Lila's Healing Story
Updated: Nov 19, 2020
“I will continue to learn through new experiences... I will never really reach the ‘end’ of my journey.”
The story of my journey down the holistic health path starts when my first child was a year old. About a month after his first birthday, he developed what looked like a simple cold with a runny nose and a low-grade fever. The next day, the congestion had moved to his chest and he started wheezing and having obvious trouble breathing. We took him to the ER and he ended up being admitted overnight because we couldn’t get his oxygen levels up with almost continuous the nebulizer treatments and oxygen. A couple of weeks after this episode, the exact same thing happened, and I vividly remember the triage nurse in the ER saying “Do we have a little asthmatic, here?” I firmly said “No, we do not,” and decided in that moment to figure out how to help my son out of that cycle and avoid that diagnosis.
We only avoided returning to the ER again because I asked for a nebulizer that we could use at home when he started the wheezing, which he did every time he picked up a cold, which he seemed to do every week. During this period I started spending quite a bit of time on the computer looking for things that might have triggered this sudden health issue and ideas for what to do to help him. I don’t remember exactly how, but I eventually came across pediatrician Dr. Jay Gordon’s website, on which he had an article that connected respiratory issues with dairy consumption. Like many parents, my husband and I had excitedly introduced cow’s milk, including cheese and yogurt, to our son when he turned one. He did not like the milk and developed a little rash around his mouth the first time he tried it (now I know that was a big red flag), but he loved cheese of all kinds and yogurt. The day after reading the article, we decided to eliminate dairy from his diet, and I also drastically reduced my intake because he was still nursing. He had one or two minor respiratory episodes after that, but then did not need another nebulizer treatment again until one time shortly after he turned 5.
This was the beginning of my holistic health journey because it opened my eyes to the connection between what we eat and our overall health, and not just to our GI system. I somehow got into reading Suzanne Somers’ health books, which broadened my understanding of the impact what we eat has on our health. This helped prepare me and my husband for dealing with the next event on our mutual health journey. We had both had episodes of food getting stuck in the sphincter between the stomach and esophagus since before we had met. My father had this when I was growing up and had ended up having a procedure to stretch the sphincter out, so I figured I had just “gotten it” from him, but I did think it was interesting that my husband also dealt with this thing that I had assumed was a genetic condition. One night, a piece of chicken got stuck in the middle of my husband’s throat, and nothing we tried could dislodge it. He ended up taking himself to the ER and having to spend the night there to wait for a scope to be put down his throat to physically remove the chicken the next day. The doctor took a biopsy, and at the follow-up appointment told my husband that he had Eosinophilic Esophagitis. The way he described it made my husband think it was a type of allergy, and he asked if something he was eating could have caused it. The doctor told him that it probably was something in his diet, but that there wasn’t really a way to figure out what it was, so he should just take a proton pump inhibitor indefinitely. We decided that since dairy tended to give him GI troubles it would be a good thing to eliminate first in our attempt to figure out what was causing the EE. He never filled the prescription for the PPI and the EE episodes decreased significantly after removing dairy. Neither of us have had another episode of food getting stuck since the diet reformation we made for our third child four years after this.
The next and most recent leg of my health journey centered around my third child. I had noticed some movements he made that seemed “off” and neurological in nature since he was about 2 months old. At 4 months his arms would shake and over- or under-shoot when he reached for things, which looked like intention tremors. He also had balance issues and sensory issues with water in addition to repetitive movements in his arms and wrists. I was just monitoring all of this and trying not to make a big deal about it, thinking his neurological system was just developing differently than my two older kids’ had, until the Halloween when he was 6 months old. I had been pretty good about eating well previous to that weekend because I was breastfeeding him, but decided to indulge in quite a bit of candy, hot chocolate and microwave popcorn during the festivities. On Monday morning, my son started having constant, severe arm and head movements which included his eyes rolling up and to the side. I told his doctor about this, and she recommended he be directly admitted to the hospital to test for seizure activity. Thankfully the testing ruled out seizures, but we left the hospital and pediatric neurology consult with no answers or even suggestions about what was going on with our baby. So, I took to the internet again in another quest for answers.
My search resulted in figuring out the diagnosis of Complex Motor Stereotypies (CMS), which does not have a standard treatment. This ended up being a blessing in disguise, because it meant I had to figure out my own answers, and through my searching I found a Facebook support group for CMS. In this group I met Andi, who was shouting from the virtual rooftops about a diet reformation focused on lowering levels of dietary free glutamate (MSG). Free glutamate is excitatory, and my son’s neurological system appeared to be in a constant state of over-excitement to me, so this diet reformation made a lot of sense. I cut out almost all processed food, dairy and gluten from both of our diets (still nursing) basically overnight when he was 1 year old, and within 3 days his movements decreased significantly. They were only noticeable to my husband and myself occasionally and after a food infraction after about 6 months, and 3 years later they are almost non-existent. His sensory and balance issues have also resolved. Over the last 3 years we have modified our diet from being just low in processed foods and GF/DF, to being full of nutrient-dense delicious food that our whole family thrives on.
Food is not the only important factor in the pursuit of health and wellness, so my journey also includes reforming many aspects of our environment such as our water, and beauty and cleaning products. We also try to avoid pharmaceuticals and supplements as much as possible, as well as radiation/EMF from wireless devices. Our spiritual and emotional health is just as important as the physical , so we include working on those aspects of our health just like we do nutrition.
I am still on my health journey, as we all are, and I do not claim to have all the answers. In fact, I know that I will continue to learn through new experiences and that I will never really reach the “end” of my journey. I am very thankful to have met so many wonderful people on my path, including and especially my dear friends Erin, Tracey and Jen. Community and companionship are other critically important aspects of health and wellness, and I feel very blessed to have these women to walk with, especially when the terrain gets rough.