My Family's Health Journey
Hi, my name is Ana-Maria. I am a pediatrician and I used to have a family plagued by chronic disease. This is our journey to wellness.
I often get asked,
- How did I manage to get my kids healthy?
- How did my children outgrow their asthma, allergies, eczema?
- How did one of my sons get through school and life without ADHD meds, despite having The Diagnosis?
- How did I manage to fix my gut after 25years of constipation and daily laxative use?
- How did my husband cooperate with the changes in the household?
- How did I manage not to lose my mind while cleaning up our life and lifestyle?
My family's list of chronic diseases:
- Allie - Chronic Asthma on daily inhalers, oral steroids & antibiotics several times a year, eczema, allergies
- Jake - Chronic Snot and ADHD, rounds of antibiotics
- Evan - Horrific Seasonal Allergies (5 medications at one point)
- John - the husband - elevated Blood Pressure, elevated cholesterol, recurrent man colds, and STRESSSSSS
- Me - I have suffered from Irritable Bowel with Constipation since I was in college. It got really bad throughout Medical School and then escalated through residency. In summary, I was on some form of Miralax or Lactulose daily for 25 years. And I thought that was fine. Just an aging thing, a stress thing, a pregnancy thing, a thyroid thing, and so on. No one corrected me either. The meds just got prescribed.
How did Change happen?
Our family’s health journey began in 2007. I went to a nutrition talk sponsored by Beverly Woods, a local elementary school which my kids attended. Seating in the third row, at 7:30AM on a Tuesday morning before work, I got my “AHA!!” Moment. That moment when the clouds part, the fog lifts, and I chose to see the truth about our lifestyle and my mind opened up to possibilities. It’s a moment many of my families and patients have experienced over the years. THE MOMENT when clarity arrives and a great change begins.
- I went home that day, in 2007, a day that lives in infamy at my house, and threw out all the garbage from my pantry - Mac and Cheese in a Box, Cheetos, Doritos, Peanut Butter Crackers (yep the gross orange ones), Jello, etc. My kids stared in horror at all the food going in the trash. That was Day 1.
- Food Coloring - I got rid of food coloring from the pantry. It is harder then you think. Every food in a box that is popular, generally, has food coloring in it. An easy rule of thumb: if the box is colorful on the outside, the items inside, are almost always artificially colored.
- Fruits and Veggies - I added a fruit at every lunch and a vegetable or a fruit at every dinner.
- Fast Food Gone - No more fast food other then Subway.
- Juice Plus - The family started taking Juice Plus because Allergies, Asthma, Eczema, and Sinus Infections were still ravaging the children and occasionally the adults.
- Juice and Chocolate Milk discontinued - Juice and Chocolate Milk got removed from lunch boxes, over a period of a few weeks. I weaned them off by offering the sugared drinks every other day, then only Tuesdays and Thursdays, then once a week, then gone.
- Fruit and Vegetables at Snack - Fruit or vegetable became mandatory for anyone hungry for a snack. To earn the right to a processed food, one must eat something that grows in the earth first. No exceptions. There was some whining initially, but I did not give in. No fruit or veggies, then no snack, because that meant there is no true hunger.
- The Vitamix - We bought The Vitamix Blender (husband was a huge skeptic, but bought “just another blender” for me on Mother’s Day) - BTW that was the first purchase he made when we moved to NZ and had no furniture. Just sayin’!
- More Fruits and Veggies - Fruits and Vegetables became part of breakfast. Here is The Smoothie Process with recipe.
- Artificial Food Ingredients Removed - Food label reading became an art form. If I can't read it, we do not eat it. At first it was exhausting because Cheese-its and Ritz crackers had to go. I had to find alternatives. I had to dig deep. Grocery shopping was going to take forever, but I focused on replacing one item at a time. For example, once I found my favorite brands of "Cheeze-its", I moved on to Ritz Crackers alternatives. Some were hits, some were misses, but I persevered.
- Soda Gone - I gave up soda. My water drinking skyrocketed.
The Change -
- Less allergies and asthma noted in kids. Chronic inhalers went away.
- My bowels became more regular but still on daily meds.
- More Fruits and Veggies - Fruit and Vegetable portion sizes increased and became present Breakfast, Lunch, After-school Snack, Dinner. Veggies became mandatory on all Subway sandwiches. No more chips, only fruit slices at Subway.
- Organic Transition Started- Transition to organic fruits and veggies and organic milk.
- Drinks Simplified - Water and Milk became the only drinks in the house, ever.
- Travel Food - we packed food for road trips to avoid fast food restaurants and garbage eating on the road. Snacks have become - cut up fruits, vegetables, dips, meats, cheese, nut mixes, olives, packaged foods with 5 ingredients or less.
The Change -
- no more antibiotics, no more steroids, eczema improved, less allergy meds
Low Fat Items Removed - Transitioned to Full Fat Organic Milk, Full Fat Dairy of any kind. We said goodbye to any low fat or fat free items.
Omega 3 - Daily Omega 3 as fish oil, flax seed, hemp seeds, chia seeds in smoothies.
Meats Labels Scrutinized - grass fed meat, nitrite free bacon, turkey breast without color or additives for lunches. (Thanks to FedUp the Movie)
Organic Eggs became the norm
- Vacation Eating Adjusted - On vacation we started eating like our every day meals. No more kids meals or menus. We stopped “taking vacations” from eating wholesome foods. This was met with a lot of friction from family members and caused a lot of stress in my marriage. But, it was non-negotiable.
- kids came off all allergy meds, eczema improved significantly, no more asthma meds
- Jake’s 5th grade teacher pointed out the difference in his behavior from Kindergarten to 5th grade. In 2011, Jake went through behavioral therapy with amazing results, and no medication had to be used.
- husband's blood pressure and cholesterol were that of a 20 year old male
- Gluten Free - I gave up gluten. People!! That may have been the hardest thing in the world because I love the taste of beer. But, I was tired of the bloating and feeling horrid (which by the way, everyone told me was in my head). Initially I would do it for a few days, or a couple of weeks, then would fall off the wagon and go back to my old habits. I tried to blame many things for my bloating, until I had to face the truth. After 2 weeks of being gluten free, I felt incredibly better. Interesting fact: thyroid disease and gluten sensitivity are inter-related. (I have thyroid issues)
- Marriage Counseling - This was the year when my husband and I had to face our relationship weaknesses and struggles and marriage counseling began. This is a very important step in a healthy lifestyle. Stressors have to be addressed in order for the gut, the hormones, digestion, sleep, and immune system to work properly.
- Holistic Chef for Work Night Meals - Due to martial stress, I wanted help with dinner and I hired Chef Sherri with The Seasonal Kitchen. Lots of eyebrows were raised at “how fancy” I was becoming. Didn’t care!! Thanks to Sherri, I learned how to prep meals, our vegetable repertoire increased by 100%, we started eating fish regularly, my stress level decreased, meal prep became enjoyable, and my food shopping got even cleaner. John started helping in the kitchen with dishes and even meal prep. Family dinners became less chaotic. Did I mention the importance of stress reduction?
- bloating went away
- kids doing fantastic in all aspects of life
- marriage balance and happiness rediscovered
- VSL 3 - I was introduced to VSL3, a probiotic studied in people with inflammatory bowel disease. I reviewed the literature and was amazed. I gave it a go. I had tried previous brands before and was not impressed with the probiotic concept overall.
- Within 48hrs, I developed normal bowel habits for the first time in 22 years without medications. I was stunned!!
- no bloating, regular bowel habits
- no more colds lasting longer then 3 days in the house, no more stomach bugs
- no more antibiotics, no ADHD meds
- no more Man Colds
- Transition to chemical free cleaners.
- No more antibacterial soap
- Transition to cleaner skin care products - Pure Haven Essentials Hyaluronic Acid, Lip Balm, Hair De-tangler, 100% Pure Night Cream and Eye Cream. I started using the Think Dirty app to evaluate my skin care and cosmetics.
- Stress Reduction - John quit his job and we moved to New Zealand where calmness reigns and work life balance is an actual reality.
- The children are and have been on track. No devices allowed in the bedrooms.
- John's sleep is so much better in light of the stress reduction. Thanks New Zealand living!
- My sleep is another matter. It has been dis-regulated by the stress of 2012. Since that time, I have become dependent on Clonazepam for staying asleep. Despite great sleep hygiene habits, many regular medications trials, and acupuncture, I could not wean myself off. On my path towards a functional medicine degree, I have learned about the many options out there for those with sleep troubles. An important thing I uncovered is that many, if not most of us, are magnesium depleted. Interestingly, those who are magnesium depleted suffer from sleep latency issues, which means trouble with staying asleep. This topic requires it's own blog post........... coming soon. Anyway, now that I have repleted my magnesium levels, I have added chamomile dried herbs and my clonazepam dose is now 75% less. This may also need it's own post.
Summary of Our Journey
- No fast food,
- No soda,
- No food coloring in food
- No juice or chocolate milk in lunch boxes
- No juice or sport drinks (they should be ashamed for even calling it this) on the sports field
- Organic Fruits and Vegetables
- Fruit and Veggie Goals 8-11 servings a day. Fruits or veggies are present at all meals and snacks.
- Grass Fed Meats/Eggs/Dairy
- Full Fat Dairy from a local company that minimally pasteurizes the milk
- Snacks have 5 ingredients or less
- Snacks only with ingredients that are food
- No food coloring in medication - this is still in progress.
- Fitness has always been regular for all and it has never been an issue, thankfully.
- Stress controlled - a work in progress.
- Sleep has been non-negotiable and on track for kids. No devices in bedrooms! I am currently cleaning up my sleep
- Cleaning up skin care, soaps, detergents, cleaning supplies - a work in progress, 80% there.
- Kids - juice plus, omega 3 , vitamin D
- Husband - juice plus
- Me - juice plus, vit D 2000 int units, magnesium 800mg nightly, chamomille 800mg nightly, biotin 5,000 mg, omega 3, kombucha
- no illnesses, no antibiotics, no steroids, no eczema, no asthma, no allergies,
- ADHD symptoms that simply annoy me, but are not interfering with normal teen life
- regular and healed Gut for everyone, especially me
- no cholesterol or blood pressure issues
- colds last 3-4 days, if they arrive at all
Helpful Charts for Clean Living
What about you?
I would love to hear how you have cleaned up your lifestyle or your family's. I am always looking for families or individuals to highlight on my blog and use as inspiration for others.