Progress

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted here on Betsy’s blog. She’s had a few weightier things to write about recently, and we thought it would be a good time to lighten the mood with a Lucas diet update! Back in June I wrote about our attempts to wean Lucas off of baby food. It’s really hard to believe that less than six months ago his diet consisted mostly of pureéd fruits and vegetables and liquefied chicken mixed with various baby cereals. A lot has changed since then and we’ve learned a lot about our boy in the process!

Lucas eats a lot of different foods.  He eats grilled cheese sandwiches, chicken quesadillas, cheeseburgers, beef empanadas, homemade chicken nuggets, pizza, kale chips, apples, bananas, grapes, oranges, peas, corn, green beans, carrots, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, avocado, broccoli, tomatoes, graham crackers…oh, and pancakes. That’s a pretty substantial list! We were worried that Lucas’s diet might not be as healthy after he transitioned to solid foods but so far that has not been the case. Grilled cheese is still his favorite!

It's a bird, it's a plane...no, it's Lucas eating a cheeseburger with a side of banana and cucumbers!

It’s a bird, it’s a plane…no, it’s Lucas eating a cheeseburger with a side of banana and cucumbers!

Gardening helps. Over the summer Betsy planted a garden and Lucas got really into it and helped water the plants and harvest the produce. His willingness to try something new seemed to increase if he had just picked it. His favorite? Kale! Betsy used to mix it into his “green” pureé but now Lucas prefers it in crunchy, chip-form.

So do Bubble Guppies. Bubble Guppies is one of Lucas’s favorite kid shows. There was an episode recently where the Guppies go to “Fruit Camp”and participate in a race with obstacles (i.e. trying new foods) along the way. Gil earns a point for the team by eating a carrot. Then Deema is faced with the last and most difficult obstacle: broccoli. She hesitates at first but tries it and finds that it’s “delicious!” Well, that was enough for Lucas to ask for some broccoli too. I’m not sure if he really likes it or if he only likes it because the Bubble Guppies like it. Either way, he’s added another healthy vegetable to his diet and, unfortunately, so have I.

Thanks a lot, Deema.

Thanks a lot, Deema.

Texture still matters. There have been some real head scratchers along the way. We experimented with some pretty tried and true kid favorites like macaroni and cheese and ravioli but Lucas really didn’t go for them. Strange because what kid doesn’t like macaroni and cheese? It turns out that he didn’t like the texture. Too rubbery? I’m not sure exactly. But the good thing is at age four we were able to have a conversation about it and we agreed that if he tried some other foods, we could replace ravioli with something that he liked better!

Appearance matters too. We’ve still had the occasional meltdown over food. A month or so ago Betsy and Lucas had come with me to a soccer game and we decided to go out for pizza afterwards. I was thrilled. For the longest time I had just wanted to have the freedom to leave the house and not worry about packing an entire meal of baby food to take with us. Lucas was excited too…until the pizza arrived. It had a much thicker crust than he was used to. It wasn’t quite deep dish but still it was different enough for him to deem it “not pizza”. After a lot of patience (from Betsy) and persuading (also Betsy) he did eat some of it. Since then we have limited our patronage to pizza joints that have a hand tossed crust option on the menu. 🙂

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree (again!). Lucas has absolutely no sweet tooth, just like his mother. Despite my best efforts, Lucas has zero interest in cookies, donuts, cake, or candy. For his birthday, I went all out and made a cake decorated with his favorite farm animals. I even made a frosting barn! Lucas admired the artwork but wanted nothing to do with eating it. Betsy was no help either. So I ate the whole thing myself (I’m not sure whether to feel proud or ashamed). One of Lucas’s little friends from church got him to try a cookie after the service one Sunday. He gave it the old college try but after a couple of bites he gave it to me to finish. He really doesn’t like sweets.

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My masterpiece: The Barnyard.

Traditions. The town I grew up in is about 15 minutes away from where we live now. There is a bakery in that town that is famous for its fresh baked German soft pretzels. They only make them on Saturdays. Lucas really likes his carbs and so one Saturday not too long ago I was determined to see if he would try a pretzel. He also likes salty things (just like his mother) so I thought it might work. Well, he was hooked after one bite. And it’s now become a weekly ritual. It’s great because it gives Betsy a chance to sleep in, Lucas and I have a fun morning out just the two of us, and then we all have soft pretzels as a late breakfast when we get home. We have the leftovers for breakfast on Sunday.

Saturday's new tradition!

Saturday’s new tradition!

All in all, Lucas has made a ton of progress and we are super proud of him! It’s been fun to see him try new things and like most of them. He even tried seaweed at preschool the other day! That’s right, my son prefers seaweed to cookies. Who would have ever guessed?

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The Most Important Meal of the Day

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Eating nutritious foods is one of the ways I try to maintain my health.  I’ve made a lot of changes to my diet over the past several months and it has helped tremendously.  I haven’t seen any improvement in my lung function tests, but I have noticed positive changes in my energy level, the amount of congestion I wrestle with every day, and my ability to fight off infections.  I only got sick once this past winter and was able to completely avoid several colds my boys brought home.  That’s notable!

This study of diet came out of a frustrating situation.  You see, as cystic fibrosis progresses, bacteria colonizes in the lungs.  That means that even if I’m not sick, there is always bacteria present in my lungs.  Sometimes it just sits there relatively quietly, contributing to inflammation but not making me acutely ill.  Other times it flares up and causes acute symptoms, perhaps because I got a virus or sometimes for an unknown reason.

There are inhaled antibiotics that are used routinely to keep this colonized bacteria under control.  They are helpful because they go straight to the source of the problem.  Unfortunately, I have tried them all and cannot tolerate any of them due to my asthma (they cause wheezing, chest tightness, and lung irritation).  Out of frustration Jaime started researching natural remedies and we found there are a lot of foods out there that can help with my specific issues: inflammation, bacteria, and the need for a strong immune system.  Eating healthy was not new to me; I was raised eating all kinds of fresh and healthy foods, but the idea that I could eat certain foods to address my specific issues was new and exciting!

As I mentioned before, I cut dairy out of my diet due its links to asthma and congestion.  Then we started looking for foods that would help with immunity, inflammation and bacteria and were surprised to find many great options! I won’t write about all the foods I eat in this post, but let me tell you about my breakfast.

imageI try to eat this dish several times a week, and here’s what’s in it: coconut oil, eggs, kale, red cabbage, mushrooms, freshly grated turmeric root, chia seeds, freshly ground black pepper, and quinoa.  Here is how these foods help my body:

Eggs are high in vitamins, protein, and healthy fats.  They help me keep my weight up.

Coconut oil is anti-inflammatory, helps with nutrient absorption, is anti-microbial (kills a variety of disease-causing bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites), and helps stabilize blood sugar.  (According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, 43% of adults with CF over the age of 30 develop cystic fibrosis related diabetes.  I don’t currently have diabetes but I did have gestational diabetes during my pregnancy and am careful to eat foods that keep my blood sugar stable).

Kale is very high in vitamins A, C, and K.  Getting a lot of vitamins A and K is especially important for me because they are fat soluble, meaning they need fat in order to be soaked up by the body.  CF patients tend to be deficient in them because we have trouble absorbing fats.  Kale is also high in antioxidants which boost immunity.  I’ve even read that it reduces the amount of mucus in the lungs!

Red cabbage boosts immunity, is anti-microbial, and antibacterial.  In fact, it has been shown to kill the bacteria Staphylococcus (both regular Staph and Methicillian resistant Staph), and Pseudomonas.  Both Staph and Pseudomonas common CF colonizers.  Red cabbage is also effective against the fungus Aspergillus which can live in the airways of CFers. Red cabbage improves digestion and is high in vitamin C.  (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3171003/)

Mushrooms boost the immune system, increase white blood cell count to aid in fighting infection, have antibiotic properties,  and stimulate the appetite.

Chia seeds are have high amounts of omega 3 fatty acids (to keep me smart 😉 ), are high in protein, have high levels of antioxidants to boost immunity, are easily digestible, and stabilize blood sugar.

Black pepper aids with digestion, reduces congestion, is anti-inflammatory, and has antibacterial properties.

Turmeric root is a powerful antioxidant, is antibacterial, and is anti-inflammatory.

Quinoa is high in calories and in nutrients.  It has a lot of protein and a good amount of vitamins.  It aids with digestion and stabilizes blood sugar.

I’ll be writing more about diet and foods in upcoming posts.  I’m still reading and learning about it and adjusting my diet to meet my needs.  I got a lot of personalized help from my friend Erin who is studying to be a dietician and is a wealth of information.  Check out her blog here:

http://20somethingholisticliving.blogspot.com/

Jaime found a blog called “CF and Healthy,” and reading that blog was what prompted this whole study.  There is a lot of CF specific diet information and links to news articles which are very interesting:

http://cfandhealthy.blogspot.com

I admit, preparing these kinds of foods takes time.  It’s a lot more work than pouring milk on a bowl of cereal.  But I’m feeling stronger and healthier, and that makes it well worth the effort.  Health, it’s what’s for breakfast!