Since a recent instagram post about my daughter’s distended belly and cyclical vomiting seemed to be so popular (see the story here), I decided to highlight a few of the paths we explored with my daughter. If your child is dealing with allergies, eczema, asthma, rashes and belly complaints, we want you to be empowered! For those of you struggling, hang in there and start with the basics!!
I will start by sharing exactly what we did with Lily in 2013 and what we learned. As always (but especially when it comes to kids!) please make sure to consult his or her physician and work with someone who understands the full picture of your child’s situation. This blog post is only to share my journey and hopefully help arm you with new concepts to discuss with your doctor.
In search of answers as to why my daughter had a distended belly, Cyclical Vomiting Disease and lots of bellyaches we turned to functional lab work. Although I believe that lab work is important, if you don’t have a functional doctor or practitioner, we also made a lot of upgrades and changes in the home that anyone can do. You can get started with the basics while you are looking for a great functional practitioner to work with.
What to do to navigate your children’s health concerns; What I Did with Lily when she was 3
1) Minimize the incoming toxins.
If you are trying to empty a bathtub, you want to make sure you don’t just pull the plug, but also turn off the water right? First we need to minimize the incoming toxins and allergens.
Food is a great place to start. We highly suggest following a basic elimination diet with your child. You might not consider food a toxin, but “toxins” can also be proteins that your child’s body has marked as an invader. He or she may have developed a sensitivity to even the healthiest of foods. In this case, each meal or snack may cause their body to send out an immune response. In the process of trying to remove the offending food, often the lining of the gut has some collateral damage. And with that damage, the lining of the gut is more susceptible to letting other proteins through to the bloodstream, and that is when one food sensitivity starts to turn into a long laundry list!
The top food sensitivities we see in kids are: gluten, dairy, corn, eggs & soy. Gluten and dairy were the biggest offenders for my daughter. Her father is Native American, so we were not too surprised to see that she was lactose intolerant like him, but she also seemed to be reacting to casein (the protein in dairy). Soy also might have been a sensitivity for her, but our family had already removed all soy other than fermented versions such as miso and tamari (fermented soy sauce). The fermented version weren’t a problem for her.
* We removed dairy for a long time. When we finally added some dairy back in we started with goat products, which she did well with. Goat products are much easier to digest. We also have found that she does well with raw aged cheese (organic of course!).
Having a clean water source is even more important than food in my opinion. If there is only one thing that you are going to upgrade, we suggest starting here. We love our Berkey filter or Zero pitcher with a carbon water filter!! While you are at it, don’t forget about the bath and shower water. This might not seem as important, but breathing the heated chlorine particles can actually be more detrimental to gut health than drinking chlorine in the water. We love this bath filter & this shower filter.
Focus on upgrading skincare and cleaning products one at a time. You can start with things like lotion, soap, detergent, toothpaste and anything used directly on the body. You can check ewg.org or our Toxic Home Makeover (we are currently updating, so an even better version is coming out very soon!)
Try to avoid plastics for your water and food. Please don’t be tricked by the BPA-free label. If it is still plastic, avoid it. Most of the BPA-free products are made with BPS which just aren’t studied as much but are showing to be potentially even more damaging to gut health than BPA. You can aim for stainless steel or glass version of water bottles and lunch containers. Also consider upgrading your pans (no Teflon!!)
2) Test don’t guess. Functional Lab Work is the key!
I will start by sharing what functional lab work we ordered for Lily and what we discovered. This is a process of becoming a health detective and slowly putting together the clues. But, if you are wondering what I would do if I were starting all over today, you can jump to my Current Recommendations for Functional Labwork below. My opinion has changed partially because of things we found out in the process and also because of my latest training in Chris Kresser’s ADAPT program.
Functional Testing With Lily in 2013
Here is a list of what we explored with Lily:
Biohealth 304 – 3 years old (*this test is no longer available). In the results below you can see that her dietary proteins were elevated. This category lumped 5 proteins together (gluten, corn, dairy, soy & eggs), so it was clear that she was reacting to something, but we didn’t know which it was. It could be just one of the foods or it could be all of them!
Although the lab states that high levels of aerobic and anaerobic bacteria or yeast indicate an overgrowth, very low levels of igA +igM also can be indicative of a problem, as the ideal reading is equivocal. Why is a 3 year old already having a low response to bacteria? Why is her immune system shutting down? This is especially concerning given that we did find a bacterial overgrowth on her stool test. Since she had a bacterial overgrowth, I would expect her immune response to be elevated to bacteria.
Food sensitivity – We followed up with an elimination diet since the Biohealth 304 was not very clear as to which proteins she was reacting to. An elimination diet is still the gold standard for discovering food sensitivities. So if you are up for it, we suggest starting with this instead of spending hundreds of dollars on food sensitivity testing. We discovered gluten and dairy intolerances and red dye and additive reactions.
Biohealth 401h 3 day stool test – We found an overgrowth of enterobacter species. This is the same bacterial overgrowth that I found on my own test. Our children get the majority of their gut bacteria profile from their mother (after all we carry them for 9+ months, they go through our birth canal and drink our breast milk!). Sorry for passing that on Lily!!
Neurotransmitter test – The biggest takeaway of the neurotransmitter test was high histamine. High histamine is common in children who are having lots of meltdowns a day, and my daughter was! High histamine levels are indicative of inflammation. In many cases this can be caused by an allergy or a sensitivity to a specific food or something in the environment or it can just be a sign of overall gut inflammation. This would be the case for someone with a bacterial overgrowth or other pathogenic gut infection. Other times , like in Lily’s case, it was both!
Her serotonin to dopamine ratio was off and her GABA was quite high. GABA reduces excess stimulation and was most likely high for Lily to try and reign in her high histamine (excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters balance each other out). When comparing my neurotransmitter imbalances to my daughter’s, they all matched. This is not surprising because, as a mom, we pass on our neurotransmitter profile as well, just like our gut flora.
Celiac blood test – This test was negative but was really inconclusive since I did not feed Lily gluten for an adequate amount of time before the test.
DRG Stool Test (I wouldn’t do this one again)– This came back all in range. This is a gut stool test using PCR analysis. After attending Chris Kresser’s ADAPT training I have stopped using PCR tests because the technology is still being developed. In my daughter’s case I would have done a SIBO test instead.
HTMA – Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis. I am sure that this can be very helpful, but at the time it was completely overwhelming. We did get some insight into heavy metals, but if heavy metals are of concern then the Quicksilver tests are currently our favorite.
23andme – Genetic testing.
Current Recommendations For Functional Lab Work
(what I would do now if I was starting this process over)
I would start with food sensitivities, Celiac disease testing and the gut tests listed below for functional lab work. Please don’t get overwhelmed by this list. Just looking at gut health and foods could be enough to restore your child’s optimal health. If you don’t seem to have any answers after those tests, then you can move on to the other suggestions listed below.
Food sensitivities and Celiac. Start with an elimination diet. But, if you have any concerns with Celiac disease I suggest getting this tested BEFORE doing the elimination diet . We made the mistake of removing gluten and she felt great and then when we wanted to rule out Celiac we didn’t wanted to reintroduce gluten (I only gave her 2 pieces of bread which really isn’t enough. You need to be eating gluten daily for 2 weeks within the last 30 days of testing!).
Gut Testing. Gut testing is a must. Find yourself a local functional doc, naturopath or FDN practitioner who will do not just 1 day stool test but a 3 day. We started with a 1 day test at her regular doctor and found nothing, but the 3 day found the bacterial overgrowth. You can even order a lot of these tests yourself on a site like directlabs.com in a pinch. But, you will still want to plan on having a practitioner to go over the results with you and help you make a plan.
Because gut health can be complex, we actually recommend 3 different gut tests together that compliment each other.
My favorite functional gut tests at the present time (always changing as I learn!):
- Biohealth 401h- a 3 day stool test
- Docotor’s Data Comprehensive Stool Analysis with Parasitology X3
- Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth(SIBO): Because of how common SIBO is becoming, I would consider this with any child with gut complaints. Especially if your child has bloating, a distended belly, constipation or alternates between constipation and diarrhea
Basic blood work. We did not have this done for my daughter but it would have been very helpful. Here is what I would ask for now if I were to do this again: Complete Blood Count (CBC) with differential, Comprehensive Metabolic Panel, Lipid Panel,Vitamin D, 25-Hydroxy, Vitamin D 1,25 di-OH (Calcitriol), Vitamin B12, Ferritin, Iron, TIBC, UIBC, % Iron Saturation
Neurotransmitter Testing. I would put this one lower on your list of testing, but it was very helpful for us to see how high my daughter’s histamine levels were and gave us some insight into imbalances.
Genetic Testing. We ran a 23andme genetic panel on Lily when she was older. I believe that this can be a very helpful tool to understand if your child has a look of genetic mutations, meaning it might be harder for them to perform certain functions such as detoxification. But I also think it is important to note that genetics really are only a very small piece of the puzzle. As they say, the genes load the gun and the environment pulls the trigger. Just because your genetics suggest you cannot methylate well, that does not mean that is what is actually happening. This is where functional lab work comes in handy, something like the Organic Acid Test can look at how you are actually doing. Please do not supplement just based on genetic testing.
Organic Acids Test. This is some more advanced testing if you are still struggling to understand what is going on with your child. This can be useful to pick up potential genetic disorders, nutrient status and detoxification capabilities.
3) Go back to basics.
- Get off of the iPad. We limited screen time with my daughter and saw a huge difference. TV, ipads and phones are a really big battle in our house. This is not just about the fact that your child is less active, a recent study was done on kids about the effect of screen time on children’s melatonin. Melatonin is not just about sleep (which of course is incredibly important!) but also is a potent antioxidant. Melatonin production opposes cortisol (stress hormones) production so adequate melatonin is important to keep these balances in check.
- Get outside! If you want to read the benefits of getting outside check out Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. Nature can be incredible restorative.
- Limit sugar, dyes, additives. These are the changes that sound the easiest but are actually the hardest to make. Often with children with gut issues, avoiding sugar, processed foods, additives, dyes, chemicals can get you 80% of the way.
- Have fun. I had a conversation with a mom with multiple autistic children who has been through the ringer trying to figure out what to test, what to do, what new therapies to try and what supplements to take. Over the 8+ years that she has been following this process with 4 different children she came to the conclusion that the most basic things made the biggest difference. Play with your kids and let them take the lead! Your children will pick up on your level of stress. It has been shown that our cortisol rises just being around other people who are stressed out. Often our kids actually know the answer to their health complaints, it is just that as stressed out type A adults we have a hard time slowing down enough to listen to them.
4) Food, Supplements & Products
Here is a list of some of the foods and supplements that helped Lily. It is best to work with a practitioner since your child’s situation could be completely different, but this will give you a little insight into what worked well for us.
One great trick with kids is to make homemade gummies that you can hide all sorts of things in them. This is an easy way to deliver the Bioray liver formula, gelatin, vitamin C, l-glutamine or any other powdered or liquid supplement you are hoping your child to take.
- Coconut Kefir for good bacteria – she called it her “spicy drink”
- Bone broth (could bother someone with SIBO)
- Fermented foods – lots of sauerkraut! (could bother someone with SIBO or certain gut infections)
- Gelatin – we make homemade gummies – here is a recipe on how to add tinctures & vitamins to gummies to hide for your kids.
- Cod liver oil – how to hide – This only worked for about a week with my daughter. Instead you might want to consider just eating 1-2 servings of cold water fish like salmon every week. You can also try the kid’s Omega-3 gummies. The gummies are made with sugar to cover up the taste but if that is the only way to get your child to eat it, then this is a good option!
- Vitamin C – Lily had high histamine. Other than finding what was the cause of the inflammation (gluten & dairy in her case), vitamin C really helped to bring that level down. Vitamin C is also just great for general immune support.
- Bioray kids formulas – I have had really good luck with these. We used the Liver Lover formula and Primary Detox. NDF Calm and NDF Sleepy are also good tonics to consider.
- Megasporebioitic – I open up a capsule and just sprinkle a ¼ of it on her food. (This is a practitioner only brand, so ask your functional practitioner or email us for how to get some)
- Enzymes – we used garden of life chewable enzymes
- L-glutamine (Pure Encapsulations)
Fatco’s Baby Butta works really well topically to soothe eczema
What Does This Have to Do with Hormone Health?
Our specialty is to help women with hormone balancing by guiding them to navigate their natural monthly cycle in a way the optimizes their health instead of working against nature. When I first started working on this blog post series, Alex and I were questioning, does this fit into our new niche? We had committed to ourselves and our business coach to only work on things that support this mission.
But with a little more soul searching the answer was a resounding YES!
Here is why. Kids are inevitably one of the biggest stressors for the moms that we work with. As stressful as it is to raise a happy, creative, intuitive child, the stress of a child who is sick or uncomfortable surpasses all others.
In the scenario when you know something is wrong but you are being told that everything looks good on his or her blood work, this can be scary, overwhelming and at times maddening.
Stress is one of the 4 main reasons for HPA-Axis dysfunction and hormone imbalances. So much of our attention, concern and concentration are funneled toward our children that we often start to forget our own health. Trust me, I have been there.
As cheesy as it is, we have to remember the airplane analogy. We need to put our own airmask on first so that we can help our children. You are no help as a parent when you are burnt out and frazzled.
So as you are navigating this journey with your child, make sure to consider your own health. One of the best messages that we can send to our children is the WE matter and that WE take care of ourselves. They are little sponges soaking up everything we do.
You got this mama!!