The Wheelbarrow Concept

I have a book on my shelf titled, “The Cure is in the Kitchen”. It’s a rather off-the-deep-end book nutritionally, but I just really like the title. It helps me to stay focused on what’s truly important in my family’s health. In spite of so much research into finding the magic key to different diseases, the statistics alone point to our diet. The genetic component of most diseases appears to have more to do with the family recipe box than DNA.

Every day, I see how obesity and diabetes rates have risen beyond all probability. Autism has gone from being one child in a thousand to one in sixty-six, while bipolar disorder and ADD have become household words – just in the last 20 years. These bits of news frighten me, but they haven’t affected me. Allergy and food sensitivity, issues which also have skyrocketing statistics, broadsided me early. My oldest son was only two when he went deaf and doctors couldn’t resolve the fluid constantly plugging his ears and throat.

Since their treatments weren’t working, finding the cause became hugely important. It helped to find out what he was reacting to, even though I already sensed much of what the tests showed. He was allergic to more than 50 common food items, and was sensitive to many neighborhood trees. How was I supposed to deal with that?

I began watching how he felt and acted each day as clues to what, exactly, was affecting him, along with when and how. I journaled everything he ingested, along with his emotions and activities. Merely reading labels wasn’t enough; I found that I could only trust whole foods I’d prepared myself. I had an especially hard time cutting back our sugar intake, but was encouraged to find the reason. According to, sugar is highly addictive and lab rats will choose it over cocaine, even if they are already addicted to the drug. Sugar causes a myriad of neural symptoms, many of which are subtle. Kicking it will be hard, but the paybacks are big.

As I learned to make more foods from better ingredients, I also taught the children to make their own cookies and desserts. This had a two-fold purpose: limiting their intake to what they were willing to make and eliminating any hidden ingredients. They also learned some very useful life skills along the way. Yet the trademark allergic symptoms of plugged ears and nasal congestion continued to plague us, and little brother was showing some symptoms that might possibly be autism.

The turnaround point came when I learned about the “wheelbarrow concept”. On any building site, workers haul loads of rocks, dirt, and bricks. Each load is heavy, but the workers manage it. While it’s tempting to want to just make one heavy load of everything, that load overwhelms the tools available. Essentially, what the wheelbarrow concept explains is that no worker can haul rocks, bricks, and dirt together in his wheelbarrow without it tipping over or breaking.

It translates to food this way: while I know my kids don’t handle milk products well, they can eat them in moderation. Sugar is not normally a problem, nor is corn. However, combine them in a bowl of Frosted Flakes – pile three small things into the wheelbarrow together – and they become giddy and boisterous. About an hour later, they crash, more distraught than if their dog had died. The reaction is totally out of proportion to the ingredients and not always obviously related to what they ate several hours previously. Add a cheeseburger and a soda for lunch (more corn syrup and milk products), and the body begins protecting itself by producing mucous in the ears or inflammation in the gut.

Knowing to avoid one item or another was great – but synergy works negatively as well. Several items that aren’t significant stressors on their own combine together to make a big reaction.

This little tidbit of information shouldn’t be all that earth-shattering. Doctors have known for a long time that prescribing too many drugs to old folks will cause more problems than Granny started with. Food is no different. To a person with grass allergies, eating wheat bread during hayfever season could be life threatening. Realizing that it may not be one allergen but a combination of seemingly fine foods helps to define the problem so as to find the solution.

Once I’d figured out which combinations were problematic, I separated them into groups. Corn, milk, and wheat went onto separate days. Each group was eaten no more often than once in every four days. The idea is to give the body time to clear small problems singly and not overload it with troublesome combinations. It also ensured we were eating a varied diet, which began building our immune systems to handle allergens more efficiently. Within four months, the food sensitivities began to subside, as did the autistic suspicions. My weight normalized and seasonal illnesses no longer haunted us. While a rotation diet of whole foods is not a panacea, it sure went a long way toward lowering our medical bills.

And that was the proof Daddy needed that the slight extra on the food budget was a good investment.


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