Sam and Rebecca were amazing parents to their only son Brad. Over the years, they had noticed a substantial change in nutrition options for their child as he grew up. When he was young, it was easy to choose what he ate because he relied so much on his parents. As Brad began watching television, and especially with his iPad, it seemed that everywhere they looked, there were new advertisements for fast food, processed foods, and packaged foods. Sam and Rebecca tried hard to point Brad in the right direction with regards to food options but it was difficult to completely avoid junk food. During Costco trips, all Brad wanted to eat was sugar snacks, sugar cereal, and such.
Brad seemed to loath vegetables. He would throw a fit every time a vegetable was served for dinner or for an after-school snack. They felt they had no other choice but to bribe Brad with video game time if he would eat some vegetables or a healthy snack. Talking with other parents, it seemed that most of their friends struggled with the same problems.
When Brad was around thirteen, a few days after Halloween, he developed a serious stomach ache and the parents first thought it was because of all the candy he was sneaking after Halloween. The next day, Brad was even worse and he began vomiting uncontrollably and he had trouble standing. Brad was rushed to the hospital where they found that his appendix was inflamed, infected, and about to burst. Brad was rushed into surgery and fortunately came out with a small scar and a short night spent in the hospital. Brand and Rebecca worried the entire time and came up with a plan.
Brad’s parents became convinced that Brad’s stomach problems had been caused by one thing and only one thing – his diet. They removed every sugary cereal, all his Halloween candy, any packaged chips, granola bars, and any other treat in the entire house and replaced them with carrots, oranges, apples, and a ton more fruits and vegetables. Brad didn’t have a huge appetite at first, so it really wasn’t a big deal.
As time progressed, he became more and more hungry. He had no option but to pretend to love fruits and vegetables. At every meal, including breakfast, most of his food was vegetables. He was given salads and squash and yams. There was no way he could eat spinach, broccoli, or Brussels sprouts. To his genuine surprise, Brad learned that overall he liked most of the different types of fruit and some of the vegetables. He quickly learned that he loved carrots the most. But he still ate plenty of oranges, mangoes, apricots, and more.
Sugar cravings returned around the third or fourth week after surgery. He pleaded and pleaded with his parents to allow some sugary types of food. They were extremely hesitant. They felt that Brad’s health was the best it had ever been and they didn’t want to rock the boat. Finally, they came to an agreement. If Brad ate around twenty carrots a day, they would allow him a granola bar or some applesauce.
Two weeks later, Rebecca’s sister came to visit the family from out of town. Right away she noticed that something was off with Brad.
After he had gone to bed Cammie asked, “Rebecca? Have you noticed that your son’s skin looks slightly yellow or maybe orange?”
“Has he been sick?”
“Not since he had his appendix taken out. He actually has been really healthy.”
Cammie took out her phone and showed Rebecca some of the images. Rebecca was shocked. Cammie showed her pictures from before he had surgery and afterward. Sure enough, there was an obvious change in his skin color. She didn’t know what to make of it. She asked, “Could it be from his appendix surgery?”
“I’m not sure,” Cammie replied. “Can you get an appointment with your doctor?”
The next day, during the afternoon, Rebecca took Brad to their pediatrician. Dr. Fineleson was surprised by the change in the color of the skin. She said, “I don’t want to worry you but we need to do some blood work.”
“What would you be looking for?” asked Rebecca. Her sister Cammie had come to the appointment with her.
“Well,” Dr. Fineleson replied. “Not sure exactly. There are conditions like jaundice, kidney problems, diabetes, and thyroid conditions that can cause skin color changes.”
The blood work was done that day and Rebecca, Cammie, and Brad was sent home to wait. A few days later, they were called back into the Pedritician’s office. Dr. Fineleson met them and said, “Good news. Most of the blood work came back normal. There is no kidney or other problems. There is nothing serious going on.”
“Do you happen to know what the problem is?”
“I believe so.”
“Well?” asked Rebecca.
“Too much of a good thing,” replied Dr. Fineleson.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” asked Rebecca.
“There was a large amount of beta-carotene levels in the blood. In other words, this means that Brad is getting too many vegetables.”
“How’s that possible?” asked Rebecca.
“How many carrots, oranges, and other vegetables is he eating?”
“A lot,” replied Brad.
Rebecca explained that she had heard that his appendix might have been caused by his poor diet. They had tried to cut out processed foods and sugary foods. Dr. Fineleson nodded and listened. “That makes sense,” she said at last. “Brad had a condition called Carotenemia. I’ve never seen it before but a colleague has. It was when a patient consumes carotene-rich foods such as carrots, oranges, and more. The liver gets a little overwhelmed and your skin turns color.”
“Is it dangerous?” asked Rebecca.
“Not at all. Though it isn’t advised to eat this many carrots to cause this type of skin reaction.”
“How do we stop it?”
“Only eat a few vegetables a day. You don’t need to go overboard.”
“Can I have sugar cereal and snacks?”
“Your son’s diet likely didn’t cause his appendix problems,” Dr. Fineleson replied. “I wouldn’t go overboard on sugary snacks or vegetables. Moderation in all things.”