Eating a grain-free, paleo, or GAPS lifestyle doesn’t mean you can’t have a treat now and again. This healthy cake recipe is deliciously moist and flavorful, without junky ingredients that may burden your body!When I set out to write a GAPS Diet-friendly holiday cookbook, I knew a healthy carrot cake recipe had to be included. Not only it is a quintessential fall treat, but it is a favorite in my family. I make it for my husband’s birthday in October every year, so creating a recipe our whole family could eat and one we would love was imperative! After experimenting with several types of flours and sweeteners, I’ve found I actually prefer the paleo-style version over ones made with grain-based, gluten-free flours and refined sugars. Not only does the grain-free version leave me feeling better, but I found it to be the best texture and taste-wise to boot! While I love the version that ended up in my cookbook, this updated healthy carrot cake recipe is my favorite yet. I increased and modified measurements and ingredients to create a really special, two layer cake, worthy of your holiday table or any special celebration.
PANDAS syndrome, though becoming increasingly more common and well-known, is still poorly understood by the majority of doctors. If your child has recently received a PANDAS diagnosis (or if you suspect your child has PANDAS or PANS), you’ll find the “PANDAS Parent Starter Kit” below helpful.
If you’re the parent of a child with puzzling and frustrating behaviors, you’re likely wondering what you’re doing wrong, what’s wrong with your child, and what can be done to improve your child’s behavior and relationships in the family, and to bring peace to your home.
Let me assure you, if you’ve landed here, you’re on to something. You know something isn’t quite right with your child, and you’re committed to helping him or her. Let me also assure you that there is hope! Whether your child has already received a PANDAS diagnosis, or whether you suspect that’s what could be going on, the tips below will help you get started to getting your child back on the right track.
How do I know if my child has PANDAS or qualifies for a PANDAS diagnosis?
First things first- is your child exhibiting symptoms of PANDAS? PANDAS symptoms can be wide-ranging, but mostly include neurological and behavioral abnormalities, like:
- Obsessive compulsive disorder
- Bipolar disorder
- Restrictive eating
- Depression or suicidal thoughts or ideation
- Developmental or behavioral regression
- Rage, aggression, or irritability
- Sensory processing disorder
Often, these symptoms develop almost overnight, and usually following an illness. Sudden, acute onset of behavioral disorders is generally believed to be a hallmark of PANDAS syndrome, although some children do experience a slow decline that worsens with exposure to illness or other triggers.
What are the causes of pandas?
Because PANDAS stands for Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections, the belief is that the main cause is a strep infection. However, evidence continues to emerge which links symptoms of PANDAS to many other triggers, which is why a broader diagnosis of PANS may be more appropriate for many children exhibiting symptoms.
PANS stands for Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome. Besides a strep infection (which may or may not present as a classic sore throat), the neuropsychiatric symptoms above can result from exposure to:
- Lyme disease and co-infections
- environmental triggers and chemicals (though these have more of a cumulative effect and may result in a slow decline, rather than acute onset of symptoms)
- Espstein Barr virus (mono)
- stomach bug
- other acute infections
- vaccinations (read about how vaccinations can trigger an autoimmune response here)
The best way to describe how PANDAS or PANS develops is that it is an autoimmune response to illness or some other trigger. Rather than creating antibodies against the disease like a well-functioning immune system should, the immune system instead creates antibodies against brain tissue. When the immune system attacks brain tissue, we see undesirable behaviors.
How do you treat PANDAS?
After reading the above, you may be pretty sure this is, indeed, what your child is dealing with. Whether your child has all or just some of the symptoms, whether there was a slow decline or an acute onset, the tips below can help your child recover.
Does PANDAS syndrome go away?
Yes! Many children reach full recovery from PANDAS. Because the underlying causes and triggers vary, modalities for reaching complete recovery can also vary.
The PANDAS Parent Starter Kit:
where to start after a PANDAS diagnosis- or if you suspect PANDAS or PANS
Below, you’ll find some steps you can take to help your child begin recovering now, whether you have an official PANDAS diagnosis or not.
Sorry. You knew I was going to start here. You knew it was coming: you must change your child’s diet. But even if you’re not 100% ready to go all in, there are baby steps you can take to begin improving your child’s behavior now!
To begin with, choose a handful of ingredients to eliminate totally and completely, not allowing your child to have them even on occasion. Here are the ones I suggest starting with:
- Food dyes. This is non-negotiable. Kids with neuropsychiatric disorders cannot tolerate food dyes because of their neuro-toxic properties. They stimulate brains cells and cause them to misfire, leading to early brain cell death.
- Artificial sweeteners. So you’re trying to do better and cut down on the sugar in your child’s diet? Unfortunately, when it comes to brain health, artificial sweeteners are worse than sugar. Like food dyes, the chemicals are neurotoxins that can cause unwanted behaviors. Be wary of anything labeled “sugar-free.”
- MSG. Another neurotoxin that hides under a variety of names.
- High fructose corn syrup. This syrup is chemically-derived from corn starch, giving it a high-fructose makeup which goes straight to the blood stream, causing both blood sugars and behaviors to spike.
Once you’ve tackled the worst ingredients, you’ll want to move on to eliminating ingredients like gluten and dairy from your child’s diet. Like children with autism, a gluten-free, casein-free diet can greatly benefit children with other neurological disorders like PANDAS or PANS.
Unfortunately, some parents don’t see a big difference in their child from just the above changes, so they give up and quit a healthy diet. The truth is, the above changes may not be enough for many children with PANDAS.
Many PANDAS kids do best with a very strict paleo diet, eliminating not only junkie ingredients, gluten, and dairy, but also refined sugars, legumes, and all grains. Yes, eliminating all grains means that store-bought gluten-free foods are a no-go.
Interested in the GAPS diet? Read more and find recipes here.
You don’t have to wait for a PANDAS diagnosis to see benefits in your child’s behavior from making diet changes. Choose a place to start, explain to your child that these changes are so he can feel better, and dig in (and don’t look back!). Changing your child’s diet is truly the cheapest and easiest way to help your child; I promise!
There can also be helpful supplements you can use to compliment your child’s diet changes. Start slowly, experiment, and don’t be discouraged if you don’t find just the right combination right away. Here are a few that we have found helpful, which we go back to time and time again.
Bioray Kids Happy- while this supplement isn’t entirely compatible with the GAPS diet because it has added flavors, it has been one of the most helpful supplements for quieting a behavioral flare.
Happy contains a unique blend of liver and immune-system supporting mushrooms, as well as chlorella, which supports detoxification, plus herbs that support the removal of unwanted organisms, like bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Most importantly, it has been clinically proven to reduce angry outbursts. Read more about our experience with Happy here, or buy Happy here.
Smidge probiotic- it’s important to use a good probiotic when working to heal the gut. While we have experimented with a variety of probiotics, we always come back to Smidge for a number of reasons, not the least of all that it was developed specifically for sensitive children with neuropsychiatric disorders. It’s free of bacterial strains that will exacerbate behavioral symptoms, as well as those that increase histamines, which can result in unwanted behaviors.
Smidge is both gentle and effective, making it a good choice for PANDAS kids. Plus, one bottle (though seemingly expensive up front) lasts a long time, making it the cheapest probiotic (per dosage) that our family has used to date. Buy Smidge here.
Oregano extract- oregano is a very powerful herb that works to combat a variety of infections, especially strep. It has anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and anti-fungal properties, and may even kill pathogens like MRSA and listeria. Oregano essential oil can be useful for ailments like colds and flu.
While we stick with oregano extract in general, we have also found that a supplement called Oregano Spirits works well when we need to pull out the big guns.
Cod liver oil- while some children with tic disorders don’t do well with cod liver oil, we have found it to be one of the most effective supplements for stopping tics. Between the brain-fueling omega fats and the immune-boosting vitamins A and D, I think cod liver oil is one of the most important supplements for any of us to take. (Read more about how and why to choose a good cod liver oil here.)
There are only a couple brands of cod liver oil I trust and have had good results with. My favorite, most high quality is Rosita’s Extra Virgin Cod Liver oil, a small batch, artisan cod liver oil that is the purest available. Read more about it and buy it here.
Nordic Natural cod liver oil also has benefits, which I sometimes pick up at the grocery store between bottles of Rositas. You can check that one out here.
While this is not an exhaustive list of supplements that can help with symptoms of PANDAS, these are a few we have found very helpful. Always go slowly, start one supplement at a time, and check with your healthcare professional before starting a new regimen.
Whether or not you’ve gotten an official PANDAS diagnosis, there are some tests that can be helpful to get to the bottom of some of the underlying conditions contributing to your child’s behavior.
We’ve done extensive testing over the years. Some has been expensive, unnecessary, and, ultimately, unhelpful. Others have been helpful and given us insight about how to proceed with treatment.
Tests that can be helpful
- Stool testing. This can show what pathogens are overgrown or lacking in your child’s gut. It was stool testing that led me to suspect PANDAS, because, although blood testing didn’t find strep, stool testing did.
- DNA/genetic testing. This can help you determine if your child has any genetic mutations contributing to improper detoxification, as well as give direction for other supplementation down the road. Read more about MTHFR mutations and how to test for them here.
- Blood tests for specific pathogens. This may give you a start to figuring out what underlying infections your child might be battling, including strep, epstein barr virus, Lyme disease, and more. The caveat is that blood tests aren’t always accurate, and while they may provide answers, they could be a dead end too.
Tests that I would skip
- Food allergy testing. While a lot of kids are clearly unable to tolerate milk or gluten, these often will not show up on any allergy tests. Your better bet is to do an elimination diet or just dive in to a gut-healing diet like GAPS. The key is healing leaky gut to eliminate food allergies.
- The Cunningham Panel. If it’s important to you to get a medical PANDAS diagnosis, as well as get more information about what’s happening in your child’s brain, you may want to do this test. Learn more about it here. However, some PANDAS specialists may offer a clinical diagnosis based on symptoms and history.
Finding a doctor
If you are going to go the route of having tests run and may be considering using some conventional treatments (like antibiotics or IVIG) to compliment a healthy diet and supplementation, you can’t depend on just any doctor.
Most pediatricians and doctors are not familiar enough with PANDAS to offer treatment solutions, and many even deny that PANDAS or PANS even exist!
You’re much better off finding a PANDAS specialist, who will know which tests to run, which medications and supplements may be a good fit for your individual child, and how to support you with healthy lifestyle changes.
Search here to find the nearest PANDAS specialist to you, then be sure to call and ask questions before scheduling an appointment. You may also want to search for groups on Facebook where you can find other PANDAS parents near you who have had experience with a certain doctor. Many times feedback from other parents can be invaluable when searching for a doctor you can trust.
Use this PANDAS Parent Starter Kit to keep from getting overwhelmed
If your child has received a PANDAS diagnosis, or even if you just suspect your child might be suffering from PANDAS or PANS, I know it can be scary, overwhelming, and frustrating trying to get help. I’ve been there.
The emotions we experience as the parent of a PANDAS kid cannot be adequately described in words. We often feel like our child has been kidnapped and that we will never see them again. And we would do anything in our power to help them recover.
Take heart. There is hope for your child to recover, and you don’t have to do everything all at once. The above steps should be looked at as baby steps, with diet being the foundation of recovery.
Many children find healing in a variety of ways, which cannot be thoroughly covered in one blog post. However, just starting somewhere and working to lower your child’s inflammation is an excellent place to start and get him on the road to recovery.
Has your child received a PANDAS diagnosis? What steps have you taken to begin recovery? Share in the comments below!
Sugar cookies are sort of my thing. And after I mastered paleo sugar cookies last year, I continue to update it as seasonally necessary. Yes, sugar cookies are necessary. Ask my kids. You can find my newest iteration in the pumpkin spice cookies version below!
I am unashamedly all about that pumpkin spice. Every year I come up with some new way to squeeze pumpkin into my recipes: pumpkin pasta, pumpkin blondies, pumpkin pecan pie cheesecake… and I think, “Where else can I use pumpkin?”
In pumpkin spice cookies, of course. But not just any cookies. My paleo sugar cookies are a family favorite. I can barely stop myself from running to the kitchen and whipping some up now, just writing about them. But I’m exercising self control because if I do that, you’ll never get this recipe, and you need this recipe.
C’mon, fall, it’s pumpkin spice cookies time!
So here we are, coming up on the end of October, and it was so hot here in Houston today that my kids wouldn’t play outside.
Funny… Mr. Incredible traveled up to the mountainous wilderness of Wyoming last week and frolicked in the snow. He shot himself a big ol’ elk that I can’t wait to get my hands on and cook up. I hear elk meat is some of the tastiest, though I don’t recall tasting it myself.
I don’t think it snows in Houston. Or recognizes fall or winter as official seasons at all. But I’m ignoring that. I made a yummy clam chowder for supper tonight in the Instant Pot, so maybe I’ll just will the weather in from my kitchen. (By the way, the whole family loved that clam chowder, so you can expect to see the recipe soon!)
But I’m also in the mood for things like pumpkin spice cookies and ice cream. Below, I’ll give ya one of ’em so you can make ’em too (even if it is actually cold where you live!).
Paleo Pumpkin Spice Sugar Cookies
- Preheat oven to 350*.
- In a large bowl, beat the ghee on high with a hand mixer, until creamy.
- Add the maple sugar, pumpkin spice and baking soda, and beat once more until combined, scraping the sides to mix well.
- Beat in the egg, pumpkin puree, and vanilla.
- Add the flour and mix with a rubber spatula until mostly combined, then finish mixing with the hand mixer.
- Place a large piece of parchment paper on the counter and place the ball of dough on it.
- Flatten it out and place another piece of parchment paper on top, then carefully roll it out to 1/4" thickness with a rolling pin. Don't press too hard or the parchment paper will stick. Remove top piece of parchment.
- Use cookie cutters to cut out festive shapes, then carefully transfer them to a parchment-lined baking sheet with a spatula.
- Space cookies 1-2" apart before baking on the top rack for 10-12 minutes, until edges become lightly golden.
- Meanwhile, repeat cookie cutting process with remaining dough by combining dough scraps into a ball and rolling it back out. Bake remaining cookies.
- Allow cookies to cool before transferring them to a serving dish.
- Frost using one of the options below.
- Cream Cheese Frosting
- Other frosting options
Photo credit: Kelly Lockett Studio
If you’re going to pumpkin spice all the things, that should include making this pumpkin smoothie recipe! It’s packed full of nourishing ingredients, plus adheres to GAPS, paleo, and AIP diets to boot!
Whether it’s finally feeling like fall in your neck of the woods, or you are still suffering through sweltering heat, this pumpkin smoothie recipe will satisfy your autumnal cravings. It’s refreshing with a nice, spicy flavor that carries you right into hay rides and warm scarves.
Best of all, kids love it! It’s packed full of good-for-you ingredients, but tastes like a treat. It’s even healthy enough for a breakfast on the go.
This pumpkin smoothie recipe is GAPS diet, paleo, and AIP-friendly, meaning it is free from inflammatory ingredients and is allergy-friendly.
So what’s in it this pumpkin smoothie recipe?
We’ll start with a brain-boosting base of coconut milk (you can swap it for another milk if you prefer a different flavor and don’t have allergies to dairy or nuts). Coconut milk is packed full of good fats that feed the brain and help it function well.
Of course, you’ll also find pumpkin, which boasts a whole host of benefits itself.
What is pumpkin good for?
Pumpkins contain vitamins A and C. They are also a good source of potassium. This all adds up to supporting the immune system, reducing cancer risk, and even lowering blood pressure.
What is pumpkin puree? You may be surprised to know that when you buy canned pumpkin puree at the store, it may not just be pumpkin. Pumpkin puree can be a combination of gourds and squash as well, as the sweetest varieties are chosen for ideal flavor. Unless you have a rare allergy, this shouldn’t pose a problem. Just look for pure organic pumpkin puree without added ingredients like this.
Of course, you’ll also find pumpkin spice, because what is a good pumpkin recipe without it? As with all ingredients, quality matters.
What is pumpkin spice made of?
Store-bought pumpkin spice typically contains cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice and ginger. Look for organic versions without added ingredients like sugar, starches, or anti-caking ingredients. We like this bulk Organic Pumpkin Spice.
Other nourishing ingredients
We also added some collagen peptides (aka hydrolyzed collagen) to add some protein to the mix. The added amino acids support neurotransmitters, hormonal health, and improved energy. We like this quality, grassfed Hydrolyzed Collagen. Read more about the benefits of collagen here.
Our pumpkin smoothie is sweetened with raw honey, which is the gentlest sweetener on digestion and also contains other goodies like enzymes and antioxidants. Honey can also help bolster the immune system and fight infections.
We also added a little vanilla for flavor.
Ready for the full pumpkin smoothie recipe? Scroll down!
- 2 cups coconut milk (approximate; or use one can coconut milk or other milk of choice)
- 3 tbsp pumpkin puree
- 2 tbsp collagen peptides
- 2 tbsp raw honey
- 1/2 tsp pumpkin spice
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- Combine in your blender and enjoy!
We eat chicken at least once per week, and drumsticks happen to be my kids’ favorite cut, so I’m always looking for new ways to cook them. Obviously, there’s the old stand-by of grilling them. I also often roast them in the oven with bbq sauce, poultry marinade, or honey mustard. But giving them a go in the air fryer seems like an obvious choice, as it’s fast and easy, and gives a nice, crispy finish.
If you’re new to air fryer cooking, you may be wondering what all the hype is about. Allow me to share!
Air frying is economical. While I personally think deep frying foods in traditional fats can be very healthy, it can also be very costly. By using an air fryer, you reduce the amount of fat needed.
Air frying is fast. Cooking foods in an air fryer is usually faster than baking them in the oven because of the high-speed air movement.
Cook multiple foods at once. Depending on the size of your air fryer basket, you may be able to cook your whole meal together at once, saving time and dishes.
Tips for getting the most out of your air fryer
There are some basic tips to make the best food possible with your air fryer.
First, you should pre-heat the air fryer. Some appliances will have a pre-heat setting. If not, you can turn your fryer on ahead of time to ensure it reaches to proper temperature before putting in your food.
In general, you want to cook with some oil. Choose healthy oils like traditional animal fats, butter, and coconut oil. Using fat in your recipes will help ensure your food gets crispy.
Flip and re-coat food partway through cooking. Adding oil and turning the food will help ensure even cooking and that your food gets crispy.
How to choose an air fryer
With so many options to choose from, how do you know what to look for?
First off, look for appliances without a non-stick coating, and prefer those with stainless steel cook surfaces.
Machines that offer multiple cooking functions are also desirable. This saves money and counter space in the long run.
In addition, it’s nice to have a fryer that can hold a good amount of food for bigger families and for cooking multiple dishes.
Here are a few to check out:
The Cuisinart AirFryer and Convection Toaster Oven, which features a stainless steel basket and multiple cooking functions,
the Gourmia GTF7600 16-in-1 Multi-function, Digital Stainless Steel Air Fryer Oven which features 16 cook pre-sets,
and the COSORI 12-in-1 Air Fryer Toaster Oven Convection Roaster with Rotisserie & Dehydrator.
Italian Seasoning Air Fryer Drumsticks: ingredient notes
As always, I aim for recipes to be healthy, paleo-inspired, and adaptable. Here are a few notes to make these air fryer drumsticks as healthy as possible for your family.
- Be choosy with your Italian seasoning. Look for a packet with organic ingredients that is free from additives. Alternatively, use about 4-5 tsp of your favorite pre-mixed Italian seasoning. This and this are both good choices.
- You can replace the butter with your fat of choice if you don’t eat dairy. Other good options are avocado oil, ghee, or palm oil.
- Look for pastured chicken when possible in order to get the most nutrients out of your protein.
Now on to the simple recipe!
Italian Seasoning Air Fryer Drumsticks
- Air Fryer
- 6 Chicken drumsticks
- 1/2 cup Melted butter, divided
- 1 packet Italian seasoning (Choose organic, or replace with 4-5 tsp of your favorite Italian seasoning.)
- Pre-heat the air fryer to 375 degrees.
- Pat drumsticks with a towel until completely dry.
- Coat each drumstick in about half the butter, reserving leftover butter for use later.
- Place drumsticks on air fryer basket, evenly spacing them out.
- Cook for 30 minutes.
- Remove drumsticks from air fryer and coat in remaining butter.
- Sprinkle drumsticks with Italian seasoning.
- Place back in air fryer for another 10 minutes.
- Carefully remove the drumsticks and allow to cool before serving.