Healthy Cells, Healthy Gut, Healthy Child: NOTeD Interviews Sheila Kilbane, MD
Fifty percent of children in the U.S. now have a chronic illness, from allergies and asthma, to eczema and constipation. Yet, lifestyle medical advice aimed at children is scarce.
During her fellowship at the Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine, Dr. Kilbane learned that there was a great deal of nutritional research that backed up what she had been learning through the mothers in her clinic. “It’s remarkable that we don’t get more training in medical school about the role of nutrition in health and healing,” she said.
Dr. Kilbane’s new book, Healthy Kids, Happy Moms: 7 Steps to Heal and Prevent Common Childhood Illnesses (with a foreword by THI Founder Dr. Katz) is a resource for families and practitioners alike. It distills what she’s learned over two decades of pediatric practice into a step-by-step guide to restoring cellular, gut, and overall health in children and their families.
Nutrition As a Family Project
In our discussion, Dr. Kilbane and I lamented the role ofcalorie rich, refined and highly processed (CRRAHP™) foods inundating us everywhere, including schools. I asked her for some tips for at least shifting the ratios of CRRAHP™ to actual food.
“I want families to plan their weekly meals like they would a trip to Disney World—and yes, this means doing it together,” she said. “Involve the kids instead of demanding them to follow a program you’ve decided on.”
Dr. Kilbane recommends that families go through their cupboards and put all the junk foods into a big box. Next, the kids get to decide what they want to do with all of that food and when to get started on the healthier eating routine. Dr. Kilbane provides practical advice including not making significant changes right before a big “food holiday” like Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
Dr. Kilbane says that while moms often worry how their kids will react to exchanging a beloved food for a healthier choice, they often come into her office and say it was no big deal after all.
She recommends starting a change with small steps, like what to serve for breakfast. Instead of sugary cereal with cow’s milk, or a bagel and cream cheese, or a toaster pastry, she suggests moving over to a green smoothie. “Green” might mean one leaf of lettuce (on the first day) mixed with a lot of fruit. She reminds us that if you can start with a green smoothie and perhaps toast with a multigrain piece of bread and mashed avocado or nut butter, you’ve moved from a high carbohydrate breakfast into a nutrient-dense, fiber-rich breakfast that is going to last until lunchtime. In making these nutritional changes, Dr. Kilbane cautioned we must remind ourselves to pursue progress over perfection.
Treat “Big Food” like Big Tobacco
Dr. Kilbane and I agreed that corporate food powers often work against us in our quest for better health. “I think we need to hold the food industry to accountability as we’ve done with tobacco,” she said.
Yes, indeed. As a society, we’ve changed the public norm that makes it less acceptable to smoke in public by holding tobacco companies accountable for the damage their products did to public health. Now our job is to change the demand profile of food processors and restaurants. As with everything on the market, consumer demand will drive the availability and pricing of products.
So hug your kids, happy moms and dads, get rid of the CRRAHP™ foods, and click below to watch this incredibly informative interview with Dr. Sheila Kilbane: