5 Days in the NICU – A Mother’s Perspective

Greetings.

I recently received an Obstetrics Unit Survey inquiring about my experiences during a maternity stay with your hospital last month.  My personal care was largely pleasant and a significant improvement over my experience delivering my daughter at another local hospital.  However, it was my experiences during my son’s time in the nursery that have prompted me to write you this letter.

My son was born on 7/14/2016 12:10pm at 38 weeks gestation, and soon indicated signs of oxygen insufficiency.  The cord was quickly cut and he was whisked over to the exam cart, where he was put on oxygen.  Soon after, he was taken to the nursery with my husband following closely behind.  I joined the 2 of them in the nursery and learned that a chest X-ray had revealed nothing conclusive regarding the source of his oxygen problems, and they had put him on 2 intravenous, broad-spectrum, prophylactic antibiotics due to concerns regarding my 36-hour ruptured membrane, while awaiting the additional results of a 48 hour culture.

I expressed deep concern regarding the administration of any antibiotic, unless absolutely necessary.  I informed them that I was well aware of the infection risks associated with my ruptured membrane and took special care to mitigate the risks by limiting exams, etc.  However, my pleas went unheard and the intravenous antibiotics were continued.  It was explained to me that if his symptoms were the result of an infection, the 48 hour culture result window could prove too late to administer them effectively.  And since conventional medicine does not acknowledge the inherent risks of antibiotic administration, it is seen as a harmless preventative measure.

Please refer to the following PubMed references.

I spent nearly every waking moment at my son’s bedside during the 5 days he was in your care, and I overheard an explanation similar to ours conveyed to virtually every parent – that of the necessity of prophylactic antibiotics for their infant, regardless of the circumstances.  While I appreciate your fervor in proactively treating a potential infection, antibiotics are hardly innocuous and pose potential chronic, long-term health consequences that we arguably do not yet fully understand – especially when administered early in life.  (Incidentally, all of my son’s tests regarding an infection were negative.)

There were a number of other concerns I witnessed in relation to the care of infants in the nursery, which compelled me to spend every moment I could with my son and to personally introduce myself to the nurse who would be caring for him during their 12 hour shift, as well as the NP and neonatal MD currently on staff.  Suffice it to say that the level of care and attention he received varied greatly, depending on the individual assigned to him and their current workload.

My son was successfully taken off of oxygen the same day he was born, but kept in the nursery an additional 4 days while being weaned off of the IV and then treated for minor jaundice.  We have learned based on studies of babies born via C-section vs. vaginally that an infant’s early microbial environment strongly influences their subsequent intestinal colonization.  Such studies have also demonstrated the preferential species of Mom’s, Dad’s, and their home’s native bacterial diversity over that of a hospital environment (especially in cases where antibiotic administration has destroyed the colonization received during birth).  Consequently, I would expect an infant to be released to go home as soon as it is deemed safe, especially if Mom has already been discharged.  However, my experience did not reflect that standard and I witnessed another mother have a heated discussion with the NP and neonatal MD regarding the discharge of her daughter from the nursery.  Ultimately, your staff conceded and allowed the parents to take their infant home as requested.

In your effort to achieve a truly ‘Baby Friendly‘ status, I would advise you to thoroughly evaluate the likelihood of an infection and the associated risks of antibiotic administration before deciding on a course of action, and release an infant once the critical health issues are resolved.  In addition, you might explore opportunities for additional individuals to help with feeding and soothing the infants, in circumstances where the nurses are too overwhelmed to do an effective job on their own.

I appreciate your time and attention regarding these matters, and you are welcome to contact me via this email address or telephone at XXX-XXX-XXXX if you would like to discuss them further.

Warmly,

-Tracy Sterling

heartburn

Stop the Burn, Baby – Naturally.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

  • Sixty percent of the adult population will experience some type of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) within a 12 month period and 20 to 30 percent will have weekly symptoms. 1
  • Approximately seven million people in the United States have some symptoms of GERD. 2
  • In 2004, approximately 20 percent of the United States population reported reflux symptoms that occurred at least weekly. 3
  • Primary or secondary GERD diagnosis increased by an unprecedented 216 percent or from a total of 995,402 individuals diagnosed in 1998 to 3,141,965 in 2005. 4
  • Children with GERD symptoms who were hospitalized with a primary GERD diagnosis increased by 42 percent in infants and 84 percent in children between the ages of two and 17. 5
  • There are approximately 64.6 million prescriptions written for GERD medications in the United States on an annual basis. 6
  • It is estimated that worldwide, approximately 5 to 7 percent of the total population has symptoms of GERD, which is most commonly reported as heartburn that occurs on a daily or frequent basis. 7

Allergen Sensitivity

  • According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, sensitization rates to one or more common allergens among school aged children are currently approaching 40%-50% worldwide.
  • One in five people in the U.S. currently have allergy or asthma symptoms.
  • 55% of Americans test positive to one or more allergens.

And what do GERD and allergen sensitization have to do with one another? As it turns out, potentially everything. This study, published just last month, strongly suggests that acid is not the underlying cause for the ‘burn’ in heartburn. Instead, an inflammatory immune response is. That’s right – your undiscovered dairy, gluten, corn, egg, or soy sensitivity may be entirely to blame for those pesky GERD symptoms you have been popping Nexium to treat. 8

But that does bring up an interesting point, if acid is not causing the burn then why are PPI (Proton Pump Inhibitor) medications like Nexium, Prevacid, and Prilosec so effective at treating the symptoms? We know that PPI’s reduce gastric acid by blocking the gastric pump of stomach parietal cells, so we would naturally assume the reduction in acid is to credit for the relief in our associated ‘burning’ GERD symptoms. However, it turns out that PPI medications have another, more relevant function in this scenario.

Recent research has demonstrated that PPIs also serve as powerful anti-inflammatories, independent from their function of blocking acid production. A published study review concluded PPI medications potentially have beneficial effects in any number of inflammatory diseases, gastrointestinal or extra-intestinal, in which acid has no role, and a positive clinical response to PPIs should not be interpreted as proof of an underlying acid-peptic disorder. 9

So, let’s review: The pain we know as ‘heartburn’ potentially has nothing to do with the gastric acids produced by the stomach, and instead is the result of immune inflammation and aggravation within the upper gastrointestinal tract/esophagus. PPI medications are anti-inflammatories so they are potentially reducing the inflammation, thereby eliminating the associated pain. Sounds like the perfect treatment solution, right?

That is, until you consider the risk of side effects – especially with long term use of PPI medications. Adequate stomach acid is a necessary and relevant part of the metabolic process, and there are adverse consequences to habitually reducing/eliminating it. PPI use has been linked to the predisposal of certain infectious diseases, dementia, kidney disease, heart attacks, stroke, vitamin deficiencies, bone fractures, and gut dysbiosis – just to name a few. 10 11

But there is an alternative option: Determine what is triggering the immune inflammation in your GI tract and eliminate it. It will cost you nothing, except some time and effort, there is no risk of any adverse side effects, and you may end up eliminating other cryptic inflammatory symptoms you did not even realize were associated to the exposure.

My advice? Start with the 5 allergens mentioned above; dairy, gluten, corn, egg, and soy. Try removing them, one at a time, from your diet and see if you notice a difference in your GERD symptoms. And start paying attention to what you’ve been exposed to recently when your symptoms are at their worst. Did you suffer with heartburn all night after eating a bowl of ice cream? That should raise dairy up to the top of your suspect list. With time and practice, your allergen detective skills will improve, but try to keep it simple initially. And bear in mind that there may be multiple allergens contributing to your symptoms, and the sources may potentially include environmental triggers (lotions, detergents, soaps, pollen, cat dander, etc.), in addition to food or medication.

InfantGERDThere is another chapter to this story we have not yet explored: Infant gastrointestinal reflux disease, and this is where things become slightly more complicated. There is no question that the use of PPI medications in infants and young children is skyrocketing. One large study of about 1 million infants revealed prescriptions for one of the PPIs, made in a child-friendly liquid, rose 16-fold between 1999 and 2004. In addition, there was an overall 7-fold increase in prescriptions for PPIs for infants, and of the prescriptions written for children under 1, about half of those were for infants younger than 4 months of age. 12

But – what exactly are we treating our infants for, with PPI medications? The clinical symptoms associated with infant GERD (depending on who you ask), can range from excessive/inconsolable crying, frequent vomiting/spit up, trouble latching and swallowing, loss of appetite, failure to thrive, diarrhea, blood/mucous in stool, gas, constipation, etc. Those hardly seem like a list of symptoms that can all be attributed to acid ‘burns’ resulting from regurgitation, and not all babies with GERD symptoms regurgitate (a condition known as ‘silent reflux’).

Not surprisingly, there is mounting evidence demonstrating that a wide range of gastrointestinal pain, motility and oral motor dysfunction symptoms, including those listed above, can all be attributed to various stages of gastrointestinal immune aggravation and inflammation. 13 14 15 16 17 18

In addition, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that identifying and eliminating food and environmental sensitivities is as effective as medications for treating gastrointestinal immune inflammation symptoms in children (with one particular study indicating cow’s dairy, soy, and wheat at the top of the list of offenders). 19 20 21

A few pointers regarding identifying and eliminating allergens in infants and young children.

  • You may find that most pediatricians will focus on cow dairy as the sole problematic component, and recommend a partially hydrolyzed (hypoallergenic) or fully hydrolyzed (super hypoallergenic/elemental) infant formula. However, nearly all powder infant formulas use corn as a sweetener so you may inadvertently end up replacing one potential allergen with another.
  • Given the extensive list of ingredients on the average can of infant formula these days, you will probably find a trial and error elimination of allergens from a breastfeeding mother’s diet to be easier and more accurate. (Not to mention, you get the added benefit of the immune modulating properties inherently found in breastmilk to potentially help battle the underlying hyper-immune conditions). 22 23 24
  • Research has demonstrated that gastrointestinal immune inflammation and activation can contribute to dysphagia (trouble swallowing), neuro-muscular dysfunction, intestinal motor abnormalities, and GI dysmotility. 25 26 Consequently, you may find that seemingly unrelated issues with latching, nursing, and the bowels may magically improve and/or resolve once the underlying immune inflammation is addressed.
  • Infant and young children’s metabolism is much faster than an adult’s, so you will typically see clinical improvement quickly once you identify and removing the offending allergen(s).

Notes:

  1. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) Hospitalizations in 1998 and 2005 – HCUP-US Home Page. Retrieved March 5, 2012, from: http://www.hcup-us.ahrq.gov/reports/statbriefs/sb44.jsp
  2. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). (n.d.). Office of Medical Informatics – College of Medicine – University of Florida. Retrieved March 5, 2012, from: http://medinfo.ufl.edu/~gec/coa1/gerdfaq.html
  3. Digestive Diseases Statistics for the United States – National Digestive Diseases Information Clearninghouse. (n.d.). Home – National Digestive Diseases Information Clearninghouse. Retrieved March 5, 2012, from: http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/statistics/statistics.aspx#specific
  4. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) Hospitalizations in 1998 and 2005 – HCUP-US Home Page. Retrieved March 5, 2012, from: http://www.hcup-us.ahrq.gov/reports/statbriefs/sb44.jsp
  5. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) Hospitalizations in 1998 and 2005 – HCUP-US Home Page. Retrieved March 5, 2012, from: http://www.hcup-us.ahrq.gov/reports/statbriefs/sb44.jsp
  6. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) Hospitalizations in 1998 and 2005 – HCUP-US Home Page. Retrieved March 5, 2012, from: http://www.hcup-us.ahrq.gov/reports/statbriefs/sb44.jsp
  7. GERD Costs America Nearly $2 Billion Each Week in Lost Productivity – International Foundation for Functional Gastrointenstinal Disorders. Retrieved March 5, 2012, from: http://www.iffgd.org/site/news-events/press-releases/2005-1125-gerd-costs
  8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26022877
  9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3035917
  10. http://www.webmd.com/heartburn-gerd/news/20160608/proton-pump-inhibitor-health-risks
  11. http://www.webmd.com/heartburn-gerd/news/20141125/could-popular-heartburn-drugs-upset-your-good-gut-bugs
  12. http://www.livescience.com/16636-acid-reflux-drugs-overused-babies.html
  13. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26022877
  14. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17053446
  15. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18713339
  16. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25808260
  17. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25845555
  18. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26194403
  19. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26022877
  20. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25808260
  21. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25845555
  22. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27183772
  23. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20485331
  24. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21444329
  25. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18713339
  26. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26194403

Healing My Kiddo – Lessons from the Field

suport
  1. You are not alone. While traveling for work a few months ago, I sat next to a mom and her 11 year old daughter. They were headed to a children’s hospital for some experimental surgery, hopeful that it would help her daughter walk as she was losing more and more movement with each passing week. Over the course of the hour and a half flight, we discussed her daughter’s history, medical mysteries, the challenges, the heartaches, the successes. I shared some of my own with my daughter, and what had worked for us. We exchanged numbers and she texted me shortly after parting ways that there had been a mix-up and they were going to have to wait for the next hotel shuttle. I immediately offered come back to the airport and give them a ride to the hotel in my rental. She insisted they would be fine, but thanked me profusely for my unexpected kindness.
    I have met a lot of parents via social media and some in real life that are on a similar journey of healing their children, and I have found that there is almost always an instant, unspoken bond between us. We are rarely at the same places in our journeys and may have strong differing opinions on certain topics, but I will still vigilantly assist and defend this virtual stranger simply because I know how much it means to them. It is strange and amazing, like 2 veterans who have witnessed the same horrors that others simply cannot relate to or understand. Many of us have little to offer in the way of assistance except to share our collective wisdom and support in the form of our words, so that’s what we do. I would not wish our experiences on my worst enemy but I have found an unexpected comfort in the knowledge that at any given moment, thousands of other parents and caretakers are out there fighting alongside me in this epic battle.
  2. Take care of yourself. The truth is that I’m not a person who handles adversity well, I’m more of a ‘fixer’. If there is a problem, I don’t tolerate it – I ‘fix’ it. Perhaps that’s why software engineering is such a good vocational fit for me. I remember at one point early on my husband said to me, “Tracy, you cannot debug an infant the way you debug a computer program.” (He was partially correct.)
    At any rate, I must have had at least a dozen or so different people say these exact words to me, “Remember to take care of yourself”. I always nodded enthusiastically, but internally I thought to myself, “Oh, I will – just as soon as I get my kid’s health problems worked out!” But that’s not how this process works, it’s a journey. You will cross the finish line a thousand times and never at all. In the words of Amy Yasko – it’s a marathon, not a sprint and you will make it farther if you recognize and honor your needs along the way.
    Don’t get me wrong, there have been periods during my daughter’s life that did not afford any ‘me time’, when we were simply doing everything we could to survive until the next day. But it does get easier, you will find a rhythm amid the chaos and those are the times when you need to fill up your own bucket. I used to think I was being selfish when I did so; how can I possibly go work out or sit and meditate when my child is physically hurting herself?! But that’s just it, I have more patience and tolerance for the terrorizing realities if I take some time to care for me, and I find it easier to recognize and appreciate those precious, happy moments. (Not to mention, I have had some of my greatest ‘AHA!’ moments regarding my daughter’s conditions while meditating or praying.)
  3. Every child is unique. As a parent, when you have those breakthrough moments with a treatment, I think it’s natural to want to scream from the mountaintops that you’ve ‘finally found the answer!’ What I have learned, is that the answers for my child are not necessarily the answers for other children. There are countless variables that effect how and why a child (or person) arrived at this exact point in their health. (I believe ‘Bio-Individuality’ is the current buzz word of choice.) It is a perfect storm that you could not possibly duplicate, even if you tried. I’m not even certain that our own ‘breakthrough’ treatments would have been as profound, had they not occurred after the other treatments we had already implemented and at the time we tried them.
    I think it is our instinct to want to help every single parent and heal every child we encounter, but it’s important to remember that everyone is at a different place in their journey and we are all dealing with our own unique struggles at any given time. I try to remind myself that even a gentle and subtle suggestion might plant a seed that will blossom when the time is right.
  4. Keep a log. If there was one single piece of clinical advice I could give parents, it would be to keep a log for their child (and even themselves). Our environmental and food allergy testing has come a long way, but my guess is that it’s still only in the 70-80% range of accuracy – at best. And there are no labs to account for chemical sensitivies, occurring in individuals with metabolic or detoxification shortcomings. The single best way to determine one’s tolerance to anything is through trial and error. (Dave Asprey calls it ‘Bio Hacking’ oneself in his book “The Bulletproof Diet”.) Our daughter’s log consists of a spreadsheet that I’ve modified as she’s grown and currently accounts for her daily food, supplements, and any behavioral or physical anomalies (extreme hyperactivity, rashes, extreme defiance, fussiness, sleep troubles, diarrhea/constipation, etc.)
    I don’t know how we could possibly have unraveled some of the medical mysteries about my daughter without that log. For example, we discovered she cannot tolerate purines. Purines are a natural food chemical found in large amounts in certain foods such as liver and cauliflower. Her symptoms of purine intolerance are largely behavioral in nature, which makes it particularly difficult to identify vs a consistent physical symptom such as a rash or stomach upset.
    I would wager to guess that virtually everyone is battling with at least one unknown environmental, food, or chemical sensitivity – contributing any number of symptoms.
  5. Ask for help. Some of us are excellent at recognizing and communicating when we are in need of assistance, I am not one of those individuals. To be honest, I never really needed much help before – not like this anyway.
    I inadvertently stumbled onto a mother’s blog early on in this journey (one of many). She had a young, teenage daughter who suffered with severe ASD, and the child often became physically violent with her. Her husband worked long hours, and she was responsible for caring for her daughter along with their other children. Aside from sharing her own story via her blog, she participated heavily in a grass-roots community effort to help other parents in similar situations navigate the state and health insurance paperwork and get the medical and financial assistance they so desperately needed. The last post on her blog was written by a dear friend, asking readers for support to help the family in their time of greatest need. She went onto explain that the mother was in prison after trying to take her own life and that of her daughter’s by lighting a charcoal grill in an enclosed vehicle with the 2 of them. Both were found, survived, and treated for smoke inhalation.
    I remember sobbing for weeks, every time I thought of that poor woman and her daughter. Even now, I cannot help but tear up. Caring for a seriously ill child will take EVERYTHING out of you. The stress, the sleep deprivation, and the trauma are enough to turn even the most hardened individuals inside out. Know your limits, and honor them. When it gets to be too much, screw your pride and ask anyone and everyone for relief. I found that the help was rarely where I expected it to be, but it was there nonetheless.

With Peace & Love,
~Tracy

Dear National Institute of Health,

baby
Not long before I conceived my now 2 year old daughter, a dear friend of mine told me a story about her 16 year old, non-verbal, ASD goddaughter. She said that prior to receiving her 2 year round of vaccinations, she was a healthy, happy little girl who could sing nursery rhymes in both English and Czech (her parents are both Czechoslovakian). In fact, she said they had videos of the little girl singing that had long since been discarded because they were a sad reminder of what used to be. Within a few weeks of her 2 year vaccines, all that changed as she slowly became socially despondent, developmentally delayed and lost all speech.

I vividly remember my corresponding internal monologue, “Oh, that’s so sad – those poor parents and that poor little girl. Maybe it was the vaccines, but more likely it was an inevitable event that they mistakenly associated with the vaccines”. As the new parent of a vaccine injured child, my perspective on the issue has changed somewhat.

According to the CDC, overall national vaccine rates are high but misleadingly conceal pockets of ‘non-vaccinating communities’. In addition, recent statistics show that 40% of U.S. parents of young children have delayed or denied at least one vaccine on the CDC recommended schedule. Who are these parents? They are individuals who largely believe in the notion of herd immunity and support vaccinations as a mechanism for infectious disease prevention. However, they may find themselves questioning the necessity of each one of our ever-growing number of vaccines and boosters, and wondering, “Is more always better?” I don’t anticipate that the vaccine debate will subside, or that the vaccination rates will improve anytime soon. On the contrary, I suspect that things will become much more heated as the CDC’s mandatory schedule grows, more parents like myself share their experience and concern, and more U.S. parents continue to opt out of vaccinations.

Most vaccines developed today include just small components of germs, such as their proteins, rather than the entire virus or bacteria. Consequently, the vaccinations must also include an adjuvant to stimulate the immune system and elicit the necessary response. Adjuvants help activate the immune system to ensure the body produces an immune response strong enough to protect the patient from the germ he or she is being vaccinated against. Currently, aluminum is the adjuvant of choice for nearly all US vaccines. According to the CDC’s current recommended vaccination schedule, children will receive 16 doses of aluminum adjuvant before the age of 2. Incidentally, aluminum is also among the adjuvants used to deliberately evoke an autoimmune/inflammatory response in lab animals when necessary for testing purposes; a concept commonly known as ASIA (Autoimmune/inflammatory Syndrome Induced by Adjuvants).

Does our current vaccination schedule have the potential to ‘overstimulate’ our immune system, and induce allergies and autoimmune conditions? That is the question you should be closely examining, given the current (growing) statistics.

  • According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, sensitization rates to one or more common allergens among school aged children are currently approaching 40%-50% worldwide. In addition, one in five people in the U.S. currently have allergy or asthma symptoms and 55% of Americans test positive to one or more allergens.
  • As of 2011, over 40% of American men and women are expected to develop cancer within their lifetime. (Many forms of cancer are autoimmune in origin.)
  • The American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA) estimates that 20% of Americans (63 million people) are affected by autoimmune disease.
  • The percentage of children with an ADHD diagnosis continues to increase each year, from 7.8% in 2003 to 9.5% in 2007 and to 11.0% in 2011. (ADHD is suspected as an autoimmune condition.)
  • As of 2010, 1 in 10 adults has diabetes and that figure is expected to double or triple in the next 35 years. (Diabetes is considered an autoimmune disease.)
  • The number of children with Autism has more than doubled since 2000, to 1 in every 68 children. (Autism is suspected as an autoimmune condition.)

Why do so many of these emerging epidemic conditions share the origins of a dysfunctional immune system? We are the most heavily vaccinated, developed country in the world and also among the sickest when it comes to non-communicable, chronic illnesses. It would seem ignorant and irresponsible to not at least consider that the single most influential and widespread medical procedure affecting our immune system might be playing a role. But that is the reality of our current situation, there are no significant epidemiological studies examining the potential association between frequency and volume of vaccinations, and immune dysfunction.

Aside from Autism, I am concerned with vaccines contributing to my child’s propensity for developing allergies, Celiac disease (also an autoimmune disorder), ADHD, Diabetes, etc. and I want to know the statistical likelihood for such an event. In fact, as a parent – I have a right to know the risk involved in choosing to vaccinate my child with the current recommended schedule. This is not a tall order. Epidemiological studies to substantiate the safety of a drug or procedure are commonplace, and there are plenty of non-vaccinated children to serve as controls in such a study.

Furthermore, what is the acceptance criteria for additional vaccines and boosters being introduced into the current schedule? Typically, studies to establish safety will test the effects of only the one isolated vaccine in question, but that is not representative of how vaccinations are delivered according to the current schedule. It is imperative that each additional vaccine be studied as part of the total administered, so that any potential cumulative and aggregate effects can be properly evaluated. Researchers have observed the immune-stimulating effect that aluminum has on the immune system, but they do not fully understand the mechanism behind how it produces the response. How then are they able to determine how much adjuvant might be ‘too much’, as we continue to pile more vaccinations onto the schedule, year after year.

If you want parents to adhere to the current recommended vaccination schedule, then do your due diligence so we have peace of mind. Until then, you have only yourselves to blame for the inevitable dissidence.

In Truth,
-Another Anxious Vaxxer

lyme2

4 Common Lyme Disease Myths

1.  Lyme disease is uncommon.                                                                                                            
In 2013, the CDC acknowledged that the number of Americans afflicted with Lyme disease each year is roughly 10-12 times the number of actual reported cases.  “This new preliminary estimate confirms that Lyme disease is a tremendous public health problem in the United States, and clearly highlights the urgent need for prevention.” 1

2. Lyme disease can only be contracted through a bite from an infected tick.
Lyme disease is congenital (mother can pass it to child), and possibly sexually transmitted according to new research. 2

3. Lyme is indicated by a red rash surrounding the offending tick bite, followed by joint pain.
At least 25% of reported cases do not develop a rash, and symptoms of Lyme disease can range from fatigue to muscle pain to insomnia. 3

4.  Conventional Lyme disease testing is accurate.
Multiple studies have demonstrated Borrelia burgdorferi’s propensity to morph into forms potentially immune to various antibiotics, and unrecognizable by our immune system. 4, 5  The CDC’s current testing methods rely on the presence of relevant bacterial antibodies for diagnosis, which may or may not actually exist if the bacteria has transformed into a state no longer recognizable by our immune system.  Other independent lab testing (including IGeneX and Immunosciences) both utilize the presence of the offending bacteria itself, for a more accurate diagnosis.

Consult the following links for help finding a Lyme Literate (LL) practitioner.
http://tbdalliance.org/diagnosing-tbds/find-a-medical-professional
<http://www.lymenet.org/contact.shtml
http://ilads.org/ilads_media/physician-referral

 

Pay the Grocer, or Pay the Doctor.

Crop

Hot off the press of Current Microbiology journal’s March 2015 issue, a study evaluating the effects of glyphosate (trade name Roundup), a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide.  Thanks in large part to crops genetically engineered to be glyphosate-resistant (including corn and soy), glyphosate now makes its way into an estimated 75%-80% of the food lining grocery store shelves today.  But what effect does glyphosate have on us?

“In conclusion, glyphosate causes [gut] dysbiosis which favors the production of [neurotoxin] BoNT in the rumen. The global regulations restrictions for the use of glyphosate should be re-evaluated.” 1

Gut dysbiosis is effectively an imbalance of the microbiota within our gut.  But what are the health implications of this effect?  In a word:  Infinite.  We have an entire ecosystem of microbes outnumbering our cells 10 to 1, with a collective genome at least 150 times larger than our own.  This ecosystem exists primarily in our gut, specifically the large intestine.  Researchers are just beginning to uncover the many implications of the complex and intricate balance between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ microbes, especially in the context of our immune system. 2, 3  In order to properly frame just how rudimentary our knowledge is within this arena, a recent study has suggested that our appendix is responsible for producing microbes to influence our critical microbiota balance. 4  You may recall the long withstanding hypothesis for the appendix as a useless organ inexplicably left behind by evolution; supporting its frequent surgical removal in the case of inflammation.

GlutenFreeInternational research has identified a particular group of microbes that seem important for gut health and a balanced immune system, dubbed the ‘Clostridial Clusters’.  Of particular interest is the apparent direct relationship between certain members of this cluster and cells that prevent immune overreaction, called regulatory T cells, or Tregs.  Studies have demonstrated that without these Treg cells, mice are unusually prone to inflammatory disease.  Inflammation mediates and is the primary driver of many medical disorders and autoimmune diseases (including cancer 5), as well as many cardiovascular, neuromuscular, and infectious diseases. 6   One of the questions central to microbiome research is why people in modern society, who are relatively free of infectious diseases, a major cause of inflammation, are so prone to inflammatory, autoimmune and allergic diseases.  Many now suspect that society-wide shifts in our microbial communities have contributed to our seemingly hyper-reactive immune systems. 7

Given the recent and dramatic rise in chronic inflammatory conditions and the uncanny statistical correlation with the introduction of glyphosate, I would say it’s time to reconsider our position on the subject.  I know I have.

(Incidentally this is only one of additional published studies currently available on PubMed demonstrating the effects of glyphosate on the microbiota of animal models.)

Battle of the ‘Sensies’ – The Rotation Diet

allergiesPerhaps the most confounding problem surrounding extreme food/chemical sensitivities is that the very nutrient rich whole foods intended to heal – can make us incredibly ill!  My daughter is a ‘Sensie’.  Her food and chemical sensitivities are extensive, too many to count or track.  My husband jokes that she’s allergic to carbon, and perhaps they don’t make ‘this stuff’ on her planet.  (Incidentally, only the parents of sick kids are allowed to crack jokes on the topic.)

Ultimately we’ve had to remove all detergents, lotions, soaps, oils, even certain fabrics and we use only the mildest forms of soaps on necessary things like her dishes, the carpet, etc.  When it comes to food, that is an entirely separate epic battle.  I finally came to conclusion that it was not a matter of IF she reacted to a food, but WHEN.  I had heard the term ‘Rotation Diet’ before and never gave it much thought until it occurred to me that we had been able to successfully trial foods on her for a day, sometimes even up to a week before they generated a reaction.  So what if I fed her the same thing for only 24 hours, switched the menu, and then did not feed her those items again for a couple days?  Nothing else was working, so why not give it a shot?

spinIn a nutshell, this is how a rotation diet works:  All foods are placed into various categories and you only eat foods from a particular set of categories for a select period of time (usually 24 hours).  Then you select foods from a different set of categories for the following 24 hours, and so on.  Eventually you circle around and repeat the cycle, usually every 4-8 days.  I decided I had enough variety to cover 4 days worth of different category meals, and make them healthy and balanced.  I have to say it was quite liberating building her Rotation Menu.  Never before had I been able to select foods without hyper-analyzing their food chemical or allergen content potential, only to typically dismiss them as an option.  Instead, I was actually able to consider the health benefits and variety – it was fantastic!

It’s been 1-2 months now on the new rotation diet consisting of purees, meat/vegetable broths, and oils.  I’ve had to tweak the menu a bit to suit her tastes, but so far things are going really well.  It certainly has not been an overnight change, but there are consistent subtle improvements.  Her appetite has been fantastic (eating has been an issue for us in the past), her bowel movements have become normal and healthy, and her moods and sleeping are improved, too.  I’ve even been able to start using shea butter as a lotion on her!  After receiving the thumbs up from both her integrative MD and ND on my food choices, I thought I would share the menu in the chance it is helpful to other Sensies out there, and those of you with Sensie little ones.

There are a few basic guidelines I kept in mind when selecting her menu:

  • No gluten, legumes (including soy), or dairy (except camel’s milk).  Whoa, wait…did I just read ‘camels milk’?  Weird I know, but it’s different in some very significant ways from cow’s dairy, and you can read more on that topic here.
  • Low Glutamates and low Histamine – That means I stuck with 2-4 hour meat stocks rather than bone broths (more on that here).  Everything is made fresh (when possible), then frozen immediately, and consumed within 8 days (2 rotations).
  • A healthy balance of Omega 3/6/9 – Fats are so critical! 1  Generally, Americans get way too much Omega 6 (vegetable fats) and not enough Omega 3. 2  Everyone is different, but a good rule of thumb is a 4 to 1 ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 fats.  (Western diets typically consume a ratio of 16 to 1 – Omega 6 to Omega 3 fats!)  If you’re vegan/vegetarian or feed your child a vegan/vegetarian diet, please keep this ratio in mind and seek out appropriate  and sufficient sources of Omega 3 fats.  (Check out this informative video for more facts on scientists’ recent erroneous vilification of saturated fats.  Incidentally, it is my personal opinion that the adjustment of Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio accounts for the immediate improvement many people experience when initially adopting a Paleo diet.)
  • Low oxidative stress (high in antioxidants)
  • Alkaline
  • I did not introduce food items to which she had previously demonstrated an acute/immediate reaction (such as spinach and corn).
Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4
Carrot/Celery & Banana PureeChard & Pear & Avocado PureeSquash/Zucchini & Peaches/Cherry PureeKale/Broccoli/Collard Greens & Sweet Potato & Wild Blueberry/Strawberry Puree
Carrot/Celery JuiceChard BrothSquash/Zucchini BrothKale/Broccoli/Collard Greens/Sweet Potato Broth
Bison BrothLamb BrothTurkey Broth (replaced chicken following lab results indicating low Tryptophan)Camel's Milk
Hemp Seed OilOlive OilFish Oil (Carlsons)Sunflower Oil

I also have plans to introduce crackers from the Anti-Grain apple, squash, and sweet potato flours, because they conveniently fit in 3 different food categories.

Some tips on preparation:

  • All produce gets a thorough washing in an ACV and water bath.  I also use this opportunity to inspect the produce and remove any ‘unhealthy’ looking parts.
  • Purees – Gently cook produce at 250 degrees with just a wee bit of water, for as long as it takes to get slightly soft.  Remember ‘low and slow’, when it comes to cooking to ensure we preserve as many of the delicate enzymes and nutrients as possible.  Be sure to include the liquid left behind from baking in your puree because it’s packed full of nutrients!  Many of the fruits can be blended as-is and don’t require any cooking.
  • Whenever possible I juice the produce rather than preparing a broth, for a much more nutrient rich option.
  • Removing the skin/seeds and ensuring adequate ripeness will reduce the phenol (food chemical) content of the produce.
  • Try to stick with organic/non-GMO produce and organic/grass-fed meat and dairy products whenever possible.  Check out your local farmers market for regional options which can be more budget-friendly than the natural grocery stores.
  • Wild blueberries are higher in antioxidants than farmed blueberries.

My preferred tools for the job(s):

  • Food Categories Guide
  • Nutri Ninja – I love this for the purees.  Its quick, powerful, and very easy to clean!  I also use it to make my own smoothies.  I do not believe the containers are BPA free so be sure the contents have cooled to room temperature or colder before you blend.  Another tip is to slowly add the liquid in between mixing, this will help break up the fibers and also ensure you don’t get a puree that’s too watered down.
  • Breville Juicer – I don’t have a lot of experience with juicers, but wanted something that was BPA free and did not heat the juice in any way.  My only complaint is that this thing is a pain to clean.
  • Pyrex Cookware – It’s glass and made in the USA.

Immune Dysfunction: Where Does it Come From?

DNAMethylationStudies are consistently showing that DNA Methylation controls the triggers of all things immune system related, effectively determining the onset of an infinite number of conditions.  These conditions can be the result of an overactive immune system (food/chemical sensitivities, EE, MCAD, Autoimmune disorders) or a weakened immune system (viral infections, cancer, bacterial overgrowth).  Immune Dysfunction can also include neurological implications (NeuroImmune) including Autism, ADHD, ALS, Alzheimer’s, and vertigo.

Treating the immediate symptomatic conditions is important, but treating the root of the conditions by correcting DNA Methylation pathways within the body is equally important in order to ensure long term healing.  Treatments which only consider the immediate symptom and jeopardize DNA Methylation are ultimately counterproductive.  Typically those practitioners who are well versed in functional medicine consider the entire system when evaluating treatment options, so as not to do long term harm for the sake of short term good.

The practice of optimizing DNA Methylation pathways is still a relatively new concept and difficult to pin down, given the bio-individuality of each patient.  The dose and timing of a supplement that is optimal for me, may not be the dose, timing or even type of supplement that is optimal for my daughter.  Even though we share much of the same DNA, her individual experiences and exposures will alter which of her problematic genes are expressing/activated (a concept known as epigenetics).

DNA testing can serve as a good starting point, but you will need a practitioner to interpret the results and conduct appropriate laboratory testing to help determine which of your genes may be expressing and how to proceed with treatments.  The MTHFR variant is the most well-known DNA Methylation gene, but it is only one of many which influence the productivity of DNA Methylation pathways.

The real conundrum:  How are these compromised DNA Methylation pathways affecting our children so early in life?  Are these fully expressed genes being transferred maternally as-is to our children?  Or are they suffering from the implications of the gene expression in Mom (food/chemical sensitivities, nutrient deficiency, reduced oxidation, etc.) during pregnancy and immediately following birth?  How long after birth do the genes potentially become activated, or silenced?  One thing seems certain; the best prevention is ensuring a healthy DNA Methylation cycle in mom and dad before conception and during pregnancy.

Infantile GERD and DNA Methylation

infantrefluxCould infantile GERD be at end of a long chain of of events caused by impaired DNA Methylation?  First things first; what is DNA Methylation?  Without launching into a rather long and technical description, let’s just suffice it to say that it is critical to many fundamental cellular processes and it’s very bad when DNA Methylation does not function correctly.  How bad?  Impaired methylation has been implicated in the incidence of Rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, severe food allergies, cancer, HIV, mitochondrial disorders, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, migraines, heavy metal accumulation, hormonal deficiencies, low thyroid, and infectious overgrowth such as viruses and Candida, as well as various Neuroimmune Disorders such as Autism, depression, and  ADHD.

Of the myriad of symptoms which now seem to plague our infants, Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) seems to remain among the most prevalent.  And since we still don’t know the cause of infantile GERD, I thought I would investigate the potential link between it and DNA Methylation compromise.  What a surprise when I discovered a number of studies which found that the treatment of GERD with melatonin, and a particular blend of vitamins and amino acids (all of which support methylation), improved GERD more effectively than the PPI medication Omeprazole (Prilosec)!  And all without the side effects associated with suppressing one’s stomach acid.

Coincidence?  Maybe, but I doubt it.  I would certainly welcome additional research into this intriguing development.  Perhaps infantile GERD may serve as an early-warning indicator of this silent, sneaky, and often debilitating condition.

Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, severe food allergies, mitochondrial disorders, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, migraines, heavy metal accumulation, hormonal deficiencies, low thyroid, and infectious overgrowth such as viruses and Candida can all be impacted by impaired methylation – See more at: http://www.betterhealthguy.com/methylation#sthash.lPJaQYZb.dpuf
Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, severe food allergies, mitochondrial disorders, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, migraines, heavy metal accumulation, hormonal deficiencies, low thyroid, and infectious overgrowth such as viruses and Candida can all be impacted by impaired methylation – See more at: http://www.betterhealthguy.com/methylation#sthash.lPJaQYZb.dpuf
Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, severe food allergies, mitochondrial disorders, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, migraines, heavy metal accumulation, hormonal deficiencies, low thyroid, and infectious overgrowth such as viruses and Candida can all be impacted by impaired methylation – See more at: http://www.betterhealthguy.com/methylation#sthash.lPJaQYZb.dpuf