My name is Amber Plum, mother to Brandon. Brandon was born June 6th 2008 and diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis. I am a natural born mother and love every part of being a mother. Since I was a child I loved healthy food. I never even enjoyed chocolate until I had kids. My mom wondered what was wrong with me when I came home from the grocery store with dates instead of candy like my siblings. I just always liked healthy food.
My father was and still is the experimental type. I remember him feeding my brother and I eggs with goat cheese at age 6. I really didn’t like the goat’s cheese then, although I do like it now. My father tried many other things too, he was a master sneaker of healthy food. After time went on he created his special pancakes, which we call Pappy’s Pancakes. We all loved the pancakes so much that we begged him for the recipe. When my dad gave me his recipe I was unaware just how healthy they were. My father is now in love with flax seed and puts it in everything he can. So, I guess I learned my passion for making healthy food without it seeming to be too healthy at a young age. I realized if I didn’t eat this way I was bound to show it in my jeans, so I get to look good, feel good and be healthy, this was good for me. I started going to a personal trainer and worked out 3 times a week, this increased how I felt and looked, as well as increased my health. I found through life whenever I had a period of not following the plan of healthy eating and regular activity, I was not in good shape. I have had to learn all the tricks to make common food that I liked work in my healthy world. Being healthy was and is a very important thing to me and it became important to feed my family healthy too. I know that for a person, no matter the age, with CF being healthy is even more important. If someone is destined to get sick and has a weaker system, living on junk will help aid them in being sick. There is one way to push through in this disease and that is to be healthy and compliant in medical care.
The medical staff at the clinic will be the first to tell you that Body Mass Index (BMI) is very important. The better the BMI, the better the lung function. I believe this is a true statement and you need to take them very serious when they say this. The thing with BMI is that it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to have extra fat, it is a standard height to weight ratio. Weight should be good weight, not bad weight. If you build muscle, it weighs more than fat and is healthier for you. I will be honest here in saying that due to Brandon’s allergy issues, I have had quite a time gaining nutritional information and advice. On our initial visit and introduction to the nutritionist on staff I was told how people with CF are able to load up on butter and McDonalds because they are always in need of additional fats. I heard a mental shriek sound rather loudly in my head, I was so used to a low fat, healthy diet without fast foods. I found it hard to believe that these types of diets could be good for Brandon’s long term health. As I researched into it more, I found it to be very true advice across the board. The list of food that is given to you was not as healthy as I was used to or wanted for my child. I get it, I get their thoughts on how this works. A CF’ers body only keeps about half of the nutrients that they take in. If they eat poor nutrition and bad fats it’s just half as bad as it would be for the rest of us, right? This to me is like telling my child that second hand smoke is ok, since they aren’t getting the full affect of the cigarette. Wrong! As many of us know it’s more dangerous. These bad fats aren’t helping, they are hurting, what happens to the non-CF child or adult who eats bad fat? They may acquire diabetes, heart problems, frequent illness, and lethargic behaviors, just to name a few.
When researching and learning more about cystic fibrosis, as a loving care giver, I have learned a lot. I notice Brandon does not get lethargic, nor could anyone tell when he has been very sick. He is, as the nurses have said, ‘not like a lot of CF’ers.’ When Brandon is ill, he doesn’t show symptoms or act as though he is very ill compared to other children we know who are not on a diet similar to this one. Nothing knocks this kid down. The other major comment I get from doctors, nurses, clinic staff, friends, family, strangers, and anyone else who is close to Brandon is, ‘Man he is sooo strong!’ This little guy had 3-4 people needed to hold him down, when he was under a year old, when he fought medical attention. His strength is outstanding and almost unbelievable. This is what happens on a healthy, high protein diet. When growing your BMI to where it needs to be, you must consider muscle puts up a fight a lot better than fat. Fat is a quitter and gives into sickness. You always hear when someone got sick and claimed it was the best diet they ever went on, because they easily lost 5-10 pounds in a week. I hear it all the time and the best part is you lose the fat first. Muscle also has a memory, if you lose a little muscle and then go to regain it, it comes back rather fast. Muscle is a fighter and doesn’t give in as easily. I have noticed with many CF’ers that it’s almost impossible to actually get “fat”. So it shows me that fat isn’t really helping, and their bodies aren’t responding as well to it anyway. Those who work out and eat a high protein diet have extra “weight” and are able to gain muscle mass. They have also said they feel healthier and happy.
I have become very passionate with my sons diet, along with the rest of my family. Brandon has always been more difficult to feed, especially having his caloric needs double what a non-CF’er needs are. Brandon has also had other road blocks in place, such as a whey allergy and texture issues. Not only have I worked on doubling up his calories, I have focused on good fat and high protein. It made sense in the beginning that if CF’ers need enzymes to process fat, protein and starch, then that is their problem area. I live with Brandon day in and day out and I know him better than anyone. I witness how things affect him whether it’s mild or extreme. I am not a doctor, nutritionist or trainer of any sort. I am a mom who has used an uncommon method of nutrition for this disease, and my son has had great success. I speak from my experience, research, and knowledge I have gained through life and living in a healthy manner. I believe fully in what works and I see that what I am doing works. I was a frustrated parent when I could find little nutritional help with my son’s allergies and diagnosis combined. I made it my mission to figure it out and help others. I have a goal to change how CF’ers eat so I can see my son, my cousin and all others live to their fullest. We need to focus on a long term goal of good health. With the possibilities of a cure in the future, teaching healthy eating is very important. A healthy diet works for my son and others living with CF. If BMI is in direct correlation to good lung function and overall health, it only makes sense that healthy BMI serves them the best.