Category Archives: gut health

School of Life: Undoing the Mundane Routine

As a kid, I refused to wear jeans. From the ages of 9-13, stretchy pants were IT for me. It was a comfort thing, mostly.  I’m ultra sensitive to the touch of scratchy fabric. Still. But,  I also  needed to express my differences. I spent most of my days just on the outskirts of the “in” crowd, and was totally okay with it.  My husband grew up expressing his differences in the ways lots of boys do. I’m not at liberty to spill exactly what that means. But,  somewhere in our charts de destiny — we have been dreamily aligned to raise a “different” child.

But, believe me — we didn’t set out to do anything outside the “norm” when it came to starting our family. We did the doctor appointments, the pampers, the birthing classes. Soon enough, that fizzled though. And, even before my little Dougie’s health began to decline — he was showing us that he was destined for something more.

When it came to schooling, at first we opted to have him evaluated  for special services through the Chicago Public School system. It took them over a year to complete their evaluation, and by the time we had our  first IEP meeting — his label of “severely autistic” was obviously invalid. He was healing through Body Ecology, Raw Foods, and the energy healing and sensory work that we do at home.  Still,  we took the label in hopes of getting him more education.

Dealing with  the red tape, “autism specialists,” and trudging through the snow to get my child to one hour of speech therapy and occupational therapy each week was draining on him.  After one year of speech therapy, he never talked for his teachers. And, just preparing him for the trip was hell on us. He tantrummed and begged not to go.

When I observed Dougie in class, I noticed all of the distractions present in the public school. Bells ringing, intercom going on and off, other teachers walking in, teachers stopping to discipline other kids and more.

We tried private school and absolutely loved their routine and core belief structure. But, then there was the price and the fact that Dougie still wasn’t THRIVING. By this time, we took lots more care to teach him at home.

Teachers were telling me that I should be worried that he wasn’t talking. I thought, “how could he talk when his gut is a mess?” He was healing, and all of the “teachers” and “authority figures” around him were trying to put information into him, and make him do things.

But, Dougie needs to express things, let go of things, be absorbed in positivity, live out loud. Dougie needs to be free. He knew from the start that only I understood that, and I think that’s why he chose me.

I remember being reminded over and over how important it is for children. “especially those on the spectrum” (ugh “the spectrum”… sheesh!) to have a  strict routine. Yeah, I see how that can help settle an overactive mind. We all crave structure for balance. But, that sure doesn’t mean commanding your children to do certain things or be a certain way.

Our Daily Structure is Important to Us

My goal is to get out of Dougie’s way so that he can thrive without having to depend on me forever. I don’t want him fully dependent on a specific routine. Much of my own success comes from being able to handle change. It’s all I know. So, it’s how we roll here.

I know many children whose stories are similar to Dougie’s, and if  one of these children calls you mama or dad — just know that they chose you for a reason. If the homeschool or unschool bus is honking its horn at you — you can jump on.  Remember, I was told to worry because it’s well known that our  kids crave even more structure than the “norm.” Worrying has never done me any good. Ever.

The Routine of No Routine

Unschooling is reteaching my family how to live and be  with each other in deeper love and more productive ways. We feel we lost a lot of time worrying and working hard to do what was normal for our child. Here’s a glimpse into our day. maybe it will help you to:

  • Make and eat breakfast together (Dougie helps cut veggies, scramble eggs, pour smoothies, push blender buttons and choose what he wants. He also helps clean up).
  • Get dressed and spend some outdoor time at beach or park. We often bring toys or books and “work” outside.
  • Go to the store or market (Dougie fills his own cart, asks for what he wants and orders at the juice bar or deli. He also pays the cashier and talks to the workers at our local store. We often eat lunch outside.
  • Come home, light cleaning all together and play time for Dougie (he plays puppet show, Toy Story toys, paints, this is his alone time).
  • Nap time
  • More outdoor time, outside class like yoga or music, park or playdate.
  • Reading, art, music, math through games, puppet show or whatever we feel like — so long as it’s fun and creative.

We sign Dougie up for a few low-key activities where he can get time away and explore. He loves his yoga class. We also try to help him forge relationships with other children. He has his favorite friends and loves to play with his cousins.

We take trips all over the city, show Dougie how to use the bus and read the signs, allow him to experience the different cultures we have here, and visit beautiful places. We walk, we climb, we never stop enjoying.

Dougie is kindergarten age, and has learned all of this kindergarten lessons through play and fun. What a life!

xoxo

Gina


Letting Go of the autism Label

I originally posted this on  a while back, but it’s still pretty relevant to me.

Gina

emily shaules 006

When Dougie was ill,  autism was a word I needed. I was looking for answers to my son’s illness, behaviors, developmental regression and complete change of character and consciousness. I needed a definition. I needed a reason.

I needed to call it autism and beat it with a bat. Scream at it. Punch it. Kick it. Spit in its face and hate it for all it did to my boy. For the night terrors and 36 hour sessions without sleep. For the vagueness in his eyes. For his sadness. For the loss of the boy who hugged and kissed. For all it prevented us from doing.

I hated autism. And I needed the word. I felt as though the definition would fuel my reason and research. But the word quickly became a taboo in our home. My husband refused to hear me say it. And he refused to ever say that Dougie had it. This made me angry. And I stored that anger in a little box marked “nobody in the world understands me.”

I’ve lived in close proximity to autism for my entire life. I’ve taught in “special” programs for “special” children. I have an aunt who works specifically with children on the spectrum. At age 10, I befriended a woman named Rosie who probably had the label. So, when Dougie fell into chronic illness and returned without the language he previously had, without the social skills he previously had, without the spark that the previously had –I had an instant inkling that I was witnessing autism happen.

That’s what got me. I never understood that autism could happen. I only understood that the children I previously worked with were just the way they were because they were born that way (and maybe some of them were). I never had a feeling of needing to “cure” them. I loved them. They glowed. Maybe they learned differently or occasionally hurt themselves – but there was something that made them magnificent. I taught them and worked with them with love and believe that we made a difference together. I never connected inner health with outer behavior/symptoms during my time with them.

But, at home, I was watching my son change. And become sicker and sicker. The behaviors and sensory expressions, like licking everything, seemed to be connected to his illness – not simply some unique character qualities. Dougie rubbed his face against the carpeting, spun in circles, stacked and lined up toys, containers or whatever he could get his hands on. I’d watch him and hold the little angel. And there was no question in my mind whether or not I could help heal his predicament. I knew I could, and I knew he wanted me to.

I felt that if I couldn’t call it autism I couldn’t recover him. But the majority of my early studies on the word only provided superficial reasons for these symptoms. No one was saying that there was a physical, scientific, reason that the body responds with exaggerated sensory activity. I was hearing that these children are “special” and there are so many great teachers and doctors out there who can help them succeed. I was hearing that there is no cure but there would be hope that he could get a “job.”

And, as soon as I began talking to other parents of children with autism, I ran into those who thought I was egotistical, insane, cold, un-accepting and of course a terrible mother and role model for wanting to rid my son of this beautiful illness. Have you heard of autistic children referred to as Indigo children or crystal children? I started to question whether this autism was a gift and if I should just let go of trying to help Dougie heal from it. I never questioned my son’s magic. We always had a very deep intuitive connection. And, I wanted to do right by him. Was this his true path?

But, then I thought… if my son fell and got a gash in his head, I would stop the bleeding. If he had a cold, I would help him heal. If he was sad, I would hold him until he wanted me to stop. If my son was licking the floors and the walls and people in public because that consciously made him happy, and he wasn’t displaying other symptoms of unrest, I would accept him. I would teach him that people do not like to be licked. I would help him find healthier ways of fulfilling this need.

And I tried doing that. But my instinct kept telling me they there was something deeper to this autism. No matter how many physical/cognitive attempts I made to help him stop behavior that was dangerous to him I didn’t seem to be able to succeed that way. No matter how many times I pointed to myself and self “mommy” – he wouldn’t respond.

Along the journey, I saw a life changing video made by a woman with autism that opened my mind about how she perceives the world in a really sensory way. How she communicates with water and air. How even though she couldn’t talk she could write eloquently and felt so much joy about her life.

I could deeply relate to her. I too can see energy in the air. Feel emotion from animals, people and water. I honestly started to question whether or not I had this “autism.” I began remembering spinning in circles as a child, not talking to anyone but my parents, rubbing my face on everything, putting everything in my mouth, crying all the time, lining up pop bottles and biting people in public. They mystery behind autism was beginning to unravel for me.

I’ve never been one to conform and this has never been about conformity for me. It’s been about helping my son become his healthiest self.

Many of his behaviors were not socially acceptable. But I never flinched when taking him out in public. I used to get shoved to the front of the grocery checkout line because of his screaming. I took him to the park nearly every day where he would insist on banging the metal slide pole to hear the sound. And I never felt the need to say “oh he has autism” to explain us.

I needed the word only for me. I needed the word to help heal him – or so I thought. And I allowed him to be evaluated and labeled by the school system – a long and painful process, so I could get my answer. And we accepted the label because we were promised help if we did so. We interviewed the Chicago Public School staff who performed the evaluation. We explained that we would completely recover our son from his illness. We explained that we would accept a label if it would bring us help that reflected our beliefs. We explained that although we generally don’t accept the idea of labeling a child, we would take this one if it meant that Dougie could get real help. Help that brought us closer to recovery. And most of all, we didn’t want him pigeonholed because of it. We didn’t want the word spoken around him.

I signed a piece of paper agreeing that my son had “autism.” I did it against my deepest intuition. My husband wouldn’t sign it. In the instant that I crossed the last “t” on McDermott I regretted it. My son did not have autism as defined by the school system so they could never help recover him. They could only offer services with the notion that he had speech and occupational difficulties. They couldn’t get the root cause of those issues because they did not have the tools.

Then I began to hate autism even more because of the way the school system made extra money from it. I hated it because it put a cloud over my son at his school… and the word was repeated over and over and over. I hated it because no one believed that we could end its destruction on Dougie’s life.

Early on, I began to understand Dougie’s condition as a toxic manifestation. As I studied I learned where those toxins came from and as many of you know, we have brought him into a very healthy light.

But I continued to struggle with what to do with this label that kept coming up. All of the negative comments I continue to get from people who call me an autism hijacker. And, the sick children out there whose parents struggle like I did over how to handle a disorder that is only defined in social, sensory and outward symptoms.

Finally, last summer I really embraced shamanism and studied with some amazing spiritual teachers. Dougie’s and my recovery through raw foods helped open both of our bodies for deeper healing. But, food could not bring us to the level of peace we now have.

Shamanic journeying, meditation, chakra balancing though sound and movement, and touch therapies like reiki all helped me realize the insignificance of labels. But most of all they helped me let go of my need to label our situation.

The autism label, as widely defined never described how my husband and I see our son. My husband knew this all along. We create our own lives. We manifest our desires. We are completely responsible.

By believing that my son does not have “autism,” but merely an overload of toxins that continue to melt away I am defining it more scientifically because this is actually what he has. And, by understanding how these toxins can be released energetically helps add more valuable tools to our healing regime.

As time goes on, I continue to practice shamanism and reiki and I continue to gain deeper acceptance for who my son really is.

I have realized that yes, this is about acceptance. Yes this was supposed to happen. Yes my child does have a magical reason for being here and for displaying these behaviors. There is something very intuitive about him. He can use touch to heal me when I am in pain.

I believe he was put here to help us all heal. Because we were able to heal him against the odds, I know that anything is possible. I don’t know if I realized that before. Letting go of autism has helped me let go of my addiction to all labels. Now I can enjoy life for what it is. I can enjoy the feeling of water on my skin and wind in my hair without having to define it. I am more relaxed thanks to my little angel.

It just so happens that as we continue to physically heal and release toxins though diet and energy healing, Dougie’s speech and communication becomes more and more typical. But his magic and his power also increase. I would love and adore my son if he never said a word to me. If he never looked at me. But, I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t lead him in the direction for complete wellness and fulfillment.

Dougie is not autism. Dougie is Dougie. He’s my magical little spunkmuffin – a glimpse into the heavens, and my strongest role model.

Raw Cream of Mushroom Soup (with hidden ferments)

Cream of Mushroom Soup

Image by su-lin via Flickr

We eat raw, living foods whenever we can. But using raw food for autism recovery means paying extra special care to the digestibility of the food and the sugar content.

I’ve worked with hundreds of children on the autism spectrum, and ALL of them have had gut imbalances including candida (yeast), food intolerance, allergies, and  nutrient deficiencies. So, we’ve got some pretty delicate systems here. Finding a balance of green, raw, fermented and blended (easily absorbable) food is a must. We also keep as close to the  Body Ecology principles of food combining (fruit is eaten alone, on an empty stomach,  and proteins are not combined with carbs) and  80/20 (keeping our meals 80% vegetable and 20% protein or carb) as possible. This ensures that we can get the most nutrient bang per bite.

This recipe is blended and contains live beneficial bacteria that can help you digest it.  It also contains some nuts — which do cause reactions for some people.  I wouldn’t call this one of my healing recipes but, it’s a darn delish way to enjoy raw food.

Raw Cream of Mushroom Soup (with hidden ferments)

Ingredients:

1 lb of mushrooms (shitake and maitake are delish and healing)

½ cup olive oil

1 tsp sea salt

pinches of black pepper, oregano, thyme, sage, pinch nutmeg and any other herbs you may like

3 cups  homemade Brazil nut milk (recipe below)

½ cup pine nut cheese

Process:

Marinate 1 lb of mushrooms (I  get a bag from farmers mkt.. any kind you like will do) with ½ cup olive oil, 1 tsp sea salt, black pepper, oregano, thyme, sage, pinch nutmeg and any other herbs you may like for about an hour. Then, blend the entire mixture with 3 cups  homemade Brazil nut milk and ½ cup pine nut cheese. You can warm this on the stove top or blend in vitamix until warm. We like to have this with peas. Then again, we simply love peas.

Tiny Kick in the Pants:

Add some ume boshi plum vinegar to the end result before you eat.

I like Brazil nut milk with this recipe. You can make it by soaking 3 cups of Brazil nuts in enough water to cover them for about a day. Then, rinse the nuts and add to your blender with 6 cups of water. Blend for about 30 seconds and  strain the pulp through a nut milk bag (or strainer). The liquid is “nut milk,” and the pulp can be used in muffins, crackers and raw breads.

Mangia!

G

Fermented Quinoa Milk

The Incas knew about this magical grain…. have you tried it yet?

If you haven’t already added quinoa to your diet, you probably should. This grain-like gluten-free seed is so versatile and absolutely delish.

I used it to make my vegan guacamole burgers last week, I use it in salads, wraps and even make milk out of it.

You can make quinoa milk much like you make rice milk or almond milk and  add  it to smoothies, soups or chocolate — YUM!  Of course, I like to take it one step farther.

I’ve been known to ferment just about anything I get my hands on, and why not? Fermented foods are the most powerful of all super foods because they are predigested.

When you ferment quinoa milk you add living bacteria and enzymes to it. These bacteria live in your digestive system and create your immunity.

Make your own fermented quinoa milk

Equiptment

  1. High speed blender
  2. 2 quart sized sterile glass jars with lids
  3. nut milk bag or strainer

Ingredients

2 cups raw quinoa ( I buy mine in bulk)

1 quart pure water

pinch sea salt

1/4 cup coconut kefir, home-made kefir or strong probiotic powder.

Optional

vanilla, stevia or agave, mesquite, maca

Process

  1. Soak your quinoa overnight in quart-sized  glass container with a pinch of sea salt ( in fridge or on the counter)
  2. Rinse quinoa and add to blender with 1 quart pure water
  3. Blend for 30 seconds
  4. Drain quinoa pulp by using a nut-milk bag (found at natural grocers) or a strainer
  5. Pour the liquid into a sterile glass jar
  6. add 1/4 cup kefir or tbsp probiotic powder and seal jar
  7. Make sure jar is sealed and clean
  8. Set out to ferment at 70-80 degrees for 18-24 hours
  9. Drink as is or add sweetener and flavors listed above

This is so much healthier than the store-bought pasteurized probiotic drinks, because it doesn’t contain added sugars, colors or preservatives. It’s raw, its delicious and I hope you love it.

photo credit: “Hand in Quinoa” by:FranUlloa

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Date of Certification: 03/16/2010 04:27 PM
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Fermented Pine Nut Cheese with Body Ecology Starter

Pine nuts

Image via Wikipedia

I have learned that fermenting nuts means that I can have more of them. This is probably because the good bacteria in the culture starters I  use helps to break down the nuts, However, I still try to keep them varied and in small amounts for balance.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups organic raw pine nuts
  • juice of 1 lemon

Props

  • Sterile glass jar
  • Strainer (like a metal strainer with handle)
  • Cheese cloth
  • Bowl and plate
  • Good blender

Process

Blend 2 cups of pine nuts  in your Vitamix or high speed blender(you do not have to soak these) with enough water to make a creamy consistency in . Add juice of 1 lemon. Scoop into sterile jar. Ferment over night using 1/4 cup coconut kefir or other fermented liquid or 2  digestive enzymes.

Close the jar and allow to ferment for about 12 hours.  Remember that the friendly bacteria eat sugar, so foods like this ferment quickly, and the bacteria will die if there is no more sugar to feed them. If you wanted to ferment it longer you could add some inulin (chicory fiber) to feed the bacteria… but I have never done it that way.

After 12 hours, remove cheese from jar and place in cheesecloth. Lay the cheesecloth in strainer, and place the strainer over a bowl in the refrigerator. The liquid will drain into the bowl and make a thicker cheese. Cover the bowl with a glass plate (to keep it as sealed as possible)

You can then add herbs and sea salt to your cheese for a delicious dip, spread or addition to your soup, salad or any other meal.

You can even dehydrate this on raw crackers and make cheese crackers.

(You can skip the cheesecloth step if you like. The cheese will still be delicious, but softer).

P.S.  Lots of children on the “autism spectrum” have food allergies because they do not have the bacterial digestive make-up to break down some of the proteins and sugars. Nuts are a big trigger for many of our kids. We never had a problem with fermented pine nuts in  moderation. Then again, pine nuts are not really nuts.

If your child is allergic to nuts, depending on the severity — you may be able to reverse the allergy by repairing the gut. And, if you still want to try this cheese recipe you can replace the pine nuts with sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds or a combo of them.

Mangia Mangia

G

Listen to my free teleseminar with Raw Mom Tera Warner!

Listen as I talk about autism recovery and undoing the symptoms of autism naturally with Raw Mom founder Tera Warner.

The interview was on June 23, 2010, and can be found here.