of vinegar, kefir, and yogurt in their diets to combat the phytic acid their growing bodies do have to process.

It's a lifestyle.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Belated Update

Remember this post? I was so proud of myself for figuring out what my son is allergic to that I couldn't wait to share it with the blog world, and I put up that post the next day.

In contrast, it's taken me almost two years to get around to writing this post...yes, this one. The "I-was-only-partly-right-which-also-means-I-was-partly-wrong" post. It's been a little bit harder (for my pride, among other things) to find the time to write this one, and it would have been a lot of work to go back and edit the other. (Although if I had rewritten it, I wouldn't have to admit that I was wrong...Ah ha! That's it! I'm writing this post because I'm honest. NOT because I'm lazy. Yep. That's the motivation behind this. I'm glad we cleared that up. Now, moving on...)

Not long after posting "Grandma Was Onto Something" I discovered that there was much more to Mr. Adorable's allergy than to just the bran of the wheat tribe Triticeae. Such a painful discovery for him; such a humbling discovery for me.

My laziness played a key part in the discovery. After concluding that it was the Triticeae wheat bran that was the issue, I quit soaking the oatmeal we were eating almost daily for breakfast. Suddenly, Mr. Adorable began having allergic reactions almost daily again. I was more than a little confused. Oatmeal doesn't have the Triticeae bran in it, so by my calculations it should have been safe for him to eat.

Until I realized that they had something very basic in common. Phytic acid.

And that's a whole 'nother issue entirely...and it'll have to wait until another blog post.

Because it gets worse...

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Grandma Was Onto Something

Most of the time, the word eventually does not mean the next day.  However, circumstances being what they are, an exception is warranted.  Circumstances meaning, in this particular case, that my excitement levels are so high that I want to write this post right now, and I want to begin by sharing with you that my grandma drank straight vinegar on occasion.  That's a little strange, I know, but it's important, so stay with me on this one!

In my last post, I shared that my two-year-old son has a wheat allergy.  More specifically, he is allergic to the bran of the tribe Triticeae, which includes wheat, barley, and rye.  This presented an opportunity for me to branch out and experiment with new and different grains for baking and cooking.  I wasn't looking forward to the challenge as much as I could have, so I decided to go ahead and experiment with something I was already trying to incorporate into my new cooking style.  (And no, I was not experimenting with serving my family straight vinegar...)

We really like our whole wheat bread around here.  We like whole wheat flour in our cakes, cookies, pizza dough, tortillas, and cinnamon rolls, too.  It's the only kind of flour I use, actually.  Whole wheat kernels are full of good things, like vitamin E, four different proteins (albumin, globulin, gliadin, and gluten), B vitamins in abundance, fiber, and minerals.  The problem is that within 24 hours of grinding wheat into flour, up to 40% of those nutrients have become rancid, and within 72 hours, up to 80% of them have oxidized and turned rancid.  After I learned all this, I bought a grain mill, and it is amazing to me how much fresher and better tasting whole wheat flour is when it is freshly ground!

However, whether I use freshly ground whole wheat flour or not, my son is still allergic to the bran.

Shortly after my son was born, a friend introduced me to the concept of soaking different grains and flours before using them, and after I bought my grain mill this spring, I decided it was worth a try.  We loved the results, and I began to experiment with converting our favorite recipes to use the soaking method.  I hadn't gotten very far when we discovered my son's wheat allergy.  It was an issue I hadn't seen coming, and I didn't know how to best handle it.  I want him to be able to have the best food I can offer, including whole grains, but I don't want him to suffer, either.  As I was thinking about a day a few months ago that we'd spent at my friend's house, (the same friend who introduced me to the soaking method), I realized that I had given my son some of her freshly baked bread for lunch, and I couldn't remember him having an allergic reaction after eating it!

So I experimented on the poor kid.  I took a recipe that he had reacted to only a few days before we determined what exactly he was allergic to, and I soaked (for more than 12 hours) the freshly ground wheat flour in the buttermilk it called for.

He did not have an allergic reaction!

After a little more research into the soaking method, I know exactly why:
Phosphorus in the bran of whole grains is tied up in a substance called phytic acid.  Phytic acid combines with iron, calcium, magnesium, copper and zinc in the intestinal tract, blocking their absorption.  Whole grains also contain enzyme inhibitors that can interfere with digestion.  Traditional societies usually soak or ferment their grains before eating them, processes that neutralize phytates and enzyme inhibitors and, in effect, predigest grains so that all their nutrients are more available.  (Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions, p. 25)
She goes on to add that soaking or fermenting grains prior to consuming them has allowed many people who are allergic to certain grains to tolerate them well.  My son can attest to that, and my grandma, (the one with the wheat allergy), was onto something after all!

My grandma would drink straight vinegar as soon as she could after accidentally or unavoidably ingesting wheat, and her allergy symptoms were either alleviated or avoided.  It worked for her, and I think it's because vinegar is one of the acid mediums that can be used in soaking different grains and legumes!  (I'm thinking that pickles might do the same thing for a two-year-old, too, should he accidentally eat something he shouldn't.)

So, while my son is still allergic to wheat bran, if I soak the whole wheat before I use it, he can eat it anyway.  He will still have to be careful what he eats away from home, but my otherwise healthy, happy boy can still have his cake... and bread... and cinnamon rolls... and pizza crust... and tortillas... because his mommy has discovered a way for him to be able to eat them, too!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Another Change

I have a lot of cookbooks. (All but the five newest ones are pictured here. Scroll to the bottom for the big picture.) See? I have a lot of cookbooks. I actually use some of them. One of the projects on my to-do list is to go through them and weed out the ones I will never use again, but that project is way down the list. I have other priorities.

I have grocery shopping to do, meals to plan, and easy, healthy snacks to stock up on. Eating real food means a lot more prep work. The vegetables arrive in my kitchen in their whole forms, the milk has separated and needs shaken, the yogurt and buttermilk need to be cultured, the eggs need to be picked up from the farm, the meat needs cooked, and the grains need to be ground (and sometimes soaked, but more on that later, in another blog post.) And that doesn't include housework, or laundry, or errands, or yard work...

It is sometimes a challenge to convert our favorite recipes to more healthy versions of their former selves, but it has been a challenge that I have welcomed. (Don't tell anyone, but it's actually kind of fun!) This past week, though, my long-time suspicions were confirmed, and I added a new kind of challenge to my adventures in cooking.

My red-headed two-year-old son has a wheat allergy. He's also allergic to barley and rye. That's the easiest way to explain it, but he's really only allergic to the bran of each grain, and only if he actually eats it. While I am relieved that it is not a gluten allergy, or even an allergy to the rest of the whole grain, I am beginning to recognize how much time and effort it's going to take to work this little "hiccup" into the way I cook. I am also grateful that I do not have to eliminate oatmeal, wheat germ, or whole wheat pasta from our pantry, and we can even still eat out if we're so inclined.

My first step this week toward making our favorite recipes still usable was to substitute ground oatmeal for whole wheat flour when a recipe called for it in a small amount, since I already have oatmeal on hand. That's worked pretty well so far. I am also beginning to experiment with soaking the whole wheat flour every time I use it, which is actually better for all of us anyway. (Read more about soaking grains in this blog post from Lindsay at Passionate Homemaking. Or just wait. I'll get around to talking about it here...eventually.) Wouldn't it be neat if what is good for all of us ends up being something Mr. Adorable can eat too? (Please notice that I didn't say easier...just neat!) If soaking the wheat flour doesn't neutralize the bran enough for Mr. Adorable's system to process it without a reaction, then I will begin to experiment with alternative flours and grains.

My red-headed Grandma had a wheat allergy, too, which I actually never comprehended as a child. When she ate piles of frosting off of family members' birthday cakes, I thought she just really, really liked frosting, and I thought it was pretty cool that she could get away with doing that. I wonder now what she would have given to be able to eat a piece of cake, too.

Mr. Adorable is going to have his cake, and eat it too. Because I have the resources and the willpower to make sure it happens, no matter what kinds of flour end up inside that cake!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Zucchini Pizza

I made Zucchini Pizza tonight for dinner.

Well, okay, I substituted yellow squash for the zucchini because it was all I had on hand, but the zucchini/squash factor is what is spectacular here.  When I was younger, when anyone asked if I had any allergies, I tended to reply, "Yes, but only to zucchini", (and pretty much anything else that could qualify as part of the squash family, too).  Can you keep a secret?  I'm not really allergic to zucchini.  I wanted to be, though.  Oh, how I wanted to be.  I cheered when the slugs got into my grandma's garden crop of zucchini, and teased her about planting it just for them.  The smell of any squash cooking was enough to send me running from the house, gagging.  I've been known to turn down perfectly delicious-looking cake, bread, and muffins because of those suspicious specks of green in them.  Sometimes, I could choke down zucchini raw, if and only if it was smothered in Ranch Dressing first.  Zucchini and I have had, well, hate/hate relationship.

I think that might change this summer.  Maybe.

A few months ago, after reading through quite a few blog posts on the subject, I started avoiding High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), or "high frucshish corn syrup", as my five-year-old calls it.  It was harder to avoid than I had thought, and I became an avid ingredient label reader in my quest to determine which products to continue buying and which to stop buying.  And as I read those labels, I began to wonder about those other ingredients that were listed (and those that are unlisted, like pesticides).  Are they really good for us?  Are they even necessary?  Some of them aren't even pronounceable!  My curiosity was piqued, and my quest began.

I started my search online, reading articles, reviews of books, and, of course, more blogs.  In the course of my research, I came across a book called The Maker's Diet by Jordan Rubin.  The connection of diet and God intrigued me, so I decided to look into it.  (Literally!  Amazon has that neat feature where you can actually read parts of books.)  It looked like too much of one man's experience and not enough of what I wanted, so I kept looking around Amazon.  I got side-tracked by the title of a book by the same author, The Maker's Diet for Weight-Loss.  (What mother of four with some weight to lose wouldn't get side-tracked by a title like that?!?)  I used the same neat "pre-read" feature, and found almost instantly that that book wasn't for me either.  However, the time I spent researching Jordan Rubin's books was not wasted, because on one of the pages in The Maker's Diet for Weight Loss, he quoted from a book called What the Bible Says About Healthy Living by Rex Russell, M.D.  

What the Bible Says About Healthy Living appeared to be a book about not just living healthfully, but eating healthfully as well.  The reviews showed it to be a book based on Biblical truths, written by a man who not only is a Christian, but who has his M.D. and is diabetic.  (Diabetes runs heavily in my family, so that last word, diabetic, really caught my attention!)  All of the qualifications I was looking for, all wrapped up in one author!  I ordered a copy of the book, and while I waited for it to arrive, we went to the library.

First I checked out and read Real Food; What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck.  I learned about things like cholesterol (which I have never understood until now!), why eggs and milk are good for us, and how "they" raise and feed the meat we eat.  It was an interesting book, but as one online critic pointed out, the author's sole qualifications are that "she grew up on a farm and her parents served good food, she is healthy and she has managed/owned greenmarket stores".  I also hesitated to take everything she wrote at face value for the simple reason that she accepted as fact the theory of evolution.  If she ignores even the existence of our Creator, how can I possibly trust her to guide me in my quest to eat right? 

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, was also very interesting (although also written from an evolutionist viewpoint), and better written (and researched) than Real Food.  It seemed to cover the same ground as Real Food did, but the last third of the book delved into more of how we Americans eat instead of what we eat.  The author gives advice such as "Eat meals."  "Eat at a table.  No, a desk is not a table."  "Don't get your fuel from the same place your car does."  "Try not to eat alone."  "Eat slowly."  I really enjoyed that book (you can read my friend Amy's take on it here), but the same principle applied; the author ignored even the existence of our Creator.

After I had already finished both of those books, What the Bible Says About Healthy Living came in the mail.  It was refreshing and fascinating!  (You can read another, more detailed review here.)  The text is easy to read, liberally sprinkled with Bible verses and references (as a book entitled "What the Bible Says About..."  should be!), and equal parts "ewwww factor" and funny.  And it is filled with plain-spoken, sensible advice, such as this portion (which inspired this blog's title):

"Smile, but don't join them in eating what you know God did not create for food.  Then eat - with enthusiasm - a lot of the right kinds of unprocessed food - food that is designed for you.  These words will start creeping into your vocabulary: 'I feel good.'"

The knowledge I had accumulated through all of my reading and research was beginning to affect the way I was thinking about food.  I had made a slow start already in avoiding HFCS, but as a result of my new-found knowledge, I made some drastic changes in my shopping and buying habits, big changes in my recipes, and really big changes in my kitchen.  I actually spend time in there now.  Cooking, of all things.

What kinds of changes?  I'm so glad you asked!  (Humor me, pretend you asked...)

I started buying organic produce (when I can), and LOTS more of it.  I shop mostly in the produce section, and hit the center aisles of the grocery store for things like toiletry and hygiene products, and dried beans.  I get farm-fresh eggs from a friend of a friend, and I go out of my way to buy organic, non-homogenized milk and grass-fed beef.  I visit the dreaded Wal-Mart to pick up organic, vegetarian chicken (organic, pastured non-vegetarian chicken would be better, but we buy the best that we can find!).  I've cut out all white and brown sugars, and substitute honey or maple syrup instead.  I asked for a grain mill for my birthday, and I now grind my own wheat (I've completely cut out white flour).  I replaced all the non-stick, Teflon-y pots and pans in my kitchen with glass, cast-iron, or stainless steel.  I actually cook now.  Real food.  Including things like Zucchini Pizza.

Zucchini season is almost here, and for the first time in my life, I'm looking forward to being offered the surplus from my friends' gardens.

"Extra zucchini you need to give away?  Sure, I'll take some!  Hm, let's see...I'll start, well,"

Some old habits die harder than others.