Approximately 3-weeks after Liam’s initial diagnosis, we had an appointment at the endocrinology office for Liam’s first follow-up appointment. By this point, along with the low carb/high fat diet and daily Vitamin D, we had also been supplementing Liam’s diet with omega-3 fats, and probiotics (omega-3s will be dicussed in this current post while probiotics will be covered in a future post). The office visit was a routine follow-up, in which a Nurse Practitioner reviewed our records of Liam’s insulin injections and his daily blood sugar measurements (we had been checking his blood sugar 5 times per day plus once more in the middle of the night at 2 AM as instructed).
The NP was very surprised to see that Liam was requiring almost no insulin. Because his blood sugar was so controlled through our dietary and supplement protocol he was only receiving on average 0.5 units once per day of the fast acting insulin (Humalog) and 2 units at night of the slower acting Lantus. In fact, we had to explain to her that we were experiencing the problem of Liam’s blood sugar dropping too low as opposed to it being too high. She didn’t bother to ask if we were doing anything different than what was recommend to us in the hospital and she confidently ensured us that this good fortune would not last and that his condition would worsen…oh, really???
The NP then sent in the Registered Dietitian. This was a different RD than the one we had spoken with while in the hospital. She was young, looked healthy and fit and I thought that maybe she would have a little more of a progressive point of view than the previous RD. Sadly, I was wrong. To her credit, she did give us some useful suggestions towards incorporating more vegetables in Liam’s diet but, unfortunately, that’s where the usefulness of the conversation ended.
During the talk, I had to bring up our nutritional supplementation routine as she didn’t ask. As I told her that we giving Liam Vitamin D, omega-3 fats and probiotics, she just kind of nodded while writing and said, “mmm hmmm, probiotics are good for the gut.” That was it.
I next mentioned that I was considering eliminating milk and gluten from his diet. She commented, “Oh, no, you don’t want to eliminate any food groups.” Let me just state here that diary is only considered a “food group” because the US Dairy Council says it is and gluten isn’t a food group by anyone’s estimation (See WHO INVENTED THE FOOD PYRAMID? for a nice, short synopsis on the history of the USDA’s nutritional recommendations for American’s. For a more detailed and disturbingly honest glimpse of how politics and agribusiness industry directly influences these guidlenes see How Agriculture Controls Nutrition Guidelines: Meat producers showed dominance over scientists this week, preventing discussion of sustainability).
Next she took on a very patronizing tone and said, “Why would you eliminate gluten? Does he have any symptoms of celiac disease?” I knew why she took on took on this tone with us. I was already familiar the fact that, for some bizarre reason, conventional medicine, for the most part, does not recognize non-celiac gluten or wheat sensitivity as a real condition even though one can find research in the medical journals going back to 1980 and a large spike in research over the last 6-7 years which show growing evidence of gluten sensitivities as a spectrum of disorders. (In fact, a physiological mechanism for gluten sensitivity has been discovered, and it’s completely separate from celiac disease. Intestinal permeability and systemic inflammation were both found in non-celiac gluten sensitivity, along with blood markers that may help to confirm gluten sensitivity in the future. See this article in GUT journal.) Unfortunately, it often takes a decade or two before emerging scientific research gets into the mainstream so, as far as the RD was concerned, there is only either celiac disease or nothing but a fanciful imagination on our part (much more on gluten in part 6 of this series).
Even after all of those let downs, there was one more that superseded them all, bringing me to the point of outrage. As we were sitting in the exam room my wife, Lisa, pointed out a picture to me. On the wall of the hallway, just outside of the room that we were sitting in, there was a cork board, like in many other pediatricians’ offices, which had cute photographs of the numerous children who had been patients there. One in particular got our attention and, as I said, we were outraged.
The photograph was of the head pediatric endocrinologist and of a little girl who was a obviously a patient, both smiling at the camera. Behind the two of them was a person in the children’s hospital mascot bear costume. In front of the little girl was a stack of pancakes. A HUGE stack of pancakes.
Now this wasn’t just a candid shot when the girl having breakfast and the endo doc and bear mascot just happened to pop in to say hello. No, they were all physically AT IHOP (International House of Pancakes). And, not only were they all AT IHOP but they actually went so far as to have a tall banner sign made that had IHOP’s logo at the top and the hospital’s name and logo at the bottom. In between the corporate logos the sign read “IHOP Welcomes _________”, with the little girl’s name inserted where the blank is.
Now, the girl may not have had diabetes. She could have had some other endocrine disorder altogether. But that is irrelevant. I ask, what business do physician’s and hospitals have creating corporate relationships with any other company excepting those that promote healing and wellness?” And to go so far as to use this little girl, their patient, as a photo opp??? What did they tell the parents in order to have this arranged? There was another photograph hanging on the wall of the clinic similar to the IHOP one but with Dairy Queen as the featured photo-op partner.
This just speaks volumes to one of the biggest evils plaguing our society which is responsible for so many of the problems that we face today; the comercializing, monetizing, corporatizing and profiteering of everything in modern society, from our governments, media, schools…even our establishments originally intended for healing.
As one could imagine, we left the office that day feeling upset and a bit surprised at the lack of support in our attempt to truly heal our son. It was then that I knew that we would not find the answers that we sought in the conventional medical approach alone. At that moment, my hope shifted towards finding someone who would help guide us in overseeing the methodology that my research, practical experience and intuition all told me would lead to Liam being returned back to total health. Fortunately, I was familiar with the model of Functional Medicine and so I made a mental list of the practitioners in our area that I was aware of and got on the phone.
If you are not familiar with Functional Medicine here is a short description taken from The Institute for Functional Medicine’s website:
Functional medicine addresses the underlying causes of disease, using a systems-oriented approach and engaging both patient and practitioner in a therapeutic partnership. It is an evolution in the practice of medicine that better addresses the healthcare needs of the 21st century. By shifting the traditional disease-centered focus of medical practice to a more patient-centered approach, functional medicine addresses the whole person, not just an isolated set of symptoms. Functional medicine practitioners spend time with their patients, listening to their histories and looking at the interactions among genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors that can influence long-term health and complex, chronic disease. In this way, functional medicine supports the unique expression of health and vitality for each individual.
HOW IS FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE DIFFERENT FROM OTHER INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE MODELS?
Practitioners of Functional Medicine use the Functional Medicine model to organize their findings. It’s a kind of flexible and adaptive information-gathering-and-sorting architecture for clinical practice that deepens the clinician’s understanding of the often overlapping ways things can go wrong. The patient’s story is organized according to seven common underlying mechanisms that influence health, which clarifies the level of present understanding and illuminates where further investigation is needed. An operating system guides clinicians through the entire process from gathering information to initiating treatment and tracking the patient’s progress.
All healthcare disciplines—including integrative medicine—can, to the degree allowed by their training and licensure, use a Functional Medicine approach, including integrating the Functional Medicine operating system and tools to organize knowledge and recognize patterns. Functional Medicine provides a common language and a unified model to facilitate integrated care.
Approximately two weeks later, we met up with a Nurse Practitioner working out of a DO’s office (Lewrenz Medical Center) who follows the Integrative Medicine model. I will go into our appointment in more detail in a future article but, for now, I’l just note that the NP observed signs of leaky gut and candida yeast overgrowth in Liam’s live blood sample.
It is at this point that I would like to continue the discussion on the immune regulation step of treating type 1 diabetes and other forms of autoimmunity with Part 5 of this series. Specifically, Part 5 will cover inflammation and omega-3 fats.