Food can heal or hurt

I am fortunate to have a feel good job. I get the opportunity to participate in the healing journey of many patients. Nothing is more fulfilling than bearing witness to the physical healing, changes in consciousness and empowerment that come from education and working with the body. Some of my favorite experiences in medicine involve pediatric patients. Kids heal quickly when the cause of dysfunction is identified – and it is extremely rewarding to watch as their health is restored.
The story I would like to share involves two siblings, a five-year old girl, and her three-year old brother. We will call them Elsa and Allen. When I met Elsa, I saw a bright, happy, creative little girl, with nothing apparently wrong. Elsa’s Mom brought her in because she complained of fatigue, and sore muscles. She did not like to run and jump and play hard like other children her age. Her Mom sometimes had to bring her home in a wagon after school because she was too tired to walk. Other physical complaints included easily catching colds, ear pain, recurrent stye, coarse hair, dry skin in patches on her hands, back and eyelids, recurrent cracks in her lips, stomach pain after eating occasionally, and a sensation of “hot legs”. From a conventional medical standpoint, this little girl met all of her developmental milestones, and all of her tests fell within normal limits. Her Mom, however, knew that something wasn’t right.
Based on the symptoms Elsa had, we ran a test to determine whether she had food sensitivities. The test revealed a strong antibody reaction to wheat (and other gluten containing grains), kidney beans, oranges, eggs, dairy products, oats, and several other less reactive foods. Mom went home that night and prepared a dinner free from all of these foods. What happened next is extraordinary.
Elsa’s Mom called me the next morning, and left me a voice-mail I still have saved. She said “I have to just leave you this message because this incredible thing happened at our house yesterday. I fed everybody a gluten free, diary free, egg free dinner, and bedtime snack. And wildness of all wildness – Allen slept through the night, did not get out of his bed once until he woke up at 5:30. This has not happened at our house in six months at least! It was incredible, and I can’t wait to see if it has to do with the food he’s been eating! I mean I was just shocked beyond belief so I’m totally thrilled!”.
Hold the music! Our intention was to treat Elsa, and inadvertently, we treated Allen. It turned out, Allen was reacting the food he was eating. It has been nine months since this message was left, and Allen continues to sleep through the night – with the exception of the occasional nightmare. Prior to removing gluten, dairy and eggs from his diet, Allen woke every one to one and a half hours each night. Allen’s story is especially poignant, and we will get back to it in a moment.
Later that same day (after less than twenty-four hours of elimination of the offending food) I got another message from Elsa’s Mom. She said “So here’s your second feel good message from me for the day. I just walked Elsa home from school and she ran and laughed and wanted me to chase her, the whole way home. This has never happened the whole school year. And it was just awesome to see that! Her smile, and her energy was great. And she said she felt really good today, and had more energy. So there you go!”
Elsa continues to have good energy, and after checking in with her Mom, she also has not had a cold since eliminating these foods, she has had only one stye, no stomach pain, her dry skin and “hot legs” are gone, as is her coarse hair and ear pain. She is doing great.
After Allen improved from food elimination of his sister’s sensitivities, his Mom asked to have him tested as well. Allen has a rare genetic mutation that makes him susceptible to a form of eye cancer called retinal blastoma. He developed this cancer in infancy, and has recovered with the help of chemotherapy, and a very dedicated family. People with this mutation are at higher risk for all forms of cancer. It is logical to guess that one way to help prevent the recurrence of the cancer, is to minimize damage to tissue resulting from inflammation. When we tested Allen, he also showed a sensitivity to gluten, kidney bean, some dairy, oranges, peas, peaches, plums, watermelon, pistachios, and several other foods. Aside from the long-term benefit of reduced inflammation, Allen also had resolution of insomnia, a chronically runny nose, and has had only one cold in the last nine months.
This story illustrates the myriad ways that food sensitivities can manifest in the body. Elsa and Allen’s Mom even spoke about how differently each of her children presented with their symptoms. When a person is sensitive to foods, each time that food is consumed, it causes inflammation. Inflammation can land anywhere in the body and cause irritation to the surrounding tissue. It was also incredible how rapidly these kids experienced improvement in their health. The quality of life in this family has improved – although Mom has had to be creative in the kitchen. Even she has taken gluten out of her diet, and had her first fall and winter without symptoms of seasonal affective disorder since her adolescence.
As I wrote earlier, I love my job. As a Naturopathic Doctor, I get the opportunity to pass along an alternative view of medicine. Naturopathic Medicine utilizes the lowest intervention method to treat patients. What could be lower intervention than cutting out a few foods that cause inflammation?

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