The gold standard is an elimination diet. -Dr. Lauren Jefferis

Q&A on Raising Healthy Kids with a Functional Medical Doctor

Today I’m here with Dr. Lauren Jefferis and we’re talking all about raising healthy kids by answering your questions!

If you have a specific area of interest scroll below to see time stamps for each topic or watch the whole thing for some great advice to keep your kids healthy!

Can’t see the video? View it here on YouTube.

Q&A with a Functional Medicine Doctor Video Time Stamps

  • 1:08: Dr. Jefferis introduces her medical background and how her own health struggles opened her eyes to the value of diet and lifestyle changes and other more natural approaches to health.

What is a Functional Medical Doctor?

  • 2:41: What is functional or integrative medicine? There is a focus on finding the root cause rather than treating symptoms.
  • 3:22 One significant difference you might notice when seeing a functional medicine doctor is that their “normal” lab values are often different from your standard MD. Dr. Jefferis explains why that is.

Dietary Advice for Kids

  • 5:15: We go through some basic dietary advice for parents wanting to start their kids on a real food diet. More on healthy fats here.

The earlier you start kids on real food, the more they think it's normal. -Dr. Lauren Jefferis

  • 9:07: Dr. Jefferis discusses ways to heal leaky gut if you suspect it in your child or yourself.
  • If you’ve already identified food allergies or sensitivities then you can be pretty sure there is some element of leaky gut. Removing allergens and inflammatory foods is the #1 step. The trouble is that everyone is different so there’s no standard list of foods to avoid. You really have to experiment and see how your child reacts. Here are some tips for starting an elimination diet with kids.
  • 11:36: We get into probiotics. Dr. Jefferis explains why you should continue taking probiotics long term.
  • 13:06: There are many different strains of probiotics and different types (i.e. soil-based are one type). Do we need to rotate? Is there one “right” type?
  • 4:10: It can be really difficult to find a functional medical doctor depending on your area. Dr. Jefferis shares what to look for and how to find alternative medical professionals.
  • 16:38: If you can’t find a local provider, there are more and more online options including SteadyMD. I talk more about SteadyMD in this health sharing plan review post.

Two good resources for finding functional medical practitioners are The Institute for Functional Medicine and Chris Kresser’s website.

Paleovalley Meat Sticks

It can be hard to find healthy snacks that you can take with you on the go. When I want the convenience of a jerky stick, but want a healthy, protein-packed snack option, I grab Paleovalley meat sticks. Paleovalley ingredients have these high standards that you can feel good about:

100% grass fed beef sticks, pasture raised beef sticks

  • 100% Grass-Fed Beef & 100% Pasture-Raised Turkey
  • Never given antibiotics or hormones
  • Gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free
  • 0 grams of sugar*
  • Contains no artificial nitrates or nitrites
  • Non-GMO
  • Naturally fermented and contain gut-friendly probiotics!

*With the exception of Teriyaki, which contains 2 grams of sugar from Organic Honey.

These beef sticks and turkey sticks taste delicious! My favorite is the Jalapeño but my kids love Summer Sausage.

Use this link to get 15% off your order at Paleovalley. Read my Paleovalley Review to learn more!

  • 20:42: Dr. Jefferis discusses functional medicine doctors versus naturopathic doctors. Editor’s note: There are more nuances to this than Dr. Jefferis went into. Naturopathic doctors (ND) are able to diagnose and prescribe just like a traditional MD, but operate from a more natural perspective and utilize natural remedies and lifestyle changes first like a functional medical doctor. A naturopath or naturopathic practitioner is not a medical doctor and unable to diagnose or prescribe medication but relies solely on natural methods. Depending on what you need, this is something to take note of as you’re looking for a practitioner local to you.
  • 23:01: Prevention is the best way to avoid problems that are caused by obesity in kids. Keeping kids active and eating real foods is enough for most kids. There could also be an underlying root cause such as a thyroid issue which would need to be addressed.

What if your kids could make a whole meal by themselves?

It’s totally possible for even the youngest children, once they learn the skills in the Kids Cook Real Food eCourse!


Demystifying Food Sensitivities in Children

  • 25:21: Dr. Jefferis shares her own story with using an elimination diet to discover a gluten sensitivity. Sometimes your symptoms won’t be clearly linked until you get the food out of your system and then bring it back. Here’s another interview about eliminating inflammatory foods.
  • 26:16: Food sensitivity testing can be helpful to know where to start when removing foods. A ton of sensitivities can be a sign of leaky gut. Usually, if you solve the leaky gut, most of the sensitivities will get better over time.
  • 27:09: We discuss some immune supporting foods. More on immune-boosting supplements here.
  • 28:56: A traditional pediatrician is likely to screen for anemia, but not other vitamin or mineral deficiencies. You can ask your pediatrician for specific labs if there’s something you’re concerned about in your child.
  • 29:45: We break down the progression of iron deficiency to anemia and how that highlights the difference between traditional and functional doctors.

Supporting your Child’s Immune System and Childhood Illnesses

A fever is your body doing what it designed to do. -Dr. Lauren Jefferis

  • 32:31: It’s stressful to have sick kids. We don’t want to see them uncomfortable and it’s just inconvenient to be home with sick kids. More often than not, we don’t need to worry. This is a good reason it’s important to work with a practitioner who you can trust and who is on the same page as you. Trust your mom instinct but also have a partnership with medical professionals who can reassure you and help you know when you do need medical assistance.

Anxiety and Sleep Trouble in Kids

  • 35:08: We get into anxiety and sleep tips for kids. There are many possible root causes for each of these including nutrient deficiencies and food additives/sensitivities. Getting to the root cause is a much better solution than supplementing melatonin. Blue blocking sunglasses and stress relief measures like meditation can help kids wind down at night and prepare for sleep. There are also teas that can promote relaxation and sleep. More tips to improve sleep here.
  • 37:47: There are really two ways to approach this: ways to promote sleep and relaxation in the environment and ways to address underlying causes for a long-term solution. Mineral deficiency isn’t usually your first thought when your kid has a hard time sleeping.
  • 38:45: Food anxiety is another topic that can be difficult to deal with; especially when it is severe enough to lead to nutrient deficiencies and growth problems. There could be a swallowing disorder or something else medical that needs addressing.

Addressing Skin Issues in Kids

  • 40:46: We have a couple of questions about various skin rashes and hives. I’ve heard many parents say their doctor told them their child’s skin issues were not related to diet or food, but then it did turn out to be due to an allergy or sensitivity. You really have to be your own advocate and again experiment with an elimination diet.

Q&A on Raising Healthy Kids

  • 41:27: Asthma, allergies, and skin issues are often linked to highly allergenic foods like dairy and gluten.
  • 42:10: A high histamine diet can also play into hives and rashes. Acne is usually multi-factorial especially in puberty but can be helped by diet changes as well. A food diary can be very helpful in figuring out what can cause skin conditions to flare.
  • 44:41: We talk about supporting girls through puberty to set them up for healthy hormones. Diet and avoiding environmental toxins are both important aspects here. Dr. Jefferis goes through a bunch of suggestions for what to incorporate and what to avoid.

Getting to the root of why you’re having an issue is better than putting a band-aid on symptoms. -Dr. Lauren Jefferis

  • 48:51: Environmental allergies are a bit different from food allergies. It’s much harder to control exposure to environmental allergens. We talk about whether our environment being so sterile is leading to increased allergies in kids.

Stay safe in the sun, with reef-safe sunscreens

Over the last decade+, I’ve personally tested over 120 natural mineral sunscreens, my standards are very high, and nothing I recommend is considered dangerous to coral reefs.

My top recommended tier with only around a dozen winners is where you really should be spending your time. These formulas are held to the highest standard with rigorous government testing.

Ingredients refined to perfection that most of the time you could practically eat and efficacy and performance tested by the Kimball family in the field.

Find all my reviews of safe sunscreen that works here!

If you’re looking for the best reef-safe sunscreen, simply start there. Here’s a list of some of my ultimate favorites.

  • Kōkua Suncare with tons of antioxidants and my kids’ favorite scent and application (use the code KS for 15% off from Kōkua’s online store!)
  • 3rd Rock Essentials rubs in well and reliably prevents burns in our tests (use the code KITCHENSTEW for 20% off!)
  • Raw Elements for so many reasons, including their tinted stick for adult faces (all styles, use KS10 for 10% off!)
  • Maelove, which I call the best “transition” sunscreen when moving away from chemical ‘screens
  • Others that make the top-recommended cut: Badger, ThinkBaby, Adorable Baby, Kabana

If you’re worried about the white cast on your skin from zinc oxide sunscreen, check out my video on how to apply mineral sunscreen correctly to minimize it.

The Increase in Autoimmune Disorders in Children

  • 51:19: We’re seeing an increase in autoimmune conditions in all ages lately. Specifically, a question came in about Crohn’s in kids. The Wahl protocol or AIP diet are good options to look into. There can be very specific foods that trigger autoimmune flares in different people. Even foods that we consider very healthy in general. Again, an elimination diet and food diary can help pinpoint triggers.
  • 52:55: GAPS is very restrictive and can be very difficult to do with a child. AIP may be easier to manage.
  • 53:40: Thyroid problems are rampant in adults (especially women) and are now spreading more and more into younger people. A functional medical doctor will do much more extensive testing than a traditional doctor and again the “functional ranges” are not “optimal ranges.” So finding the correct kind of practitioner is important to find the root cause of a thyroid issue.
  • 55:35: Another problem increasing in kids is asthma. Magnesium is used for asthma even in traditional hospitals. Checking magnesium levels and supplementing if necessary can be pretty simple with kids. There are lots of ways to get magnesium both internally and topically.

boy eating veggies

Thank you so much to Dr. Jefferis for letting me pick her brain and thank you so much for the great questions you shared! I hope this interview was helpful for you as you navigate all the challenges of raising healthy kids! Be sure to check out SteadyMD if you’re looking for a  practitioner who is on the same page as you and can’t find one in person.


Dr. Lauren Jefferis, MD is board certified in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics, and has been practicing for almost 20 years. She graduated from MCP/Hahnemann School Of Medicine, Allegheny University Of Health Sciences in 2001 and specializes in both Internal Medicine and Pediatrics.

After successfully reversing her own autoimmune disease through dietary changes (including Whole30), she was inspired to pursue a career in functional medicine. She completed her training at the Chris Kresser Institute for Functional Medicine in 2017, and is uniquely positioned to combine her traditional and functional clinical experience to help prevent or reverse chronic disease by focusing on lifestyle choices.

What You Should Do Next:

1. Subscribe to The Healthy Parenting Connector

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2. Try a Free Preview of my Cooking Class for Kids

Our members’ favorite lesson is always our 10-minute knife skills and safety class, teaching techniques with unique & memorable phrases from butter knives to chef’s knives (ages 2-teen). Take a peek here and try it out with your kids.

3. Enroll in the Online Cooking Course for Kids:

Enroll now in the Wall Street Journal’s #1 recommended online cooking class for kids (also rated 5 stars on Facebook). See what fits your family best HERE.

About Katie Kimball

Katie Kimball, CSME, creator of Kids Cook Real Food and CEO of Kitchen Stewardship, LLC, is passionate about connecting families around healthy food. As a trusted educator and author of 8 real food cookbooks, she’s been featured on media outlets like ABC, NBC and First for Women magazine and contributes periodically on the FOX Network.

Since 2009, busy moms have looked to Katie as a trusted authority and advocate for children’s health, and she often partners with health experts and medical practitioners to stay on the cutting edge. In 2016 she created the Wall Street Journal recommended best online kids cooking course, Kids Cook Real Food, helping thousands of families around the world learn to cook. She is actively masterminding the Kids’ Meal Revolution, with a goal of every child learning to cook.

A mom of 4 kids from Michigan, she is also a Certified Stress Mastery Educator, member of the American Institute of Stress and trained speaker through Bo Eason’s Personal Story Power.

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