Tag Archives: PKU

A baby girl is on her way!

That’s right. My husband and I are expecting a baby girl later this fall and at 24 weeks we’ve already given her the name Madison Grace!

Her announcement on PKU Parlor might help explain why I haven’t posted in a while. Finding out I am pregnant has been both overwhelming and wonderful at the same time. The editor in me wanted Madison’s announcement to be partnered along with some insightful advice for my blog readers, but to be honest, I’ve never felt as such a “newbie” towards anything else in my entire life. While working through all the normal questions and concerns that most women have with their first pregnancy (visiting day care facilities, finding a pediatrician, planning maternity leave, etc.), I’m also working through what it means to be expecting with PKU.

Me – sporting an 18-week baby bump – and my husband Brandon on June 14, 2014.

Me – sporting an 18-week baby bump – and my husband Brandon on June 14, 2014.

Longtime blog readers may recall after returning to the low-protein PKU diet in January 2013, I began a long journey filled with a variety of hurdles including the inability to keep consistent insurance coverage for my formula, the emotional impact of a dramatic hair loss, and the hunt for a medical team that was experienced and refreshingly optimistic about tackling maternal PKU.

And yet once I felt that all the pieces had fallen into place, conception was not something that happened instantaneously. Negative pregnancy test after negative pregnancy test eventually began to take a toll and I started to wonder if becoming a mom would ever happen.

Despite my skepticism, I was surprised to learn I was pregnant during a routine OB visit this past April. And when my first ultrasound determined I was more than 10 weeks along, I was even more surprised to learn I had nearly missed-out on my first trimester! …Certainly a perfect example for why returning to the diet prior to conception is so important.

In the weeks leading up to finding out the good news, my PKU clinic and I had been trying to figure out why my levels appeared to be gradually increasing despite no change in my daily phe intake (in hindsight, it was likely because my body was working hard undergoing massive changes to make a baby). As soon as I reported the pregnancy back to my clinic, the decision was made to drop my phe by 50 mg to 500 mg/day (or 10 gm of protein) and increase calories to a minimum of 2,300/day (more for those days when I exercised). Sure enough, the adjustments quickly brought my levels back down.

It is hard to believe it’s been 14 weeks since I first found out I was pregnant. I grin from ear-to-ear every time I feel Madison kick. Her acrobatic stunts are a constant reminder that all this hard work is so worth it!

In the coming days and weeks, I’ll share more of my experience as well as other PKU recipes and tidbits. I hope you’ll continue to stop by!

–NM

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Filed under Maternal PKU

On the hunt for aspartame-free gum

aspartame gum, sugar-free gum

Growing up on the low-protein PKU diet, I was well aware to stay clear of chewing gum that contained aspartame (also marketed under brand names AminoSweet ®, Equal®, NutraSweet® and NatraTaste®). I had a ‘safe list,’ if you will, of all the brands I could choose from, but after searching through all my familiar fav’s on a recent visit to the grocery store, it appears that nowadays you cannot find a single pack of gum that doesn’t contain aspartame.

Discovered in 1965 and later approved as a food additive by the FDA in 1981, aspartame is used in chewing gum to provide a long-lasting sweet sensation since other ingredients such as sugar, dextrose, and corn syrup dissolve soon after chewing begins. Chemically, aspartame is comprised of a small amount of methanol and the two amino acids aspartic acid and phenylalanine – the last of which we know is very harmful to PKU patients.

According to www.aspartame.org, aspartame is currently found in more than 6,000 products worldwide including soft drinks, confections, gelatins, dessert mixes, puddings and fillings, frozen desserts, yogurt, tabletop sweeteners, and some pharmaceuticals such as vitamins and sugar-free cough drops. That’s a lot of products for PKU patients to be wary of!

Thankfully, with the growing popularity of all-natural products, there’s a new selection of chewing gums hitting the market featuring xylitol, an all-natural sugar alcohol. Also, since xylitol is an anti-microbial, it helps prevent tooth decay and provide a quick breath-freshener, especially after just chugging a serving of PKU formula.

Here’s a look at some of the aspartame-free gum currently on the market. Since they’re still rather new, finding these in common grocery and drug stores is difficult, but I’ve been able to buy some online, specifically through Amazon. Depending on where you live, you may also be able to find these products at specialty grocery stores like Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s, Jungle Jim’s or Earth Fare.

aspartame-free gum, PKU-friendly gum

Click to enlarge image.

  • Pür Gum
  • XyloBurst Xylitol Gum
  • Epic Xylitol Gum
  • Peppersmith Chewing Gum
  • Sugar-Free Glee Gum

If you’ve tried any of these aspartame-free gum products – or have others to add to the list – just let me know in the comments section below.

–NM

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Filed under Lo-pro Diet Management, Product Reviews

Grab your walking shoes–spring has arrived!

Walk for PKU, PKU Research, Donate to PKU

The trees are turning green, flowers are in bloom and the birds have started singing again. Here in the South spring has sprung and that also means that lots of planning is underway for the Tennessee PKU Foundation’s two spring fundraisers–a walk for PKU in Nashville on May 3 and another taking place in Knoxville on May 17.

As they have done in years past, these two walks—as well as a third organized for Memphis, Tenn., later in the fall—are organized to raise money in support of PKU research. Since its inception, the Tennessee PKU Foundation has raised more than $63,400 for individual researchers and those supported through the National PKU Alliance. Other funds raised by the foundation stay within the state to support camp and conference scholarships as well as newborn welcome packets.

On a national level, the National PKU Alliance’s Scientific Advisory Committee—comprised of physicians, researchers and clinicians—reviews proposals submitted by researchers who are working in the inherited metabolic disease field and awards grants to those committed to advancing PKU treatments and ultimately developing a cure. Those researchers receiving grants from the National PKU Alliance in 2014 were just recently announced. You can read the full list of recipients on the nonprofit’s website, but two examples include Dr. Shawn Christ, associate professor of psychological sciences and associate director of the University of Missouri’s Brain Imaging Center, and Dr. Kristen Skvorak from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Christ is examining the effects of PKU on gray matter structures in the brain, and Skvorak has been pursing ground-breaking experiments in liver cell transplants for PKU in a mouse model.

Several other U.S. states are also member organizations of the National PKU Alliance and if there’s one nearby your home, I encourage you to support them in their own individual fundraising efforts. However, if you do not have an affiliation with any of these groups but still feel so moved to also support PKU research, you can contribute online via the Tennessee PKU Foundation’s walk registration website. Even if you cannot attend one of these events in person, you can still play a role in supporting PKU research.

–NM

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Filed under Advocacy, Conferences & Events, Research

At-a-glance PKU Pantry Labels

At-a-glance PKU Pantry Labels

One of my recent Pinterest-inspired projects was creating burlap labels for my pantry. It’s a fun DIY project that spoke to my inner organizing freak.

Grouping similar products in baskets or other containers make it easier to find products quickly and placing ingredients in clear jars let you know when you’re getting low. Among other labels, I decided to create hanging canister labels for brown sugar, wheat starch and baking mix—three ingredients I use frequently, especially when making tasty PKU-friendly cakes, cookies and pastries.

At-a-glance PKU Pantry LabelsI use Cook for Love’s baking mix, which if you’re familiar with it, you know it is comprised of three key ingredients. To make life a little simpler, I decided to make an at-a-glance label on the backside of the baking mix canister that reminds me of the key ingredients without having to look it up online or find the recipe I printed eons ago. Also to save time, I like to make the baking mix in bulk. In fact, I have doubled the baking mix recipe in the canister shown here.

If you aren’t necessarily the crafty type, you can still take a similar approach by a using a large, sealable plastic container to make the baking mix and a permanent marker to jot down the ingredients on the outside of the container. Not as pretty, but definitely just as functional. Just remember to whisk before each use!

–NM

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Low-Protein Nachos

Fall is here and in the Merrifield household, that also means football! As a Pittsburgh-native and a University of Tennessee graduate, my college/NFL loyalties are split between the Tennessee Volunteers and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Even though we may not always win, getting everyone together for good food and drink is always a plus. So with this being the first football season during which I am following the low-protein diet, my husband and I have been brainstorming a few PKU-friendly party foods. Here’s a recipe for low-protein nachos recently concocted by my armature chef hubby.

Low-protein Nachos, PKU

Ingredients

  • 2 low-protein tortilla wraps (Cambrooke Foods)
  • 115 gm of bell peppers (cooked weight measurement)
  • 1 tbs canola oil
  • 85 gm of salsa style canned tomatoes
  • ¼ c Daiya cheddar shreds

Directions

To make tortilla chips from the wraps, follow the directions on Cambrooke Foods’ website.  Their recipe calls for six wraps, but for the purpose of this dish, I used two. If you wanted to make a larger serving, you could easily increase the number of wraps.

While the tortilla chips are cooking, sauté the peppers in the canola oil until slightly browned and tender. Since my husband was making his own high-protein version of nachos, he browned his ground beef in a separate dish and planned to split the peppers between the two of us.

Once the chips have been pan-fried and cooled on a paper towel, place them in an oven-safe dish, zero-out their weight on gram scale, and top with 115 grams of peppers. Zero-out the scale again and add 85 grams of the salsa style canned tomatoes. Top the nachos with a ¼ cup of the dairy-free cheddar shreds from Daiya Foods and place in the oven. Broil until the cheese has melted, remove and serve. Careful because the dish will be very hot!

Yield: 1 [adult] serving

Phe: 159 mg

Calories: 497

Feel free to experiment too! Add onions or olives if you like. You can also top the nachos with shredded lettuce, or if you have a bit more tolerance in phe, add a serving of guacamole. The 100-calorie snack-packs from Wholly Guacamole are perfect for one-time servings. Enjoy!

–NM

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PKU patients and caregivers can participate in study for evaluating device linked to PEG-PAL

If you live in the San Francisco Bay-area and either have PKU or care for someone with PKU, there is an opportunity to participate in a paid usability study for a potential medication delivery device.

The device at the center of the usability study would used to administer PEG-PAL, an injectable enzyme substitution developed by BioMarin Pharmaceutical that has shown to lower phe levels in PKU mice. According to the National PKU Alliance, PEG-PAL recently completed Phase 2 FDA clinical studies and all patients enrolled in that phase had experienced some measurable decrease in blood phenylalanine levels. BioMarin is moving forward with the third and final phase that would ultimately bring PEG-PAL to a commercial status, which also explains the recent interest in figuring out just how patients will react to the process of injecting themselves with the drug.

Interface Analysis Associates, the California-based human behavior consultancy firm that has partnered with BioMarin for this study, will offer two 30-minute sessions in early September 2013 and will pay participants $150 to learn how the device works and perform mock injections. There will be no needle pricks and no actual medication administered. Participants will be asked to provide feedback on their experience and preferences.

Usability Study for PKU Patients and Caregivers

Click image to enlarge.

I was asked to participate in the study but because of the 2,500 miles between East Tennessee and the West Coast I had to respectfully decline. Nonetheless, it’s a great opportunity for others in the PKU community to directly impact the design and functionality of how this exciting new treatment will be delivered. It was also smart of BioMarin to initiate this usability study – not just from a bottom-line perspective but also because patients will have an investment in the product, the opportunity to suggest design improvements, and will likely become more satisfied with how it works.

If you’re interested in participating in the study, be sure to sign-up quickly. September is right around the corner!

–NM

P.S. If you do participate in the study, you’ll have to return to PKU Parlor and let us all know how it went! 🙂

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Filed under PEG-PAL, Research

PKU-Friendly Sweet Potato Casserole with Bananas

PKU-Friendly Sweet Potato Casserole

This recipe is an adaptation of one I recently saw demonstrated on one of our local weekend morning news shows. Using roasted bananas provides a natural sweetener and also adds fiber and potassium into the PKU diet. With a few slight changes to the ingredients and some gram-scale measurements, I was also able to figure out the amount of phe per serving. In addition to being an awesomely flavorful comfort food perfect for the approaching holiday season, this recipe yields enough servings to feed the entire family. Here’s how you make it:

Ingredients

  • 6 pounds (about 6) sweet potatoes
    (approximately 1,480 grams when measured after being mashed)
  • 2 ripe bananas, skins on
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup Michele’s Butter Pecan Syrup
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups of miniature marshmallows
  • 2 tablespoons of brown sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Peel the sweet potatoes, cut into large chunks and boil until soft (try piercing with a fork to determine when done).

PKU-Friendly Sweet Potato Casserole

Meanwhile, roast the bananas, with the skins on, for 15 minutes. Transfer potatoes to a large mixing bowl and pulse with a hand mixer until whipped. When the bananas are cool enough to handle, slice the end opposite from the stem with a sharp knife.

PKU-Friendly Sweet Potato Casserole

While holding the bananas from the stem, squeeze the contents into the bowl of mashed sweet potatoes. Add the butter and maple syrup, mix until smooth. Add the cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and salt; mix to combine. Transfer to a shallow baking pan and smooth out the surface with a spatula. Top potato-banana mixture with marshmallows and evenly sprinkled brown sugar. Bake at 300 degrees F until heated through, about 20 minutes. For the last minute or so of baking time, switch your oven to broil for that campfire roasted marshmallow consistency.

Couple of things to note: I selected Michele’s Butter Pecan Syrup for two reasons: 1.) it is completely phe free and 2.) I really wanted to add butter-roasted pecans, but as we all know, that’s a PKU no-no. If you decide to use a different brand of syrup, be sure to adjust the phe as needed. Also, feel free to have fun with the toppings. Instead of marshmallows, you may want to try raisins for a healthier option.

Yield: 8 servings
Phe: Entire recipe = 1,340 mg; 167.5 mg/serving
Protein: 3.2 gm per serving
Exchanges: 11.2 per serving
Calories: Entire recipe = 2,616 calories; 327 calories/serving
Fat: 6.2 gm per serving

* Simply divide the casserole into 10 servings for fewer mg of phe/serving.

–NM

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