Wednesday, October 7, 2009

If you teach me, I can do anything

Recipe: Black Bean Brownies

The question of ‘is it worth eating’ became more acute when I had children. It soon became clear that feeding them what most other kids were eating wasn’t working. They both spit up all over everything and everyone in geysers, had chronic diarrhea, my oldest couldn’t sit still for more than a minute at a time on a good day, my youngest had intermittent diaper rash that looked like a chemical burn.

Tired of the constant smell of baby vomit, I began to read. Visited holistic health practitioners. Looked everywhere I could think of in search of something to help.

Going on an elimination diet myself to see if I could alleviate my younger son’s reflux and diaper rash in reaction to my milk, I found the answer. Hallelujah! The reflux was caused by anything with flavor. Except salt. He was okay with salt. Otherwise what worked to calm down his belly was chicken, rice, avocado and romaine lettuce. The diaper rash was caused by gluten. That’s wheat, rye, barley, and some oats.

We tried taking gluten out of my older boy’s diet, too, and found his diarrhea cleared up. We were onto something.

The discovery I wasn’t so thrilled about, came when I challenged the elimination diet to see what my youngest reacted to.

I reacted to the dairy and gluten. Immediately.

I decided to ignore it.

As my son grew older and wasn’t depending on my milk for as much of his nourishment, I began to eat more freely.

Especially as it became evident that my oldest was in need of some intervention. I eat when under stress.

He was in kindergarten at our local Waldorf school, and his teacher said she wasn’t sure how he was going to manage first grade. He wasn’t required to sit at a desk in Kindergarten, so the fact that he couldn’t focus for longer than three seconds on a task wasn’t an issue. But first grade would be a different matter.

I did an internet search using his symptoms as the parameters, and got hit after hit on ADHD. I didn’t like it. My husband didn’t believe it. But we couldn’t ignore it.

I read everything I could. My instinct is to avoid drugs whenever possible, and totally value them when they become necessary. And I wasn’t convinced that ADHD automatically equalled ritalin, or whatever other pharmaceutical was being offered kids with this diagnosis. In fact, I wasn’t even planning to tell our doctor if I could avoid it. Besides which, after all the research I was doing it became clear that ‘ADHD’ was just an umbrella diagnosis that was used for so many different issues that people could have - sensory processing issues, lack of vestibular development, sleep apnea, food intolerances... the list went on.

Fish oil, probiotics, magnesium, homeopathics, and avoiding sugar were all pieces of advice that were easily implemented. And didn’t show much results. Some, but not very dramatic.

When I shared that a glass of juice sent him careening out of his dinner seat to do manic gyrations on the living room carpet, someone recommended the Feingold program. The juice contained something called salicylates (isn’t that aspirin?), and artificial additives were likely to be problematic for him as well if he was having trouble with this compound.

I was in despair. Frustrated. Tired. I’d break into tears at the drop of a hat, unrelated to the time of the month. Why couldn’t it be simple?

But, he was my son. I’d nursed him through dire emergencies before, and I could figure this one out, too.

If you teach me, I can do anything.

Within five days of starting the program, which is a strangely restrictive elimination diet avoiding, among other things, artificial additives, peppers, cucumbers, almonds, stone fruit and berries, apples, grapes, and all derivitives of the above, he...

Calmed Down.

We almost didn’t know what to do. We’d gotten so used to this constant chaotic kinetic force in our home, it was a little bewildering at first.

About a week later his teacher said ‘what did you do to this child?’. We’d told her we were changing his diet (again), but even with that information, she couldn’t believe the dramatic results.

It took about a month or more to completely integrate the new regimen into our household. I learned to read the ingredient lists on all foods I bought. I had to shop with the Feingold shopping guide listing researched products, because so many of the offending substances were listed simply as ‘spices’ or ‘flavors’, or were used to treat the packaging and not the food itself, and so were not listed at all. A fifteen minute shopping trip became a 45 minute to one hour ordeal, with a two and six year old in tow. I was staying up until one or two in the morning every night to research. Research. Research.

I was exhausted.

But, as mentioned before, if you teach me, I can do anything. And, cook that I am, I figured out how to make it taste good.

He’s a third grader now, still on the program, and doing extremely well. He still has a ton of energy, but he’s learning how to channel it productively. He’s bright, and very present. A frighteningly talented musician.

And a touch of paprika will still send him bouncing off the first and second walls he meets, and disturb his sleep for two nights.

He’s one of my heroes. His willingness to stick with the program, and learn about himself and how to manage his energy is humbling. I don’t have half the discipline he has in terms of my own eating restrictions (remember the ‘I ignored it’ comment above). I feel sad when I reflect that he has not had the carefree childhood I would have wished for him. I wish more was in my control. I wish I had more patience with his wild edges. But the fact is evident to both of us, we can only do our best. Perfection is a fantasy. And he knows I’m his ally.

And, he thanks me often for making it taste good.

I made these last weekend. I’d been hearing about them for a few months, and finally had to try them.

Black Bean Brownies
gluten, grain, dairy (if you use the coconut oil) and salicylate free. Not low carb.

4 oz unsweetened chocolate, or 1/4 cup raw cacao powder, or 1/3 cup toasted carob powder
1 cup butter (grass fed, if possible) or coconut oil
2 cups black beans, cooked until soft and drained (canned is fine, but sprouted before cooking is the best)
1 cup chopped walnuts, pecans or other nut of choice (I used Brazil nuts)
1 tbsp vanilla
1/2 tsp sea salt
4 eggs
1/2 cup maple syrup or other sweetener of choice

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Grease and line a 11"x18" pan with parchment paper. Or use greased muffin tins.

If using the chocolate, melt with the butter or oil in a double boiler. If using a powder 'chocolate' just melt the oil on the stove.

In food processor, puree the beans, vanilla, chocolate mix or powder, melted butter, salt and maple syrup, scraping down as necessary to make sure it’s all well mashed.

Whip the eggs until creamy.

Mix everything together.

Spread it in the pan or muffin tin (about 1.5 dozen muffins). Cook 30 - 40 minutes until set. Cool, then refrigerate. They will remain pretty soft until chilled.

Tell me if you make them!

My kids said the carob was their favorite, and the raw cacao their least. Tom liked the chocolate the best, and the raw cacao the least. (yes, I made all three)


Anonymous said...

Durga, I love your blog!! Sunny just recommended this one, seeing as I've been thinking about going through the same reginmen. Her words: "if an 8 year old can handle an elimination diet, you can too"

Durga Fuller said...

Heh - and he was six when we first changed his diet!

Let me know how it goes, okay?

Take care -

Lisa Sargese said...

I had to read your blog when I saw your name is DURGA! I love the way you write. I love the them "If you teach me I can do anything." I need to add you to my blog roll NOW!! Thanks for the delightful bean brownie recipe and for your insight into soaking methods. Lovely!

Unknown said...

Hi Durga!
I so enjoy reading your blogs! I'm a naturopathic physician in Portland, OR and I direct patients to your blog on a regular basis. Plus, I totally dig your recipes! I have a bone broth cooking as we speak! Thanks so much!!

Durga Fuller said...

Hi Allison - thanks for reading and passing it on!

Bone broth.... mmmm. We just had grass fed beef shanks with beef bone broth and pomegranate juice. So good.

I'm in pdx, too - just moved here a few months ago. I'm teaching nutrient dense, low allergen cooking classes and will be starting individualized diet transition coaching in the new year.

We should connect! Drop me a line at - I look forward to meeting you!

Durga Fuller said...

Lisa, thank you, too - things have been a little busy round here lately, not keeping up with my correspondence...

I stumbled across your blog a couple of days ago - through Cheeseslave, I think. Great work!