Friday, February 1, 2013

Maximizing Children's Growth Potential

Warning: Long post, keep reading's a good one ;) 
 photo credit

Since having three boys I've been fascinated at the thought that my boys could be tall, strong men.

 I enjoyed reading Tim Tebow's book "Through My Eyes" {every mom of boys needs to read!}. He was on a quest to be a tall beast since he was very little. Was it coincidence that he stands at 6'3" and 236 pounds and no one in his family does? Same parents, same environment.

Tim Tebow was fascinated with nutrition and optimizing his diet for growth.  He even did a whole home school project on how to lift weights and eat properly to reach his maximize growth potential.

I began to wonder, why ARE all football players big? Basketball players tall? Gymnasts short? Wrestlers short? Dancers short? Runners small? I use to be a gymnast and a dancer,  and I'm 5'3" while my sister is 5'9". My dad is 6 feet, and my Mom is 5'8".  I'm not saying genes didn't play a role in my height..I take after my Dad's sister, who was also a gymnast...BUT, I recently discovered I am intolerant to gluten {I had stomach issues since little, and so did my Aunt I just found out}, and I always did dance and gymnastics.  Hm..interesting right?

 I asked my husband why football players were all so tall, and he said, "It's like, survival of the fittest, only the tall ones make it.." which I believe true to some extent, but I also believed it was because something influenced by the sport that they were doing had a big role. Then I read this.  If some sports stunt growth, then maybe some encourage it?

Obviously genes play a huge role...but CAN WE MAXIMIZE THE HEIGHT OF OUR CHILDREN?

 Do you believe we have a major part in our children's adult height besides just genetics? Did you know, American's are getting shorter? The average man now is 5'9.5", when it use to be 6'1". 

 Cody, our middle son was labeled to be on the "short" side.  As a baby he was normal height, and was a very healthy, chubby baby boy. I breastfed him for 21 months.

 His growth started to really slow down around 18 months old.  He didn't gain any weight from about 2 years old to just recently (3.5 years old). He hardly grew taller either...... half an inch to an inch at the most in 18 months.

In the last few months his appetite had become really minimal. He would complain of stomach aches here and there, but nothing too serious seeming.  We just assumed he was a picky eater, and he really had no interest in food.

About three months ago, he started having night terrors.  He would wake up screaming and pointing at the end of his bed saying snakes were going to get him, or dinosaurs were gonna eat him, or just screaming and I would not be able to wake him for several minuets.  It was terrifying to me.  It wasn't every night, but on and off. I took away any movies that could have been scary to him, but he continued to get them.

He also seemed to really be keeping to himself more, not responding to us very much, or at all sometimes. 

I was becoming more and more concerned, and since I myself had recently discovered I had a gluten intolerance, I suspected the same for him.  We went for a routine appointment almost a month ago, and I found out he had dropped from the 50 percentile to the 3rd percentile. Below 5 percentile is defined as stunted growth. Reference

Besides his lack of appetite, lack of attention, the nightmares, and his stomach aches, he developed dark circles under his eyes, and his face began to look very slim and unhealthy.  He's never been skinny, he always had a robust stature {short & stout}, but his face began to look thin.

I went home and started researching, and researching.  I reached out to Chris Kresser, who was so awesome and wrote me back right away and told me it seemed he has a gluten or casein allergy. Another awesome person that emailed me back was Diana.  I'm thankful for people that care and help when they can.

I immediately got him a doctors appointment.  In the mean time, I completely took him off gluten. The first doctor we saw said, "He has an ear infection and seasonal allergies".

I protested, and got a referral to an allergy specialist to see if he had any food allergies.   A week later he had his appointment, where she ordered allergy tests for all kinds of food, including gluten and casein.  At this point he hadn't eaten gluten in 8 days and had already improved so much.

Two weeks later we got the results....

 All the tests came back negative! He isn't even allergic to anything environmental {seasonal allergies right doc?}. Praise the Lord. The allergy specialist suggested we see a Gastroenteritis even though I told her he was doing phenomenal. She said it's possible it could have been a gluten intolerance (duh). 

EVEN BETTER NEWS though?? Three weeks with NO gluten, and he was like a new kid! He hadn't complained of tummy aches, he hasn't had a night terror in weeks, and he is eating like a mad man! For him to ask for food after he's already eaten all his dinner, is such a huge change from the last 18 months!

And GUESS what?? I weighed and measured him the other day: in the last 3 weeks he has gained 1 pound and grew a whole inch!!!!!!!!!! I can not believe it.  To make sure, I brought him back in and she confirmed he went from 36 inches to 37 inches and 31 pounds to 32.6. wow!

So what gives? Blood says he isn't allergic....why is he better? 

I've done a lot of research on gluten intolerance.

If someone is intolerant to a food and eats it everyday {especially as much as Cody & I were} it can cause Leaky Gut Syndrome. Reference Leaky Gut Syndrome is a damaged bowel lining that can allow food, toxins, bacteria and other substances into the blood steam where it doesn't belong causing the body to attack it, and can in sever cases cause autoimmune diseases.

Leaky Gut, or an inflamed intestinal lining, can cause a host of problems, such as:  "allergies, inflammatory states, swollen glands, recurrent infections, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia or auto-immune diseases. Some of the more common autoimmune diseases are systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), sclerosing cholangitis, primary biliary cirrhosis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, vasculitis and rheumatoid arthritis." Reference  

Leaky Gut can also cause MALNUTRITION, the inability to absorb nutrients and growth delay in children. Reference 
I believe this was the case with Cody, and I shudder at the thought of what would have happened if I left it untreated.

That's some of what I've learned about food intolerances, not what the doctor has told me or diagnosed Cody with. But I suspect it was something like that since all his symptoms have improved and even disappeared.  His face is fuller, has more color, his under eye circles are so much better, he responds quicker, he's sleeping better with no nightmares {studies show Gut permeability is also linked to Autism Reference, Schizophrenia, and other mental illnesses}.

Is this just the case for my son? I don't believe so.  My friends daughter had an undiagnosed gluten allergy for years. Finally when my friend figured it out, a short time off gluten and her daughter grew 3 inches!  I am NOT saying every short child has a gluten intolerance or is malnourished.  I've already stated I do believe genes play a major culprit.  What I am saying is children's growth can be stunted, with out us even knowing it. Like in Cody's case.

Cody is growing like crazy right now. Suddenly growing out of his shoes (that he's been able to wear for a year and a half), and his pants are getting shorter on him. I'm very thankful.

 In the research I read, it stated that at a certain point, stunted growth is irreversible.  "Stunted growth is a reduced growth rate in human development. It is a primary manifestation of malnutrition in early childhood, including malnutrition during fetal development brought on by the malnourished mother." Reference

The tallest country in the world is Holland, averaging 6'1" tall.  They eat a lot of dairy! Asian people are generally short, where they eat very little dairy and a diet high in grains (phytic acid is found in most grains and is an anti nutrient). Dutch people who eat several servings of dairy a day are the tallest in the world.

In Weston A. Price's book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration {another must read for Mom's} he states how he discovered sever growth disorders in malnourished children where modern processed foods were given. As oppose to the same cultures eating their native diets, who were robust, tall stature, and could run and play in snow with no shoes on with out getting sick.

He discovered children on their native diets, with no modern food received four times the amount of nutrients as American children.  They also had no tooth decay, along with straight, white teeth.  The opposite was found with the same cultures who were eating processed foods. They were plagued with disease, growth disorders, sever tooth decay, crowded teeth, and narrow jaws. 

Sleep is also a major factor in growth for children. They grow while they sleep. That's why when a baby has a growth spurt, they eat for two days straight then sleep for almost two days straight. :)

I don't claim to know that my son will be super tall since I cut him off gluten. I do know that if I never took him off gluten, he wouldn't have reached his growth potential, and he would have a host of other health issues. 

I just wanted to share this true story of our son, in case any other mom out there is concerned about their child's health and growth progress.

Additional References: 1, 2

Love, The Curvy Housewife

{Disclaimer, I am NOT a doctor, please don't use this as a diagnoses. If your child has health issues consult an educated doctor.}


Valerie said...

Adrienne, I'm so glad Cody's doing better - you are doing all the right stuff, mama!

Anonymous said...

This is very interesting. My 2dd was told to avoid gluten by her doctor. She changed dramatically over the past few years and has grown taller than her older sister.

Anonymous said...

Super interesting, thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Super interesting, thanks for sharing!

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Leslie Kuch said...

Thank you for sharing... I may need to do this with my kids, especially my youngest... he was 22.5 inches when he was born (more thatn 2.5 in longer than his brother and sister... yet he is the shortest and smallest, very thin even though he eats really well, he is 5 1/2 and is still only 37 lbs. Could just be his genetics, but I just feel like he isn't growing like he should. Other things you typed I identified with as well.

Gluten free seems SO daunting.... any tips on how to get started?