Fire, Water, Air and Earth: Start Cooking!

December 6, 2013

I just finished reading Michael Pollan’s newest and seventh book, Cooked:  A Natural History of Transformation.  In it Pollan takes us on an odyssey of the elemental ways in which man cooks:  with fire, water, air and earth.  After renewing it from the library three times, I finally bought it!  Reading Cooked was like savoring a delicious meal…yummy and satisfying.  This book is truly transformative!

I have been a big fan of Pollan’s since reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food. Until now, my favorite was the tiny guidebook, Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual.  When people ask me what I eat, I just quote Pollan:  “Eat food…not too much…mainly plants.”  That says it all.

I guess by now you’ve surmised that I love food, and I adore cooking.  I am absolutely an omnivore.  I’m sure I got that trait from my father who offered up brains, sweetbreads, and liver as if everyone ate them. No chicken nuggets in my house.

In the 21st century, cooking is optional, not obligatory.  Today, typical Americans spend less than half the time cooking and cleaning up than they did when I graduated from high school in 1964.  Some of what people call “cooking” is opening a can of soup or microwaving a pizza! According to Pollan, that “marks a major shift in human history, one whose full implications we are just beginning to understand.”

Pollan begins by explaining that cooking food is what distinguishes us from other animals. EVERY other mammal grazes; we eat meals. That connects and socializes us.  All animals eat raw, except when nature “cooks” a forest full of birds, nuts, berries and furry animals in a fire.  They then experience the treat of eating roast quail, toasted walnuts, baked apples, and barbequed squirrel.

My raw foodies aren’t going to like this next part.  Cooking makes us smarter!  Digestion is a “metabolically  expensive operation,” according to Pollan.  Cooking our food before eating it diminishes the energy our bodies must expend for digestion.  Cooking plants breaks down the fibers, allowing our not-so-strong jaws and digestive systems to work less hard.  And…get this!  Where does that extra saved energy go?  To our brains!  Want to know more about this theory, read Richard Wrangham’s Catching Fire:  How Cooking Made Us Human.

The first element is fire, the oldest method of cooking. Pollan travels to North Carolina, where we learn from barbeque experts. Roasting meat goes back to the Bible. Remember when entire animals were presented to God as burnt offerings?

Water is next; it is used to cook in virtually every cuisine in the world.  A universal recipe is: Dice some plants, sauté them in fat, brown some meat, put everything together in a pot of water and simmer for a long time.  This is the beginning of the transformation into Indian curry, Moroccan tagine and French cassoulet  which all start with three basic vegetables: onions, carrots and celery.  Amazing!

Air is about baking bread.  I’ve never been much of a bread lover, and could never understand why anyone would spend so much time waiting for dough to rise.  My impatience and gluten intolerance disallow me from grooving on this section.

My favorite section is “earth.”  How, you might wonder does earth “cook” food?  By fermentation!  An ancient form of preservation and transformation, fermenting is making a huge comeback as we are able to identify and control those critters that work their little butts off making cheese, wine, beer and sauerkraut.  Eating fermented foods is a natural way of ingesting probiotics.

I loved the story of Sister Noella, the cheese nun, who knew just how to make Saint- Nectaire cheese ripen perfectly using ancient wooden molds.  One day, the health department showed up and declared the mold “unsanitary.”  Sister was told that she must wash them between batches.  Wash away years of accumulated families of fermentation bugs?  No way!  The inspector insisted that Sister trade in her moldy molds for some sanitized ones made out of stainless steel.  Here is how this savvy sister solved her problem.

She and the inspector inserted the nasty bug e. coli into both the wooden mold and the stainless steel one and waited out the fermentation period.  Which batch do you think had the e. coli? Right!  The “sanitized” stainless mold still contained the dangerous bug, while it had disappeared from the moldy wooden one!  The “good” bugs destroyed the “bad” bug, just as they do in your digestive tract when you take probiotics!

I couldn’t help but wonder if Pollan and Donna Gates, developer of the Body Ecology Diet (BED), which emphasizes fermented foods, had ever communicated.  I would love to be a fly on the wall when they do!

Looking for a holiday gift for a foodie friend?  Buy Cooked.  And if you want to guild the lily, also purchase Fifty Shades of Kale, a parody of that pornographic best-seller.  It will make you laugh as you prepare “afternoon quickies” such as Zucchini and Kale Bites and “forbidden cravings” such as “Chocolate Chip Kale Cookies.”

Have a yummy holiday season!

Muslims, Methodists and Me

September 13, 2013

 

PEACE

 

I have had a fairly broad religious education. I grew up in the 1950s in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, and played primarily with Jewish friends as a young child.  In fifth grade, I had the privilege of being admitted to an independent girls’ school, where I helped fill the quota of two spots allotted to Jewish students.  When I moved away five years later, my space went to another Jewish student.  In my Episcopal high school, I attended chapel daily, sang in the choir, and still know three verses to “Onward Christian Soldiers.” In graduate school at a Jesuit college, I met my first nun. I’ve studied both the old and new Testaments, and can recite many psalms and Biblical passages.

However extensive my experiences, I was not prepared for the profound religious connections I had in 2013.  This year I was embraced, both spiritually and physically, by two amazing groups: Muslim parents in Kuwait launching a center for their young adult children with disabilities and a Methodist ministry sponsoring an autism conference closer to home.  If you have been following my blog, you know about the former. The latter occurred this summer on the top of a mountain at a heavenly place called Jumonville, a retreat center an hour from Pittsburgh, where, on a clear day, you can see three states!

“Do they know you’re Jewish?” was one of the first questions many people asked when I told them about my invitations to go to Kuwait and be the keynote speaker at this year’s Autism Initiative.  “I think so,” I said, wondering if it mattered.  It didn’t.  No more than my being female, having green eyes, or being over 60.  In fact, it mattered so little that, at times, I felt closer to these warm, loving people than I did to many of my own faith.  What did matter was that regardless of our beliefs about God, we had the same basic values, philosophy and goals toward people with disabilities: that every individual is deserving of respect and love, and the opportunity to thrive, not simply survive.

What surprised me was that no one proselytized, and that many asked questions about Judaism, attempting to broaden their own religious education.  A few times I was embarrassed at how little I knew; most of all, I was proud of my heritage and its teachings that we all worship one God.  When I looked at the faces of the men and women in traditional garb in Kuwait, they looked indistinguishable from those of the religious Jews in my childhood neighborhood.  We were, if fact, distant cousins whose ancestors, many centuries ago, had wandered in the desert together.

The biggest message was that of acceptance.  Few I met were ashamed of or embarrassed by their kids.  No one watching the interactions among these families – mothers, fathers, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins – could have any doubt about the total inclusion of their relatives with special needs in the warm loving embrace of their families.

On the top of Jumonville Mountain I witnessed the same loving acceptance that I saw in Kuwait.  Prayer was a major healing tool in both locales, and science confirms its power.  While unconditional acceptance of our family is an enviable trait that many of us strive hard to attain, a tough question that kept nagging at my brain is this, “Are they maybe TOO accepting of their children as they are? And can unconditional acceptance interfere with seeking out therapies and treatments that can enhance potential?

I have spent a long career promoting a healthy diet, nutritional supplements, daily movement and exercise, glasses, environmental accommodations and more recently assistive technology.  These are, in many cases, life-altering interventions. I will never forget the non-verbal Kuwaiti young woman with autism who, given an iPad, was communicating within minutes. Then there is the untoilet-trained ten-year-old with alternating diarrhea and constipation, who had normal bowel movements after three weeks on a gluten- and casein-free diet.  And what about the sociable, verbal 30-year-old man with Fragile X syndrome who could not walk a straight line or catch a ball until fitted with prism lenses that corrected an eye turn?

Religion, no matter which one, and the latest medical science are indeed compatible partners.   I am grateful for these invitations, and in retirement look forward to continuing to delve into some of the most rewarding experiences in my life.

Stress

February 17, 2013

Stress from Google

Everyone is stressed! The fewer the stressors, the more opportunities for learning and development for children of all ages. Our goal is to identify and eliminate as many stressors as possible.

Environmental – Our homes and schools are full of stressors.
o Toxic Chemicals – Lead, mercury, antimony, aluminum, and other “heavy metals” reduce immunity, and interfere with the body’s ability to perform its many functions. Lead is “old news” and we know that any amount is unsafe for cognitive development. Every child should have lead levels tested.
Mercury, antimony, and aluminum are the “new” toxins that are also showing up in the bodies and brains of children with all types of delays. Their sources are power plants, ground water, petroleum plants, dental amalgams from the mother, vaccines, flame retardants, cookware, and other unlikely places. Read more about these metals here  and here.
Green your building with non-toxic materials for flooring, paint, cleaning supplies, building products, art and office supplies.
Chemicals from disinfectants, cleaners, building materials and other supplies “off gas” and when a person breathes them, they are toxic to the body. They are especially harmful to people with compromised immune systems, and those who have asthma.
The standard benchmark for design, construction, and operation of high-performance green buildings is LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Find a green building in your city, learn who greened it and consult with them.  Here is a handbook on how to green an existing building.
o Air Pollution – Open the windows when possible. When too hot, make sure air conditioning equipment is clean and not moldy. Use HEPA (an acronym for “high efficiency particulate air”) indoor air filters throughout building. HEPA filters can trap a large amount of very small particles that vacuum cleaners recirculate back into the air.
o Fluorescent lighting – Replace with bulbs that do not make noise or flicker. Use bulbs that offer the right color of lighting. Read this article on lighting.
o Noise – Play soft, gentle music, such as Mozart, which is the same rate as the human heart beat. Read more information  on “The Mozart Effect.”
Biological – Our bodies are toxic waste dumps too. Reduce our exposures.
o Water – Good hydration is essential for learning. Ensuring that our drinking water is pure is one of the most important steps we can take for children with developmental delays. Water should be available and offered frequently. Use water filters throughout the building.
o Diet and Nutrition – What kids are eating can be the determining factor between health and sickness. This is especially true for children with developmental delays. Sugar is one of the most damaging of all products ingested. Read more about it here.
Encourage families to cook and not eat “fast food.” Help them understand the importance of a varied diet of natural foods, such as fruits, vegetables, good quality protein and good fats.
Research is showing that eliminating some foods from kids’ diets helps their development and learning tremendously. Many foods are shown to cause ear infections. Two types of foods that are particularly problematic for kids with delays are those containing gluten, the protein from wheat, and casein, the protein from dairy products. Read about gluten and dairy in many websites containing “gfcf.”
Children with Down syndrome have especially high nutritional needs. A company that specializes in the care and feeding of those with this genetic syndrome is Nutri-Chem, in Ottawa, Canada. The founder, Kent MacLeod, a pharmacist has written a book on the importance of diet and nutritional supplementation: Down Syndrome and Vitamin Therapy.
o Allergies – Many kids with developmental issues have allergies, not only to airborne particles, insects, and other environmental pests, but also to foods. Some allergies are life-threatening and immediate, such as shellfish and peanuts. Others are troublesome, causing fatigue, rashes, respiratory and digestive problems, and are delayed, taking hours or even days to show up. Read about the different kinds of allergic reactions here.

Physical – The physical body needs a good sensory diet and sleep to reduce stress.
o Movement – Use every opportunity to move to learn. Little children’s bodies learn by moving and using their senses of touch and having their muscles and joints take in sensations. Two good books about the importance of movement in learning are, Smart Moves: Why Learning is not all in Your Head, by Carla Hannaford, and Physical Activities for Improving Learning and Behavior by Cheatum. Obtain the workbook “Begin Where They Are,” with therapy activities, from http://oepf.org/product/begin-where-they-are-0.
o Reflexes – Over 100 different reflexes are programmed into the body to get the body moving appropriately. If demands on the body are premature, before the reflexes are fully integrated, then delayed development can be the result. Learn about reflexes through an intensive training session. Learn more about reflexes at http://masgutovamethod.com
o Vision – While some children have eyesight problems that can be corrected by glasses, others have vision issues, such as the two eyes not working together, in conditions called exotropia, esotropia and strabismus. Motor activities that are the foundation for vision development and the body must be strong to support binocular vision. The relationship between vision and learning can also be a training session for those at the center. To learn more about vision, read this.
A book explaining the role of vision in learning is How to Develop Your Child’s Intelligence by Getman.
o Hearing – Listening is to hearing as vision is to eyesight. Although a child can hear, his brain may not process what it hears. Several “listening programs” are available to help children give meaning to what they hear. Look here for understanding of this area.
o Sleep – Everyone needs uninterrupted sound sleep for their bodies to heal and repair. Pre-school aged children require 11-12 hours of sleep per night. Young children with disabilities might need more if they are contending with health issues. Help parents and teachers understand their kids’ need for rest periods. Read this.
Educational – Schools are often unknowingly a source of stress too.
o Inappropriate curriculum – All children learn in a predictable developmental sequence, just as they learn to walk before they run. We discourage teaching rote concepts such as the alphabet, counting and naming to young children. These skills will emerge when a child is developmentally ready. Here is an article on this subject.

o Non-ergonomic furniture – Sitting in small chairs when the trunk and head are not stable only results in compensatory techniques like tilting the head and rotating the hips. Replace hard, wooden chairs with soft gym mats, beanbags, cushions and pillows to help children develop core strength.

Emotional – Families have so many situations that add stress.
o Unreasonable expectations – This stressor is tied to the one above related to an inappropriate curriculum. Children want to please adults, and when they cannot comply with expectations, they become discouraged. Make sure that requirements are consistent with a child’s developmental age.
o Worries and fears – Some kids like being around many people; others find crowds difficult. It appeared that many of the children we saw were somewhat fearful of having so many adults watching and prodding them. Observations should be limited to one or two adults at a time until a child is comfortable emotionally.
o Family Issues – Today’s families, especially those with multiple children with disabilities, are under a great deal of stress. They need support systems to help them cope. Offer parent and sibling support groups where adults and children can share their experiences and learn from each other.

Behavioral – Treating symptoms is never the right answer.
o Medications – Pharmaceutical and over-the-counter drugs all have side effects which can cause behavioral symptoms as benign as restlessness and irritability, and as serious as rashes, seizures and fevers. They can also interfere with sensory processing, such as cause double vision and tactile defensiveness. Instead of treating symptoms, look for natural alternatives to prescription drugs, and search for underlying causes of illness, such as food allergies and toxicity,.
o Screen Time – While young children are attracted to the bright colors, sounds and movement of objects on computers, iPads, and iPhones, these two-dimensional objects are not good for development. To learn, children need to touch and see objects in three dimensions, not on flat screens. Please consider replacing electronic toys with playthings made out of natural materials. For non-verbal children, speaking with real people is superior to speaking to a machine. Psychologist Jane Healy is the expert on brain development and screen time. Please refer to her books, Failure to Connect: How Computers Affect Our Children’s Minds — and What We Can Do About It, and Your Child’s Growing Mind: Brain Development and Learning From Birth to Adolescence.

Summary
Even with loving, supportive parents and teachers, the our lifestyle and environment add stress to the lives of our children with developmental delays. Start with the physical environment, and reduce exposures to noise, light, toxins and sensory overload. Every time you replace a product, purchase one of higher quality with fewer toxins. Gradually, stressors will reduce, and the home and school will be more conducive places for learning and growing.

Kuwait Revisited: Offering Help to Those with Severe Disabilities

January 3, 2013

Kuwait Dubai Jordan and Erika's wedding etc 441Kuwait Dubai Jordan and Erika's wedding etc 241artists

Right before Christmas, I returned from my second mission to Kuwait. Now that the holidays are over, I want to share my impressions. I made my first trip there in May, when I was invited to assist with the launch of Center 21, whose motto is “putting the able in disabled.” This enormous undertaking is the brainchild of devoted parents who want their son and others to continue to learn and grow despite the fact that they are no longer eligible for educational services. Center 21 will provide therapeutic and recreational services for the thousands of young adults with disabilities in that tiny country squished precariously between Iran, Iraq, and Saudia Arabia.
The Hosts
Lamia and Nabil and their children Abadi, Saud and Nadia, opened their home and hearts to us. Abadi, the inspiration for Center 21 remembered me, and followed the adult strangers around like a puppy dog, high fiving us over and over again. He was clearly communicating his welcome! His younger siblings, one in college, the other a high school senior, soaked up our knowledge, learning from us at every opportunity. One of Center 21’s volunteers, Fawzi, was our driver, tour guide, technology consultant, and caterer, anticipating and taking care of our every need from sightseeing to late dinner. My team of experts instantly fell in love with our hosts’ warmth and generosity. They made this venture so comfortable and enjoyable that it hardly seemed like work!
The Team
This trip had one repeat member, my long-time friend and colleague, Aubrey Carton Lande, occupational therapist, award winning musician and horsewoman. Accompanying Aubrey and me on our excursion was Mary Rentschler, a specialist in Masgutova Neurosensorimotor Reflex Integration (MNRI®). Completing this international team were Scandinavian neuro-developmental optometrists Thorkild and Lena Rasmussen, whose unfathomable job it was to evaluate and prescribe treatment for the undiagnosed vision issues rampant in the special needs population. As team leader, my prodigious responsibility was as case manager, educator and priority-setter. What a humbling challenge for us all!
The Mission
Whereas in May our emphasis was on visiting schools, government agencies and private organizations, this trip focused on providing individual assessments and services that could improve the quality of the lives of those with special needs. We set up serial evaluations with each expert, followed by group explanations of the role of each area in remediation, and the importance of continuity, support and follow-up by the families. In addition, similar to our previous trip, we delivered an evening conference in a magnificent ballroom, followed the next night by small group discussions on prioritizing therapies, sensory diets and reflex integration.

The Culture
Whoever would have thought that a nice Jewish girl from Pittsburgh would come out of retirement to hang out, joke with, and consult to Muslims in Kuwait? We bonded as humans with common goals and philosophies that instantly overrode our religious, educational, language, fashion and cultural differences. When speaking with parents, sometimes with a translator, my brain quickly disregarded the traditional dress worn by some, seeing only the love in their eyes, and the fear in their hearts. Kuwaiti parents are no different than my clients in the States.
The Disabilities
After working for over 40 years with families of those with special needs, I thought I had seen it all. But nothing prepared me for the complexity of the issues facing these Kuwaiti families. While the country is oil rich, it is resource poor. When a young child receives a diagnosis, little remediation is offered. “Take your child with a disability home and love him,” most families were advised.

We met many individuals age four through the mid-twenties with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism, and global developmental delays. Because Center 21 is planning to have an outpatient facility providing occupational and speech therapy services to all ages, younger kids were included in our case load. Many parents had not one or even two children with diagnoses; several had three of eight or so children with serious disabilities under one roof. Only the loving care of live-in nannies from countries such as the Philippines and Nepal helped them cope.
Just like their American counterparts, families in Kuwait are grateful for and blessed by all of their children, regardless of ability. However, because prenatal testing is not performed in Kuwait at the drop of a hat as it is in the US, children with genetic syndromes are common, especially in families where marriage of cousins is not uncommon.
In the United States an estimated 92% of all women who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome choose to terminate their pregnancies, according to Dr. Brian Skotko, a pediatric geneticist at Children’s Hospital Boston. In the absence of prenatal testing, the United States would have experienced a 34 percent increase in the number of Down syndrome births between 1989 and 2005, Skotko estimates. Instead, 15 percent fewer such babies were born during that time, representing a 49 percentage point difference between expected and observed rates, according to Skotko’s research review. Add to that other screenings, such as those for over 200 other known genetic syndromes, such as Tay-Sachs, that occur in specific populations, and the number of genetically different births is reduced even further.

The Children
Each expert spent more than an hour with about 20 children, a few of whom I introduced you to in my previous blog. For the repeats, we had the opportunity to delve more deeply, and to carve out a prioritized plan. Here are some of the complex cases we saw:

  • Dallal is the 16-year-old non-verbal young lady I introduced you to in my previous blog, who frequently rips off and breaks her glasses. In May, I had suggested a less strong Rx, blatantly practicing optometry without a license. Because she continued to reject even the weaker prescription, this summer her father decided to abandon the glasses altogether.
    The examining optometrist determined that Dallal’s eyes turned out, a condition called exotropia, and that even the lower Rx stressed her brain to keep her vision binocular. Dr. Lena thus recommended no lenses at all, and replaced her glasses with some motor activities designed to strengthen her neck and adjacent muscles, thus allowing her eyes to work together more efficiently. In addition, Aubrey worked with Dallal’s parents to design a sensory room that provided her with deep proprioceptive input and calming activities to lessen her frequent agitation.
  • Abdullah, also 16 and non-verbal, has journeyed outside of Kuwait with his devoted parents in efforts to improve function and skills. His calm demeanor and healthy appearance are unusual for a male with an autism diagnosis. His mother shared that he benefitted greatly from a gluten- and casein-free diet, and had undergone a detoxification program. Yet, he experienced both extreme tactile and auditory defensiveness that prevented him from relating to strangers.
    Addressing the tendon guard and Babinski foot reflexes calmed his extreme tactile defensiveness. Mary is hopeful that with continuous work, he will become available for other reflex repatterning techniques and eventually be ready to engage positively and communicate with others.
  • Mohammed is a teen with Down syndrome who looks more like nine than his 15 years. He has a winning smile that makes those around him melt. Totally loved and over-indulged by his family, he is courteous and compliant. He can tie his shoes, speak in sentences, and even read and write a little.
    His glasses prescription for extreme myopia was also found to exacerbate his visual skill development, and was reduced. Work on his large motor skills quickly improved his grasp of a writing implement and his speech. Discussion about the importance of immune system boosting foods and supplements and a referral to Nutri-Chem and the book Down Syndrome and Vitamin Therapy by Nutri-Chem’s pharmacist founder, Kent MacLeod, rounded out his program.
  • Achmed is one of three boys with autism in a family of eight. His exhausted mother shared matter-of-factly that in addition to coping with her sons, she is the only daughter of a mother on daily dialysis, and is having some health problems of her own. Referencing the work of one of my heroes, Dietrich Klinghardt, MD, the alarm went off in my head for mercury poisoning. Klinghardt implicates mercury whenever a family has multiple children with autism diagnoses. I asked Achmed’s mother about her dental status, and she began to weep, showing me a mouth full of silver amalgams mixed with gold crowns: a veritable petri dish for disease. We discussed the importance of working with an expert in detoxification who knew how to remove mercury safely. Without biomedical intervention, this family cannot get well.
  • Yasmeen is a four-year-old whirling dervish with a single eyebrow that crosses her forehead. In an hour’s time she never stopped moving or emitting a high pitched scream. She eats corn flakes with milk for breakfast, spaghetti for lunch, and pizza for dinner, snacks on crackers and cookies all day, and washes everything down with milk. She has a brother nine months old who is covered in eczema. Her young parents, who are biologically related, were told that their daughter is autistic, and that nothing can be done for her. Last year her teacher suggested casting her arms and putting mitts on her hands to prevent her from self-abusing and touching others. Now that these torture devices have been removed, her hands are so weak, that she cannot use them functionally.
    Yasmeen, like Achmed, is physically sick. I have no doubt that she is gluten and casein sensitive, and is ravaged with a combination of toxins, gut bugs, viruses, parasites and metals. All the sensory therapies and external interventions in my tool chest are impotent in trying to improve her function. We must start with nutrigenomic testing such as offered by Dr. Amy Yasko, to see what type of genetic abnormality this family is carrying, and offer supplements to correct the faults. Somehow, some way, we must improve her diet and get some nutrition into her. This case is urgent; the younger brother is another statistic waiting to happen.
  • Hussein is a young adult with severe cerebral palsy. He has little use of any of his limbs, and very poor head and eye muscle control. One of his legs is permanently perched in his lap, with the knee bent. He does not speak, but appears to understand what others are communicating, according to his sister, who is his advocate. He wears diapers, and is totally dependent upon caregivers for eating and moving from place to place.
    Reflex work on Hussein’s feet left his muscles uncontracted for the first time in his life. He was able to release his leg to an almost normal position. He smiled broadly. His sister started to cry, and promised to continue the prescribed therapy daily.

The Causes
Why so many severe cases with such complex needs? Maybe it started with exposure to the chemical soup from the Gulf War oil fires, compounded by unknown viruses and bacteria, and exposure to heavy metals, mercury and who knows what else, that tweaked their genes in a unique way. Add an extremely aggressive vaccination schedule, the ubiquitous presence of American fast-food restaurants, and stressors such as a well-meaning early intervention program that gets kids walking before their bodies are ready, and you have the “total load.”

The Healing
In the short time we had, we introduced that concept that the body’s top priority is staying well, and that speaking, relating and learning had to take a back seat to digestion, respiration and detoxification. We spoke of the success many families we knew in the U.S. experienced when they combined biomedical intervention with sensory therapies to heal their children with autism, and to improve behavior in those with genetic syndromes and global delays.
When anyone seeks medical help at a hospital, the first step after hydrating and stabilizing the body is running tests to determine what is wrong. We urged our Kuwaiti families to follow this model. We distributed test kits from the Great Plains Laboratory to measure the basics: gut function, the presence of dangerous metals, bacteria, viruses, and parasites, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, immune system markers and more. Hopefully, parents will take the time to collect the necessary hair, stool, urine and blood to open the door to healing.
The Future
As soon as possible, we plan to set up an online network so that parents can communicate with and support each other. Furthermore, we must also appoint case managers to provide continuous education and training. Without support and frequent check-ins families can easily become discouraged and drop out.
Nabil has suggested that we return in February to follow up and continue our work. Whenever we go back, careful monitoring is essential. We need to enlarge our team to include more vision specialists, as well as experts in assistive technology, psychology and counseling.
I would also love to host representatives of Center 21 to visit the United States and see model day, residential, vocational, biomedical, sensory, vision and other programs that they can emulate in Kuwait. If you know of a program I should include in the itinerary, please let me know.
The Payoff
I can think of no more rewarding work than what I have been blessed to do this year. Stay tuned for a continuation of this journey. Lamia, Nabil and their children, Fawzi and his beautiful family, Achmed, Mohammed, Dalal, Abdullah, Yasmeen, Hussein, and the others we saw are my new extended family. I wish them and you a healthy and happy 2013.

Do YOU Need a Pediatrician?

November 27, 2012

 

Over the holidays I spent time with some friends and their grandchildren.  Two little boys, one a year old, and the other three, struck me as unusually healthy, vigorous, and happy when compared to the other whiny, pale, runny-nosed picky eaters at the dinner table.  I later learned that both were born at home, neither had ever seen a doctor or been vaccinated, and that both chow down the organic broccoli, carrots and squash that their parents grow in their urban gardens.  Just a coincidence or can we assume a cause-and-effect relationship?

Almost every day, I receive a request for the names of pediatricians who are flexible about vaccinations.  The abundance of demands is in reverse proportion to the paucity of doctors who are willing to consider each child’s individual needs.

When I told a friend about these amazing kids, her response was “disgusting!” Her fully vaccinated grandkids have each had several serious bouts of croup, unexplained viruses and several hospital visits, “Why is it disgusting?” I asked.  “They need a doctor,” she replied. “Why?” I asked. “They just do,” she replied. Hum… Do they?

In my 2006 article on how changes in society and medical practices have contributed to the autism epidemic, I cite, among other factors, the over-dependence on antibiotics, vaccines, insurance-covered managed care, and fast food. If families choose “old-fashioned” immune-boosting solutions such as homeopathy, fruits and vegetables, along with a clean lifestyle replete with long, uninterrupted sleep, movement and love, is that sufficient?

When I was growing up, my college educated parents knew a great deal about art, literature and history, and little about medicine or how the body works. In the fifties, Dr. Spock was the only available resource for distraught parents whose baby had a rash or fever, cried inconsolably, or didn’t sleep. We depended upon our personal pediatricians to help us when Dr. Spock’s advice failed to alleviate suffering.

Today, few have a pediatrician who even knows their name. At the same time, newsletters and TV shows bombard us daily as Drs. Oz, Mercola, Gupta, Hyman and other experts on health and well-being educate us about eating our greens, ingesting essential fats, moving daily, and other dietary, nutritional and lifestyle issues.

Many parents I know, including those of the robust little boys I observed, have made the conscious decision to boost their children’s immune systems with minimal medicalization and good food, and to trust the body’s wisdom to heal itself. They minimize stress from environmental toxins, inappropriate demands, and lifestyle choices. They recognize the detoxification role of fevers and rashes, and the early signs of chronic immune dysfunction: food allergies, raw or bumpy skin, and “colds,” and treat them naturally. Their libraries hold books like medical heretic Dr. Robert Mendelsohn’s, How to Raise a Healthy Child in Spite of Your Doctor, Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child, by Zand, Rountree and Walton, Dr. Randall Neustaedter’s Holistic Baby Guide: Alternative Care for Common Health Problems and Dr. Aviva Romm’s Naturally Healthy Babies and Children: A Commonsense Guide to Herbal Remedies, Nutrition, and Health.  These great references advise parents on home treatments for routine childhood illnesses, allergies, and fevers, with clear-cut instructions for determining when a child needs medical intervention. They are my favorite baby shower gifts.

Healthy eating and other immune-boosting choices are the way informed parents assure good health.  Just like they choose to fix a drippy faucet themselves, but call a plumber when the basement is flooded, they are also smart enough to recognize when they need expert medical help. Then they could always go to the nearest “urgent care center,” a brilliant modern convenience.

Think hard before caving in to fear-mongering about disease and childhood illnesses.  Do you really need a pediatrician for a “well-baby” check-up consisting of a weigh-in and vaccination lecture, or can you trust your intuition that your child is thriving?  The wise pediatrician who trusts the wisdom of the body is going the way of the local department store, as documented on a recent Sunday morning news show. Gimbel’s, Higbees, Rich’s, Horne’s, Marshall Fields are all gone! Only Macy’s survives.

If you feel you still need a pediatrician, try to find one who supports health instead of treats illness. If your child is healthy, AND you are following healthy lifestyle, AND you know the signs of a medical emergency, ask yourself if YOU need a pediatrician. Maybe you don’t!

Wonder

October 9, 2012

“I know I’m not an ordinary ten-year-old kid….I know ordinary kids don’t make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds.  I know ordinary kids don’t get stared at wherever they go… It’s like people you see sometimes, and you can’t imagine what it would be like to be that person, whether it’s somebody in a wheelchair or somebody who can’t talk.  Only, I know that I’m that person to other people… To me, though, I’m just me.  An ordinary kid.”

These are the thoughts of August (Auggie, to friends and family) Pullman, a fictitious boy who has endured 27 surgeries to correct extreme congenital facial anomalies of unknown origin.  Wonder is the remarkable first novel by R. J. Palacio that takes us with him to a private middle school, Beecher Prep, where he enters fifth grade after home-schooling for his elementary years.

The school is named for Henry Ward Beecher, a nineteenth century abolitionist defender of human rights. (How appropriate!) Beecher wrote that “greatness lies not in being strong, but in the right using of strength.”  “He is the greatest, whose strength carries up the most hearts by the attraction of his own.”

After Auggie’s parents make the difficult decision to send him off to Beecher Prep “like a lamb to the slaughter,” we learn about his heart and strengths through other, including his parents, sister, Olivia (Via, to friends and family), his principal, Mr. Tushman (yes, a little contrived), teachers and classmates.  Is it painful? Maudlin? A little. And, it is heartening and inspiring.

I have met thousands of families with kids like Auggie.  To them, their child with autism, cerebral palsy, or Down syndrome, is anything but ordinary.  Like Auggie’s parents, they see each and every child as a “wonder.”

This is beautiful story with many “talking points.”  It is book for all ages: one to be read to older elementary school kids, by middle and high school students, and by adults interested in human nature.  I recommend it strongly.

My Kuwait Adventure

June 7, 2012

It all started with an innocent email on April 12th.  “Hi Patricia. We are Lamia and Nabil from Kuwait. We have an autistic son. We met you in 1996 in Washington, DC. Do you remember us?  Our son was 5 at that time; he is 21 now. Awaiting your kind reply.”

Did I remember them?  Are they kidding? How could I forget this wonderful couple and their adorable non-verbal son and toddler daughter.  I fired back an instant reply:  “Of course I remember you!”

Minutes later, another email:  “Wow, nice hearing from you. Hope you are fine. We and a group of parents who are working to establish a center for special needs kids age 21 and above. The center was approved by the government a week ago.  It’s a big project. Therefore, we are requesting that you and other consultants whom you recommend, visit us by end of May to discuss the preliminary stages of development. We want to contact you on Skype for further details.”  I was trembling with excitement!

On Skype, we got down to business after laughing about what 15 years had done to our hair and figures.  I was given a carte blanche to put together a team.  Less than a month later, we hopped onto a United airbus, and in the middle of one of those famous desert sandstorms, landed in Kuwait.

Catching Up

Since Lamia, Nabil and I had had NO contact since 1996, they were unaware that I had run a non-profit organization for the past 15 years, written a book, or that exciting new therapeutic options existed for their son and others. They confessed that they had thought about trying to find me in the past, but only now did they ask their 17-year-old son to “Google” me.  They described their pleasure when my photo appeared on the computer monitor; their delight could hardly have equaled mine.

When I decided to wind down DDR several years ago, many asked, “Patty, what will you do now?’  I responded, “I don’t know; something will come up!” Was Kuwait where my boundless energy was headed?  To a country the size of New Jersey, over 6000 miles away, where over 3000 children born in 1991 were affected by the devastating oil fires?  All I could think of was what horrendous damage breathing all those toxic fumes did to pregnant mothers and their babies.

My Team

I asked for a week to choose my team. After making many contacts, I was really fortunate to be accompanied by two amazing women: my long-time friend, occupational therapist Aubrey Lande, and a new acquaintance, special education teacher and art therapist, Becky Rutherford. Aubrey is a Boulder-based sensory processing expert, award winning composer and musician, expert horsewoman and Watsu (a combination of aquatic bodywork, massage, joint compression, shiatsu, muscle stretching and dance) instructor. Becky, a sixth grade teacher at Beaver Run Special School in Kimberton, PA, is an expert in Curative Education and the Camphill movement, both aimed at nurturing individuals with special needs toward leading full lives. She and I met at the Camphill Symposium a year ago.  She still carried my business card in her purse, even though she was sure she would never see me again!

Our Assignment

Our mission was multi-faceted.  We were to advise Kuwaiti professionals, officials and parents on all aspects of the proposed center, including curriculum, architecture and engineering, meet and consult with a dozen families, put on a conference, and visit every government agency and non-profit organization having anything to do with autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, genetic disorders and other developmental disabilities.  In a week, in 110 degree heat, with a mandatory siesta each afternoon! We hit the scorching pavement running!

Our gracious hosts accompanied us to about a half dozen schools and centers, including ones for early intervention.  In Kuwait, children are separated by disability, and the approaches are ones that go way back to the seventies. We observed toddlers sitting in hard, unforgiving chairs trying to match colors and shapes and teachers intent upon extinguishing unacceptable behaviors.

It’s a Small World After All

One of Kuwait’s top SLPs joined us and served as our unofficial interpreter.  “Dr. Lulu” trained at the University of Cincinnati, where she shared that she lived with a Jewish family.  “What was their name?” I asked, taking a stab.  Would you believe they were good friends of my family?

One family shared a file folder of reports on their daughter, including a summary from a consultant in Baltimore who had met with them in 1994 when the parents sought medical advice at Johns Hopkins.  The consultant had not seen the child, but took a history and wrote out her recommendations: 1) Begin a gluten-free, casein-free (GF/CF) diet. 2) Use supplements, including omega 3 and probiotics, 3) Have the child evaluated by  an occupational therapist with background in sensory issues, 4) Get an evaluation by a developmental optometrist, and 5) Contact Patricia Lemer and join Developmental Delay Resources!  I nearly feel off my chair!  Although the report was dated May, 1994, it could easily have been written today.  The same recommendations were appropriate!

Vision

Almost every individual with a disability we met had an untreated vision problem. Many had a strabismus, some a nystagmus.   Almost none wore lenses, and those who did were over-prescribed (Yes, I’m practicing optometry without a license again!).  One father told us that the eye doctor anesthetized his 15-year-old, non-verbal daughter with autism to determine her Rx.  At least once a week she rips her glasses off her face and breaks them.  He buys frames by the dozen and every weekend, combines usable components to make new pairs until he runs out of spare parts and has to buy another dozen.  I muscle-tested different strengths of plus lenses on her and recommended one that was half strength.  I’m waiting to hear the results!

Oil Rich, Resource Poor

Many think of Kuwait as a place where the streets are paved with gold and everyone wears Rolex watches; that’s a myth.  Yes, the COUNTRY is rich and takes excellent care of its citizens, but the PEOPLE are just like us.  While they do not have to pay taxes or worry about the cost of gasoline, they work hard to make a living.  They are lawyers, accountants, computer specialists, investment bankers, and business owners. If they decide to go out of the country to seek help for their children with disabilities, it’s on their own nickel.

Occupational therapy (OT) and speech-language pathology (SLP) are both emerging fields, with new master’s degrees just becoming available at Kuwait University.  Until the first classes graduate this year, like almost all other commodities, including food, cars and clothing, therapists are imported.

Multiple Disabilities

Few families have a single child with issues.  Because they live with large, loving, extended families, many homes have several children with delays, including autism, Down’s and some rare genetic syndromes I never heard of.  Obviously the chemical soup from the Gulf Wars, unknown viruses and bacteria, and combinations of heavy metals including depleted uranium, mercury and who knows what else, tweaked their genes in a unique way. I could not help but wonder if the deer tick that carries Lyme disease has a cousin who lives in date palms. Add an incomprehensible vaccination schedule that starts with tetanus shots for the pregnant mother at the fifth and seventh month, a hepatitis B shot at birth for the baby, and monthly boosters containing up to ten pathogens, and you have an immunological nightmare!

And the pattern of birth order defies everything we thought we knew about “toxic load.”  The first couple of children may be neuro-typical, then one or more with autism, and then a couple more without delays.  We also saw many females with disabilities.  What’s that all about? Are estrogen levels low?

Parents Everywhere Have the Same Concerns

Our conference attracted over 100 parents and professionals who carefully wrote out questions and waited over an hour to query us in person. “Will my child ever lead a ‘normal’ life?”  “How can I calm my two non-verbal adult sons with autism sufficiently so they can fly out of the country?”  “How can I stop my son from masturbating?”  “Two of my five children have autism and my wife is pregnant.  How can I prevent my new baby from becoming autistic?” I really struggled to find solutions that were compatible with Kuwaiti culture, religious beliefs and family values.

Center 21

Lamia and Nabil and their friends are extremely concerned about what their son will do all day now that he has no school, no program, nothing to get up for in the morning.  So they took the bull by the horns and petitioned the government for help. After a year of hard work, Center 21 was born. Kuwait is no different than the rest of the world, where those babies born at the beginning of the autism epidemic are turning 21 this year. The need is prodigious.

Center 21 will launch this summer with a small camp of a dozen or so individuals who have autism, cerebral palsy and variety of other special needs. It will gradually grow to 30 or so, and in the fall be housed in a villa. By 2013, hopefully it will expand to accommodate 100, and relocate to a renovated school building.  Hiring will begin soon for bilingual Arabic-English speaking special educators, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists and recreational therapists.

While no statistics exist on numbers who are aging out of schools, the plan is to serve 1000 young adults with special needs by 2015 on a lively mall-like campus that includes villas, shops, cafes, a medical center, therapy rooms, art studios, a sports complex and more.  A huge undertaking?  You bet!  And if anyone can accomplish this enormous feat it is these dedicated, determined parents!

For now my team’s job is to help the Kuwaitis understand the relationships between health, sensory processing and behavior.  I think if we can accomplish that, our work will be rewarded by seeing these beautiful young adults become more functional.

Next Steps

I cannot wait to set up a testing program to evaluate, identify and prescribe treatments for the underlying biomedical issues. Thyroid problems, vitamin D, essential fat and other nutritional deficiencies are clearly rampant.  We have already started working with Great Plains Laboratory and New Beginnings Nutritionals in this regard.  A Kuwaiti pharmacy is prepared to import whatever supplements are necessary to treat underlying problems.

I hope to return to Kuwait in the fall, as the Kuwaiti’s say often, “In sha Allah.” Lamia, Nabil and their extended families were such generous hosts. We parted in tears with promises to stay in touch.  Putting together a team of developmental vision experts is my next goal.  Some lenses, prisms and simple visual therapy activities can make a HUGE difference for these young adults.  I believe we can “buy” 10-15 IQ points with these measures that take stress off the nervous system and free up energy for other functions.   Is it too late?  Never!

I am heartened by one touching “thank you” I received from a father, who told us that all he wanted was for his 21-year-old daughter to be happy.   “You taught me so much, and believe me, if I had the chance, I would be your house boy to learn from you. Friends come into our lives and go out of our sight, but they are always in our hearts.  You will be always with us here in Kuwait. You are a second family and country, and if you are in this part of the world again, please come and see us.”

It doesn’t get much better than that!

Biological Medicine: The Latest from Dietrich Klinghardt

March 6, 2012

I just spent three days in New York glued to every word from my favorite genius, Dietrich Klinghardt, MD, PhD .  My head is spinning!  I want to shout his knowledge from the top of every mountain and have it echo across the world.  Instead, I will have to depend upon the magic of the Internet and cyberspace to get the word out.  Here are some of the highlights bursting from my brain in no particular order.

  • Electro-smog – My daughter says I am obsessed with the dangers of electro-magnetic fields, and maybe I am.  Listening to Dietrich and Magda Havas, PhD, a Canadian expert on the subject, is chilling.  The biological effects of electromagnetic pollution are only beginning to be understood.  With exposures escalating at exponential rates, electro-smog is being associated with an increasing number of diseases and conditions. 

Electro-smog refers to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and radio frequency radiation (RFR) generated by our use of electricity and wireless devices.  It includes High frequency radiation from microwaves, cellular phones and wireless, Intermediate frequencies from “dirty electricity” emanating from transformers, fluorescent lighting, computers and plasma televisions and Low frequency fields from computers, copiers, clock radios and electric heaters. 

Here’s a couple of gems that I gleaned:  1. The keyboards of laptop computers send dangerous radiation into your hands!  Solution: Attach an external keyboard.  2.  Exercising on a treadmill raises blood sugar markedly because of the EMFs!  Solution:  Exercise out-of-doors.  3. Compact fluorescent light bulbs give off high levels of EMFs!  Solution:  Stock up on incandescent bulbs or change to LEDs. 4. Teachers in “hot rooms” in schools (computer labs especially) took far more “sick” days than other teachers!  Solution:  Get out of computer labs!

General solution:  Buy a Gauss meter and take measurements of EMFs at home and school.  Purchase filters for electrical outlets that block dirty electricity.  Remove all computers, plasma TVs and wireless phones from the bedroom.  For more information on this important subject, go to www.lessemf.com and www.stetzerelectric.com

  • PANS is the new name for PANDAS – What used to be known as PANDAs for Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder associated with Strep has been shortened to PANS for Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome because bugs in addition to strep are causing the same obsessive-compulsive symptoms.  See Scientific American February 2, 2012.  Lyme and Mycoplasma bacteria, Epstein Barr Virus, and bartonella (the bug that causes “cat scratch” disease) are just a few that have been added to the list of infectious triggers.
  • Tonsils: “the Achilles heel of the human condition” – The big news is what Klinghardt brings to the PANS discussion.  He believes that these bugs live in the infected tonsils of their human hosts, and he has designed a very complex treatment including injecting them, with procaine and ozone, gargling with a fermented product rich in biofilm-dissolving enzymes, and, as a last resort removing them with cryotherapy (burning them off) so they will regenerate.  Read about this procedure in an article from the DDR newsletter.
  • Cats do not belong in the home – I am a cat lover.  My 18-year-old Tussy Pat decided not relocate from Maryland to Pittsburgh two weeks before my move, and I have not replaced her.  After listening to the dangers of having a cat in the house from Dietrich, I’m actually happy I made that decision.  He believes that bartonella is one of many critters that prefer humans to their feline hosts.  The bugs jump and the whole family gets sick.  Solution:  Not cats on the bed or sofa.  They belong outside where they can catch mice, their reason for existence!   Is your cat making YOU sick?  Read this new article in the Atlantic.
  • Doctor your water – We’ve all heard that we are supposed to drive eight glasses of water a day.  Any water?  Absolutely not, according to Klinghardt!  Tap water needs to be treated by reverse osmosis to remove fluoride.  Also add electrolytes and minerals.  Good hydration is an essential foundation for the kidneys BEFORE starting any detoxification program. Klinghardt also believes that dehydration can lead to mitochondrial disorders by slowing down the speed of electrical impluses.
  • Sleep safely – Along with good hydration, a safe sleeping environment are the two most important factors for health.  In addition to removing all EMFs from the bedroom (see above), he puts suggests a sleep “cocktail” made up of tryptophan, 5HTP and lithium oratate for all his patients.  For those with severe insomnia he also recommends the use of a cranial electrotherapy stimulation (CES) machine for 20 minutes between dinner and bedtime.  Stimulation is applied through electrodes placed on the ears.  The efficacy and safety of CES therapy is supported by many studies in the US and in the former Soviet Union where it was developed in the 1950’s. A doctor’s prescription for its use for sleep disorders is required.
  • Parasite testing – As I discovered personally, stool testing for parasites is notoriously unreliable.  Klinghardt helped me understand why.  The live bugs rarely come out, and if they do, they secrete a film that within 15 minutes makes them invisible!  Only “fresh” poop can show parasites, so either buy a high-powered microscope or go to a lab that is prepared to whisk the stool sample away immediately and test it.  Forget those which require freezing and mailing.
  • New Homeopathics – Dietrich has formulated some new remedies that are prepared in a special energetic matrix of sacred water, natural amino acids, minerals and vitamins.  The frequencies of the peptides and remedies are imprinted energetically, using a newly developed laser/electromagnetic technology from Europe.  These homepathics are far less expensive than other treatments for resolving autoimmunity issues, treating co-infections of Lyme, and assisting with the transport and elimination of heavy metals.  Order from www.BioPure.eu
  • Activated Charcoal depletes Vitamin C – This oft-used “harmless” product should be replaced by MicroSilica, which not only absorbs excess water in uncontrollable diarrhea, but also activates detoxification enzymes.

These are only a few of the many pearls I gleaned from my three days in New York.  If you are interested in more, I strongly recommend purchasing the proceedings, which will be available in April from the Klinghardt Academy, www.klinghardtacademy.com.  Better yet, go to one of Dietrich’s  upcoming trainings and experience his magic yourself.

Gastroenterology 101

October 26, 2011

Digestive system

I just returned from an early morning appointment with my fifth local gastroenterologist. The reason I keep looking for one is that I have had a flare-up of digestive problems since summer.  You may recall that I had parasites, about which I wrote in 2007. Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt in Seattle prescribed a  combination of antibiotics and herbal preparations which killed those critters then. My present symptoms are similar, and showed up following a colonoscopy.

I travelled to Seattle in ’07 because I could not find a gastroenterologist in Pittsburgh who would consider parasites as apossibility.  After the last one told me without cracking a smile that “food has nothing to do with digestion,” I swore I would NEVER go to another.  Hoping not to have to return to Seattle, I gave Pittsburgh’s doctors one more try.

This one looked  different:  a female with a certification in nutrition!  My hopes that she would know something about diet were shattered however, when, after completing my colonoscopy this summer she handed me a prescription for colitis, while I was still under the cloud of anesthetic. In response to my question about foods, she declared that there was “no known diet” for that condition.  I tossed her prescription, after reading the long list of side effects online.  Still, I harbored the false hope that I might have a conversation with her about my chronic condition. Hence the appointment this morning, for which I rose at the ungodly hour of 5:30 am and drove in the dark to be there at 7:00 am.

The night before I had dutifully and carefully completed an 8-page questionnaire, with queries about my family history of illness, my present medications (only a bit of thyroid), and supplements (a lengthy list of herbs and vitamins which required an additional page.) The paperwork contained not a single question about diet.  Since I was instructed to bring my history with me, I doubted seriously whether
anyone would read it before my appointment. I was correct.

First, an obese nurse weighed me and took my “vitals.” (Is it my imagination or are most nurses unhealthy looking and overweight?) She registered surprise at my low blood pressure. “How old are you?” she asked.  “It’s in my paperwork,” I replied petulantly.  Next, I was moved to a tiny room with a single chair and a lone magazine, “Colitis Today.”  The door closed. I decided to flip through the magazine while waiting. Articles about dealing with the psychological effects of the disease, and ads for clothing that allowed quick and easy toileting. I slammed it shut.  Was I in denial?

Thank goodness I brought a book.  After 15 minutes, another over-weight nurse came rushing in (two for two!),  apologizing.  “Oh, you’re in the wrong room! Follow me.”  We wentacross the hall to an identical cubicle. The reading material in this room was a sports magazine with Raphael Nadal on the cover. Obviously, this was the right room, since I am a tennis fan!   I waited some more.  After another   15 minutes (it’s now 8 am.  I could have slept another hour! How can adoctor be running an hour late first thing in the morning?) A rap on the door, and  the doctor appears with my paperwork in hand.

I had scripted a brief description of my life’s work with families of children with disabilities and my belief that diet and nutrition were worthwhile treatment options.   Before I opened my mouth, however, the good doctor began questioning.  “Any history of colon cancer in your family?” “Yes, both my parents had color cancer. That’s why I came to you for a colonoscopy this summer. It’s in my  paperwork,” I stated for the second time that morning.  She flipped the pages.  “Oh, now I remember you,” she declared.

She continued asking me questions, this time about alcohol and caffeine consumption, again documented in the unread paperwork. I offered up that I ate well, a mostly organic, almost vegetarian diet. “Maybe that’s your problem,” she replied. (Does she subscribe to the hygiene hypothesis, I wondered silently.) Patience, which is not one of my virtues, was running out.

Finally, I interrupted her with my prepared  script, which I had edited and tweaked several times in my mind to be sure to sound respectful.  I ended by stating my surprise that her questionnaire contained no queries about diet.  “Oh, this is a terrible form, she admitted.  We really need to revise it!”

She politely explained my condition as one of “inflammation of unknown origin.” I politely inquired if she was not curious about possible origins. We were both holding our tempers well.  She forthrightly stated that studies were “inconsistent.”  “Could that be because people are all different?” I asked naively.
“Maybe,” she said.  “But drugs are the only way to treat your condition. And I have no problem with your getting some acupuncture and chiropractic too.”  Wow! She just embraced complementary medicine!

“Is it possible that I have an infection?” I asked.  “If you would like me to order some stool studies, I would be happy to do so,” she replied. “But you would not have ordered them if I had not asked?”  “No,” she answered, unfazed.

I have had a number of stool studies, which are notoriously unreliable.  Critters often don’t show up, which does not mean that they are not there.  When I shared my knowledge on this subject, my doctor said, “That’s why I don’t order them!”

I persisted. “How about possible food allergies?”  “Well, I would be happy to refer you to an allergist, if you’d like; I don’t do allergy testing.  (No multi-disciplinary approach that considers the whole person here.)  I used to do elimination diets, but they don’t work, so I don’t recommend them anymore.”  “Don’t  work?” I asked why?  “Because no one can stick with them,” she stated. Determined to win one argument for food, I continued,   “Oh, you mean they might workphysically, but not psychologically?”  “That is correct,” she agreed. One point for me!

“Are you going to examine me,” I asked staring atthe cold, hard, stainless steel table next to me. “Of course,” she declared. I hopped up onto the examining table which could have been in a museum of torture devices, and lay back.  No removal of clothing.  Afterpalpating my abdomen, she declared “All done!” and I sat up.

This seemed to be a good time to escape. I thanked her and headed toward the door.  As I was exiting, she asked me an astonishing question, “Does changing their diet help children with autism?”  “Yes,
I replied, elated that I could share some of my knowledge.  80% show benefit from a gluten- and casein-free diet. Not only do their bowels work better, but often we see positive changes in their language output and relatedness.”  “That’s SO interesting!” was her response.

I ran to the elevator.  Past the tables of Pepto-Bismal-pink raffle items (including an iridescent pink pumpkin!) for breast cancer awareness month. (Excuse me.  Do you know ANYONE who is NOT aware yet?) I couldn’t get out of this hospital, in which I was born more than 65 years ago,
fast enough.

Today’s doctor WAS different. Traditional, yes, but not bad, just uneducated. Thank goodness, she still has an inbox and a smidgen of curiosity. I do not want to be her teacher. I will return to my trusted and
educated team of health care professionals: a chiropractic kinesiologist,acupuncturist, herbalist, and homeopath.  We were making slow, but steady progress toward improving my health. I will continue my regemin of vitamins, minerals, anti-fungals, herbs and remedies, as well as my organic diet, while I work on my patience. This time I will not throw away her prescription.  I will keep it just in case I change my mind, and decide that hair loss and a possible stroke are worth exchanging for some bowel issues. I will then return to her for another round.

Until then, I will continue my stubborn search for the cause of my inflammation and treat it naturally. Tomorrow I will start drinking 32 ounces of apple cider and eating a totally vegan diet for six days in
preparation for a gall bladder and liver cleanse this weekend.  I’m encouraged by what I read about it.  In the meantime, if you EVER hear me consider going to another gastroenterologist, please slap me upside my face!  Thanks.

I’ll keep you posted.

Peanut Allergy Epidemic: What Everyone Needs to Know

October 10, 2011

Last week, I observed a friend frantically chasing her toddler grandson who had slipped out of her grip, run to a buffet table and grabbed a cookie. “Does it have nuts in it?” she yelled in abject fear to no one in particular.

Today, more than 1% of American children, like this little guy, and approximately .5% of adults in the United States are allergic to peanuts. That is an estimated one million kids and three million individuals, who could die by simply breathing the air in a room where someone ate a peanut butter sandwich.

When and how did this epidemic develop, and why is it continuing? Most important, what is its cause, and what can we do to stop it?

The frightening answers to these questions are in The Peanut Allergy Epidemic: What’s causing it and How to Stop it by Heather Fraser, a Canadian mom whose child had an anaphylactic reaction to peanut butter at 13 months of age. I could hardly put it down! You and everyone you know who, especially your pediatrician, should read it.

The “perfect storm” that spawned the peanut allergy epidemic around 1990, (not surprisingly paralleling the autism epidemic) occurs, like autism, in more boys than girls. “Victims” are the same: picky eater kids with lessened ability to detoxify, consuming less nutritious food and receiving an ever-increasing number of vaccinations, growing up in an increasingly toxic environment. My friend, Dr. Ken Bock wrote about them in his book Healing the New Childhood Epidemics: Autism, ADHD, Asthma, and Allergies: The Groundbreaking Program for the 4-A Disorders.

Bock knows from his busy practice that many children with autism have severe allergies, including life-threatening reactions to peanuts. Likewise, many children with peanut allergies are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, including attention deficits, pervasive developmental disorders, Asperger syndrome and full-blown autism. The commonality, he and others agree: an overburdened immune system. How did that happen? Let’s start by understanding allergy and the ONLY means by which mass allergy has ever been created: by injection.

What is Allergy?
Early twentieth century American researchers, Rachel Carson and Theron Randolph, and a contemporary, MacArthur “genius award” winning biologist, Margie Profet believe that allergy is an evolved, and often risky, protective response: the body’s natural defense against toxins linked to benign substances. An “allergic” reaction occurs when the body is exposed to proteins of unfamiliar foods, triggering immunoglobulin epsilon (IgE) antibodies, the soldiers whose job it to protect the body’s mucous membranes from invaders. When they detect trouble, they deploy a biochemical cascade, characterized by coughing, shortness of breath, itchy skin hives, leaking of blood vessels causing swelling and potential asphyxia, vomiting and diarrhea. Scratching, vomiting, diarrhea and sneezing are a body’s desperate attempts at ejecting a toxin as fast as it can. In severe reactions, blood pressure drops, draining vital organs and causing the heart to stop.

The term “allergy” was coined in 1906, only one hundred years ago, by an Austrian pediatrician, trying to reconcile an unexpected reaction to vaccination in some of his patients. The modern concept of allergy grew out of the occurrence of “serum sickness,” a man-made malady. Keep reading.

The Hypodermic Needle
Documented life-threatening mass allergic reactions were rare prior to the late nineteenth century, and first emerged as an “unintended consequence” of a new invention, precipitated by the unprecedented need for pharmaceuticals near the end of the Civil War: the hypodermic syringe. Louis Pasteur was the first doctor to use a hypodermic needle to inject a vaccine: anthrax for livestock, and later rabies to a boy bitten by a dog. Hypodermic needles were quickly adopted as a hygienic improvement over the messy, often dirty, transdermal lances previously used to puncture or scratch the skin to insert pathogens.

As demand increased, costs became more reasonable, and production soared. Upjohn and Parke-Davis (both now owned by Pfizer) and Eli Lilly (the developer of thimerosal) were born out of demand for hypodermically delivered vaccines. Their 1890’s marketing methods closely resembled today’s, minus television and computers. Sales reps visited physicians’ offices, leaving promotional literature and samples in lively packaging. And, don’t forget the annual medical almanacs! By the turn of the 20th century, vaccine manufacturing was big business.

The Need for Preservatives
With an increased demand for vaccines for dreaded smallpox, tuberculosis, diphtheria and cholera, and the realization that a single vaccination did not confer lifelong immunity, the need arose for vaccines that could travel safely and be administered efficiently. Pus and scabs from sick animals decomposed quickly; sick animals were difficult to transport. The answer: preservatives suspended in an antibacterial carrier gel made of vegetable glycerin that extended shelf life and could be delivered by injection.

Early twentieth century ingredients included mercury-based antifungals and various oils. Exact ingredients were fiercely guarded proprietary formulas, protecting the scientists, their companies and shareholders by law.

Serum Sickness
A common outcome of the first mass preserved, hypodermically delivered injections of sera for scarlet fever, tetanus and diphtheria was a poorly understood and potentially fatal condition. It was first called “serum sickness,” later termed “anaphylaxis” by French Nobel laureate and immunologist Charles Richet – from the Greek ana (against) and phylaxis (protection) – the opposite outcome from what was expected from vaccination. Symptoms included fevers, rashes, diarrhea, decreased blood pressure, lymph node swelling, joint pain, an enlarged spleen, kidney failure, breathing difficulties, and shock, lasting for days, weeks or a lifetime, and, occasionally, proving fatal.

What was causing so many people to get sick instead of stay well? Richet experimented with dogs to find the answer. He injected his subjects with raw meat proteins, and then fed them raw meat. The result was anaphylaxis! Two other researchers did the same, except by injecting egg and milk, showing that without exception, all proteins, toxic or non-toxic outside the body could produce anaphylaxis by injection. Richet discovered that this phenomenon is universal for all animals.

Austrian pediatrician Clemens von Piquet and his Hungarian colleague, Bela Schick, studied serum sickness in thousands of children, noting a paradoxical relationship between the two outcomes of vaccination: attaining immunity and acquiring serum sickness. In both outcomes, an incubation period occurs between the initial inoculation and appearance of symptoms. Subsequent injections (just like secondary exposure to infections) are accompanied by an accelerated and exaggerated response resulting from “a collision of antigen and antibody.” This conjecture was confirmed by the fact that in 90% of von Piquet’s patients, immediate adverse reactions occurred following the “booster” injection 10-30 days after the first.

In 1934, up to 50% of children experienced post-vaccinal serum sickness. Families were forced to weigh their fears of fatal diseases such as smallpox against the risk of being injured or killed by a vaccine, and choose the lesser of two evils. The only difference from today is that few of these dreaded diseases kill many people any longer in developed countries because of antibiotics.

Anaphylaxis
As Richet continued to experiment with cats, rabbits, horses and frogs, he deduced that “digestive juices” were required to break down the protein, and if this did not happen, the body would mount an immune response. Experimental alimentary anaphylaxis is almost impossible to demonstrate in the presence of healthy digestion. The first injection of undigested protein into the blood stream sensitizes and weakens an animal, making it susceptible to a second, smaller dose which then could cause a serious, even fatal reaction in persons with inadequate digestion. Conclusion: healthy digestive juices actively transform potentially toxic proteins, rendering them innocuous, or restated, inadequate digestion is a common sense prerequisite for food allergy.

The “ingestion” theory of anaphylaxis has persisted to explain the vast majority of food reactions. Some of these reactions, however, are not life-threatening, but more subtle and hard to pinpoint, such as migraines, skin conditions, fatigue, anxiety, irritability and behavioral problems. Egg was a case in point; why did a young boy suffer from “egg poisoning” in 1908 when nobody had ever injected egg into him? Hmm…Unfortunately, his doctor did not know that for many years prior, emulsified egg lecithin was used extensively in vaccines, and vaccine manufacturers had introduced fertile hen’s egg as medium for growing viruses. What was the link? The answer came in the 1940’s with the discovery of penicillin.

Penicillin Allergy
When we first examined the peanut allergy epidemic, we recognized the attributes of the perfect storm for the “victims.” With the discovery of penicillin in 1928 by Scottish biologist Alexander Fleming all the pieces of the “perfect storm” for the “weapon of mass destruction were in place: a pathogen suspended in an injected or encapsulated undigested protein from oil.

Both oral and injected forms of penicillin contained a new ingredient, cottonseed oil, a product whose proteins are considered potent allergens. A gelatin capsule sealed the drug, which was not released until it reached the small intestines, bypassing the modifying effects of digestive enzymes. I’m sure by now you can guess what happened!

From the 1930’s through 1950, sensitivity to cottonseed oil grew, as did penicillin allergies. Scientists sought a cheap, plentiful replacement. You guessed right again. After World War II, the all-American peanut replaced cottonseed as the oil of choice in the manufacturing of penicillin and in almost all vaccines! It was plentiful, inexpensive, stable in heat, and during the war, patriotic.

By 1953, Pfizer and others produced six hundred tons of penicillin, laden with peanut oill mixed with beeswax (POB for penicillin in oil beeswax) to coat the penicillin particles in a concoction known as the Romansky formula. As the body metabolized the wax and oil, the drug was released into the system. By the mid 1950′s, an estimated 2.5% of all children had developed an allergy to injected penicillin. Scientists reduced the amount of beeswax and oil in an attempt to reduce and eliminate undesirable reactions, such as fatal anaphylaxis, antibiotic resistance, fungal overgrowth and dysbiosis.

Then came a new formula mixing penicillin with aluminum monostearate (PAM), also suspended in peanut oil. PAM was the delivery of choice from the mid-fifties through the 1980′s. More frequent and more severe allergic reactivity, including anaphylaxis emerged during what was dubbed “the PAM era.” Penicillin had created an unparalleled outbreak of allergies and anaphylaxis.

Peanut Allergy
During the late 1940′s and throughout the fifties, peanut oil in penicillin was not suspect. It was used not only in this wonder drug, but in streptomycin, broad-spectrum antibiotics, injected epinephrine for asthma, in anesthetics and vaccines. Unknown to consumers, peanut oil was a popular ingredient in vitamins, skin cream and even infant formulas!

Prior to 1941, the literature shows no report of peanut allergies in adults or children. A survey of people showed self-reported peanut allergies in .3% of those born 1944-47, .4% of those born 1948-57, and .6% between 1959-67. In 2008, over 1% of people born 1944-67, reported allergies to nuts, including peanuts.

Articles published in the late 1950′s and early 1960′s show a growing awareness of peanut allergy, but the first formal study of peanut allergy in children was not launched until 1973, and then on only 114 kids. Doctors watched the mysterious rise in peanut allergies, but few asked “why?” By the early 1990′s tens of thousands of peanut allergic kindergartners entered school, not only in the U.S., but in Canada, the United Kingdom and in Australia. This allergy accelleration was concurrent with an unprecedented push of political, social, legal and economic reforms to alter and accelerate the vaccination schedule in these countries.

The Vaccine Connection
In 1964, pharmaceutical giant Merck announced a new vaccine ingredient promising to extend immunity: Adjuvant 65-4, containing up to 65% peanut oil as well as aluminum stearate. An adjuvant (from the Latin “adjuvare,” to enhance) is a vaccine additive that stimulates the immune system, upping the body’s production of antibodies to a pathogen. Adjuvants reduce production costs as the vaccine maker needs less of the expensvie antigen; they also increase a vaccine’s efficacy. The can also be dangerous; the more effective a vaccine, the greater the risk of allergies and other adverse effects.

The inventor of Adjuvant 65-4, Maurice Hilleman and his colleagues at Merck knew that allergic sensitization to the peanut oil in the adjuvant was a distinct possibility, but considered toxicity and allergenicity inevitable outcomes of vaccination. It was simply difficult to balance potency and safety.

The public clearly did not know what was being injected into their children, called by immunologist Charles Janeway, “the immunologist’s dirty little secret.” The peanut allergy epidemic in children was precipitated by vaccines. Lawsuits ensued, especially related to the DPT vaccine. By 1985, over 200 lawsuits were pending against four vaccine manufacturers. This litigious environment caused many pharmaceutical companies to abandon the lucrative vaccine market, causing a vaccine shortage. A solution: combination or conjugate vaccines.

Vaccines were combined for convenience. With speed and efficiency the U.S. Pediatric vaccination schedule took off, helped by President Clinton’s Childhood Immunization Initiative in the mid-nineties. By 1998, childhood vaccination rates were at an all time high. So was the incidence of peanut allergy in children. Between 1997 and 2002, the peanut-allergic pediatric population in the U.S. grew by and average of 58,000 children a year, and doubled between 2002 and 2008. By 2008, more than one million children under 18 and another two million adults were allergic to peanuts in the United States alone.

According to Heather Fraser, “vaccination was the elephant in the middle of the room. Researchers glanced at it, knew it was there, but were reluctant to get too close.” The possibility that hundreds of thousands of children have been sensitized to peanuts by ingredients in one or more routine pediatic vaccinations is just too much to conceive. But it is too obvious to deny. The real clue is the sudden rise in peanut allergy following the escalation of the pediatric vaccine schedule.

Cross Reactivity and Vitamin K1
Most peanut-allergic patients have IgE antibodies against other legume proteins, including soybeans and other oil seed proteins, such as castor. At the same time that the vaccination schedules were accelerating in the mid-1980′s, doctors in the U.S. and many Western countries added a prophylactic injection for newborns. The purpose of this shot was to prevent hemorrhagic disease in newborns (HDN) or vitamin K-deficiency bleeding (VKDB). The two available brands contained castor seed oil, as well as aluminum, a well-known IgE stimulating adjuvant, 4% of which remains in the body indefinitely.

These ingredients remain in the body for an extended period of time, and are still being released as a baby receives its first Hib, DpaT, and Hep b shot at one or two months of age. IgE to castor could cross-sensitize a child to peanuts.

Detoxification
Why don’t ALL children react to peanuts? Ken Bock and other doctors treating children with autism spectrum disorders believe allergenicity is inversely related to an individual’s ability to detoxify. Children with peanut and other allergies have compromised immune systems and are poor detoxifiers. Most have gut problems, including fungal and other infections. Most are male.

Prevention and Rationalization
Screening children before each vaccination could help, but is antithetical to the goals of mass vaccination. Obviously, the “one size fits all approach to vaccination is simply not right. We have sizes of shoes, different ages of walking, teeth eruption, speaking and reading. We need to look individually at appropriate vaccine schedules.

But why should the burden be on the consumer and a family’s health-care providers? Clearly, vaccine manufacturers must take some responsibility. Right now they are basically financially exempt from ANY damage. Why? Because vaccines are BIG business tied to the military and school admission.

Furthermore, from an economic standpoint “food allergy” is BIG business. Think of all the enterprising companies producing peanut-, gluten-, casein-, soy-, and egg-free foods. Do we want to put them out of business? Hardly.

The biggest problem though is that it is virtually impossible to prove a causal link between vaccination and a later life-threatening allergy, even though the medical literature demonstrates that the ONLY means by which immediate and mass allergy has ever been created is by injection. Starting with combining the hypodermic needle and vaccines at the end of the 19th century, mass anaphylaxis exploded into the Western world.

We MUST have a formal study of vaccinated vs. unvaccinated populations. For starters, peanut allergy is virtually unknown in Amish communities, which discourage vaccination. Now that parents of children with autism are selecting not to vaccinate subsequent children, perhaps a target group is emerging. The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) has promised to pursue this research. Let’s hope it comes soon!

So for today, parents of peanut-allergic children are coping. Some have discovered ways to lessen their kids’ reactivity with energy medicine, acupuncture, NAET, and other alternative medicine techniques. But coping with an outcome that was forced upon them is unfair and insufficient. These parents must combine their forces as has the autism community and say “Enough!” Only then can we stop this runaway train.


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