Welcome to Lexie's Kitchen & Living. I'm glad you stopped by and hope you enjoy the five years of recipes and ramblings collected here.

The inspiration for this site was my son. To learn about our journey to restore his intestinal and neurological health read here

Follow a gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free diet? Take a peek at my cookbook.  

 

 

 


 

 

 

Tuesday
Jul262011

Making the Switch: Cheryl's Story

 

This is the premier post in the Lexie’s Kitchen series Making the Switch.

This series, spotlights women and men who are making the switch in the way they shop for, cook for and feed themselves and their loved ones. These are everyday people openly sharing their struggles and victories in their journey to better health and well-being simply by changing the way that they eat. Each has a story—a reason for their switch from processed to pure foods.

For some, it has been gradual. For others it was a complete about-face. As each shares their story, you will learn what motivated them and how making the switch has changed their lives.

Putting the modified diet focus of this blog aside, Making the Switch is open to all. The point of it being to bring personal stories to light that encourage America to get back into the kitchen to cook real food. As Jamie Oliver puts it, “make only a few small changes and magical things will happen.” Whether it’s weight loss, improvements in a child's behavior or the regaining of health, magical things will happen.

It is my utmost pleasure to introduce to you, Cheryl. Cheryl is a young wife, mother and former U.S. Marine. She and her family live in Casper, Wyoming. Cheryl's enthusiasm for her new-found love of cooking is infectious as is her passion for encouraging others to make the switch.

_________________________________________________________________________

My name is Cheryl. I grew up in a home that ate a lot of prepackaged food—think Hamburger Helper and Little Debbie snack cakes. Vegetables were corn and potatoes. No, I haven’t always eaten healthy but for the benefit of my health and that of my family, we’ve made the switch. Here is a little of my story and proof that you can do it, too. You just have to choose it.

Make a Shopping List. Stick to It.

One of the first things you should know about me is that years back I became a little obsessed with grocery shopping. I have a bit of an impulsive streak when I enter a store. I always seem to find something I have to take home much the same way hogs sniff out truffles deep in the earth. Back in 2009 I took a “Language and Society” course that discussed the ways stores market products. I finally understood why I couldn’t control myself. These companies do so much research to get your business that it affects where they place the healthier fare—oh so inconveniently in the back! To find it, you must pass the wafting odors of the bakery, aisles of preservative-laden packaged foods and end caps of “sale” items.

Learn to Cook. Make it Your Hobby.

My husband and I have been married for five years. For the first sixteen months we were mostly apart. We served back-to-back deployments—me in Iraq and he in Japan. When I returned stateside, and with him Japan, I found myself with tons of extra time. That’s when I took up cooking. The Food Network was my teacher. I learned to sauté, julienne and simmer. I astonished my friends with the meals I made. What I learned is that anyone can cook with a little practice and a good recipe in hand. Make it your hobby.

Scan a Recipe's Ingredients List First.

One problem I have is finding a recipe I adore, only to tally up the calories after the fact and find that the meal easily exceeded 800 calories per serving. Yikes! Like many women who’ve had children, my body just doesn’t allow me to consume as many calories as I used to and I don’t want to be pining for years for my body to be a comparable substitute of its former self. Now, when I find a recipe, I will look at the ingredient lists first to see if it might be remotely healthy and then I tally up the calories (I use a pocket-sized calorie counter book and online calorie counters). I also use food websites that provide nutritional information.

Save Money. Buy Fresh.

Prepackaged meals can be expensive—averaging $2 to $6 for a single serving, excluding sides. And so many are laden with calories, sodium, fat and preservatives. Do we really need to be eating food that can sit on a shelf for six months plus? I don’t think so. On the occasion I buy prepackaged snacks, I choose those free of preservatives. I think the best advice I can give to anyone trying to save money is to buy fresh, unprepared food. Most of my grocery purchases are fruits and vegetables that must be washed and chopped, raw meat, poultry, eggs and milk (in opaque containers—it tends to stay fresher longer). In all honesty, I can't afford to buy everything organic so I try to make the most of it by purchasing the "dirty dozen" (produce with the highest levels of pesticides) organic when possible and organic milk. When the budget allows, I will buy organic meat.

Keep a Food Journal.

The biggest challenge for me in eating healthy is not knowing when my husband will home so that we can eat as a family. He is a Marine Corps recruiter operating out of two offices and has the largest recruiting area in the continental United States. There are days we think he’ll be home by seven and he walks through the door at nine. Often I eat alone. I’ve found that keeping a food journal helps me steer clear of unhealthy snacks and extras. This journal also helps me track the progress I’ve made in establishing healthier eating habits.

Encourage Others.

To this day my family struggles in making healthy eating decisions. I was home for a visit in February and the pantry was still stocked with junk like Pop-Tarts, pudding snacks and chips. My dad and step mom have three teenagers living at home. With different work, school and extracurricular activities schedules, it’s not often that they find time to eat as a family. This dilemma is one my daughter and I will face as we return home to stay with my dad while I complete an internship with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (N.C.I.S.). I hope that while we’re there I can encourage them to embrace new eating habits and start eating as a family again.

Prepare Ahead and Freeze Meals.

While I’m away, my husband will be going solo. I know that on the days he works late he won’t feel like cooking so I’ve spent this summer freezing leftovers and meals that he can easily reheat. This weekend I went through our chest freezer to see how many meals I’d accumulated for him. He has forty dinners and over the next few weeks I’ll add a couple more. I’ll feel good knowing that he’s eating the likes of Thai Macaroni and Cheese, Turkey Pot Rice Pie, Kale Butternut Squash Soup, Lemon Chicken and Chickpeas and Ratatouille.

A Peek at This Week's Grocery Purchases

I am including a photo of this week’s grocery purchases. I received my Bountiful Baskets organic basket and four kilos of mangos. I purchased two half gallons of organic whole milk. The basket and the milk totaled $39.94. The only other items I'll need to purchase this week are meat and poultry and if I use my numbers from last week, I can get one pound of organic ground beef and 12 ounces of organic ground chicken for $17.44—so my weekly total will be around $58.00. If I do any more meat this week, I have one pound of ground turkey and two pounds of turkey sausage links in the freezer so I don't have to buy anything else. Got a bunch of free oranges this week from a girlfriend, bonus!

In April of 2010 I had my first child, and like many moms, struggled to lose the baby weight. Over the past 18 months I have managed to lose all 53 pounds and regain my energy simply by choosing healthier foods. By reading labels and counting calories, I’ve learned that a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white bread, a snack cake, chips and a Capri Sun is not the healthiest lunch! I've known for many years that eating all that junk was doing me no good. I want to lead by example and hope that my daughter will see and feel the benefits of eating fresh, wholesome food. I know she is watching me and that a few others are, too. I hope they make the choice to make the switch.

_________________________________________________________________________

If you would like to be a featured in Making the Switch, click here and drop me a line.

I would like to thank Jamie and the Food Revolution “cast” for inspiring this series.

Tuesday
Jul192011

Rosemary Chimichurri Sauce & Giveaway

This recipe comes from my mom and dad. They love intense flavors and this chimichurri sauce heartily embraces those of rosemary and garlic—both known for their powerful medicinal properties.

I envy those in frost-free climate zones where rosemary thrives and grows like a weed. Earlier this year we were in Las Vegas for an extended stay and realized I didn't need to get my rosemary in the store, I could snag a sprig of it outside in the parking lot (naughty, I know). I just love edible landscaping!

Chimichurri is a pesto-like, garlicky green sauce from Argentina that's fantastic served over grilled beef. Mom suggests taking it further and using it as you would pesto—drizzling it over pasta, pizza, potatoes, toast, anything! I love it as a dipping sauce—drizzle on a plate with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Rosemary Chimichurri Sauce

Gluten-Free | Casein-Free | Citrus-Free | Corn-Free | Dairy-Free | Egg-Free | Fish-Free | Nightshade-Free | Peanut-Free | Potato-Free | Rice-Free | Shellfish-Free | Soy-Free | Tree Nut-Free | Wheat-Free | Grain-Free | Sesame-Free | Sweetener-Free | Yeast-free | GFCF | Vegetarian | Vegan | Raw

Makes: About 1 cup
Prep Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients:

2 cups loosely packed fresh PARSLEY, stems removed
1 cup loosely packed fresh ROSEMARY, stripped off stems
5 cloves GARLIC, minced (mom said to use 1/3 cup! Go for it if you—and your partner—love garlic)
2 tablespoons LEMON JUICE
1/2 cup OLIVE OIL
SEA SALT to taste

Directions:

In food processor, pulse parsley, rosemary and garlic to fine chop. With motor running, drizzle in lemon juice and olive oil. Salt to taste. Add water to thin, if desired.

Friday
Jul152011

Gluten-Free Dining in Cheyenne

In Cheyenne, Wyoming you can get up close—and hopefully not personal—with these beautiful creatures at the Terry Bison Ranch. In less than a week thousands upon thousands will descend upon Cheyenne, Wyoming for the annual Cheyenne Frontier Days. It's an event we pack up the car and head out for. For a town that shuts down at 8:00 pm, this is quite the event. It is the largest outdoor rodeo and Western celebration in the world and attracts some of the hottest tickets in country music as well as the wildly popular (at least with me) U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds.

They say Cheyenne doubles in size during this event, and I believe it. The quiet downtown streets fill bumper-to-bumper with Ford duallys. Authentic (and some not so) cowboys and cowgals sashay along the sidewalks ducking into air conditioned bars and restaurants to beat the mid-July Wyoming heat (why they just don't wear flip-flops beats me).

All around, it's a big ole party ... and where there's a party you've got to have good grub.

PROVISION UP!

Here are the grocery stores I shop at. If you are military and can get on base at F.E. Warren, the commissary has some good deals on gluten-free fare.

Natural Grocers
5116 Frontier Mall Drive
(307) 635-3800
Website

This is where I do the bulk of my grocery shopping. I know this store like the back of my hand. Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage is a chain of whole food and supplement stores. This is where you need to go to get your kombucha, kefir, coconut water and organic coffee. Pop in and buy all you need for a gluten-free picnic; Rudi's bread, Applegate sandwich meat, apples, Lara bars, you name it.

King Soopers
3702 Dell Range Boulevard (north side)
(307) 638-0014
Website

For some time now, King Soopers (part of the Kroger chain) has impressed me with their gluten-free offering. All gluten-free products carry shelf labels. The organic produce offering is pretty good as well.

Golden Dragon International Groceries
1605 Seymour Ave
(just east of downtown on Lincolnway)
(307) 634-1686

I love this place. It is such a hole in the wall, but has everything I need in the way of Asian groceries. It's fun just to pop in and poke around. I still can't believe Cheyenne can support this store. Guess there are more people here than I realize who like their rice sticks and squid!

 

QUICK DINING

Ruby Juice
113 E 17th Street (downtown)
(307) 634-3022
Website

Salads, soups, smoothies and gluten-FULL wraps. Clean, cheerful shop.

Mr. Hibatchi
1431 Stillwater Ave (north side, off Dell Range)
(307) 638-8899

Update: This restaurant is under new management. It's a decent place however there is no dedicated GF menu. A lot of their sushi no includes deep-fried ingredients. Just be forewarned. This has been such a pleasant find. For $7.95 you can enjoy the all you can eat lunch buffet. The buffet includes fried chinese food, but the OTHER half is all sushi! I make a meal out of the sushi alone. This may not be the best spot if you need to guarantee no cross contamination.

Chipotle
1400 Dell Range (north side)
(307) 632-6200
Website  |  Order Online

We go to Chipotle a lot. They are very accommodating and it is one of the cleanest restaurants in Cheyenne. Mention that you are gluten-free and they switch their gloves. It's popular with the military in town and can get quite crowded.

Rudolfo's Mexican Grill
801 East Lincolnway (just east of downtown)
 
(307) 632-1231

Don't be intimidated by the look of the place—a very old and outdated former Kentucky Fried Chicken, I think. This is the most authentic fast food Mexican you will find for 100 miles around. You know it's authentic when they have one of those pickled condiment stations. Anyway, the guys that work there are great. It's open 24-hours a day, 7 days a week. My favorite are the chicken tacos. I'm not too keen on the steak. Very affordable, very good. Dine in or drive thru. PLEASE ask if there is wheat/gluten in the corn tortillas. My son seems to have issues with them. Corn tortillas can sometimes be made with gluten. I wonder if these are?

 

FINER DINING

Re-O-Na Sushi & Thai
112 W 17th Street (downtown)  
307-638-8820

This restaurant JUST opened and it looks promising! We have not eaten here yet, but ducked in and were impressed with the decor, friendliness and cleanliness. Two parties on their way out said it was fantastic and that the curries are great and portion sizes hefty.

Morris House Bistro
2114 Warren Avenue (downtown)

307-369-1378
Website   Menu

One of Cheyenne's few fine dining experiences. Featuring "low country" Southern cuisine, The Morris House Bistro opened it's doors a month ago. It is located in the historic Esther Morris House. Esther Morris is commonly regarded as one of the heroines of the women’s suffrage movement.

The bistro is open Thursday through Saturday. The outdoor patio is open at 5pm, weather permitting. Seating for the patio is first come, first served. The dining room opens at 5:30, reservations are recommended—in fact I would make them now. If you have special dietary needs, call in advance and they will do their best to accommodate you.

The Capitol Grille
1600 Central Avenue (downtown, inside The Historic Plains Hotel)
(307) 638-3311
Website

This weekend my husband and I awarded The Capitol Grille with "The Best Burger in Town" award. I order mine with no bun, jalapenos, mushrooms and extra lettuce. Fries are not cooked in a dedicated fryer so substituting them with steamed veggies is a safer bet. Burgers are $7.95 and come with two toppings of your choice. Bison burgers are a couple dollars more.

Outback Steakhouse
1626 Fleischli Business Parkway (west of downtown)
(307) 638-8171
Website

We can't wait for Outback to offer an organic, grass-fed steak. Yeah, I know, that'll be the day. Nevertheless, we are always impressed with Outback's attentiveness to our needs. They have a gluten-free menu with quite a few offerings. Our usual is the 6-ounce steak with a naked sweet potato and green beans for $9.99. They are one of the busiest restaurants in town. I'm guessing during Frontier Days they are insanely busy. You can call ahead to be put on the waiting list, but they do not take reservations.

Olive Garden
1535 Dell Range Blvd (north of downtown, Frontier Mall)
(307) 632-2411
Website

We don't go to Olive Garden all that much. For me the breadsticks are just too tempting : ) If you possess more self-control than I do, it's a safe bet. They, too have a dedicated gluten-free menu. Another popular place in Cheyenne, so try to beat the crowd.

 

DOWNTOWN FAVORITES

Lastly, I thought I would mention some of our favorite things to see and do in Cheyenne for when you need a break from the crowds or the heat.

The Wyoming State Museum has some interesting exhibits and is a manageable size. The kiddie area is great! Keeps my kids entertained for at least an hour.

City News and Pipe Shop sells books and every magazine you'd ever want. They have a small coffee/sandwich bar and sitting area.

Prairie Pantry is the best (and only) cooking store in town. They've got it all. On Lincolnway.

Bohemian Metals is one of my son's favorite shops. If you collect rocks, fossils or turquoise rings, this spot's worth a visit. 314 W 17th Street.

Bloom Salon & Spa is a great place for a little pick-me-up (massage) or up-do : ) Next door to Bohemian Metals on 17th Street.

Terry Bison Ranch. This attraction is south of town five or so miles. We've enjoyed the "train" ride out to see the bison. I didn't know this but the burger the restaurant at the ranch serves up was voted "Best Burger in Wyoming by Bobby Flay and the Food Network." So there you have it!

Monday
Jul112011

Hold the Cheese! Jalapeno Poppers | Dairy-Free

In support of my son and the diet he follows (GFCF), I gave up dairy. Well, sort of. I can endure the temptation of Noosa's Strawberry Rhubarb Yogurt (barely!) and the call of Alden's Mint Chip Ice Cream (I plug my ears). Oddly, it's a platter of grilled Jalapeno Poppers that brings me to my knees.

I don't know what it is about grilled poppers. I find them utterly addicting and would like to kiss the man —and I'm convinced that it was a man—who first grilled up a batch of these green boats of bacon and cheesy goodness.

Over the 4th of July, I was making poppers with the usual cream cheese, bacon bits and shredded cheese (for the company, of course!). With a few jalapenos leftover I thought I'd do a little experiment.

I crisped up some minced pancetta (to step it up a knotch from the usual bacon) and mixed it into some dairy-free, Raw Nacho Cheese Sauce. The result was quite tasty! I had my poppers, sans the cheese, and was completely satisfied.

Dairy-Free Jalapeno Poppers

Gluten-Free | Casein-Free | Corn-Free | Dairy-Free | Egg-Free | Fish-Free | Peanut-Free | Potato-Free | Rice-Free | Shellfish-Free | Soy-Free | Wheat-Free | Grain-Free | Sesame-Free | Sweetener-Free | Yeast-free | GFCF | Easily Vegetarian

Makes: 12-16 poppers
Prep Time:  30 minutes
Soak Time:  2-4 hours
Grill Time: 10-15 minutes

Ingredients:

6-8 JALAPENO PEPPERS
1/2 cup RAW NACHO CHEESE SAUCE (see notes)
2-3 tablespoons crispy fried PANCETTA or BACON BITS
2-3 tablespoons thinly sliced GREEN ONION (optional)

Directions:

Slice jalapenos lengthwise and deseed using a small spoon. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix remaining ingredients. Fill each pepper half with "cheese" mixture.

Grill on low 10-15 minutes or until peppers are tender and cheese is heated through. Allow to rest 3-5 minutes before serving.

Notes:

To balance the saltiness of the pancetta, cut back the measure of salt from 1 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon when making the Nacho Cheese Sauce.

Try to keep the cheese mixture thick by adding as little water as needed to achieve a smooth dip consistency. If you've made it on the thinner side, you can add a tablespoon or two of tapioca flour to the cheese mixture to thicken it up.

On Lexie's List to Try: Grilled Appetizers

Grilled Shiitake Mushrooms on Rosemary Skewers over at Martha Stewart

Beef and Asparagus Negmaki over at Martha Stewart (using honey and gluten-free soy sauce)

Tuesday
Jul052011

Diving to the Depths in Search of Healing 

Admittedly and apologetically, I've been lax in posting an update on our son—the sweet inspiration for this blog. If you frequent Lexie's Kitchen, you may be familiar with his story. If you're new to it, you can visit the Hello page for a little background.

So, here goes.

Close to the Heart

It's odd. As much as I want to reach out and share the latest on our son, I find myself harboring it all within. I toss out tidbits to satisfy curiosity, but for the most part, I keep it close to my heart.

Is it because it's hard to explain?

Is it because the health and well-being of my children means everything to me?

Is it because I am admitting that my child isn't "typical?"

Is it because I just don't want to have to deal with people thinking I'm nuts?

Um, yep. Check all of the above.

Is this healthy? Probably not. Is this how I cope? I guess so.

Some Hard Years

Three summers ago, my husband and I first took note of our son's weak head control, his drifting eyes and those abnormally messy diapers. The years since have been the hardest of my life. I've cried buckets. I've been angry. I've felt helpless. The emotions have run the gamut. 

These days, or at least today, I feel braver, stronger and thankful. I feel strong enough to share what I have guarded closely and thankful that the journey has instilled in our family a new depth of compassion, it has opened our minds and has changed our lives for the better. We are doing what is within our power to heal our little man and are leaving the rest to God.

As I write this post, I am sitting in the boys' room perched next to a rented portable Vitaeris Hyperbaric Chamber (HBOT). This is the latest therapy we are trying. A compressor hums away, keeping the chamber inflated at a steady 4.2 PSI. My husband and son are inside. Our son is hooked up to a nasal canula that is delivering a flow of oxygen.

We are renting this unit for $350 a week and will have it in our home for 10 weeks. We are aiming to complete 100 treatments—or "dives." Each dive lasting one hour, plus the time spent "diving down" and the time "coming back up."

What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)?

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) is a painless procedure in which a person is exposed to increased pressure, thus allowing greater absorption of oxygen by body tissues and plasma. The increased pressure allows more oxygen to reach the cells within the body. The concept of Hyperbaric oxygenation has been around since the late 1600's but has only gained recognition in conventional medicine over the past 40 years. For a comprehensive overview, visit Genox, Inc.

Twelve treatments down and I am impressed with how cooperative little man is. The i-Pod, DVD player and books get us through each session.

While not new, HBOT is a recognized treatment for chronic degenerative health problems related to atherosclerosis, stroke, peripheral vascular disease, diabetic ulcers, wound healing, cerebral palsy, brain injury, multiple sclerosis and macular degeneration. Recently it has been entertained as a therapy for autism and mitochondrial dysfunction (MtD). Essentially, wherever blood flow and oxygen delivery to vital organs is reduced, function and healing can potentially be aided with HBOT.

Mitchondrial Dysfunction and Its Link to Autism

Before diving into why we have chosen HBOT as a therapy, let's talk a little about a very real link between autism and this thing called mitochondrial dysfunction.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 1 in 110 children falls on the autistic spectrum. Hats off to the activists, doctors and researchers seeking answers to the mystery.

One thing that is becoming evident is that autism is not a brain-generated disorder, but as Dr. Martha Herbert and others believe, autism is a whole body disorder. Furthermore, in the following video, my friend and Certified Nutrition Consultant, Julie Matthews, makes the point that there is likely no one cause nor one cure for autism because it is so complex. She goes on to say that there seem to be varieties of “autisms,” because not everybody has the same history or the same systems that are affected.

Our son exhibits some of the physiological symptoms we see on the spectrum but has never been diagnosed as being autistic. So if it isn't autism, if it isn't a syndrome, what is it? This very question has haunted me for three years. 

Thankfully, with the help of Dr. Steven Rondeau of Wholeness Wellness Center in Ft. Collins, Colorado, we are piecing together the puzzle. Looking at our son's various diagnoses and tendencies in a holisitic manner, we see the signs of mitochondrial dysfunction (MtD). And THAT is what he does have in common with a certain percentage of autistic children.

To understand mitochondrial dysfunction, articles such as this one in Science Daily and this one by Alyssa Davi and this one by Dr. Mark Hyman are helpful. In a nutshell it has to do with energy production at the cellular level. Due to damage or stress, the mitochondria—the powerhouse of the cell—are not functioning optimally. 

Mitochondria exist in nearly every cell of the human body, producing 90 percent of the energy the body needs to function. In a person with mitochondrial disease, the mitochondria are failing and cannot convert food and oxygen into life-sustaining energy. The parts of the body that need the most energy, such as the heart, brain, muscles, [GI system] and lungs are the most affected by mitochondrial disease. The affected individual may have strokes, seizures, gastro-intestinal problems (reflux, severe vomiting, constipation, diarrhea), swallowing difficulties, failure to thrive, blindness, deafness, heart and kidney problems, [poor muscle tone], muscle failure, heat/cold intolerance, diabetes, lactic acidosis, immune system problems and liver disease. An undiagnosed child may exhibit feeding problems, be unable to fight typical childhood infections or have repeated infections and fevers without a known  origin. A red flag for mitochondrial disease occurs when a child has more than 3 organ systems with problems or when a “typical” disease exhibits atypical qualities.  - The United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation

Dr. Dan Rossignol, a respected family practitioner in the field and parent to two autistic children, takes the definition of MtD one step further by explaining the difference between primary and secondary MtD. In this "Mitochondrial Dysfunction in Autism" presentation (it is a must watch!) Dr. Rossignol identifies Primary Mitochondrial Disease as typically referring to genetic defects leading to mitochondria dysfunction and Secondary Mitochondrial Disease (dysfunction) as referring to impaired functioning of mitochondria. Miles appears to be affected by the latter.

So what were the pieces of the puzzle that pointed us in the direction of mitochondrial dysfunction? Here are the diagnoses our son has been served over the past three years and observations that have been made:

DIAGNOSES

  • Hypotonia – Low tone. This contributed to some aspiration when he was younger. He walked at 20 months, began to run at 3 years and at 3-1/2 took his first two-inch jump off the floor.
  • GERD - At 16 months, went on Prevacid for two months until I said "no more" and explored possible food allergies. Again, GERD is just a symptom of a deeper rooted issue.
  • Delayed Myelination in one region of his brain. Myelination, basically, is the insulation around the nerves in the brain. And like a wire that has been stripped of insulation, messages get distorted and sparks fly.
  • Gross/Speech/Fine Motor Delays – We continue speech, occupational and physical therapies. He is speaking in three-word sentences, his hands are still a little shaky, he can jump a distance of 5 inches. Cognitively he is "intact."
  • Exotropia in both eyes (lazy eyes). Surgically corrected at 16 months by the phenomenal Dr. Robert A. King of Denver, Colorado.
  • Chronic Sinus Infection – This was our second clue that food allergies (dairy formula) had come into play.
  • Noisy Breathing - From very early on, I sensed something was not right with his nasal passages. You could nearly always hear the flow of air through his nose. It's hard to explain. Was it the structure of his sinus pathways or chronic inflammation? Sometimes it could be heard across the room (as with our first visit to see Dr. Rondeau) and at other times it was something you could hear only if you were right next to him. I've heard many an overweight person sound like him. 
  • Allergies – Wheat, dairy, egg, dog. We are completely gluten- and casein-free.
  • Chronic Diarrhea – The medical term I was given by our original pediatrician was "toddlers diarrhea." He suffered with this from 14-32 months. It was putrid, yellow, sometimes green, undigested food, fruity and sulphuric! Just awful. Today, it is under control but certain foods and sugars set his gut off. Believe it or not, one of these diapers was the straw that broke the camel's back. After months and months of these diapers, and with tears falling from my eyes, I resolved to seeking help elsewhere. Should you seek help elsewhere? Well, if your child's pediatrician recommends the B.R.A.T. (bananas, rice, applesauce and toast) diet for his/her chronic (not acute) diarrhea, it's time.
  • Yeast Overgrowth – Also known as candida albicans. Treated with diet and, so far, one round of anti-fungal medication. We will retest in a couple of months to see where we stand.
  • Chromosomal Abnormality – 1p34.1—duplication of "34" on the short arm of the 1st chromosome. My husband tested positive for it as well. Is it clinically significant? We do not know.
  • Low Iron
  • Lack of Reflexes
  • Elevated Toxin Levels – Porphyrin testing showed elevated levels of lead, mercury, pesticides and PCBs.
  • Asthma – Always viral induced. Currently, the only medication he takes is Singulair. We will go through one more winter on it and then attempt to back off of it. Should he come down with a respiratory infection and begin wheezing or his oxygen saturation drop, we administer Albuterol as needed. A breathing child is a good thing and two hospitalizations were enough!
  • Lower Oxygen Saturation – This has improved, but up until a year ago his daily average was 90-91 and would drop lower in his sleep. Today he's at 96-97. (oh and by the way, this is a very handy gadget to have on hand to monitor the asthmatics in your home).

OBSERVATIONS

  • Energy – His energy level is definitely improving. A year ago he would tire after 15 minutes of motor room time. Not the norm for a 3 year old.
  • Spaciness – He still has his moments (I used to think they were silent seizures, but I could always snap him out of them), but since removing gluten and casein the space-out moments are fewer and farther between.
  • Balance - He is clumsy, he trips a lot and just plain loses his balance.
  • Body Temperature Regulation - When it's hot, he gets really hot and when it's cold, he gets really cold. This is a common symptom of mitochondrial dysfunction.
  • GI - We have seen great improvements in intestinal health. Recent urine tests showed that he still had some yeast overgrowth. We'll see if HBOT and diet work together to help clear this up.
  • Speech - We are into week two of HBOT and Dr. Rondeau has asked us to watch for improvements in speech and "spontaneous conversation." I think we are definitely seeing more four, and even five, word sentences. His enunciation is lacking and only those close to him can understand him, but he is communicating! I am excited to see what week three, four and five bring.
  • Awareness - Dr. Rondeau put it perfectly. Our happy-go-lucky little guy can be "blissfully unaware" at times. La-di-da! He'll mosey down the aisles of the grocery store, not look where he's going and run into people, taaaaake his time, you get the picture.
  • Potty Training - Oh, now wouldn't that be the icing on the cake! : )

Big brother looks on.Could HBOT Be Our Answer?

When we first started reading up on mitochondrial dysfunction, everything seemed to click—it sounded like our guy. And then, a week later, when Dr. Rondeau confirmed the same suspicion with blood and urine tests we knew he was our man. Since seeing him for the first time in March 2011, we have addressed diet by going back on the Yeast-Free Diet (Anti-Candida Diet) and are administering a customized supplement "cocktail" consisting of: 

Probiotics
Essential Fatty Acids
Acetyl L-Carnitine
CoQ10; Includes Vitamin E, B3, B6, B12, B5
Digestive Enzymes
Vitamin C
Vitamin E

Note: Always consult your doctor for a customized supplement routine to suit your specific needs. What may be right for my child may not be right for your child.

And now we've come full-circle back to hyperbaric oxygen therapy. With diet and supplementation in order, Dr. Rondeau strongly encouraged the trial of HBOT with our son. Though extensive research on the effectiveness of HBOT to treat MtD and autism are forthcoming, my husband and I felt strongly about pursuing this path. In an abstract by Dr. Rossignol, HBOT has shown promise in the following areas as related to mitochondrial dysfunction:

Behaviors & Tendencies: May help improve repetitive, self-stimulatory and stereotypical "austistic" behaviors in certain individuals on the autism spectrum as well as improve impairments in communication, sensory perception and social interactions.
Detoxification: Upregulates enzymes that can help with detoxification problems specifically found in autistic children.
Dysbiosis: May improve dysbiosis which is common in autistic children.
Oxygenation of Blood and Tissue: Can compensate for decreased blood flow by increasing the oxygen content of plasma and body tissues when cerebral hypoperfusion conditions are present.
Immune Function: Has been reported to possess strong anti-inflammatory properties and has been shown to improve immune function.
Oxidative Stress: Reduction of oxidative stress through the upregulation of antioxidant enzymes.
Mitochondria Function and Production: May increase function and production of mitochondria and improve neurotransmitter abnormalities.
Porhyrin Production: Can aid in the impaired production of porhyrins in autistic children which might affect the production of heme.
Mobilization of Stem Cells: May aid in mobilization of stem cells from the bone marrow to the systemic circulation. Studies in humans have shown that stem cells can enter the brain and form new neurons, astrocytes and microglia.

Then there are the testimonials, the real life stories of healing like Casey's Part One and Part Two and this one that keep me encouraged:

Find Your Path

It is my hope that this blog and our story can help others find answers and healing. Perhaps our son sounds like your child? Whatever the case, take control, seek help. I really have enjoyed the following video, Why Current Thinking About Autism is Completely Wrong, by Dr. Mark Hyman. Dr. Hyman offers the same simplistic approach that Miles’ doctor is taking. And it all makes sense. If you're not sure how or where to start the healing process, watch this clip.

“Every child with behavior problems or autism is different. Each has to find their own
path with a trained doctor. But the gates are open and the wide road of healing is in
front of you. You simply have to take the first step.” –Dr. Mark Hyman

Hope is a Beautiful Thing

There is no doubt that we are hoping for a miracle with HBOT.

We may get one, we may not.

We've seen positive results with diet, supplementation and therapy (I will be eternally grateful to our son's therapists Erin, Heather, Lindsay, Janet, Tiffany and Sherri). Perhaps with HBOT we'll see even greater progress.

I take my job as mom very seriously and am committed to doing all I can for our little man. I feel he is at a stage of development where great things can happen. So far we are progressing and every part of my being hopes and prays that he will continue to do so. The unknown is never easy, but hope and complete faith in God's great plan, gets me through.

Now Let's Go For a Dive

On a fun note. We've been talking about diving and it just so happens that my sister is an avid diver—her livelihood revolves around it. Jill is a PADI Certified Dive Instructor on the Island of Lanai. As my kiddo and I "dive" down in our HBOT, we'll be living vicariously through aunty Jill. If you're ever on Lanai (or Maui) and want to scuba, call Trilogy, ask for Jill and tell them that Lexie sent you. Perhaps this final video will send you on your way to book a flight to paradise. Sounds good to me!

Thanks to each and every one who supports this blog. I appreciate you so much! Your kind words and thoughts mean the world to me.

xoLexie

 

UPDATE #1
July 9, 2011
After 20th Dive


We spent the day out and about and my husband and I kept commenting on how many words were coming out of our little man's mouth. At one point hubby said "are we sure we want him talking " : ) ha ha, but seriously, he would mimic everything that we would say, he'd comment on what he saw. I think this is working!

UPDATE #2
July 25, 2011
After 40th Dive

We have completed 40 dives in the HBOT—four weeks of treatment. Today he walked (and even jogged a some) the farthest he’s ever walked without tiring out (close to 1/2 mile). And yesterday we went on a picnic and he scrambled (mind you slowly and carefully) up and over some pretty big boulders. My husband and I have had many moments in the last couple weeks where we look at each other and raise our eyebrows and say “did you see that?” or “did you hear him say that?” We’ve asked ourselves, if it’s just natural progress or is it the oxygen therapy? Well, we’ve concluded that the therapy is doing something. The improvements in the number of words and syllables he can string together and smoother gross motor movements we’ve seen in four weeks time is more than a growth spurt or natural progress. My husband was talking with his mom (a teacher for many years) and she tends to agree. The other morning little champ came in and crawled into bed with me. We were “talking” and he said; “so cute” to which I replied “who?” and he said “you mom!” Talk about melt my heart … how awesome is that! His communicating his wants and needs in words has greatly improved in the last four weeks. The enunciation is definitely something he will need to work on, but if we take a sentence slowly, word-by-word, he can say most of the words clearly and concisely.

UPDATE #3
August 25, 2011
After 83rd Dive

The observations we have made since the last update include:

Bowel movements: Soft to formed. Every day or every other day. 

Energy: Great. Naps 3 times a week. Up at 7:30, to bed at 8:30.

Gross Motor: He has started to skip or gallop. A lot more steady on his feet. Is running faster and faster. Still flails arms a bit and has a very lean-forward gait, but the flailing is much less than it was even a month ago.

Fine Motor: He really likes playing games on the i-Touch and it really allows me to gauge the "shake" in his hands. It is very slight now ... not at all what it was 3 months ago. 

Speech: He is really trying to sing! Love it! Enunciation still lacks, so we will focus on that this year with preschool  therapy (starts Monday). Last week we sat down to play a game and he clearly said '"you be red, I be blue." Yesterday he counted houses as we drove to pick up big brother at school. He is telling knock kncok jokes: "knock knock" who's there, banana, banana who, banana peel!" We all laugh ... he thinks he's being so funny : ) The strides we've made in 10 weeks are hard to just take as "growth." I really really think that HBOT has played a part.

Illness: Last week we were held up a few days due to a cold/flu bit that the two boys and I got. He recovered the quickest ... now that's a first!! His brother is still blowing snot? Has his immune system gotten stronger? The coming months will be the test.

Potty Training: With the school year starting, I wake him in the morning and send him straight to the potty. He will relieve himself. I think that part of the problem here is laziness. Or just not making the immediate connection between the urge and the need to get to a bathroom. We will keep working ...