by John Thomas
Health Impact News
Is it safe to discuss the option of not vaccinating your children with your child’s pediatrician? Are you risking being turned over to Child Protective Services, if you and your doctor disagree about vaccination?
During a recent conversation with Judy Converse, MPH RD LD, a pediatric nutrition specialist, I discussed the medical kidnapping of infants and children by agents of Child Protective Services. Judy Converse provides services to children with a wide range of neurodevelopmental conditions.
She also had the personal experience of being threatened with Child Protective Services involvement when she refused to continue vaccinating her son in the mid-1990s when he started experiencing developmental delays. She is the author of three books on the topic of nutrition and child development, and has lectured at numerous national and local gatherings for parents and professionals on topics related to autism, Asperger’s, and related developmental conditions. Her work emphasizes the profound impact nutrition and a healthy gut have on the developing brain.
I posed the following question to Judy Converse during an interview on March 26, 2015.
QUESTION: How can a parent who is concerned about the harm caused by vaccines determine if it will be safe to work with a specific pediatrician, and not worry about whether you and your children will be turned over to Child Protective Services if you disagree with the doctor?
Judy Converse began her reply this way:
To be really frank, any pediatrician in a conventional practice is probably under some quotas to vaccinate. They make money vaccinating their patients and they truly believe this is the right thing to do. Some of them will offer some flexibility on the vaccination schedule, and I think that is the person that you might first want to speak with.
Parents have shared with me that even in those offices, once they ask for what they want, they will eventually reach a point of disagreement and the pediatrician will say, “I am not willing to be THAT flexible for you.” When this happens, then you probably need to leave that practice and find a different one. There is no point banging your head against a wall with somebody you will have this ongoing argument with. There is no point in that, because your child is going to be caught in the middle.
I will share additional comments from Judy Converse about this topic later in this article. In addition, she will use her professional training in nutrition sciences to help us understand gut dysfunction, which appears in almost all cases of vaccine and antibiotic related injuries in children. She will discuss how parents can help their children heal their digestive systems so they can digest and absorb food, and recover their lives after vaccine injury. Adults with vaccine injury face the same challenge of healing the gut.
This is the fourth article in a series about healing from vaccine related damage. Previous articles include:
Background of Judy Converse
Before I share more of my conversation with Judy Converse, I want to tell you a little bit more about her background.
She has a Master’s degree in Public Health Nutrition from the University of Hawaii (1988), and a Bachelor’s degree in Food Science and Human Nutrition from the University of Vermont.
Her career path as a nutrition care provider changed in 1996 with the birth of her son. He was challenged with growth, feeding, and developmental problems which began to appear at birth caused by the Hepatitis-B vaccine. She was not able to obtain help from pediatricians for her son at that time, and she needed to research the solution to her son’s condition on her own.
Fortunately, because of her training in pediatric nutrition, she was able to piece together a nutrition based treatment program to move her son forward on the path to health. Her success encouraged other parents and they asked her for the same help.
When she realized no one was available to guide other families toward healing, she opened her pediatric nutrition practice in 1999. Since that time, Ms. Converse has expanded her training to include functional and integrative nutrition for babies and children. Her nutrition practice, Nutrition Care for Children, assists infants, toddlers, children, teens, and young adults (age 0-24).
She specializes in supporting those who have failed with conventional medical measures for food allergy, feeding/growth concerns, feeding clinics, tube feeding, asthma, ADD/ADHD, autism, Asperger’s syndrome, mood concerns, PANDAS, or seizure disorders. She practices integrative nutrition with tenets of many disciplines, including Weston Price, organic foods, special diets (GAPS, SCD, Paleo, GF/CF, LOD), and the judicious use of supplements and herbs.
Additional Information about Judy Converse and her practice is available at her website.
Using Special Diets to Heal Injuries from Vaccines and other Toxins
I specifically sought out Judy Converse for this article, because I had hoped she could bring some clarity to the complex topic of using specialized diets to heal injuries caused by vaccines, antibiotics, and toxins found in processed foods and in the environment. I was blessed by the range of knowledge that she provided on this subject and I am pleased to share some of her practical suggestions. As you will shortly read, she gives sound guidance to parents who are searching for the right kind of diet to help heal their children and teens. Her suggestions for healing the gut also apply to adults.
QUESTION: How should parents participate in the conventional healthcare system when they disagree with the standard vaccine protocol recommended by pediatricians, and want more individualized medical care for their children? Should parents always depend on the services of a pediatrician to help their children grow and thrive?
Judy Converse responds:
In my case, we stopped going to the pediatrician and went to a family physician instead, and we also worked with a family nurse practitioner. The nurse practitioner had her own private practice, and used to work with a pediatrician in my town. So we found some other providers and we were fine. We found a way to get the healthcare we needed, without the constant pressure.
I know it is a bit of a sacrilege, and I don’t mean to be disrespectful to pediatricians who are out there working hard and trying to do the right thing, but you may not need a pediatrician. If the debate between you and your doctor becomes large enough, then you might need to talk to a different type of doctor. A family practice physician might be an option or an osteopathic doctor might be an option. I had to make that decision when my son was 5 months old.
Even though I was a health professional, I was kind of terrified to say that we are not going to have these people in our lives any more. It was very liberating and very much the right thing to do in his case. The minute we stopped seeking the pediatrician’s advice, my son began to get healthier, because we were seeking advice from people who had other tools.
QUESTION: What are the health challenges of your clients?
My clients are children age newborn to young adult. They have all sorts of problems that their usual MD care teams have not been able to resolve, typically because no one has helped them with food, nutrition, and the restoration of gut health. They have growth and feeding problems, food allergies, food protein intolerance enterocolitis syndrome (FPIES), eosinophilic esophagitis (EE), asthma, autism, mood or anxiety disorders, etc. Some are medically quite fragile with failure to thrive. They don’t grow and are at very high risk. They may have gastrotomy tubes, which is a tube that is surgically implanted in the stomach to force in food.
Some are so behaviorally challenged that they have lost school placement, meaning they’ve been kicked out of school at ages as young as five or six. Some are suicidal and failing on conventional psychiatric medications.
QUESTION: How is previous vaccine use related to the health challenges you see in your clients?
Most of my caseload are struggling with problems they would not have, had they not been vaccinated or if they had been vaccinated differently (fewer vaccines, given at a later age, monovalent vaccines, not during pregnancy, and vaccines without aluminum or mercury). I say this based on exhaustively reviewing their medical histories starting in utero – from brain scans to endoscopy reports to immunization records, to blood work they’ve had done over the years, to growth patterns and developmental histories. There are undeniable patterns.
There still has been no prospective large scale study of vaccinated versus unvaccinated children. There is survey data, and it does show a clear pattern of more chronic illness and disability in vaccinated children.
QUESTION: What are other factors that contribute to the developmental problems of your clients?
In children not vaccinated but with similar challenges, invariably I find a potent toxin in their history that exerted a deleterious effect. One parent I worked with had worked in a factory that made film processing materials and was exposed to many toxins in her work while pregnant; she also smoked. Others have been children of conventional farm workers who are routinely exposed to agricultural chemicals. Still others live near toxic industries.
Examples of toxic exposure from my caseload include: a paint factory, fracking activities, and a mom who accepted flu, Rhogam and DPT shots while pregnant. I also find that children whose immune systems are challenged at birth struggle as well – if they were exposed to lots of antibiotics in utero, or to antibiotics during delivery or while breastfeeding. This appears to set up problems too. The other important piece is GMO foods, which entered our food supply by the mid-1990s. I advise all my patients to avoid GMO foods as much as possible.
QUESTION: What is your therapeutic approach?
It’s a process. Basically I leverage nutrition to replenish tissues so that children can detoxify and grow more robustly. First I sort the nutrition problems, and there are standard clinical methods to do that for infants and children. Looking at growth pattern, detailed info on what is being eaten and how much, and gestational history are key. I review the full medical history.
If needed, I will engage lab tests for a variety of possibilities from iron status to heavy metal exposure to inflammation from foods and gut biome. I use functional nutrition assessments and integrative tools, from special diets to supplements and herbs. Once we’ve sorted all the potential problems, we methodically restore health. You can’t do it all at once. I prioritize gut health and work to get kids eliminating normally every day. Great diets and supplements don’t do much good in a gut that can’t absorb them.
Food is the only thing we have to run all these systems and machinery in the body. It all comes from what we extract from food. If the food is inflammatory, or sub-par, or not enough, or full of toxins and additives, or if the gut is not working well, then children can’t thrive. Their brains are sputtering. They can’t learn, grow, or develop to potential. I find the blocks to that, and help them get there. If they’re using other therapies (speech, OT, ABA), nutrition intervention makes these work faster and better, because the brain can get what it needs to function better from food. It’s always great when my clients’ MD providers get on board with nutrition, because parents need the support. It’s hard work.
QUESTION: How does your work address the gut/brain connection in your clients?
If food isn’t absorbed well, it won’t reach the brain – and the brain needs nutrients every minute more than any other tissue. So many nutrition factors influence the brain, and of course, every cell in the body. The gut is foundational here. This is actually where many parents get tripped up with this stuff – they try special diets or this or that supplement, or even a psych med, without assessing what is going on in the gut first. Can your child even absorb that anti-anxiety supplement or medicine you tried? Is there enough food to begin with? Does your child eat enough protein to run brain chemistry in the first place? Is it inflammatory protein? Let’s find out first. Those are the questions I help parents answer.
The gut should allow for calm, reliable digestion without pain, constipation, diarrhea, or discomfort. If a child is dependent on medications like Miralax or Prevacid, I work to improve their digestion so they don’t need those, because they interfere with digestion and can exacerbate the problem with long term use.
QUESTION: There are many different healing diets. How does one know where to start?
I work with all these diets and have for many years: GF/CF/SF, Weston Price, GAPS, SCD, Paleo, Body Ecology, Feingold, Low Oxalate, rotation diets, yeast free diet, ketogenic diets, modified Atkins diets, and even elemental diets.
What’s most important is meeting parents where they can begin. There are zealots for every diet, but not all parents are there yet – the GAPS people get mad at the GF/CF people, the SCD people feel turfy about their stuff, the Paleo people are basking in their moment and so on – it’s so silly – everyone gets “judgey” — this is of no use to families who are overwhelmed and just need help getting started. And all the diets have their merits. The key is matching the kid to the intervention. Not even to the diet, but to what that one child needs. I usually end up with some sort of individualized hybrid intervention for a patient.
Some parents can only start by not giving candy every day – literally! A family may really struggle there. There are kids out there living on M&M’s and Skittles, and some milk — I’m not kidding! This is all they’ll eat! They are given this stuff in their ABA trials (Applied Behavior Analysis) as rewards. Their pediatricians do nothing about it.
Other parents do a fantastic job with providing a perfect Nourishing Traditions diet, with bone broths and meat and a no grains protocol that they read about online — only to have their kid wither into failure to thrive. It doesn’t mean it was a bad diet, it means it was wrong for that child. It is really important to keep the priority on the kid’s wellbeing, not on how perfect a Weston Price cook you are.
Another common trouble spot is the SCD diet (Specific Carbohydrate Diet), which uses nuts and eggs. If the kids can’t digest nuts and eggs – this will be a sure fail. Kids are growing, and can’t wait months and months for this method of gut restoration, when the key proteins and fats the diet provides can’t be eaten. You have to find a workaround and it may not be SCD.
QUESTION: Do these diets work for all families?
Many parents can’t do a specialized diet with their kids. They’re overwhelmed. They like the attention they get from our health care system, with broken kids. They can’t do this battle against doctors, unless they are very clear in their own direction as parents. It’s a huge battle, sometimes with Child Protective Services getting involved. You’re a “good mom” when you bring your kid in for a feeding tube. You’re a “crazy mom” when you refuse the tube and put your kid on a GAPS diet (Gut and Psychology/Physiology Diet).
Major dietary changes require desperation. What I’ve witnessed, sadly, since beginning my practice in 1999, is that now that autism and feeding tubes and all these horrific outcomes are so common, younger parents are more asleep than 15 or 20 years ago. These things are now routine. It’s normalized.
Young parents are buying the media push about being “scientific”. They think all these medical interventions are smart, including multiple vaccine doses, vaccines in pregnancy, GMO food, and so on.
There’s a disconnect. None of these things are proven safe or healthy. Even as their kids get sicker and more disabled, parents would rather fit in with societal norms — even if it means disabling their children. They don’t want to go against the current and find another way. It’s a tragic thing but it is human nature.
What I do in my practice is part nutrition and part reconnecting parents — moms especially — with their own inner beacon, the intuition that helps them decide what their children need.
QUESTION: You indicated that you are finding that young parents seen to be more disconnected from the problems that they are seeing with their children. Where is this coming from?
A lot has changed in the last several years. There is a whole push to label people as unscientific or as fools if they question anything about vaccinations or even medical care. There is now a hostility that did not exist when I first started doing this work around 1999-2000.
Back then, parents could easily see, based on their own memories, when a child was injured by vaccines, because the children didn’t look like other children that they had seen. Today, I almost wonder if people aren’t noticing vaccine injuries, because so many children [have them and] are not developing normally.
I had a parent in my office recently telling me that her child was 17 months old and had just started crawling and the pediatrician had told the parents that was fine. I didn’t in any way react or respond, but I thought “WOW, that’s not fine!” That is not normal! That is quite delayed. [In 1997] when my son was 9 months old and was not crawling, he was already getting early intervention services. So, somehow this current generation of parents has been almost hoodwinked into believing that this is all OK — but it is not OK!
QUESTION: Please say more about this. What is normal?
My sister recently shared a video clip with me on Facebook, which was one of those silly pet videos, but it actually intrigued me. It showed a very young infant sitting on the floor in front of a pet cat. The baby was not old enough to be walking [6 to 10 months old]. It was a chunky, healthy, and alert baby.
Video of Baby Interacting with a Pet Cat. (The important segment with the baby is at the beginning of the video.)
[The video shows a baby looking directly into the eyes of the cat. The baby is really relating to the cat while he eats a piece of bread. The baby offered the cat his own food. The cat takes a big bite of the food, and then the baby puts the food back in his own mouth.]
I just thought the video of this baby is so normal. The baby and the cat are having a conversation with food. This is so normal and this is not what many babies can do at this age.
The first thing I noticed is that the baby has excellent motor and social skills. He is doing things many infants I meet don’t ever do, or do much later in life. For example:
1. He is sitting up. This requires strong trunk and postural control. He is not flopping over.
2. He already has pincer grasp. [The thumb and fingers are working together to hold and pick up objects.] Many American parents fuss over this milestone for months and months. That is, can your toddler pick up a raisin?
3. Both hands and arms are working together to hold the bread, and are working together to reach out and offer the bread to the cat. This requires a lot of good neuromotor development. Both halves of the brain must work in concert. And trunk strength is spot on so that as he reaches over with the bread, he doesn’t fall forward.
4. The baby has excellent oral motor skills. He is able to bite and chew and coordinate the swallowing of food. This is rotary chewing emergent. I have 3 and 4 year old kids in my practice who have not accomplished this and they are going to occupational therapy to learn this kind of feeding skill.
5. The baby’s gaze is on the cat’s face and eyes. Eye contact is strong. The baby has sustained interest in the social connection.
6. This social connection requires some emergent awareness of “not-self.” In other words, here is the beginning of theory of mind in action, which spectrum kids can take years to develop and even then may struggle with it.
The baby understands: The cat is a separate being. This being has a mouth too [like me] and eyes. This being eats. This being may like to eat what I am eating. I will share my food. These accomplishments are huge! So much is going on in this baby’s brain!! [These are normal accomplishments for an infant of this age.]
So many kids I meet can’t sit up when they are ten months old. They can’t put food in their own mouth, because their motor skills are so poor. So, here’s this baby all of a sudden doing it like we used to do when I was a kid.
In my practice, I see kids who are delayed. Their motor skills are disorganized. Their social skills are lagging. We don’t realize how dramatically different this baby is from what I see in my practice every day. Of course, I usually see the kids who aren’t developing properly.
I believe that we don’t really have a clear definition of “normal” right now. For example, what is the mid-range [of developmental markers] right now for babies who are 6 to 9 months old? Are those babies sitting up? Are they beginning to feed themselves?
There are striking differences [in developmental progress] that I don’t think parents are really aware of now. They are normalizing it all.
QUESTION: So, a young mom goes into the pediatrician with her child who is two years old and says I don’t think my child is normal. He is not verbal. He doesn’t make eye contact. He doesn’t follow instructions. He doesn’t do what I believe a two year old should do. What should she do if the pediatrician says, “Don’t worry, he is normal, he will grow out of it.” What would you tell that mom when her intuition says, “I am sure that something is wrong” and my doctor says everything is normal?
I would probably tell her that if you have that intuition, then you may need to talk with another healthcare provider. It is important to talk to other people.
You also might want to look for other signs of developmental concern. If your child is a fiercely picky eater, and throws teeth curling tantrums if you don’t give him the milk he likes, or is unable to have a bowel movement unless you give him Mirolax every day, or has needed reflux medicine for more than a month of his life, then any of these signs can indicate that there is not normal digestion and absorption. If digestion and absorption are not normal, then nutrients don’t get to the brain. If nutrients don’t get to the brain then it cannot develop normally. If any of these things are happening at the same time then that is not normal.
Neither is it normal for your baby to have 5 to 8 wet foul smelling stools a day. That is not normal. “Toddler diarrhea” is not normal! In all my training I never heard of toddler diarrhea. I think it is another way to normalize what is not normal. If your toddler is losing stool 3 or 4 times a day, then he or she is not absorbing nutrients. When this happens, I would encourage people to take action on what they are seeing.
These are the kinds of symptoms where I intervene and can redirect pretty quickly for kids. They invariably begin to improve. It is rare when they don’t improve, but it is usually because there is something quite a bit deeper that needs attention, or for whatever reason, the family couldn’t quite follow through on the plan that we set.
A lot of families will go back to their gastroenterologist and say, “Well my nutritionist said…” and the gastroenterologist says “Well your nutritionist is crazy.” Sometimes parents get caught in the crossfire between professionals. And again, this is where your own intuition as a parent needs to be the boss of you. It is up to you. You are free to decide what advice you are going to follow.
It has gotten a little dicier lately. I worked with an infant who had bowel infections. We saw these on stool test results. The report indicated that the infant needed antibiotic treatment. I let the mother know right away that she needed to let her doctor know about this. Well the doctor refused to treat the infection, and the baby has now ended up in the hospital for continuing to be unable to gain weight and grow, and it now has a feeding tube in its stomach. All of that could have been avoided if the mom had just drawn the line in the sand.
But once you walk into a hospital you are at a disadvantage in a scenario like that, because of the threat of Child Protective Services. Parents are told, “If you don’t do it this way, we are going to take this baby away.” So, think carefully before you engage “help” that doesn’t really help you. It is the societal expectation that moms are going to go along [with whatever the doctor says] but be very careful, because you might end up in a very different place than you might want with your child.
We need to maintain our freedom [to make healthcare choices]. We have to protect that and guard that, because it can very easily be lost.
QUESTION: It is estimated that there are some two million children on the autism spectrum, and you, of course, can’t help all of them. How can parents know if what they are currently doing is the right approach?
[The autism spectrum includes children and adults] who are anywhere from very low functioning and non-verbal and non-communicative, to very high functioning [children and adults] who are somewhat social who have certain features of autism or Asperger’s syndrome. It is a wide spectrum. In my world, since I am not a psychologist or a psychiatrist, what I am looking at is the characteristics of the spectrum that relate to how a child is using food, his toxicity, and inflammation, and things like that. Those things definitely run across everybody on the spectrum. I have been working in this niche since 1999, and I have never met a child with these features — with or without a diagnosis — who did not have something awry with inflammation, allergies, toxicity, feeding problems, bowel problems, etc. It all goes together.
First of all, I encourage parents to trust their own instincts above anything else. No doctor – nobody – knows your child like you know your child. You don’t have to know how to medically intervene, but you do need to know when you feel that you have a good fit [with the service provider] – “I like this person and it feels right!” We all have the capacity to feel and that is my number one thing. This is just a “click” that should occur. [The relationship needs to feel like it is working well for your child.]
The second thing that I encourage parents to click with is your child’s progress. Your child should be getting better. Let’s say you are working with someone on these pieces of nutrition or biomedical intervention, and three months have gone by and there is no difference, then it’s time to question [the treatment approach]. If it has been six months then it is definitely time to question.
When I work with families, I expect to see shifts fairly quickly as long as parents are doing what I tell them to do. This is not always easy for parents, because changing food in a home where there are other kids is not always an immediate process. I tell them that this should not take long – there should be results. Sometimes they might do worse, which could be expected because of making interventions, but it should not stay that way.
It is not OK if your child stops growing very well or stops eating. Children are not little adults — they don’t have time for their bodies to wait to get better. They are growing and there is a window of opportunity [for maturation]. If your child has not reached the level of progress or growth that you would like to see, then it is time to move on. I have found that a really correctly managed nutrition intervention can make a dramatic difference in a child’s life, and it can do that usually within six months.
If that does not happen, and you have truly followed every possibility on this part of the path, then I direct parents to referrals, so that they can look deeper. They may need to look specifically at the immune system and other possibilities. The nutrition piece may have been a really important upstream part of the puzzle. It perhaps helped the child become healthier, clearer, and more able to manage the next layer. Often there is a really deep layer that can respond to immunoglobulin therapy or things that certain physicians specialize in.
QUESTION: There are some parents who have become highly discouraged by what the conventional medical care system has done to their children. They are very reluctant to participate in it any further. This can include adults and children. They often have serious digestive problems, and related problems such as impaired brain function and emotional reactivity. They have come to the conclusion that they are better off on their own with the internet and reference books. What would you advise people in this situation?
Frankly, I don’t recommend going out on your own. I recommend that people get professional guidance, especially if your child is seriously injured. I meet many children like this who already have a feeding tube inserted because they are not growing at all. Their families have been traumatized and their children have been physically traumatized, and it is all sanctioned pediatrics. Everyone is thinking they are doing their best. I don’t think there are any people out there trying to harm these children, but at the end of the day, the children are harmed. They are not getting better. They can’t eat real food, etc.
In situations, for example, where children are very low functioning and need to be placed in programs during the day to give respite care for parents, I don’t recommend that parents dive in and try to do this themselves, because you will make mistakes. There are people who know how to assist and who have done it before you. Usually parents will try all their network options first thinking that if these don’t work, then I will talk to a nutritionist, but the reality is that the nutrition piece effects everything and when you are using other tools they usually work a lot better, or you no longer need the other tools at all, once your child clears with the physical layers that are impeding their bodies.
Truly, it is heartbreaking for me when I see families, such as one that I helped who had a teenage boy. The family worked diligently for something like 12 years to help their son. They provided good biomedical intervention, but this boy was still about to get a feeding tube. He was unable to attend school anymore, because he was too weak. Finally, the family reached out to me and we found some very simple, but somehow overlooked, pieces of his intervention that no one had addressed. Within six months he gained 30 pounds. He was back at school. He was jumping on a trampoline. Life can really change for these kids with the right help.
I think most of us as moms get that intuition about seeking help. Our intuition will direct us to the right help. That is part of the package as a mom. We have intuition. We have it and it is a matter of paying attention to it.
QUESTION: Are there any lists of dieticians or other people who specifically would be qualified to do the kind of work that you do?
There is not a list of dieticians. I left my professional organization, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, over 20 years ago after working hard with the organization. If you heard the news recently, they just got more egg on their face for putting their seal on Kraft Singles as being healthy food for kids. That is the kind of stuff they do. At various times they approached me and asked me for a written piece on autism, for example, and in each case they rejected it. In my opinion, and I know this sounds harsh, they have had zero leadership there at all [in this area].
I often get contacted by dieticians from around the country to teach them. I would love to, but I can’t go on a volunteer mission to train dieticians.
Other professionals are also working hard to provide the nutrition piece. Some dieticians can do it. This has been a labor of love for me for nearly twenty years, because of what happened to my own child. Dieticians working in hospitals do not do this, because like the physicians working there, they have to adhere to a certain model and they are not allowed to step out of that box.
There are other groups of nutritionists with different kinds of training. People are popping up all over the country calling themselves coaches. One of my favorite sites is TACA (Talk about Curing Autism) https://www.tacanow.org/. They have nice resources for parents.
Whomever you would choose to work with, should absolutely have training in pediatric nutrition. I have found this to be very important for the work I do and for the kids that I help. My master’s degree in public health had training in maternal and child health and infant health. We also had pediatric rotations. This background is crucial.
You cannot go see a nutritionist who has hung out a shingle, taken some courses in toxicity and functional nutrition, and then trust your baby to this person. They need to have training in child development, infant growth patterns, and things like this. This kind of training is really game changing for these little ones. Some experience and training with this kind of nutrition, and affiliation with a physician who has pediatric training is important.
Parents who have worked with very well meaning and well trained professionals such as psychiatrists and naturopaths, who did not have training in pediatric nutrition and development, may find that things have gone badly, [because the professionals were not fully aware of the differences in nutritional needs and developmental stages for infants and children.]
QUESTION: What questions should you ask when evaluating a potential nutritional specialist to make sure you have found a qualified helper?
When you are interviewing a potential nutritionist, you need to ask questions. [Don’t be shy! You are hiring the person to provide a service. They will be your consultant and advisor.]
How many children have you worked with?
What is your training and experience in pediatric nutrition?
What are the challenges that you see for infants and children and teens?
What are the nutritional pitfalls that you see in working with children? How do you get around them?
[When working with a nutritionist] it’s not just a matter of running a bunch of lab tests and then we will give your child a bunch of supplements. This kind of approach can fail. It can go well for a lot of kids and it can fail for a lot of kids. It doesn’t mean that it is a bad thing, it just means that you need a different fit if it fails.
QUESTION: When I read your book, Special-Needs Kids Eat Right: Strategies to Help Kids on the Autism Spectrum Focus, Learn, and Thrive, I was quite impressed by your chapter on probiotics. I was interested to learn how supplementation with specific probiotic strains is helpful for certain physical and emotional conditions. What is the new research in this area telling us?
I think that this is a really exciting niche of practice. It is also getting more attention in the mainstream world. Now we have people talking about fecal transplants being very helpful. There are all kinds of possibilities there. We know that specific strains of bacteria [in the gut] relate to mood and anxiety or to behavioral volatility, which are big challenges for children on the autism spectrum.
There was at least one case published in (I think the New York Times) a year or two ago, where a father felt compelled to come forward to share his son’s story. He used a fecal transplant for his son and it made an absolutely dramatic difference for that boy.
This is where the effort should be going. It is so frustrating. I can’t even call it foot dragging, because no one is even moving toward this therapy. In terms of a large research commitment this would be fantastic if we could see research here.
What is so amazing right now is that all of these therapies that you really can’t patent are the things that are coming out as the front runners. Fecal transplants, probiotics, just naturally occurring bacteria, certain phytochemicals or extracts from foods are all therapeutically very beneficial – and Monsanto doesn’t own them, so they don’t get very far. The solutions are right in front of us and we need to help people see them.
The challenge of course is – where do you find someone who would do a fecal transplant? There are great physicians everywhere, and I have asked some of my favorites here in Colorado about this. They are very hush-hush. They say, “Well I know someone, but it is not in this state …” They are afraid and rightly so, because they could get into huge trouble.
QUESTION: Are there some people who can’t be helped by nutritional approaches?
It is my pleasure to help the parents who are ready to be helped, but many of them of them come to me expecting things to change while they continue to use the very tools in our pediatric healthcare system that may have caused the problem for their child. They don’t want to hear that. They kind of want it both ways. That is tough for me, because I don’t know what to say to those people.
When a mom comes in and proudly says that she got her flu shot and her TDaP shot during this pregnancy as well as Rhogam, all of which have mercury and aluminum, and then she is wondering why her child is exhibiting odd behaviors, then I really don’t know what to say. If she is fully delighted to give the child every vaccine they tell her to give the child, then maybe we shouldn’t even proceed, because it’s not going to work out. Nutrition can always help, but it is better to avoid the toxins to begin with.
Steps for Healing Vaccine Damage through Nutritional Intervention
Judy Converse describes seven steps that should be followed when introducing nutritional changes to bring about healing from vaccines, antibiotics, and environmental toxins. She described these in detail in her book, Special-Needs Kids Eat Right. The following paragraphs have been copied from pages 32 through 36. The paragraphs were edited slightly for brevity. This information points out the range of therapeutic intervention that can be involved in the healing process. The full details are presented in her book for those who want additional information.
Judy Converse indicates that these steps are to be used in the order they are presented to achieve safe and effective dietary changes. Leaving any one of these steps undone, partly done, or reversing/altering the sequence usually means the special diet intervention does not go as well.
1. Check your child’s basic nutrition status first. Whether this is done by you or your provider, this means assuring that your child is growing entirely as expected and his current food intake is adequate. Ideally, do this before special diet measures are begun. If nutrition status is compromised even a little, this means that some of your child’s learning, developmental, or behavior challenges are due to inappropriate total food intake and/or compromised growth status. Fixing these must come early in the special diet plan, or success with other tools such as supplements and chelation will be impeded.
2. Correct bowel flora. Bowel flora are the microbes humans need in the GI tract to help digest and absorb food, and fend off invasive pathogens (viruses, microbial parasites, or detrimental bacteria). Good bowel flora — the helpful bacteria for your gut — are needed to keep the lining of the GI tract healthy and keep bowel habits normal. Newborns especially rely on the right bowel bacteria to help them digest first feedings and develop normal immune function. Antibiotics, toxic metal exposures, vaccines, and certain viral or bacterial exposures can disrupt bowel flora.
3. Replace foods that your child doesn’t tolerate with foods of equal or better nutritional value. The usual suspects are: gluten, casein, and soy. Lab studies may or may not be needed to discern exactly which foods are most inflammatory for your child’s immune system or GI tract. A common mistake is replacing cow’s milk with nutritionally vacant milks made from rice, potato, or almond. While these are suitable for baking or cooking, they are inadequate milk substitutes for children who rely on fluid milk for protein and fats.
4. Replenish micronutrients—that is, vitamins and minerals. Some may be best used at therapeutic (high) doses, some may be fine at typical doses, and some may be best used in specific formulations. How to do this depends on clinical signs and symptoms your child is showing, and sometimes on lab studies.
5. Check for signs and symptoms of GI problems that have not resolved after you’ve used the first four steps for at least four to six weeks. If they persist, revisit the first three steps with your provider or gastroenterologist to check if your child needs deeper diagnostics for gut inflammation or reflux, infectious disruptive gut microbes, or prescription medications that may alleviate symptoms. Some children need stronger or repeat rounds of antifungal medication to succeed with Step 2.
6. Consider heavy metals screening and treatment (chelation). Toxic loads of metals such as mercury or lead have been noted in children with autism to a degree that is higher than typical peers. These metals indefinitely impair digestion, immune function, cellular chemistry, and nerve function. Many children with autism have improved dramatically with chelation, which is a process that forces expulsion of these toxic metals from the body. It is a challenging process that requires the skilled guidance of a healthcare provider. Children should be in the best possible nutrition status prior to chelation, and need monitoring during chelation for status of essential mineral nutrients.
7. Consider measures to reduce viral load or correct immune dysregulation. If all measures above have been tried for a year with little progress, it is time to check viral titers in your child. Many children with autism have been found to have extremely high antibody levels to some of the viruses they were vaccinated against. Treating this is effective in some cases.
Evaluating the Success of Your Interventions
Judy Converse provided these guidelines in her book, Special-Needs Kids Eat Right.
Plan to get your child through the first four steps in four to six weeks—a quick pace to accomplish a lot, but doable when you plan the needed changes in your kitchen ahead of time.
Choose a stretch of time when you can give this the attention it needs. Some families like to start during school breaks, when they don’t have too many plans. Others prefer to start during school in order to get teacher feedback. In that case, it works best to keep the diet changes quiet at first. This will give you an opportunity to get completely unsolicited, unbiased feedback from teachers, friends, or family. It also means you avoid having to explain plans for a new diet to people who may or may not be supportive. Expect to notice some clear shifts in your child’s abilities or behavior in this early phase. If you don’t, keep going; there is more work to do. If your child has lived in a state of autism, chronic illness, allergy, asthma, sensory dysregulation, or ADHD for years, it will take time for all the layers that may have been physiologically challenged to right themselves.
Plan to work with nutrition interventions indefinitely. This does not mean your household will be weighted down with unbearable diet restrictions for years to come. It may mean that you use some of these measures for many years, whether it ends up being a supplement or two, avoiding just one inflammatory food, or rotating measures throughout the months to boost immune function and focus.
When to Get More Help
Judy Converse explains that six to eight months is a very reasonable time frame in which to see dramatic changes with a special diet measure. If you haven’t seen positive changes, something is missing from the intervention. Judy Converse indicates that out of the hundreds of children she has worked with on this, perhaps a dozen have shown no response. That is, their appetites remained rigid, bowel habits stayed the same, and developmental features did not shift. In these cases, deeper digging with specialists in chelation therapies, GI care, or immune therapies usually yields results. The sooner you move toward whatever other biological treatments may be helpful, the better, and your child will have the benefit of embarking on those in the best possible nutrition status, if the diet part has been executed well.
If signs and symptoms of bowel trouble persist unchanged, or your child has shown no change in developmental signs, even though you’ve implemented an adequate diet—with new foods, the right supplements for your child, and supports for bowel symptoms (Steps 1 through 4)—for eight months, it’s time to ask your provider network for more help.
As you implement diet measures, be aware of these signs and symptoms of inflammation from foods or malabsorption — they should be diminishing: Mixed irritable stools (hard pebbles with loose stool), exceptionally foul stool, a bowel movement less than once every two days, bloating, gas, frequent hiccups, loose or mucousy stool, or stools that are gold, green, black, or gray-white colored.
Another important sign is pain: Children who are nonverbal will express GI pain with tantrums, aggressive or violent behavior, crying, pressing their stomachs on a flat surface (table, floor, pillows), pressing knees to chest, or sleeping with knees to chest. If you see these in your child, the first four steps are likely to help a great deal, if not eradicate this altogether. If you still see your child manifesting pain in this way, your child needs to see a GI specialist to rule out ulcers, esophagitis, persisting reflux, or infection with pathogenic bowel flora such as Helicobacter pylori, Clostridia, Candida, other disruptive bacteria, or parasites. Children with chronic inflammation from foods have more anxiety and more hypersensitivity to noise, light, and tactile input, and avoiding inflammatory foods can improve these symptoms.
Links to Special Healing Diets
I want to include some information about the most common healing diets that were mentioned in this article. These diets are used to help children and adults with recovery from vaccine, antibiotic, and pesticide injuries, all of which affect the functioning of the gut. I am not making a specific endorsement of any diet. I simply want to provide information for those who wish to learn more about these diets. As Judy Converse indicated, “all the diets have their merits.”
Every person is unique and a diet that works for one person may not be the best diet for another. I did my best to try to find the official websites for each diet. In some cases, there are numerous websites that support the diet. If I missed finding the official website for a certain diet or if there are other websites that are more complete, then please understand this was not intentional.
Weston Price Foundation – (Nourishing Traditions)
Yeast free diet (candida diet): http://www.thecandidadiet.com/foodstoeat.htm [There are many others.]
Ketogenic diets: http://www.charliefoundation.org/explore-ketogenic-diet/explore-1/introducing-the-diet [The ketogenic diet was originally designed for eliminating seizures. It is also used to treat metabolic syndrome, Type 2 diabetes, obesity and cancer.]
Modified Atkins diet [Used for managing epilepsy.]
Elemental or hypoallergenic formula diets: http://www.eosinophilicesophagitishome.org/eosinophilic_esophagitis_diets/eoe_elemental_formula_diet/ [There are several other websites. This diet is used for eosinophilic esophagitis and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.]