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An accessible and reassuring guide to childhood health and immunity from a pediatrician who’s both knowledgeable about the latest scientific research and respectful of a family’s risk factors, health history, and concerns
In The Vaccine-Friendly Plan, Paul Thomas, M.D., presents his proven approach to building immunity: a new protocol that limits a child’s exposure to aluminum, mercury, and other neurotoxins while building overall good health. Based on the results from his pediatric practice of more than eleven thousand children, as well as data from other credible and scientifically minded medical doctors, Dr. Paul’s vaccine-friendly protocol gives readers
• recommendations for a healthy pregnancy and childbirth • vital information about what to expect at every well child visit from birth through adolescence • a slower, evidence-based vaccine schedule that calls for only one aluminum-containing shot at a time • important questions to ask about your child’s first few weeks, first years, and beyond • advice about how to talk to health care providers when you have concerns • the risks associated with opting out of vaccinations • a practical approach to common illnesses throughout the school years • simple tips and tricks for healthy eating and toxin-free living at any age
The Vaccine-Friendly Plan presents a new standard for pediatric care, giving parents peace of mind in raising happy, healthy children.
Praise for The Vaccine-Friendly Plan “Finally, a book about vaccines that respects parents! If you choose only one book to read on the topic, read The Vaccine-Friendly Plan. This impeccably researched, well-balanced book puts you in the driver’s seat and empowers you to make conscientious vaccine decisions for your family.”—Peggy O’Mara, editor and publisher, Mothering Magazine
“Sure to appeal to readers of all kinds as a friendly, no-nonsense book that cuts through the rhetoric surrounding vaccines. It offers validation to those who avoid some or all, while offering those who do want to vaccinate help on how to do so safely. This is a great book for anyone with children in their lives.”—Natural Mother
“A valuable, science-supported guide to optimizing your child’s health while you navigate through complex choices in a toxic, challenging world.”—Martha Herbert, M.D., Ph.D., Harvard Medical School
“An impressively researched guide, this important book is essential reading for parents. With clear and practical advice for shielding children from harmful toxins, it will compel us all to think differently about how to protect health.”—Jay Gordon, M.D., FAAP
“Rather than a one-size-fits-all vaccine strategy, the authors suggest thoughtful, individualized decisions based on research and collaboration between parents and clinicians—a plan to optimize a child’s immune system and minimize any risks.”—Elizabeth Mumper, M.D., founder and CEO, The Rimland Center for Integrative Pediatrics
“This well-written and thought-provoking book will encourage parents to think through decisions—such as food choices and the timing of vaccines—that affect the well-being of their children. In a world where children’s immune systems are increasingly challenged, this is a timely addition to the literature.”—Harriet Lerner, Ph.D., bestselling author of The Dance of Anger and The Mother Dance
Under the Cover
An excerpt from The Vaccine-Friendly Plan
Toxins, Toxins, Toxins: Raising Healthy Children in a Poisoned World
When Brayen Perez was nine years old, he ran into the kitchen, grabbed a bottle of what he thought was Gatorade off the counter, and chugged it. His mouth and throat on fire, Brayen screamed in pain. He had no idea that his father had borrowed Drano from a neighbor to unclog the sink and poured it into the Gatorade bottle. Brayen spent the next thirty-two days in the ICU unable to swallow or talk, fed through a feeding tube. He’s better now, but his father still hasn’t forgiven himself.
Children in America have also been poisoned by windshield wiper fluid (mistaken for Kool-Aid) and tiki torch fuel (thought to be apple juice). Some recover. Others aren’t as lucky. Though immediately rushed to the hospital, Oklahoma toddler Jhonethyn Bumpas died three hours after a mistake like this.
It’s not hard for parents to understand that chemicals like Drano are extremely toxic and that they need to do everything they can to keep them away from their children. But it is much harder for parents to understand that even very small amounts of everyday chemicals, though not immediately poisonous, can devastate our children, especially their developing brains.
I tell parents that when it comes to toxins, one plus one does not equal two: It could equal ten, or one hundred. When we mix small amounts of toxic chemicals together, it can create a much larger negative effect than separate exposure to either toxin on its own. Your child may be able to withstand repeated exposure to something harmful, but the toxin accumulates in his system and may eventually cause harm over an extended period of time (like cigarette smoke or X-rays). The amount, the route of entry, the timing of exposure, the individual sensitivity to the chemical, and the presence of other toxins in the body are all important aspects of toxicity. Developing fetuses and infants are most vulnerable to harm.
I’m Worried Most About Your Baby’s Brain
The CDC currently estimates that one in every forty-five American children has an autism spectrum disorder.
In addition to autism, we have seen exponential rises in other brain-related problems among children, including attention deficit disorders, anxiety, and depression.
While genetics are part of the equation, I believe that we are poisoning our children’s brains at a time when they are most vulnerable, a time when they are developing rapidly, exposing them both to untested chemicals and to known neurotoxins. Autism is an environmental disorder, an epidemic that we have caused by failing to practice evidence-based medicine. I’m telling you this not to scare you but to empower you. You need to know the environmental toxins that are damaging to neurodevelopment, and hence are likely contributing to the autism epidemic and other developmental and mental health conditions, so that you can do everything you can to avoid them and have a healthy baby.
Families who have children with autism and other neurological disorders often come to me because I have a reputation for helping these children using integrative medicine and approaches that will promote their own natural biochemistry and allow them to best heal and recover. I don’t have a special cure for autism; unfortunately no one does. But I am an open-minded doctor who is not afraid to educate myself about remedies that work, to individualize medicine, and to look at the whole child. I listen to parents. The approach I use is also embraced by many functional medicine doctors and naturopaths (doctors who have trained in both Western and alternative medicine), as well as integrative medicine physicians like me. We try to understand the root causes of the conditions we are treating. We test for genetic vulnerabilities. We heal by restoring biochemistry, aiding the body’s ability to remove toxins, and using diet and nutrition, along with medication, to recover damaged health.
How do I know autism is something we doctors are helping to cause? Because in more than a thousand children who were born into my practice since 2008 whose parents follow my vaccine-friendly plan, there have been no new cases of autism.
And I am not alone. My medical colleagues across the country who have adopted similar vaccine-friendly protocols and begun spacing out vaccines for infants, as well as eschewing vaccines in families at risk for autism, are also seeing excellent results.
Number of children diagnosed with autism whose parents presumably followed the advice of mainstream American pediatricians: one in forty-five.
Number of children diagnosed with autism whose parents followed my vaccine-friendly plan: zero.
Toxins That May Be Implicated in ADHD, ADD, Anxiety, Autism, and Other Developmental Delays
Acetaminophen (also called paracetamol), a pain reliever found in more than six hundred over-the-counter and prescription medications, including DayQuil, Robitussin, Sudafed, Tylenol, and Vicks
Aluminum, a metal injected as an adjuvant in vaccines and other pharmaceutical products, also found as a contaminant in intravenous nutritional products
Aspartame (NutraSweet, also called E951), an artificial sweetener used as a sugar substitute in processed foods and beverages
Endocrine disruptors, any chemicals that interfere with the human endocrine (hormone) system, including pesticides, herbicides, chemical softeners in plastic, flame retardants, and chemicals used in agriculture, disease control, manufacturing, and industrial processing. Known endocrine disruptors include BPA, DDT, DEHP, DES, dioxin, PCBs, and PCBEs.
Fluoride, a chemical added to drinking water and found in toothpaste, pesticides, Teflon pans, and processed foods and beverages
Methanol, a chemical found in cigarette smoke, canned and jarred foods, smoked fish and meat, and any food product that contains aspartame
Mercury, an element found in thimerosal (a mercury-based preservative widely used in infant vaccines until 2001 and still used in some flu, DTaP, DT, and meningococcal vaccines), dental amalgams (fillings), fish, shellfish, and animals that eat fish, released into the air from coal-burning factories and aluminum smelters.
What We Don’t Know Can Hurt Us
A doctor I know watched one of his sons line up toy cars for hours, every day, for years, without admitting something might be wrong with his son’s brain. “He’s just all boy,” this dad would say. His wife agreed. His son couldn’t learn his ABCs in kindergarten and had almost no memory or recall. School was especially hard for him. But it wasn’t until he came home from third grade and said to his father, “Dad, I’m the dumbest kid in the class,” that his parents allowed themselves to admit that something was really wrong.
Tests revealed that this little boy had high levels of heavy metals in his body, as well as an MTHFR defect, a mutation in the genetic code that causes metabolism disruption, often making it difficult to get rid of toxins. (For more on MTHFR defects, see Chapter 2.)
Before they realized the severity of their son’s disorder, this family was not worried about staying away from processed foods, eating organic, filtering their water, or avoiding toxins in any other way. A doctor married to a nurse, they certainly never would have thought to question the timing or necessity of any vaccine, ultrasound, or other recommended intervention. But their son seemed to have been gradually poisoned by harmful environmental exposures over time.
And of course this led to my friend beating himself up. “We did this to him,” he insisted, holding his fist to his brow. “My wife drank Crystal Light throughout the pregnancy. She took acetaminophen for every ache and pain and agreed to multiple ultrasounds.”
Was it their fault? Was it their pediatrician’s? Was it the government’s? Was it the pharmaceutical companies’? It doesn’t matter. What matters is that their son’s brain dysfunction and learning challenges could have been avoided. That story could be anyone’s.
Our children know we love them, and the harm we do is never intentional. But I’m calling on you to be intentional, educate yourself, and decide now to make small but vital changes that will improve every aspect of your child’s health.
Does Acetaminophen Trigger Autism?
Aspirin was the pain reliever of choice in the United States until the early 1980s, when evidence emerged associating aspirin and Reye’s syndrome, an extremely rare but fatal condition that manifests as swelling in the brain and liver. By the mid-1980s, as a result of concern over Reye’s syndrome in young children, as well as very successful advertising by Johnson & Johnson, acetaminophen essentially replaced aspirin as the primary treatment for fever and pain in pregnant women and small children. The main ingredient in Tylenol, it’s also found in more than six hundred prescription and over-the-counter medications (including NyQuil, Sudafed, and Percocet).
But in 2008 a team of five scientists led by Stephen Schultz at the University of California, San Diego, published an important study that compared eighty-three cases of children with autism with eighty controls. The study found that children who took Tylenol after getting the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine were significantly more likely to have autism than children who did not. While the study had several weaknesses—it has a relatively small sample size, it relies on parental recall, and it includes no validation of clinical records to confirm either the autism diagnoses or the use of acetaminophen—the findings were significant. Children given acetaminophen between twelve and eighteen months of age were eight to twenty times more likely to have autism than children given ibuprofen or no pain-killer. Parents of children who became autistic also reported more side effects following the MMR vaccine, including fever, rash, diarrhea, irritability, and seizures, than parents of children who did not.
Taken alone, this research may not be enough to stop medical professionals and parents from using acetaminophen, which is, after all, an effective pain reliever for many. But considered in the context of other published studies and laboratory research, Schultz’s survey associating acetaminophen with autism should have raised a huge red flag. We know from research conducted in the 1980s on laboratory rats, as well as studies done on other mammals in the 1990s, that acetaminophen—especially in the presence of testosterone—can wreak havoc on living cells, causing mitochondrial disruptions and depletion of glutathione. I tell my patients to think of glutathione as nature’s mop—an essential biochemical that your body needs to bind with toxins and escort them out of your system. For whatever reason, children with autism have been found to have lower glutathione levels. Giving already susceptible children Tylenol and other acetaminophen-containing drugs, especially in combination with a known neurotoxin (aluminum, say, injected intramuscularly via a vaccine), may be the last straw for their brains.
A recent study by researchers at the University of Massachusetts revealed that autism is much more prevalent in circumcised males than in those who are not circumcised. The researchers don’t suggest that circumcision causes autism but instead point their finger at the pain reliever given to infant boys during the procedure, concluding that a growing body of experimental and clinical evidence links acetaminophen metabolism to autism and related developmental disorders. But perhaps most worrisome is a Danish study of more than 64,000 mothers and children published in April 2014 in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, which found that use of acetaminophen (but not ibuprofen) during pregnancy was associated with significantly higher risks of attention deficit disorders in their offspring. The more acetaminophen mothers took during pregnancy, the more likely it was that their children would have severe attention deficit disorders and hyperactivity.
When I was in medical school in the early 1980s, we were told that the risk of Reye’s syndrome made giving aspirin to infants and small children too dangerous. I am sorry to say that I was an active part of the acetaminophen revolution. Young, energetic, upbeat sales representatives from Johnson & Johnson visited the hospital, bringing us doughnuts on the late shift, dropping off free samples, and printing out the latest information about the dangers of aspirin and the benefits of Tylenol for us to share with our patients. We unquestioningly gave Tylenol to children just before administering vaccines and urged parents to use it right after vaccines, especially for the whole-cell pertussis vaccine that was notorious for causing alarmingly high fevers and seizures. (It has since been taken off the market.) Clinically, we saw that administering acetaminophen reduced the frequency of seizures after vaccines, so we pushed it on parents. We had no idea that our recommendations could be contributing to the explosion of neurological damage, developmental delays, and immune issues among children.
The association between aspirin and Reye’s syndrome has since been challenged. A comprehensive review published in 2007 concluded, “The suggestion of a defined cause-effect relationship between aspirin intake and Reye syndrome in children is not supported by sufficient facts” (my emphasis). Nonetheless prenatal and pediatric use of acetaminophen continues despite the mounting evidence against it.
Acetaminophen has other strikes against it. It is the leading cause of acute liver failure in the United States; at least one meta-analysis and one carefully designed randomized study have found that it is actually not a very effective pain reliever; and it seems to cause liver abnormalities even at proper doses. Because it’s found in so many different products, and parents are not in the habit of reading medication ingredient lists, it is all too easy to inadvertently give a child a toxic amount.
Until we have more information, I believe it is irresponsible, even dangerous, for doctors to recommend acetaminophen-containing products to pregnant women or small children. Some researchers, like Duke University Medical School associate professor William Parker, Ph.D., who has been studying immune dysfunction for over a decade, believe that stopping the use of acetaminophen in pregnancy and infancy would lead to a dramatic and immediate decline in autism. In order to better protect our children’s brains and bodies, I tell my patients it is best to stop all use of acetaminophen during pregnancy and infancy.
I also recommend that pregnant moms and parents of young children be cautious about using ibuprofen, the main ingredient in Advil and Motrin. Though this pain reliever is less toxic than acetaminophen, this class of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pharmaceutical medication can cause ulcers, bleeding, or holes in the stomach or intestinal lining and may be a contributing cause of leaky gut syndrome and celiac disease. Most doctors won’t tell you that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen are responsible for more than 100,000 hospitalizations and 16,000 deaths a year.
Luckily there are several effective nontoxic options when you or your child needs pain relief. Headaches and aches and pains during pregnancy (and also in small children) are often caused by dehydration, excessive fatigue, and stress. Treating those underlying symptoms with massage, better sleep habits, effective stress-management techniques, and better hydration can make a big difference. Pregnant women and children also report relief using a few drops of lavender oil on a cool washcloth on the head, a practice that Yale-trained Aviva Romm, M.D., an integrative family physician based in West Stockbridge, Massachusetts, also recommends. Magnesium deficiency is a common cause of headaches, so Epsom salt baths (which contain magnesium that is absorbed through the skin) can also provide relief. Eating magnesium-rich foods (dark leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and fish that is low on the food chain) is another safe and effective strategy that gives whole-body benefits with no harmful side effects (unless you hate the smell of fish). Finally, turmeric, a spice derived from a ginger-like root beloved in Indian cuisine, is a powerful anti-inflammatory.
Paul Thomas, M.D., FAAP, received his M.D. from Dartmouth Medical School and did his pediatrics residency at UC San Diego. His practice, Integrative Pediatrics, currently serves more than eleven thousand patients in the Portland, Oregon, area. He was named a top family doctor in America by Ladies’ Home Journal in 2004 and a top pediatrician in America in 2006, 2009, 2012, and 2014 by Castle Connolly. Dr. Thomas grew up in Zimbabwe (the former Rhodesia) and speaks both Shona and Spanish. He is the father of ten children (ages twenty to thirty-two), all of whom are vaccinated. He lives with his family in Portland, Oregon.
Jennifer Margulis, Ph.D., is an award-winning science journalist who has been researching and writing about issues related to children’s health for more than ten years. Her articles have appeared in TheNew York Times and TheWashington Post, and on the cover of Smithsonian Magazine. A Boston native, she lives in Oregon with her husband and four children.