Karen Garloch

Charlotte pediatrician offers ‘mini-medical school’ for parents

In her Charlotte pediatrics practice, Dr. Sheila Kilbane sees a lot of children with food allergies, attention deficit disorder, sensory integration disorder and asthma.

“You can’t imagine the kids I’ve seen who’ve had hundreds of dollars worth of workups for abdominal pain or constipation … and the culprit is a food sensitivity, often dairy,” she said.

The problem is often “not a true-blue allergy” to milk and dairy, so traditional allergy testing may be negative, she said. But if parents withhold dairy from their kids’ diets for a few weeks and watch symptoms, problems often go away, Kilbane said. “That goes for recurrent ear infections, runny nose, a lot of different things. I refer far fewer children for ear tubes since I’ve been practicing this way.”

Kilbane is one of more than two dozen Charlotte-area medical doctors who have studied with Dr. Andrew Weil, the world-renowned integrative medicine guru at the University of Arizona. Integrative medicine combines traditional medical treatments with alternative therapies such as acupuncture and herbal medicine.

In addition to her unconventional approach to pediatrics, Kilbane is trying an unusual method to reach more parents. Starting Sept. 2, she’s offering a “mini-medical school” through four one-hour webinars. For parents who can’t be present on Tuesdays at 9 p.m., Kilbane will send the webinar link by email after each class. The cost is $127 for the series; www.sheilakilbane.com.

Kilbane will talk about identifying causes of common childhood illnesses and examining the role of nutrition in reducing inflammation and strengthening the immune system. She’ll walk parents through her routine – taking family history and discussing the child’s symptoms, such as colic, reflux and eczema.

“I’ll show them, from an integrative pediatric perspective, what I’m listening for and how to get to the root of the kid’s issues and how to take ownership of their own family’s health,” she said.

A child who’s constipated and has been taking laxatives for years may just have a food sensitivity, Kilbane said. “Very often, all we do is (take them) off dairy, add probiotics, increase fruits and vegetables, decrease processed foods, and then they start pooping.”

Before each class, parents will fill out nutrition logs. “Sometimes that’s a big eye-opener for people to really see what the kids are eating over a 3- to 5-day period. Often the amount of sugar is far more than we think. And the lack of fruits and vegetables can be shocking.”

Kilbane left a traditional medical practice in 2012, looking for a way to spend more time with patients. “I love getting the information out there, and then parents run with it. It can be really empowering for their family’s health.”