Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
2 Mar

My Son is Growing!

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.

Grab a Copy of The Primal Blueprint 21-Day Total Body Transformation and Start Getting Primal Today!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. This story made me cry – not only for what Gabriel had to go through, but for how he’s blossomed since going Primal. Congratulations to your family and I hope Gabriel continues to Grok it!

    Liz wrote on March 4th, 2012
  2. We struggled with our youngest child in much the same manner and finally found relief via a naturopathic doctor as well. The journey to finding a solution was so frustrating for us and sad for our son. He was certainly colicky and had digestive issues, as well as asthmatic type symptoms. His diaper rashes were so bad they would bleed! And we would change him IMMEDIATELY after a bm.

    At any rate, removing dairy and wheat marked the biggest improvements. At that same time we noticed the dramatic physical improvements, he also took a dramatic leap forward developmentally! Awesome!

    It should be noted that our “regular” doctor was NOT helpful. He treated me like a hysterical parent and told me my kid, with bleeding diaper rashes, had “sensitive skin.” (Insert growling noise here.)

    Kudos to these parents for continuing to search for solutions…and keep that protein coming!

    Best regards,

    Sheryl wrote on March 5th, 2012
  3. This is a great story that touched me!!! My son, while not having any of those medical issues, was never gaining any weight and was VERY picky at mealtimes. He only ever wanted nuggets, peanut butter sandwiches, or mashed potatoes. In the last 6 months he has begun to eat eggs regularly, and veggies and fruits just a little bit more, and has already gone from being 32lbs for the longest while, he is finally almost 40lbs!! (He is also 6yrs old) I need to work on him some more with meat, he doesn’t eat any at all right now :(
    But thank you for sharing this story!!

    Jordana wrote on March 5th, 2012
    • Try bacon.

      Edward wrote on March 6th, 2012
  4. Loved that you shared your experience. So inspiring. After 6 months of not gaining a pound, my “failure to thrive” 2.5 year old gained 5 pounds!! in 4 months on paleo. And even better, we were coming to terms that she could be on the autism spectrum with her behavioral and digestive issues. Now she is happy, healthy and exceeding milestones. All of this in less than 8 months.

    bluewaters wrote on March 5th, 2012
  5. I am back on Primal, and this story has inspired me to try to convince my 10-year-old son, who struggles desperately to gain weight, to join me.

    We have done everything to put pounds on him — he eats like a horse, but if he doesn’t get his morning strawberry and banana and whey protein shake (which I sneak coconut oil and spinach into), he doesn’t grow.

    We also feed him eggs, bacon, meat, butter, olive oil, veggies and fruit — but he loves bread and cereal and other grains, and I keep wondering what would happen if he ditched them.

    Gabriel, way to go!!!!

    Cin wrote on March 5th, 2012
  6. We had a very similar experience with our older son – always in the 10th percentile on growth charts, always sick with mysterious nighttime coughing, horrible bouts of asthma and eczema – after a year of eating primal he has moved to the 75th percentile for both height and weight at the age of 12, off all allergy meds, and totally mellowing out. IT WORKS!

    Emily wrote on March 6th, 2012
  7. What an awesome story. Beautiful family. I am so happy for your son, and your family, that he is well and growing like a weed now. Many blessings.

    Jessica wrote on March 6th, 2012
  8. Lovely happy family picture, it’s great that you’ve been pro-active in finding the solution to good health for your family – you should be proud!

    May I ask though (and being on a paleo site, I wonder if I’ll get flamed for this…) – “no immunizations” – this is something I’m personally not really a fan of, but each to his own. Can I ask why you made this decision?

    The thing is, your children are likely to be fine. They are benefitting from “herd immunity”, the fact that all the other kids at school have been vaccinated means there isn’t much of the disease around so they are unlikely to encounter it. But if more and more people opt out, this effect will be diminished. With all due respect, this is why not having children immunized annoys me slightly – not only do I think there is no good evidence not to have it done, but your children are being protected by the actions of others.

    We have a wonderful immune system with clever memories and many, many different pathways; all we have to do is effective introduce it to a broken piece of bacteria and it will produce antibodies against it, preventing us from ever needing to risk contact with the live version. Some aspects of conventional wisdom are out-dated and harmful as we all know, but some are fairly straight-forward and life/health saving. Personally I feel vaccinations fall into this category.

    Tom wrote on March 6th, 2012
  9. Sounds like your child had celiac disease.

    ej wrote on March 7th, 2012
  10. Please, please immunize your child. The risks may or may not be real–but the risks of childhood diseases are real. And not just for your own healthy, primal child, but for the weaker kids he could infect. Group immunity is key!

    Katie H wrote on March 14th, 2012
  11. SUCH a great story, I’m really happy for you. You got me crying too. It was the 19 push ups that did it.

    Claire wrote on March 19th, 2012
  12. This is so inspiring! My husband and I just went Primal this month. While we are new to the lifestyle and are still doing tons of reading and research, we agreed that even after 2 weeks this is instinctively RIGHT and already feel better every day.

    We are in the “planning on wanting kids” stage of our marriage, but if we hit that point, I know we will be raising a Primal Kid from day 1.

    Thank you for this story.

    Nicole wrote on March 20th, 2012
  13. Your story moved me to tears! I’m so happy to read how this lifestyle impacted the well-being of a small child. My own son is nine, with high-functioning autism. We have not eliminated *all* grains yet, but we’ve been off wheat for about a month. Waiting to see where things go! Thank you for your story.

    Kristin wrote on March 20th, 2012
  14. We also have children who don’t do as well with grain in their diets. Our one son was especially ill for 3 years and no doctors (western, homeopathic, chiropractic, etc.) could figure out why. He grew only 1/2 of what he should have and was virally a mess that no doctor could seem to remedy. (He had every test in the book: lung, heart, cf, etc. to no avail.)

    We came upon the diet answer due to one doctor who had a suspicion but no clue how to deal with it… and no other doctors would support her.

    Finally, I made my own rather extreme elimination diet… and in four days had a new child. For the first time ever, he was unreservedly happy. If he hurt himself, it was a quick kiss and he was off again, as opposed to the previous 40 minute ordeal of trying to make it better and still feel like I was failing as a mother.

    By virtue of this, we learned that their father and I are also better of without grains as a staple.

    Over the years, we have allowed some grain (gluten free only) back in and are now taking them back out again as his best growth period occurred when we were grain free. (Largely dairy free, largely sugar free.)

    I am glad to see other families who are in the same situation.

    Kim wrote on March 23rd, 2012
  15. I’m glad to hear that your sons are doing so well! My niece is allergic to almost everything, and maintaining a strict diet is the only thing keeping us from using steroids to stop her coughing and open her lungs! It’s wonderful how kids instinctively realize this is what they have to do to live, whereas the unhealthy adults see nothing wrong with their path (ex: diet scams. Gag). The doctors prescribe drug after drug to mask the problem, but modifying your diet SOLVES the it. Way to go, and I’m hoping you’re spreading the word; I know I am. Someday they’ll listen to us!

    Stini wrote on April 3rd, 2012
  16. This was the ultimate inspiration for me. Thank you so much for sharing Gabriel’s story. I clicked on this because I have the exact same picture of my 7 year old son. He is also a small redhead, and he loves his bow. On his 7th birthday, he was a perfect square – 44#, 44 inches (10-15 percentile). He doesn’t have digestive problems, but he was dx with ADHD right after he turned 6. I’ve been looking into the diet for my own inflammation issues, but intuitively, I know Pop Tarts for breakfast aren’t helping him. I’m encouraged by the progress your son has made and happy to hear that he’s been able to stick with the new food choices. Thanks again!

    Alison wrote on May 9th, 2012
  17. Wow. My first daughter had terrible colic for 6 months. We tried everything, but were pretty much eating SAD at the time with lots of grains. we went primal/paleo when she was 2.5 and she started sleeping more than 3 hours straight for the first time in years.

    Now that we are pregnant with number 2, I can’t wait to see how our diet changes will impact the new baby’s sleep.

    Thanks for sharing,

    Amber wrote on May 15th, 2012
  18. This story is also very close to mine and my hubbys heart! Our son also had ‘cholic’, was in hospital twice by the age of 6 months, hardly putting weight on and as he was growing he always was needing sleeps frequently, dark circles under his eyes, he would eat but he didn’t seem to put the weight on like our other daughters. June 2011 I took him to the Dr’s to ask for him to be checked for anemia. She didn’t think he was (by looking at him), i pushed for tests to be done and yes he was. On the iron drops made a difference but after a short while of finishing them he was back to the same tired, unhappy little boy.

    Hubby decided to follow Peter Attia / Mark Sissons way of eating / life and it had a huge impact on his health and weight. He then said that maybe we should do this for our family too. So after seeing a specialist and more blood tests done on our son to check for everything under the son we decided to go Primal. And within the first week of him eating Primal he was a completely different boy. He has put on 2kgs in 1 month!!! That is the MOST he has EVER put on in his entire 5.5 years of living on this planet. The blood tests came back nothing to worry about but we told the Dr what we had done and he said to continue with what we are doing (well we would have done so even if he had said don’t)…..because we can see the HUGE difference in him already. It is the only way forward for us as a family and I cannot even contemplate going back to all the starches/grains/sugars etc EVER!!!!!!!!!! I love having a happy boy in my house who is full of life, happiness, smiles and cheeky!

    Best of luck to all of you out there who have been in this situation and are finding great success with eating the Primal way!!!!!

    redsnapperuk wrote on May 28th, 2012
  19. This is PURELY anecdotal. I notice that the boy is a red head. In my experience, as the mother of four red heads, the ex-wife of a redhead and the stepwife of a redhead (my husband’s ex-wife, mother of two of my redheads), redheads NEED MEAT! There is rumor that redheads are often anemic, etc… I find that those rumors are quite true! My ex-husband naturally gravitates to a paleo diet. My stepwife went gluten free to solve her serious Crohn’s issues. My little kids (the two redheads that I gave birth to) are serious carnivores. The big redheads (my stepkids) don’t think much about their diet, but they prefer meat to carbs. And the oldest really doesn’t dig on fruit too much. I am a “strawberry blonde” often called a redhead by others…I’m NOT a ginger, darnit! lol And I am definitely sated more by meat than other foods. I’ve not made the paleo/primal plunge yet, but I’ve flirted and do SO much better with it. I’m also a registered nurse, and all the literature about paleo/primal/wheat and gluten free makes TOTAL sense to me. I work in geriatrics and the diet presented to those folks just about KILLS me.

    Stacey wrote on June 18th, 2012
  20. I LOVED this story. I know how hard it is to go against CW with your child. I had to do the same with my youngest due to horrendous asthma and eczema. The worst thing was dealing with everybody poking there noses in telling me “He needs carbs!!” Its amazing how so many people don’t think vegetables are carbs! A year on he has boundless energy, no asthma, a teeny tiny amount of eczema still remains but he is sporting a 6 pack and he’s only 6!! It always amazes me too how light he is compared to other children, yet he is a bundle of muscle and action! X

    Tiddler wrote on June 20th, 2012
  21. This story actually made me cry!! Its one of the main reasons why my family went Primal. The health of my kids is so important! They all have great focus and energy now that we have been Primal for a couple years!! Its amazing!!

    Joanne - The Real Food Mama wrote on August 21st, 2012
  22. I love this story! However, as someone who works with a ton of kids and in a hospital, get your child immunizations. You ARE better able to fight off diseases if you are healthy, but many diseases (like tetanus, part of the DTaP vaccine you receive in your first year of life) will kill you even if you are healthy. It’s a biological fact. Keep your sons healthy and happy by getting them vaccinated!

    (and if you’re worried about mercury in vaccines, there is more in one can of tuna than in all of your vaccines from your entire life.)

    savannah wrote on August 23rd, 2012
  23. That’s AWESOME! So happy for all of you!!

    Steffanie wrote on September 11th, 2012
  24. Good looking family. Glad you were able to get the answers you were looking for. :-)

    James wrote on October 24th, 2012
  25. I LOVE sites like this! Did you ever wonder why the medical science/business industry tries so very hard to deny anecdotal evidence AS evidence? It’s because, as little more than politician-friendly hawkers of “patent medicine”, they have so very little OF it to support their own ridiculous claims. When was the last time you heard someone say “OMG! Chemotherapy is AWESOME!!”…I’m just saying…there’s a reason for that.

    C Clark wrote on July 15th, 2013

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