Tag Archives: yeast

Holiday treats – Free of Dairy, Sugar, and Wheat!

 

At this time of year in particular, sugar and wheat filled treats are EVERYWHERE.  It makes everything a challenge for those of us who have kids who are sugar and wheat free.  A visit to Santa means a dye and sugar filled candy cane, or a sugar, wheat and dye filled iced cookie.  Any holiday event at school, with friends, with family, all involve treats of some kind.  Gluten-free is easy enough these days, as there are many commercial options for the gluten intolerant.  But not so much for the gluten AND sugar free.  At Halloween I made chocolate ‘bars’ for Berrik so that he wouldn’t feel left out.  He loved them!  However, they are very dark and bitter chocolates as I prefer to keep any sweetener to a minimum, regardless of what type I am using.  But I know that a lot of people, especially kids, prefer the milder, sweeter ‘milk chocolate’.  Because my kids were dairy free by necessity, they grew up eating very dark chocolate so have a taste for it.  Most kids, not so much.  I decided to experiment a little today, to see if I could create a dairy, sugar and wheat free chocolate treat, that would satisfy even the most diehard milk chocolate vs. dark chocolate fan.

These aren’t perfect but they are unbelievably delicious, and will do the trick in this house. Berrik won’t feel left out at all, as I think these might be better than most of the treats we will come across over the holidays.  Except my mom’s lemon tarts. Those are the best.  But I digress.  Our biggest issue will be keeping enough chocolate in the house to last, as my girls and even my dessert avoiding husband can’t keep their hands off this chocolate!

Ingredients:

1/2 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup cocoa

all the full fat cream from a can of coconut milk (discard the watery stuff, or save for another recipe… I just added it to a smoothie)

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla

sweetener of choice, to taste.

I use stevia and just add a couple drops at a time until it gets to the desired sweetness (5 drops or so seemed to work).  Other really good and tasty options are pure maple syrup, raw local honey, coconut sugar, xylitol derived from birch, or even just plain old sugar if you aren’t limiting sugar.  I would guess at about 1/8-1/4 cup of these sweeteners, but I would recommend to start low and add a bit at a time, tasting after each addition (best part of the process!!).

Put all ingredients in a sauce pan and heat slowly over low heat, stirring occasionally. When ingredients are mixed, smooth, and starting to bubble, continue to heat for about 2 minutes, stirring the entire time.  Pour into chocolate molds, or small muffin cups and freeze for a couple of hours.

OPTIONAL:

  • add a couple tbsp of nut or seed butter for a yummy nutty taste!  Chunky peanut butter is pretty amazing in this.
  • add gluten free pretzels, nuts, coconut, dried berries or red pepper flakes to each mold or muffin paper before pouring in the chocolate or sprinkle flakes of pink Himalayan sea salt on top

We added pretzels to ours as that is Berrik’s favorite.  These chocolates become soft quite quickly so should be served directly from the freezer.  They are creamy and fudge-like in texture and in flavor. Enjoy!!

 

He’s the teacher. I’m the student.

My life is a constant series of ups and downs.  It’s sometimes hourly, but more often it’s daily or every other day.  And then there are few higher level things that are every month or even every 6 months.  Does everyone feel like this?  I imagine so.

Berrik has good days and bad days.  The girls have good days and bad days.  I have good hours and some really crappy hours… and Kevin….well, same deal.  I wish I could say my good hours stretched out to good days or good weeks frequently….  Now I know this sounds like I’m perhaps depressed, or struggling.  I’m not.  I actually feel pretty good most of the time, even on the ‘downs’.  This is a skill Berrik has taught me.

Since he was a 2 year old, we’ve had many ups and downs.  He was very late to speak so those initial years of navigating the world of speech therapy had us riding a roller coaster of emotions that ran the whole gamut; fear, joy, hope, defeat, excitement, sadness, disappointment, guilt, and contentment.

This roller coaster has continued although in different forms, and not just with Berrik.  It’s part of parenting, part of living, part of loving and being connected to people.  Unavoidable as a human, as far as I can tell.  What makes the difference is how you ride the roller coaster.  What I have learned to do over the years, is when I’m speeding down the hill and my stomach is in my throat, I remind myself that I may spiral upside down next, but eventually will be back on the slow, steady uphill climb.  I try not to focus on the fact that this roller coaster ain’t ending until I reach my ‘final destination’ if you catch my morbid drift.  I don’t always keep my crap together when I’m upside down or speeding down a hill, but I am fortunate to have parents, a husband, siblings and some really wonderful friends to talk me down if I get too freaked out.

All this to say, we are currently going up and down like a bunch of maniacs.  Berrik had some test results come back recently that showed that the yeast overgrowth in his poor little gut came back.  I was not surprised as I could see the symptoms in him.  But it was disheartening because this kid has completely avoided sugar and yeast since January 2016, and the only ‘sugar-like’ substances in his diet have been fruit, potatoes, and the odd gluten free bun or pancake. However, when I went to discuss all the test results with the doc, she was quite pleased with everything that she’s seeing, and we created a plan to address the yeast and a few other things…. so while I was feeling like we were going down, we are actually doing ok.

Berrik’s school is going really well overall. But some hours don’t go well (which is usually because I’ve chosen a method of learning that doesn’t suit him in that moment).  And while I sincerely believe that it is my responsibility to figure out how he learns best and support him to learn in that way, it doesn’t mean that I feel all zen when he refuses to engage.  The yeast symptoms exacerbate this little phenomenon.  Yay me.  Poor Berrik.  These things are completely out of his control.  These are not the symptoms of an undisciplined kid who just needs to get in line and do what I say (wouldn’t life be easier if my kids would just do what I say?).  So when I am feeling particularly un-zen-like and am ready to put my head through the drywall, I remind myself that Berrik is also not having much fun in this moment, for reasons he understands, but cannot do anything about.

We have had some major ‘successes’ since June…some that were so incremental that I didn’t really notice until a few months had gone by and then it hit me how far he has come.  Others, like last week at school, are big all at once, when he is focused all day, excited about what he’s learning, telling me all about it, and grasping concepts that were foreign to him the week before.  And there have been some things that I was sure he had mastered, and then I realize we aren’t quite there yet.  Up and down.  Up and down.  I may be Berrik’s teacher when it comes to schoolwork.  But he is setting the example for how to ride the roller coaster. He seems to just take everything as it comes.  Sure he has his moments where he is annoyed that we are getting in the car to drive his sisters somewhere, again, and we are counting by 2s and 5s or playing rhyming games.  Or when he is tired of putting his food into an increasingly complex pattern before eating it, “not EVERYTHING has to be about learning MOM!!!!”  But considering all he’s been through, and what he has ahead, he is not the one who loses sleep or worries over the future.  He’s going to be a ninja and an astronaut when he grows up.  An astronaut because he wants to travel to space, and a ninja in case he encounters evil when he gets there.  He dreams big because he believes that if you work hard, anything is possible.  He knows this because he has already lived that experience many times in many ways in his nearly 8 years.   He’s the teacher.  I’m the student.

Test results

Leading up to the urine test, Berrik’s attention and mood seemed to have taken a downturn.  It made for a long few weeks as we awaited the test and the results.  I was exhausted with the pace of life – I was competing in dance that month, and McKenna’s dance competition season was amping up with dress rehearsals and extra practices.  Berrik had been tiring of some of the recipes I was using, so I was attempting to find and/or create new ones.  Add all this to a full time job and a kid who is now emotional and unfocused again, and I was feeling very overwhelmed.  Thank goodness for Avi’s patience with Berrik…she has always been very nurturing with him and because of their strong relationship, she is really great at keeping him busy and happy when the rest of us are running around like chickens with heads cut off – and for anyone who has ever seen chickens butchered, you can really understand how our family was functioning at this time!

So, the results come in and they are really odd.  Many of the results that were issues in the first test had been resolved.  All markers for yeast except one were within normal levels – however the one that was not had increased significantly.  Another marker called oxylates was through the roof, and there were a couple other really strange results.  The naturopath wasn’t sure what was going on and planned to call the doc at the lab to see if she had any thoughts.  It appeared to be very random and nonsensical, particularly when compared to the first urine test.

Never satisfied with not knowing, I took to reviewing the literature about oxylates and yeast markers.  After a few hours of reading, I found out that almonds are a food with one of the highest levels of oxylates, and overeating almonds can cause oxylate levels to rise significantly.  High oxylates can result in one specific yeast marker to rise as well.  And the other odd results were also related.  While I was glad to find the reason for the strange test results, I felt a little sick.  I was essentially poisoning my kid with almonds….  Almond flour is the easiest non-grain flour to work with – so my poor kid was eating almonds concentrated in his morning toast and his daily muffin at school, not to mention eating nuts as an afterschool snack and other more occasional almond flour goodies.  Sigh.

Back to the drawing board.  I slowly weaned Berrik off the almond flour and started looking for ways to bake without it.  I also decided that sticking to more whole foods and using muffins and other baked goods less frequently would be better for him anyways.  I told the naturopath what I had discovered and when she spoke with the lab doc, she agreed with me.  After a few weeks Berrik was feeling better (and so was I….overwhelming mommy guilt on that one!  Good grief. <insert eye roll here>)

At this point we decided to do a stool test to determine with accuracy if there was any yeast left in Berrik’s tummy, and if so, what type so we could treat it more aggressively if necessary. Also wanted to see whether there was good bacteria growing in there, as that will be the key to sustained health for my boy.  It was a three sample test – I’m sure you can imagine – poo in tray, little stick to put sample in little plastic jar – x 3.  Conveniently I was at a dance competition with McKenna when this started <snicker>, so nurse Kevin was on the hook for the poo.  After 2 samples had been collected, Mac and I arrived home from dance and I had one day at home before having to head to Vancouver for work.  Within an hour of arriving home I hear Berrik yell from the washroom, “Dad, I’m going poo in the tray…. want a sample?!”  I offered to collect this final sample, but superdad and uber nurse Kevin declined and marched off to collect.  For any of you wondering how I survive this crazy life – it’s because of Kevin.  He truly picks up all the slack in every area, regardless of what needs to be done.  I often marvel at my good luck, considering we met in a nightclub after a few beverages – I credit my excellent taste and sparkling wit – and perhaps his beer goggles that evening.  <shrug>

Stool test results came back – NO YEAST!!!.  Very exciting results as yeast can be difficult to clear.  We were so very strict with the regimen for almost 5 months and Berrik was SO good with avoiding grains and sugar.  Even at birthday parties he was voluntarily decline the cake and happily eat the ‘cookies’ or other treat I sent with him.  There was no bad bacteria showing up either, but the good bacteria was low, so still more work to be done.

At this point we reintroduced grains, but still kept sugar and yeast off the menu.  Again a downturn in attention and mood.  But we had a celiac test to complete so we stayed with the wheat for about 4 weeks.  As soon as the test was complete, I took Berrik back off wheat (but left the other grains).  Within a week or two, he improved again.  Celiac test was negative, but because wheat seems to cause issues for him, we decided to just keep him off of it for now.  Luckily with all the other grains and no more fruit limitations, Berrik has many more food options and was quickly gaining back the weight he had lost on the stricter anti-candida diet.

In my next post I’ll talk about my decision to take some time off work….