A Quarterly Health Report

"I just hope mealtimes last for an hour, every one, and that my kids ALWAYS want me to spoon feed them, for ever and ever!”
—No parent in history

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November 2017 Stats (thanks to Darlene and Steve for use of a scale!):

Ben Starling Amaral 1/10/04
Height: 57.25"
Weight: 76.6 lbs.

Jem Reed Matilsky 8/5/07
Height: 55.75"
Weight: 69.8 lbs.

Eliza Ruth Amaral 6/17/12
Height: 44"
Weight: 39.2 lbs.

Ivy Lyn Matilsky 3/2/15
Height: 36"
Weight: 27.6 lbs.

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Family Health Update - Summary:

Everyone is alive!

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Family Health Update - More Detailed (thanks to Sharon, Jeanette, Millie, Kristen, Athena, Maya, Sara K., Reanna, Birthday-Funny-Movie-Recommenders, and others, for So Many Things):

It bugs the crap out of me when I hear parents endlessly discussing Parenting Techniques while in the same breath noting how "little Suzy NEVER eats a full meal, and she's always hungry but is just so picky, and only wants to eat snacks," and how the “’spirited’, ‘fiery,’ and ‘explosive’ behaviors are Such A Challenging Stage,” and “Meltdowns and Anxiety Are So Tricky To Manage,” etc. etc. ad vomitum.

“Gosh Darn It!!!!” I want to yell. ”We are ALL here Good-Enough Parents!! We cherish our children! We are all basically emotionally literate adults. Our kids have roofs overhead and non-abusive home lives. They never know true hunger. We shouldn't NEED to develop our parenting skills! Healthy children are so much more resilient than this (look up in dictionary: “hormesis”). But most kids these days are SICKLY and they often exhibit abnormal behaviors that are symptoms of ill-health. And the longer we all nod and smile and try to learn yet another Parenting Technique to deal with these symptoms, the longer we will be stressed and tired to the max, while we raise a generation of children ultimately weaker than their parents.

“So, let's stop getting so freaking distracted from the real issues! And meanwhile, can we forever bankrupt and dismantle Procter & Gamble and Nestle et al, The Sugar Association, Fake Fats, and Industrial Marketed-to-Kids “Foods” Everywhere (look up in dictionary: “deluge,” “toxic dose,” and “never before in human history in these quantities”), while we try to figure out how to clean up the complex epigenetic damage wrought by several generations of this Modern Lifestyle unto our collective genome and microbiome???”

I am really not fun at parties. Not that I often go to any…

But really! There is this public health crisis right in front of our eyeballs, and it is truly cruel when its tentacles creep into the realm of home and family, masquerading as Existential Parent-Guilt. (Because that’s what everyone, everyone needs: more guilt!)

It’s helpful that The Experts are starting to provide me with validation as I slide further down the spectrum away from “nurture,” toward “nature”. Of course, research always begins by studying acutely symptomatic cases, while so many millions of “normal,” “healthy” children are - I believe - suffering only slightly less. But you have to start somewhere: http://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2017/11/margo-thienemann-on-an-ala...

This article is remarkable in its acknowledgement of brain function being a physical expression of health, but still lackluster on Research Interpretation and Action Steps: http://r.smartbrief.com/resp/jBbNCrbMkvDarDuRCidKqSBWcNkruy?format=standard . My friend read it, and noted:

“Just to say, I'm glad they are finally ever so slowly starting to note that these ‘mental illnesses’ have a physiological basis, though I still see the ‘family stress’ factor being listed. Reminds me of ‘refrigerator moms’ (regarding the belief that mothers were responsible for the autism in their children).

“I know that stress plays a huge role in immunity and physical illness, and I talk about it constantly whenever I’m teaching yoga. I’m well aware of the effects of stress, but I hate how it's always THAT on which conventional theories seem to focus their attention. It was this statement: ‘It is important for clinicians to take a careful history of childhood adversities’, that always seems to come back to the mix. …After we figure out how terrible the parents and the home life are, we can figure out how inflamed the brain might be, ha ha!”

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Yes, life continues to be quite the journey, but everyone here is, as noted, still alive. When last I wrote, things were pretty alarmingly stressful, and we had just made an experimental change to our diet http://www.lifeisapalindrome.com/updates/dietary-tweak-7562-plus-additio... .

Over the years, I have learned that conclusions cannot be drawn based on initial results from ANY treatment protocol, dietary or otherwise. I’ve begun to think Change itself is an important variable to track. Whether because a dietary shift mimics historically seasonal changes in food supply, or for some other reason(s), many symptoms seem to temporarily abate or worsen for a few weeks after any shift in our family’s eating patterns. After we’ve tried something for a few weeks, I then start to try to figure out whether the improvements (or decline) are maintaining, or whether results are actually due to something other than the dietary changes, or whether there are some modifications to make to an otherwise useful approach.

The health of various family members continued Moderately to Acutely Not Well over the past three months, while I attempted to determine Cause and Effect during Idle and Quiet Moments (ha ha ha ha ha! Actually I ponder best when I’m trying to plan and cook dinner while fifty-three people are talking to me at once (forty-eight of them whining)).

After three months’ exhaustive analysis, I now present you with a summary of effects noted after making the dietary shifts mentioned in my last update:

Eliza - almost immediately stopped her many-times-daily complaint of “I can’t take a deep breath!” which had also included some wheezing. Her appetite marginally improved, though not by much and we still have to feed her almost everything. There has been a gradual stabilization of some symptoms, and a worsening of some others (see below), mostly indistinguishable from the usual fluctuations in whatever viral/inflammatory/immune-related factors affect her health.

Ivy - had a marked improvement in digestion (much less diarrhea), followed by a gradual decline to her original prone-to-loose-stools situation after a few weeks.

Jem - experienced a big improvement in a couple of bothersome digestive symptoms…followed, as with Ivy, by a gradual return to his original issues after a few weeks.

Ben - no changes noted.

Jeff (usually our family’s token “non-responder” when trying new treatments) - felt a marked worsening of all of his symptoms. Everything, from mood, sleep quality and energy levels to digestion and heart palpitations, got worse. This was followed by a gradual improvement back to an overall not-super-great State of Health.

Sara - had immediately improved digestion that still continues (NO constipation to speak of in now over three months! :) ), and much improved acne. Also felt improvements in (already-much-improved) symptoms of menstrual pain and mood. Initial improvements in mood were followed by a decline, but it was hard to tell if this was due to exhaustion, PTSD, Eliza and Jeff feeling so poorly, us eating more vegetables, or Jupiter being in the 7th house. This was followed by a currently more stable mood.

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As you can see, when drawing conclusions concerning treatment, it’s important to ask the question: “What The Hell?!”

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I’ve gradually adjusted our diet over the past few months so that we’re still eating about twice as many vegetables as before, with an emphasis on greens and all sorts of fibers (jicama, endive, greens, roots, mushrooms, etc.), and no nightshade vegetables (nobody seems to miss these except me). We also haven’t eaten squash or legumes at all (ditto). So: a pretty “low lectin” diet.

A lower overall meat/protein consumption did nothing except to make me tired and headachey, to make the boys more irritable, and to make Jeff wonder why the meat in the soup had disappeared. We have resumed eating normal amounts of protein (although much more fish and somewhat less beef and chicken).

We are eating a bit less starch than before, but from much more diverse sources, and we are eating white rice only a few times a week.

We are some eating ripe and in-season fruit, which in California is happily a local commodity!

We are eating some macadamias and pistachios and pecans (in moderation, especially because of our collective tendency toward viral/herpes flares).

We are eating goat dairy and soy-free eggs.

We are eating lots more higher-copper vegetables with no ill-effects, and more monounsaturated fats than before.

This current plan feels pretty good for most of us, most of the time, at this moment, relatively speaking, eating disorders not withstanding. I’ll keep you posted for dietary update 7,563…

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After we got back to Joshua Tree, in addition to her only halfway-quelled symptoms of anxiety, disordered eating, and pain, Eliza had a couple of very scary and severe migraines during which she vomited multiple times and was screaming and writhing in agony. Needless to say, these situations sucked Really Bad, and made me extremely motivated to find more potentially helpful treatments to try (Eliza has had daily headaches for years - the migraines, however, were new).

To that end, we have recently begun experimenting with cannabis, specifically in the form of CBD oil. (It’s good to travel in places where antiquated narcotics laws are finally getting overhauled!). CBD extract doesn’t contain notable amounts of THC, and rather than being used as a mind-altering substance, it is instead recommended for its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, as well as a novel and extremely effective treatment for epilepsy.

Jeff and I have long noticed a similarity between some of our children’s symptoms and certain types of seizures. I imagine that we may learn a lot more about seizures and behavioral disorders in the coming years; for now, from a safety perspective, I feel pretty comfortable trying CBD for myself and my family. (And if anyone needs a case of the Munchies, it would be Eliza!)

We’ll give it another few months before reporting back on any progress or lack thereof.

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Story From The Archives: The Family Who Goes Together

"I have to pee," Jeff noted after lunch. "I think I'll head to the bathroom."

"I have to poop!" said somebody excitedly. "I'll come with you!"

"I have to poop too!" said somebody else.

An enthusiastic discussion followed, during which it was noted that in the main bathroom, there was only one stall in the men's room, so one person in the pooping party who was female would have to poop in the women's room - but of course, Papa would make sure to stay outside the door so that all the scary bathroom monsters wouldn't get up to any mischief. Papa additionally might stop by the pond on the way back, so it would be a good idea for everyone to change into bathing suits before heading over. But one child couldn't decide: should goggles be brought to the bathroom during pooping, or should the goggles be picked up from the campsite after, but before going to the pond? Also, should books be brought along for entertainment? It was hard to know…

These and many, many other topics were explored. A flurry of activity was begun. People got in each other’s way, and bathing suits and hats were found, and and towels were located.

"You know what's funny?" Jeff finally said. “Well, it’s funny as in ‘it’s funny,’ but it’s not actually ‘funny’: I STILL have to pee! Like, I've been standing here all this time, and strangely, the urge hasn't gone away. Children: do you know that when I was a young man, I would just go to the bathroom when I felt the need to urinate? I mean sometimes I'd pee at a bush or a tree, but I _definitely_ wouldn't just stand around, STILL having to pee, not going anywhere for twenty minutes! But that was when I was young. Now I'm a father, so evidently, that IS what I do…”

I was laughing so hard that I couldn’t even snort.

Our children kind of looked at Jeff blankly, before continuing their preparations.

And then everyone went to the bathroom.

The End.

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Sending love from Near and Far Away,
Sarabeth