PANDAS : My Son’s Healing Journey – Part II
In my last article, I shared with you a very personal story regarding my son’s health. He was diagnosed with PANDAS, which is a temporary problem caused by inflammation in the basal ganglia of the brain. This inflammation is triggered by an infection, such as Group A beta-hemolytic Strep. The immune system reacts to the Strep infection, and creates antibodies that cross-react with protein components (“antigens”) in the basal ganglia of the brain. This sudden and acute-onset of brain inflammation causes a distinct subset of symptoms that rapidly afflict the child.
If I had listened to certain professionals, my son would have been misdiagnosed either with ADHD, Autism or even Tourette. This is why I had encouraged you to do your own research regarding your child’s symptoms and behaviour. It might not be what it seems.
I had also mentioned how living through this experience has inspired me to further immerse myself into holistic health by continuing my studies specializing in digestion and immunity health, so that I can educate and help other families who have children dealing with digestive and behavioural challenges.
I knew there was an explanation for my son’s health challenges and I continued my mission to discover the root cause by using a functional approach. This means, I had to “back it up” and peel back the many layers to figure out why my son’s system became the perfect host for PANDAS.
I had to go way back in time and take inventory of all of his symptoms and triggering events since the day he was born. The earliest sign of discomfort I could remember was acid reflux when he was just a few weeks old. He would be in such pain after eating and could not sleep more than 45 minutes at a time.
He was given a high dose of Prevacid® until the age of 18 months, which did not really help his situation. Taking this anti-acid actually created more problems. If I would have known then what I know today, I would have taken an alternative route. Let me explain.
If you don’t digest your food, your immune system may attack it.
When we are healthy, we produce a strong acid in our stomachs; so strong that it resembles battery acid. This helps us to break apart our foods so we can access the nutrients found in them. When we have low acid in our stomach, we can’t break our foods down, which can lead to symptoms of indigestion, deficiencies of nutrients, and bacterial infections. Or, worse yet, your immune system attacks the food that hasn’t been broken down leading to food allergies; which is what happened to my child.
Digestive issues are so common; it’s likely that at least 25% of the people reading this article are suffering from GERD or dyspepsia or know someone who is. Without knowing, many who are taking medications for these issues may have caused food sensitivities and food allergies.
When someone visits the doctor complaining of GERD or dyspepsia, they are most likely prescribed an acid blocking medication called a Proton Pump Inhibitor (PPI), Dexilant®, Prevacid® or Prilosec®.
What I understand now is that my son’s stomach was producing acid for a reason and needed to continue producing it and not have it suppressed by medication. This high acid content allowed him to break apart bonds in the food he ate. This is one of the most important steps in the process called digestion. When we break apart our food properly in the stomach, the small intestines can then absorb the unlocked nutrients; bacteria and yeasts won’t overgrow and cause dysbioisis, and the immune system won’t have any large food particles to attack.
Science is showing that acid-blocking medications are increasing our risk for food allergies.
Numerous studies and FDA warnings are beginning to highlight that certain nutrient deficiencies like vitamin B12, iron, vitamin C, calcium, and magnesium often occur when people take acid blocking medications for long periods of time; which was the case with my son. But few people are talking about another side-effect of not breaking your food down: food reactions.
Food Allergies and Low Stomach Acid
It is estimated that over 70% of the body’s immune cells are found in the intestinal tract. These cells are designed to inspect the contents of the intestines for possible foreign invaders like harmful bacteria or viruses. If there is anything that looks like harmful bacteria, fungi, viruses, or parasites, the immune cells will launch an “attack” against the foreign invader and call for reinforcements.
When proteins from our foods are properly digested, they are literally broken down into tiny fragments. If there is not adequate acid in the stomach, proteins are not broken down well. This leaves the protein fragments in a size and shape that can be mistaken for an invader and cause an immune reaction.
Babies and Children are More at Risk for Food Allergies
Is this the same for kids? Yes. A study in Pediatric Allergy and Immunology in 2013 examined what happened to children varying in age from 0-18 when they were on acid blocking medication for one year. When researchers compared 4724 children that were not on medications with another 4724 set of age-matched children that were on gastric blocking medications, they found a 367% increase in allergies in the medicated group.
If your baby has colic, the best option to reduce or eliminate symptoms is to have the breastfeeding mother do an elimination diet; which I should have done. If you are breastfeeding, there are many things you can do to get to the root of your infant’s digestive issues. Removing the offending foods from your diet as well as adding in gut-healing nutrients can do wonders.
So by “backing it up”, I was able to pinpoint what went wrong. When he was first diagnosed with acid reflux, a simple teaspoon of apple cider vinegar diluted in some water with a good probiotic would have done the trick, as well as an elimination diet for mama.
This personal story I have shared with you has been a great teaching source for me and I hope it will provide you with a new perspective on how to deal with your child’s health issues as well as your own.