"It's not about the strep, it is about susceptibility. You have to ask why your child gets a common illness and ends up looking like a mental patient instead of getting a fever and a sore throat like other kids. Killing the bugs that caused it won't prevent it from happening again. Nothing will unless you treat the susceptibility."
PANS and PANDAS
There’s nothing ordinary nor cute about this episode’s PANS and PANDAS. Naturopathic physician Dr. Jennifer Bahr breaks down Pediatric Acute Neuropsychiatric Syndrome (PANS) and Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcal Infections (PANDAS) for us, and how homeopathy helps.
[00:00:42] Ashley James: Welcome to the Learn True Health podcast. I’m your host, Ashley James. This is Episode 354.
I am so excited to have Dr. Jennifer Bahr, naturopathic physician, on the show today. I’ve been waiting for months and months to get her to come on the show. Finally, our schedules aligned. Welcome, Dr. Bahr.
[00:01:09] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: Thank you. I’m so glad that we finally figured this out too. It’s been a while. It’s been a long time coming.
[00:01:13] Ashley James: Absolutely. You specialized in helping families, helping children with PANS and PANDAS. We’re going to define what that is in a sec because, up to a few months ago, I had never heard of this.
One of my good friends told me that her daughter was finally diagnosed after years of very strange symptoms. She was diagnosed with PANDAS. I’m like, “Is that a thing? Like PANDAS? Your daughter has PANDAS?” She was typing to me, “My daughter has PANDAS.” I’m like, “You’re typing to me like I should know that, and I’ve never heard of that.
[00:01:50] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: Yeah. Like an infestation of a cute, cuddly bear.
[00:01:54] Ashley James: Exactly. I’m like, “Okay, your daughter has PANDAS. What does that even mean?” She was enlightening me. I’m blown away that there’s this entire diagnosis that so many children have gone undiagnosed and/or misdiagnosed, and on all kinds of medications. Finally, you being a major expert in this field are helping to clear the path towards for clarity and showing people how they can use natural medicine to help their children come back into balance and heal.
My friend said you have to get into Dr. Jennifer Bahr’s Facebook group. We’re going to let parents know right now. Search Homeopathy for PANS & PANDAS on Facebook to join the free group. It’s a fantastic group. I’ve been in it for a while. I love the advice and information that’s there.
You’re a pioneer in this field. I’m very excited to bring you here today for the listeners. I asked the listeners in my Facebook group, The Learn True Health Facebook group, if they have any questions for you. So far, we have about 12 questions of parents with children with PANS or PANDAS. I’m going to have you answer them, as well as give us lots of great information today.
But first, before we get into your story on what led you want to become a naturopathicphysician specializing in helping children with this issue, can you explain what PANS and PANDAS are?
[00:03:37] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: Absolutely. I want to make sure and clarify for the people who are looking for the group already. If you can’t find it, it’s Homeopathy for PANS and PANDAS. Rather than slash, it’s “&” symbol, Homeopathy for PANS & PANDAS.
PANS stands for Pediatric Acute Neuropsychiatric Syndrome, and PANDAS stands for Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated w/ Streptococcal Infections. I’m sure that clears everything up. No questions anymore, right? Just kidding.
Basically, PANDAS is a form of PANS. Both conditions essentially have the same things. PANDAS is just a very specific type of PANS. What happens with these kids is they get exposed to an infection. In PANDAS, it happens to be strep; PANS, it can be many different things. It can be Lyme. It can be any other co-infections associated with Lyme, like Bartonella. It could be mold toxicity. It could be mycoplasma, which can typically cause pneumonia, or other environmental toxins. It’s not a defined cause, whereas PANDAS is a defined cause of strep infections.
They get exposed to this infection. In most cases, it’s usually an infection, and then they get a sudden onset of obsessive-compulsive disorder and tics, changes in their urination—basically kids who’ve been potty-trained for years and even teens who have no problems with urinary control, suddenly wetting the bed at night, having to go to the restroom ten times in an hour; changes in handwriting; significant changes in behavior; a lot of insomnia, rage will come out, a lot of separation anxiety too.
People will feel like they lost their child overnight. Parents will often compare it to their child becoming possessed almost because they are very different. There are even changes in how they look. A lot of these kids will end up very pale. They’ll have the dark circles around their eyes. They’ll have dilated pupils. They almost look through their parents when they’re dealing with some of these episodes that they go through. Does that clear things up a little bit more without getting too far into the weeds?
[00:05:53] Ashley James: Yeah, it does. Is it an autoimmune condition?
[00:05:54] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: It’s still being studied. It’s a challenging diagnosis for people to deal with. We can talk about this in as much detail as you need to help people understand it like what they’re going to face if it sounds like something that their child is experiencing. They want to go to their pediatrician. “I heard about these PANS and PANDAS. Is this what’s going on with my kid?”
Unfortunately, it’s a newly understood phenomenon. It was 1998 when it’s first defined. Because of that, there’s a lot of controversy around its legitimacy as a diagnosis. Medical science takes a long time to catch up to research because everybody’s got to redo things—who’s right, who’s wrong, and all that.
It’s believed right now to be an autoimmune response to strep or any of the other conditions in PANS. What happens is that our body gets exposed to this invading pathogen, and it tries to mount an immune response. What happens in autoimmunity is that our immune response gets too broad, so rather than just attacking the pathogen itself, it starts to attack our cells.
Strep is tricky because it can undertake this thing called molecular mimicry. We’ve got these little proteins that are on the surface of our cells that identify us as us, so that our immune system, when it goes up to attack cells, it doesn’t attack our cells. What strep we’ll do is it puts proteins on its surface that looks similar to our proteins. It’s almost like putting on a mask of us so that it’s trying to hide from our immune system.
Because of this, the immune system will recognize it like you can tell if someone’s wearing a mask of you that is not you. Your immune system can also tell that masked strep bacteria is not you, so it starts to attack the strep bacteria, but in that effort, it brought in an attack and ends up attacking its cells.
It’s an autoimmune attack on the nervous system as a result of the infection. Strep has been known to be able to do this for years. That’s one reason that we have to get strep treated pretty early. If we don’t get it addressed within four days of onset, we can have an autoimmune response both in our heart and our kidneys as well. This is not a new thing. This particular presentation of it has been shown to be more prominent and more defined here recently.
[00:08:27] Ashley James: That’s very interesting. When I was in college, I was studying pathology, and they said, “pop quiz.” I’m from Canada. I live in the States now. But in Canada socialized medicine, if a child with a broken arm and a child with strep comes into the ER, why is the child with strep chosen first while everyone is thinking, “The kid with the broken arm should go first.” They said, “No. We’ve got to treat strep as fast as possible because it can damage the heart.”
Back in the 90s, this is the information that they are teaching. Interestingly, we’ve known that strep can do this, but the link to creating this autoimmune response or any neurological symptoms afterward is fairly new, which is so weird because it’s been going on for a long time.
[00:09:27] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: It’s not completely new. There’s Sydenham’s chorea which we’ve known about for a long time that can happen as a result of strep. People who get diagnosed with Sydenham’s chorea, upon prophylactic antibiotics, until they’re 21—PANDAS specifically is very similar to Sydenham’s chorea. It has a lot of similarities in the tics and the movement. It’s a little bit different. There is a specific choreiform movement that happens with Sydenham’s chorea.
This is a new manifestation, and I’m certain we’ll get into lots of these details for why this is happening. But I’m exploring more and more and constantly learning which is one of those conditions that you never know enough. You’re constantly learning more and more about things. But it seems that it has a lot to do with our current lifestyle or diet or exposure to things in our environment. It’s creating this perfect soup that cooks up this really dramatic response that is happening so much more commonly than it used to.
Granted I am a specialist in this. This is all I see in my practice anymore—PANS and PANDAS—so I do have a skewed perception, but I keep looking at this. I talked to my husband who runs my practice, who when I first started talking about PANS and PANDAS, he legitimately thought 20 people in the country had it. He’s like, “I don’t know why you want to reach out to these people more and help these people more. I think you’re helping them already. How many people need this?”
When we started the Facebook group at the request of one of the moms that I worked with, he was floored by how many people joined the group so quickly. He’s stunned how many people are suffering from these. I’ve been telling him all along. I was like, “I think we had it toward—I hate to use this word loosely but—like an epidemic.” In the way that autism has dramatically increase, PANS and PANDAS got a lot of overlap with autism too, and I’m seeing it’s dramatically increasing. More and more kids have it. It used to be one kid in a town would have familiarity in it, and now parents are telling me, “We’ve got multiple kids in the class that have it.”
It’s becoming a problem, and it’s not just about the bugs. I’m sure we’ll talk all about that here in a little bit. But it’s not the bugs, even though it sounds like it’s the bugs. It’s not the bugs.
[00:11:51] Ashley James: Great segue way into your story. I want to know, first of all, what happened in your life that made you want to become a naturopathic physician? And then what happened that made you want to specialize in PANS and PANDAS when it only seems like there are only 20 people in the world that had it at the time?
[00:12:10] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: Looking back, there is a chance, and of course, you can’t guarantee anything in retrospect. Hindsight is 20/20. But it’s not even 20/20 in this case because you need lab test and everything. There’s a chance I might have had PANS and PANDAS when I was younger.
I never got diagnosed with that. I did have some symptoms that are common to PANS and PANDAS. Potentially, it started when I was eight. When I had to get my tonsils taken out and I got pneumonia, and suddenly started getting scared at night and having intense fears about all the robbers and murderers that had never been caught somehow hiding in my room waiting for me to go to bed and imagining that they’re going to some way stab me from underneath my bed or hurt me in the night sometimes; or fears that the house is going to catch on fire, and I was going to have to jump out. These constant intrusive thoughts that were scary, and that would happen specifically at night.
I had some urinary issues that I’d never shared with anybody, so you’re the first. I had random urinary issues when I was fully potty-trained when I was six to eight years old. I don’t recall having any tics, but I don’t know for sure.
The real definite time that I had my first interaction with anything in the mental health was when I was 16, and my mom made me see a psychiatrist for depression. I got put on medication, and the medication made me significantly worse. I was put on an SSRI, and it sent me through the roof.
I went from being genuinely, legitimately depressed. I was sleeping all the time, lost interest in hanging out with my friends. I quit dancing. I was a competitive dancer and loved it, and I quit. I quit swim team. I quit all of these things and stopped turning in my homework. I was a star student, and I basically stopped doing anything.
My mom took me to a doctor, and I got put on antidepressant that was an SSRI and quickly felt significantly better, but I felt so much better that I wasn’t sleeping anymore. I was talking a mile a minute and had a lot of signs of hypomania and a lot of agitation. I took myself off that medication after about six months because I was like, “Well, I’m not depressed anymore. Why on earth would I take an antidepressant?” and proceeded to many more years of lots of ups and downs, many, many ups and downs, and lots of impulsive behavior.
I didn’t like what I was doing in Ohio State University. I was studying chemical engineering. I quit and join the Navy pretty impulsively, and then went out to California where I live now. I was up in Northern California. I went to the language school up there. I learned Arabic. Then decided I want to be a doctor. That’s stuck. Pretty shortly after I left my home state of Ohio and joined the Navy, got a little bit of freedom. I was able to say, “I do want to be a doctor.” And then there are lots of ups and downs.
I was an Arabic translator in the Navy for six years, and while I was doing that—this is in from 1998 to 2004, pretty high demand for Arabic translators and people with security clearances working in intel. I did that while I was also going to school full time to get my undergraduate degree in physiology and neurobiology at the University of Maryland. I was really busy, and I had lots of fluctuations in my mood during that time as well, and my ability to concentrate and think clearly. Sometimes I was razor-sharp, and sometimes I felt terrible. I sort of accepted, “Okay, I’m somebody who deals with depression, and so I’m going to have to continue to deal with this.”
But then it came to a head in November of 2003, and things got really bad. I got to the point that I was suicidal, but I knew that I was not going to be able to act on it. One night I went to bed after I’ve taken a bunch of sleeping pills because It hurts too much to be awake, and I had a little bit of alcohol with it. I thought, “Maybe this will be a lethal combination.” It was comforting to think that maybe I wasn’t going to wake up. I wasn’t’ trying to commit suicide, but it was comforting to think that perhaps that would have happened. I woke up, and I was disappointed. I said, “Okay, I need help because I can’t continue to live like this.”
I called the doctor, and I got in quickly. With the military, that rarely happens, but I was stubborn enough to refuse to go to the ER, so they made a way for me to come and see the doctor the very next day. That doctor ends up diagnosing me with bipolar disorder because I had a lot of history of intense mood, short sleep times, high energy, rapid thoughts, pressured speech—the typical signs you see with mania or hypomania. He gave that diagnosis. When I was expecting to be put on an antidepressant, I instead got put on lithium.
Lithium made me feel very slow and stupid. This was like November of 2003, I was on my second to last semester at the University of Maryland, and I was taking the toughest biology class in our course of study for the physiology and neurobiology. I got my first ever D, and that was hard for me. I was a student who’s used to getting mostly A’s and an occasional B, and I got a D. I had to retake that class.
In part, it’s because of what I was going through emotionally, and in part, because my brain would not work on that medication. I ended up gaining a bunch of weight on it, ended up messing my thyroid—lots and lots of issues.
As I was finishing up, I had a lot of thoughts to myself. I succumb to the stigma. There’s still an awful lot of stigma around mental health, and this was years ago. I was in the military where we also are taught you don’t get help for mental health reasons because you’ll lose your job.
Fortunately, I didn’t lose my job, and I never did. I continued to work in the intel world for another four years while I was figuring out what naturopathic medicine was and my route to get there. Fortunately, I was not subject to losing my clearance and my job because I had the insight to get help. That’s one thing that’s important for people to recognize this. It’s about getting help. Even when there’s stigma, when you get help, when you can have that insight, it has significantly less impact on you that might otherwise if you don’t seek the help in the first place.
It’s fortunate enough that I was able to finish up my time in the military and I did pass, obviously my class, when I took it again. But then with that stigma, I still had that feeling like I was broken; and there was something wrong with me; and how I can possibly be a doctor if I couldn’t rely on my brain. If somebody was telling me that those times that I felt my best—when I was my sharpest, when I was on my game and could think clearly, had lots of energy, was the center of attention, having lots of fun—that that was me when I was sick. That gave me pause to have me ask myself, “Is this really what you should be doing? Can you be trusted? Can other people trust you? Can you trust yourself?”
I took a lot of time, and I stayed in that field where I was translating Arabic for another couple of years, deciding what I was going to do. I was contemplating psychology because I still really wanted to help people and I was even more drawn to help people with mental health conditions after my personal experience, where I was misdiagnosed and then given medications that didn’t make me feel great.
Honestly, I did adjust to them, so I didn’t feel stoned all the time on lithium after about a month or two, but I didn’t feel great. I didn’t feel the highs and the lows anymore, but I didn’t feel anything. It was dull and flat and gray. I wasn’t myself anymore. I didn’t want to get into the field that I was planning on going into which is psychiatry because I didn’t want to be somebody who’s tool was to have people take pills that made people less burdensome to those around them but made them less of themselves at the same time.
I thought about doing psychology, and that felt far too passive for me. Then with my own experience with not only the medications but the medical realm in general–I remember going to see my primary care doctor for something completely different not related to my mental health, like an injury from doing too many push-ups in a Krav Maga class. They gave me a medication that I knew was contraindicated considering the fact that I was on lithium, and the doctor didn’t listen to me and told me to take it anyway, and it was the insurance company that called me.
Where is the medical system when your insurance company is looking out for your best interest more than your doctor? The insurance company called me and said, “Hey, we just saw that you had both of these medications. You can’t take them together. You need to stop the naproxen and call your doctor.”
Two hours later, the nurse from the doctor’s office called me and said, “Hey, we need you to stop taking that.” And I said, “I told the doctor that when I was in the office. Why didn’t he listen to me?” And the nurse said, “I’m sorry. I don’t know why, but please stop taking it.” And that’s when I said, “There’s something broken. There’s something wrong here.”
I decided I can’t fix the system if I’m not a part of it. Not always, but ever since I was 19, I’ve wanted to be a doctor. I’ve gone to all of this training in my undergrad. I can still do this. People can. I’m stable. I can manage this. It’s more about being treated. As long as you’re treated, it’s fine; and have that cognizance to maintain treatment.
I started researching and started studying for my MCAT and figure out ways that I could learn to do psychiatry but to use more natural approaches. Then I was expecting that I was going to have to do my traditional, conventional medical training and then do lots of traveling throughout the world to learn new Ayurvedic medicine and herbs andnutrition and all these other things that aren’t taught in the conventional program.
It was two weeks before I took my MCAT, I read an article written by an ND, and I’d never even heard of a naturopathic doctor at this point. I was like, “What is this ND? Did somebody make up this ending till I give them more legitimacy than they actually have?” I hit Google and saw ND stands for “naturopathic physician.” What is that? As I’m reading, I’m like, “It combines the conventional and natural, and it’s a program that does this in four years instead of ten plus.” And I was like, “Oh, my gosh!” The light bulb went off. This is what I’m trying to do, and it already exists. I don’t have to piece me all these.
From there, I started taking a look into it and researching more about it. I applied to a couple of different schools and ended up going to the school that I landed on that explained what naturopathic medicine was in the first place. That’s how I got to naturopathic medicine.
Mental health was always my passion because of my own experience. I’m driven to help people that I can relate to. It took me a while to feel comfortable sharing my story because I still had that feeling if I share with people, they’re going to think that they can’t trust me, that I shouldn’t be a doctor, and I’ll lose my license—any of these things. It ended up being the most freeing thing that I ever did when I finally made that decision to share, because, yes, people are going to think that occasionally.
People have taught that I’m not the right person for them or their partner or whatever because they have their judgments about “crazy.” But when people get to know me, they see that one, I’m stable. Two, the medicines that I use for my patients help me recover from whatever it was, whether it was an accurate diagnosis of bipolar disorder or if it was something else going on, leading back all the way to all the things that I dealt with when I was a child; when I was anxious and scared and raged. I forgot to tell you I’ve punched holes in walls. I was that kid. I was an angry rage-filled kid too, which is a lot of what we see in PANS and PANDAS.
Regardless of what it is, I use the same type of medicine and the same approaches for myself and working with my doctors that I now use for my patients.
[00:24:55] Ashley James: What school did you go to?
[00:24:58] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: I went to Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona. I was between that and Bastyr University. It was completely serendipitous that I ended up in SCNM. Bastyr has a reputation as one of the best schools. In part just because of its longevity in the community or the world. It’s one of the longer programs, and they have a lot of really great marketing.
I’m grateful that it was the sun that drew me to Arizona because the homeopathy program at SCNM is significantly stronger than the homeopathy program at Bastyr. With the homeopathy part too, I was not a fan of homeopathy when I first find out about it as being part of the program. It’s worth talking about because homeopathy uses infinitesimally small doses of single substances found in nature, and it’s given to people based off their symptoms that they’re experiencing that the substance, if used in a high dose, could cause in a healthy person.
If somebody is sick and they’re experiencing symptoms similar to what a substance could cause in a healthy person that medicine is used to “cure” those symptoms in the unhealthy person. Does that make sense? I was a little convoluted there.
[00:26:22] Ashley James: We’ve had a few guests on the show about homeopathy, and I always share that I’m the most open-minded skeptic. I’m going to question everything, but I’m open-minded enough to try it. I found out I was pregnant because I had the worse—it’s not morning sickness, but it’s 24 hours a day.
[00:26:43] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: Hyperemesis gravidarum.
[00:26:45] Ashley James: Yeah, I had that all the time. We didn’t know we were pregnant because I was told I was infertile. This is a long story. I won’t get to it now, but I’ve told it before on the show. Using natural medicine, we got our fertility or I got my fertility. And so, surprise! I was pregnant.
I had migraine, nausea, vomiting, fever, shaking, blurred vision. I felt like I had flu. I was incredibly sick, and I was in so much pain, and we were on a business road trip. I was in so much pain from the car sickness and from everything that I was like, “Screw it, I’m taking Advil.” I told my husband, “Pull over to the Safeway.” I don’t ever take NSAIDs or anything, but I was in so much pain. When you’re in pain, you’re like, “I will do anything.”
In the back of my mind, this little voice said, “Go take a pregnancy test before you take Advil because if you’re pregnant, you don’t want to be taking Advil.” I’m thinking myself there’s a 1% chance I’m pregnant because I’m infertile. I had polycystic ovary syndrome. I’ve been using natural medicine and changed my diet and lifestyle and everything. I was correcting all of my health issues. I thought, “1% chance, fine.”
I grabbed the pregnancy test before I grabbed the Advil, and I came out running and screaming and jumping through the air at my husband. Suddenly, all my symptoms seemed to disappear. I couldn’t believe it. I was bawling. I was crying and screaming. I was so happy staring at the little positive mark on the pregnancy test. That was the happiest day of my life, but I was also incredibly miserable, incredibly sick.
Luckily at that time, we were actually hosting a naturopathic physician to give a health talk. He looked at me, and he figured out what my constitution was, and he said, “We got to get this homeopathy for you.” Again, I’ll try anything. I can’t try Advil now, so I got to try something natural. I took it, and I didn’t have the placebo effect because I’m like, “Whatever, I’ll take anything.” But within 90 seconds, my symptoms cut down so much that I could open my eyes. I could walk again. The headache cleared up to just 1 out of 10 pain from a 10 out of 10. I stopped feeling nauseous and vomiting. It was incredible. He said, “You have to take that your whole pregnancy. Every time you start feeling bad, take some.” It was like clockwork. I couldn’t believe it.
And then again, our son, he had colic. I tried everything, and the only thing that worked was homeopathy. If a one-week-old or a one-month-old baby who has no idea what are you putting its mouth, its symptoms start to get better when you get homeopathy in its mouth, then how is it a placebo effect?
I love homeopathy. I have to use the right remedy. If you use the wrong remedy, nothing happens. Luckily, there’s no side effect. Whereas you use the wrong the medication and your insurance company calls you up.
[00:29:49] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: Right. For the most part.
[00:29:51] Ashley James: Homeopathy is significantly safer, but you got to work with an expert because there are 2000-3000 different choices when it comes to homeopathy and different strengths and different ways of taking it. We got to work with an expert. You can’t walk into the drugstore and look at, “This one said it’s good for colds. I’ll take this one.”
[00:30:14] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: Yeah. Or asking a group and a mom says, “This one was a miracle for my kid.” Okay, so I’m going to do that, too. It’s not necessarily going to work for your kid because your kid is different. Everybody is different.
[00:30:24] Ashley James: Exactly. We got to work with an expert. I’m really glad to hear that you felt that your homeopathy training was the strongest at the neuropathic university that you went to.
[00:30:36] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: I still think it is. The school here in San Diego has an awful lot of people who are in the homeopathy realm and teaching homeopathy who were trained at SCNM. The school I went to, it’s also got a pretty strong program in the San Diego campus here, too. Although I still think that the SCNM program is stronger. It’s got more legs.
[00:30:57] Ashley James: When you say San Diego, are you referring to the Bastyr?
[00:31:01] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: Yes, the Bastyr branch in San Diego—Bastyr University in San Diego. It sounds like you and I had a similar introduction to homeopathy. I was so skeptical when I found out about it. When I had to take it as one of my lectures in my first quarter at SCNM, I almost quit. I was like, “Are you kidding me? This complete nonsense, quackery medicine is part of my required training as a physician? There’s no way I’m ever going to use this. Am I going to give my patients nothing and help them to get better? This is magical thinking nonsense. No, I’m never going to use this.”
Legitimately, I almost quit because I started to look down on the program that included it. Then I decided to focus on the things that I thought were more legitimate. I was like, “I’ll do this. Everything’s imperfect in life, and so I will take this imperfection. I will run with it and ignore it, and focus on the things that I think are useful.”
Then I met the first doctor that I worked with at a conference who had a lot of experience treating specifically bipolar disorder, and it was the perfect timing because I wanted the option to get pregnant. I was finally in this place, and I’m old enough. I’m in that trajectory for that last stages of school. After this, I’m done with school, and I want the option to get pregnant in the future.
But none of the medications that you’re taking with bipolar disorder are safe in pregnancy—none. Most of the psychotropic medications are not known for sure to be safe in pregnancy. There are a lot of complications even with the ones that are considered Pregnancy Category B, which is basically the safest you can get, meaning that it’s not guaranteed safe, but it does not have a lot of evidence of harm. There are still things that come out for the babies. They get born with withdrawal symptoms from SSRI if they’re taken when mom is pregnant. But absolutely none of the medications I could take to manage bipolar disorder were allowed in pregnancy. It could cause birth defects or fetal death.
I went to my psychiatrist, and I said, “What are my options if I want to have a baby?” He looked me square in the eye and told me I would have to get shock therapy if I want to have a baby. I was like, “That is nonsense.” I’m going to try this other thing that’s also nonsense but doesn’t require hooking electrodes to my brain and shooting electricity through my brain and scrambling it. I’m going to try, and if it doesn’t work, I’ll come back to the meds, and I can always fry my brain later if that’s what I feel like I need to do.
I’m so glad that I have that because I had a similar experience. I was on medication when I started working with my doctor who’s prescribing me the constitutional homeopathic remedy, and me being the skeptical scientist that I am, I decided that it was no way I can know. He insisted that the remedy was working. I said, “There’s no way I can possibly know that this is working because I’m on suppressant medications.” I impulsively stopped my medications, which you should never do. It is a bad idea. It can cause a lot of headaches and a lot of negative repercussions, and so don’t do what I did. I was a very bad patient. It’s a bad idea for anybody to do. Don’t follow me. Do as I say not as I do.
I ended up manic out of my mind within a few weeks of stopping the medication, and fortunately, the remedy was working. I got the clear evidence that it was working because my doctor at that time didn’t have me taking a daily dose. He had me taking single doses. We’ve had a follow-up every two to three weeks, and then he would tell me whether or not I needed to take another dose of the remedy. He usually did have me take another dose.
We’re very fortunate the day I became floridly manic. We already had an appointment scheduled because I was not aware that I was manic. I was feeling all of the things, and feeling good about feeling all over the things again. Probably, it could be a hint that I was not able to sit still. I was marching around in class in the back like a crazy who is manic because I was.
My doctor told me to take another dose of the remedy and within two hours, I was able to go out to dinner with my friends and sit still, have a normal paced conversation, and no longer felt like I needed to get a tattoo right now, or run away to Nicaragua, and start this crazy new life.
That was my magical moment where I said, “If this can actually cool me down where medications would never have done it that fast—if I had started taking my lithium again, it would have taken weeks, and I wouldn’t have felt better but still me. I would have felt not manic, but I would have felt dull and slow. It would have taken weeks to get there.
That was when I had my moment, and I said, “I guess this stuff works.” Just like you, I did not expect it to work. I was like, “I guess I have to learn how to do this.” That’s how I came to homeopathy. And then PANS and PANDAS came to me when I had success treating it because ultimately when we’re dealing with PANS and PANDAS—it looks like a psychiatric and neurological condition, so people were seeking out somebody to help with OCD and tics.
The first case that I had of PANS and PANDAS was somebody who just taught it was Tourette syndrome and OCD, who’d been misdiagnosed, which happens so frequently. Her child had been misdiagnosed, and fortunately, in naturopathic medical school, we’re taught about PANS and PANDAS. I was able to catch it and figure out what it was. Homeopathy was all it was needed for this little girl to get her back on track. But then obviously, once you get good results for something that is hard to treat, more people come to you and come, and come, and come.
I kept seeing more and more people and seeing that ultimately, in my experience, for people to have full, true resolution, which is actually possible. People will tell you that it’s not possible and that you’re always going to have this. Just like with any other mental condition, it’s with you for life. This is going to be what your kids are dealing with for at least until they’re 21, 18 or some random age, when apparently your immune system knows, “I can drink now. It means I’m an adult, so I’m going to change the way I’m responding to things.” Not true.
But we can see these kids recover to the point that not only are their symptoms controlled, and not just controlled but they’re gone, and that they can get exposed to the things that were the triggers in the past and not have a flare of these neuropsychiatric symptoms.
The only way that I’ve seen this happen for people is using homeopathy, and so it’s become my drive and my passion in life. The only thing that I see in my practice anymore is PANS and PANDAS because these kids don’t recover unless you use homeopathy.
When I went into naturopathic medicine and working with people with the mental health trauma, I was always drawn to working with kids because as much I love my mother—She did the best that she could. She got me to a doctor when she knew that I needed it, and she did what she had information for. My mother absolutely took credit for the fact that I’m here now and that I’m as healthy as I’m now and everything.
If my mom had had more information and been able to find a doctor to treat me the way I treat my patients, when I was as young as six or seven, when the first thing started coming up, I might have had a lot less headache and a lot less heartache through my adult life and through some formative years, which granted now I’m very grateful for because they lead me here to what I’m doing. It really was not pleasant at that time. I was always driven to help kids because I wanted to prevent them from dealing with what I had to deal with growing up. Who better to help these kids—the conventional system only has limited solutions. They’re still dealing with a lot of stuff. It doesn’t actually help them recover. This type of medicine can actually help them recover.
[00:39:33] Ashley James: Thank you so much for sharing your story. I love your story because it does show that we can look back and be really appreciative of the hard times.
If you haven’t been put on the lithium—those little things that didn’t seem significant—but now you look back, and you realize that was the pivotal moment that had me go in this direction and had me find naturopathy, and then had me find everything. All these little dominoes that don’t seem clear at the moment, but we can go back and look back and appreciate what has happened in our life, the good and the bad, to shape us into who we are now, and how you’re contributing to the world. If your mom had sent you to a homeopath back when you were six, you may not be helping hundreds of children now. It’s wonderful karma. Sometimes we can turn our suffering into helping healing thousands of people. I’d really love that.
[00:40:45] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: My practice name is Resilience Naturopathic, and it’s exactly because of that. It’s because every obstacle that we face can lead to so much transformative change and so much transformative good if we allow it. I’m fortunately an eternal optimist. I’m a pessimist for the very first minute of something so I can figure out the worst case scenario and then I’ll go back to my all optimistic place. If it worked for that, I wouldn’t be able to see all the opportunities, all of the suffering. What could have been tragedies, opened up for me in ways I’m able to connect and relate. It helps me when I’m talking to the moms. It helps me when I’m talking to my patients because they suddenly don’t feel as embarrassed when I can tell them, “How many holes have you punched in the wall when you get really mad?” And when I say, “I did it four times.” And they’re like, “Oh, okay.” They feel like they can talk to me in a way that I’m not going to judge them because I did it to, so why would I think bad things about them.
It’s a gift, and I think it made me a significantly better doctor, even a more relatable doctor to people as well. It increases the therapeutic relationship. If people don’t like the fact that I’ve had my own experiences, then I’m not the right person for them. That’s all good.
[00:42:08] Ashley James: I think I’ve said this on a recent interview. I would rather go to a doctor who has been sick in their past than go to a doctor who’s never been sick because how can they possibly relate? It’s like going to a personal trainer who’s never worked out or something. It’s like you wanted to—
[00:42:30] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: Yeah. The weight loss coach who’s always been thin.
[00:42:33] Ashley James: Right. You want to work with someone who has that personal experience. They have so much more empathy. And also, they personally will have dove into the subject and become maybe more of an expert because they’re looking at helping themselves.
I absolutely love that you have the past you have. It has helped shape who you are as a doctor and give you the amount of compassion but also the amount of observation that you probably see things that other doctors don’t, that you observed things in your patients. Can adults develop PANS or PANDAS? Is this only something that is developed as a child?
[00:43:21] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: It’s developed as a child because that’s when we’re most susceptible to PANS and PANDAS, but it’s not just for kids. I’ve got a handful of adults in my practice that I’m pretty certain had PANS or PANDAS as a child and were misdiagnosed.
We’ve got adults that can still get strep. Typically, if you’re going to have an autoimmune response, it’s going to start in childhood, but not always. As I said earlier, it’s a cascade of events, like a soup that sort of all the ingredients come together to create the perfect situation that can lead to that susceptibility or to trigger that susceptibility.
We rarely see adults develop PANS or PANDAS out of nowhere, but it’s absolutely possible that people who are adults have PANS and PANDAS that was never correctly identified when they were children.
[00:44:07] Ashley James: A friend of mine who first told me about PANDAS because her daughter was diagnosed—this is a sad and ongoing story. She’s currently living in Texas, and I believe I’ve known her since her daughter was 5. Her daughter is maybe 12 or 13 right now. I’ve known her for a long time, and we’ve been close friends. I’ve observed her as a mother. She home-schools her child. She was incredibly healthy before getting this. She’s been gluten-free, organic, basically paleo diet; very athletic; many, many grades above her age; incredibly intelligent; and home-schooled so she gets all the personalized attention, but lots of socialization.
When I met her when she was six, she acted like she was ten. She was reading the Harry Potter novels—all of them. Very intelligent, well-spoken. And then she developed PANDAS in the recent years and started to get tics, very strange behavior changes, couldn’t focus, couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t look people in the eyes, started having seizures, couldn’t remember waking up in the night, having eaten food.
They would find food like a roast dragged into another room and find it on the bathroom floor or something. They’d find half eaten food in places. They’d even find frozen meat eaten, and the daughter has no memory of this. She would wake up in the middle of the night and eat and has no memory of this.
They were living in Texas, and the mom found a pediatric neurologist who figured out that she had a brain infection and got her on antibiotics, and then got her on anti-seizure medication which was very strong and had a ton of side symptoms. The mom tried to figure out what’s going on, and this is when she discovered that she has PANDAS.
She had a really bad episode and took her daughter to the emergency room, and the hospital didn’t believe that her daughter was sick, believed that the mother had made everything up in her head and that her mother was one of those parents who pretends their children are sick for attention.
[00:46:47] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: Munchausen by proxy.
[00:46:48] Ashley James: They took her daughter away from her. Put her on a psychiatric ward. Even though she was on antiseizure medications with brain scans to prove and working with the pediatric neurologist, they ignored that. They got CPS involved, and CPS took her daughter away. Through this day, her daughter is out of her custody. They’re trying to battle it, but it’s very hard on them.
They immediately vaccinated the child with all the vaccines at once and put her on public school. She’s having bowel and urinary problems. She’s having tics and seizures. She just had pneumonia. The mother only can visit her once or twice a week. She’s not allowed to have any control of anything medical.
[00:47:44] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: But she sounds like she’s getting worse.
[00:47:46] Ashley James: Oh, yeah. She’s absolutely getting worse. But because the CPS brought in expert doctors to say that this is BS—“There’s no such thing as PANS and PANDAS. Your daughter doesn’t have it.” They are disregarding everything. They’re saying the mother was abusive to the daughter because the mother made up a diagnosis.
[00:48:04] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: I wish that this was the first time I heard a story like this, and it’s crushing my heart.
[00:48:09] Ashley James: I want to want the parents that if this could happen to a mother who I have known she’s never been abusive. She’s only been loving, and she’s doing the best she can. When you take your kid—I’m not saying you don’t take your kid to the ER if they need to. Please don’t withhold medical help, but go to the right doctors. Say the right things.
If they don’t have a respect for the diagnosis, they might try to take your kid away. This happened to one of my close friends and is still happening. It’s medical kidnapping. Of course, the system wants to protect the children, but is this protecting children–taking them away from the caregiver that cares about them the most?
We need to be very careful and walk a fine line. We need to do obviously, get many people on our medical team. Have many pediatricians. Have many experts. Seek the advice of many doctors, including Dr. Jennifer Bahr, who’s absolutely amazing in this arena. But we need to have many doctors on our side to make sure that we’re covering all our bases.
Unfortunately, this is happening to my friend. But this is the very sad story that led me to learn about PANS and PANDAS and led me to ask you to be on the show. Again like what we said, even though this is incredibly difficult and sad, hopefully in a few years we can look back and be grateful that this story, what my friend and her daughter went through, they’re able to turn this into something positive, and that we all can turn this into something positive.
[00:49:57] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: Here’s hoping.
[00:50:01] Ashley James: You’ve heard about this kind of story before?
[00:50:03] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: Yes, I have, unfortunately. It’s one of the biggest challenges that we’re facing in this community and that these parents face is that there aren’t enough doctors who are familiar with it or even aware of it. There are definitely doctors who are aware of it and think that it’s baloney like apparently her emergency physician thought and the expert witness thought.
One of the challenges that we face is that we got experts. We do have experts who treat this and who use various different types of medicine. There’s a lot of integrative immunologists and functional immunologists that refer to me that I have patients in common with. Same thing with neurologists. Some of the most highly respected doctors for PANS and PANDAS are not fans of integrative medicine or homeopathy, and they’ll likely stir their patients away.
Fortunately, PANS and PANDAS moms are really strong mama bears. They earned that moniker for sure. They will do what they feel is right and best for their kids. They won’t stop fighting for their kids, and to make sure that they get a solution. They’ll lean on each other, and they’ll support each other. That’s one positive thing about this horrible diagnosis is that it strengthens the community. These moms come together to support each other in ways that humbles and inspires me every single day. I see it in my group, and I hear it from the moms that I talk to. I feel like all of my patients know each other, even though they’ve never actually met in person.
One of the challenges that we face is because there’s so few of us that have solid expertise in comfort and know how to manage this complex condition. It is so complex that even if you look at one kid who has PANS or PANDAS, you’re looking at one kid. They’re not going to respond the same way. They’re not all going to have the same triggers. They’re not going to have the same reactions. They’re not going to respond the same way to different treatments and meds. That’s why it has to be so individualized.
People will travel all over the world to see doctors. I work with people all over the world, and so a lot of doctors—even conventionally trained doctors—people will travel from all over to see them, and they work long distance and remotely and everything.
The challenge though is that when you have a true emergency, if it’s getting to a point that I can give you a homeopathic remedy recommendation today, but you can’t get that remedy because we don’t have easy access to all of the remedies, like a local food health store. That’s going to take a couple of days for it to get to you through mail or ordering from a homeopathic pharmacy.
You may have to go to the emergency room beforehand, and I always try to have people do the best they can to find a local doctor who’s at least familiar with PANS and PANDAS, who has emergency room privileges, so that they can intervene.
I do not have that capacity to intervene for my patients in every aspect that I want to be able to. I’m hoping to do the work that I can to change that. I got a lot of the parents of my patients who have gotten to that point of recovery that now have the capacity to help other people because they’re no longer in crisis management mode for their child, that we’re working on getting PANS and PANDAS centers in these hospitals, so it can be recognized.
But there’s so much room for growth and so much need to grow because there are entire communities that people will have nobody to go to that is even remotely familiar with PANS or PANDAS, or worse, is familiar enough and thinks that it’s a bogus diagnosis. They treat mom like she’s crazy, and then medically kidnap your child. I wish that that was the first time I’d heard that, and it’s unfortunately not. It’s so heartbreaking.
[00:53:43] Ashley James: Let’s get into what you think is the perfect storm or the soup so that children now versus 40 years ago—grandparent listeners are going, “We all got strep, and none of us got this. What’s going on?” Whereas now it’s becoming really common that those with a well-developed PANS or PANDAS gets misdiagnosed as possibly a mental health issue or being on the spectrum or something else if the doctors know what PANS or PANDAS is?
It’s more and more common, but none of the doctors know to diagnose it correctly. Why is it now so common? What is happening in the physiology of our children now, the environment that they’re in, the food that they’re eating, the air that they’re breathing, the water they’re drinking, that are making their bodies susceptible to this?
[00:54:45] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: It’s super complicated, and I’m going to get a little bit wonky here. If I trail off in a way that gets confusing, bring me back, please.
It’s so many different things that are contributing to it. I think that part of it is that we have been waging war rather than practicing diplomacy in medicine. I had this existential crisis moment at a conference recently where all of these integrative doctors and functional doctors are focusing on all of the ways that we need to come back more. We need to come back to this factor. We need to manipulate this part of the microbiome and all of these different things where we’re going in with bombs trying to control so much of our environment rather than working with it. That’s one thing I love about homeopathy.
I finally came to this place. My existential crisis moment was where I was feeling like a general in an unjust war and that basically we ended up creating this—maybe a horrible metaphor, but I’m going to go with it because it works for me. If it doesn’t work for you, I’ll try something different. But it’s like this metaphor where somebody supported the Global War on Terror and The Operation Iraqi Freedom. I feel like we are doing Operation Iraqi Freedom again and that we are going in and trying to bomb the heck out of something that is a bad guy. In that work of trying to bomb the bad guy, trying to get Al-Qaeda out, trying to get Saddam Hussein out, and all of the things that happened regardless of what you feel about the start of those wars. Those wars led to ISIS, and ISIS is worse than Al-Qaeda.
And so I think about how we are doing that in our bodies. We’re going after these bugs, and these things and try to control them and manipulate, and we leave this vacuum. Other things come in that are opportunistic, and they’re worse for us. We’ve been exponentially increasing that war. Does my analogy sort of make sense to you?
[00:56:50] Ashley James: Yes. But what about the average person who hasn’t been waging a war on mold—
[00:56:56] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: But we’ve all been doing it. We’ve been doing it without realizing it, so we’ve been doing it by giving an antibiotic for every sniffle that we have. We’ve been doing it by giving antibiotics to our food livestock. We’ve been doing it by using antibacterial soaps. We’ve been doing it by getting super hygiene focused. So, we’ve been waging all these wars indirectly.
Even if I’m not taking a ton of antibiotics in my mouth, people around me have been. I’ve been going to the restroom and public restrooms and antibacterial soap and using that. My mom definitely gave me antibiotics when I probably didn’t need it because I wasn’t doing well, and it’s hard to wait out a virus.
And pediatricians succumb to parental pressure frequently, and they give something because you don’t want to go to the doctor and say, “I’m paying all this money to be told to do nothing.” There’s that.
Waging war on our environment by creating better living through chemistry. We are increasing the toxicity of mold by our chemicals that we use on paint, some things that we’re protecting wood with. Mold only create toxins in response to man-made chemicals. It is fighting against us because we’re fighting against it. We are just in this back and forth war.
So whether we’re taking the pills, the pills are happening. The changes in our environment are happening. The toxins are changing. Our food is changing. That’s another contributing factor. We have less nutritious food because of policies from the big government and where farmers are getting subsidies for which things that they’re producing. It’s growing the use of things like glyphosate and other pesticides that impact our nervous system.
If we’re eating fresh fruits and vegetables, but we’re eating conventionally grown fresh fruits and vegetables, those are causing inflammation to our nervous system, and impacts on our immune system and endocrine system. All of it is affected by the chemicals that we use, and the nutrients are being depleted on our soil because of farming practices and how they have changed. We have lower nutrients, more toxins on the foods that we’re eating that have less nutrition in the first place, and we’re processing things a lot.
When I was growing up, my mom made an awful lot of things from scratch. I grew up as the child of farmers. I didn’t grow up on a farm, but my parents were farmers, and they had grown up on farms, so maybe that’s a component of it. Maybe this happened even before for some people where there are a lot more processed foods.
Lunchables was not a thing. It was a brand new thing when I was in middle school or high school. It was not something that we got regularly. We didn’t get a lot of processed foods. It was a treat to get sugary cereal because we almost never got those kinds of thing. We’re processing things that remove the nutrients.
Here’s a big one—I’m sure a lot of your listeners, and you have heard about the genetic polymorphism, the SNP for MTHFR. It’s rampant in the population. It shouldn’t be that big of a problem. That means they’ve been having people passing down MTHFR variants for years.
The difference is that we haven’t always been eating foods that are enriched with folic acid, and folic acid clogs up malfunctioning MTHFR genes, the enzymes that they code for to be more precise. And so, we are eating less nutritious food that has toxins covered all over it in environments where we’ve got antibiotics in all of the foods that we’re eating. Hormones used to manipulate the food livestock that we are consuming. We’re heating our processed foods in plastic. We’re going to sleep in houses that are filled with chemicals that are themselves toxic, but then also create toxic mold exposure when they get wet and have leaks and all that.
It’s so many things. It’s genetics. It’s the environment. It’s the microbiome and the impacts that we’ve had on the microbiome. It’s how we’re eating because most of the parents that I work with, they brought up eating a standard American diet, which has a lot of processed food before their child gets sick because of convenience. We overworked ourselves, which means we don’t have time to tend to ourselves anymore.
I can be super guilty of this, too. I had to have these conversations with myself all the time. “No, it’s time to get up.” And when you get up, you need to do your meditation and your yoga. You need to eat a healthy breakfast. It needs to be all these different things. If I take the easy thing, I’m not going to be able to take care of my patients because I’m not taking care of myself.
But our diet impacts on the microbiome with one meal. One meal is all it takes to change the make-up of our microbiome. And so when we’re constantly eating these things that feed the bad guys and starve the good guys, we’re already creating an imbalance. Then when we throw in antibiotics for colds that don’t react to antibiotics, we throw in the inflammatory response that we’re having to all these chemicals in our environment, it’s surprising that we don’t all have this kind of thing.
We see autoimmunity show up rampantly in the society, at least in American society, whether it’s PANS or PANDAS. This is just one particular form of it. We see a lot more autoimmunity, a lot more thyroid condition and thyroid dysfunction as a result of autoimmunity. It’s a lot of GAD autoimmunity coming out a lot more frequently, too. It’s really a problem.
[01:02:49] Ashley James: Absolutely. I love it. I think you painted that picture perfectly. I didn’t have to rope you in. You didn’t go on any crazy tangents. That was well done. I’ve had other experts on the show talked about different things that you’ve brought out.
Dr. Ben Lynch, he was on episode 225. It’s about dirty genes, a really good episode for those of you who want to learn more about MTHFR or supporting the body in the face of those SNPs. But it’s very interesting about how our food supply has been contaminated by man-made contaminant. We’re intentionally putting folic acid into the food to help prevent one disease and ends up harming so many people who can’t metabolize that, that need methylated B vitamins.
[01:03:43] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: All of these moms that are not only eating foods that have folic acid in it, they’ve been taking a well-intention recommendation for prenatal which has folic acid, when that might be making things worse for their kiddo.
Again, the clinical practice of medicine has to catch up to the research, and it takes so many years for it to catch up. I think that that’s part of it, too. We’re playing catch up from our good intentions.
[01:04:12] Ashley James: I want to get into the questions that we have in the Facebook group and how to help the parents and the children who have PANS and PANDAS.
But first, I want to cover for everyone, for 100% of the population, how can we prevent PANDAS and PANS? It sounds like one of the ways we can prevent it is by, like you’ve mentioned, being diligent with our diet; eating clean food; going that extra mile to make sure the food is clean; to make sure water is clean too; make sure that we’re not waging a war against things. But we understand that there needs to be that balance, so looking to support the environment and the body. What other ways can we help to prevent PANS and PANDAS in the first place?
[01:05:02] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: I’m going to be a bit of a bummer here. I don’t know yet, and I don’t know that you can. That’s one of the reasons that homeopathy becomes so vital is because ultimately, it’s not about all of these things. If you have this perfect environment, like perfect diet and your whole family never took any antibiotics, you only ate food that you raised on your organic farm, all of those things. I’ve got patients like that who still have PANS and PANDAS.
It’s not necessarily something you can control, which is where homeopathy becomes this vital linchpin for these kids because homeopathy doesn’t require us knowing exactly what happened in the body or exactly what the underlying cause or trying to manipulate biochemistry or neurotransmitters. What homeopathy does is it treats susceptibility, and that’s really what it comes down to. We have to focus on these again and again.
A lot of parents, when they got the diagnosis of PANS or PANDAS, they get so focused on that bug, and we’re just perpetuating that battle approach to health instead of the diplomacy approach to health.
I will say that homeopathy is more diplomacy because it’s nudging the body in the direction to heal itself; to repair its immune function; to repair its immune response; to restore balance to its hormones and neurotransmitters which we see. We see lab values change with homeopathic medicine when it’s done well. It just takes time.
Homeopathy is treating that susceptibility because you see this all the time. You see parents where their entire life was leading up to prevention of anything—perfect health, exactly what you would recommend as a prevention, and their kiddos still get it. You’ll see that one kid in the family gets it and another doesn’t. And so it’s that one child for whatever reason has that susceptibility and we can’t always identify if this is SNP, if this is gene, if this is bug, if this is whatever. It’s their unique susceptibility and homeopathy treats that.
We also see it happen where I’ve got kids that I treat who are adopted, and all of the kids in the family have it despite the fact that they’re adopted. So it’s not just genes, and it’s not just environment. It’s both. It’s a big question mark for that last little pieces. We, as of right now, define it as susceptibility and that’s where homeopathy comes in.
I wish I could give your listeners some better hope that if you do this exactly right that they’re going to avoid PANS or PANDAS for their kiddo. Unfortunately, that’s not likely to be the case.
[01:07:47] Ashley James: However, we should still eat organic. Do the best we can to make sure our body is optimally healthy.
Eleven years ago, I was very sick. I could barely function. I was constantly on antibiotics. I had type 2 diabetes, chronic adrenal fatigue, chronic infections, polycystic ovarian syndrome, infertility. I had brain fog so bad; I couldn’t process human language in the morning. It took me about 11 AM before I could understand what people are saying. I was really sick.
And we saw this health documentary. Because this was back in 2008, Netflix is just starting to have health documentaries on. The first one we watched streaming, there was the original CEO, the original creator of Whole Foods talking about health and what their mission. He said, “Vote with your fork,” and I understood.
They also talked about shopping on the perimeter. It was like, “Okay. We’re doing it. We’re going to Whole Foods.” We live in Las Vegas at that time. It’s very difficult to get clean food there. We went to Whole Foods, and we shopped their perimeter, which was hard because we’re anticipating not the standard American diet at that point. But we shopped the perimeter which means not going to the aisles where the processed foods are, so we’re eating meat, vegetables, dairy, fruit and that’s it.
We did that, and we chose 100% organic, and in one month I woke up and I realized that that was the first month I didn’t need to be on antibiotics. That was the first month since I could remember that I wasn’t sick. I wasn’t getting an infection so bad that I couldn’t function. It was like, “Oh, my gosh. In less than a month of just eating organic, my immune system recovered.”
[01:09:41] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: Probably, it wasn’t just organic. It was organic and more nutrients then, and it was less inflammatory. It was multiple things. I didn’t mean to say that we should keep eating and deal with it when it comes, like eat your McDonald’s and deal with it because you’re going to get PANS and PANDAS anyway. Absolutely not.
My husband worked in conservation before he left to help me run my practice, so I could focus on being a doctor and like be the best doctor I could and all the administrative things. He worked on conservation, so we’re both passionate about the environment as well. It’s part of how we fall in love. It’s in the mountains. And so, we’re focused on the environment which is part of this existential crisis.
Are we doing things that are destroying the environment and our health at the same time by our unintentional or convenience-focused mindset? And so I would say that absolutely, we all need to focus on having not just a health-conscious diet but an environmentally conscious diet because the environment and the impacts of the environment have made a big difference for people with autoimmunity and especially these kids.
It’s about how we have to process trash. Are you buying things that are gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, whole foods in a box? That’s not what you should you be doing. That’s still processed food. That still creates trash. A lot of energy still went into making it, and it’s still going to have impacts in your body. We’re not supposed to eat these processed foods. Absolutely, we should be doing our best effort to eat organic foods, and yes, you vote with your fork. Yes, there is some issue, people were always bringing up we have cross-contamination and all these different things. The more people who are demanding organic produce, the more people are going to grow it.
The better practices that they’re going to have are the soil management and the nutrition value of the foods, and the less that we got to have exposure to these toxic chemicals that are creating so much inflammation and hyperpermeability of our gut, otherwise known as the “leaky gut.” All these things are contributing to all of these chronic illnesses. Definitely, think about the environment because what’s good for the environment is good for your health.
I’m a firm believer that to be a truly holistic and integrative doctor, you have to think about the environment as well as your health.
[01:12:11] Ashley James: Absolutely. I’m highly allergic to dairy, and I’m still eating dairy back then. When I took dairy off that was another life-changing event. When I took gluten off, that was another life-changing event. So for me, every time I take out something I’m allergic to and add in more whole foods, it’s life-changing. I’m still learning. We’re all still learning. I’m still learning, and I love learning from experts like you because you’re reaffirming what my body keeps telling me.
What we keep learning every time that we eat healthily is that our body can heal really quickly or can go downhill really quickly depending on our diet.
[01:12:51] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: The question about what is healthy or what is the best diet, people always ask these things. This is one reason that one of the moms that I worked with for several years who’s seen her child recover from PANDAS that we are working together to put some programs together to help moms learn how to do these because one person thinks it’s healthy. I have people come to me, and they have a pretty healthy diet, but when they tell me what they’re eating, I’m like, “Do you realize you’re giving so much sugar? Yes, it’s might be a better form of sugar. It’s not white processed sugar, but you’re still feeding the bugs that are not helping your kiddo feel better.”
And so, we’re working on helping moms learn how to navigate this. One reason why I’m partnering with one of the moms that I worked with is because there’s only so much that a doctor can tell you. When the rubber hits the road, and you got to get your kiddo to eat these things or to change the way that they’re living and to change their diet, it can be really hard. And so having both doctor and mom together can be really helpful to get the good information and then how to make it happen.
[01:13:54] Ashley James: Absolutely, and I highly recommend that listeners go to your Facebook group, Homeopathy for PANS & PANDAS. Search that in Facebook or go to the show notes of today’s podcast because a link will be there as well at learntruehealth.com.
You’re writing a book, is that correct?
[01:14:16] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: Yes, we’re starting with a book first and foremost. But the intention is to start with a book that’s a guide for moms on how to navigate PANS and PANDAS. How to identify and how to navigate all the different things that go into treatment, from the conventional approach to the natural and functional approach to homeopathy. As I said, it’s a mom’s story, a doctor’s tips, and a mom’s advice on how to make it happen. And then the plan is to offer a program as well, to help moms who need a little bit more support in implementing the things that we’ve talked about in the book.
[01:14:49] Ashley James: Got it. But listeners at this point who know that their kids need some extra support from a doctor, you do take individual clients through Skype, is that correct?
[01:15:01] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: Yeah, through long distance through another program, but yeah, we do work with people virtually.
[01:15:07] Ashley James: Got it. But maybe not Skype because you needed to be secure for medical reasons I understand. Let’s get to these questions. I’m so eager to hear your answers.
So Elaina says, “Are there natural alternatives to the prophylactic antibiotics, antivirals into supporting the immune system during bacterial, fungal or viral flares? What about absence seizures, motor tics?
[01:15:30] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: That’s a hefty question. There are natural herbs and things like that that you can use that work in a similar way to antibiotics. I have mixed feelings about using them just because there’s not as much evidence behind them. I will use them, especially if somebody is sensitive, but you can still have sensitivities to herbs that have similar actions in the body as an antibiotic.
You can also develop a resistance to the herbs. There was a research presentation shared in our annual conference last year that was fantastic. That was also scary. That shows that you can develop antibiotic resistance to antimicrobial herbs just like you can to the antibiotics themselves, and it happens pretty quickly in the test that they did.
There are things that you can use. It’s going to be up to the individual. This is probably going to get a little bit frustrating, but like what I’ve said earlier, a lot of these kids, if you’ve seen one kid with PANS or PANDAS, you’ve seen one kid with PANS and PANDAS. They have similarities, but they’re still so individualized, and what works for one person isn’t going to work for another.
There are some supplements that can be used to help mitigate yeast. Caprylic acid is one that’s used pretty frequently. Saccharomyces boulardii—it’s a yeast-hating yeast. People will give that oftentimes if they’re using the prophylactic antibiotics. Other herbs, like I said there’s not as much evidence behind them, so I’m always hesitant to use them because I have homeopathy as one of my tools. When we’re using homeopathy and when we’re using other natural therapies in my approach, we’re working trying to get people off of needing to take these things long term because we want the immune system fighting it the way it’s supposed to, not having to take all of these supplements and tons of pills, whether they’re natural or conventional just to fight off the infection. We want the infection to be handled and managed by the body the way that it’s meant to.
There’s another further question, but I don’t remember the other part.
[01:17:46] Ashley James: What about absence seizures and motor tics?
[01:17:51] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: Those are things that are the susceptibility where homeopathy is going to be the most important component. The conventional medications that are used to control seizures do not have a one for one replacement. Most things in the psychiatric realm don’t have a one for one replacement, and on the rare occasion they do, for instance, Saint John’s wort can be a replacement for an SSRI, it has the same action in the body. The challenge that you face is that they weren’t standardized. If you’re getting something, whether it’s from your naturopathic doctor or your functional medicine doctor or you’re buying something over the counter from Whole Foods or another health food store, one company’s version is going to be different. You need to make sure that you’re getting the right part of the plant. I never recommend that people try one for one replacement because they’re probably not getting it, exactly the way that they’re hoping to get it.
But when it comes to the anti-seizure medications, there isn’t something that’s a clear, natural replacement. People will do things like using the ketogenic diet, which I have mixed feelings about because it has a lot of impacts on the microbiome as well. It’s very hyper-restrictive. I think that we sometimes are looking for a solution right now and don’t think about the long-term implications. I think the ketogenic diet can be that for some people. It is clinically useful for severe, intractable seizures but not specifically absence seizures.
The good news is homeopathy. When you use an individually prescribed remedy based off of your child’s overall presentation as a whole person, you’re going to be treating absence seizure and tics as well.
[01:19:41] Ashley James: Excellent. If a parent has a child with PANS or PANDAS, and they’re doing everything they can to keep them super healthy and then they are not on any medications right now, but then they’re worried that their child is having a bacterial, viral or fungal infection, the best thing to do is to talk to their naturopathic pediatrician to see what they can do.
Are there times when you would say, “We need a medication”?
[01:20:13] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: Yes. I will say that because of the issue that we’ve talked about earlier in the very beginning of our conversation about strep, I actually will tell parents to get their kids on antibiotics for many reasons that include the cost and insurance coverage, and all these different things, and even willingness to take medications. The herbs that we need to use do not taste good, so a lot of kids will not take them. You have to take into consideration not only like a strict philosophy, to look at what’s the best tool and which thing can you do.
I’m also not a big fan of doing tons and tons of tests if there’s not something that you can actually act on after the test. I test for things when I need to test for them. I will test for infections if they haven’t already been identified if I’m going to start an antibiotic to make sure we’re starting the right one. But yeah, I’m more likely to recommend antibiotics at this point than herbs because I know that with the tool of homeopathy, I’m not going to need them forever.
[01:21:17] Ashley James: Great. That is, of course, if they have a bacterial infection, not if they have a fungal or viral infection.
[01:21:23] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: Exactly.
[01:21:24] Ashley James: Right. Daniel asks, “How to know when we can stop antibiotics? My daughter has been on them since September. I’m currently waning her off to see how she responds.” I had asked her for a bit more information to clarify, and she says that her daughter has PANDAS from strep and her normal symptoms are gone right now. Thanks to long-term antibiotics, gluten-free, dairy-free diet, and supplements. She’s wondering if she takes her off antibiotics, will all the symptoms return? How does removing antibiotics affect her inflammation, brain, and behavior, when she takes her off the antibiotics?
[01:22:10] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: It depends on what the antibiotics are. There are a lot of kids who worked well, who do well on Augmentin, which is a combination of amoxicillin and clavulanic acid. One of the theories to why Augmentin works better than plain amoxicillin is because the clavulanic acid has some anti-inflammatory components to anti-inflammatory effects. There are a lot of theories that the long-term use of the antibiotics is for a more anti-inflammatory component.
Most people, if they’re doing well, they can come off the antibiotics, and they may do fine for a while. Unfortunately, there’s not a clear cut when this happens, then your kid’s ready to come off and is going to do fine and not have any return of symptoms.
It may be that your child is fine for a while until another big exposure comes that they’re susceptible to, and then they get sick again. I do still think that it’s a good idea to get people off long term antibiotics that are prophylactic antibiotics if they can, because of the impacts that it’s having on the gut by taking this long-term antibiotic.
The thing is when we try work to get these kids off especially if you’re not using a type of medicine, like a homeopathic approach, then we don’t know for sure how well your child has been healing in the process. Usually, when I’m working with patients, I have people gradually wane them off when they’re doing well. And we then can manipulate and change the homeopathic remedy to help the body restore balance when we start to see symptoms return.
In some kids, we’ll have issues come up randomly like loose teeth. Loose teeth actually can cause a really big problem for these kids because it disrupts biofilms. There’s a lot of things that could come into play that may or may not be related to just stopping the antibiotic.
It may be a new exposure, and if they’re getting worse, it’s because you haven’t treated that susceptibility. You’re just going in trying to kill the bug rather than treating the fact why did your child get this as a response to the bug in the first place. That’s a really big component that seems to turn the light on to a lot of moms that I work and to a lot of moms in the group that we host. It’s that susceptibility piece I’ve talked about earlier because like I said one kid in the family can get PANS or PANDAS and the others don’t.
I had mycoplasma pneumonia in November. Why did I get pneumonia and not get OCD? Because I don’t have that susceptibility to mycoplasma, causing that for me, whereas a lot of my patients would get the mycoplasma that has no signs of pneumonia. They would have intractable OCD and terrible tics.
We still have to focus on that susceptibility, not just the antibiotics. I’m afraid that if you haven’t been doing anything other than antibiotics that you’re likely to have a resurgence at some point. And so it’s really important to get other therapies in that can help the body to heal and recover, and then treat that susceptibility with homeopathy.
[01:25:07] Ashley James: It sounds like she’s doing some diet and some supplement components. I’ve had that experience. I was misdiagnosed once and given antibiotics, and then all of a sudden within an hour, I got better.
It was crazy. I said, “This is amazing. I feel amazing. I can’t believe how fast that works.” And they’re like, “Oh, okay.” And then they figured out it wasn’t an infection. It was just a lot of inflammation. The anti-inflammatory effects of the antibiotic are what I benefitted from. I didn’t have an infection. It was a raging inflammation.
So, for a child who’s benefitting from six months or more of taking an antibiotic, you’re saying that likely it’s the anti-inflammatory effects. If it’s the antibiotics that are anti-inflammatory, would you then have them take like cortisone, some other supplements to help decrease inflammation and look at diet to make sure there’s nothing pro-inflammatory in them to support the body as a whole to be very anti-inflammatory, and then take them off of the antibiotic and see how they do?
[01:26:26] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: Yes, exactly. There are already supplements. There are undoubtedly going to be some anti-inflammatory supplements. I don’t know a single PANS or PANDAS kiddo, who has come to see me on supplements which don’t have at least three or four anti-inflammatories. Different kids are going to respond to different supplements individually.
Some kids do well with something like turmeric, fish oil. Some don’t do so well. That’s going to depend on their neurotransmitter make-up and genetic make-up, whether they have histamine reactivity, how their body clears histamine, how their body clears other neurotransmitters. I’m always hesitant to give specific supplement advice because it’s so individualized. Does that make sense?
[01:27:10] Ashley James: Absolutely. Anyone who’s listening, this is information. We’re not treating or diagnosing anything. Please take this information and see your doctor. See a naturopathic pediatrician. See Dr. Jennifer Bahr. Take this information and get a professional’s advice with it.
What about NAC as an anti-inflammatory? Is that one that you’ve seen these mothers give their children?
[01:27:39] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: I’ve seen a lot of kids on it. Recently, I got a patient who got worse on NAC. Supplements are just like medications that we can have adverse reactions to them. I hate to keep going back to genetics. As much as we know about genetics and Dr. Ben Lynch is fantastic—I learned a lot from him—there’s only so much that we know/ When we’re trying to force one pathway, we can back up other pathways. We can overcrowd things. I’m one of those people who have MTHFR, COMT, MAO, SNPs, and all of these things. If I overdo it in one way, I will feel terrible on the other end. So, it’s really about finding the individual balance.
Again, I keep coming back on homeopathy, but homeopathy works on the epigenetic level. It helps us make the best of what we have so that we do not have to manipulate things.
Back to the question with NAC, it’s a precursor for glutathione which is our major antioxidant in the body, and it’s a really important component for detoxification which is obviously with all of the things that we’ve talked about that soup earlier. Detoxification is important for any human being living today, especially important for these kids who are so inflamed. Their bodies are on fire.
It’s an important component, but how our body can make their transition to NAC to the glutathione is going to be different. Honestly, there are a lot of helpful studies. That NAC can be really helpful for OCD and tics.
I’ve tried it a handful of times with patients and not seen the magic that I’m looking for. I’m envious of these other integrative doctors who are reporting magic from some of these supplements that I don’t see. Maybe it’s because I have the magical homeopathy that really can transform people’s lives very quickly in very dramatic ways that I expect too much from supplements. So, it’s a problem.
[01:29:38] Ashley James: I like it. It’s a good problem to have
[01:29:41] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: Yeah, but it can be useful.
[01:29:43] Ashley James: Lisa brings up an interesting point. She says, “I often wonder if it’s really strep that triggers these kids or if it’s after they were given antibiotics for strep, and now they have yeast overgrowth in the gut.”
[01:29:55] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: Yeast can play a role, but I don’t think it’s the yeast, and I don’t think it’s the strep either. That’s where we come back to that susceptibility. If they are having this reaction to strep, it’s their susceptibility to it because most people can get exposed to strep and not have an autoimmune response to it or don’t have this specific autoimmune response.
Yeast doesn’t help things definitely because yeast impacts how our neurotransmitters are produced. A lot of our neurotransmitters are made by our microbiome. Nutrients are made by our microbiome. It manipulates things in a way that doesn’t help, but I don’t think that yeast causes it. I don’t think that it’s because of antibiotics. I do think that the frequent use of antibiotics can contribute to dysbiosis that works against us, but I don’t think the yeast causes it.
[01:30:50] Ashley James: Interesting. I’ve had a few doctors on the show sharing some really interesting insights through their research. One doctor, who’s not a physician, she’s a researcher—you probably heard of Dr. Stephanie Seneff. I’ve had her on the show twice.
She links glyphosate in our food and the MMR vaccine with the increased rates of disease and neurologically more children in the spectrum, glyphosate being a chelatorthat is putting heavy metals into our kidney and our nervous system, and crossing the blood-brain barrier.
And then I recently had a naturopathic pediatrician on the show say that she believes that vaccines are not the sole cause of autism, but she believes that it is the use of Tylenol after a child receives vaccines that is the major contributor—of course, the environment of the body. Everything can be that perfect storm or that soup like you say, and the environment of the body is very important.
She believes that what tips children over is the use of Tylenol. Because it also crosses the blood-brain barrier, it impacts how the liver detoxes and produces glutathione. So you’re ramping a child’s immune system up with vaccine and then dampening it with Tylenol which is confusing the body.
We have these different theories, but it’s all very modern day things we’re doing to the body that we didn’t have around 200 years ago. We see, as you’ve mentioned, several things. Our genetics have not caught up to this modern world where we’re constantly bombarding our bodies with chemicals that are unseen or we don’t think about. This is only within the few generations that the environment that the body was in, and these are all new man-made diseases basically that are coming up as a result of our lifestyle. We see this taking place. PANS and PANDAS are now so prevalent because they are man-made diseases. They are triggered by, like what you said, what’s happening in our environment and the body’s environment.
Lisa also goes on to asks, “We never went for the antibiotic route but instead focus on healing the gut. My kids are only triggered by yeast overgrowth in the gut, and their labs show mold toxicity. I want to know if my children will ever outgrow PANS? What is happening to the brain when their yeast is high? How can something like yeast trigger OCD and tics and changes in her children’s personality completely?” She’s very thankful that we’re doing it this interview.
[01:33:44] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: Yes, your child can outgrow PANS or PANDAS. I see it happen all the time in my practice. I don’t know if it’s possible if you don’t include homeopathy because again we have to treat that susceptibility. We’re not living in bubbles, and when we try to put people in bubbles, we create other issues. They will be exposed to things, and if we don’t help repair that susceptibility, there is a chance that they’ll have another flare or resurgence or regression with the PANS or PANDAS.
Mold is absolutely a big trigger, and if your child is more triggered by mold, absolutely yeast is going to play a role in that because they’re both fungi. One of the challenges that we’re dealing with when we have yeast overgrowth is that we usually have some level of intestinal hyperpermeability or leaky gut. There’s a lot more evidence that shows that when we have leaky gut, we also have leaky brain. That’s one of the ways that we’re getting things into our brain and across that blood-brain barrier that aren’t meant to be there; and how we end up having the brain fog and the changes in our mood that are contributed to the things that are going on in our gut.
This is in part because we end up getting things into our bloodstream that aren’t meant to be there. Our gut is meant to be this fantastic guardian for us where things have a very specific process to break things down so we got this tiniest little bit of particles that can get into our body and they’re broken down to points that they’re not recognizable as a foreign invader.
When we are not doing well with our digestion, and our gut is leaky, we get things that are bigger particles into our bloodstream that we then recognize as foreign invaders. That’s how we get food allergies. We have things that look like they are bacteria trying to come and invade us, so the immune system ramped up, and then we get inflammation, and then the inflammation can lead to more permeability of capillaries and different tissues. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle that keeps going. I think that we have to get the gut healed. It sounds like she’s focusing on that and getting the gut back into control.
I would still recommend adding in homeopathy to treat that susceptibility because, as I said earlier, one meal can change the make-up of your microbiome. We don’t want to live in a world where we have to have such super strict control because we also want to have that joy and that pleasure.
Kids with PANS or PANDAS that have been prisoners in their homes, in many cases, these kids won’t go to school. They won’t leave home. They’re afraid to sleep. They’re so scared. These kids are tortured. They’re prisoners of their mind, and they’re prisoners of their own homes because of this condition. But when they start to feel better, you would want them to go and eat some birthday cake every once in a while.
The way that you can allow that to happen is if we treat that susceptibility, and yes make sure that we maintain as good a diet as we possibly can so that we’re not eating birthday cake seven times a day or seven times a week. But that we want our kids to be able to have that stress release because stress also causes inflammation. Not being able to be a part of a social community also contributes to inflammation and worsening of outcomes, so it’s about balance really.
[01:37:17] Ashley James: You know that leads perfectly into Lisa’s part two of her question. She goes, “Please ask about low dose naltrexone. My daughter doesn’t need, but we struggle more with my son. We have addressed diet for years now. They are on a whole food, clean diet. If I restrict my son’s diet anymore, he will grow up hating me. My daughter has no issues and loves her diet, but my son tells me all the time that when he sees his friends eat foods he can’t have, he gets upset. I’m not willing to remove any more foods from him. What are your thoughts on low-dose naltrexone for those with PANS and PANDAS?”
[01:37:52] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: I don’t use it in my practice because I don’t need to. With homeopathy as my main tool that I start everybody with, it’s just never been something that I’ve seen be necessary. I know a lot of people do use it with great success. It can help with some immune system rebalancing. I’m not sure specifically about food allergies. So hopefully you have an LDN expert to come on or already have one that you can reference for people to talk to get a better answer about that one.
[01:38:19] Ashley James: Do you know one that I could interview?
[01:38:22] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: I can look and see who. There’s someone who gave a talk about it at our last conference. I could look up who that was.
[01:38:30] Ashley James: Yeah, if you’d recommend them. I’d love that.
Bunny asked, and I love this question, “I know fever is the body’s natural way of killing off foreign organisms. The world wants to reduce fever ASAP, but we know that we need to keep a fever for a time to help the body kill the infection. How long and how high should it go? What temperature do we not want to go over?”
I had a pediatric naturopathic doctor say that 108 is when we should start worrying, whereas other doctors will say 104 is when we need to give the kids Tylenol. What is your take on fevers for children?
[01:39:08] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: I always say 104. I stay with the standard at 104 just because there are some greater risks if we don’t address things at 104. 104 is basically the cut-off, when I tell people that they need to get to the emergency room if they can’t get the fever under control with an antipyretic.
[01:39:30] Ashley James: Would you give herb that helps to break the fever cycle or is that when you recommend an over-the-counter medication?
[01:39:37] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: I’ll have them go on an NSAID.
[01:39:40] Ashley James: Is there homeopathy you would try first?
[01:39:44] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: Yes, I would get them for an acute appointment so that we could find the right remedy for that particular case. One remedy that most parents will use that can be indicated but is not always indicated is belladonna. It’s really good when we’re having high fevers, especially if there are behavioral symptoms with the fevers. It’s generally really good in inflammation, but it’s not the be all, end all. While it works for a lot of kids, and the flare or with the fever, it’s not always going to be the right remedy.
We’ve talked about this. It’s a good point for me to bring up right now. We’ve talked about it before that yes, there’s not a negative side effect to homeopathy which makes it generally pretty safe. I will say that for kids with PANS and PANDAS, they are so sensitive that they are more likely to have different reactions to homeopathy than what might be typically expected, including a really positive reaction that seems really negative, which is called an initial therapeutic aggravation, where symptoms get a little bit worse before they get better.
Some people will call it a healing crisis. Some parents will see that as actually doing worse when it could be a positive sign. In some cases, there are some kids who actually can have a negative reaction to homeopathy because they’re so darn sensitive, and so it’s not something that I recommend people do on their own based off what they are hearing from people in groups because it’s not as easy to manage in a really sensitive kid who has PANS or PANDAS.
Back to your original question, yes, I would work on it with a homeopathic remedy, and if we couldn’t get it under control quickly enough, that’s when we would be looking at managing the fever and getting it under control using an over-the-counter med.
[01:41:27] Ashley James: Got it. Those with PANS or PANDAS, you want to make sure they’re 104 or less, is it because they’re more sensitive or more susceptible?
[01:41:35] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: Well because that’s when we start to have more issues with potential damage to the brain with fevers. I’ll be perfectly honest. Most of the kids who have PANS or PANDAS don’t get fevers until they’re recovering. So when I start to see fevers with PANS or PANDAS, I’m celebrating and doing cartwheels down the hallway in my office because most of these kids are coming to me where the mom says, “They were so healthy. They never got sick. They have this perfect immune system.”
No. They weren’t developing antibodies the way that they should, and they didn’t have the appropriate immune response. I can’t tell you how many kids never got sick, and then suddenly, this happens. A lot of kids too that there was never any sign of strep or never any sign of illness. They just had the behavioral symptoms, and if they have not stumbled upon something like PANS or PANDAS, they’ve never even thought to do a rapid strep test.
The kids who were always fine and never had fevers, often there’s something else going on there. Honestly, when people start to get a fever, I’m super happy, and I don’t try to suppress it until it gets at 104. And yes, we use homeopathy to whether we’re adjusting their chronic remedy. Sometimes you need to adjust their chronic remedy whenever one of those things come up or switch to a short-term acute remedy before we move on to a different potency or preparation of their chronic remedy to help them get through an acute illness.
[01:42:59] Ashley James: Got it. To wrap it up on these questions, she wants to know how long can a child have a fever safely.
[01:43:07] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: I don’t remember what the guidelines are.
[01:43:10] Ashley James: If a child has a fever, that is actually a good thing. I get excited when my son has a fever because I know his immune system is kicking in. We can celebrate and not get scared. I think the parents get scared when their child has a fever, but what we need to do is be happy. Of course, monitor them. Hydrate them. Be in touch with their pediatrician, but be happy knowing the body is mounting a defense or a response.
[01:43:36] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: Ultimately when it comes to fevers and management of fever, stay on regular communication with your pediatrician because a fever could be a positive thing or it could be a sign of something going in the wrong direction depending on what’s going on. So don’t listen to me or anybody else who’s giving a blanket response about a fever. Talk to your doctor so that you can make sure you’re getting the right information for your kiddo.
I’d hate to miss meningitis or something like that because you’re waiting too long and that’s the thing. Even with strep, like what we’ve talked about earlier, it has to be treated early to prevent some of these things happening to the kidneys and the heart.
Like the test that you had when you were an undergrad, it’s important that we get early intervention. Don’t suppress a fever once you have ruled out other major life-threatening things that can cause a fever. Is that better?
[01:44:30] Ashley James: Absolutely. Can you tell us for those who don’t know? It’s so funny because I always want to take my son to the doctor. Our pediatrician is a naturopath, so she spends at least half an hour. I feel pampered. I love seeing naturopathic physicians. I want to take him all the time when he has issues, not when nothing is going on. But my husband’s always looking at me like, “Really?” He goes, “My mom never took me to the doctor. I don’t know why we have to. Kids get sick, and then they got better. Why are we going to the doctor?”
It’s because I know it’s better to be safe than sorry. But for us who don’t know the signs and symptoms of strep, can you tell us what it is we’re looking for? We don’t want to be the hyperactive parents who every sniff, every sniffle, we end up in the doctor’s office. We also don’t want to feel like idiots taking your kid to the doctor’s office for every sniffle and the doctors giving you a look like, “Your kid is fine. Go home.” But we also don’t want to under react and miss strep. So what are the signs and symptoms of strep?
[01:45:42] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: Obviously, the sore throat that doesn’t go away. Fever can be part of it but not always. With kids with PANS and PANDAS, they might have no signs. It may just be behavioral things that are sudden when we’re looking at the behavioral components. If there’s a sudden, seemingly overnight change in your child’s behavior; they were fine last night. They woke today, and they are telling you that their brain is being mean and saying the same things. They can’t stop thinking about something. They have a random tic. Get them checked for strep.
The strawberry tongue is a pretty pathognomonic component for strep, so that’s where the tongue looks like a strawberry. It’s bright red and a little bit swollen. There can be spots on the throat too. So, taking a look and seeing if the throat is swollen, inflamed, irritated, and then like I said that strawberry tongue and some spots on the throat.
Just take a look at your kid. Don’t just ask them how they feel. Look inside in their mouth and see if there’s something unusual. Look inside your kid’s mouth right now while you’re listening to this and see what it looks like normally, so you got something to compare to.
You don’t necessarily need to rush off to the doctor for low-grade fevers. Anything less than 101.4 or 100.4, I definitely don’t worry about it at all. If it’s less than 100.4, it doesn’t even actually count as a fever. Anything between like100.4 and 104, that’s when I was starting to monitor things, but you don’t necessarily need to rush off. If there’s intense headaches, definitely see the doctor. If there’s difficulty like bending your neck, see the doctor.
If their throat looks odd, and its inflamed and got spots, and you got the strawberry tongue, and if you have sandpaper rash, see the doctor because those can be signs that it’s strep. They got that sudden behavior change, too.
[01:47:38]Ashley James: Awesome. If a child does have strep, is it the best route to do antibiotics in your opinion?
[01:47:45] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: Yes. If you have active strep, I always tell my patients to do antibiotics even if we’re still using homeopathy. Homeopathy helps to stimulate the body to heal. It can be helpful in active strep infections, but one of the challenges is there are over 3,000 homeopathic remedies to select from, and you have to get the right fit. You may not get the right fit on the first try — even somebody pretty good with what they do.
I’m pretty darn good at what I do. About 80% of my patients get better, but they don’t all get better on the first remedy that I give them. About 20% don’t have a response to that first remedy, and so I have to try again. We can’t always know that the reactions are going to happen fast enough either.
Some kids, it’s within a few hours. Some people have a response like you did—within 10 minutes, you felt significantly better. Some people, it takes a couple of days to a couple of weeks even depending on how chronic is what’s going on and just the nature of the child.
Relying exclusively on homeopathy when you’re just getting started isn’t wise. When it comes to somebody who I have been working with for a while, and I know how they respond to antibiotics, and how they respond to homeopathy, we’ll make an individual decision for that child. But when I’m first getting started with somebody, if they’re not rocking it on homeopathic medicine and having significantly better immune responses, then yeah I want them on antibiotics.
[01:49:05] Ashley James: This has been such a wealth of information. Thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing all these. To wrap up the interview, is there a message? Is there something that you like to say to those who suspect that their children have PANS or PANDAS or those that know that they do? Is there information you love to make sure parents know?
[01:49:31] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: You know the thing that seems to connect for most parents is that concept of susceptibility. We focus so much on what pills can I give my kid, what diet do I to need to take to battle this infection or to put the fire out of the inflammation, and yes, those things are important. It does play a role in long term success and health for all of us—to focus on not having an anti-inflammatory diet and appropriately fighting infections when we need to.
But we can’t focus just on those infections. It’s that susceptibility. It’s why your kiddo gets strep, the OCD and tics, and your kiddo’s best friend who gives them strep just get strep through and is back to school in four days after a course of antibiotics, while your kid won’t go to school anymore. Susceptibility is really where you have to have that focus to have that long-term healing that you want. Long-term healing is possible. I have kids who after working with homeopathy, and it does take time, but with working with homeopathy then they can get strep and the typical signs of strep and not the atypical signs. They don’t have behavioral flares.
I’ve had a lot of kids that they’re just doing so well with their chronic homeopathic remedy and their healing that they can be exposed to strep like their sibling can get strep throat, and they don’t even get sick. Healing is possible when you focus on susceptibility, and you treat the susceptibility using homeopathy and yes do the other things to make sure that you’re not just bailing out a boat that’s capsizing using a colander, like getting more water coming out as the water’s coming in.
So, yes, you have to focus on diet and lifestyle, but susceptibility is the thing that is the key. I’ve talked to parents about that, and it seems it finally clicked why they’re on this merry-go-round. I can’t tell you how many PANS and PANDAS parents have so many different rounds of antibiotics that their kids have gone through. Seven in one year. Fourteen in another year. They come in with buckets full of supplements; 38 different supplements is the max I’ve seen so far. They have to go and see a lot of different doctors because you’re chasing the symptoms and not addressing the susceptibility. Focusing on that susceptibility can help them get off that rollercoaster of emotions and moods, and off the merry-go-round of meds and supplements.
[01:52:05] Ashley James: How can they learn more about how to focus on the susceptibility? Is that by working with you, going to your Facebook group? You have a lot of free resources on your Facebook group.
[01:52:15] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: Yes. I would recommend that people, first and foremost, go to the Facebook group. I have a free mini course that I put together explaining all about homeopathy, and PANS and PANDAS, so that people can start to learn this new type of medicine that’s unfamiliar to them and get a really strong grasp of that.
It’s a great community. Moms offer a lot of support. I interact with people to give them some guidance and direct them in the right direction. I can’t give any medical advice to someone who’s not a patient and definitely not in the format of a Facebook group, but that’s a place to really start to learn and get some good resources.
Yes, I’m a good resource for people who are looking for some help. I’m also really busy as most PANS and PANDAS doctors are. I’m in the process of getting some more doctors here and also doing some training for other doctors. I speak at conferences. But I’m putting together a training program for doctors as well. That’s coming second to that programs to help moms. It’s going to be a little bit of time because first and foremost I need to help the patients get some help right now.
But getting into that group will help you get to learn some resources so that we can get the help that you need so you can understand it; so you can make good decisions whether you are seeing me or somebody who’s working with me, or somebody completely who just happens to be available; so you can make educated decisions about who to see, when to see them, how to consult with them, etc.; and really understand what it is that you’re doing to get the most out of this really powerful medicine.
[01:53:43] Ashley James: I love it. Now your website is resiliencenaturopathic.com. Of course, there are links to everything that Dr. Jennifer Bahr is going to be on the show notes of today’s podcast in learntruehealth.com, including the link to your Facebook group. You take on clients around the world, and you have your Facebook group. Is there anything else that we should know about your services or working with you?
[01:54:11] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: I would say that if you are interested in learning about the book and the programs with the mother that I’ve been working with and I have them completed to sign up for our email list. We’ll let people know there first. I’ll announce on the Facebook group to let people know that it’s available. So that’s another thing, a resource that’s coming. It’s not available yet, but you can be first notified if you sign up for our email list on the group.
[01:54:33] Ashley James: Awesome. Well, you’re welcome back on the show when your book is coming out. I’d love to help you promote it during its launch, and have you back and teach us some more great things and also help promote your book. That would be fantastic to have you back.
[01:54:54] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: Awesome. I would love to come back.
[01:54:56] Ashley James: Awesome. Thank you so much for coming on the show, and I can’t wait to talk to you again soon.
[01:55:02] Dr. Jennifer Bahr: Sounds good.
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