Children’s Health: A Question of Balance - Dr. Diet: Eating Right

Author // Philip Incao, M.D.

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Dr. Diet: Eating Right

When someone has an inflammation, cold or fever, or is coming down with one, the diet should be restricted. When your body is trying to “digest” and eliminate toxic substances, it helps if you don’t have to digest much food at the same time. Therefore, the general rule is to avoid protein foods during the acute illness. These are: meat, eggs, dairy, nuts, juices, fish and legumes (such as beans, peas, lentils and soy). The sick person should have a mainly liquid diet of vegetable broth, herb teas and fruit juices; juices should be no colder than room temperature. Fruit, cooked vegetables, grains and light crackers are also suitable.

Another general rule is that when sick, eating less is better than eating more. If the patient is not hungry, she is better off not eating. The return of appetite is a sign of getting over the illness, but those first meals after the fever is gone should be light ones. Don’t be too eager to have your child regain the lost weight; this will happen naturally soon enough, as your child’s appetite and strength return. After the illness, reintroduce the restricted foods gradually and carefully.

Dr. Quiet: Minimizing Distractions

Most adults have experienced how, during a fever or any inflammatory illness, we crave peace and quiet and are disturbed by noises and sounds that usually don’t bother us when we are well. Children also need peace and quiet during their illnesses, although they rarely express it. Instead, out of “boredom,” they will ask to listen to their iPod or watch TV. These stimulations are best avoided, especially for younger children, and should be replaced by just “being there” for your child in a peaceful, unhurried, reassuring way. Keep them quietly under covers in bed or on a couch, away from the hustle and bustle of household activity. The more they sleep, the better.

Illness is a time to remove oneself from the usual pressures and routines of life and to completely “veg out,” allowing one’s body to repair and renew itself in the context of a peaceful and supportive environment. Very often illness can provide a wonderful opportunity for renewed communication and bonding between parent and child.

Dr. Merryman: Mastering Fear

These cleansing and detox recommendations have proven themselves to work extremely well in over 80 years of experience with anthroposophical medicine in many countries of the world. They have worked extremely well for my patients, including my own three children, since I began practicing medicine in 1972. There have been articles in pediatric medical journals about “fever phobia,” the unreasoning and unwarranted fear of fever that many parents have. Fear is a natural response to the experience of powerful forces that we do not understand. Acute inflammation and fever are certainly poorly understood, powerful forces. Nonetheless, they are healing forces.

When fear gains the upper hand, clear vision and judgment go out the window. If we can master our fear and sit calmly and reassuringly with our children when they are ill, observing them carefully, there is much we can learn. We may find that our fear gives way to a healthy respect and a glimmer of understanding for the change emerging in our child through the ebb and flow of the fever.

In every fever and inflammation, forces of body, soul and spirit are working to bring to birth a new order and a new balance. Many mothers have told me of their child’s developmental leap in emotional and neurological maturity after working through a feverish illness. Like any birthing process, we need to be alert and discerning to see that the inflammation unfolds in a healthy way, and to know when to call for expert help. This knowledge and discernment can be learned through experience, and the experience is well worth it.

Often children themselves have an intuitive understanding of what they are experiencing as they work through a feverish inflammatory illness. Occasionally, they even express it. One 5-year-old patient of mine said to his concerned mother at the peak of his illness, “Don’t worry, Mom. I’m just growing!”

About the Author:

Philip IncaoPhilip Incao, M.D., has had a practice of anthroposophic medicine since 1973. He was featured in the July/August 2003 Mothering magazine article, “The Healing Crisis: Don’t Worry Mom—I’m Just Growing!” His essays on children’s health are in The Vaccination Dilemma, published by Lantern Books, and on his website, He lives in Crestone, Colorado, with his wife, artist Jennifer Thomson.

Pathways Issue 28 CoverThis article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #28.

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