It’s no wonder we have the health problems we do in this country, when we are chronically misinformed about what it means to have a “healthy” diet, when we assault our immune systems with “whole grains,” such as wheat, wheat and more wheat, day in and day out.
Did you grow up with the stack of “Wonderful” Bread on the table at dinner every evening, after you had a “Wonderful” Bread sandwich (likely made with processed bologna) in the lunch your mom lovingly packed for you, and likely after “Wonderful” Bread toast for breakfast? That’s what I call “Stacking” (TM). And even though we’ve perhaps graduated from “Wonderful” Bread-type products, many of us eat our “Wheatie-fuls” or a bagel for breakfast, think we’re doing something better than the local Burger Barn and get a “sub” for lunch, grab a soda and a crunchy Dorito-ey-licious snack mid-afternoon to battle the slump, and then go home to enjoy pasta with bread for dinner.
I mean, YUM! But WOW!
Eating that way twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, nearly 365 days a year is extremely stressful (and/or over-stimulating) to the immune system, and can result in frequent bouts with allergies and seasonal illness—for my son, it was chronic croup that developed into mild asthma. For me, over twelve years ago now, it was chronic sinus infections, yearly respiratory illness including bronchitis and progressive asthma, which resulted in a couple “Z-Pack” prescriptions per year, followed by dreaded yeast infections.
For my husband, scarier, more progressive health issues persisted, exacerbated by the incredible job stress he was under. As a former firefighter, likely with a compromised respiratory system because of it, the stakes were much higher. He had two episodes of A-Fib (Atrial Fibrillation, which puts sufferers at a dramatically increased risk of stroke), and he battled walking pneumonia, often two to three bouts per season. For him, the season seemed to start earlier and last longer year after year.
Weight alone, however, much to the befuddlement of the Dr. Ozes of the world, isn’t always a reliable indicator of wellness. So for the purposes of this article, allow me to define wellness as getting through cold and flu season with no episodes of cold or flu, and NO antibiotics. It is POSSIBLE, even if you aren’t considered ideal weight, and it’s something I’ve managed to avoid for over twelve years. It's something my grandfather did for 100. This is an idea I love, and one (knock on wood) we’ve managed to achieve thus far this season, my husband included. This past winter was his second without walking pneumonia and without antibiotics. My son is ten-years-old and has been on antibiotics only once in his entire life. That was during our first season in San Diego, when his body was likely adjusting to new and different regional pathogens. Our family was under an incredible amount of stress with all the adjustments, which didn't help any of us, because stress has a chemical impact on our bodies.
I have discovered and incorporated some important dietary adjustments with my son, however resistant my husband remained to the same changes for himself (when I wasn’t watching). So what do we do, what have we changed in order to achieve our definition of wellness?
Perhaps you’ve already gotten help that’s lead you to put your child on a gluten free diet, but it hasn’t exactly provided the magic solution you’d hoped for. It's important to note that many of the gluten free swaps available are simply processed garbage of another sort. They may not contain gluten, but they contain a variety of starches that offer very little in the way of good things (fiber, protein, essential nutrients) to put in the body, and they're often higher in sugar, fat, sodium, and empty calories to make up for what they lack in taste and texture.
If these are things that typically land in your grocery cart, there's so much more to solving the puzzle than simply going gluten free, or than simply looking for the pseudo “whole grains” on processed and packaged foods. If the nutrients are first stripped from the ingredients, and then must be artificially added back in or "fortified," that’s not real food, and it shouldn’t comprise the majority of anyone’s diet.
We chose in early infancy not to rely on drugs with our son, and we successfully support behavior issues and improve his function in school with diet and by limiting sugar and avoiding many chemicals that pose as *food*. We put lots of good things IN, and avoid all the bad we can. That’s not to say we don’t buy cereal or kid snacks or indulge in pizza, hot dogs (OM Selects—no nitrates or nitrites, which are very bad for the heart, Natural Choice is another option with no nitrates or nitrites), or cupcakes on occasion, but one key thing for my son's wellness is knowing that he requires a good source of animal protein with his carbs, or his body simply can’t process them in a way that allows him to be in control of his choices and his focus.
Maybe once a week or less, my son used to choose Chex cereal, for instance. I'd mix that with Perky’s Crunch Flax with Chia to reduce the sugar grams he was getting per serving, and the chia boosts the protein grams. And no, I didn’t love the GMOs, but sometimes we must pick our battles, it wasn't something he ate daily because VARIETY is our focus, and we balance those carbs with protein, always, especially at breakfast. We've since compared labels and both reduced sugar grams and chosen a corn cereal that's a member of the Non GMO Project in Enviro-Kidz Amazon Flakes. My son gets a local, farm fresh egg (including duck eggs when they’re available) and some varied source of meat with a SMALL bowl of cereal or with his small serving of gluten-free pancakes (with added milled flax) or waffles with a little pure maple syrup (no HFCS fake stuff of the appealing “Aunt” variety) for breakfast every morning. He still gets to be a kid, but we’ve always fed him more like an adult and his palate is sophisticated and varied because of it. These are the most important ways I keep my particular kid well, and may be helpful to keep in mind with your kids, too. Ours is a kid who eats a veggie-filled omelet on occasion, breakfast tacos, fish that isn’t breaded, craves salad, eats sautéed spinach, beans, and a variety of vegetables …but not broccoli, and not mushrooms, he hates those, and says, “My taste will never change on mushrooms, Mom. They’re disgusting!”
A great deal of my energy goes to grocery shopping, to sourcing and preparing food. I go to a great deal of thought and effort to incorporate VARIETY into our diet, in particular where carbs are concerned, but we also consciously rotate the meats we eat. If I get lazy, my son and husband tend to get mild to not-so-mild illnesses. We work hard to eat whole food blends and we vary our intake of brown rice, certified gluten-free oats, organic corn, quinoa, teff, millet, buckwheat, etc. (buckwheat is gluten free and is not related to wheat. If you're not gluten-free, you can work-in organic sources of 100% whole wheat, spelt, and kamut). We rotate meatless meals, as well as several meals a week that don’t contain any grains, including experimenting with things like coconut flour and almond meal, and we vary the brands of the products we typically buy. This practice keeps us all much healthier, and my son hasn’t had an episode of croup in ages. The last time he did, I knew exactly why.
Does it take thoughtfulness, work and planning? It does. Was it difficult to get my husband to participate in these ideas? It was for him personally, but never for our son. He was always more than willing to do whatever worked best to help our son succeed in school, remain unmedicated, stay well, and he's always supported my experimenting. There’s nothing like being defibrillated six times, however, to make a man sit up and take notice on his own behalf. I hope that will never be necessary for the ones you love, and I hope I’ve given you something to think about to help keep your family well during cold, flu, and allergy season.
Be on the lookout for my first GANE Possible Publication, Beating the Statistics: A Mother's Quest to Reclaim Fertility, Halt Autism & Help Her Child Grow from Behavior Failure to Behavior Success. I hope to release it by late fall, 2014.
Yours in Wellness Always,
--Kim Jorgensen Gane, (c) 2014, all rights reserved
UPDATE 07/17/14 -- Happy birthday to ME: Holy Gluten Free Gravy!! I hope you'll check out my new find, Kelly @KitchenKop (do follow her on Twitter), who is from Grand Rapids, MICHIGAN(!), and her amazing weekly Blog Hop, Real Food Wednesdays! I just joined up, and hope to do a lot more of it in the future! What a powerful network of liberals and conservatives alike=truth seekers in FOOD!
*GANEPossible.com is an anecdotal website and in no way intends to diagnose, treat, prevent or otherwise influence the medical decisions of its readers. I am not a doctor, I do not recommend going off prescribed medications without the advice and approval of a qualified practitioner, and I do not recommend changing your diet or your exercise routine without first consulting your doctor. These are merely my life experiences, and what has and hasn't worked for me and my family. You must be your own best medical advocate and that of your children, and seek to find the practitioner with whom you have the best rapport and in whose advice and care you can entrust your health and medical decisions.