by Juliet Sinisterra As a mother of two young children, I have always believed in the importance of good nutrition. During both pregnancies, I monitored what I ate and included adequate amounts of protein and whole foods in my diet. Recognizing that good nutrition starts at birth, I breast-fed both my children well into their toddler years, and I tried to cook from scratch regularly with whole foods. This was my approach to good nutrition, and it seemed to work well for our family -- until we realized that our son was dealing with a chronic illness.
Lewis, my oldest child, was always a picky eater. He was an extremely alert and active child at an early age, and by four-and-a-half months began to smack his lips and watch us eat. These signs, along with my pediatrician's recommendation to start him on solids, convinced me to delve into the world of solids with my little boy. Lewis was interested in solid food for about two weeks. The following 20 months were a constant struggle to keep one step ahead of him in regards to nutrition. I baked muffins with pumpkin or sweet potato, I made smoothies with flax seed or I added brewer's yeast to his pancakes -- anything to sneak any sort of nutrients into this little child. Lewis was not only picky, but he ate very little -- many times only a half-meal a day. By the age of two, however, Lewis began to eat solids more regularly. He was still a picky eater, but he was actually eating meals. For me, this was a great achievement. I felt that we were moving forward.
In addition to being a picky eater, Lewis had always been a fretful sleeper. He didn't really start sleeping through the night until he was almost two years old. By 26 months, he tossed and turned for hours before falling asleep, then began tossing and turning again in the early morning. My husband and I found his sleep patterns troubling, but discounted it as behavior typical of the Terrible Twos. At 32 months, after a round of antibiotics, Lewis developed slight rash on his cheeks; by 34 months, he was throwing uncontrollable temper tantrums that began to raise red flags in my mind. Finally, by his third birthday, I realized that Lewis was developing allergies -- and not just one or two allergies. He had become allergic to most everything in his diet. His cheeks would turn red, his behavior would turn aggressive and he would often become hoarse. He was also becoming extremely sensitive to chemicals -- a new pair of pajamas not washed at least eight times would make him twitch the entire night. As a result, I went through a period of denial -- neither my husband nor I had any allergies to speak of, so how could this have happened? I had tried to do everything right.
That spring we took Lewis to a Integrative Medicine physician, who diagnosed him with a bacterial overgrowth in the stomach, which was emitting toxins inside his body and damaging the lining of the stomach. We began to modify his diet drastically and placed him on a strict rotation diet. Our refrigerator began to be stocked with rice, soy, almond and hazelnut milks. Lewis began to eat and enjoy grains such as quinoa, millet and spelt flakes regularly, and his snacks began to consist of fruits, vegetables, raw nuts and seeds, and sprouted breads. Last summer, we also started to juice at home in order to increase Lewis' consumption of fruits and vegetables. This worked well until Lewis developed an allergy to apples, and I have yet to juice with the same energy level since. We have also placed Lewis on a liquid multivitamin and intense probiotics to counter the bacteria, as well as a series of intestinal cleanses.
All of these steps have greatly improved Lewis' condition. He is no longer a fretful sleeper, he eats balanced healthy meals regularly and enjoys food, his emotional extremes have subsided, and many of his allergies are going away. However, he still will develop an allergy to anything in his diet that is eaten too frequently. Although we still have setbacks, throughout the entire process, I have learned more about my son, his condition and our entire family's nutritional needs than I ever thought possible. As a family, our diets have improved. We have increased our intake of raw foods, nuts and seeds and varied our diets considerably. The entire process has been slow and at many times frustrating, but Lewis is once again opening up to his world a little more each day. It is a joy to see him feeling comfortable in his body.