I first met Kelly Dorfman MS, LND (licensed nutritionist/dietitian) about ten years ago back in Massachusetts, when she gave a lecture at Occupational Therapy Associates in Watertown. I had already been in practice a while working with children with autism and other conditions, but back then, precious few licensed nutrition professionals were doing what I was doing. I didn’t have any peers. Except Kelly. She was the only other LDN I knew of working with this population of children. And she had been at it a while. Her lecture was jam-packed with information about how nutrition can help kids with sensory processing disorders, motor delays, or praxis issues.
We’ve stayed connected intermittently over the years, so when I heard she was visiting Boulder on her book tour, I was delighted to get to catch up with her again. Even though it was crazy, loud, and crowded already at 6 PM with a two hour wait, I chose Ten Ten for us to meet – a short walk from her event at Boulder Book Store, and (my opinion) the best fresh, light tapas for the best prices in town. We squeezed into the last seats at the bar and tried to talk over the din with some salmon tartare, artichokes, and sliders. Here is what she had to say about her new book, her family, and her work.
What prompted you to write What’s Eating Your Child? I was frustrated with all the needless suffering I was seeing in my practice because parents and other medical professionals are not aware of how nutrition problems can cause medical problems. The answers are often so simple yet parents would be going broke or getting divorced pursuing complicated treatments that did not address the cause of the problem.
How did you get interested in this corner of nutrition? I went to school thinking this was the corner of nutrition I was going to be studying. Unfortunately, even to this day, little is taught about using nutrition therapeutically as a first line approach to health problems. I had to learn the most useful information on my own.
Why is this book important now, compared to 20 or 30 years ago? Do we really need to be so concerned about nutrition in the US, where we have so much food and health care? The book is important now more than ever because health care costs are spiraling up and the system has become so complicated. There is also a tendency to use expensive technology and tests, just because we can. One of my clients called me today very upset because a doctor had recommended a MRI for her 23 year old daughter who complained she was tired. The doctor took a full medical history and when he heard that the father had multiple sclerosis, he ordered the brain study. Never through the “complete” history did the doctor ask what the young adult ate or how much she slept. (Poorly and very little.) The mother wanted to know if I thought her child could have multiple sclerosis but before I even had a chance to formulate a response, she brought up diet. “Do you think the fact that she lives on baguettes, eats no vegetables and skips meals could have anything to do with the tiredness?” she wanted to know. Of course, it could!
You’ve raised three kids, so you know what it’s like to feed a family. How was the cooking and meal planning managed in your house? I did not make three different meals, that is for sure. Mostly, I prepared very fresh, simple food that did not take a lot of time but was flavorful….similar to the way Europeans eat. The biggest time consumer for me was shopping three times a week for fresh produce and meat/fish. Basically, I would go to the market and look at what was available that day and buy enough food for a few days. If the asparagus looked good and the fish had just come in, that is what we had. If I knew I would be very busy one day, I would throw together a soup in the morning and let it cook all day. The key for me was having markets with organic and fresh foods, nearby.
Did your kids eat school lunches? How did that shift as they grew up? Very rarely. They complained that they were “gross” and smelled bad. Compared to the food they got at home, they were. My daughters sometimes wanted to buy lunch on pizza day, but my son was very reactive to dairy, so he ate almost no school lunches.
A condition called eosinophilic esophagitis has been mentioned more lately. Explain what that is, and what families can do to help these kids get better. It is an involved allergic condition where a type of white blood cell (eosinophils) are found in the esophagus. For this accumulation to happen, the child is usually reacting to a great number of foods and eating is an unpleasant experience. The children can be allergic to everything that is tested by the allergist or in one case I heard about this week, had only three non-reactive foods. Since it is not healthy to live on three foods (especially as they were three fruits in this case), the situation can be tricky. The best treatment usually involves a rotation diet using the least reactive foods and supplements to help heal the gut lining so it functions better. This could include nutrients, L-glutamine, probiotics and enzymes, among other things. The supplements can also cause reactions so they have to be added slowly and carefully.
What would you say to parents whose health care providers have said their children are “well enough”, when it seems they could be feeling, growing, learning, or functioning a lot better? You have to trust your own instincts. No medical professional , including nutritionists, know your children as well as you do. If you think something is missing or your child is not as vibrant as you think she could be, there is a 99% chance you are right!