It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Friday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!
My son, Gabriel, was born a bit early and was small from the start, 5lbs 14 ounces, but the doctors told us he was healthy. My wife had made the decision to nurse exclusively as she believes it is the healthiest option. My wife and I ate a normal, varied, and healthy diet consisting of whole grains, fruit, vegetables, meat, etc. She and I were both healthy and in good shape. From the start it was apparent Gabriel was a colicky baby. He spit up large amounts of breast milk and screamed for hours on end. The doctors told us that plenty of babies had colic, and although it was rough, he would grow out of it. Early on, one doctor recommended that my wife cut dairy from her diet. She did and there was some mild improvement. Later on, other doctors decided Gabriel suffered from acid reflux and prescribed medication. The medication may have helped a bit but, but my wife attributes the improvement more to propping up his crib. My wife tried soy formula for a while, but Gabriel spit most of it up after the meal.
His toddler years were not much better. Mealtime was always a battle with lots of screaming. At this time he developed digestive issues; he would go from being constipated to having bouts of diarrhea continuously.
When he turned three and started preschool his health became progressively worse. He constantly had a cold which turned into bronchitis often (four or five times that year). The doctors prescribed antibiotics every time. Everyone, including the doctors, told us that getting sick your first year in preschool is normal and with each cold defeated your body’s immune system becomes stronger. I remembered my childhood; I got bronchitis twice a year every year until I was in middle school. I figured everything happening was just part of growing up. Thankfully, my wife did not accept this.
After a year of continuous sickness mixed with antibiotics, my wife started looking for answers in his food. On Mondays, at around two in the morning, Gabriel would wake with an intense cough that many times became so bad he would vomit. We had a Sunday night tradition of pizza and movie. My wife, thinking it might be the dairy, made us cut out the pizza as well as all other dairy. Gabriel was still sick with intense coughing but the “super sickness” of Monday mornings disappeared. Soon after, she took Gabriel to see a naturopathic doctor, Dr. Hogg. In addition to telling us to watch for certain symptoms like eye-crusties, excessive earwax, and whininess, he immediately told my wife to take my son off wheat. Two weeks later we saw some improvement, but he still had the constantly runny nose, croup cough, and earwax so thick the doctor could not see his eardrum. Dr. Hogg told us to remove oats, soy, and corn from his diet as well. The results were amazing. It has been two and half years and he has not had bronchitis since, nor has he needed antibiotics for anything. He has had the occasional cold, but always beats it within three days.
My wife became very strict with his food. Determined to keep him as healthy as possible we went all organic and Gabriel’s diet consisted mostly of brown rice, quinoa, millet bread, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. Animal protein was included two to three times a week. Although he didn’t get bronchitis again, mealtime continued to be hell. His appetite was nonexistent. He was already small for his age so my wife would make him sit until he finished everything, which always took well over an hour. There was lots of yelling and tears involved. He also constantly complained about stomach aches, went from being constipated for a couple days to having diarrhea, and at three years old developed hemorrhoids. The only meal that Gabriel really enjoyed (and devoured) was during our weekend trip to the diner. Every Sunday morning he would eat a large plate of scrambled eggs, bacon, and hash browns. I was always amazed at how much and quickly he would eat on those mornings, and he always begged for more bacon.
My wife and I also noticed that when we gave Gabriel meat, he devoured it. When he was in kindergarten, we made the decision that we would give him a serving of meat: beef, chicken, pork, or fish at least one meal per day. We noticed an immediate uptick in his energy level. While his energy and mood improved dramatically, he was still having serious stomach issues. Around this time my brother was really talking up the new “primal diet.” He had always had lots of colds as a child with ear infections and asthma. He spoke about his new diet like some miracle cure. I figured he was exaggerating. He sent me two books, The Paleo Solution and his favorite cookbook, Primal Blueprint Quick and Easy Meals.
After watching Gabriel get progressively less sick with each change in his diet, I looked into the whole Primal thing. I read the two books my brother sent me and found Mark’s Daily Apple. My wife was still very concerned amount Gabriel’s symptoms: Eye-crusties, excessive earwax, and hemorrhoids. At this point the only grains left in Gabriel’s diet were brown rice and quinoa, but they made up a substantial part of his diet. My wife and I discussed the possibility of going grain free over the summer of 2011.
After a full two years of diet experimentation, Gabriel, at six years old and 32 lbs, went grain-free on September 1st 2011. In addition to going grain-free, we added eggs every morning and increased his intake of meats, avocados, nut butters, and sweet potatoes. Within the first month his stomach issues disappeared, as did his hemorrhoids. He did start to complain about his knees and ankles aching a bit. He looked taller to me so I measured him; he had grown an inch in one month! His appetite, for the first time in his life, exploded. In the morning he now eats three eggs, a salad, a banana covered in peanut or almond butter, and raisins. Some mornings he is still hungry so I keep sweet potatoes in the fridge for him to eat in the car. Lunch and dinner are both much larger with a full portion of meat and massive amounts of fruits, veggies, nuts, and sweet potatoes. Dinner still takes a long time, but only because he devours all his food and then tells us he is still hungry. It is like his body is trying to make up for six years of undereating. Five months into the new diet he has grown over two inches and put on nine pounds, a 28% increase in body weight!
We have seen a great change in his physical ability and mental state as well. He used to come home complaining about being the slowest kid in class. Now he comes home complaining there are still two boys in 1st grade faster than him. The other day he did 19 full pushups. He is still very skinny, but his musculature has noticeably increased. Emotionally, he is able to handle his emotions better and has a greater ability to concentrate on school work without becoming frustrated.
I was inspired to write to you when I woke up last Sunday morning and found him reading your cookbook, Primal Blueprint Quick and Easy Meals, marking the pages with the recipes he would like to try next. We read to him every night before bed a book of his choice and some nights he requests your book. So far his favorite recipe is the BLTA Chicken Breast Sandwich; it is also my favorite.
As mentioned earlier, Gabriel was a colicky baby. We now have our second child, Elliott, who was exclusively nursed until six months of age. My wife Caron kept her grains to a minimum during this time and Elliott nursed without issue. Once in a while we would cheat by ordering a pizza or having bread and cheese as a late night snack. The results were immediate; Elliott would be congested and whiny the next day. Now that he is transitioning to solid foods, we have purchased a Vitamix and Caron is making his baby food from organic, real food. So far, so good; he is totally healthy with no immunizations. This past week my wife tried adding in rice cereal in the mornings to see how he would handle the grains. He spit up most of the meal within an hour each day.
Mark, I love your website and your book. You have influenced my eating and exercise habits as well, in the same way as most of the people writing to you. As I hear so much about children with health issues, I hope this story will encourage other parents whose children have health problems to consult a naturopathic doctor, experiment with nutrition, and read books like yours.
Finding this new approach to eating has changed all our lives, but especially my son’s.