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Libby’s legs

September 14, 2015

In my last post, I made the claim that what we eat can impact everything from our immune systems to our physical energy to our mental stability. I mentioned that I healed my daughter’s eczema and asthma through diet rather than through topical steroids and inhalers, both of which had been prescribed to her by pediatricians.

For all of the parents out there who have little ones with afflictions such as these, I believe Libby’s story of healing is worth sharing. It speaks to the oft-ignored link between what we eat and how we look and feel—not to just how much we weigh. For children, this link is especially important because their bodies are still developing such that the decisions we make on their behalf now will impact them for the rest of their lives.

Before Libby was born, I was very fortunate to befriend a woman who has eleven adopted children, many of whom suffered from persistent ailments that prescriptions would only hide temporarily. Stomachaches, rashes, attention and anger problems—you name it, one of her kids suffered from it. Frustrated by modern medicine’s inability to heal her children, she turned to food and followed the GAPS protocol with her entire family (you can read about it at http://gapsdiet.com/). Within weeks of starting the protocol, her children’s various symptoms began to subside and now, two years later, the entire family is thriving.

My own daughter Libby had experienced mild bouts of eczema since she was born, with little red rashes appearing and disappearing on the backs of her knees over the course of her first two years. The bouts never lasted long until the spring of 2015, when a sweltering heat wave triggered a nasty case that covered not just the backs of her knees but also the backs of her legs from mid-thigh to mid-calf. Non-steroidal creams wouldn’t clear it up as they had in the past so I took Libby to a pediatrician for advice. The doctor’s suggestion was to try a name-brand cream and then to try an over-the-counter steroidal cream if one of the non-steroidal creams she recommended didn’t help. Knowing of my friend’s experience with her children, I asked if a change in diet might make a difference but the pediatrician said that food was rarely an issue with eczema except in serious cases (I guess she didn’t think Libby’s case was serious).

None of the non-steroidal creams she recommended worked. Not wanting to use steroids on Libby’s delicate skin, I took her to a naturopathic doctor for alternative advice. The naturopath immediately concurred that food was likely an issue, so she ordered a food sensitivity test that examined antigens in Libby’s blood to determine whether certain foods may have been causing an autoimmune reaction in her body, resulting in the eczema. Sure enough, a handful of foods that she ate commonly (including eggs, dairy, coconut, and beans) registered on the test. After eliminating these foods from her diet for a month and applying a bit of Neosporin to the last remaining spot of eczema on her left leg (which had become infected from scratching), her eczema cleared up completely.

Just one month of eliminating certain foods from her diet healed her eczema, whereas nearly three months of trying various creams did not. While the steroidal cream may have cleared up the eczema (we’ll never know since we never tried it), her rash surely would have returned given that all of the foods she was sensitive to would have still been in her diet had I followed the first pediatrician’s advice. Had I not turned to her diet to heal her at the naturopath’s recommendation (and upon my own hunch), we would have been dealing with bouts of eczema indefinitely.

For those of you who are thinking to yourselves, “OMG, what would I feed my kid if s/he couldn’t eat such staples?” don’t worry—there are lots of alternatives. And the good news is that once a child is off of the foods to which they are sensitive for a period of time, giving their digestive and immune systems a chance to heal, those foods can be reintroduced and enjoyed once again. Libby is now eating butter and coconut products and we’ll be reintroducing cheese next week. Eggs are still out since her eczema came back when we reintroduced yolks a few weeks ago, but we will try again in another month or two after her system has a bit more time to heal itself.

In the beginning of this post I mentioned asthma as well as eczema. At the same time as Libby was experiencing her eczema flare-up, she began exhibiting signs of asthma, wheezing whenever she got a cold or cough and whenever she got rowdy with her cousins. Asthma, mind you, is also an autoimmune response. Once we eliminated the foods that were causing one autoimmune reaction (the eczema), her other autoimmune reaction (asthma) likewise disappeared. She hasn’t wheezed once since we started with the elimination diet, and she’s spent plenty of time getting rowdy with her cousins!

I urge anyone with children—indeed, anyone at all—to take seriously the connection between food and health. Modern medicine and the media would have you believe that the only thing food affects is our weight, but in reality it affects so much more. Anthelme Brillat-Savarin had it right when he coined the phrase “you are what you eat.” If you eat crap, that’s what you’ll feel like. If you eat well, you’ll nourish your body into performing at its absolute best.

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