HEALTH / IMMUNITY
> meningitis; no cases of paralytic polio; and no new onset cases of hepatitis B. Two children in my care were hospitalized as a result of these illnesses: one from complications of chicken pox and one for tetanus. As far as I know, all of the children, including the two who were hospitalized, emerged alive and well, with no long-term complications as a result of their illnesses.
SHOCKING FIGURES A few decades later, not only is it common for families to have at least one member who’s being treated for a chronic illness, but also autism, learning disabilities, asthma, and food allergies have exploded in their frequency and severity. For example, approximately: 1 in 2.5 children has an allergy. 1 in 6 children has a developmental disability. 1 in 9 children has attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). 1 in 11 children has asthma. 1 in 13 children has severe food allergies. 1 in 36 children has autism. These numbers represent a national emergency. How is this happening? How, as a society, as parents, as adults and community members, are we allowing this to happen? It is a crisis of massive proportions, one that should prompt us all to stop and ask ourselves, “What the hell’s going on?” In fact, many of us—as a society, as parents, as adults, as community members, and as individual doctors—are asking ourselves that question. But our government and our medical establishment—two bodies that are in the position to do the most about it—continue to act with complacency and fail to acknowledge the severity of this crisis.
WHAT IS CAUSING THE RISE? Some people claim that this massive increase in cases of chronic childhood illness is the result of better diagnosis. “Better” is an admittedly questionable way to describe current diagnoses; many of them occur when a clinician runs through a checklist on a computer screen, sometimes with minimal interaction or observation of the patient. There are definitely problems with how diagnoses are made, but even overdiagnosis couldn’t account for such explosive rates of chronic disease. And while some conditions can be subtle, it is not difficult to identify a child with autism. The behaviours and conditions
‘A sick child with a fever is going through a valuable learning process, which if continually thwarted will undermine her sacred quest to build a strong body, mind, and immune system’
that lead to an autism diagnosis today were never even reported until 1937 and were virtually nonexistent until the 1990s. Others claim that these conditions are genetic. It’s true that different people can be more or less genetically predisposed to environmentally driven epigenetic damage, but to call this “genetic” is misleading. This kind of genetic predisposition could exist for generations without any noticeable impact on an individual’s health until a certain environmental toxin or trigger is introduced. For example, some people are genetically predisposed to clear aluminum toxicity from their bodies less well than others, so these people are more susceptible to damage from an aluminumcontaining vaccine. Some will argue that this means a disease is “genetic,” but the reality is certainly far more nuanced than that. It would be more accurate to say that a disease is “environmental” with a genetic trigger or predisposition. Framing damage or disease as stemming from an “environmental” cause, however, would require us to do something about it.
IMMUNE SYSTEM LACKING The skyrocketing rates of chronic diseases are, in fact, directly linked to the drop in acute infectious diseases, which “train” the immune system. Far from training the immune system in a similar way, vaccination actually thwarts this training with an unhealthy immune response, and does so with the addition of toxins including adjuvants that the body then desperately attempts to clear. We then throw antipyretics— medicines that reduce fever—on top of a by-now-urgent immune response. Medicine, and in particular modern pediatrics, must take a step back and reevaluate the way it understands and treats children who are sick. A sick child with a fever is not having an emergency. She is going through a valuable learning process, which if continually thwarted will undermine her sacred quest to build a strong body, mind, and immune system for her long journey ahead. Parents and the physicians who care for our children need to throw off the fearbased understanding of acute illnesses that permeates today’s medical culture.
Today’s parents need to be empowered with an understanding of the value of shepherding their children through these types of illnesses. Anytime a fever-reducing medicine, an over-the-counter medicine, or an antibiotic is used when it is not truly needed, a real disservice has been done to that developing child. This change will require not only a new understanding of how our immune system develops but also courage on the part of today’s parents to reclaim the human experience of undergoing and overcoming illness. The modern medical promise, often unspoken, is that we are on the brink of a world without disease, pain, or suffering. This promise is misguided and misleading and should be seen as the cruel illusion it is, because it clouds our judgment with magical thinking and renders us incapable of making commonsense decisions. Our children are looking to us—as they should—for wisdom, guidance, and a more sensible way forward into the future.
MORE INSPIRATION READ Vaccines, Autoimmunity and the Changing Nature of Childhood Illness by Thomas Cowan (£18.99, Chelsea Green Publishing) available now.
FEBRUARY/MARCH 2019 www.thegreenparent.co.uk