Sunday, November 25, 2012

Immune System, Grains, and Behavior, including a recipe for Millet Porridge (gluten-free)

While we are transitioning back into eating grains, we've had troubles finding grains that don't cause behavior problems in our daughter.  Her immune system has always been weak, but I only recently learned that this is likely the cause of her issues with grains as well.  In consulting with our homeopath I've learned that, while most kids have a very strong immune system by the time they are 2 years old, some kids' immune systems don't fully develop until 8-12 years of age. My 5&1/2 year old daughter seems to fall into the latter category (given her history of illness and enlarged tonsils), whereas her little brother definitely has a more robust immune system even though he is only 2&1/2.

This means that my daughter's immune system is reacting to grains, which leads to a nervous system response that manifests as poor behavior.  If she eats gluten grains, the next day my daughter will be overly emotional and have meltdowns repeatedly over things that seem trivial.  She can handle small amounts of white rice and soaked oatmeal, but if we overdo those she has the same behavior issues. The homeopath says it's likely that her grain issues will spontaneously resolve on their own once her immune system develops fully.  That is great news!

In the mean time, the homeopath recommended that we try a few other grains to see if she can tolerate them.  Quinoa is one that we've tried before, but my daughter really doesn't like the flavor so we don't know whether or not it gives her any issues.  One grain we had never tried before was millet, so I decided to give it a shot.  My daughter LOVES millet porridge, and it gives her no behavior problems even if she eats it for breakfast every day!  My husband and I also really enjoy the flavor of millet porridge. (My son isn't much of a porridge/starch/bread-eating kid regardless of what it is made of; he'd be happy to subsist on meat, pickles, fruit, and dairy.  He will occasionally eat millet porridge, though.)

[As a side note, my daughter was on the strict GAPS Diet for over 18 months.  It definitely improved her immune system and sleep, but over time her weight gain stalled.  Given that she has always been underweight (as you can see in the picture with her brother who is three years younger), and that my husband and I were suffering worsening adrenal problems on GAPS, we decided to stop the diet.  It seems that our health problems are too deep for diet alone to solve, but I'm hopeful that homeopathy will be the additional boost we need to regain health.]

Recipe: Millet Porridge
Millet has a very neutral, almost bland flavor that makes it a great base for porridge.  It soaks up lots of liquid when cooking, so a little millet goes a long way. I like to make plenty of millet to last throughout the week, and then just reheat single servings in the toaster oven or in a small pot on the stove.

Serves 3-5
  • 1 cup organic millet
  • 2 cups of filtered water, for soaking
  • 2 Tb raw whey (or substitute lemon juice, vinegar, or yogurt)
  • 3.5 cups filtered water, for cooking
  • 1 tsp celtic sea salt
  • 4 Tb (half stick) butter, preferably from grassfed cows
  • Additional butter and raw honey for drizzling over each serving
  • Optional add-ins:
    • Chopped pears
    • Chopped apples and a dash of cinnamon
    • Sliced bananas, chopped crispy pecans, and a dash of maple syrup
    • Blueberries with maple syrup or molasses
  1. Carefully sort through the millet, looking for small pebbles.  I always seem to find at least one pebble each time I make millet, so don't skip this step!
  2. Combine the millet, 2 cups of filtered water, and whey in a glass bowl.  Cover the bowl and allow the millet to soak for 8-24 hours.
  3. Pour off most of the soaking liquid, and then combine the millet, salt, and 3&1/2 cups of water in a medium pot.  (If you want your millet to be tangy, feel free to cook it in the soaking water and just reduce the amount of additional water you add.)
  4. Bring to a low boil and skim off the foam.  Add the butter and cover the pot. If you like, you can stir in some chopped apples at this point.
  5. Reduce the heat to very low.  Set a timer for 20 minutes and allow the millet to cook, stirring occasionally.  If necessary, stir in another 1/2-to-1 cup of filtered water towards the end to reach your desired consistency.
  6. Turn off heat and serve!  Add a little dollop of butter to each bowl, and plenty of raw honey.  If desired, you can also add fruit such as pears, apples, bananas, or blueberries to each bowl. This makes it especially easy to add in variety during the week when the leftover millet is consumed.  When reheating leftovers, you may need to add some additional water.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this. I'm curious if you would share who your homeopath is. I'm also on GAPS and trying to find a homeopath to help address issues that diet alone can't seem to shift.

Anonymous said...

did your daughter try buckwheat? just wondering since that's supposed to be a good GAPS grass (not a grain and no gluten). good to see millet works for her. i never think to cook with it.

Anonymous said...

My family also likes millet. I will make an extra amount and then the next day or so we will have millet cakes which is even more of a breakfast favorite. Thanks for sharing your post. I have been back and forth for over a year with what to decide about GAPS. We have been down every road but the GAPS road. My oldest has a lot of emotional issues and has had stomach aches since she was old enough to tell me what hurt her. We have been doing NT for going on 2 years. We were gluten free for a while, but have yet to go grain free. We have 3 of our children dealing with enuresis. I have not found that GAPS will help with this though. Oh, it seems like there is always something else that will "help"!! Thanks for all you do, we love your recipes!

Sarah Smith said...

We tried buckwheat once. It has such a strong flavor that I never really tried making it again.

rachel said...

Thank you for this! This would be a nice addition to my toddler son's diet which is quite limited due to allergies! I would have to make it dairy-free which is easy. I don't know why I have never thought of millet. Thanks again.

Dawn @ said...

Don't be discouraged that GAPS was not the right diet for you. It isn't right for everyone!

Kev said...

From what I have read, it seems that low carb diets arent too good for adrenal problems. Makes them worse. I've personally found some benefit from, the advice on aswell as some tips from Ray Peat. He doesnt believe that AF exists, but rather than it's a thyroid problem. And it seems that low carb diets lower the thyroid levels over time, so it seems like that may be the true culprit.

I'm personally following a moderate carb diet but avoiding grains other than rice. I'm going to try adding in corn and potato flour soon.
I've found that muscle meats like chicken, and fish like salmon, can make my symptoms worse.

Hope your problems get better soon, best wishes to you!

Michele said...

Also have multiple unresolvable health issues and strict diets have not helped one bit. Am currently in no-mans-land having no idea anymore what works or doesn't (if anything works that is). Anyway, millet congee is also another option, sort of like porridge but prepared a little different, seeing how you all seem to tolerate it. Best.

Jenny L. said...

reading this post made me miss grains, although I'm more of a quinoa fan than millet. I do appreciate millet, however. I agree with you that not all health issues can be solved with strict diets, though they can help immensely! I'm very interested in reading your upcoming homeopathy posts.

Leah Funk said...

hi there Sarah,

Well i started trying to add in oats after being on Gaps diet for 13 months ... at first i saw some changes .. weight loss was the biggest and more milk production ... i am nursing our 6th child . Yet i feel really tired and hungry about half hour after eating them . I only eat them maybe twice a week . I was wondering if there was another starch i could add to help with low energy. I love eating grain free, but hate to have low energy while nursing . Any thought or ideas for me on how to eat little grains but have loads of energy or how to put in the right grains so i do not feel hungry and tired?
thank you

Sarah Smith said...

Hi Leah,
E-mail me at nourishedandnurtured[at]gmail[dot]com and I will send you a copy of an article I wrote about this issue specifically.


Anonymous said...

Just wanted to share that we've been making this millet porridge about once a week for a couple months now and it is a family favorite around here! My kids are so excited on millet porridge mornings! I've found that extra porridge - not sweetened - is great added to soups also. I just printed off your millet waffle recipe to mix up ahead and take this weekend on a camping trip. THANK YOU for your recipes and articles.

Sarah Smith said...

Wonderful, thanks for letting me know! I hope you all enjoy the waffles too. I have recently been omitting the vanilla from the waffle recipe and that way I can use the waffles as an all-purpose bread for my daughter to make turkey sandwiches, grilled cheese, etc.

Anonymous said...

hi sarah ~ if i don't have whey can i use lemon juice or something else for soaking the millet?

Sarah Smith said...

Yes, you can use either whey, lemon juice, or raw apple cider vinegar.

Anonymous said...

i'm curious why you suggest to cover the bowl while the grain is soaking? is this an important step? I forgot to do it. thanks!

Sarah Smith said...

I just cover it to keep out things such as fruit flies. So it should be fine...