(720) 727-7105 | 400 McCaslin Boulevard, Suite 210, Louisville, CO 80027
Detox Support For Kids

Detox Support For Kids

Kids can need detox help too! Like the rest of us, they encounter toxins from ordinary routines, activities, water, food, poor air quality, and more.
The body has many mechanisms to manage day to day toxic exposures. But unlike adults, kids – and especially babies – are more vulnerable due to their smaller size. Toxins and their effects can build up and make it harder for a child to stay well. Behavior changes or agitation, sensory processing glitches, gut symptoms, rashes, or more serious concerns like cough, unexplained fever, or even seizures can result from slowly built up toxic burdens or from an abrupt large exposure. Some circumstances that burden their bodies and make it harder to detoxify are…

  • Wildfire – including proximity to leftover dust and burnt debris – has especially toxic and lingering effects. Watch this video to learn more.
  • Poor air quality from car exhaust, industrial pollutants, fracking, ozone
  • Regularly eating processed foods with additives, colorings, artificial ingredients, glyphosate and other pesticides (organic foods help minimize this)
  • Well check visits where multiple vaccines are administered at once (check here for more detail on detoxifying vaccines)
  • Shampoos, fabrics, bedding, soaps, toiletries and anything used topically can contain parabens, fragrances, formaldehyde, aluminum, titanium, bisphenol-A (BPA), talc, flame retardants – these and many more toxins are in products our children put on their skin every day.
  • Excessive heavy metals from air, water, medications, food, or even toothpaste – which can give your child too much fluoride if they swallow some every day (avoid that with a fluoride free toothpaste).

And a new twist on toxins for children concerns covid vaccines. Learn more about these concerns here. At Flatiron Functional Medicine, where my office and practice are embedded, Jill Carnahan MD  has suggested supportive supplements to help mitigate possible negative effects of a covid vaccine dose. We recommend doing this for 4-6 weeks following a vaccine dose.

These are items I have safely and effectively used over the years in my pediatric nutrition practice. Children can use these items. Check with your doctor if your child uses medications for other conditions or if you’re not sure whether these options are right for your child. Any of these products can be found in my FullScript or Wellevate platforms. If you need help creating your own FullScript or Wellevate account so you can tap these products anytime yourself, contact me here.

Circulation Support – Myocarditis and cardiovascular events including stroke have emerged as a potential negative effect of covid vaccines, especially in teens and children. These functional foods and compounds can reduce inflammation and help prevent clots:

  • High potency DHA and EPA omega 3 fatty acids – at least 500 mg DHA and 500 mg EPA. Use a pure and clean brand that allows independent product testing for heavy metals and toxins. My favorites for kids:
    • Nordic Naturals Pro Omega 2000 Junior 2 softgels daily (chew or swallow)
    • Pharmax Finest Pure Fish Oil 1 teaspoon daily (good option for high potency with low volume of liquid)
    • Barlean’s High Potency Omega 3 Key Lime (pudding like texture)

If your child can swallow capsules:

  • Pycnogenol Douglas Labs 25 mg capsule daily. Pycnogenol has been shown to lower inflammation in children with asthma, to reduce asthma medication needed, and to have beneficial effects on cardiovascular health. If your child uses a medication for behavior or seizures, check with your doctor before using pycnogenol. Pycnogenol may lower blood pressure. 
  • Allergy Research Group Nattokinase 36 mg capsule – Nattokinase is an enzyme with capability to reduce arterial plaques and lower blood lipids.  

Anti-oxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Support –

  • DaVinci Labs CoEnzyme Q10 ChewMelt – 1/2 chewable daily
  • ReadiSorb Glutathione 1/2 to 1 teaspoon daily
  • Empirical Labs Liposomal Curcumin / Reseveratrol 1/2 – 1 teaspoon daily
  • D-Hist Junior chewables – 2 (smaller children) or up to 6 chewables (kids over 50 lbs) daily
  • Seeking Health Optimal Vitamin D drops 2000 IU per drop – get a baseline vitamin D level at your pediatrician to discern if more than 4 drops weekly are needed.

Gut and Overall Immune Support –

  • SBI Protect 1 scoop daily in soft food or liquid
  • Probiotics – Allergy Research Group Lactobacillus or ProFlora 4R Spore Probiotic
  • Animal sources of vitamin A: Cod liver oil 1/2 teaspoon daily for children <50 lbs and 1-2 teaspoons daily for larger children. This gives the form of vitamin A (14 hydroxy retro-retinol) that turns on T cells. Synthetic vitamin A supplements (retinyl palmitate) don’t do this and neither do plant carotenoids (at least not without some metabolic transitions first).  You can also use vitamin A rich foods like grass fed organic full fat dairy foods including butter, pastured egg yolks, and liver.
  • Cats claw – capsules or drops available:
    • QuickSilver Scientific Cats Claw Elite – 1 pump daily
    • Pure Encapsulations Cats Claw capsule 1 daily (children over 70 lbs)
To set up your own account for access to these and other products I recommend and use in practice, contact me here
Covid Shots For Kids: Why Does WHO Say No? And Other Qs To Review With Your Doc

Covid Shots For Kids: Why Does WHO Say No? And Other Qs To Review With Your Doc

More than ever, my clients are asking me what to do about covid shots for their kids.

This is a challenging topic. It’s polarized to the extreme, fraught with fear and grief (we’ve all lost loved ones and friends to covid), and rife with misinformation on all sides. Do you give your kids a covid shot? How many? Which one? Do they work?

Listen to my video cast on this topic if you prefer that over reading – advance to minute 16:00 for this topic.

As a health professional with a graduate degree in public health  indoctrinated into why we use vaccines, population study design, and how population health data is collected and validated, and as a clinician with training, a license, and degrees to practice, I am puzzled by the events of the last two years. Little has occurred that reflects sound tenets, science, standards, or practice in public health, let alone clinical practice, where treatment for covid sufferers has been all but absent per mainstream medicine. And here we are, two years later, still suffering, still masked, getting shots, and getting sick.

The truth is we could have done a better job, and still can going forward. We have tackled devastating diseases before.

An interesting example is HIV/AIDS. Having lost a sibling to AIDS in 1993, I followed the evolution of this tragic pandemic as it unfolded in the 1980s and 90s. Globally, AIDS is the world’s second most fatal infectious disease, after tuberculosis. Both kill far fewer people than chronic conditions like heart diseases and strokes. While Sub-Saharan Africa remains heavily burdened with AIDS cases and fatalities, the US has seen vast improvement in both case and fatality rates: In 1994, our death rate for AIDS peaked at nearly 15 per 100,000 population, when it became the leading cause of death for all persons aged 25-44 in the US. My brother was one of those people. He died at age 37.

There were no vaccines, no masking, no restrictions on individual movements, no lockdowns, no banning family members for visitation in care settings (I stood by my brother’s ICU bedside unmasked as he died), no divisive mandates barring persons with AIDS from their jobs, or from society. Instead, thanks to focus on treatments and prudent measures for safe sex and needle use, the US lowered its AIDS death rate to 1.77 per 100,000 population.

Though AIDS is transmitted through bodily fluids rather than air droplets, many people were terrified to be in the same room as a person with AIDS back in the 1980s and 90s. AIDS is far more lethal than covid. Since the beginning of both pandemics, AIDS has infected roughly 80 million people in the world and killed nearly half of them (37 million), while covid has infected roughly 200 million people worldwide and killed less than 2% of them (about 4 million covid deaths worldwide) (here’s my source for that comparison). In 2020, Americans were more likely to die of heart disease or cancer than they were to die of covid.

Currently in the US, the covid case fatality rate is about 1%. It appears to be becoming slowly endemic and less virulent. We see that, overwhelmingly, most who contract covid survive it.

Elderly persons bear the brunt of mortality from covid, comprising about 80% of those who die from it. For children, a covid death is incredibly rare, while infection is typically mild. In 2020, when the case fatality rate for covid in the US was slightly higher (the virus was newer, with more virulence, and we were not immune), the likelihood of needing hospitalization for covid for persons under the age of 40 was less than half of one percent, while as high as 9% for persons over 60.

We are fed a lot of rhetoric through media. Much of this is inaccurate or omits critical facts that don’t fit the pharmaceutical industry narrative.

As a dietitian/nutritionist, I am required per my license to tell you to ask your doctor what to do about vaccines. As you open those discussions with your doctor about vaccinating your children against covid, I hope you will include these resources in the conversation. We are fed a lot of rhetoric through media. Much of this is inaccurate or omits critical facts that don’t fit the pharmaceutical industry narrative. Here are some facts you may not have heard, given the high level of fear circulating in our media:

 

  • The more a population is vaccinated against covid, the more covid infection has spread. This finding was published here in the European Journal of Epidemiology in September 2021. The data reviewed vaccine uptake across  68 countries and nearly 3,000 US counties. Populations with a higher percentage fully vaccinated had higher COVID-19 cases per 1 million people. In other words, not only did vaccination fail to prevent spread, it may have worsened it. The authors state that “sole reliance on vaccination” has failed and that we must engage other strategies.
  • The World Health Organization does not recommend booster doses for anyone – not in July 2021, and not now.
  • The World Health Organization does not recommend covid vaccines for children.
  • Read an interview here with a pediatrician who, like the World Health Organization, advises against covid shots for children.
  • As of January 7 2022, over a million adverse events to covid vaccines and nearly 22,000 deaths from covid vaccines had been reported to the US Department of Health and Human Service’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). Some have called for full stop on covid vaccines due to deaths from covid shots.
  • This number of events is unprecedented. It exceeds total reports of events to all vaccines since the program began. VAERS was enacted in the 1980s as part of legislation that shields vaccine manufacturers from liability. This legislation also created the Vaccine Injury Compenastion Program, a government fund for those injured or bereaved by vaccine deaths. This fund, paid for by a tax on vaccine sales, is the only path to restitution for a vaccine injury or death. Since October 1988, no-one can sue a vaccine manufacturer, physician, or institution for death or injury caused by a vaccine. This is why you – and your pediatrician  – never hear of vaccine injuries. These cases, if reported at all, skirt juried trial for medical malpractice or product defect. They enter the closed and separate government claim system known as Vaccine Court.
  • VAERS is a voluntary, passive reporting system that captures as few as 12% of vaccine adverse events that actually occur and possibly as few as 1% (one percent) of events. Millions of injuries and deaths from covid vaccines may be unknown and unreported.
  • Myocarditis tops the list of covid vaccine injuries among 12-17 year olds.  As of 1/7/22, VAERS records 38 children under the age of 17 as dying from covid shots (view data here and here). These lost lives are not necessary or reasonable collateral damage. This is especially poignant since elderly persons and those with comorbidities – not children – represent the greatest burden of covid infection and death. In other words, these children died not because covid presented much risk to them, but because of thin rhetoric that asserts they might have threatened others.
  • Data published in January 2021 – a year before high vaccine uptake worldwide – described how covid vaccines had potential to cause “adverse pathological events” in heart or lung tissue. The authors called for long term safety studies but the FDA’s Emergency Authorization has pre-empted these.
  • Fully vaccinated persons with “breakthrough” (vaccine failure) cases have peak viral load similar to unvaccinated persons and can efficiently transmit infection, including to vaccinated contacts. In other words, vaccinated persons can spread infection and are a larger threat than an unvaccinated, asymptomatic well child or adult.
  • Pregnancy is no time to take an experimental pharmaceutical. Due to their Emergency Use Authorization, covid shots bypassed usual FDA requirements for studies on safety and long term effects, making them essentially experimental. Booster vaccine products are regarded as similar enough to the original shots and thus also bypass usual FDA safety testing standards.
  • Only one retrospective assessment of outcomes for babies born to women given covid shots in pregnancy has been published, by the CDC in January 2022. This in itself is disturbing because no safety data existed in 2021, when women were given these by the tens of thousands anyway. Predictably, the CDC’s own analysis touts the safety of covid vaccines in pregnancy. But the analysis had many flaws that biased it toward a favorable picture for covid vaccination in pregnancy:
    • The unvaccinated group had triple the number of African American mothers in it, biasing toward more pre-term birth in this group compared to the unvaccinated group. In other words, the CDC “cherry picked” a cohort of women known to have more premie babies in general, thus hiding an increase in premature births that the vaccines may have caused in the vaccinated group. The CDC acknowledges that African American race is a risk factor for premature birth, perhaps as much as 50% higher than white women.
    • Obesity, another risk factor for pre-term birth, was over-represented in the unvaccinated group as well. This defect also makes increased premature births in the vaccinated group “disappear” in the analysis.
    • Women who had a covid vaccine in their first trimester were excluded from the analysis. The first trimester is when risk is highest for injury to the baby from toxins or infections. This flaw in the data analysis allowed the CDC to hide miscarriages, birth defects, or premature births more handily because they only analyzed data for women who got covid shots later in pregnancy – after the crucial window when embryonic structures are developing.
  • What we are seeing with the emergence of variants is a phenomenon that may be accelerated by vaccination itself. According to this piece in The Lancet, “these findings suggest that variants of SARS-CoV-2 could evolve with resistance to immunity induced by recombinant spike protein vaccines” – that is, vaccines appear to be driving variant evolution, according to the authors.
  • Like flu viruses, which are adept at genetic mutations that make them ever more evasive to our immune system’s defenses, corona viruses can do the same. This is why new flu shots are recommended every year. You can now expect to be pressed to take boosters for covid as we fruitlessly chase these mutations. Vaccination won’t eradicate covid anymore than it has eradicated influenza; what’s worse, it may promote viral evolution toward more infectious variants.

“Look at the science” is a popular refrain nowadays. But the closer you look, the worse covid shots look. Scrutinizing study design reveals the bedeviling details

Many of you know that my child was injured by his infant vaccines. His case took nine years to reach the Vaccine Court docket – to say there is a back log of death and injury cases is a gross understatement – and this was years before covid. This is what propelled me into the niche of practice I chose. After experiencing the shock, horror, trauma and loss of watching a measure assumed to be safe and necessary nearly kill my child and then trigger ongoing health challenges, my family also experienced the brutal tone-deaf posture of our health care system with acknowledging and treating these injuries. This continues today, with more intensity, malignancy, and vitriol than ever. It’s intense out there right now!

I encourage you to explore and learn about vaccine failures, injuries, ingredients, efficacy (study these per vaccine), policy, and industry. Make informed choices. Change providers if you must; find those who allow inquiry, and who engage integrative and functional medicine tools. Protect your family’s health with good food and nutrition, lower stress, joy, and strong community connection. If you suspect your child – or anyone you know – had a vaccine injury, do your part and report it here. This may help save others’ lives, and may help hold manufacturers to account for safer vaccines.

Infectious disease has always been and will continue to be strongly correlated with environmental and host factors, including nutrition and nutrigenomics. Food and nutrition status are fundamental drivers of immune response and power, especially in young children. Vaccination is not the sole savior – we have ample scientific precedent for this fact – and a one-size-fits-all vaccine policy or mandate ignores science and clinical precedent for host variation and virus behavior in populations. It is a societal failure that I hope to see pass out of fashion in my lifetime.

“Look at the science” is a popular refrain nowadays. But the closer you look, the worse covid shots look. Scrutinizing study design reveals the bedeviling details, and this is what I was trained to do in my graduate studies. These flaws and inconsistencies throughout the pandemic have played well for the pharmaceutical industry, but not so well for families or children, who have suffered egregiously – physically, psychologically, and financially.

I hope this answers your questions about my thoughts on covid shots for children. For tips to leverage nutrition to defend against respiratory illness and support the immune system during illness, click here. For helpful nutrition supports following a covid shot, click here.

Can We Beat COVID? Five Ways That Nutrition Matters

Can We Beat COVID? Five Ways That Nutrition Matters

Covid is still here, unbelievably – so what can you do to beat it?  

You’ve probably heard about inflammatory cytokine storms that can trip a COVID-19 infection from mild and easily beaten, to prolonged, dangerous, or even fatal.  Luckily, so far, it appears this happens to a only small percentage of those who get infected: Mortality (death) rates vary, hovering from less than 1 percent to  4-5%. The Americas are the worst place to be. What are we doing wrong?  

The role of background inflammation in making COVID a riskier matter is clear.  Persons with diabetes, coronary vascular disease, hypertension, or heart disease show significantly higher risk for hospitalization (asthma was at first thought to elevate risk for complications and death, but newer data have not borne this out). All these conditions have an inflammatory component.  Lots of people are walking around with no idea that they have background inflammation, or the nutrition problems that go with that. For example…

  • Our health care system is so bad at paying attention to food and nutrition concerns that it can take six to ten years to diagnose celiac disease, a debilitating sensitivity to gluten (wheat) that escalates to autoimmune disease.  Just one simple, cheap blood test is all it takes to diagnose celiac disease; add one more to the lab order, and you can capture gluten sensitivity years before it escalates into celiac disease. 
  • Autoimmune thyroid disorders affect nearly 30 million people in the US, but these can go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed for years.
  • Many times, I have been the first and only clinician to capture elevated calprotectin on stool testing for a child. Calprotectin is an inflammatory marker that typically attends extensive gut dysbiosis or inflammatory conditions like Crohn’s disease. It is a biomarker for colitis, enteritis, and even rheumatoid arthritis. Prior to my screening, no one knew these children – who were suffering and symptomatic – had background inflammation.

I believe undiagnosed background inflammatory conditions or processes are part of why some die so quickly from covid, including children, or young strong adults. Was there an unknown, undiagnosed background piece for inflammation that elevated that person’s risk?

Few of the kids in my pediatric nutrition practice ever had screening for inflammation, or for nutrition concerns, before working with me. This is a problem, because your immune system depends on nutrition to function.

In kids, this is very important. The lower a child’s nutrition status, the more likely that child is to get sick more often, have more complicated and longer illnesses, or even die, from infectious diseases.  In fact, the single most predictive measure of how a child will fare through an illness is nutrition status, a fact that has been understood for decades. This means that a lot of folks including kids and seemingly well young adults are walking around with the ticking-time-bomb, double-whammy set up of background inflammation plus a dearth of the nutrients you need to manage inflammation and infection!

Besides finding weaknesses for critical immune-supporting nutrients (iron, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin D, protein ), nutrition screenings can pick up inflammation signals on routine bloodwork. I screen for this stuff and fix it in my pediatric nutrition practice. Parents are often pleasantly surprised when, after working with me, their kids rarely get sick (and they have more energy, sleep better, and are happier too).

I believe that part of the variation we are seeing in covid infections and deaths is directly related to nutrition. Nutrition assessment is not part of routine pediatric care, and advising families on how to navigate nutrition concerns for kids certainly isn’t either! When was the last time your pediatrician told you what to make for dinner, or how to pack a lunch your picky eater would actually finish? Lol. Never. Here are five ways to build a strong immunity-foundation for your kids:

1 – Feed Your Kids – Lots! The one factor that most determines how a child weathers an illness or infection is nutrition status. And, the single most important nutrition parameter for a child is growth pattern. This is the single most important nutrition parameter for a child, period. Not whether they eat fermented food, follow a GAPS diet, or never eat sugar. Nope. In children, when it comes to fighting infection, it’s all about body resources and nutrient stores. So, make sure that your kids maintain a healthy weight before illness strikes. Underweight children as well as overweight kids are more likely to get sick more often, stay sick longer, and have more complications than children in normal weight status. This fact is based on decades of global data on childhood illness and child mortality. Because the immune system pulls on stored nutrient resources during illness, and because some of those resources are stored protein and energy in our own tissues, even slightly underweight children can have higher risk for infections and poor outcomes. Your child does not have to be visibly emaciated or even below the 5th percentile for weight for age, in order to be clinically underweight. Your doctor may not have noticed a growth impairment, so visit my blog on underweight in children to see if your child falls in this category.

  • Don’t fear carbs or over-restrict them. Instead, load up on healthy vegetable source carbohydrates like sweet potato fries, plantain chips, squashes, chick peas, berries, apples, mango, carrot, pea pods, cassava tortillas (if corn is a fail), sprouted grains or seeds, or legumes; or allow whole grains and GF grains as tolerated. Carbs help kids gain and grow, and a healthy gut will readily and comfortably use them. Recipes from my blog that fit the bill: Portuguese Kale Soup, Spicy Chick Pea Curry, and Pumpkin and Lentil Dahl.
  • Too much protein can be as ineffective as too little protein in a child’s diet.  Generally, children need anywhere from 35 grams (toddlers) to 50-60 grams (bigger school age kids) or as much as 70-80 grams (big high school athletes with rigorous work outs) of protein daily, depending on their growth status and activity levels.  
  • During illness, protein losses can increase. Use two extra servings daily for protein rich foods like bone broth, collagen, fish, legumes, meats or poultry, any safe nuts/seeds or their butters.
  • Immune (and lung) helpers like vitamins A and D need to be eaten with fats or oils, to be absorbed and stored. Let your kids eat plenty of healthy fats like olive oil, grass fed butter or ghee, organic grass fed meats, coconut milk or oil, egg yolks, avocado, nuts/seeds and their butters, or fish oils.
  • Eat mineral rich foods for zinc and iron; both are immune-critical helpers that are often low in kids’ diets and are readily spent when we get sick. Go for nuts, seeds, vegetables, legumes, juiced greens, bone broth, egg yolks, pork, lamb, or beef; unsweetened cocoa or dark chocolate is zinc rich too! If some of these don’t go in your kids’ mouths every day, use a supplement. 30 mg zinc daily is a start; kids may need more depending on their status. Iron is toxic at high doses, so ask your doctor what dose to start with in your child’s case. Fun fact: A clinical sign of poor zinc status is losing your sense of taste and smell. Sound familiar? This is also a key feature of covid infection, indicating that the body is ripping through whatever zinc it has on hand to fight.

2 – Probiotics Help Lungs Too

  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, Lactobacillus reuteri, and Bifido lactis have been shown to help lung tissue protect itself from invading pathogens. If a probiotic isn’t in your child’s regular rotation, consider adding one that includes these strains, such as Allergy Research Group Lactobacillus or Klaire Labs Therbiotic Factor 6. 

3 – Use Antioxidants During Illness

  • Vitamin C as sodium ascorbate in high doses is a strong antioxidant that may help beat viruses. Use doses in the multi gram range, not milligrams, eg a 50 lb child can use 5 grams of Vitamin C daily if this doesn’t upset stomach. Split doses throughout the day for better tolerance.
  • N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) is an amino acid we use to make glutathione, our body’s top go-to for detoxification and antioxidant actions – especially for lung tissue. NAC also helps break down mucus in lung tissue. In my practice, I have used 600-1200 mg NAC daily in school aged children. It can be used in multigram doses as well (a common support for anxiety or OCD).

4 – Use Immune Modulating and Virus-Killing Herbal Supports

  • Houttuynia cordata herb (available as drops from Nutramedix) showed anti-corona virus activity in this animal study from 2016. 
  • Cilia are tiny hair like cells that beat debris and mucus up and out of our lung tissue. Corona viruses target these delicate structures, causing more fluid and debris to build up. Protective herbs for cilia include olive leaf extract and berberine. See Barlean’s Olive Leaf Extract liquid and Core Berberine from Energetix; you can also use a glycerite based goldenseal tincture as a berberine source.  
  • Corona viruses attack by attaching to a key protein on cell surfaces called ACE-2, which has the important job of regulating vascular constriction. Once ACE-2 is disrupted, fluid can enter the lungs more easily… and fast. The body responds with strong inflammatory cascades, but this can make the infection worse. Chinese Skullcap, horse chestnut, elderberry, cinnamon, and licoriceroot make it harder for the virus to attach.  Resveratrol can reduce inflammatory cytokine response. All of these products are available in various formats easy to give to children (tinctures, drops, powders, and in some cases, chewables). 

5 – Give Direct Immune Support

  • Immunoglobulins are immune proteins that we make to protect ourselves. They are found in breast milk and in colostrum, and are quite effective at protecting newborns and babies! You can also now purchase a dairy free, hypoallergenic, bovine serum derived immunoglobulin supplement and use it daily to boost immunity. See Orthomolecular Research brand for SBI Protect. I use this often in my practice for children of all ages, with good results. This is a tasteless powder that mixes readily in soft foods or liquids.

We may be facing the reality that there is no safe or effective vaccine for covid for a long time, if ever. As we learned before from the SARS virus, corona virus vaccines are exquisitely challenging to create.Two-thirds of those polled expressed that they would not take a covid vaccine, due to safety concerns. In the meantime, take action to support your kids’ immune systems so they can be as ready as possible. Bonus – they may breeze through winter with no colds or flu bugs at all!

COVID19 Is Our Moment To Rethink Infection

COVID19 Is Our Moment To Rethink Infection

COVID-19 is our moment to rethink infection, and to rethink health. It’s a big moment.

By now, you know that we’ve seen corona viruses before: Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2012. Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2002. In fact, corona viruses were first discovered in the 1960s and have long been understood to cause a “substantial” portion of upper respiratory infections in children (that is, common colds). Despite decades of scientific effort, we haven’t emerged from any of this with sure fire preventives, drug treatments, or vaccines.

COVID-19 has been wreaking havoc and defying experts worldwide. COVID-19 behaves so differently in different persons that Atlantic Monthly has called it “a disease of the immune system”. Robert Murphy MD, a professor of medicine and the director of the Center for Global Communicable Diseases at Northwestern University, was quoted in that piece to say this: “’There’s a big difference in how people handle this virus…It’s very unusual. None of this variability really fits with any other diseases we’re used to dealing with’…When doctors see this sort of variation in disease severity, ‘that’s not the virus; that’s the host.’”

Essentially, COVID-19 kills people best when their immune systems over-respond with uncontrolled cascades of inflammation. It appears to exploit whatever your weak link is, and destroy from there, whether it’s lung, kidney, gut, heart, or brain tissue. Apparently, this virus isn’t picky, but it sure is wiley. Not everybody’s immune system is doing this. As more are screened for exposure status, we are seeing death rate drop, to perhaps as low as half a percent. #COVID19 is looking like an infection that serves up a catastrophic clinical course, but only for a subset of vulnerable people.

One option is to take the cue from Dr Murphy quoted above. It’s time to figure out why that half percent gets hit so hard.Maybe the solution is not about the virus. Maybe it is about our immune systems, which vary widely in their status, functionality, and readiness, and in our own risk factors, which are virtually exponential in complexity when we consider genetics, nutrition, health habits, toxic exposures, stress, drug use (recreational and prescription), and more. All of these impact each other, creating potential synergies in any direction, when you toss COVID-19 into the mix.

Right now, our health care system is a reductionist one that silos health problems into discreet specialties. It doesn’t pay much attention to nutrition or food, or toxic exposures, in routine care. COVID-19 has laid bare what a catastrophic fail this is, as it devastates a select few of us in so gruesome and terrifying a fashion. By “few”, I mean this: Tens upon tens of thousands of deaths is a lot. Relative to the total population, it’s a very little. A long list of other conditions, infections, and diseases affect many more of us. But we don’t shutter the globe in response. We figure it out.

We are likely to get it too, as COVID-19 becomes endemic. This appears to be well underway, as reports roll in of deaths from COVID-19 identified as having occurred in the US in early February. New York just announced a finding of positive antibodies in 14% of a sample of people tested in that state, suggesting that the death rate is closer to one half percent.  Why are some of us getting so sick, some of us dying swiftly, some of us feel hit with a bad cold, or some just a minor sniffle, some GI symptoms – or even more peculiar, a fatal stroke? There are more viruses than there are stars in the universe; they are here to stay and part of life on earth. Can we figure out how to live with them, rather than die by them?

Developing a COVID-19 vaccine is fraught with challenges – not the least of which is that corona virus vaccine efforts have posed “unique safety challenges” in that it may trigger responses that vary as wildly as the infection itself. It may kill or injure people, it may cause infection in some, it may give some people immunity, and it may give others no immunity at all while weakening their response when re-exposed. In fact, a front runner vaccine candidate from summer 2020 triggered transverse myelitis – an incurable condition attacking the spinal cord – in three persons in its clinical trial. And the virus is similar enough to HIV – for which no vaccine has ever been successfully developed – to make it susceptible to the same fate: No vaccine with the durability, safety, or efficacy to really work.

Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) suggested that immunity to this virus isn’t a protective certainty after infection. If that holds true, then a vaccine may be doomed. The entire premise of vaccination is that antibodies triggered by the injection will protect you. If naturally acquired antibodies don’t work, how could triggering you to make your own from an injected version of the virus work?

Without usual process for safety and efficacy, such as has been proposed in the scramble to have a vaccine, these are ominous frustrations. Peter Hotez MD, PhD is a researcher who has tried to make a corona virus vaccine in the past. So far, no good. In Congressional testimony, he describes unexpected reactions from an experimental vaccine and mentions that two children died (at minute 25:40 in this transcript) in a human trial of his most recent attempt. As a vaccine scientist who invents vaccines, he’d like more than anyone to see this work. In a recent podcast, he eloquently thumbnails what we’re up against. He points out the footdragging the US had on testing and quarantine, which let COVID-19 circulate for a long time. He describes what we’ve all heard many times over too, about who is most at risk, with an odd twist not often mentioned. We know that kids and adolescents are less affected. The elderly are at high risk. Anyone who is immunosuppressed or with underlying conditions is in trouble too. And, this obvious, but rarely stated, twist: Health care workers contract a severe version of the virus, despite their age – young or old.  Why? Why don’t they get sick like other exposed young people, and recover?

An opportunity lies there to dig for clues. Health care workers are the most highly vaccinated among us; they receive boosters at least annually for influenza (some workplaces require these biannually), and boosters of other vaccinations more often than most of us likely do. Shouldn’t this somehow be protective? Or is this part of the problem? Detecting a phenomenon called “vaccine interference”, a study of military personnel showed that those with prior flu vaccination had higher risk of contracting corona virus than the unvaccinated: “Vaccine derived virus interference was significantly associated with corona virus and human metapneumovirus”. In other words, in this study, having had a flu shot meant you were more likely to get sick with corona virus.

You might think Dr Hotez would be the loudest on the podium touting a shot as the single silver bullet that can fell this demon. He tried to make one just for this moment, but failed. He knows this can’t happen fast, and that we need action right now. One of the immediate solutions that he and colleagues are thinking of is “convalescent plasma coronavirus therapy.” That is, give immunoglobulin (antibodies to COVID-19) from a recovered person’s purified blood (plasma) and infuse or inject it into a sick person who is not recovering. This worked for SARS, Ebola, and MERS. Development of this biological product for COVID-19 is already underway, despite the WHO nay-saying on this strategy.

Immunoglobulin (Ig) therapy has been around since the 1950s, but not specifically for COVID-19 (no has had antibodies to it, until now). Ig is tried and true, effective, but costly; a pool of many hundreds of recovered persons is needed to extract enough immunoglobulin to treat just one person. It currently costs thousands of dollars per dose, even tens of thousands of dollars per dose, to receive Ig therapy for other conditions, so insurers are loathe to cover it. But Dr Hotez would like to see a low cost version of this made available.

Even if “low cost” means, say, $800 per dose, it sounds great – if you can manage to jump through the health insurance hoops and hurdles that will surely be raised to stop you. COVID-19 has laid bare many ills in the US in 2020, with one of the most glaring being that our for-profit health insurance and health “care” industries are a fail for consumers. There is no covered, federally coordinated access to screening to show who is infected. Millions have spotty access to health care, if they have any at all. It’s more profitable for insurers and care providers to patent and sell a vaccine, than it is to sell immunoglobulin therapy, screen everyone for antibodies, or screen everyone – before exposure – for a laundry list of risk factors like inflammatory markers or nutrients that our immune system draws on to fight infection (ferritin, ESR, homocysteine, serum iron, serum vitamin A, vitamin  D, and zinc to name a few). Whether Ig works well or better than other tools isn’t relevant in our care model; whether it’s profitable is.

In Dr Hortez’ podcast mentioned above, he goes deeper into why rushing a COVID-19 vaccine is a bad idea. Among the obstacles is “immune enhancement”, a known phenomenon already seen in animal trials with corona virus vaccines (and others like AIDS) in the past. Industry scientists have long found this phenomenon to be a stumbling block that “proved to be counterproductive” in that it “renders vaccinated subjects more susceptible to infection rather than protects them.” To quote the podcast, “Vaccine trials have begun in Washington which is a positive, but we will also see immune enhancement in [the] volunteer population”. Make no mistake: Researchers know from past experience that COVID-19 vaccine trial test subjects are going to either step on a cytokine cascade landmine (potentially deadly), or suffer “immune enhancement” (potentially deadly if re-exposed), or may be just fine. Here’s how one reader put it, in the comments following Dr Hortez’ podcast:

March 17, 2020 at 4:03 am I think you heard Dr. Hotez correctly: vaccines for highly pathogenic viruses are problematic because they cause “enhanced immunity”. This is a heavy euphemism for the patient’s uncontrolled inflammatory cascade, called a cytokine storm, which causes illness and death in the ebola, MERS and SARS patient. So in a disease whose mechanism of fatality is the host’s immune over-reaction (cytokine storm manifesting as ARDS etc.), vaccines–whose adjuvants aim to “jolt” the immune system into action–can make the reaction even worse. This is one reason why a SARS-1 vaccine development was halted; although the mice survived the vaccine fine, they were dying at high rates after they were re-introduced to the virus after innoculation. For this reason, therapeutics may be the better solution to this SARS-2 virus than a vaccine.

What to do? Hopeful puzzle pieces are emerging. Persons with healthy immune systems show promise for recovering, provided that their immune systems do what they’re built to do, without going haywire.

Immune systems are complex with lots of opportunity for “haywire” to happen. The good news is, we can minimize the haywire and build functional, meet-your-COVID-exposure-safely immune performance with nutrients, food, supports for inflammation and detoxification, and with better monitoring and management of our own risk factors. So far, policy and practice in the industrialized world around infectious disease mostly disregards all that. On a policy and practice level, we haven’t looked much into how to enhance our own immune response so that it is balanced and effective, or why some immune systems do it right while others get it wrong. We’ve focused on drugs to control symptoms during infection, on vaccines, and on drugs to kill infection. But COVID-19 is shaking these foundations to the core. These 20th century strategies are failing us with this one. This is grim, but it means there is opportunity to pivot and integrate some cool new stuff. Practitioners in the functional medicine realm have been doing this all along. Some pearls have already emerged, more are sure to follow.

One shockingly simple finding may be right under our noses: Severe COVID19 patients can have dramatically high levels of ferritin, even exceeding a value of 1000 ng/mL. This is a very high level that reflects intense inflammatory process underway. Ferritin is a means to make iron safe in the blood. It scoops up free iron when iron, a powerful oxidative stress element when free in the blood, gets too high. This high level of iron will set off inflammatory cascades in itself and slowly poison patients. It’s possible COVID19 is doing this by knocking iron off of the hemoglobin on red blood cells, so it to floats free in the bloodstream. No iron on hemoglobin means no oxygen can attach to your red blood cells, and you will essentially suffocate while the inflammatory cascade is encouraged from too much iron.

A simple way to oppose iron is to supplement zinc. COVID19 patients who report a sudden loss of taste and smell are reporting one of the classic textbook signs of zinc deficiency. They may be rapidly depleting zinc to meet demands set off by infection. This may be just one of the trip-wires that sends some patients into a rapid decline, while others muddle through. It’s not exotic, but it’s worth exploring. It would be a lost opportunity if it were true but instead we took a detour into how COVID19 might affect olfactory nerves.

COVID-19 is ruthless and devastating for the vulnerable among us, and incidental for most of us. If we follow our own hallowed tenets of epidemiology and herd immunity, according to Scott Atlas MD, a health policy expert at Stanford University, the most protective-for-all thing to do is to “stop the panic and end the total isolation”. That is, go back to work, come out of hiding, and build population immunity naturally, while identifying and supporting those who are at risk. We have tools at hand right now, and they may be deceptively simple. From tapping older less profitable drugs (less profitable because they are off patent and available generically) to engaging essential tenets of the nutrition / immune interface, we have a lot to work with already.

 

About The Author: Judy Converse MPH RD LDN is a licensed registered dietitian nutritionist. She holds a master’s degree in public health with nutrition major from University of Hawai’i / Manoa and a bachelor of science degree in human nutrition from University of Vermont. She has lectured widely and authored several books on pediatric nutrition and specializes in nutrition intervention, monitoring, and support for children in her private practice. She has worked with health insurers on nutrition service delivery and with industry partners on medical foods.
7 Kid Health Myths That Actually Keep Your Kids Sick

7 Kid Health Myths That Actually Keep Your Kids Sick

I’ve been in pediatric nutrition practice for some 20 years, but these health and nutrition myths just won’t quit. They can keep kids sick when they could be enjoying better health. Here are 7 myths I encounter week after week. They’re powerful enough to steer your kids away from health and into being more sick, more often. Change your mind about these myths, and your kids may enjoy more health, more often.

Myth #1 – It’s normal for toddlers to be sick all the time  …Um, not quite. Common? Yes. Normal? No. A toddler who rides a roller coaster of colds, infections, stuffy noses, coughs, diarrhea, or malaise every month, for more than 5 or 6 times a winter, with or without fevers, or who needs antibiotics over and over before age 2 or 3, gives me pause. So does a child who never gets a fever, but isn’t thriving either, and is often fatigued. Kids should not be sick more often than they are well. Yes, little tykes are vulnerable; their immune systems are developing, and if they were not breastfed, they haven’t been given that powerful foundation from mom’s immune system to protect them.

A cold or virus with a vigorous response – like a fever to 103 or so – that drops your child for a few days is a healthy and necessary challenge for the immune system to develop. But toddlers should bounce back, and resume a hearty eating pattern to restore depleted nutrients burned up during illness.

Nutrition and food make it possible for the immune system to work. When we’re sick, we make big withdrawals out of our nutrition bank accounts. For growing toddlers, this is especially costly – like borrowing money on a 25% interest rate! They need a lot of strong nutrition for growing, and for fighting illness, when they’re sick. We store nutrients for these occasions – especially iron, zinc, vitamin A, and vitamin D. We also use our own protein – which we store in functional structures like our organs, bones, muscles and flesh – to help fight infections. So if a child has a weak growth pattern to begin with, or is even just a little bit underweight, there won’t be much to work with if illness keeps knocking him down. A downward spiral of malnutrition and infection can ensue, and this is dangerous for tots.

PSA: Here we go with everyone’s favorite topic… The shot schedule. My 2p? It’s overloaded, fails often, and creates opportunity for mutation into more virulent strains of the bio-material in the shots (and here is another example of genetic drift from vaccination that may be infectious). Vaccines can also cause the infections they are meant to prevent, such as in this case.

We’ve learned that overuse of antibiotics has caused problems – like antibiotic resistance, and increased likelihood of asthma and allergies later on. Medical professionals have made efforts to cut this back. Not so with vaccines. There is a mania that more are better. Believe me, my public health master’s degree gave me full indoctrination into immunization theory and practice. But after 20 years in clinical practice assessing and monitoring kids, I’ve had an about face. Despite having many more vaccinations than ever, kids are more sick and disabled than ever in US history, and not a single “vaccine preventable” disease has been eradicated. It is not because your neighbor opted out. It is because natural, long lasting, robust immunity from actual infection has all but vanished, and because vaccines can spread infection too.

When vaccinated people shed and spread infection from recent shots, this is called “secondary shedding”. Evidence of this is documented for flu vaccines, chickenpox, measles, polio, and many others. If you’re seeing your kids get sick when school starts (which, BTW, did not happen in my 1960s-70s childhood public school experiences)…. it may be because everyone just got vaccinated and is shedding and sharing infectious material. Here’s an example seen on this sign at a friend’s condo association pool here in Boulder, barring anyone with recent vaccinations:

Dilemma: Your pediatrician’s bread and butter is giving vaccinations, and prescribing drugs. Their training requires little depth in nutrition practice, and this means they may not recognize nutrition problems that drive frequent infections.

If your child is sick more often than well, if colds and infections just won’t quit, what to do? Here are tips to leverage nutrition to support your kids’ immune systems and keep them strong:

  • Have your child’s levels of quantitative immunoglobulins checked. Low immunoglobulin means low defenses. Good nutrition and food build this back up eventually, but other special measures may be needed.
  • Improve your child’s growth pattern. Are they underweight? Are you sure? Even being modestly underweight may drop immune response and defenses.
  • The immune system needs iron. When it’s depleted, infection fighting is harder.Check iron status with a full iron study, not just with hemoglobin (Hgb) and hematocrit (Hct).  Hgb and Hct are crude measures that capture only profound anemia. Ask your doctor to do a full iron study to see if your child is pre-anemic. An iron study includes ferritin, serum iron, transferrin, and saturation. Don’t start iron supplements without guidance – iron can be poisonous at the wrong dose.
  • Get your child’s vitamin D level checked. It should be well above 30. At our office at Flatiron Functional Medicine, we look for levels in the 50-80 range for good immune protection.
  • Get your child’s vitamin A level checked (also called serum retinol). Vitamin A is crucial for immune function, and upper respiratory infections, measles or chickenpox in particular. Unless your child likes to eat liver, cod liver oil, lots of fortified dairy food or grass fed butter, and/or orange and green vegetables, a marginal or even deficient vitamin A level may ensue. Marginal or deficient vitamin A places your child at higher risk for complications from measles or measles vaccine.
  • Don’t vaccinate a sick child.
  • Breastfeed as long as you can.
  • Camel milk is a good source of potent immunoglobulin. Consider using a few ounces daily. If that’s just too weird, consider using a bovine serum derived oral supplemental immunglobulin like this one, or colostrum, if your child tolerates milk protein.
  • Keep your child home after vaccinations if they don’t feel well. Avoid recently vaccinated peers just as you would avoid a sick child.
  • Balance your kids’ meals and snacks so they get about a third of all their food as fats or oils, about half as clean, non-processed, non-sugary carbs, and about 10% as high value protein. Vary the protein they eat, so it isn’t always the same source.
  • Use as much organic food as you can afford. Pesticides in food burden the immune system further.

Myth #2 – Picky Eating Is A Willfull Behavior Choice ….Followed by “your kids need feeding clinic” (maybe they don’t) and “they’ll grow out of it” (I have many kids in my caseload in their teens who …didn’t).

Picky eating is a downstream effect of three things: Gut dysbiosis, mineral imbalances, and exogenous opiate peptide formation from wheat, dairy, soy and pea protein (like Ripple milk, or plant based protein powders). Watch this short video for a fast explanation of what that means.

What sets this up? Reflux medicine, C section delivery, antibiotics (for mastitis, at delivery, during pregnancy, for your child, or a long history of your own yeast infections and dysbiosis prior to pregnancy), early vaccinations… That’s where it begins. This parade of interventions and pharmaceuticals from birth can change the gut biome away from the healthy early profile of microbes we need to begin digesting food as babies, and to protect ourselves from infections. Not only that, these also let disruptive microbes take charge in the gut – things like Candida, Rhodotorula, Klebsiella, Prevotella, too much Staph or Strep, or even Helicobacter pylori. Sometimes I will see a protozoan pop up on DNA screen stool studies too. These in turn usurp minerals out of the diet and make them harder to absorb too, due to subtle shifts in pH in the digestive tract that these microbes create. Ultimately, appetite can drop, the poor diet begets more poor diet, because weak zinc and iron status tend to trigger pickier eating. Next, this scenario also degrades digestion of proteins. When proteins like wheat, dairy, soy and pea are poorly digested, they become “dietary exorphins” or “food derived opioid peptides” that trigger effects on the nervous system.

Once this is in play, your kid is indeed addicted to that white diet (Goldfish crackers, yogurt, noodles, milk, milk, Pediasure, milk, more milk, cheese, pizza, mac and cheese, pasta, bread… and of course sweets). Other foods will be absolutely refused even if you let your child go hungry – because other foods don’t give that opiate-like kick. There is literally addiction chemistry here working against your child. Sure tells that this is happening to your child, besides the fierce picky eating, are hyperactivity, behavioral volatility, dilated pupils after meals, and/or delays in expressive language or socialization.

Breaking this pattern can be done. I’ve helped hundreds of families break it, and it has nothing to do with convincing your child to like something else, or sitting through agonizing feeding clinics where your child is pressed to place different foods to their lips against their will.

One thing that makes a nutrition intervention for this fail is when parents bemoan how hard it is. Sounds silly, but an attitude of being victimized by this strategy will probably lead you to abandon it. Yep, it’s hard! But it can be done through a methodical reboot of your child’s gut environment, with individualized strategies for supplements and new foods. Start with this e book if you want to break picky eating. Spoiler: Probiotics alone won’t fix this.

If your child has mechanical issues with swallowing and feeding, then of they need feeding therapy from a licensed and credentialed speech and language pathologist. For other kids, unless the underlying nutrition and gut biome problems that cause picky eating are professionally assessed and corrected, feeding clinic may not be necessary or helpful.

Myth #3 – Kids Get Constipated Because They Choose To Hold Stool – Gaining potty skills is a process for sure, and some kids do get flummoxed around it to the point of trying hard to withhold stool. In 20 years, I have had one legit case of this. For all the hundreds of other kids, they were constipated because of (a) disrupted gut biome and (b) dietary exorphin formation.

Most of these kids had Candida or fungal microbes flourishing in their intestines. How did we find out? We did urine and stool studies to show it. These are not yeast infections that their pediatricians noticed – because the kids didn’t seem outwardly sick, didn’t have immune suppression, and didn’t even always have white flecks in stool, white or grey coated tongues, flat or concave nails, or ringworm rashes (all tell tale signs of fungal dysbiosis). What they did have were bloated bellies that wouldn’t quit, fierce cravings and picky eating for starchy processed food or sugar, behavior challenges, lots of Miralax in their histories, and, constipation. Some of them also had epic battles with bedwetting into their tween years, which turned out to be a Candidiasis of the urinary tract.

Clearing the dysbiosis can do the trick. This takes thoughtful intervention with probiotics, antimicrobial herbs, or in some cases, prescription anti fungal drugs, as well as some upgrades in what these kids eat. I choose all this stuff based on each child’s history, labs, and presentation.

The other constipation trigger here is the opiate peptide business (See Myth #2). Casein digested into casomorphin, or gluten digested to gliadorphin, are both powerfully constipating – after all, they have opiate-like effects, and if you’ve ever needed pain killers for a surgery, you know the drill. In some cases, the constipation doesn’t quit til those proteins are 100% strictly removed for at least three months. Because soy and pea protein concentrates do the same thing, swapping out milk or wheat protein for pea or soy can fail. Ripple milk, Vegan Orgain, any of the myriad vegan-source protein bars or pastas or breads, and any plant based protein powder may have pea protein concentrate or soy in it and will continue the constipated pattern in some cases. Digestive enzymes may help, but this isn’t as effective as removing the offending foods. If you use enzymes, buy one that has dipeptidyl peptidase IV in it (DPPIV) at a high concentration. After some gut repair and good nutrition replenishment, wheat and dairy may be fine once again, but don’t expect results from a reduced intake of these foods – they may have to entirely vanish to get your child pooping again.

Myth # 4 – If my pediatrician didn’t say so, it’s not real – The American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics don’t require rigor with respect to nutrition, for those getting MD degrees with specialty in pediatrics. Only about a third of doctors routinely discuss nutrition at clinic visits, and most report they don’t feel adequately trained in nutrition (they’re not).There are big knowledge gaps for pediatricians when it comes to nutrition. So when you go in with questions about foods, supplements, or special diets, you may come out empty handed at best, or chastised at worst. Don’t stop there, or assume there isn’t a solution, if your pediatrician can’t answer your questions or tells you there’s no evidence that a nutrition measure might matter.

Odds are, there are some very good data on whatever your question may be. Nutrition is a thoroughly pedigreed science that has been around for well over a century. There is so much possibility to engage information, research, and clinical experience from it that your pediatrician may not know about. Naturopathic doctors have more training in it, as does a pediatric nutritionist/dietitian (that’s me). Adding these resources to your care team can give your child better odds for better health.

Myth #5  – Cavities? #ThisIsFine – Cavities are no fun for anyone. Even kids who have good oral hygiene can end up with repeat visits to the dentist, for drilling, filling, capping, or extractions. It may seem entirely usual that everyone gets them. Well, not everyone does, and no, cavities are not a necessary childhood rite of passage.

Cavities are a canary-in-the-coal-mine scenario. They can be thought of as a flag for a disrupted oral microbiome, and/or a shortage of the strong nutrition that helps build teeth and enamel. A healthy mouth will harbor friendly microbes that do a good job of intervening on your behalf, and don’t let an overly-acidic environment erode enamel. And, a baby who gets to breast feed a long time will have a better shot at less crowding of the teeth, and thus less chance for cavities.

If your child has a frequent flyer punch card with your dentist, start with gut. Your child’s gut microbiome may need an overhaul away from Candida, yeast, Helicobacter pylori, or other disruptive species. These are fed by simple carbs, sugary food, and processed foods. If your child is picky, see Myth #2 above, and set a goal to bust that pattern. Ditch the reflux medicine if possible (if you’re using it), because this reduces absorption of both protein and minerals – two key components of teeth. If children have optimal nutrition during the time that teeth develop, they can avoid cavities. Vitamins A, D, K, and C along with healthy fats and protein, with wholesome vegetable sources of carbohydrates, can accomplish this task. For more on nutrition and cavities, visit the Weston-Price Foundation.

Myth #6 – Measles and chickenpox are deadly diseases. The short answer here is, yes, and, no.

So much has been said about this in recent years – most of it counterproductive – that it’s hard to consider bringing this up at all. As a senior practitioner who has been credentialed in my field for over 30 years, I can say the sea change in this has not been worthy. It has not translated into better health for children. The conversations now afloat, where anyone questioning vaccines is pilloried and branded insane, would have been shocking during my graduate studies the late 1980s. We were allowed, and encouraged, to question and investigate, as were our mentors and instructors. This was not forbidden in that day, as it is now. And yes, I studied immunization, epidemiology, and nutrition as a graduate student. Yes, I know of deaths from these diseases. Among my classmates were physicians and health professionals from Taiwan, Indonesia, Africa, Egypt, Pakistan, Vanuatu, Guam, and the like. For our graduate practicum rotations, we were flung to all corners of the globe, including underdeveloped locales where poverty and malnutrition were common. My classmates went on to positions in clinical practice as well as in policy, including for WHO, USAID, and the CDC.

Measles can kill a child in poor nutrition status. So can chickenpox, flu, or a common cold. Here is the lost part of the conversation: Nutrition, not vaccination, makes or breaks this for a child. For decades, the World Health Organization (WHO) has emphasized nutrition protocols for controlling infectious diseases, and for measles in particular (see Table 1 here for just one example and Table 2 here for another). Why? Because the immune system only works if it has nutrients to draw on to make immuglobulin, white blood cells, NK cells, a thymus gland, and so on. It can’t work from just a poke in the arm with a bunch of antigens and toxic adjuvants in it. It needs the body’s nutrients to respond. My classmates in public health knew this, witnessed this, and applied it. They did not go on caterwauling about vaccination, condemning people who deferred, or indulging emotional, religious-fervor, carte-blanche approval to using vaccines without limits. We understood that nutrition status was, and still is, the primary driver of whether or not a child may die from an infectious disease, have complications, or survive it handily. Whether you derive it from an injection or a natural infection, there is no immunity without nutrition to build it – period.

This is now so polarized a topic that effective discussion is impossible. Young parents have succumbed to relentless fear mongering and misinformation from the pharmaceutical industry (via its alliances at the AAP, FDA, and CDC) while actual science has fallen by the wayside. Millenial parents are in lock step out of fear of becoming social pariahs, willingly submitting their children without question, lest they be accused of being “unscientific”. At the same time this generation can grasp that the oil industry has lied about climate change since the 1960s, it is somehow lost on young parents that the pharmaceutical industry may, likewise, be lying to the public about the safety (and efficacy) of its single most profitable sector. As long as pediatricians remain poorly informed on nutrition, they too will readily believe that an ever growing vaccination schedule is the only way to have immunity to anything. It isn’t.

For kids in strong nutrition status, measles and chickenpox are survivable and beneficial infections. Not only do these infections give effective immunity that lasts into adulthood, having had acute fever inducing infections in childhood like measles may lower risk of certain cancers later in life. Strong nutrition status means robust stores of iron, zinc, vitamin A, protein; access to clean whole foods and the appetite to eat them; and a body mass index somewhere between the 25th and 80th percentiles.

Nutrition and infection is a vast and complex topic. Our pediatric physician community is tragically not well versed in it. Hence, we have a nationwide army of pediatricians believing that only vaccines can prevent infection, while at the same time depending on using them in practice for their livelihoods. Like any other pharmaceutical product, this approach may not suit everyone. The strong arm tactics afoot to force vaccination are highly suspect – if a product truly works well, no one would object and no one would need to be forced to use it. In fact, vaccination itself may have loosed more virulent strains of several previously mostly benign infections, besides destroying the natural immunity that humans developed over eons of time.

If your child contracts either measles or chickenpox, consider these guidelines from Mayo Clinic. If your child has been growing well, eating well, and not picky prior to illness, odds are they will have the nutrition reserves to weather this successfully and will be gifted with robust immunity for many years. Vitamin A is crucial for fighting measles. Supplementing it during this illness may be necessary. If your doctor doesn’t know how to do this, see these WHO guidelines (Source – see page 45):

Myth #7 – Elimination diets will make my kid different and there’s nothing to eat anyway – When I became a mom, despite my degrees in nutrition, I knew virtually nothing of elimination diets or food allergy. I soon found myself on a steep learning curve. This was in the mid 1990s. No internet, no online support groups, no other moms in this boat. I was isolated, and cracking into my training, texts, and visiting medical libraries all over again, just like in graduate school. My son needed to eliminate gluten, soy, egg, dairy, and nuts back when nobody did this. Nothing could be bought ready made, including bread (we eventually found Kinnikinnick bakery in Canada, but that was the only one for years). I was often quite unwelcome at school events, family gatherings, or birthday parties because I would show up with “weird” food that my son could eat. I always made enough to share. I always asked hosts ahead of time if this was okay. Eventually, it was …fine.

We didn’t talk a lot about this in my house. We just made food. It wasn’t my son’s problem, it was mine. I was the adult, and it was my job to give him the freedom to eat and feel good, rather than eat and feel sick, like any other kid. If anyone had a problem with that, well, insert expletive here. He gets to be well and happy too. This was my mantra.

This made me learn a lot about food, cooking, and baking that I didn’t know. I learned how to make really good food and really fun and delicious treats for holidays and birthdays. It made me do a better job than I would have, of feeding my family.

If I could do it in the dark ages, you can do it now. There is so much awareness for food allergy now, not to mention thousands of food products out there ready to buy, mix, cook, bake, or just eat. Get to it. If you need help, let me know.

How To Get A Decent School Lunch In Your Kid’s Belly

How To Get A Decent School Lunch In Your Kid’s Belly

How do you get your kids a decent lunch at school? You’re over the top with beautiful Bentos, containers, and boxes for all the best snacks and sandwiches you can think of, you’ve tried every healthy power bar, fruit, carrot sticks, rolled up turkey, hummus… You’ve resorted to the junk: Cheddar Bunnies or Goldfish, pretzels, chips, sugary granola bars… and it comes back barely touched at the end of the school day, right? Or you’re buying school lunch, but have no idea what it is, whether your child eats it, or why they come home and melt into tantrums day after day (hunger, maybe?) Here’s five tips to help this go a little better.

1 – Let yourself off the hook – and your kid too. You’re not the problem. Neither is your child. The school is. Lunch is too short, too chaotic, and too impersonal. Incredibly, some children literally don’t get to eat lunch at all, as they spend too much time lining up to get it and finding a table. Here is one example of a school where children actually dumped untouched trays of food in the trash because it was time for recess by the time they’d gotten their lunches – they never got to eat at all. No amount of curriculum is worth this. You can stuff curriculum into kids’ faces all day if you like, but guess what? It won’t work. Because when children are hungry, attention and learning drop. Hmm maybe this is why we hear that US kids are falling behind compared to other countries?

By contrast, check out this story and video about how school lunch is served in France. Imagine how differently children learn to value food, community, self worth, and social interaction, when they get to eat this way. Oh well. We are probably not going to get there anytime soon in the US. But I share this to illustrate how absurd it is to expect children to function well in our version of a school lunch system. It does not engender health, good digestion, or appreciation for food, self, or how to contribute to a positive group experience. Our system is downright competitive, and anxiety provoking, as kids must worry about what they’ll get, when they’ll get it, if they can eat it, how fast, where to sit… and must do it in a cacophony that could make your ears bleed. So give in to the fact that how your child eats at school is something you can’t likely change, at least not this week. Make up for it with family meals at home as often as you can, whether it’s breakfast or evening meals. Having family meals together on a regular basis has been shown to boost kids’ vocabularies, grades, and intakes of nutrient-dense foods.. and it lowers high risk behaviors in teens like drug use and drinking.

2 – Let your child eat what is easy during the school day. Literally, anything is better than nothing. Pack high protein finger foods, starchy snacks (yes, you read that right), and comfy favorites. Don’t worry about the carrots and celery that come home. They’re not going to help much anyway during the busy school day. Your child needs high density food. Their brains use nearly half the total food energy they eat every day, just to be and learn (adult brains use about half that amount). Starchy snacks give fuel quickly and while we can argue all day about why they’re bad, they are better than nothing. Think of it this way: You’re flight was delayed and your stuck in an airport terminal at 4 AM with nothing open for food. You never had dinner the day before or breakfast this morning. But wait: You found some crackers in your purse. Eat them, for God’s sake! Yes, it’s junk, and, it will give you a little help til you get to your destination. It’s not what you’re going to eat every day, but you’re glad to have it in that moment. Likewise, don’t sweat it if your child is eating some low value starchy snacks during the school day sometimes. Avoid processed high sugar or corn syrup snacks – but a blondie brownie (gluten free if necessary), made with strong organic ingredients, coconut sugar or maple syrup instead of cane sugar, and some awesome ghee or coconut oil for a brain boosting fat isn’t at all that bad. If allowed at your kids’ school, throw in some crushed cashews or other safe nut. A dense homemade or store bought bar every day with clean ingredients isn’t all that bad.

Lunch at an Iowa school, 1939 (courtesy Library of Congress)

3 – Fast finger foods are an obvious help. Expand on the starchy goodies by including some protein and fat rich options, like olives, hard boiled eggs, jerky or meat sticks, or collagen bars like BulletProof, Dr Axe, BonkBreaker, Caveman, or Perfect Bars (some from this brand have peanut). Other bars may source the protein punch from dairy, using whey or casein; you’ll need to skip those for a dairy free child. You might also see soy, rice, hemp, or nuts as protein sources. Scrutinize ingredients to fit your child’s needs. Generally, grass fed collagen is a good protein source that is non-allergenic for most kids. Another great option: Fat bombs, bite size power packed snacks that are easy to make at home with a few ingredients, and are beginning to appear on store shelves in various forms. Here is just one site that offers a cache of 45 fat bomb recipes. Look around the web for more from sites like Paleo Hacks, Paleo Plan, or under names like Paleo Energy Balls. Those recipes use nut butters often; some schools have a zero nut policy while others only limit peanut or have a nut free table. Lastly – macadamia nuts, if allowed at your child’s school, have the highest fat and calorie content of any nut. Even a few nuts give high octane fuel that can make the day’s journey easier. Ten nuts yields about 200 calories. Throw in a few organic, stevia sweetened chocolate chips if you want to make it a treat that skips sugar.

4 – Make the liquids count. Instead of juice pouches or boxes, consider a midday meal replacement power shake that adds fat, protein or micronutrients. Options abound for ready to drink stuff you can pack in your child’s lunch. Orgain drinks are widely available (even at Costco) in both vegan and dairy protein source versions. The vegan version is gluten, dairy, and soy free. I also love Rebble Protein Elixirs. A little pricey, but they are dairy, gluten and soy free, with big protein boosts from pea, sunflower, pumpkin seed, or hemp. They are less sugary, more nutritious, and cleaner than stuff like Boost or Pediasure, which are high corn syrup and low nutrition value with only GMO fed cow casein and GMO soy as the protein sources.

Many kids with severe allergies need an even more specialized product. One example is Splash ready to drink elemental formula for children. Though many in the integrative nutrition communities love to hate this stuff, in certain cases, I have seen it be quite successful for children with feeding difficulties and multiple food allergy. Downside: High cost, but may be covered on insurance for kids with documented multiple food allergy.

You can of course also always make your own smoothie and send it to school in a single serving container, but keep in mind that this makes more work for you, and it may take more steps for your child to eat it than products that come with a straw or easy open cap.

5 – If all else fails and your child is simply not eating lunch, meet with your school principal and teacher to troubleshoot. Ask if you can observe a lunch period, volunteer during lunch, or work with an advocate to observe for you, so your child isn’t seeing you at school to watch lunch (they will most likely behave differently in your presence). Is your child last to get to the table, struggling to know where to sit, klutzy with the tray tasks, overwhelmed by noise, too excited to socialize to eat? Identify what is not working. Solutions might be quieter seating with a lunch bunch rather than in the cafeteria en masse, leaving two minutes sooner to get to cafeteria with a peer, or reliable seating at a regular spot. Further ideas are talking to your principal about aligning recess before instead of after lunch, expanding the lunch period by a few more minutes, or creating conduct rules at lunch for noise or behavior for the whole school. In my son’s elementary school, lunch included clear conduct rules that meant no one left the table until everyone had finished eating and had cleared their trays/lunch sacks and trash. This meant that at the end of the half hour (yes, they had 30 minutes), twelve little angels were usually seated quietly waiting for the signal for the whole table to go out and play. Rather than bench seating or loose chairs, the cafeteria had tables with single circles integral for each little behind, like this. These omitted crowding or jostling for space. Find power in numbers with other parents for these larger changes.

When I was a kid, we actually got bussed home in the middle of the day for lunch. My school did not have a cafeteria. We were picked up, brought home, I had lunch with my mom and siblings, and got back on the bus to go back to school. I had a full half hour to eat once home. I never felt rushed or worried about lunch. It’s hard to believe this is how it used to be in an American public school. Times have changed, budgets are squeezed, moms aren’t home to serve lunch. Maybe someday our school system will reboot how it does lunch time to something more conducive to learning, but until then, give your child these options to at least get through the day on more than fumes – they deserve it!