Emily’s Vitiligo- part 4
Next step in puzzle solving was to find the pieces with the straight edges. I like to work the border first. This gives me a frame to work in. In this regard our treatment was to rearrange our lifestyle. We brought our lifestyle into alignment with healthy living. We changed our food choices and simplified our lives.
Why Have We Done This?
Emily’s vitiligo made us reevaluate our entire lives. Anytime the conversation about health came up and it is surprising how often this happens, we listened. We did a lot of listening and reading. So I started researching the disease and health in general. At the time I had a cholesterol level of 242 (2 points away from the average for a heart attack victim, 244) and I was experimenting with natural ways to reduce my cholesterol. My father had adult onset diabetes, which he controlled for years with a pill and had just started injecting insulin a few years earlier. My blood sugar level had just crossed the threshold into the high range. So there were a lot of good reasons to start studying and changing. I could accept that these things were my inherited traits, which I could do nothing about, or I could do something about them. I chose the high road.
Loyalty to a petrified opinion never broke a chain or freed a human soul. Mark Twain
Dr.’s didn’t have much to offer Emily in the way of a cure and in fact what they did offer had the potential to screw up her liver. We went to the local library and read the Physicians’ Desk Reference concerning the pharmaceutical grade psoralens one dermatologist recommended, it didn’t give us a warm feeling. Most doctors said we shouldn’t do anything until she was 12 years old. Their PUVA treatment didn’t exactly offer me much hope. After reading the next quote (Klaus, S. and Lerner, A. B., Vitiligo. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatologists, 5:997-1000, 1984) you may see why;
A combination of an orally ingested drug (psoralens) and the exposure to long-wave ultraviolet light (PUVA) has become a popular form of therapy. Although this treatment may improve the appearance of a patient it rarely induces total repigmentation. Repigmenting therapy often takes several years and requires a tremendous expenditure of time by both the physician and the patient. The basic defect that led to the destruction of the pigment cells is not corrected. Because of the disappointing results patients are often rebuffed or advised to ignore the white patches or to cover them with cosmetics.
Then there are the questions about how permanent the repigmentation is after using PUVA. This caused us to lean away from PUVA, in search of a solution to the “basic defect”. Admit it if I could give you a pill a day that would correct the “basic defect”, you would pay me $500 per year, for the rest of your life… would you be willing to change your lifestyle, if I told you to keep the $500, keep reading.
About 30-40% of Emily’s body (chest, back, ankles, shins, knees, and neck) was depigmented at the time, and it was increasing, we had to do something. So we looked into non-mainstream treatments. I was studying biochemistry and looking at vitamin therapy, I was in search of the “basic defect”.
What Have We Done?
Susie took a vegetarian cooking class at the local hospital, she was so excited about the class, she stopped at the local library on the way home. She picked up a large stack of vegetarian books. When she got home she announced “we are going vegetarian”. I would like to think that because of my humanitarianism and my feminist ideals, I embraced the idea whole-heartedly. In actuality it was because I am lazy when it comes to preparing food. I will cook if I absolutely have to but I am more than happy to eat what is made available. Then I started reading the books she brought home and I was moved.
I read a book called May All be Fed. He is the guy that walked away from millions of dollars when he decided not to take over his family’s business, Baskin-Robbins. He wanted to take his own path; I don’t think that made his father very happy. He talked about how the food we eat gets to our table. He opened my eyes so to speak, when he showed me how my daughter was getting sulfa-based antibiotics. I had read in a biochemistry textbook that sulfa-based antibiotics block the body’s ability to process folic acid, a B vitamin that is important for healthy skin.
Here is the quote from Introduction to Organic and Biological Chemistry, Ronald M. Scott 1980, page 294.
Intestinal bacteria provide a supply of this cofactor. A deficiency, usually termed a folacin deficiency, produces anemia. A deficiency is more likely to occur during treatment with antibiotics, particularly with sulfa drugs. The sulfa drugs are particularly effective because their mechanism of action is to prevent synthesis of tetrahydrofolic acid. The sulfa drug is chemically similar to the para-aminobenzoic acid portion of the cofactor. It is mistakenly incorporated by the microorganism, producing a nonfunctional cofactor.
I had previously searched her medical records to see if she had gotten sulfa and she hadn’t. Then I read the following quote from May All Be Fed by John Robbins, page 112.
Four different surveys of the safety of our milk supply were conducted by independent researchers between 1987 and 1989. The results were not comforting, unless you like antibiotics and other veterinary drugs in your dairy products. The studies found between 63 and 86 percent of milk samples to contain sulfa drugs, tetracyclines, and other antibiotics. These surveys embarrassed the FDA so much that the agency finally got around to conducting a survey of its own. Despite using outdated methods that cannot detect small quantities of the dangerous drug sulfamethazine, a March 1988 FDA survey found sulfamethazine in 74 percent of the samples tested.
This finding was particularly disturbing. Sulfamethazine is a sulfa drug that is a suspected human carcinogen.
It is an important book that you should check out from the library sometime. Emily was born in 1988 and after one year of breast-feeding, we put her on cows milk. After all, we are told that milk is the world’s perfect food. Unfortunately they don’t tell us that it is the most perfect food for calves. It seems to me that there is a possibility that we had given her these antibiotics in the milk and dairy we were eating. We were eating a lot of dairy products, I used to joke that Susie was the “cheese queen”.
Dr. Christine Northrup, a gynecologist in Yarmouth, Maine, states, “Dairy is a tremendous mucus producer and a burden on the respiratory, digestive and immune systems.” Dr. Northrup says when patients “eliminate dairy products for an extended period and eat a balanced diet, they suffer less from colds and sinus infections.”
Besides the anti-biotics in milk there is the cholesterol, saturated fat, and worst of all is the protein. This animal protein is theorized to be involved in many autoimmune diseases, which vitiligo is theorized to be. In 1997, I learned this at a health show in Orlando, FL from a Dr. John McDougall (author and practicing internist). He mentioned vitiligo in his presentation, in a long list of autoimmune diseases he felt would one day be linked to milk intake.
There is one thing dairy products have more of than any other food I can think of: contamination. John A. McDougall, MD
Then there is pesticide contamination to be concerned about. In John Robbins first book Diet for a New America he pointed out another problem with animal protein, which had an important connection to our family. On page 324 he writes:
…occurred in Michigan in 1973 and 1974, and involved one of the worst cases of pesticide poisoning yet to come to light. Here, the poison involved was PBB’s (polybrominated biphenyls). When the U.S. Congress finally investigated the fiasco six years later, they asked expert witnesses about PBB’s. The answers were not reassuring. Impartial experts testified:
“PBB’s are persistent and can be passed on for generations. PBB’s are stored in the body fat, where they can remain indefinitely. During pregnancy, they can cross the placenta to the developing fetus…PBB is…capable of producing physical defects in offspring in utero.”
Not substances you’d particularly want in your hamburgers. Yet, in 1976 alone, several years after the PBB contamination occurred, Michigan residents ate over 5 million pounds of hamburger contaminated with PBB’s.
What had happened was that this toxic chemical had somehow gotten mixed into livestock feed which was dispersed throughout the state. When the PBB’s were first discovered in virtually all of Michigan’s meat and dairy products, state officials tried in every way to cover up the incident. Had the public been notified of the extreme urgency of the situation, a great deal of tragedy could have been avoided. But as it is, according to testimony before Michigan’s Senate Commerce Subcommittee on March 29, 1977, nearly all of Michigan’s residents now have unacceptable levels of PBB’s in their bodies. It is quite likely that every single person who consumed meats, dairy products or eggs in the state of Michigan during 1976 or 1977 now has significant amounts of these carcinogens in his or her organs. Tests in 1976 found that 96% of nursing mothers in Michigan had PBB’s in their milk.
Can you imagine the heir to Baskin-Robbins (an ice cream chain) saying these things? Susie is from Michigan and she turned sixteen in 1977. Our son Kyle had a deformed baby tooth and Emily has vitiligo. I sometimes wonder if these things were caused by PBB’s. Any lawyers out there think I have a case?
Michael Klaper, MD, from page 29 of his book Vegan Nutrition: Pure and Simple, has this to add;
Dairy products also harbor a little discussed, but very ominous connection with leukemia in children. As any veterinarian will verify, leukemia is common in dairy cows and is caused by a virus, bovine leukemia virus. A cow with leukemia passes this virus into the milk. Up to 20% of the cows in a herd may be infected with leukemia virus. Their virus-laden milk is mixed with other milk and sold in stores. Could the high rate of leukemia in children be connected to their high levels of milk consumption? Denmark, the country with the highest rate of leukemia in their cattle and in their children, has an active program to remove leukemic cows from the dairy herd.
If you are interested in what Robert M. Kradjian, MD, Breast Surgery Chief, Division of General Surgery, Seton Medical Centre, Daly City, California, recommends to his patients; please read his essay The Milk Letter: A Message To My Patients.
I now realized that something else affected my course of action in fighting this disease. Early in my working career three young women (in their thirties) died from cancer. I worked closely with all three; my desk was next to two of them. Zeanne Houllemont (cervical cancer, Aug. ‘87), Jill White (melanoma, Jan ‘88) and Carol Scheitauer (breast cancer, ‘92) all died after going through conventional treatments. This was painful to watch in all three cases, surgery, steroids, diuretics to reduce the edema caused by the steroids, chemotherapy, radiation, more surgery, then funeral. This left me looking for alternatives. I ended up subscribing to a newsletter by Dr. Williams called Alternatives. Dr. Williams left me with one very important piece of information. Find out what your relatives died of and protect yourself from those diseases. So I did research on our families past health history. We had problems that are all too common in America, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. My grandmother is said to have turned white (just her hair) when she was 18. Could be connected to vitiligo. Both of my parent’s hair turned white or gray in their early 30’s.
So for all of these reasons, in August of 1995, our whole family gave up animal products. I think that the steady drop in my cholesterol levels over these years solidified my belief that what we eat can affect our health. My cholesterol is now 145 (a level where you no longer have to be concerned about ratios of good to bad cholesterol). My blood sugar also dropped back into the normal range.
We’ve never had a heart attack in Framingham in thirty-five years in anyone who had a cholesterol under 150. Three-quarters of the people who live on the face of this earth never have a heart attack.Dr. William Castelli
More importantly Emily’s vitiligo has improved greatly, for more current information see her timeline with pictures. Pictures are as important in vitiligo, as blood tests are in heart disease. We need that feedback to make sure we are making progress. Another benefit of our lifestyle is that our daughter Katie has not had bronchitis since we started this lifestyle. The year before she had it four times, as well as a constant cough and lots of mucus.
My wife and I now weigh what we did when we were happy about and proud of, our bodies. If you have been trying to loose weight you will find it easier on a low-fat vegetarian diet. When you eat fat, 3% of it is burned in converting it to body fat. When you eat complex carbohydrates you burn 25% in the conversion to body fat. Put simply it is easier to turn fat to fat than starch to fat. For more on weight loss, read Eat Right, Live Longer.
Skin as an Eliminatory Organ
It seems simple but it needs to be said. The skin has a purpose other than being an envelope to keep our insides from falling out. Remember that one function of the skin is to remove toxins from the body; in this sense the skin is an eliminatory organ. When we sweat, toxins can be eliminated through our pores.
Much of the alternative literature that discusses healthy skin, mention that if your other organs are backed up with waste products, then the skin will be overworked, the amount of toxins it will have to remove will increase. I have seen pictures, in Dr. Jensen’s book, of one fellow who got rid of a bad case of psoriasis, when he went in for multiple colon cleansings. Do not read this book when you are eating, it contains wonderful color photos of what came out of this man.
That is one reason why we went to a mostly vegetarian diet, high in fiber and low in fat. All that fiber help to move things through the system and aids in eliminating toxins. It actually reduces the amount of calories that your body derives from the food you eat, by decreasing the transit time that food moves through your body. It reduces fat, glucose and triglyceride levels in the blood. If all systems are running smoothly, then the skin will have a chance to heal itself.
How Did We Change Our Food Choices?
For me it was easier to cut out categories of foods. I was trying to reduce my cholesterol so, one of the first categories for me was deep fried foods. For my personality type it was easier than say having only two deep-fried meals per week and I tended to stick to it better if I cut it out completely. As we mentioned earlier we had been adding one or two vegetarian meals per week to our diet for years, while it was a step in the right direction, I don’t think we experienced any physical benefits until we made the complete shift. Dr. McDougall explains it this way, any change is difficult, it is even harder to make a change when you don’t see any progress. It is better to make a big change and see results right away.
We tried early in the year to cut meat out of our diet but we failed. Then after Susie took her vegetarian cooking class we cut out meat again, although we still ate fish. Then later fish and dairy left our kitchen for good. During this process of eliminating animalized and feminized protein, we sat down with the children who were 8, 6 and 4 at the time and had many family meetings. We used the old “Full House” style meeting, where the only one allowed to talk was the one holding the teddy bear. When you want to talk, you raise your hand and the person talking will eventually pass the teddy bear to you so that you might get your chance. “Full House” was a popular TV show at the time; you know the show with the three girls (DJ, Stephanie and Michelle) their Dad Danny, Uncles Jesse and Joey, and beautiful Rebecca. So we explained why and the kids thought about it, asked some good questions and were actually very supportive. We felt it was important, we explained the many reasons for vegetarian food choices. Other than health there is, environmentalism, feeding the impoverished (cows eat better than some people do), feminism, ethical reasons and animal rights. Reading some of the books in the bibliography will open your mind to some of the other reasons for making a vegetarian choice at each meal. Children can connect with feelings. That was June 1, 1995 and we have been eating a vegetarian diet since then. In August of 95 we became pure vegetarians.
We went to the library and checked out every veggie cookbook we could find. We did a lot of experimenting in the kitchen. Each of our children had unique tastes. We tried soymilk and found that rice milk was much better over cereal; we use both to replace milk in cooking. We have also tried oat and almond milks. We try to make this an adventure, a team effort. New taste sensations, different restaurants, shopping at the natural food store with all of those woo-woo types (of which we are now card-carrying members). Recently I was asked what woo-woo meant, well to answer that I have to ask, have you ever seen anyone that you thought was “way out there”, well that was woo-woo.
At first we tended to look for foods that replace the old foods we ate. One thing we learned is that these foods may taste close to the same as what we were used to, they just won’t taste exactly like them. Once we let go of that requirement, the shift became easier. The test was no longer “Does it taste like cheese?” it was “Does it taste good?”. The kids have been carrying sack lunches to school ever since we started this. Peanut butter and jelly, leftover pasta, beans, raw veggie sandwiches, meat substitutes (on occasion), fruit, pretzels, nuts and seeds, grass clippings (kidding).
We also drink plenty of water.
We don’t get on our children’s case if they make other food choices; it has to be their decision. They get lots of good options at home. If we notice them making a lot of the wrong choices when we go out, we try to reinforce the message later. You can’t push too hard, we have seen that backfire on others.
Of course there is more to it, and it was easier for us than most. Susie and I were united in our decision to change our food choices. Susie had a sister who was already a vegetarian. We had, for years, been eating at least one or two vegetarian meals per week but we liked our burgers, ham, chicken and turkey. Now we have decided that we like cows, pigs, chickens and turkeys better.
We also joined EarthSave and became very active in it. Our children see by our actions how important it is to us. EarthSave has lots of educational materials and we share them with the kids. EarthSave makes the connection between what we eat and how it effects the environment. They teach people to shift towards a more plant centered diet.
Another tool to make eating a plant-centered diet easier for kids is “Babe” and “Gordy”, two great videos with an animal rights theme. We watch them and talk frankly about the meaning of different scenes in the videos. Children just naturally love animals and don’t want to do anything to hurt them. “Free Willy” is another good video that we picked up from the local library.
Who is strong? He who can conquer his bad habits. Ben Franklin
Our lifestyle choices now added value to our lives. It was now a framework for health living and loving. Putting the long lines of frame pieces together creates an impressive frame for the jigsaw to finally fill.