Archive for the ‘Allergies, Asthma, Ear Infections’ Category

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.

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!

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.

Green and Healthy Schools

November 6, 2010

Do “green” schools positively impact students’ achievement and teacher performance? Common sense says “yes.” Recent studies now pinpoint the factors that make the difference, according to Vivian Loftness, Professor at Carnegie Mellon University School of Architecture.

I learned so much yesterday at the “Green and Healthy Schools Conference,” held at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, one of Pittsburgh’s hidden gems, showcased last year by Barack Obama’s G-20. This was my second year attending this amazing conference, co-sponsored by the Green Building Alliance. In case you didn’t know, Pittsburgh is a national leader in “greening” old buildings. That’s one of the reasons I love living here.
What is a “green School” anyway? Many people think it is one that is energy efficient. Well, that is only one of its attributes. Green schools also save water and waste, are toxin-free, and connect interiors with the outdoors.
How do we measure whether greening a school environment is worth it? The following  are considered meaningful outcomes:
• Increases in students’ test scores, as well as teachers’ productivity and retention.
• Decreases in teacher and pupil absenteeism and the number of asthma emergencies
Green Schools are:
Dry and stay dry – Excess moisture, including condensation on machinery, grows mold, which causes sickness. One of the first cases of pervasive developmental disorder (PDD) I ever saw was in a girl attending kindergarten in a moldy church basement.  As soon as she changed schools, she no longer fit that label.  See my article on that subject. Ultra-violet light and sunshine reduce mold growth.
Comfortable temperatures – Doesn’t letting light and sun in create glare and over-heating? “Dress” your school as you would yourself, according to season, suggests Loftness. Shutter and shade them in hot months and filter them in winter. Choosing proper materials for the roof and walls also helps control the thermostat.
Well-ventilated – Which has better quality, indoor air or outdoor air? You may be surprised that “fresh” air from the outdoors wins hands down. Study after study says, “Open the windows!” Naturally ventilated classrooms outperform mechanically ventilated ones because heating and air-conditioning systems are chronically under-maintained. As carbon dioxide levels raise, performance drops.
Quiet – Ambient noise is a problem, especially for our youngest students who are just learning speech and language. Noise from the street (cars, trucks, sirens, trains), air (planes), machinery (heaters, projectors), and adjacent spaces, interferes with learning. One study showed a 21% increase in productivity by decreasing noise.
Clean – Good, “green” cleaning matters. No-touch faucets, doorways and spraying keyboards, desktops, toys and other shared spaces reduces sickness. So do non-toxic products made with vinegar, tea tree oil and baking soda.
Well-maintained – On-going maintenance of the building structure is critical. The poorer the maintenance, the higher the drop-out rate for students and teachers. Obviously, no one at the top cares, why should they!
Surprisingly, lighting is not one of the crucial factors. Why? Because most schools are well-lit, according to Loftness. Performance does change, however, using different types of lights. Robin Mumford’s lamps have been shown to increase reading performance in young children.
What can YOU do to “green” your school and make it healthier for your students?
• Start a “green” committee
• Get students involved by making your school a “living laboratory” with projects such as a “rain garden” built into the curriculum
• Switch to integrated pest management and non-toxic cleaning materials
• Maintain your building with “green” products
• Read Greening Our Built World by Greg Kats
Have fun being “green,” and let me know what you are doing!

Light, Water and Air: Improve their Balance to Enhance Health

December 3, 1998
Simple improvements can easily be made for those with allergies, asthma and developmental problems in how they partake of nature’s elements: light, water and air. When these are in balance, life flourishes; when balance is upset, so is development. Since ancient times, Eastern philosophy has viewed the healer as a gardener who facilitates nature in making the body days grow. This holistic approach is in marked contrast to that of western doctors who view the body as a machine and themselves as chemists and engineers who replace or repair faulty components. Just as a plant depends on light, water and air, so does the human body.

Both are dynamic, self-regulating systems that transform light and water into tissues. A healthy organism can be resilient against adversity. Plants can withstand drought, storms, and plagues; appropriately growing children can tolerate foods, pollution and animal dander.

Recently, a friend consulted me: “My son is bringing home his girlfriend, and she is allergic to our cat. What can I do?” She thought about offering to pay for a hotel but really didn’t like that idea, since it would mean that they would see less of each other. She had already bought an air purifier and found a homeopathic remedy for animal dander at the local health food store.

I congratulated her on her creative solutions and asked what the girlfriend was doing about her allergies. “Oh,” she said, “she hates the way she feels when she takes allergy medications, so she just stays away from cats,” I told her many techniques could build up her immune system, and that these steps would ameliorate her response to the allergy triggers in the home.

Improving the quality of our indoor air, the water we drink we and bathe or shower in, and the light we use to read or work by can have remarkable effects on our family’s health. Filter or purify the air in your home by using portable machines, cleaning out your ducts, or installing a new ventilation system. If family members have respiratory problems, they can also improve their condition through dietary changes, breathing exercises, herbs, nutritional supplements, homeopathy, acupuncture, and the martial arts.

Anyone who has read or seen “A Civil Action” knows that water contains innumerable toxins. Improving the quality of our H2O is a most important and easy change to make. We must purify or filter not only our drinking water, also that which comes into our shower or bathtub. Chlorine adds to the toxic load and must then be discharged from the body when it enters by mouth or through the skin.

We take light for granted, but if we lived inside the Arctic Circle, we would appreciate it more. Short winters sorely affect many children with behavior and learning problems. They need accessory lighting to simulate sunlight and to reduce visual stress. Sitting all day in schools with poor quality air and fluorescent lights could be enough to put them into a rage. Use a light box, full spectrum lights in a play room or skylights that let in sun. Light is the primary source of energy for the pituitary gland; it is necessary for the body to produce vitamin D, the “sunshine vitamin.” Full-spectrum light nourishes the body, as it contains all the wavelengths of natural sunlight. Fluorescent lights (and TV screens and computer monitors) vibrate and irritate the pituitary gland.

Chinese medicine associates each essential element with one or more organs. Imbalances in an element affect the energy going to those organs. In many children with developmental delays, water is out of balance, and water is associated with the kidneys. At a concrete level, this imbalance diminishes the mineral intake of the body and makes it inefficient at absorbing nutrients. At an energy level, the kidney is the source of intellect and creativity and that regulates growth. It preserves what is essential, the life force. Metal (associated with the lungs and large intestine) vitalizes water with minerals that enhance its life-giving properties. When we give children supplemental nutrients, balance their minerals.

The winter is an opportunity to review the quality of your family’s light, water and air. Making some changes will enhance the immune system of even the most allergic girlfriend. If you are interested in learning more about the Chinese approach to this subject, read Between Heaven and Earth: A Guide to Chinese Medicine. It is very understandable and has chapters on cooking and using herbs, as well.

[New Developments: Executive Director’s Column, Winter 1998 – 1999]

Milk – the Perfect Food? Maybe for Calves!

December 2, 1995

Drink your milk so that you will grow up big and strong. How many of us heard those words as young children and still heed them? This wisdom is being renewed by advertisements showing our favorite stars with milk mustaches telling us that they drink their milk. Not only do we insist that our children have their daily allowance, but we as women are using dairy products to strengthen our bones and get our calcium. Because we are obsessed about fat content, we now buy 2% or skim, but it is not the fat that is problematic; it is the additives and the casein, or dairy protein.

What’s wrong with milk? Unfortunately, today’s milk, like much of today’s food, is chemically different than the milk of a generation ago. (more…)