Why Breastfeeding Can Prevent Most Childhood Allergies
I am forever indebted to the legendary naturopathic doctor, John Bastyr. As are, indirectly, many of my patients over the past 35 years. As a child I remember being allergic to chocolate. At that time my mother did the best she knew at the time—to give me white chocolate instead. I don’t know if there’s a connection, but I absolutely love dark chocolate and have an aversion to the white substitute!
Many children, sometimes from infancy, suffer from much more extreme allergies. That is true of the patient I will present in this article. In naturopathic medical school, Dr. Bastyr gave us a protocol for introducing foods into an infant’s diet, which I will include as an addendum to this article. And he taught us that any nursing mom who, for whatever reason could not breastfeed sufficiently to satisfy her baby should supplement with goat’s milk. That is advice that I never forgot and that I have given to countless pregnant and breastfeeding moms. I was not breastfed either (along with most of my contemporaries), but I was, fortunately, not allergic to milk. And now, at seventy, I find myself here in Chile making yummy yogurt from dairy sheep. But that is another story! I am also, of course, indebted to Dr. B, as he was lovingly called, for curing my bronchitis when I first arrived in Seattle from New Mexico in 1973, and for his legacy of Bastyr University which led to my career!
Cow’s milk allergies in newborns, be it formula or the milk, can, in an infant predisposed to allergies, lead to life-long problems. If one or both of the baby’s parents have allergies, this is even more likely. The allergic reaction typically begins superficially with the skin in the form of eczema. This is the attempt of the vital force to deal with the allergen on an external level. Depending on the sensitivity of the baby, whether or not formula or cow’s milk is continued, and, as happens so often now, topical steroids are used, the allergic disposition can be driven to a deeper level. The eczema can progress from mild to severe, to the point of the poor baby being covered from head to toe with an unbearable raw, scaly, itchy skin. From this point, if the milk is not removed and the topical medications continue to be given, the same allergic imbalance often progresses to ear infections. Of course, this depends on the nature of the particular child—the more sensitive overall, the more likely this progression. Then, commonly, a series of antibiotics ensues, none of which ultimately eliminate the tendency to the otitis. Then ear tubes, which involve a minor surgical procedure, and do not address the underlying cause of the problem. In many cases, this very same allergic predisposition will progress to a potentially life-threatening condition: asthma. This is a far too common and unnecessary pattern. IF the mom had breastfed initially or if that were not possible, had she given the baby goat’s milk instead of cow’s milk or formula or had she sought out homeopathic treatment for the infant, this unfortunate progression could have been prevented. Thank you, Dr. Bastyr, for having taught me this while I was still a naturopathic medical student! In 35 years of practice, I remember only one infant who was allergic to goat’s milk as recommended in this protocol. And Dr. Bastyr’s advice pre-dated the era of extensive allergy testing and allergy-elimination diets that were so prevalent in the first 10-15 years of my practice.
A Young Man With Eczema from Birth
Felipe, a young minister, came to see me two and a half years ago for lifelong eczema, mainly on his hands and arms. “My eczema is looking a lot better after using steroid cream during the past week. It’s mainly on my hands and arms. Last week they were so inflamed that it was difficult to even bend my wrist. It burns a lot. And itches. I often scratch in my sleep and wake up with a new cut from the scratching. My skin can get purplish. When I scratch, it will bleed and discharge pus. Even if I scratch lightly. The worst, though, is my hands. My right elbow gets so bad that I can’t bend my arm. It becomes dark red, purple. Occasionally my skin will be dry behind my ears. Same with my neck and shoulders. I usually apply Cetaphil moisturizer and often use a topical steroid cream.”
“The eczema started when I was a week old. It used to be all over my entire body. It was better during my teenage years except when I had a reaction to something. Like dust. I scratch then then I can get an infection. For a while I reacted to dust and my skin was black from the knee to the ankle.”
“I was not breastfed. My mom gave me formula. I might have had ear infections when I was teething. At its worst the eczema is so paralyzing that I feel like I can’t move. It’s exhausting physically and mentally. Every time I move, it pulls the skin and burns. I sit by a fan to cool off and that provides a little comfort.”
“it’s a burning sensation. Like my skin is peeling away. It gets really hot. If I scratch a lot, it gets bumpy then it turns into cuts. Particularly by my elbows and neck. It looks like hives. Hot and inflamed. Burning. Like somebody is taking a hot iron and peeling my skin away. It’s like sitting in an oven. Any water that touches it really stings. Even an oatmeal bath. It’s an uncontrollable itch. I can’t stop myself from scratching. I try to rub it with my clothes to not scratch. The scratching feels really good. When I stop scratching, it compounds. Sweating makes it worse. Eczema runs in my mother’s family. Doctors told her formula was the best thing to give me at birth. This is my only health problem.”
I inquired about Felipe’s nature: “I’m mild and calm. If I get angry, it doesn’t come out. Being a priest, a lot of my stress is from others coming to me with their problems. When I was training to be a priest, the scratching could keep me awake and I would go 22 hours without sleeping. People turn to me to help with their spiritual issues. That can stress me out and my eczema will flare up. My nature is to let people have their way. I try to avoid conflict. It impacts me emotionally. If I feel angry, I get a little shaky. I try to keep it under control. I shut down, get quiet, and walk out of the room to mull things over. Retreat inside myself. Take a step back. I’m pretty sensitive in general. I enjoy going away from the city into the forest. It gives me serenity.”
An Easy Remedy Choice But Potency is Very Important
I am sharing this case because I think the information about starting babies off on the right track to prevent allergies is so important. AND because I have found homeopathic care to be a safe, effective, wonderful alternative for allergies at any time of life.
Before I share the remedy with you, I want to share another tip that was given to me early on in my practice. Be VERY CAREFUL of aggravations in cases like this. One homeopath, decades ago ,taught never to go higher than a 12C potency when prescribing Graphites for eczema cases (keynotes: dry, itchy eczema with a honey-like discharge, especially in the bends of the elbows and behind the ears). That is an overstatement, and not remedy specific. But, the point is that the last thing we want to do in a case of severe eczema, especially with an infant, is to aggravate the condition. And that is definitely a possibility. I was quite aware of that in Felipe’s case, especially given his highly sensitive nature. So I was very cautious regarding potency selection in this case.
What stands out most prominently in this case? Why is it not a Sulphur case, the remedy that is most frequently, and most incorrectly, prescribed for cases of eczema? What is the one word that best describes this young man? Certainly not lazy, disorganized, untidy! I say this because many would give Sulphur simply because of the degree of itching, scratching, heat, and discomfort. But, NO! The single word that best fits this young man is sensitive. He does not need a mineral remedy, but a plant. And what stand out most about his sensitivity? That he is mild-mannered, kind, caring, responsible, and keeps is anger within. There is a nobility about him. A serenity. Yet the discomfort and suffering due to the eczema is terrible. The characteristic sensation of the Ranunculaceae (buttercup) family is: vexed, easily excited, raw nerves, morbidly sensitive, sharp, stitching, stabbing, stinging, sticking pain. The active reaction of those needing remedies from this family is: nervous tension and suppression. The specific member of this family that Felipe needed was Staphysagria (stavesacre.) From the Substance of Homeopathy by Dr. Rajan Sankaran: “They are morbidly sensitive. The effect of this sensitivity is very deep and long lasting. They set for themselves a task which is nearly impossible. That task is to maintain their dignity… The main feeling of Staphysagria is one of dignity and honor, like a person of noble birth. He feels that he should live up to his sense of dignity and honour (which is often more than needed in a man in his position.. He should never lose his control, since it would be very much below his honour and dignity to do so. If somebody insults him, he has to keep control as befits his noble birth.” The skin symptoms of the remedy include: eruptions, chronic; eruptions, crusts, scabs after scratching; eruptions, eruptions, bleeding after scratching; eruptions, eczema, in children.
Response to the Remedy
I treaded lightly in choosing the potency for Felipe. The only remedy I have ever prescribed for him is Staphysagria. I began with an LM1 potency using a 2-glass method. LM remedies are made from 1 in 50,000 dilutions (rather than 1 part mother tincture to 9 parts water for X potencies and 1 to 99 for C potencies. They were developed by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopath, later in his lifetime, and are typically used for highly sensitive individuals. Below are the instructions that we have given for years to those patients taking LM remedies:
You will receive a 1-oz dropper bottle containing your remedy. You will be making a new dilution each day you are instructed to take the medicine.
Shake the bottle against your hand or a book 10 times.
Place 5 drops in 4 oz. water in a paper cup.
Stir this solution for 15 seconds vigorously with a spoon.
Take ½ tsp. of the stirred solution.
Throw away the remaining solution.
LM Medicines Multiple-Glass Method for Sensitive Individuals:
Follow the instructions above to prepare the first glass of the LM medicine.
Instead of taking the ½ tsp. of the liquid, put it in a second 4-oz glass of water. Stir that glass and take ½ tsp. of it.
You may be asked to repeat this process a specific number of additional times if you are very sensitive.
I’m doing better. Pretty much immediately I noticed that I went ten days without using any cortisone cream. I got a little itchy after the one-glass method the first night, so I went to the two-glass method. There’s been no horrible flareup. I’ve had an easier time going to sleep.
I’m doing better. I am using a one-glass method and it has been improving. I raised the potency from Staphysagria LM1 to LM2.
I am still using a very small amount of steroid cream every couple of weeks. My digestion has been better since first starting the remedy. Staphysagria LM3, 1-glass method.
I have not used the cortisone cream. Staphysagria 30C dry pellets as needed.
Still much better but I tried a dose of Staphysagria 30C dry pellets. Felipe had a slight flare-up on day five and did use a small amount of the cortisone cream. He experienced a great deal of family stress during this time. I prescribed Staphysagria 12C dry pellets.
Overall well. “I’ve been resisting the cortisone.” Having just attended a seminar with our teacher, Dr. Rajan Sankaran, I changed the potency to Staphysagria 12C in water two doses.
Twenty-Two and a Half Months
The best reaction ever. 85%-95% improvement after the two doses then again a month later after repeating the dry doses in water.
The most stressful three months of my life, but I’m doing okay. It’s been a year since using steroid cream.
Two Years Three Months
Same potency. I continue to talk briefly with Felipe, by phone or in person, every two to three months. He continues to do well with very slight flareups occasionally but he is very pleased with the results from the homeopathy.
I think this case teaches a lot: 1) the importance of encouraging breastfeeding whenever possible; 2) supplementation with goat’s milk, if needed, rather than cow’s milk or formula;
3) homeopathic care as early in life as possible (the parent(s) many also benefit from homeopathy as well) to treat the symptoms of eczema, chronic ear infections, asthma, and other allergic symptoms; 4) selecting, as always, the one best homeopathic remedy for the patient and, as long as results are positive, sticking with that remedy over time; 5) cautious and flexible potency selection and careful and long-term follow-up care .
HOW TO INTRODUCE FOODS TO INFANTS FOR ALLERGY-PREVENTION
It is very important to start off your baby’s diet right from the beginning in order to prevent allergies such as eczema, ear infections, and asthma, especially important if there is a family history of allergies. This program is meant to supplement breast milk as the primary source of nutrition for your infant. If it is not possible for you to breastfeed, the recommended naturopathic alternative is goat’s milk.
Allergic reactions to look for: rash around mouth or anus swollen or red lips, red face, cheeks darkness under eyes
sudden infection, particularly ear infection skin eruptions: rash, hives, eczema diarrhea
mucus in stool
discomfort, irritability, behavioral changes
applesauce, raw in blender
broccoli, raw and blended or cooked
carrot, cooked and mashed
cherries, pitted and smashed
grapes, seeded and mashed
sprouts, blended in water
millet, cooked and mashed
goat’s milk (fresh)
honey (not raw)
About the Author:
Judyth Reichenberg -Ullman is a licensed naturopathic physician, board certified in homeopathy. She practices with her husband, Robert Ullman. She sees patients in person at Serene Natural Health in Edmonds, WA, as well as by phone consultation internationally. They live on Whidbey Island, Washington and in Pucón, Chile. Please visit their website at www.healthyhomeopathy.com and Facebook at Healthy Homeopathy. She can be reached by phone at (425) 774-5599 or through email at email@example.com.
Together the doctors have written eight books on homeopathy: Homeopathic Self Care, The Savvy Traveler’s Guide to Homeopathy and Natural Medicine, Whole Woman Homeopathy, Ritalin-Free Kids, A Drug-Free Approach to Asperger Syndrome and Autism, The Homeopathic Treatment of Depression, Anxiety, and Bipolar Disorder, and Rage-Free Kids as well as Mystics, Masters, Saints and Sages—Stories of Enlightenment. They have been columnists for the Townsend Letter for nearly thirty years!