Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Lazy Vegans Part I: How Elias's Potty Habits Changed Us All

Drew and I have always been flip-floppers in the way of vegan/vegetarianism.  We'll try it a few days, maybe a week, at most a month and have some indulgences in between.  We've been this way for years and it's never really stuck.  I guess that's where the title "the lazy vegans" came from.  That and because I want people to know that you don't have to be perfect when it comes to what is essentially a major diet change.  This time though, we're going to stay this way.  Why?  Well here's the beginning of our final vegan turnaround.

Elias's poo habits: a story of laughter, tears, and lactose sugar betrayal
Now he's happier than ever!

Some people are annoyed by seeing too many photos of other people's kids, and even more annoyed by parents who overshare, but if you have a kid you've already heard/seen more about poop in the first few weeks than you've heard about poop in a lifetime --even more than an episode of Dr. Oz.  We've always fed Elias rather healthily, actually a lot healthier than we feed ourselves which we've always known we need to change before our horrendous eating habits really rub off on him.  He was already starting to notice the shape of my donut boxes in our grocery bags and freaking out for one if he saw it.  Ouch.  However, no matter how healthy the little guy ate he a.) never gained weight and b.) always had some form of constipation and c.) because of his constipation he would continually hold in his poop, actually physically clinch his little butt so he didn't have to poop, making it that much worse.  We'd been told by everyone, including doctors, that he was just a small little boy like I was a small little girl when I grew up.  The constipation, at its worst, could be treated with suppositories and Miralax.

Miralax:  Miralax is not your typical laxative.  It's non-stimulant so it doesn't make you go.  It's what manufacturer's call a hygroscopic laxative, and if you remember anything from chemistry or bio, hygroscopic means that the substance absorbs water.  Sugar is hygroscopic, certain fibers are hygroscopic, and Miralax is made up of a hygroscopic fiber that brings water into the stool to not only make it softer, but to bulk it up so it can push out what's already in there. The effect on Elias:  Miralax would take a couple of days to work, but we would still hear the whining and crying before his bowel movements only to result in small stools, hard stools.

Suppositories: They were effective, but with "normal" people those things normally take like 5 minutes before they have the urge to get to a toilet!  Little Elias could actually nap through his suppository dose because he was so intent on holding it and his poop in.  Seriously, toddlers are very perceptive when it comes to potty behaviors.  If they feel like it's going to be uncomfortable in the slightest, they aren't going to do it.  Period.  It would take a little over an hour for one to work, but after he had held in his poo for so long, it was painful and of course a massive poo.  Poor little guy.  We had to hold him, kiss him, hug him, and soothe him in any way possible as if he had a boo-boo.  When he would finally go, we cheered, danced, clapped our hands, gave him a popsicle or some other kind of treat, anything to show him , that not only was pooping normal, but it was GOOD to poop!
Figure 1

Month after month his movements would be in either the 2 or 1 category on the Bristol Chart (see figure 1) As parents, it was agony watching him in pain.  Especially when his favorite phrase to describe the pain was, in his teeny little guy voice, "Ouch-chee-chee, it huuurts" accompanied by the saddest face you've ever seen :(  There is nothing sadder than seeing your child not be able to do something everyone does every day!  Okay, I promise you this blog isn't entirely about his poop.

"What in the hell does this have to do with veganism???"

Okay, this is why, and it will undoubtedly be the most graphic part of the story when it comes to poop.  Sorry guys! lol.  Eventually Elias started to show these little white pieces in his poop.  Of course I absolutely freaked when I saw this because I have this extreme phobia of worms whether they be intestinal or just regular old earthworms.  I immediately thought that's what it was.  So I contacted a ped. and they asked a whole bunch of questions first and other than the white stuff in his poop, there were no other symptoms.  He was skinny, but he wasn't lethargic, he didn't itch, he wasn't sick, and he would be more likely to have diarrhea than constipation if he had some kind of intestinal parasite.  Plus, we don't have animals and he only comes in contact with them when he visits family.  It was also the time of year where we didn't go outside that much.

Still terrified we talked about what the poop looked like and the doctor said that sounded more like bits of food fiber --it looked like cooked oatmeal pieces in his poop, no matter if he'd had oatmeal or not-- and that with the constipation it just was more visible in the super-solid poops he was having.  I accepted that answer because even though it still plagued me every time he had a bowel movement.  I seriously can't explain my irrational fear of intestinal parasites that was instilled in me by my late grandmother (I still love you, memaw!) because he always told us kids we were going to get worms if we didn't wash our hands before eating, if we didn't clean up after touching the animals, and I'm pretty sure she used some kind of anti-worming treatment on my sister and me when we were kids even though we didn't have worms and my mother went ballistic lol.  It was a different time...  I digress....

Months go by and still no change, still the occasional spongy, cottage cheese-like deposits in his poop, not wanting to eat anything, but still such a happy, healthy, well-developed boy we just tried to accept that this was his life and we just had to assume his constipation was from his sheer will NOT to poop. Feed him even more fiber than he was already getting, cut back on all the protein, flood him with water even more, honestly just do what we've always done but more!

"No, really, when does this turn into VEGANISM??"

Alright!  Here it is FINALLY!  After so long of being so distraught over Elias's condition, as well as his aunt Emily, uncle Drew, basically anyone who came into contact with him during his poo time, I finally went on yet another research spree after reading up more on veganism.  I watched every documentary, I read hours worth of articles, and so much of our health and wellness depends on digestion health, and how animal products make our bodies work so much harder to expel waste (more on that in another article)  Then somehow I came across an article about intestinal yeast.  The more I read about an overabundance of intestinal yeast (a.k.a. "thrush" in the colon) the more all but two of the symptoms lined up with Elias (nausea and lethargy) and, of course, since Google has everything, I was able to find actual photos of toddler poop that had an overabundance of candida.  It was as if they had gotten photos of Elias's poop!  It looked exactly the same over and over again.  I couldn't believe it!

Most articles said many of the intentional yeast infections were caused, or made worse by, dairy products.  Lactose, the sugar naturally-occuring in dairy milk, feeds these yeast cells (since yeast eats sugar.  Think about making bread and how yeast needs sugar to "bloom.")  But why was this lactose not being digested well enough that it was able to feed yeast that far into his digestive system??  We learned in the process Elias has lactose intolerance.  So the intolerance to lactose was making him constipated, and the lactose sugars were feeding intestinal yeast he may have acquired just by the sitting sugars in his gut or when he was using a pacifier (mind you, we have never seen a sign of thrush in his mouth or diaper area in his entire life and neither has a doctor, so that's what was determined) So every single time we were giving him milk --his absolute favorite drink of all time-- we were feeding his constipation.  We knew dairy could get him constipated, so we doubled up on water, but nothing worked.


We switched him to soy milk immediately after the yeast discovery.  Soy milk and lots of acidophilus in soy-based dairy products.  Soy was our first choice only because there was no coconut milk available at the time and almond milk, surprisingly, doesn't provide very much protein at all.  Within 24 hours we had gone through our first day without hearing "Ouch-chee-chee, it huuurts" and that was enough to make us tear up. Then in 48 hours he had his first poo that wasn't hard and rated more like a type 4 on the Bristol chart (figure 1)  We didn't even hear him strain!  We just smelled something, saw the potty, and there it was!  We were so excited, Elias was so excited!  He jumped around, clapped, laughed, slammed his potty shut like he had conquered the darn thing :)  Within days of starting the process, we saw no more signs of yeast in his poop.  None.  He finally sleeps throughout the night, even though before he was only waking up a couple of times with gas.  He is a totally different little boy!  He's always been happy, but now he's elated.


Like I said about 200 years ago when this article first started, Drew and I tossed the idea of veganism around but after we saw the near-immediate change in Elias after we stopped giving him animal products (we're off of red meat, chicken, eggs, fish may be last) we've been able to alleviate him of an almost year-long problem.  An excruciating problem.  A problem we feared would have caused him 
permanent damage, even psychologically, but as soon as we threw out the dairy he's "BM'ing like a rockstar" as Liz Lemon would say.  If a change in diet this simple can change Elias's entire life it can change ours.  We always knew it would be healthier, but we never thought it could be something that could work so fast.  So now we're starting it out again.  But we'll always be the "lazy vegans" because we're not going to picket Burger King for using casein in their veggie burgers, we're not going to preach to people they have to be vegan, we don't have time for that!  We won't, however, be "Dorito vegans"*
Sooo much better!

Plus, after years and years of being omnivores we're not going to expect a change as quickly as Elias's so we'll adapt ourselves gradually.  Thankfully Elias is at the age where it's easier for him to try new things.  Just one way in what will eventually be a looooong list of things Elias will teach us instead of us teaching him :)


The next article will answer more questions, explain more about the vegan diet, why even with the most humane of conditions meat still just isn't that great for your body in general, how you can go vegan if you want to, and if you've got any questions about veganism or why you're opposed to that lifestyle change, I'll answer that one too!  This was just a crazy way that our kid's POOP was the final push into starting a vegan diet.

If you've finally made it down to this point, congratulations!!!  Thanks for reading ^_^  I promise questions will be answered because I'm sure there are a lot after all of that rambling lol.  Drew and I are just so excited in this huge change in Elias's life that we want to share it with everyone.  Also, since starting this diet we already are starting to feel better so we want everyone to feel better too!  No point in finding something good and not letting other people in on it :)  Oh, and if it seems like Elias has been allergic to everything, next article we can talk about how his digestive health had a lot to do with them and we're already seeing a vast improvement!  Crazy!!!

Peace & Love!

Having fun without hurting!
*Dorito vegans: people who eat stuff that is technically vegan, like Doritos and Oreos, but not fruits and vegetables.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Totally guilt-free children's popsicles!

It cracks me up when I have to tell people my son is just too "busy" to eat.  My experience with my son's eating habits is nothing new.  When he was a baby I breastfed as much and as long as I could, I made nearly all of his baby food, even on Valentine's and Halloween I take all of his candy (hey! It's the perk of being a parent, right??  I don't eat them in front of him.  That's cruel and confusing!  "Why does mommy get to eat that stuff but I can't??")  But no matter how hard parents work to keep their child's diet healthy, when they hit those glorious toddler years you begin to learn that eating is more of a process of trial-and-error all over again, but not like when they were babies.  In this age along with refusals to eat certain foods --like when they were babies-- toddlers have developed a sense of self and a definite sense of rebellion, so they feel they decide just how feeding time is going to go.

The Busy Little Bee
When he's not playing, he's "helping"
in the kitchen.  He's too sweet!
My son thinks he's everything from a train conductor, a car detailer, an artist, a computer analyst, and a modern-day Ashton Kutcher in Punk'd.  In a nutshell, he's what all mothers and grandmothers call "busy."  It's such an absurd term because what could a child possibly be "busy" doing??  Well to them everything they do is 100% the single-most important thing they'll ever do in their lives, and 5 minutes later the next thing is the single-most important thing they'll do in their lives... Strangely enough, these actions are some of the most important things they'll ever do because it's totally invaluable learning time, but when food is presented in such a loving, home-cooked way, why on Earth would they not want to sit down and eat it??  How food not on the forefront of their minds like many other children?  It's a toss-up every meal time whether I can manage him to sit at his little table for longer than 5 minutes before he's distracted by his next "project," so to cope with this I try to make some of his favorite foods but I load them down with healthy items without his knowledge --or sometimes

One of his favorite foods...
Would definitely be popsicles.  What kid doesn't like popsicles??  No matter how tempting it is to buy the "100% fruit" popsicles, they're still loaded with sugar, stabilizers to keep them smooth, and there's no telling how long they've been on the shelf.  I'm not saying they're the DEVIL, I'm just saying their packaging is so alluring you'd think you're doing something good for your child when in reality it's almost like giving your child a snack.  In fact, many pediatricians say things like fruit cups, even in their own juices, are considered a "snack" because they lose so much nutritional value being cooked, pasteurized, and processed, and also packed in a fruit juice that is solely there for sweetening, not for nutritional value.

So what do I do to make popsicles on the cheap and easy?  First you go to your local Walmart store and on nearly every aisle you'll find these Crayola crayon-shaped popsicle molds. They're always hanging around, begging for an impulse-buy, and I finally give in.  They're inexpensive, they are really nice, hard plastic, no BPA, and there's seriously nothing cuter than the giant crayon shape.  Of course you don't have to use these particular molds, but that's what we have in our house!  So there's the first super-cheap step.

Secondly, I have a blender.  A food processor (even a mini prep processor) works just as well.  Blenders for this kind of work are super cheap so you don't have to break out your $1,200 Blendtec.  You can easily get away with a $20 Rival brand for these popsicle recipes.  It's crucial though unless you like to endure the pain of a mortar and pestle every night --and I do make these every night.  Here are the recipes I make the night before and you'll see some repeating ingredients, but that's because they've always been shown to work wonderfully.  BIG PLUS: A lot of the ingredients I choose are because my son is underweight, so I've got some fatty, yet healthy, ingredients in what would otherwise be a zero-fat snack!

Recipe 1: The Orange Creamsicle, revamped!

1 container Activia regular vanilla yogurt (not "lite") or Greek-style
2 T heavy whipping cream*
Approximately 4 oz. fresh-squeezed or Simply Orange juice (can be fortified)

Thicker & More Protein!
Mix together yogurt and cream, take a regular cereal spoon and put in a layer of the yogurt, then a layer of juice, and alternate until the mold is full to manufacturer's specifications.  You should have nearly nothing left over since each popsicle holds about 2 oz. of liquid.  Freeze, enjoy :D  They really taste like creamsicles!  Unlike creamsicles, however, they pack a good source of protein (especially the Greek-style yogurt) antioxidant vitamin C, calcium, vitamin D, and even more calcium if you buy the calcium-fortified orange juice.  This isn't just for kids, folks.  I genuinely enjoy these popsicles myself!  Oh, and since it's Activia, you can rest assured your kid is going to have a nice trip to the potty ^_^

Recipe 2: "Fudge"-sicle

Approximately 1/3 cup of whole milk
2T heavy cream**
Quarter of an avocado (check out my article about avocados! Holy Guacamole! Article)
1/2 cup Carnation Instant Breakfast Chocolate (of course has a lot of sugar, but in moderation, and it's loaded with essential vitamins and minerals that definitely can't be found in a traditional fudgesicle!)

Blend all together in blender (easy enough!) Fill molds according to manufacturer's instructions, freeze, and
enjoy!  I even find this popsicle to be mighty tasty... I've even added peanut butter to this recipe once for a nice kick of iron, fat, and protein.  These are a great source of calcium, vitamin D, protein, vitamin E, monounsaturated fats, and Instant Breakfast is crammed with vitamins and minerals already so it's fortified with more good stuff.  That doesn't mean you can skip out on the fresh ingredients!

Recipe 3: The "Poop-sicle"

Wow... Really should have thought through that title...

1/2 container Activia vanilla yogurt or Greek-style yogurt (NO LITE!)
1/3 cup "Plum Smart" juice
Tastes more like cran-grape!
This is quite possibly the easiest one yet!  It's surprisingly tasty and you just blend these two ingredients together and fill the molds according to instructions, then freeze.  You can even skip the Activia, but since I'm is prune juice, has been formulated so that it's much tastier and it doesn't have that super-heavy prune juice taste.  I for one love prunes, but prune juice?  It's not too wonderful.  Boo me!
not using whole fruits in this recipe I like to supplement it a little bit with some protein and calcium so I don't feel quite as bad about just freezing juice.  Either way you do it, it's a winner in this household because "plum smart," though it

Recipe 4: Banana-Berry Spinach??

Whole container of Activia regular Vanilla or Greek Style (Again, no "lite."  No artificial sweeteners.)
Half sliced banana
Palmful of blueberries (fresh is best, frozen is still great!)
A few baby spinach leaves (make sure you blend until they are merely teeny flecks!)
2T heavy cream*

Blend together until the spinach leaves are nearly undetectable.  If your mixture is too thick, feel free to add in watermelon or a tiny smidgen of fruit juice --whatever you have on hand.  Mix to your desired consistency, fill the molds.  You know the drill!

Notes: You can add just about any ingredient you can think of with these recipes, these are merely "starter recipes" and ones I use most often.  Encourage yourself to go nuts with them!  Some recipes I add silken tofu, some recipes I add sweet potato puree, sometimes I even throw in very-finely shredded carrots.  The key here is to pack in as much healthy stuff as possible!  A lot of these recipes are considered a half serving of fruit, dairy, vegetables, lean protein, and good fats.  Another important thing to know is that "fresh is best" and though these are horrendously-convenient and you can feed them to your child every day without feeling guilty, you should never entirely substitute fresh fruits and vegetables with popsicles.  Not only is that giving their bodies less of a chance to process their own foods, it's letting a toddler "win" by being rewarded with popsicles instead of a piece of fruit.  So if you have a busy little man like I do, it feels good to give him a snack he can carry around while he's pretending to be "Sir Toppam Hat" or calling relatives on our phone :)

Also, these recipes can be put in an ice cream maker and turned into a nice, soft ice cream.  Your child will never be the wiser :)  It also helps letting your child get involved when you make the popsicles the night before.  It can become a new bonding routine!  Every night, pull a chair up next to your "workstation" and let your child pick out what goes into their popsicle the next day.  Chances are they'll come up with some pretty creative combinations and eat them regardless of taste and feel proud about what they've created, rather than balk at the idea of having to eat... Again. This really goes for all food preparation, really.  Within safety reasons, let your child get involved!  Let him/her make a mess, it'll all come out in the wash, and soon you'll have your own little chef you never knew existed :)  Who knows?  Maybe one day he'll cook your dinner! haha.  That's not happening any time soon with me, but Elias does clean his dishes and with great relish!

Happy eating, y'all! xoxo
-Elias's mommy
Contact me!

*Can be omitted; I use it to add extra fat because my son is very petite, just like I was, and in combination with his extremely-active lifestyle he burns a ton of calories.  I don't feed him junk, so it's hard for him to pack on the pounds.  Plus, it does add a bit of creamy-dreaminess to it.  If your child is lactose-intolerant, you can skip this step.  Yogurt usually doesn't upset tummies of lactose-intolerant children, but always talk to your doctor if you are unsure about a particular ingredient.

**Again, can be omitted.  In this recipe it does "double-duty" because not only does it add a good amount of fat, it ads a bit of a creaminess that is reminiscent of fudgesicles.  If your child has a lactose sensitivity, feel free to replace this and the whole milk with yogurt.  If the recipe is too thick, add a teensy bit of fruit juice, or just don't use Greek-style yogurt which is much thicker than regular yogurt.