Food Intolerance and the Immune System

When Undigested Carbohydrates Wreak Havoc

With the popularity of probiotics hitting main stream media, I have to ask why food intolerance is not considered a serious risk to the immune system. I have heard more than one celebrity promoting yogurt or another food containing healthy bacteria state that 70-80% of our immune system is in our gut.

Search “food allergies” vs “food intolerance” and you will likely come across the difference being that food allergies effect the immune system and food intolerance does not. You will also find that the only type of food referenced as “intolerant” is that for lactose, or milk products.

I have not come across a single article or medical reference discussing the fact that people can also be intolerant to sugar and starch. How are people suppose to know that milk is not the only culprit?

Beyond Lactose Intolerance

My research indicates that undigested food—specifically undigested carbohydrates (lactose, sugar and starch)— promote the growth of harmful bacteria in the large intestine and can lead to other health problems.

The message I hear in general is a promotion of adding “good” but no talk of removing the “bad” and this confuses me.

There is no question that diets high in refined flours and sugars create other health problems such as obesity and diabetes. So why is it so difficult to find concrete data and articles regarding the harm these foods also cause in our digestive systems?

This post is more rhetorical than scientific. Aside from research associated with the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, I have not been able to locate additional evidence that omitting harmful carbohydrates in the light of digestive imbalance is also a benefit to the immune system.

I only have my personal experience and knowledge regarding CSID and the inability to break down sugars and starches. If you have a personal experience related to food intolerance and the immune system, I would love to learn about it.

What My Son’s Eczema Has Taught Me About Parenting a Child with Unique Needs

(NOTE: This is a duplicate blog post originally published on http://www.SacramentoParent.com in October 2013. I am sharing it here to reach a broader audience.)

My nine-year old has faced many health challenges in his life, including failure-to-thrive as an infant, seizures through age 4, and food intolerance. However, more recently he has acquired chronic and severe eczema. The last flare-up lasted over six-months due to unknown environmental and food allergies.

My husband and I often ask ourselves why Parker–with the heart and attitude of an angel–must suffer so much. He just wants to be a normal kid and do the things normal kids do.

When his rash began to spread up his neck and onto his face, he also had to endure stares from his classmates and constant comments from strangers such as “Ooo…bad sunburn!” or “What’d he get into?” I even caught a grocery bagger coming up behind us to “sanitize the aisle” after a shopping trip where he was particularly irritated and scratching non-stop as we stood in line.

Thankfully, I was able to pinpoint a few major triggers and after a lot of research, discovered the perfect and individualized combination of natural and prescription remedies to help him heal both inside and out.

After making the difficult and challenging choice to homeschool him for the remainder of the school year, we began finally seeing his condition improve. Today, I am happy to announce my 9-year-old looks great and is back to his old goofy self. He sings and dances in the bathroom as I apply all his creams and ointments post-shower. He can’t wait to be Hawkeye for Halloween and told me earlier this week, “Mom, I do NOT want to be that house that doesn’t give out candy just because I can’t have any!” As soon as he is up for a break from his schoolwork, he is running around the house practicing shooting his arrows.

So what I have learned from all of this?

1. Maybe it’s obvious, but children are resilient. No matter how awful he felt or looked, Parker would still tag along with me on errands, and even to work when needed. Sure, there was a point where he watched a lot of T.V. and didn’t do much. But as soon as his energy returned he was up and ready to face the world. A day doesn’t pass without several hugs and smiles. He knows intuitively I have done all I have in my power to help him get better.

2. People will stare but we don’t have to care. Parker seemed completely oblivious to the looks he got when we were out in public. He didn’t try to “hide” himself and on his good days, actually drew attention singing along to the radio, or making sure I understood exactly which sports car he liked in the parking lot.

3. There is only so much we can do as parents; the rest we have to let go. There is a part of me that wants Parker to get better for good. I am tired of micro-managing every piece of food that touches his mouth and being concerned about his exposure to dust or hair or chemicals in the air. But stressing about all of it just puts everyone in a bad mood. I have my arsenal of remedies at hand, and have resolved to take action as soon as I see a problem arise–instead of going crazy trying to prevent a flare-up in the first place.

4. Normal is a state of mind. What is “normal” anyway? Normal isn’t always a good thing, or even a great thing. As parents of children with unique needs, our normal may look different, but it is still normal to us. So what if we can’t participate in gorging all the Halloween candy next week. At this point, Parker is too excited about trading in his candy for tickets to see Thor to care!

Paleo, Eczema and CSID Update

This past month has been overwhelming to say the least. A move, an ill grandparent, continued management of Parker’s symptoms and still working 40 hours per week is not easy!

But I have a few minutes before I am off to my day job to update everyone.

Parker is doing really well at the moment. As you can see, he is ready to take on on new neighborhood tonight–and perfectly fine with our deal that he exchanges all candy for tickets to see the movie Thor in November.

After finally getting in to see an allergist, a serious group prayer intervention (for God is in all of this no matter how I look at it), and completing our move into a healthier home, Parker appears to be on the mend.

One thing I have learned in all this, is I absolutely do not have all the answers and hope that nothing I have posted to this blog indicates as such. I am and have always simply shared what I learn, what works (or doesn’t) work for us, and what I feel could help others in understanding CSID.

This journey with CSID and associated health issues is a CONSTANT LEARNING PROCESS!

Each of us must approach our needs or that of our child’s on an individual basis. New research pops up every day… and honestly I am not in the position to be keeping the world apprised of it at this moment. For example (and if I had time I would site sources)—more research is coming out to discourage the excessive use of fructose in any form aside from its natural form in fruit. But even large amounts of fruit or honey could potentially cause problems for sensitive individuals. I posted a link a while back regarding a finding that I believed at the time was more related to the consumption of highly processed foods.

So please, please take what works for you and do—DO—more research to find what is best for you situation.

Right now, I have my hands full in caring for my son and attempting to complete my many other responsibilities. There are many other blogs and books out there written by experts and professionals that focus on dietary and digestive health for a living. I am not one of those people! In the time since I started this blog, there is much more information available. In a sense, I no longer feel obligated to share everything since much of it is becoming common knowledge. Some of my assumptions and interpretations from a few years ago have come to pass as truth. Others, not so much. For example, I have learned that dairy is probably best to be avoided in all forms. Every member of my family has experienced feeling better by not having milk, cheese, etc. When I have allowed dairy back in the house after we all went without for a while–boy did we all notice a difference!

Again–this is our personal experience I only share to offer a possibility and to encourage whoever reads this to look into the issue for themselves.

Anyway my time is up. I will continue to be available my email to answer specific questions. Please allow a week or so for me to respond. In the meantime, take care and I hope to continue to offer hope if nothing else, to those that come across our public journey of learning how to manage CSID through various means.

Managing CSID after Antiobiotics

How to Bring a Healthy Balance Back to Your Gut

This past week, my daughter without CSID got strep throat. For most families, this would not be a concern. Simply go to the doctor, get antibiotics and within a few days all should be back to normal. However, in our home, using antibiotics can result in weeks or months of digestive problems. My biggest concern was that Parker would catch strep from his sister and require antibiotics. This would put him in a highly sensitive state, and reverse much of the progress he has made in recent months. Worse, his diet would become highly limited on the cusp of school starting again, and he could potentially lose weight.

So far, he is not showing any signs of illness. Upon his sister’s diagnosis, I had him on a preventative dose of 1000mg Vitamin C (Emergen-C packs sweetened with fructose), plus gargling with Echinacea and salt water three times per day. Salt water may wash away bacteria, while vitamin C and Echinacea build immune-system strength.

However, with this current threat to Parker’s digestive health, I thought I would also list the additional steps to take if antibiotics are needed in the future.

For a normal, healthy person without digestive issues, it can take up to 5 years for good bacteria to rebuild in the digestive tract! You can imagine how difficult it is for someone with digestive problems to recover.

However, I have good news. If you are prepared and take precautions, a course of antibiotics does not have to take months or years to get over.

First, it is important to have plenty of digestive-friendly foods on hand. These include eggs, green vegetables, homemade chicken broth, plain yogurt, liquid chlorophyll, lemons and berries. Fruit and yogurt smoothies and scrambled eggs with mixed and softened non-starchy vegetables are among the easiest, nutritional options while recovering from an illness.

Removing dairy products except for plain yogurt may also be needed. Avoid the normal “B.R.A.T.” diet if antibiotic use results in diarrhea. For those of us with carbohydrate intolerance, Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast can exacerbate symptoms. Ideally, implement the  Induction Diet I describe for the first phase of controlling CSID symptoms. It may take three weeks or longer to recover from a course of antibiotics, but it is important to avoid sugars and starches until normal bowel movements occur. In addition, probiotic supplements and digestive support supplements are crucial.

Finally, if starches are normally tolerated, reducing or eliminating starchy foods for ten days or longer may be needed. Antibiotics kill all the good and bad bacteria in your gut. Unfortunately, harmful bacteria grow quickly and thrive on sugars and starches. Your goal is to increase good bacteria first, which will result in a healthier balance and few digestive problems.

Although I am an advocate for natural remedies, our family has had too many serious strains of strep to consider avoiding antibiotics. However, I believe we have avoided spreading strep throat by taking precautions once we are exposed and before symptoms occur. In addition, being aware of the steps to take to bring our bellies back into balance after illness helps us to recover quickly with little long-term consequences.