Carrie Palmer, PA-C, IFMCP
My Personal Journey
My third child was born in 2011. After about three weeks, it was very apparent he was dealing with bad reflux. Not just spitting up. When our eldest was an infant, she routinely gave up a good third of her meal with a smile and a giggle. I was used to that. No, he had the type of reflux that would wake him from a dead sleep with a gag and a cough, leading to screams for several minutes to up to an hour afterward. Soon I realized what might be going on and brought him to the pediatrician who started him on Zantac (an antacid). For approximately two years we relied on the maximum dose (for his weight) to give us enough symptom relief for him (and his parents) to get some sleep. Although the reflux was better controlled, he was still incredibly “colicky”.
"We were told this was normal for his age and he would grow out of it."
At around 3-4 months the pediatrician wanted us to put rice cereal in his bottle of breastmilk to help with his reflux. That was a massive fail. Adding rice led to worsening gas and vomiting so we stopped this and stuck with breast milk alone. Enter the introduction of solid foods at six months. We began with oatmeal. One week later my son was still spitting up, had the worst diapers we had seen yet, a bad cough and snotty nose. At that point we wondered when the virus we assumed he had would ever go away. My husband finally put together that his symptoms seemed to have started when we introduced the cereal. We stopped the oatmeal and his “virus” went away within about 24 hours. We tried rice cereal and rice puffs, but these too were met with similar GI and viral symptoms. At that point we went back to the pediatrician. After allergy testing “proved” he had no reaction to wheat, corn or rice, we were told to keep trying those foods as he would eventually tolerate them as he grew older.
At around 12 months old, we had a little boy who had difficulty swallowing anything solid, was constantly being sent home from daycare with vomiting and diarrhea, and who was measuring less than 1st percentile on the growth chart. This was the same child who was 8lb 12oz at 39 weeks when he was born! (We were told by one pediatrician maybe it was because his mom and dad weren’t big people – I am 5’4” and my husband is 5’10”.) We made a trip to Grand Rapids to see a pediatric gastroenterologist who did an EGD (gastroscopy) and told us he did not have celiac disease and everything looked normal. Although this was reassuring, he continued to not gain weight and have tremendous issues with even the smallest amount of cereal, crackers, puffs, soy or dairy formula…the list went on. At this point we had seen at least five different physicians, none of whom could find anything “wrong” except for a mild allergy to milk, egg and strawberry. We were continually told he was healthy and would “grow out” of his symptoms. And we were told to stop worrying and withholding foods that he should be eating as they were a necessary component to his diet. But they didn’t live with my son. They didn’t rock him and keep him upright for hours in the middle of the night, pace the halls, or change his diapers multiple times a day.
I am incredibly left-brained by nature and was trained in traditional western medical practice. Therefore, prior to this personal experience, I tended to look to traditional medicine for all the answers. At this point, there was not one MD or DO who could give me any answers to why my son was wasting away and miserable with so many foods. I started looking for answers outside of the walls of the many doctor’s offices I visited.
Around this time, someone introduced me to the idea of a grain-free diet as a therapeutic option. I then began to research dietary interventions on my own, including the paleo diet. We began to converse with alternative healthcare practitioners including a chiropractor and a naturopathic practitioner. For the first time, practitioners were agreeing that the foods to which my son was reacting were indeed part of the problem. Finally, with their support and further dietary intervention we saw a dramatic improvement in his abdominal symptoms. More than three years later, after much more nutritional intervention, various supplementation, meetings with alternative health practitioners (and no more drugs!) we have a very sweet, bright little boy entering young 5’s at about the 15th percentile in height and weight. Still small, but after all, mom and dad are not big people.
After I went through my own personal crisis with my sweet boy, I began to empathize with the many patients in our office with parallel stories. They experienced abdominal issues/pain, bowel changes, weight loss/gain, fatigue, skin rashes and many doctor visits with no answers. These patients received normal test results and suggestions from their doctors that their symptoms were likely due to psychological problems. It was then that I started researching more formal training options for myself to learn even more about the power of diet and other non-traditional therapies to treat chronic health problems. I came upon functional medicine – what seemed to me to be a perfect blend of traditional “western” medicine combined with an approach to treat the patient as a whole, interconnected system, and to get down to the root of the problem. The underlying tenet of functional medicine practitioners is to treat with diet and nutrients/supplements, allowing our body to restore itself to a place of health rather than illness or dysfunction.
I have a passion for treating patients with the functional medicine approach. As I have been implementing this treatment approach now since 2012, I have seen dramatic improvement in chronic symptoms and overall health for so many patients, both personally and professionally. In functional medicine, we look for the root cause or causes of dysfunction so we can restore health and vitality that, for some, has been missing for years. This approach for medical care focuses on treating the whole patient, rather than focusing on an individual disease or symptom. This allows me to address the root cause of an illness instead of treating symptoms or lab values with an increasing number of medications. I am excited to help facilitate the restoration of health and wellness to patients in southwest Michigan.
We are proud to offer our functional medicine model for the management and treatment of chronic disease to southwest Michigan.
Through investigation and our own research after becoming frustrated with our inability to help these patients, we came upon the field of functional medicine. This approach for medical care focuses on treating the whole patient, rather than focusing on an individual disease. This allows us to look for the root cause of an illness instead of treating symptoms or lab values with an increasing number of medications.