Last May, my brother Marcus called me to tell me that his eight-year-old son had been vomiting on and off for three days and he was concerned. He asked me what he should do.
Let me first explain why I said what I did and why my brother waited three days before he was concerned.
My dad was a pharmacist and my mum a nurse and, as a family, we believed in the innate intelligence of the body. If the body was given the right ingredients (sunshine, movement, connection, good food, clean water) and all interference was removed, then the body could be healthy. Anything that was called sickness to other people was called a ‘health expression’ in our family.
If we had a fever, we were not given any medication but rather allowed the fever to do its job (kill a rogue microbe). If we had a cold, we were never given any medications or antibiotics to clean up the mucus and kill the offending microbe, but rather we allowed the body to do its own Spring clean. If we had a new tooth coming through as a baby or even a broken bone, my father was insistent that our body had the tools to deal with the pain.
Therefore, my brother, sister and I were bought up without a medicine cabinet in sight. My brother and I, to this day do not take any medications. (My brother has taken emergency medication – he was the crazy sibling that was Australian freestyle skiing champion and had some extreme accidents and broken bones. So, he was thankful for painkillers, especially when he broke is heel bone on an aerial jump.)
Both my brother and I have taught our children exactly the same philosophy. But on the day that he called me, his intuition that something was wrong had kicked in. I suggested he go to the local integrative doctor, but they couldn’t get in on that day. By the next morning his son Nelson was still vomiting so they took him to the emergency department at Rosebud Hospital. He was very quickly transported by ambulance to Monash Hospital. They were not sure what was happening but wanted to do further tests. It wasn’t until 2am the next morning that Nelson was rushed into emergency surgery because they suspected a blocked bowel.
My brother called me; I could hear the shame in his voice. He felt he had let Nelson down because he hadn’t got him to a doctor sooner. As parents we blame ourselves, but I know Marcus and his wife Susannah are impeccably dedicated to their children. They are older parents; they chose when they had children to be the best they could be. So they sold a property they had and decided to live off the money and be there full-time for their children.
They are incredible full-time parents, so to hear his shame was heart breaking. I also heard a broken man, because they didn’t know what was wrong with Nelson when the surgery started, but Marcus had to give the surgeon permission to do what was needed. The control of his son was taken from him and given to a surgeon that they had only just met.
The surgeon saved Nelson’s life. Nelson had an intussusception, which is a serious condition where part of the intestine slides into an adjacent part of the intestine. This telescoping often stops food or fluid from passing through (thus the vomiting). Intussusception also cuts off the blood supply to the part of the intestine that’s affected, which can lead to a tear in the bowel (perforation) and/or infection and death of bowel tissue.
Intussusception is the most common cause of intestinal obstruction in children younger than three, Nelson was eight. As with Nelson, the cause of most cases of intussusception in children is unknown.
My brother and sister-in-law cook everything from scratch, everything is organic, they live a beautiful life on the coast free of too much stress, they have done everything right. Rather than asking the question why this happened, it is more advantageous to ask a different question: If someone in the same circumstance had not done everything to make sure that they were their fittest, healthiest and best self, what would have been the outcome?
My daughter Casie and I flew to Melbourne immediately, firstly to look after my niece, but also to be there for Marcus and his wife. The hospital was 90 minutes from their home and because of COVID there were restrictions on who could stay and visit at the hospital. Marcus and his wife took it in turns in 24 hour shifts. Susannah would come home and cook for Nelson, Marcus and herself (there was no way they were eating hospital food), then Marcus would come home and do the same thing.
I would help get the groceries in, do some cooking, look after my niece and be there for Marcus and Susannah when they got home. My daughter Casie, who is a chiropractor, would make sure that the whole family was adjusted and feeling good for the task at hand.
The surgeon said that Nelson would be in the hospital for at least two weeks after the operation, but at the end of the week after his surgery, the surgeon was amazed by his recovery and sent them all home – where we could love, nurture and feed him and spend time in the sunshine together.
Nelson lost his appendix and 80cm of his small intestine (ileum), the part where cholesterol and bile are reabsorbed and folic acid, B12 and iron are absorbed, as well as other key nutrients. The surgeon said that Nelson would need to take supplements for the rest of his life.
As soon as Nelson came home, we put him on the GAPS diet. I had contacted Dr Natasha Campbell McBride and she advised accordingly. With the help of Dr Jason Hawrelak, an incredible naturopath (who has spoken at my Nutrition Summit), we found the right tools and protocols in order for Nelson to thrive. And thrive he did.
I sometimes suspect that perhaps there was a weakness in the ileum for some time and perhaps the nourishment of Nelson by his parents delayed the inevitable. Of course, this is pure speculation and we will never know.
Six months later, Marcus and Susannah went back to the surgeon for a check-up – who was absolutely blown away by the transformation – as well as the blood counts of all important parameters. The surgeon gave no advice on diet or supplements. Instead he wanted to see what would happen in six months and then he would talk about the need for lifetime supplements.
Marcus told him that between his sister the nutritionist and Dr Jason the naturopath, they had a direction and were hoping for a positive outcome. The surgeon admitted that he was the plumber and his knowledge on the diets and protocols that Nelson was doing was not his forte. He said keep doing what you are doing, it’s working.
Nobody knows what to expect in life. Not many people are prepared for an emergency, but what I took from this experience is that we should all be prepared. We should always have our body at its best health.
Not only for emergencies, but to be ready to climb a mountain that a friend asks you to hike at a moment’s notice; be ready to pull an all-nighter if you have to; be ready to run after your children or grandchildren; or to achieve a personal or business goal.
As I look around my local community and elsewhere, I see people that are not ready for that emergency, who are unable to participate 100% in life. Instead, I see people who have too much weight on them; I see them limping or struggling to walk; I hear other people talk at the hairdressers or local coffee shop of all their maladies. And I read the statistics of health outcomes in Australia and the rest of the world. The human population is the sickest it has ever been. They say we are living longer but we are also living sicker. In fact, most people have a physical and/or mental malady and/or disability during the last 15 years of their life.
If anything, 2020 should have woken everyone up to the importance of achieving and maintaining health without chronic disease.
The data shows that the people who are most susceptible to the coronavirus are those with chronic conditions including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, metabolic disease and lung disorders, to name a few. And if you think you have escaped this coronavirus, and you have nothing to worry about and you can live your life the same without any change, then you will be disheartened. Because there will be another one. There will be another mutant flu strain. There will be a new rare chronic disease. The more we move away from what our evolutionary body needs, the more we will not be able to resist an uncommon virus or malady.
The narrative on the planet today has nothing to do with health and everything to do with a vaccine, social distancing and masks. These will not bring health. I have not heard our government once say about the importance of food, sun, breath, connection, clean water and movement – in fact it seems to be the opposite. Strengthen the immune system naturally by giving the body the right ingredients.
Changing Habits is my company. Changing habits has been what I have taught in private practice, through my book, my programs and now through The Nutrition Academy. I have taught changing habits for the past 40 years. We are the specialists. We will support you emotionally and physically through one of our programs. We have coaches, nutritionists and customer care to help you educate and empower yourself to be the healthiest you can be.
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