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Alternative Perspectives: Caring For
By Dr. Mitchell Ghen
Caregivers of children, more often
than not, will look for alternative means of treatment,
especially if conventional modalities are creating side
effects, or they are failing. Pediatric oncologists have
admitted to me that many of their patients are involved
in some sort of alternative care. Current studies
suggest that the percentage is greater than 70%.
The oncologists also informed me that caregivers are
often uncomfortable in telling them about the
alternative problems. Unfortunately it is east to
understand why pediatric guardians feel so uneasy about
discussing these issues. Many conventional physicians
have little if any training in nutrition, herbal of
other complementary disciplines. Pediatric patients who
are not eating well are often told by their physicians
to eatpractically anything from cola to candy as a means
of getting some calories. Data suggests that 40% of
cancer patients die from malnutrition. Empty calorie
replacement with refined flours and sugars will worsen
the malnourished child’s state and hasten their demise.
It used to be thought, and still is, by the majority of
physicians, that vitamin and mineral deficiencies are
related to an overt specific syndrome. For example, the
continued deficiency of Vitamin C will lead to a disease
called Scurvy. A lack of iodine is likely to result in a
thyroid goiter. Associations like the American Dietetic
Association, American Institute of Nutrition, American
Society of Clinical Nutrition and the National Counsel
Against Health Fraud, still recommend supplementing
according to the recommended daily allowances (RDA).
They also state that beyond the RDA levels, vitamin
replacement is medically unnecessary, and is not
supported by the data.
What these organizations fail to recognize is that
marginal deficiencies of these nutrients will also cause
less that optimal functioning of the cells and
therefore, compromises that immune states of the
individual. Current eating habits of Americans and
children, in particular, have widened the gap of optimal
nutrition. Sub-groups, including the chronically ill,
often have multiple marginal micronutrient deficiencies.
These deficiencies will eventually cause biochemical and
physiological changes that will translate into
significant physical consequences.
What this means to the caregiver is that each child has
an individual set of circumstances which needs to be
addressed. Often, diet alone cannot correct the
problems, and supplementation is required. Occasionally,
doses of nutrients may have to be given in dosages well
in excess of the RDA. These pharmacological doses, in
general, have a much greater risk than taking the
suggested RDA levels. Interactions with one vitamin or
mineral with another may actually cause a nutritional
deficiency. An example is the common combination of
vitamin supplements of Vitamin C and Folic acid. Folic
acid is considered the deficient vitamin in the American
population. Interestingly the presence of large
quantities of Vitamin C taken at the same time as Folic
acid will significantly impair its absorption. Another
example is the use of zinc to improve the immune system.
This mineral will also interfere with iron absorption.
Herbs are chemicals and, even though they often boast of
safety, large doses or even moderate doses in small sick
children, can prove to have more risk than benefit.
Issues such as dose, manufacturer, type of vitamin and
mineral preparation, fillers, additives, time of day,
intestinal acidity, season or lack thereof, concurrent
medicines, and overall nutritional state must be
considered when prescribing for these individuals.
Chronically ill children are especially susceptible to
toxic reactions of micronutrients due to size and body
mass factors. Treat these substances as you would any
form of medication and check with your child’s physician
before adding or deleting them from the diet.