Penguins Win the Stanley Cup Again!
Right on the heels of a 2nd consecutive Stanley Cup Championship for the Pittsburgh Penguins (I am a Pittsburgher), I was all ready to write up a raw raw post talking about all of the great things that a plant-based diet affords the general population.
Change in Tune
That was until we took my daughter in for her year and a half checkup in mid-June. We had been noticing her acting a little more lethargic lately, but didn’t think much of it.
Long story short, Madison ended up being iron deficient and we had to head off to the ER and ultimately a hospital visit to get her iron levels back up to par. The doctors could not be sure, but the likely culprit was from a deficiency of iron in her diet.
A Little Iron Did the Trick
Since returning from the hospital my daughter has gotten a bounce back in her step and we were very thankful that the situation was able to be remedied in short order. She has much more energy now and it’s great to see her bouncing around the house.
The day at the hospital was very hard for me emotionally for several reasons. I completed so much research on how a plant-based diet can have profound impacts on one’s health and cure disease. I’ve seen it first hand allow me to stay off of medication for now over 3.5 years since I was diagnosed back in December 2013 and I feel healthier than ever.
I also specifically researched the proper way to raise your child on a plant-based diet to ensure that they are getting all of the necessary nutrients, so I felt pretty confident in our decision to raise our kids on this type of diet. Our son is 2 years older than Madison and he has grown up super healthy on a plant-based diet very similar to what we feed her.
Feeling of Guilt
I couldn’t help but feel so guilty that my poor little girl was iron deficient most likely because of her diet. That said, the doctors actually said that iron deficiency (anemia) is common for children across a variety of diets and not necessarily tied to those who choose a plant-based focus.
Likely Causes of Anemia
Apparently, in many cases anemia is caused when kids drink too much milk (almond or dairy) which inhibits efficient iron absorption and they don’t intake enough calories from other food sources to balance out their diet.
I think in my daughter’s case it was a combination of a lower iron diet and probably drinking too much almond milk. We think the problem started months ago when she was sick and had less energy to eat and started to rely more on almond milk which ultimately started a downward trend of iron levels in her body.
At the end of the day, kids are picky eaters, and it’s hard to make sure they are getting all of the necessary nutrients on a daily basis. My wife and I were never totally against her eating animal products from time to time, but Madison never really liked those foods. I was confident in my research, and especially my experiences with my son, so I didn’t think it would cause her any harm.
I Need to Blog the Good and the Bad
With this blog, I try to be as sincere and real as possible. I feel like it was the right thing to do to write about this and show that a plant-based diet does come with some risks and may not be for everyone. I couldn’t in good conscience write a super up-beat blog this month after my little girl went to the hospital.
For me, a plant-based diet is a no brainer, because it’s really the only way that I can stay off of medication. But for a young developing child, you really need to make sure he/she is getting enough B12 / Iron and other predominantly animal product found nutrients in their diet.
Iron Has Many Sources, Including Plants
I still fully stand behind a plant-based diet for my family but I will definitely be a little more accepting of my kids eating the occasional hamburger, salmon, eggs or chicken. I will say that I was a bit surprised at her deficiency as she was getting a fair amount of iron from things like spinach, sweet potatoes, almonds, broccoli, peas, beans and fruits, but apparently her body was not able to absorb the plant iron well enough to keep her red blood cells up. I also think an excessive amount of almond milk kept her full which caused a decrease in her appetite for other foods.
I still think an animal based diet is not the healthier route to go relative to plant-based one, but mixing in the occasional animal product is probably beneficial to the growth and development of a young child. Mostly because kids are so picky with their food that it’s hard to ensure your child is getting all of the required nutrients on a pure plant-based diet.
I am Humbled
Also, after this experience, I reflected on my blog posts over the past year and a half and realized that I have been pretty hard on the medical community at times. I do have some strong disagreements with how they inform patients of T1D management, but ultimately, I can not say enough about how supportive and friendly all of the doctors and nurses were at the hospital.
Even when we were in the hospital, all of the hospital personnel listened to my story and why we feed our kids the way that we do. In all cases, the doctors/nurses were supportive and respectfully listened to everything that I had to say. They agreed that our diet is well rounded and mostly a good strategy, but recommended a few items to add some more iron into their diet.
I guess I want to give a shout out to all of the things that doctors and nurses do each day to help those in need. I sometimes disagree with their approach on how they communicate disease management options to patients, but a majority of the medical field are kind hearted people doing their best to get your kids out the hospital as quickly and safely as possible.
I will continue to spread my message, but this experience surely humbled me. No diet is a one size fits all for anyone, especially when raising little children and ensuring they all receive the nutrients necessary to promote growth and development.
Meeting Some Pittsburgh Pirates!
Madison is back at home and doing well and the doctors said that she’ll be fine. We were told that we caught the deficiency early and there should be no long term issues as a result of the deficiency period.
Also, one positive note about the hospital visit was that Madison got to meet two Pittsburgh Pirates, Chris Stewart and John Jaso. Jaso actually hit a pinch hit two run homer the night after Madison met him! She must have been a good luck charm! Also, good thing I wore my Bucco shirt to the hospital.