/ Podcast / Reviving Children’s Health, With Beth Lambert

Reviving Children’s Health, With Beth Lambert

When Beth Lambert became a mother, she started noticing that children were not okay. Many were suffering from gut health issues, sensory issues, autism, or ADHD. She wanted to find out what was wrong with this generation of kids and how to combat it. After studying functional medicine and holistic medicine, Beth created Epidemic Answers, a resource for parents and professionals who want to know more about how to treat these conditions through lifestyle changes. Her goal is to show that there is hope in overcoming these chronic illnesses.

Episode Highlights

  • What makes this new generation of children different?
  • Explore Epidemic Answers and how it can help parents.
  • Discover how health coaches are making a difference with families.
  • Learn about the Documenting Hope Project.
Beth Lambert

Meet the Guest

Beth Lambert

Founder of Epidemic Answers

EpidemicAnswers.com


Author, educator, and former healthcare consultant, Beth Lambert has monitored and documented the escalating rates of childhood chronic conditions for over a decade.  Her first book, A Compromised Generation, provides a thorough analysis of the origins of this modern health crisis and documents how modifications to environmental and lifestyle factors can profoundly influence health outcomes, including full disease reversal. Beth is also the co-author of Brain Under Attack: A Resource for Parents and Caregivers of Children with PANS, PANDAS, and Autoimmune Encephalitis.

Beth is the founder and Executive Director of Epidemic Answers, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to reestablishing vibrant health in our children.  She is also the creator and Executive Producer of The Documenting Hope Project, a multi-year prospective research study and media project that examines the cumulative impact of environmental stressors on health and their mitigation through personalized and systems-based treatment approaches.  Beth is the mother of three children and is passionate about raising awareness about the connection between daily choices, human health, and planetary health.


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Episode Transcript

Sandi: Welcome, everybody. Today, I have the pleasure of speaking with Beth Lambert. She is the founder of Epidemic Answers as well as the project, Documenting Hope. And she’s also the mom of three, and she has a mission to help people see this connection between the daily choices we make and our health as well as planetary health. So, welcome, Beth.

Beth: Thank you, Sandy. I’m so happy to be here with you.

Sandi: Let’s start out by talking about what led you to do the amazing work in the world that you’re doing. And can you describe that? Can you describe Epidemic Answers, what your mission is, and what it’s like?

Beth: Sure. Yeah, I got into this work… I’d spent about 15 years, and it started when I had little children, young children, and I, sort of, had an awakening to what was now I understand to be an epidemic of chronic conditions and neurodevelopmental conditions that was exploding in children. It was really the experience of being a relatively new mom with young kids who had some symptoms but nothing too serious and it eluded a diagnosis, but it was enough to get me into the office of integrative physicians, and it was enough to get me asking questions, why do my children have these symptoms? And why do all the children in their playgroups and in their preschool classes have all these symptoms? And it was all the things that we see so commonly, the GI symptoms, the chronic constipation and the sensory symptoms and the neurodevelopmental stuff, you know, all the autism that children are being diagnosed with, and everybody seemed to be getting ADHD medications. So, this really struck me as something was wrong with our kids.

So, I happen to be in graduate school at that time. I wanted to understand what was happening to this generation of kids. At the same time, I was also learning about functional medicine, integrative medicine, holistic approaches, lifestyle medicine that were really important to helping my children return to good health and get to a place where they didn’t have any more symptoms. And I found that to be just transformative. All that information about nutrition and lifestyle and all these things that we can do by looking at the root causes that can reverse diseases and conditions that most people think are lifelong.

So, that set me out on a mission. I started in graduate school by writing a book. It’s called the “A Compromised Generation,” and it looks at all the variables that are part of modern living that are really hurting our kids, that are impacting their health, growth, and development. So, once I published that book, I know nobody read books. So, I started out to find out, how could I reach people? They’re not going to read books. What can I do? People need to know about this. People need to know that functional medicine, integrative medicine is so much better for chronic health conditions or chronic symptoms than what conventional medicine has to offer.

So, I started a non-profit called Epidemic Answers, and Epidemic Answers is really meant to be a resource for parents and professionals who want to know more about how to reverse these conditions. What kinds of changes do I need to make in my life? Who do I need to see? Who do I need to work with? So, the purpose of our organization is to help elucidate the root causes of these chronic conditions in children but also help parents find resources.

And in that process of connecting with parents and connecting with practitioners and learning about what it takes to reverse these conditions in children, I also started documenting stories of kids who had fully reversed all kinds of things—autoimmune diseases, ADHD, autism, all these things that are genetic and lifelong. So, that was also transformative for me because I felt like, if we know what reverses these conditions, if this happens in some people, why isn’t this the standard of care? Why aren’t we doing this for all people?

So, that’s really what triggered what is now known as the Documenting Hope project because that’s what we’re doing. We’re documenting that there is hope for Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, autism, all these things that are really something you can impact by lifestyle and environmental medicine and diet changes. So, the Documenting Hope project is a research project where we’re demonstrating that these things are reversible. We have a couple IRB-approved research studies and we’re basically trying to gather evidence of hope that these things do not need to happen. And especially for our kids because they have such a short little window of time where they’re really, really malleable, and you can do a lot to improve their health when they’re still young and they’re still resilient.

Sandi: This is such an amazing project, and I love the power of story and the fact that you’re Documenting Hope by sharing stories, but you’re adding to that the research component. And so many people have a mission but it’s not backed up by evidence. And I was so pleased when we talked a while back, and you are using the same research consultant that we used with IFM, The Institute for Functional Medicine, when we did our randomized controlled trial. So, I know that you are in good hands, and that research will be sound because there are research studies out there, but how are they designed? How are they carried out? How are the conclusions derived out of it? You start to wonder, but with this one, I think it will be really solid because of how you’re going about it.

Beth: Yeah, thank you. And, yeah, we have a great research team. We have Dr. Chris D’Adamo who is our principal investigator and scientific director. And the project was led originally by Dr. Martha Herbert who is a pediatric neurologist and neuroscientist and had deep expertise in autism in particular. So, you know, those experts leading the charge and really doing studies that are going to make an impact, that’s an important part of what we’re doing as we want to make sure we do this rigorously and we want to make sure that what we discover in our research is something that will resonate with conventional medical doctors with people who are in institutions and aren’t looking at these things the way they need to.

So, that’s an important part of our work is making sure that this research is done thoroughly and rigorously. And we’re always raising money and looking for more collaboration and more opportunities to expand this research, because it’s urgent that we begin to get the conventional medical community aware of all these things that are possible for our kids.

Sandi: Absolutely. So, we’ve talked earlier about the importance of having a support person, having a guide, an ally. It can be so overwhelming because there’s so much conflicting evidence out there or perhaps you hear one thing from your doctor, you read about something else. And who do you trust? How do you feel confident? And I was actually in… I spent many, many years… My original background was in special education, specifically in learning disabilities, and I worked with parents… And even back then, we’re talking about the late ’60s and ’70s, it was overwhelming. And there were no internet in those days, I mean, and now it’s just exploded all of the things out there and parents feel overwhelmed and confused. So, health coaches. Can you talk about how they play a really crucial role?

Beth: Yeah, there is such a need for health coaches to address this epidemic. The minute I launched Epidemic Answers, that would have been in 2009, I knew that we needed to bridge the gap between the functional medicine doctors. There’s an amazing but small army of functional medicine doctors who focus on pediatrics, but they only have so much time, and they’re really just inundated with patients because of this tsunami of kids that are coming into their practices. They don’t have time to do the work on diet. They don’t have time to do the work on lifestyle. What do you need to change in your home? You know, they don’t have the time to necessarily walk families through the importance of sleep, and stooling, and all these kinds of things.

So, the health coach bridges that gap. We started a health coach program for training existing health coaches, people who’d already been through programs like FMCA, to focus on pediatrics. So, how do you take your functional medicine health coach training and how do you deal with kids who have sensory issues? How do you deal with the developmental stuff? Which you know, Sandy, is really an important part of this whole picture. How do you get a child who has really complex sensory issues to eat vegetables when, you know, there’s an oral motor issue or a sensory issue or what have you?

So, we designed a program to basically be sort of an advanced training, so that people could focus on pediatrics. We knew we needed to make that program because there is such a tremendous need for health coaches. And the other thing is health coaches are doing the work that is the most impactful in terms of this particular epidemic—lifestyle, diet, nutrition, all of these things that are squarely in the realm, mindset, positive psychology. The things that health coaches do the best, those do make the most impact in terms of the day to day and the outcomes of these kids.

You can have a fancy doctor who does tons of lab tests. You can have your blood and your urine and your stool tested, and you can do all these complicated things and really find out what’s going on with your child. But at the end of the day, if you don’t have access to that doctor, if you don’t have access to the fancy lab test that costs thousands of dollars, you can make tangible, impactful changes by working with a health coach on improving diet, on sleep, on stooling, on supplement management, and the mindset piece. That is massively important.

So, I feel like I’m the biggest cheerleader there is out there for the health coaching community, because I know it’s an unmet need right now for most families. They need that help. They need that support. Most don’t even know where to start. Like, they don’t even know they go into a grocery store and they’re like, “Okay, I’ve heard that I need to go gluten-free or maybe the doctor told me that my child has sensitivity to dairy. What do I do? I’ve only ever eaten dairy. I don’t know how to handle this,” or, “My doctor gave me all these supplements that I don’t know how to get them in my child.” That’s where the health coach comes in, right? That’s that expertise.

And also that support, right, that you need somebody on your team. You need to feel like somebody actually cares about what’s happening with you and your child. And that’s what the health coach can do. So, you can’t find a bigger fan or advocate for health coaching than me. And I feel like we just need more people in the trenches working with the families and just getting it done, you know?

Sandi: Absolutely, and that’s why we’re training those people. And I know that what you’re talking about will really resonate with those who are already coaches, thinking of becoming coaches. This is a specialty area that is so badly needed. And when I was back in the field many years ago, I saw something happen all too frequently and that is… And there was a saying that you have a child who has special needs with neurodevelopmental conditions, and any family that was well-functioning now is going to be dysfunctional because of the stress, because of the demand, because of all the things we’re talking about where they’re overwhelmed. That’s going to lead to friction between mother and father or between parents. It’s going to extended family, grandparents who don’t know what to do. And moms and dads are going to start feeling like, “What’s wrong with me?” and perhaps, “It’s my fault.”

And that’s what I used to see. And back then, we didn’t have quite the issues that we have today, but I would see these families. We tell them, “You need to be in therapy,” and so they’d go to therapy—individual therapy, couple’s therapy. And then they end up feeling worse because they would be blamed in some subtle way or not so subtle way that, “Well, you know, it’s deep-seated family issues that caused this.” And so it ended up causing more stress and leading to often divorces and anxiety, depression. Whereas, with a coach, helping them to normalize these feelings, perhaps helping them through groups where they see that they’re not alone like this feeling is common and it’s not unusual to feel like things are falling apart. So, I just wondered if you’ve seen this and could comment.

Beth: Well, what I’m trying to get out into the world is the success stories that we’ve seen… do really well. So, we do share success stories, and we document stories on our websites, etc. But if you ask me some of the critical pieces about what makes one family successful on their health journey and another family just not able to do it, it really comes down to does the family do it as a whole. So, you know, I’ve heard stories of mom trying to take the family gluten-free, and dad’s in the corner eating bagel, looking over her shoulder… the kids. Oftentimes when you have a child who’s impacted, mom and dad aren’t necessarily fit and healthy. It originates from factors that preexisted the child. These health problems start pre-concession, prenatally. Mom and dad oftentimes have health issues that are, as you said, exacerbated by the stress of having a special needs child.

So, this really does work when you do it as a family and the whole family changes their diet, the whole family focuses on making lifestyle changes, the whole family gets outside together. That’s the family that will see success. And I feel like health coaches are the ones who can teach that to the whole family, support mom while also giving mom some strategies for how to address what’s going on with the child but also saying to mom, “Hey, have you had your thyroid checked or how’s your stress level? Have you tried meditation?” The kinds of things that the families need as they’re going through this journey.

Sandi: That’s the beauty of working with a health coach. And I’m not saying that people may not need therapy, or couples counseling, or seeing a nutritionist. Those are good consultations, but a health coach is very comprehensive and can support emotional wellness, and can look at that big picture, and help with food choices as well as getting adequate sleep, and stress, and relationships, and movement, families moving together. So, I think that’s, with that support and particularly in groups, where just wonderful things have happened. And can you comment on groups? Is that a viable option for families?

Beth: Yeah, I think most families find that they do better when they’re not alone in this. And that’s one of the things that often happens is the parents, in particular, look around, and they think everybody else’s children are normal or neurotypical or not having problems. More often than not, people keep this information about what’s happening to their child behind closed doors, and they don’t talk about it. And I feel like the minute the parent is vulnerable and says, “Yes, I’m dealing with these sensory issues with my child,” or, “I’m dealing with these GI problems that won’t go away,” or what have you, and then they start talking and supporting each other and sharing, it’s just everybody feels so much better. You don’t feel so alone. You feel like it normalizes the healing journey and normalizes that process of making changes in order to support your health.

So, groups are an important part of this. We’re trying so hard in our organization, through Epidemic Answers and Documenting Hope, to create community. We have an online membership community for parents, and we have a conference for parents and professionals, because we feel like getting together and feeling like you’re part of a community that’s doing this together is just going to make you so much more successful in your journey and make you feel confident and supported.

Sandi: It’s so important. When I was teaching, this was back in 1972, and I had a classroom full of kids with severe learning disabilities, behavior disorders, that were five and six-year-olds. And so I got the parents together, and we met once a month. They sat on the little kindergarten chairs in the classroom. And nothing like this had been done before in this special education department, but they loved it. They loved sharing, and trading resources, and knowing that they weren’t alone. It was so, so important for them.

Beth: You’re ahead of your time, Sandi.

Sandi: And I was teaching breathing techniques and stress management back then as well, but it’s also encouraging to see all of this come to fruition in terms of breath work, and meditation techniques, and support groups, and of course what you’re doing. I think this is just so wonderful. I’m really excited about the future for your work and really the great…what’s going to come from that and especially the research project. And we will be really happy to support that.

So, I know that those listening are getting really excited because they want to support families and kids with special needs. There is such a need. You mentioned earlier finding resources. I get asked all the time, even in social media, like, “I need to find a functional medicine doctor who specializes in pediatrics.” I really only know a handful. Do you have resources on your site that parents can turn to?

Beth: Yeah, if you think about our organization, almost in three branches, one branch is our research, which we’ve talked about. Another branch is our educational resources. So, on epidemicanswers.org, that’s kind of like our resource library where we have articles about pretty much everything that you could think of in terms of symptoms, and diagnoses, and diets, and interventions, and therapies. Tons of resources. We’ve been building that for almost 15 years.

And then we also have directories. We have a directory of practitioners, so not just the functional medicine doctors but the OTs, and the speech language pathologists, and people who get the root causes approach. They don’t get into our directory unless there’s somebody who gets the whole child, a root causes approach, that we’re not putting a pharmaceutical Band-Aid on this. We’re looking at what’s causing the symptoms. So, that’s a directory that you can search by geography. So, look in your state or your city.

I think we have close to 800 practitioners in that directory. We also have a health coach directory. So, we have had all of these health coaches that have come out of FMCA or IIN or different kinds of programs, and they’ve come through and taken our additional training that focuses on pediatrics, and then we list them in our directory. So, if you’re looking for a health coach who has experience and understands what these new childhood epidemics are about and what it requires to support a family, you can find a health coach there. And of course, you can get the training. If you are a health coach, you can get that training as well.

And then our third pillar is that community piece that I was mentioning. So, we have a membership community called Healing Together, and it’s meant for parents. It’s a support community for parents. So, parents can come in there, and they get… Every month, we have two calls. One is a house call with integrated physicians who answer any questions that you have. You could ask about lab tests or something like that, and then the physician will answer the question.

And then we have what we call a community Q&A, which is just a couple of our health coaches that we’ve trained are available to answer the community’s questions. We have all kinds of resources in there. There are eBooks about diet changes, eBooks about going low tox in your life, how do you detox your home, things like that. And we also invite a lot of health coaches in. We have a number of our graduates that come through our program and participate in that community, and it’s almost like it’s a great network for the parents to meet the health coaches via an online forum. So, it’s meant to be, again, community, a place to gather. It’s virtual, but it’s a place to meet with other people who are either in the same place as you as a parent or who are working to support parents as a health coach. So, those are the two most common types of people in our community.

And then the other part of our community is our conference, which we’re having in November in Orlando. And we have two tracks for that. We have parents and professionals. So, the professionals we have…that’s for doctors, therapists like occupational therapists, health coaches. Health coaches are among our biggest contingency that are showing up for the conference. We have CEUs with the National Board for Health & Wellness, coaches offering CEUs if you show up for the conference there and participate in the professional track.

But part of the reason why, this is our first conference. It’s our inaugural conference, and we’ve been wanting to do this for a long time. And part of the reason we’re doing it is because you get to get in person face to face with all the people in your tribe. You get to meet the other parents. You get to meet the practitioners. We have an incredible group of speakers that represent the different kinds of therapies, and interventions, and strategies that are being used in the FLIGHT study.

So, all of our work is really integrated. So, we have research, education, and community, but we’re trying really hard to make sure that it’s really a Venn diagram where all of those things feed into each other. So, we’re at the cutting edge of research, but we’re feeding that into the parents, what we’re learning in the research, and we’re bringing it into the community so then people can take it out and bring it back to their communities. So, we have a lot of activities going on, but there’s such a tremendous unmet need with this generation of kids that we can’t go any slower. We just got to keep going.

Sandi: Well, we are here to support you, training coaches so that those coaches will go on to take your specialized course so that they can serve. And really what strikes me about you, Beth, is that it resonates with me. I think we are both mission-driven. Our passion and purpose in life is to spread awareness, this movement that there is hope and people do not have to suffer. Our children do not have to be suffering. So, what would be the best way of finding you?

Beth: Okay, so we have several websites that you can start at. If you’re interested in the online resources, you can go to epidemicanswers.org or if you’re interested in a research part, you can go to documentinghope.com. I will also say part of the Documenting Hope project is filming stories of recovery and filming the stories of the children that are participating in our research as we try to help them recover from their chronic condition. So, you’ll find all kinds of media on the Documenting Hope site. We also have our conference which is conference.documentinghope.com and our membership community, which is healing.documentinghope.com.

So, those are all of our resources. And, again, you know, we cover a lot of areas from education research to community, but we really want to be a resource for parents, practitioners, anyone who’s touched by the new childhood epidemics. We’re there to help, support, and really change the future. This is the future. These kids are our future. And if we don’t get in there right now and start changing this trajectory, we’re going to be in trouble. But there’s hope. We can do it.

Sandi: Yes, there’s hope and together we can. Well, this has been so inspiring. Thank you so much for being with us today.

Beth: My pleasure.