How Did My Son Become a Statistic?

When my youngest son was nine months old, I gave him a bite of eggs and he broke out in hives. Even as a quiet, ultra-chilled out baby, my gut told me something was off with his system. He was always breaking out in welts, eczema had covered his body since he was three months old, and he had asthma that would flare up when he got a cold. He also had the nastiest, stinkiest poop you’ve ever seen or smelled.

Then came the ear infections. While there were a couple of months in between each one, at every ear re-check, I would get the same report … Infection is gone, but the fluid is still there.” During this time, antibiotic after antibiotic flowed freely into his little body and I used the Benzocaine ear drops as often as I wanted at the advice of my pediatrician. The doctor did not think his ears were severe enough to have tubes put in them.

When he turned two years old, the age when professionals say allergy tests become reliable, I made an appointment with the allergist’s office. That day I found out he was severely allergic to eggs and moderately allergic to peanuts. In addition, I left the allergist’s office with a handful of prescriptions for asthma and eczema.

But, I wasn’t satisfied. I felt like there was more … something we were missing. Medicating my 24-month-old child with multiple prescriptions was not the answer for me. I wanted to know why this was happening. After all, wouldn’t eliminating an allergy trigger be easier and better for him than putting steroid cream on him twice a day, taking Singulair, antibiotics, and doing daily breathing treatments?

It was during that desperate time in my life when I was at a crossroads. I could continue on our current path, which I felt was leading to nowhere, or I could take a different direction. I chose the later and made my first appointment with a naturopath.

Over the next couple of years, I was on a healing mission. During that time, we definitely took a few steps back, but we also finally started taking a few steps forward. At three, my son was diagnosed with a neurological speech disorder called apraxia and at four years of age, his food allergies peaked … seven things could now cause my child to go into anaphylactic shock.

Between two and four years old, the eczema and asthma slowly disappeared and his bowel movements also became normal. I tackled each problem one at a time. When one issue resolved, I’d move on to the next, and I went into each with the same amount of research, fight, and determination.

My little boy is now six and is remarkably better. He had no asthma, eczema, or seasonal allergies in 2014 and his food allergies decreased from seven to two. Although he still tested positive to peanut, it is now considered a mild/moderate allergy instead of severe. Also, after 3.5 years of speech therapy, he is now speaking on an age-appropriate level and thriving in kindergarten.

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Now that the dust has settled, I have been able to really think about why I believe my son began his life with so many challenges … why he was an accomplice to the rising statistics that threaten today’s children.

Although rather simple, I love the concept that Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride presents in her book “Gut and Psychology Syndrome” … “The tree cannot be healthy if the roots are not.”

Those words became my mission statement and they stayed in the back of my mind continuously. Ultimately, it is why I did what I did, and continue to do today.

But, how and why did the roots become unhealthy?

Based on years worth of research and experience, I have come to believe my son was born with a sensitive system that stemmed from a combination of genetics and our evolving toxic environment. And although he is closer to wellness than ever, I still think there are things present in our environment today that need to be cautiously avoided.

I also believe the vaccines, steroid creams, breathing treatments, and antibiotics that he had before the age of two, worsened his condition and caused his gut issues to become even deeper rooted.

Tune in next week for Part 1- Diet – The first piece of my son’s puzzle.

Baby Steps

According to the Canary Kids Movie infomercial, if the current rates of autism continue, in approximately ten years, autism will affect 1 in 13. And in twenty years, it will affect 1 in 4.

What do we do about this problem? How do we move beyond the here and now? How do we change the course of our future?

I believe a new way of thinking is slowly trickling into mainstream. From Day One it has been a grass-roots effort driven by mothers and a handful of independent thinking doctors. Their determination, bravery, and fierce work ethic to fight and stand up for what they believe in is phenomenal.

The mothers of kids with autism are the ones who began this mission. For them, their problem was big enough to warrant trying things that made sense, but weren’t necessarily tested under clinical trial, black and white, settings. They didn’t have time for technicalities, red tape, or FDA approval because each and every day their child got older and they were not getting better.

These moms stayed up late into the night reading by the light of their laptop, researching to find answers for their children. Little by little these moms met other moms and they shared what they learned on blogs and closed social media forums where they could speak freely without fear of persecution.

And then, slowly, the word started spreading to moms like me that integrative medicine wasn’t just for kids with autism. I eavesdropped in their forums, read their blogs, and started learning that my son with apraxia had many symptoms that overlapped into the world of autism. Things like gut problems, foul-smelling diarrhea, food allergies, and speech issues.

But the moms would not have gotten very far if it wasn’t for the maverick doctors who were willing to think outside the box. These doctors listened to parents and respected their opinion. They ordered extensive lab work to get to the root of the problem. They started realizing that diet, nutritional supplements, and changing things in a child’s environment made a big difference. And if one thing didn’t work, they tried another, and another.

Quite often in mainstream, these doctors and the moms like me are criticized for taking the road less travelled. Tests are questioned for accuracy and treatment plans often elicit eye rolls and sighs.

But what results have I witnessed first-hand?

Recovery. Improvement of symptoms. A higher quality of life. Baby steps, yes. But progress. And equally as important, hope for restoration of health and advice for prevention.

And it’s not just me. I’ve read hundreds of stories and read thousands of Facebook posts from moms who are doing exactly what I am doing. No, not everyone improves with biomedical or integrative medicine, but many do. I have always taken the philosophy that it is best to leave no stone unturned when it came to the health of my child. I am glad I kept searching for answers.

I believe that the disorders that plague this nation today are far from black and white … and that there are layers of gray that make us all unique. I believe some cases are easier to solve than others and that these disorders require more than a routine five-minute doctor’s appointment.

It has been said that children with autism are warning us about the hidden dangers in our current society. They have often been compared to the canaries that early coal miners would take down into the mines with them. These caged birds with ultra-sensitive systems were detectors of dangerous conditions. If there were high levels of methane gas or carbon monoxide, they would die … and the coal miners would heed their warning and leave.

What do you think about this analogy? Is it a possibility that are our kids trying to tell us something?

Both Sides of the Fence … Conventional and Integrative Medicine

Let me state up front that I do not want to appear as if I am against conventional medicine. The United States has a wide variety of excellent specialists in a wide array of fields. There are viruses, infections, injuries, and cancers that only medication and our doctor’s skilled hands can treat. We are truly blessed to have so many health options at our disposal.

But based on my experience with common, day-to-day illnesses, conventional medicine has not always been the best treatment option for my family. However, sometimes it is. There have been times when I have had no choice but to give albuterol to my children for wheezing or Advil for a 104 degree fever.

I have been on both sides of this fence.

I was the mother who always did everything conventional doctors told me to do and I never questioned them. I demanded stronger antibiotics for ear infections that probably didn’t need medicating to begin with. I thought nothing of having my child simultaneously on two different breathing treatments and the oral steroid prednisone. I remember laughing as he jumped from chair to chair in the pediatrician’s office because I had given up attempting to control him.

I sought out alternative medical care because the treatments conventional doctors were prescribing my sons were not solving the problem. Plain and simple. There was a time in my life when I was angry at these doctors because I felt like they failed me. I felt like they let my children’s health slip through the cracks. Precautions should have been taken that were not. But, over time I’ve come to accept both sides of medicine and I’ve realized both have their pros and cons.

I really like where I am now at in this journey with my sons’ medical care. I am educated and stubborn enough to ask the hard questions that I used to be too timid to bring up. Typically, I see traditional and integrative practitioners about the same issue and then form my own opinion. I also continue to do my own research and seek out the advice of other like-minded moms who have been in similar situations.

Are We Practicing Health Care or Sick Care?

As a country, despite our advanced healthcare procedures, wide variety of medications, and highly educated and skilled physicians, The United States healthcare system and the health of our men, women, and children ranks last out of eleven countries in the developed world.

Has the sentiment behind the word “healthcare” has been lost?

Let’s look at some basic definitions cited from Merriam-Webster dictionary …

healthcare: The maintaining and restoration of health by the treatment and prevention of disease especially by trained and licensed professionals.

Based on my own experience with healthcare in dealing with eczema, allergies, asthma, and apraxia, two words stand out to me as being inaccurate in that definition … restoration and prevention.

restoration: Returning to a normal or healthy condition.

prevention: Something used to prevent disease.

The medication that my youngest son received to combat his allergies, eczema, and asthma only temporarily solved the problem. The moment he would discontinue the medication, his problem would always come back. I would express my concern to our pediatrician, allergist, or dermatologist, but they never had any alternatives for me.

In my vision of a perfect world, having a doctor is supposed to be like a partnership … two people – self and another – trying to restore health and prevent symptoms. Sadly enough, I never felt this way. I felt like I was screaming for help and no one would help me.

I sought out alternative care because my baby … the child that I brought into this world … was sick and was not getting better. As uncomfortable as it was to veer away from the norm, I was more fearful of staying where I was. I was more afraid of symptoms that were getting worse instead of better and adding diagnoses instead of resolving them.

So, what do we do about this problem? Find out more about the steps of progress on Tuesday, October 21st.

Source:

K. Davis, K. Stremikis, D. Squires, and C. Schoen, “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, 2014 Update: How the U.S. Healthcare System Compares Internationally,” The Commonwealth Fund, June 2014, http://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/fund-reports/2014/jun/mirror-mirror.

Florence Nightingale and Today’s Statistics

I love the story of Florence Nightingale, the great English nurse who cared for thousands of wounded soldiers in the mid-1800s during the Crimean War. Nightingale rejected the Victorian Era notion that ladies should marry a well-to-do man and settle into a life of complacency. She was smart and strong-willed and changed the way society viewed nurses. She didn’t adhere to traditional beliefs, she worked hard to educate herself, and she built a stellar reputation.

Nightingale became known as “The Lady with the Lamp” because she spent every waking moment tending to the soldiers and would work into the wee hours of the night, walking down the dark hallways, lamp in hand to light her way.

And her stats were impressive.

She reduced the death toll by two-thirds simply because she improved the hospital’s sanitary conditions. She also created several patient services that improved the quality of the soldier’s stay. My favorite reform she initiated was the “invalid’s kitchen” where chefs cooked up unique meals for those patients who had special dietary needs.

How would this pioneer in healthcare have felt about what’s happening in our society today? Throughout my own journey to heal my son, I have been deeply inspired by her words …

“Were there none who were discontented with what they have, the world would never reach anything better.” — Florence Nightingale

Isn’t this simple sentiment so true? Discontentment sparks change. Discontentment makes people proactive. Yes, it is human nature to take the path of least resistance, but what if we realize half way into our trip, that the route we have chosen is riddled with problems?

What if the traditional path of least resistance becomes the route that is most damaging to our health? Is there any shame in turning around and starting over?

Consider the latest statistics from the CDC …

  • 1 in 6 children have a developmental disability. This number increased 17.1% from 1997 to 2008. The CDC stated in this report, “This increase indicates a serious health problem.”
  • 1 in 68 children have autism. For boys, the number is even greater – 1 in 42.
  • ADHD is now found in 11% of our children which equates to 6.4 million total affected. This number increased by 42% between 2003 and 2011.
  • Asthma and allergies affect 1 out of 5 Americans (adults and children).
  • Hay fever (seasonal allergies) makes up 9% of the child population and skin allergies weigh in at 12%.
  • Food allergies affect 4% – 6% of kids. Or, according to FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) the prevalence is even greater – nearly 6 million or 8% of our children. Also, according to a study released in 2013 by the CDC, food allergies among kids increased approximately 50% between 1997 and 2011.
  • These conditions are more common among boys.

In this group of conditions, autism is often referred to as the tip of the iceberg because seeing a child flapping their arms, refusing to be touched, or not being able to communicate sparks our attention more than a child puffing on an inhaler during a baseball game. But does that mean that autism is the only thing we should be concerned about in these statistics? Of course not.

An iceberg exposes only 1/10th of it’s bulk and the other 9/10th is hidden beneath the water surface. Although our attention is on the enormous piece of ice we can see, the exposed iceberg really just serves as a warning for an even bigger problem below.

Sources:

Nightingale facts – The Biography.com website “Florence Nightingale Biography,” http://www.biography.com/people/florence-nightingale-9423539.

Nightingale quote – Top 10 Quotes, You Tube, by IPerceptive, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kj9B4snbhgA.

developmental disabilities stats- CDC “Developmental Disabilities Increasing in U.S.,” http://www.cdc.gov/features/dsdev_disabilities/

autism stats- CDC Media Relations “CDC Estimates 1 in 68 Children Has Been Identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder,” CDC Newsroom Press Release, March 27, 2014, http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2014/p0327-autism-spectrum-disorder.html.

ADHD stats- CDC “Key Findings: Trend in the Parent-Report of Health Care Provider-Diagnosis and Medication Treatment for ADHD: United States, 2003-2011, http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/features/key-findings-adhd72013.html/

asthma and allergy stats- “Allergy Facts and Figures,” Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America,” http://www.aafa.org/display.cfm?id=9&sub=30

hay fever and skin allergy stat- CDC “Allergies and Hay Fever,” FastStats, http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/allergies.htm

food allergy stats- CDC “Food Allergies in Schools, http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/foodallergies/.

food allergy stats- Food Allergy Research & Education, “Food Allergy Facts and Statistics for the U.S.” http://www.foodallergy.org/document.doc?id=194

1974 vs. 2014: How Has Our Health and Well-Being Changed?

Once upon a time I was a girl who ate fast food a few times a week and threw Little Debbie’s into my grocery cart. I am from the South and growing up, my family was about as Southern as Southern gets … big dinners on Sundays, homemade biscuits with jelly for breakfast, and plates piled high with desserts.

Don’t get me wrong – I was not raised to be an unhealthy eater. Growing up in the 70s and 80s, sitting down each night for a balanced dinner was the norm. I also spent plenty of time at my grandparents house soaking up good nutritional habits. I loved their outside adventures like eating watermelon, helping to shuck peas, or tending to the garden.

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 As I was growing up, I don’t remember ever having to worry about the world I lived in. I felt safe. I wasn’t worried about myself or my friends. Our biggest concern was a pretty easy concept to grasp … if you ate too much food, you got fat. We didn’t worry about wheezing, food allergies, autism, or ADHD. We didn’t worry about it because we didn’t have to.

But then I had children.

And so I did what most American moms do … I attempted to continue on with my worry-free life. We live in a society where instant gratification rules. A society where it is the norm for us to pop open a bag of goldfish crackers along with a juice box and call it a snack. A society that both rewards and bribes kids with Skittles, suckers, and M&Ms.

We don’t know what is in the food because we’ve never had to concern ourselves with it. We ate junk food growing up and turned out just fine so why should we treat our own children any different?

But, for many of us, the state of our children’s health, or our own, is forcing us to choose a different path … to think for ourselves and form our own opinions.

The purpose of this blog is to help you out of this crazy maze we’ve lost ourselves and our babies in. This blog is for parents who are figuring out that the world we live in today is very different from the one we grew up in several decades ago.

Happy Fall Y’all!

Today is the first day of fall and some of my favorite things in life are cool weather, camping, fires outside, pumpkins, smores, fall festivals, flannel shirts, and jeans. I also love the campfire lunch that I pack my kids every week or two in their PlanetBox. It is not super healthy, but definitely great fun for the allergy kids. This special lunch makes my six-year-old beam with happiness.

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  • Hebrew National All Beef Hot Dog
  • Ketchup – Extra from Chick-fil-A – A great fire to grill a hot dog over!
  • Campfire trail mix – Van’s GF Cinnamon Heaven Cereal, Newman’s Own Organic Raisins, and Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips
  • Roasted marshmallows with Glutino GF Pretzil Sticks
  • Organic apples

Pancakes! They’re Not Just For Saturdays!

I love, love, love fixing my kids breakfast for lunch. I do not put an ice pack with this meal and by lunchtime the meal is room temperature. My kids still gobble it up and don’t mind one bit.

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  • Allie’s Awesome Pancake (A mix that is gluten, egg, dairy free)
  • Or Van’s Gluten Free Waffles
  • Local Honey in PlanetBox dipping container
  • Jones All Natural Turkey Sausage cooked in coconut oil
  • Organic Oranges

 

Day 4 – TGIF Nachos

Friday is typically pizza day at my kids’ school. I have one boy who loves pizza and the other who hates it. (I know, right? Who hates pizza? Especially a kid?) If at all possible, I try to make Fridays a special lunch day and make a choice that complements the pizza that their friends are eating.

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  • Browned ground beef
  • Daiya non-dairy shredded cheese
  • Scoop corn chips – I’ve also used Garden of Eatin’ Blue Chips for this meal
  • Organic apples

Sometimes for this meal I will include pizza sauce to dip the chips in. Or, I’ve also completely mocked pizza day and included a piece of Pure Knead toast instead of the chips. Pizza sauce is definitely a must for this option! I include a small measuring teaspoon to spread the pizza sauce on the toast.

Happy Friday! Tune in this weekend for the last two installments of this series.

Day 3 – Simple Hot Lunch Love

Once a week I pack my kids spaghetti in a thermos. Typically I use leftovers from the night before, but I also keep a stash of cooked spaghetti meat sauce in the freezer for back up. I love this meal because (a.) they have a healthy, warm lunch from home and (b.) they get two veggie servings (tomato sauce and a green). I pack my six-year-old green beans and my ten-year-old a salad on these days. It makes me feel quite gourmet.

Here is Day 3 of a Simple Lunch …

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  • Noodles – Gluten Free -Sam Mills Corn Pasta d’oro
  • Spaghetti Sauce (non-dairy) with Ground Beef 
  • Salad or Green Beans

Day 2 – Allergy Friendly Back to School Lunches

My six year old is currently dairy, egg, gluten, and nut free. Just recently, I have started suspecting that dairy is the culprit for my ten-year-old son’s asthma flares. Therefore, currently he is dairy free to see if the problem goes away. I try to limit soy with both of my boys.

Because I have two kids with different nutritional requirements, I try to fix similar lunches that are tweaked a bit.

Here is my six-year-old’s lunch …

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  • Boar’s Head Ovengold Turkey sliced Medium
  • Chocolate Muffin (“The Everything Guide to Cooking for Children with Autism” by Megan Hart & Kim Lutz – Chocolate Cupcake recipe)
  • Organic Grapes
  • Garden of Eatin’ Organic Blue Corn Tortilla Chips

Here is my ten-year-old’s lunch …

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* This photo was taken prior to my son being dairy free. In addition to the cheese, the turkey sticks have nonfat dry milk in them.