Male, aged eight years old. This young boy presented with a rare chromosomal abnormality which had resulted in severe learning disabilities and a global developmental delay. There were question marks around autism at the time of the visit. His mother provided a long and detailed history of his health and medical interventions from birth.
Her pregnancy was normal, but full term and required inducing at 42 weeks. At birth there were no problems; the labour was around nine hours. He was quickly assessed at birth and taken to neonatal care for high levels of bilirubin and placed under phototherapy lights for the first four or five days. Mum struggled to breastfeed, but was adamant that he took her breast milk. There was very little sucking reflex. At this stage there had been no diagnosis and no-one was aware of any problems.
As a baby he was relatively healthy until the introduction of cow’s milk for bottle feeding. He quickly developed a rash and severe eczema, but was told to continue with the cow’s milk. He started to develop a myriad of infections – ear being the most common, respiratory including bronchitis, and also urinary tract infections. (This continued to be the case for the next few years, with lots and lots of antibiotics and NSAIDs to settle him down.)
He was diagnosed at 18 months old with a chromosome abnormality which the doctors advised would give him severe learning disabilities and behavioural issues. Speech and language would definitely be difficult. As time went on, the ear infections turned to glue ear, he had a myringoplasty to seal the holes in his ear drum from the damage and in addition to all the above his digestion became affected. He would have severe and chronic constipation which later turned to severe and chronic diarrhoea, for which he was admitted to hospital many times to be rehydrated.
Alongside all of this his behaviour became unbearable – he would scream at high pitch, he would kick, spit, throw, punch and, in the final stages of prediagnosis, he would smear each morning on waking. Mum was exhausted and also looking after another little boy – who was fine.
Paediatric psychiatrists prescribed Ritalin, which mum refused to give him – she wanted to know “why” he was behaving in this way, not simply to mask the symptoms. At around this time (aged five), he developed lymphoedema in his left leg, which then developed in the right leg and also in his genitals. He was also diagnosed with a condition known as intestinal lymphangiectasia, which is an inability to absorb fats through the lymph in the intestines. He had to follow a strict MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) diet from this moment on. The bilateral lymphoedema was treated using MLD massage (manual lymphatic drainage) and compression stockings.
Nutritional therapy assessment
When he was seven, mum finally sought the advice of a nutritional therapist; having never seen anyone like this before, she was sceptical. However, the NT asked her to remove all gluten and dairy from his diet, to which she replied “but that is all I can get him to eat”. She followed a new diet for the next few weeks, gradually re-introducing new foods, new tastes and new textures, and noticed after two weeks of removing the gluten, a new and different little boy. At the same time, she was giving him enzymes and probiotics.
“The first thing that happened was the high pitch
screaming stopped – literally overnight – like the
pain had gone away!”
The early stages of treatment were hard and challenging for the whole family, but gradually over time, the dietary adjustments were made to fit in with everybody. It was quite remarkable, and the impact on his health and behaviour was nothing short of amazing. He started to apply himself a lot more, concentration levels were improved, and he could stay on task for a lot longer.
Other interventions included a complete 4 Rs gut healing approach using anti-fungals, probiotics, gut healing supplements and enzymes. The process took over 18 months, as the damage was severe; this little boy is now a young man, aged 21. He has remained dairy-free for the entire time, although allows some gluten in his diet nowadays, but he eats a low-fat, MCT diet with high levels of protein. Since the interventions at seven years of age, he has only required one course of antibiotics after he developed cellulitis as a result of fungal infections to the lymphoedema-affected leg.
He is fit, healthy, his immunity is very robust. He lives in a residential school and is never ill; when all around him are going down with the flu, he is completely fine. More recently, he has had a more targeted approach to support the lymphoedema, including using antiviral supplementation, focusing on inflammation and still continuing to support gut health with enzymes, probiotics and also fat metabolism.
His leg swelling is the best it has been since he was diagnosed at seven years of age (when he was so aggressive his parents couldn’t sit him still for long enough to measure him for a stocking!). He will always have his learning disability, and he will always need full support to help him with his everyday activities, but this young man’s life was completely and utterly changed around by the nutritional and dietary interventions of a nutritional therapist, and he now has a quality of life and enjoyment of health and well-being that should be enjoyed by everyone.
This was my journey as a mother, and when I witnessed for myself the results of changing his diet, I was intrigued and fascinated – which is why I am now a fully qualified NT working with others like my son to help families and individuals achieve health and happiness.
I was inspired at the time by Patrick Holford and I now follow a paleo autoimmune approach to supporting disease and, in particular, gut problems. I see so many people’s lives change and improve with this approach.