Thursday, July 31, 2008

ALCAT food sensitivity testing

When my son was 12 months old and I tried to wean him he became chronically sick with ear infections, colds, a blistery diaper rash and a cough and NEVER slept through the night or more than 1/2 hour for naps. When he was 14 months old I went to three doctors--two allergists and a GI doctor because I thought he had a dairy allergy. They all assured me that he didn't have any allergies and he was fine and there was nothing wrong. His diarrhea, blistery diaper rash,
foul smelling diapers got worse and worse, to the point where I sent a foul smelling diaper in to our pediatrician because it wasn't normal for poop to smell this bad. His constant sickness culminated in a high fever and antibiotic injection. After which, he lost the ability to point, wave and blow kisses and lost eye contact for 24 hours and lost the few words he had.

Because his regression was so severe with both verbal and non verbal regression, I put him on a gluten free casein free diet the next day and begged our pediatrician to get us into a GI doctor who eventually found two genes for celiac. He got better on a gluten free/casein free/soy free diet, but he still reacted to other foods. He was diagnosed by a developmental pediatrician with an "allergy syndrome" and "verbal processing delay."

A friend whose child had gotten better from dietary intervention suggested that we see Dr. Fred Pescatore, who does food allergy testing including a food sensitivity panel of 150 foods. On the ALCAT test, he was most intolerant to: oranges (something he had had ONCE in his life and had a severe reaction to.) He had a medium intolerance to: broccoli, almonds, avocado, and black pepper. When we removed these things from his diet his constant red cheeks went away and he got better.

I had tried to figure out where his reactions were coming from, but he seemed to always be reacting to something. ALCAT testing was the ONLY thing that helped us get to the bottom of his intolerances.

A year later, my son started to develop constant red cheeks again and to be sick again.My husband and I tried to figure out what was making him react. We searched labels for ingredients to try to figure out what was happening. Then, desperate, we returned to the ALCAT test to find his new intolerances: chocolate, almonds, avocado, blueberries, bananas and lemons. He was reacting to the lemon flavoring in his multivitamins and the chocolate chip cookies I made with almond flour and the bananas he would eat every few days. AGAIN, when I took these things out of his diet, he recovered from the red cheeks and subtle regression that I was observing.

In our case,the ALCAT test was an important tool that helped us figure out the foods he was sensitive to.

Allergists, with their reliance on IgE testing mainstream allergy testing DID NOT HELP MY SON. It is sad that I knew he was reacting to food and that the mainstream allergists could not give me helpful information and following their recommendations HE GOT WORSE until I found Dr. Pescatore, who did the ALCAT testing and Dr. Teich, who understood both mainstream medicine and alternative approaches.

I know the mainstream medical community's reluctance to include a test which changes over time. But, I want them to know that this test helped more than most of the doctors I have seen and it needs to be considered for patients who know they have food sensitivities but who test negative on typical allergy tests.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Granite Countertops and Radon

We are redoing our kitchen over the summer and chose a granite countertop. I was opting for a natural surface instead of an engineered because I thought that it was less likely to be recalled at some point. I never expected countertops to ACTUALLY be a problem, though. But our designer, Katy, who is overseeing the countertops called me today to say "I guess we need a different countertop..." The New York Times had an article on granite countertops emitting radiation at unsafe levels. It is funny how I chose granite because it was natural thinking it would be safer and it wasn't. We changed to a marble countertop because as Dr. Brenner said in The New York Times article. "It makes sense. If you can choose another counter that doesn't elevate your risk, however slightly, why wouldn't you?"

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Importance of Fat in Brain Development and Function

High quality fats are important for both brain development and function. Smart Fats: How Dietary Fats and Oils Affect Mental, Physical and Emotional Intelligence is a book that outlines how critical the right fats (essential fatty acids or EFA's ) are for the brain.
Our brain is over 60% fat and the myelin, important for nerve cells, is more than 70% fat. If you eat processed fats, that is what will be in your brain and it will alter the way your brain works.

According to a lecture by nutritionist Kelly Dorfman, symptoms of a essential fatty acid deficiency are: wax buildup in the ears, restlessness, dry, flaky or bumpy skin, including "permanent gooseflesh." "Albert Einstein Hair." toe walking, and excessive thirst.

If you or your child has a few of these symptoms--especially the hallmark "permanent gooseflesh," you should consider supplementing them with Essential Fatty Acids.

According to my research, Nordic Natural is the safest to use because it is tested for mercury. My kids both take 1 tsp of Omega 3 by Nordic Natural. I tried many, many fish oils including the typical '"children" fish oil. But they were all fishy. Finally we found Omega 3 and everyone I recommend it to is able to get their kids on it after being unsuccessful with other products. We purchase it over the internet because I have found the ones you find in the health food store to be rancid and smell too fishy. After it is opened, it needs to be kept in the fridge so it stays fresh.

One reason that children can become deficient in Omega 3 is that, like fish oil, they can quickly become rancid so most processed food is stripped of their Omega 3s and are loaded with Omega 6's (corn, safflower, peanut, and sunflower oil.) The balance of Omega 3's to Omega 6's is also of critical importance.

See my post on EFAs for more information.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Gluten Free in Amagansett, East Hampton and Sag Harbor

Here are our favorite kid friendly restaurants and places to shop in the area which have some gluten free food.

Babette's on Newtown Lane in East Hampton serves eggs for breakfast and has an organic, eclectic menu for lunch and dinner. They are listed with so they have some awareness of GF food.

La Fondita in Amagansett is our favorite place to go because they have picnic tables in a lush garden and there is a pond in the back, so you can catch some frogs after you eat. I order a salad, my son gets rice and beans and my daughter likes the nachos. The casual, kid friendly atmosphere and the watermelon juice make this a good place to try. It is one of the cheapest places to eat out in the area.

Hampton Chutney Company, in Amagansett Square, is another place to try. I have always been a fan of the Thali, because it reminds me of being in India. But you need to get it without the naan to make it gluten free and I think the masala dosa and curried chutney chicken, with spinach and onions are better. They were recently mentioned in the New York Times article Restaurants Offering Gluten Free Options.

Second Nature, the health food store in East Hampton carries a bunch of our favorite gluten free products: Westsoy Rice milk, Tinkyada pasta, Larabars, Candy Tree strawberry licorice, Bubbie's Pickles, and Applegate Farms organic, grass fed beef hot dogs.

Provisions is a health food store in Sag Harbor has fresh organic juices and a great atmosphere.

King Kullen in Bridgehampton also has a health food section with gluten free food as well as some organic fruits and vegetables.

Green Thumb, which is further south on 27, has local, organic fruits and vegetables. It is interesting how the more organic farm stand feels so much more old fashioned than the others. I now consider the modest harvest to be a good thing and I have come to think of pesticides and genetic modification as the testosterone of the fruit and vegetable world. Green Thumb also has a CSA drop off--in case you want to support local farmers year round.

And last weekend, tired of the playing the game of telephone with the waiter and chef, I ordered a steamed lobster at East Hampton Point. No one is dusting flour on a steamed lobster with corn on the cob...and you can get that anywhere--even at Lunch!

Quote of the Day

"Courage does not always roar.
Sometime it's the quiet voice at the end of the day saying:
'I will try again tomorrow.'"

"Excellence is the result of caring more than others think is wise,
risking more than others think is safe, dreaming more than others
think is practical and expecting more than others think is possible."

--from a lecture by Dr. Nancy O'Hara at NAA NYC

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Leslie Embersits from the MINDD foundation and Dr. Nancy O'Hara spoke at NAA NYC yesterday about how healing the gut heals the mind and the body. Research and personal experience led Leslie to create this foundation which focuses on
"pediatric disorders such as Autism, ADHD, Asthma, allergies, chronic illness, learning and language delay, and digestive and behavioural disorders. Research is showing that these children are coming from families with a history of brain-immuno-gut disorders such as allergies, digestive disorders, anxiety and depression."1

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet, outlined and explained in the book Gut and Psychology Syndrome, by Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride is central to the MINDD foundation healing philosophy. Dr. McBride is a russian trained neurogist who has a second degree in nutrition. This hard to find book can be purchased at the Celtic Salt Society. The SCD diet is a nourishing healthy diet minus grains and sugars. I found a great explanation of it on

"The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) specifically selects carbohydrates that require minimal digestion and are quickly absorbed. This leaves virtually nothing for intestinal microbes to feed on. As the microbes die-off, the harmful by-products are reduced. The gut heals and overall digestion improves, and this strengthens the immune system and good health returns."2 The Specific Carbohydrate Diet is a great thing to try if you don't see results from the gluten free
casein free diet.

It is impossible to sum up this impressive lecture, but she has an unbelievable comprehensive website you can check out at and Dr. Nancy O'Hara also has a great website.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Mint, Chamomile and Ginger Tea

I am endlessly inspired by other parents who creatively feed their kids. I went out to dinner with a mother tonight who eliminated meat and milk from her diet to solve her chronic health issues and she told me how she loves to make mint and chamomile tea for her kids to heal them. While researching mint and ginger tea I found a yogic cooking site that recommended raw onion and mint tea. I am not quite ready to embrace onion juice on a daily basis, but if anyone in my family ever gets an ear infection again, it sounds very promising.

Mint Tea

1 cup boiling water
5 large mint tea leaves
sugar or honey to taste

Put five large mint leaves in cup or mug. Add boiling water. Add sugar or honey to taste.
Let steep. Serve room temperature or cold for the kiddies.

Chamomile Tea has been used for colic in research studies and is thought to be an anti-inflammatory. Studies have shown that although it is helpful to boost the immune system and fight colds, it is also a phenolic food, which some kids are sensitive to. Buy a high quality, herbal tea if you are going to be giving it to your kids.

Ginger Tea aids with digestion of fat and this tea is a good after dinner option.

You can slice a small piece of ginger and boil in water.


Peel ginger. Chop into small pieces. Puree in blender with water and freeze flat in small ziplock bags. Chop off a small piece and boil in water for tea. You can strain through a small strainer before serving. I love this tea, but my Dad said it was too "third worldy for him."

Gluten Free Carrot Cake Recipe

In a year and a half since our family went gluten free, I have rarely craved anything with gluten. I feel so good--so healed--and I bake all the time so I never feel deprived of anything sweet. But a few weeks ago, my cousin, Stephanie, got married and they served a carrot cake at a barbecue dinner and I really wanted a piece. This is our second attempt. The first one we made from a recipe from Gluten Free Baking Classics was too cake-y. This is a gluten free dairy free adaptation from the Silver Palate's New Basics Cookbook and it's PERFECT.

2 cups gluten free flour (2/3 c. brown rice flour, 2/3 cup tapioca flour, 2/3 cup sorghum flour from Authentic Foods)
1/2 tsp xanthum gum
2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup coconut oil
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1&1/3 cups pureed cooked carrots
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup raisins

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use palm shortening or coconut oil to grease muffin pan or line a 13x9 inch cake pan with waxed paper and grease the paper.
2. Combine the dry ingredients.
3. Add the oil, eggs, and vanilla and beat well.
4. Then fold in the carrots, walnuts, coconut and pineapple.
5. Pour batter into prepared muffin pans.
6. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (about 20 minutes for mini muffins, 30 minutes for regular size muffins and 1 hour for cake.)
7. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes. Then invert over cake rack and unmold. Remove waxed paper and cool for 1 hour.
8. Frost with coconut frosting.

Coconut Frosting
1 pound confectioners sugar
1/4 cup coconut oil or Spectrum Palm Shortening
3-4 Tablespoons coconut milk

In mixer, combine confectioners sugar, oil/shortening and 3 Tablespoons of coconut milk. Mix at high speed for 3 minutes. Add more coconut milk if too stiff.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Donut Day

There is nothing healthy or nutritious about donuts, but every summer my daughter's camp has Donut Day so I make gluten free donuts. Last year, my daughter couldn't have yeast, so I used a Miss Roben's Donut Mix I found on

This year, I am making a homemade donut recipe I found on looksgoodinpolkadots, an great blog about mothering, gluten free cooking and being green. I used a wide tumbler to cut the outside of the donuts and a shot glass to cut the donut hole. Making donuts from scratch makes donut day very memorable--if we weren't gluten free I wouldn't ever remember Donut Day, but now I will remember it fondly as a summer tradition. It's inconvenient to be gluten free, but for me, it also makes everything more special.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Juice Plus+ Gummies*--A Way to Fill the Gap?

I first found out about Juice Plus+ Gummies at a celiac event. They had a gluten free vendor area and a friend had bought the chewables so I brought my daughter to the table to sample the chewables and gummies. It was more than a year ago and early on in my education about nutrition. At that point, I was just trying to get my daughter to eat anything remotely healthy. She didn't like the chewables and loved the gummies and she has been taking them ever since. We aren't as religious about taking them as we were a year ago, but I am a big fan of whole food supplements and this product in particular. With whole food supplements, they dehydrate fruits and vegetables and pulverize them so you can get some benefits of the whole food with the convenience of a gummy or chewable. It is not meant to replace fruits and vegetables or vitamins but to fill the gaps here and there when you can't get 7-9 servings of raw fruits and vegetables.

My son and I drink fresh juice every day when we can, but my daughter isn't a big fan of apple/carrot/kale juice. Juice Plus+ Gummies are insurance that Z. is getting some extra fruits and vegetables beyond what I can convince her to eat on any given day. I still try to get her to eat apples or strawberries for breakfast, a carrot or pickle for lunch and an artichoke for dinner when we have time or more carrots when we don't have time. But I also give her the gummies so I don't have to stress about what she does or doesn't eat.

Dr. Sears recommends Juice Plus+ and it is interesting that his story of stumbling upon Juice Plus+ is not all that different than my own. THEY ARE NOT CHEAP and are sold in a MLM scheme, so you pay four monthly installments of $22.50 and you get a four month supply of Juice Plus+ gummies which is four peanut butter size containers. A more affordable whole food product for kids is the Hero Nutritional Whole Food + Antioxidants Gummies sold in most health food stores for $14.29 online. I have never tried the product and the ingredient list and research are both less impressive than Juice Plus+, but it is another whole food gummy on the market.

If you contact Juice Plus+ they can send you samples of the products to make sure your kids like them before you commit to a four month supply!

WHAT TO DO: Get your child used to the idea of seeing (and eventually eating) raw fruits and vegetables at every meal and snack. Consider a whole food supplement for picky eaters who never come close to eating enough fruits and veggies.

*I have no financial ties to this product--except that I have purchased it myself.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Gluten and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)

Here is Cathy's remarkable story of how Jonathan, her eleven year old son, is getting better through diet and behavioral intervention.

My son was diagnosed four years ago, at age 7, with ADHD and ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder). He was the third most hyperactive child the doctor had ever seen (this is out of thousands of children). What a blow to me. My son has had many health issues since birth. He is legally blind, was born with an immature stomach and larynx, and seemed to have one problem after another. The quick answer given to us was to get him on medication. They gave me a list of all the ADHD medications available and I researched them, to see which one was the safest. I decided on Concerta, which was one of the newest drugs, and the biggest pro (I thought) was that it would only last in his little body for 12 hours. After that, as the studies showed, there would be no trace. The con to Concerta, as with many ADHD medications, is appetite suppression, but I felt that I could work around that.

After a year on the medication, I started to see that every 8 months or so, my son’s medication needed to be increased, as his body would develop a tolerance to the previous dosage. By the end, his medication was at 54 mg, which was an enormous amount in my eyes.

After a year and a half, I started researching ADHD a little more. My gut was telling me that his ADHD was more environmental, rather than genetic. I did a lot of research, yet there was so little to guide me. I tried an expensive, holistic approach that a certain company recommended, only to see that my son needed to take 6 large supplement capsules at one time, which caused severe abdominal problems. I stopped the supplements immediately, and we were back at the beginning.

Then, about four or five months ago, my boss told me about, a blog that her daughter had started. I eagerly went to the site and devoured everything that was written. The things I read made the light bulb go off in my head. Intolerance to gluten and hyperactivity in ADHD/ADD children were connected.

I took this newfound information to my son and discussed the change he would have to make. He listened intensely to what I had to say and the words that came out of his mouth were heart-wrenching for me; “Mom, I will do it, if it means I can be normal like everyone else.” That was the start of a new era for us. We started out small, making little changes here and there. We went gluten and dairy free. Through this, we found out that my son could tolerate dairy well (although I found I could not). So for him, we focused on being gluten free. He remained on his medication during the process, which took some time. We tried many different products and recipes, made lists of what was good, and what was not. The hardest thing I come up against is his age and lack of vision. For him, texture is a big issue, so we are still searching for a good bread recipe.

We have been 85% gluten free for months now, and the difference is utterly amazing. My husband (the skeptic) is truly amazed that food can cause such a change in the body. Since school ended 2 weeks ago, my son has not taken one Concerta pill. While he has normal 11 year old boy antics, the change in his hyperactivity is amazing.

Before this change (without medication), my son could not sit for 5 minutes or control his urges to aggravate others (part of ODD). He was like a wild monkey stuck in a small cage. With medication, he was quiet, but not in a normal, positive way. He withdrew and could sit in front of a computer, away from all, for hours on end. He had trouble sleeping to the point where we needed to give him melatonin at night to help him fall asleep, and he had terrible nightmares and night terrors. AND after the medication wore off, he was ravenous. He would eat all night until bed, non-stop. What I found out just prior to getting him off of gluten was that he was not thriving. For years we tried to get him to the 50 lb. mark, but he would teeter just below, and his growth in terms of height was….slow. Recently we went to the doctor to talk about the changes that were occurring and to have a checkup. In 8 months he gained 8 pounds and grew almost an inch. To me, that speaks volumes. Right now, without any medication, we have seen a different child. A child I remember who had a sense of humor, and a gleaming smile. He is outgoing, speaks clearly and wants to interact and do things besides sit in front of a computer.

Right now, my son needs a lot of reassurance that he is doing well, and it is reassurance that I have no problem providing. I tell him everyday how proud we are of him and how courageous he is to take this change head on. The one piece of advice I can offer to other parents of ADHD children is that when this change occurs as a result of a new dietary regime, you really need to have a hold on behavior modification. That can come from a program such as The Total Transformation, or behavioral therapy, which I highly recommend. Having structure, rules and consequences, and following through consistently are really important. My child has underdeveloped social skills, and little understanding of social cues. Working on this everyday is key. While he has the summer off, we have the chance to work on them and perfect them without needing to simultaneously focus on school (that would be tough).

This was the best thing we ever stumbled across, and I am forever grateful to the fellow parent who brought this to my attention. She gave me the greatest gift I could ever have, she gave me back my son and for that she will always have a special place in my heart.

See Gluten and ADHD (Part II) to see how Jonathan did after summer vacation.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Lead Free Lunch Box

lead free lunch box
With two kids who are gluten free, I am always packing lunches and
meals to go. I FINALLY ordered this bento box style lunch container
from which tests 100% lead-free by the manufacturer. I will post pictures of lunches and meals when it arrives. I have a friend who uses the tupperware version of this product, but this seems to be a little greener and made with safer plastic.