As my kids started their last week of school on Monday, I realized something big. Really big.
Wyatt hasn’t missed one single day of school this year because of sickness.
For years, Wyatt was sick more often than he was well. He would get croup, which turned into pneumonia or strep, or sometimes both. He was on antibiotics about every six weeks. He took two inhalers, twice a day. Plus Singulair. Plus Zyrtec (though he never tested positive for allergies). Plus various and sundry other medicines as needed. None of it kept him well.
Always hovering around the 40th percentile in height and weight, Wyatt has had to look up (way up) to kids his age, and the doctor told us the daily steroids would probably mean he would always be small. When he was six years old, he could still wear clothes from when he was three.
You know those at-risk kids they talk about every flu season? Wyatt is one of them. One year he got the flu, and while everyone else in the family came through unscathed, the Tamiflu didn’t help Wyatt at all. His temperature rose to 105. As if that wasn’t scary enough, there were complications — pneumonia and strep — which led to a hospital stay where he took multiple IV antibiotics while he lay listless, not talking, not moving, for three days.
Even though we all get immunized each year, I stay on edge when flu season rolls around because I never know what it will bring.
His pediatrician eventually did blood tests which indicated a problem with his autoimmune system. The answer? A prophylactic antibiotic. He would take one antibiotic for a few weeks, and then switch to something different to keep him from building up a resistance to them. If we could just keep him well long enough, his immune system would get stronger and he’d be able to fight off sickness on his own. That was what was supposed to happen.
The sad thing was, even with the constant antibiotics, he kept the same junky cough. He wasn’t as sick, but he sure wasn’t better.
Around that time, we happened upon the book In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. It’s a game changer when it comes to how you think about food, and the preservatives and chemicals found in much of our food. Not long after that, I watched a documentary called Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. The maker of that documentary changed his eating habits (long term, they were closely aligned to those outlined in Michael Pollan’s book) and over the course of a few months, he turned his health around and eliminated the need for all his medications — including a daily steroid that treated an autoimmune disorder. That raised a red flag for me. I thought, maybe if I make similar changes, Wyatt can get better too.
I was willing to try just about anything.
We made sweeping changes. We reduced our meat and dairy. We started drinking more water. We increased our veggies probably twenty-fold. We began eating organic and non-GMO foods whenever possible. We cut out 90 percent of our processed foods, and all of our high-fructose corn syrup. As a general rule, we began to shop the perimeter of the grocery store (where the fresh food is) and we stopped buying food from the center of the store (anything that comes in boxes). We stopped buying food with ingredients we didn’t recognize. We even began making our own bread.
The preservatives, the chemicals, the dyes you find in most foods? They’re harmful. The excessive amounts of sugar and high fructose corn syrup (that’s in almost everything we eat–even things that don’t seem sweet)? Harmful. Studies are showing it time after time.
I won’t say it’s been easy, because it hasn’t been easy at all. Making meals from scratch everyday is time consuming and hard. The kids protest things like asparagus and eggplant regularly, but I put it on the table anyway. I won’t say I don’t miss some of my favorite junk foods. And I will never say that we don’t sometimes break our own rules (s’mores come to mind). But it’s within reason. We do the best we can.
Along the way, a lot of people have told us we are weird, over the top, and silly when it comes to our eating habits. But I don’t care. The proof is clear as day, right here in front of me.
Good, nutritious food may not be the answer to all health problems, but it can make unbelievable changes. People say it’s too hard and they can’t do it. But, it can be done — we have been doing it almost two years now! Any changes, even small ones are beneficial. I can’t recommend it enough.
And, anytime I start thinking about how hard it is to cook so much, or how people think we’re strange? I keep these things in mind:
After improving our eating habits,
- Matt was able to stop taking his high blood pressure medicine
- We are now all at a healthy weight.
- Alyssa no longer needs the two allergy shots she was taking weekly, and no longer takes Singulair. Her allergy problems and related recurring sinus issues have completely disappeared.
- Wyatt was able to stop taking his inhalers, the Singular, and the allergy medicine. All of it!
- Wyatt hasn’t needed antibiotics for more than a year.
- Wyatt has grown more than two inches in the last 10 months, and has gained six pounds. (His jeans are too short for the first time EVER!)
And one of the most telling improvements? The last year before we made these changes, Wyatt missed 29 days — nearly six weeks — of school because of sickness. Even then, he went to school on days he shouldn’t have because missing any more days would’ve resulted in him being retained.
This year, he didn’t miss a single day. He wasn’t sick a single day.
That’s a milestone. The best milestone ever.