Archive for the ‘Gastrointestinal Problems’ Category

Gastroenterology 101

October 26, 2011

Digestive system

I just returned from an early morning appointment with my fifth local gastroenterologist. The reason I keep looking for one is that I have had a flare-up of digestive problems since summer.  You may recall that I had parasites, about which I wrote in 2007. Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt in Seattle prescribed a  combination of antibiotics and herbal preparations which killed those critters then. My present symptoms are similar, and showed up following a colonoscopy.

I travelled to Seattle in ’07 because I could not find a gastroenterologist in Pittsburgh who would consider parasites as apossibility.  After the last one told me without cracking a smile that “food has nothing to do with digestion,” I swore I would NEVER go to another.  Hoping not to have to return to Seattle, I gave Pittsburgh’s doctors one more try.

This one looked  different:  a female with a certification in nutrition!  My hopes that she would know something about diet were shattered however, when, after completing my colonoscopy this summer she handed me a prescription for colitis, while I was still under the cloud of anesthetic. In response to my question about foods, she declared that there was “no known diet” for that condition.  I tossed her prescription, after reading the long list of side effects online.  Still, I harbored the false hope that I might have a conversation with her about my chronic condition. Hence the appointment this morning, for which I rose at the ungodly hour of 5:30 am and drove in the dark to be there at 7:00 am.

The night before I had dutifully and carefully completed an 8-page questionnaire, with queries about my family history of illness, my present medications (only a bit of thyroid), and supplements (a lengthy list of herbs and vitamins which required an additional page.) The paperwork contained not a single question about diet.  Since I was instructed to bring my history with me, I doubted seriously whether
anyone would read it before my appointment. I was correct.

First, an obese nurse weighed me and took my “vitals.” (Is it my imagination or are most nurses unhealthy looking and overweight?) She registered surprise at my low blood pressure. “How old are you?” she asked.  “It’s in my paperwork,” I replied petulantly.  Next, I was moved to a tiny room with a single chair and a lone magazine, “Colitis Today.”  The door closed. I decided to flip through the magazine while waiting. Articles about dealing with the psychological effects of the disease, and ads for clothing that allowed quick and easy toileting. I slammed it shut.  Was I in denial?

Thank goodness I brought a book.  After 15 minutes, another over-weight nurse came rushing in (two for two!),  apologizing.  “Oh, you’re in the wrong room! Follow me.”  We wentacross the hall to an identical cubicle. The reading material in this room was a sports magazine with Raphael Nadal on the cover. Obviously, this was the right room, since I am a tennis fan!   I waited some more.  After another   15 minutes (it’s now 8 am.  I could have slept another hour! How can adoctor be running an hour late first thing in the morning?) A rap on the door, and  the doctor appears with my paperwork in hand.

I had scripted a brief description of my life’s work with families of children with disabilities and my belief that diet and nutrition were worthwhile treatment options.   Before I opened my mouth, however, the good doctor began questioning.  “Any history of colon cancer in your family?” “Yes, both my parents had color cancer. That’s why I came to you for a colonoscopy this summer. It’s in my  paperwork,” I stated for the second time that morning.  She flipped the pages.  “Oh, now I remember you,” she declared.

She continued asking me questions, this time about alcohol and caffeine consumption, again documented in the unread paperwork. I offered up that I ate well, a mostly organic, almost vegetarian diet. “Maybe that’s your problem,” she replied. (Does she subscribe to the hygiene hypothesis, I wondered silently.) Patience, which is not one of my virtues, was running out.

Finally, I interrupted her with my prepared  script, which I had edited and tweaked several times in my mind to be sure to sound respectful.  I ended by stating my surprise that her questionnaire contained no queries about diet.  “Oh, this is a terrible form, she admitted.  We really need to revise it!”

She politely explained my condition as one of “inflammation of unknown origin.” I politely inquired if she was not curious about possible origins. We were both holding our tempers well.  She forthrightly stated that studies were “inconsistent.”  “Could that be because people are all different?” I asked naively.
“Maybe,” she said.  “But drugs are the only way to treat your condition. And I have no problem with your getting some acupuncture and chiropractic too.”  Wow! She just embraced complementary medicine!

“Is it possible that I have an infection?” I asked.  “If you would like me to order some stool studies, I would be happy to do so,” she replied. “But you would not have ordered them if I had not asked?”  “No,” she answered, unfazed.

I have had a number of stool studies, which are notoriously unreliable.  Critters often don’t show up, which does not mean that they are not there.  When I shared my knowledge on this subject, my doctor said, “That’s why I don’t order them!”

I persisted. “How about possible food allergies?”  “Well, I would be happy to refer you to an allergist, if you’d like; I don’t do allergy testing.  (No multi-disciplinary approach that considers the whole person here.)  I used to do elimination diets, but they don’t work, so I don’t recommend them anymore.”  “Don’t  work?” I asked why?  “Because no one can stick with them,” she stated. Determined to win one argument for food, I continued,   “Oh, you mean they might workphysically, but not psychologically?”  “That is correct,” she agreed. One point for me!

“Are you going to examine me,” I asked staring atthe cold, hard, stainless steel table next to me. “Of course,” she declared. I hopped up onto the examining table which could have been in a museum of torture devices, and lay back.  No removal of clothing.  Afterpalpating my abdomen, she declared “All done!” and I sat up.

This seemed to be a good time to escape. I thanked her and headed toward the door.  As I was exiting, she asked me an astonishing question, “Does changing their diet help children with autism?”  “Yes,
I replied, elated that I could share some of my knowledge.  80% show benefit from a gluten- and casein-free diet. Not only do their bowels work better, but often we see positive changes in their language output and relatedness.”  “That’s SO interesting!” was her response.

I ran to the elevator.  Past the tables of Pepto-Bismal-pink raffle items (including an iridescent pink pumpkin!) for breast cancer awareness month. (Excuse me.  Do you know ANYONE who is NOT aware yet?) I couldn’t get out of this hospital, in which I was born more than 65 years ago,
fast enough.

Today’s doctor WAS different. Traditional, yes, but not bad, just uneducated. Thank goodness, she still has an inbox and a smidgen of curiosity. I do not want to be her teacher. I will return to my trusted and
educated team of health care professionals: a chiropractic kinesiologist,acupuncturist, herbalist, and homeopath.  We were making slow, but steady progress toward improving my health. I will continue my regemin of vitamins, minerals, anti-fungals, herbs and remedies, as well as my organic diet, while I work on my patience. This time I will not throw away her prescription.  I will keep it just in case I change my mind, and decide that hair loss and a possible stroke are worth exchanging for some bowel issues. I will then return to her for another round.

Until then, I will continue my stubborn search for the cause of my inflammation and treat it naturally. Tomorrow I will start drinking 32 ounces of apple cider and eating a totally vegan diet for six days in
preparation for a gall bladder and liver cleanse this weekend.  I’m encouraged by what I read about it.  In the meantime, if you EVER hear me consider going to another gastroenterologist, please slap me upside my face!  Thanks.

I’ll keep you posted.

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Peanut Allergy Epidemic: What Everyone Needs to Know

October 10, 2011

Last week, I observed a friend frantically chasing her toddler grandson who had slipped out of her grip, run to a buffet table and grabbed a cookie. “Does it have nuts in it?” she yelled in abject fear to no one in particular.

Today, more than 1% of American children, like this little guy, and approximately .5% of adults in the United States are allergic to peanuts. That is an estimated one million kids and three million individuals, who could die by simply breathing the air in a room where someone ate a peanut butter sandwich.

When and how did this epidemic develop, and why is it continuing? Most important, what is its cause, and what can we do to stop it?

The frightening answers to these questions are in The Peanut Allergy Epidemic: What’s causing it and How to Stop it by Heather Fraser, a Canadian mom whose child had an anaphylactic reaction to peanut butter at 13 months of age. I could hardly put it down! You and everyone you know who, especially your pediatrician, should read it.

The “perfect storm” that spawned the peanut allergy epidemic around 1990, (not surprisingly paralleling the autism epidemic) occurs, like autism, in more boys than girls. “Victims” are the same: picky eater kids with lessened ability to detoxify, consuming less nutritious food and receiving an ever-increasing number of vaccinations, growing up in an increasingly toxic environment. My friend, Dr. Ken Bock wrote about them in his book Healing the New Childhood Epidemics: Autism, ADHD, Asthma, and Allergies: The Groundbreaking Program for the 4-A Disorders.

Bock knows from his busy practice that many children with autism have severe allergies, including life-threatening reactions to peanuts. Likewise, many children with peanut allergies are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, including attention deficits, pervasive developmental disorders, Asperger syndrome and full-blown autism. The commonality, he and others agree: an overburdened immune system. How did that happen? Let’s start by understanding allergy and the ONLY means by which mass allergy has ever been created: by injection.

What is Allergy?
Early twentieth century American researchers, Rachel Carson and Theron Randolph, and a contemporary, MacArthur “genius award” winning biologist, Margie Profet believe that allergy is an evolved, and often risky, protective response: the body’s natural defense against toxins linked to benign substances. An “allergic” reaction occurs when the body is exposed to proteins of unfamiliar foods, triggering immunoglobulin epsilon (IgE) antibodies, the soldiers whose job it to protect the body’s mucous membranes from invaders. When they detect trouble, they deploy a biochemical cascade, characterized by coughing, shortness of breath, itchy skin hives, leaking of blood vessels causing swelling and potential asphyxia, vomiting and diarrhea. Scratching, vomiting, diarrhea and sneezing are a body’s desperate attempts at ejecting a toxin as fast as it can. In severe reactions, blood pressure drops, draining vital organs and causing the heart to stop.

The term “allergy” was coined in 1906, only one hundred years ago, by an Austrian pediatrician, trying to reconcile an unexpected reaction to vaccination in some of his patients. The modern concept of allergy grew out of the occurrence of “serum sickness,” a man-made malady. Keep reading.

The Hypodermic Needle
Documented life-threatening mass allergic reactions were rare prior to the late nineteenth century, and first emerged as an “unintended consequence” of a new invention, precipitated by the unprecedented need for pharmaceuticals near the end of the Civil War: the hypodermic syringe. Louis Pasteur was the first doctor to use a hypodermic needle to inject a vaccine: anthrax for livestock, and later rabies to a boy bitten by a dog. Hypodermic needles were quickly adopted as a hygienic improvement over the messy, often dirty, transdermal lances previously used to puncture or scratch the skin to insert pathogens.

As demand increased, costs became more reasonable, and production soared. Upjohn and Parke-Davis (both now owned by Pfizer) and Eli Lilly (the developer of thimerosal) were born out of demand for hypodermically delivered vaccines. Their 1890’s marketing methods closely resembled today’s, minus television and computers. Sales reps visited physicians’ offices, leaving promotional literature and samples in lively packaging. And, don’t forget the annual medical almanacs! By the turn of the 20th century, vaccine manufacturing was big business.

The Need for Preservatives
With an increased demand for vaccines for dreaded smallpox, tuberculosis, diphtheria and cholera, and the realization that a single vaccination did not confer lifelong immunity, the need arose for vaccines that could travel safely and be administered efficiently. Pus and scabs from sick animals decomposed quickly; sick animals were difficult to transport. The answer: preservatives suspended in an antibacterial carrier gel made of vegetable glycerin that extended shelf life and could be delivered by injection.

Early twentieth century ingredients included mercury-based antifungals and various oils. Exact ingredients were fiercely guarded proprietary formulas, protecting the scientists, their companies and shareholders by law.

Serum Sickness
A common outcome of the first mass preserved, hypodermically delivered injections of sera for scarlet fever, tetanus and diphtheria was a poorly understood and potentially fatal condition. It was first called “serum sickness,” later termed “anaphylaxis” by French Nobel laureate and immunologist Charles Richet – from the Greek ana (against) and phylaxis (protection) – the opposite outcome from what was expected from vaccination. Symptoms included fevers, rashes, diarrhea, decreased blood pressure, lymph node swelling, joint pain, an enlarged spleen, kidney failure, breathing difficulties, and shock, lasting for days, weeks or a lifetime, and, occasionally, proving fatal.

What was causing so many people to get sick instead of stay well? Richet experimented with dogs to find the answer. He injected his subjects with raw meat proteins, and then fed them raw meat. The result was anaphylaxis! Two other researchers did the same, except by injecting egg and milk, showing that without exception, all proteins, toxic or non-toxic outside the body could produce anaphylaxis by injection. Richet discovered that this phenomenon is universal for all animals.

Austrian pediatrician Clemens von Piquet and his Hungarian colleague, Bela Schick, studied serum sickness in thousands of children, noting a paradoxical relationship between the two outcomes of vaccination: attaining immunity and acquiring serum sickness. In both outcomes, an incubation period occurs between the initial inoculation and appearance of symptoms. Subsequent injections (just like secondary exposure to infections) are accompanied by an accelerated and exaggerated response resulting from “a collision of antigen and antibody.” This conjecture was confirmed by the fact that in 90% of von Piquet’s patients, immediate adverse reactions occurred following the “booster” injection 10-30 days after the first.

In 1934, up to 50% of children experienced post-vaccinal serum sickness. Families were forced to weigh their fears of fatal diseases such as smallpox against the risk of being injured or killed by a vaccine, and choose the lesser of two evils. The only difference from today is that few of these dreaded diseases kill many people any longer in developed countries because of antibiotics.

Anaphylaxis
As Richet continued to experiment with cats, rabbits, horses and frogs, he deduced that “digestive juices” were required to break down the protein, and if this did not happen, the body would mount an immune response. Experimental alimentary anaphylaxis is almost impossible to demonstrate in the presence of healthy digestion. The first injection of undigested protein into the blood stream sensitizes and weakens an animal, making it susceptible to a second, smaller dose which then could cause a serious, even fatal reaction in persons with inadequate digestion. Conclusion: healthy digestive juices actively transform potentially toxic proteins, rendering them innocuous, or restated, inadequate digestion is a common sense prerequisite for food allergy.

The “ingestion” theory of anaphylaxis has persisted to explain the vast majority of food reactions. Some of these reactions, however, are not life-threatening, but more subtle and hard to pinpoint, such as migraines, skin conditions, fatigue, anxiety, irritability and behavioral problems. Egg was a case in point; why did a young boy suffer from “egg poisoning” in 1908 when nobody had ever injected egg into him? Hmm…Unfortunately, his doctor did not know that for many years prior, emulsified egg lecithin was used extensively in vaccines, and vaccine manufacturers had introduced fertile hen’s egg as medium for growing viruses. What was the link? The answer came in the 1940’s with the discovery of penicillin.

Penicillin Allergy
When we first examined the peanut allergy epidemic, we recognized the attributes of the perfect storm for the “victims.” With the discovery of penicillin in 1928 by Scottish biologist Alexander Fleming all the pieces of the “perfect storm” for the “weapon of mass destruction were in place: a pathogen suspended in an injected or encapsulated undigested protein from oil.

Both oral and injected forms of penicillin contained a new ingredient, cottonseed oil, a product whose proteins are considered potent allergens. A gelatin capsule sealed the drug, which was not released until it reached the small intestines, bypassing the modifying effects of digestive enzymes. I’m sure by now you can guess what happened!

From the 1930’s through 1950, sensitivity to cottonseed oil grew, as did penicillin allergies. Scientists sought a cheap, plentiful replacement. You guessed right again. After World War II, the all-American peanut replaced cottonseed as the oil of choice in the manufacturing of penicillin and in almost all vaccines! It was plentiful, inexpensive, stable in heat, and during the war, patriotic.

By 1953, Pfizer and others produced six hundred tons of penicillin, laden with peanut oill mixed with beeswax (POB for penicillin in oil beeswax) to coat the penicillin particles in a concoction known as the Romansky formula. As the body metabolized the wax and oil, the drug was released into the system. By the mid 1950’s, an estimated 2.5% of all children had developed an allergy to injected penicillin. Scientists reduced the amount of beeswax and oil in an attempt to reduce and eliminate undesirable reactions, such as fatal anaphylaxis, antibiotic resistance, fungal overgrowth and dysbiosis.

Then came a new formula mixing penicillin with aluminum monostearate (PAM), also suspended in peanut oil. PAM was the delivery of choice from the mid-fifties through the 1980’s. More frequent and more severe allergic reactivity, including anaphylaxis emerged during what was dubbed “the PAM era.” Penicillin had created an unparalleled outbreak of allergies and anaphylaxis.

Peanut Allergy
During the late 1940’s and throughout the fifties, peanut oil in penicillin was not suspect. It was used not only in this wonder drug, but in streptomycin, broad-spectrum antibiotics, injected epinephrine for asthma, in anesthetics and vaccines. Unknown to consumers, peanut oil was a popular ingredient in vitamins, skin cream and even infant formulas!

Prior to 1941, the literature shows no report of peanut allergies in adults or children. A survey of people showed self-reported peanut allergies in .3% of those born 1944-47, .4% of those born 1948-57, and .6% between 1959-67. In 2008, over 1% of people born 1944-67, reported allergies to nuts, including peanuts.

Articles published in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s show a growing awareness of peanut allergy, but the first formal study of peanut allergy in children was not launched until 1973, and then on only 114 kids. Doctors watched the mysterious rise in peanut allergies, but few asked “why?” By the early 1990’s tens of thousands of peanut allergic kindergartners entered school, not only in the U.S., but in Canada, the United Kingdom and in Australia. This allergy accelleration was concurrent with an unprecedented push of political, social, legal and economic reforms to alter and accelerate the vaccination schedule in these countries.

The Vaccine Connection
In 1964, pharmaceutical giant Merck announced a new vaccine ingredient promising to extend immunity: Adjuvant 65-4, containing up to 65% peanut oil as well as aluminum stearate. An adjuvant (from the Latin “adjuvare,” to enhance) is a vaccine additive that stimulates the immune system, upping the body’s production of antibodies to a pathogen. Adjuvants reduce production costs as the vaccine maker needs less of the expensvie antigen; they also increase a vaccine’s efficacy. The can also be dangerous; the more effective a vaccine, the greater the risk of allergies and other adverse effects.

The inventor of Adjuvant 65-4, Maurice Hilleman and his colleagues at Merck knew that allergic sensitization to the peanut oil in the adjuvant was a distinct possibility, but considered toxicity and allergenicity inevitable outcomes of vaccination. It was simply difficult to balance potency and safety.

The public clearly did not know what was being injected into their children, called by immunologist Charles Janeway, “the immunologist’s dirty little secret.” The peanut allergy epidemic in children was precipitated by vaccines. Lawsuits ensued, especially related to the DPT vaccine. By 1985, over 200 lawsuits were pending against four vaccine manufacturers. This litigious environment caused many pharmaceutical companies to abandon the lucrative vaccine market, causing a vaccine shortage. A solution: combination or conjugate vaccines.

Vaccines were combined for convenience. With speed and efficiency the U.S. Pediatric vaccination schedule took off, helped by President Clinton’s Childhood Immunization Initiative in the mid-nineties. By 1998, childhood vaccination rates were at an all time high. So was the incidence of peanut allergy in children. Between 1997 and 2002, the peanut-allergic pediatric population in the U.S. grew by and average of 58,000 children a year, and doubled between 2002 and 2008. By 2008, more than one million children under 18 and another two million adults were allergic to peanuts in the United States alone.

According to Heather Fraser, “vaccination was the elephant in the middle of the room. Researchers glanced at it, knew it was there, but were reluctant to get too close.” The possibility that hundreds of thousands of children have been sensitized to peanuts by ingredients in one or more routine pediatic vaccinations is just too much to conceive. But it is too obvious to deny. The real clue is the sudden rise in peanut allergy following the escalation of the pediatric vaccine schedule.

Cross Reactivity and Vitamin K1
Most peanut-allergic patients have IgE antibodies against other legume proteins, including soybeans and other oil seed proteins, such as castor. At the same time that the vaccination schedules were accelerating in the mid-1980’s, doctors in the U.S. and many Western countries added a prophylactic injection for newborns. The purpose of this shot was to prevent hemorrhagic disease in newborns (HDN) or vitamin K-deficiency bleeding (VKDB). The two available brands contained castor seed oil, as well as aluminum, a well-known IgE stimulating adjuvant, 4% of which remains in the body indefinitely.

These ingredients remain in the body for an extended period of time, and are still being released as a baby receives its first Hib, DpaT, and Hep b shot at one or two months of age. IgE to castor could cross-sensitize a child to peanuts.

Detoxification
Why don’t ALL children react to peanuts? Ken Bock and other doctors treating children with autism spectrum disorders believe allergenicity is inversely related to an individual’s ability to detoxify. Children with peanut and other allergies have compromised immune systems and are poor detoxifiers. Most have gut problems, including fungal and other infections. Most are male.

Prevention and Rationalization
Screening children before each vaccination could help, but is antithetical to the goals of mass vaccination. Obviously, the “one size fits all approach to vaccination is simply not right. We have sizes of shoes, different ages of walking, teeth eruption, speaking and reading. We need to look individually at appropriate vaccine schedules.

But why should the burden be on the consumer and a family’s health-care providers? Clearly, vaccine manufacturers must take some responsibility. Right now they are basically financially exempt from ANY damage. Why? Because vaccines are BIG business tied to the military and school admission.

Furthermore, from an economic standpoint “food allergy” is BIG business. Think of all the enterprising companies producing peanut-, gluten-, casein-, soy-, and egg-free foods. Do we want to put them out of business? Hardly.

The biggest problem though is that it is virtually impossible to prove a causal link between vaccination and a later life-threatening allergy, even though the medical literature demonstrates that the ONLY means by which immediate and mass allergy has ever been created is by injection. Starting with combining the hypodermic needle and vaccines at the end of the 19th century, mass anaphylaxis exploded into the Western world.

We MUST have a formal study of vaccinated vs. unvaccinated populations. For starters, peanut allergy is virtually unknown in Amish communities, which discourage vaccination. Now that parents of children with autism are selecting not to vaccinate subsequent children, perhaps a target group is emerging. The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) has promised to pursue this research. Let’s hope it comes soon!

So for today, parents of peanut-allergic children are coping. Some have discovered ways to lessen their kids’ reactivity with energy medicine, acupuncture, NAET, and other alternative medicine techniques. But coping with an outcome that was forced upon them is unfair and insufficient. These parents must combine their forces as has the autism community and say “Enough!” Only then can we stop this runaway train.

The Medicated Child

November 15, 2009

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PBS stations nationwide ran a documentary last week on FRONTLINE entitled The Medicated Child. Marcela Gaviria produced this piece in an effort to respond to the dramatic increase in the number of children with serious psychiatric diagnoses, including bipolar disorder. The program also was to focus on the one-size-fits-all treatment with untested pharmaceutical medications that doctors are prescribing for these children. 

According to child psychiatrist Dr. Patrick Bacon, trying medications on young children is really an experiment…a gamble… we do not know what’s going to work. I tuned in with great anticipation, hoping at last to see some expert reporting on alternatives to drugs, whcih can cause serious short-term reactions and unknown long-term effects.  What I saw instead were many sick kids with black circles under their eyes, obvious vision problems and nutritional deficiencies that no one was talking about!

The trailer promised that the producer would “confront psychiatrists, researchers and government regulators about the risks and benefits of prescription drugs for troubled children.”  Yet this film and its doctor experts offered few alternatives.   

The Parents’ Guide written by Harvard Medical School child psychiatrist Joshua Sparrow to accompany the documentary “provides background on the issues associated with treating a child with psychiatric medications.”  Unfortunately, it too falls short of giving parents and teachers any practical alternatives. 

In the section entitled Observing, Describing and Understanding Your Child’s “Out-of-Control” Behavior, Sparrow offers several bullet points.  I reproduce them here with my edition of the type of information I wish he had provided.

  • Warning signs – Early risk factors for behavioral and learning issues include:
    • Missed developmental steps, such as no crawling  
    • Repeated infections, such as strep, ear infections
    • Skin problems, such as eczema and serious diaper rash
    • Chronic diigestive problems, such as reflux, diarrhea or constipation
    • An eye turn, called a strabismus
    • Hyper- or hypo-reactivity to sensory stimulation such as lights, sounds and touch
  • Triggers – All behaviors are reactions to something in the environment. Common triggers are:
    • Foods. Some kids’ digestive systems react to popular foods, such as dairy products, gluten (the protein in wheat and other grains), eggs, chocolate and soy.  In babies who have any of the above digestive warning signs, food is suspect.  The reaction may not be immediate.  I watched one child gradually dissolve an hour after a lunch of pizza and milk. 
    • Food additives. Artificial colors, flavors and preservatives, such as BHT cause behavioral issues in susceptible kids.  The Feingold Association has known this for years and is available to help.  Excitotoxins, such as fluoride, MSG and aspartame can all cause behavioral and psychiatric problems.
    • Pesticides and cleaners.  Many kids react to products used to exterminate bugs and eliminate bacteria.  Behavioral issues are more common on Mondays than any other day, due to schools being cleaned on Friday and closed up all weekend.
    • Chemicals from carpets, paints and other building materials.  Any building with new construction or renovation is suspect.  Formaldehyde from new cabinetry, fabrics and carpets can set off many kids.  The fumes from new paint are also toxic. 
    • Perfumes and air fresheners.  Some people become literally psychotic from breathing the artificial smells from these products. 
    • Contexts, settings – The cafeteria and playground are common “meltdown” arenas.  Why?  Because of the noise levels, bright lights in the former and possible mold, sprays and pollen in the latter.  I know one boy who acted out every time he went to the “reading room” where the teacher had placed a lovely, toxic, area rug.  Everyone thought he hated reading.  What he hated was the rug, and when it was removed, he was fine!
  • Symptoms – Symptoms are very individual and sometimes subtle. Doris Rapp, MD has been an expert on this for many years.  Some kids go into meltdowns.  Others may get spacey, talk too loudly, put their hands over their ears, stomp their feet, run in circles, scream, cry, kick, self-stimulate, throw things.  Some may be seeing double, become unfocused, stare out the window, look “depressed,” get sleepy, blink, look out of the corner of their eyes, fiddle with their clothes, masturbate, mouth objects. Any and all of these symptoms must be looked at diagnostically, rather than as behaviors to extinguish. 
  • Aftermath – Timing, frequency and recovery periods are crucial to evaluate. Keeping good records will help in the Sherlock Holmes process of pinpointing and eliminating triggers. 
  • Effect on overall functioning – Environmental reactions can interfere with a child’s learning, social relationships, sports performance and consume a family’s emotional and financial resources. Make changes for all family members and the whole class rather than just for the behaviorally reactive child.   

Consider non-pharmaceutical alternatives

If only FRONTLINE had included these interventions:

  • Change the diet – Consider eliminating colors, flavors, preservatives, excitotoxins.  Learn about Feingold, the Body Ecology Diet, the gluten-free dairy-free (GFCF) diet
  • Up the nutrition with foods and supplements – Add essential Omega 3 fats such as cod liver oil and flaxStudies show conclusively that good quality fats are efficacious alternatives to drugs
  • See an occupational therapist (OT) – Have the child evaluated for sensory integration problems by a private therapist who can pinpoint underlying reflex integration issues, tactile defensiveness, vestibular dysfunction or auditory processing problems.  Sensory-based OT can program the nervous system to respond in a more balanced way.
  • See a developmental optometrist (OD) – Make sure the two eyes are working together as a team and that the brain is giving proper meaning to what it sees.  With an eye turn, depth perception is impossible. Sometimes eye turns occur only intermittently and must be diagnosed by an expert.  Therapeutic lenses and vision therapy that includes activities to help the eyes and brain work better together can alleviate behavioral and learning issues.

Congratulations to FRONTLINE for recognizing the serious risks medications for bipolar and other disorders pose. We heartily  agree with them that research and insurance coverage for non-medication treatments are under-funded, and recommend that treatments such as these deserve further investigation.    

We can also concur that the forty-fold increase in the number of children and adolescents diagnosed with bipolar disorder over the past 10 years might be due to preventable causes. The simultaneous increase in environmental toxins, reliance on technology such as computers and television, and changes in food nutrient contents and genetic engineering are just a couple of obvious areas to    consider.

Thank you to the parents who took the time to tell their own stories of drug horrors and success with the Feingold program, naturopathy and other “natural’ solutions.  Add yours!  Maybe one day PBS will give us a useful commentary on how to prevent and help kids without drugs.  I sure hope so!  In the meantime, you can find out about more therapies that work in my book EnVISIONing a Bright Future

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Does "Keeping Kids Healthy" REALLY mean?

November 4, 2009

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The TV bombards us with ads promising that vaccines and pharmaceutical products will “keep you and your family” healthy during the flu season.  Are there alternatives?

I just gave a talk at a local school on “staying healthy.”  Parents came armed with notepads, ready to hear my favorite natural solutions to sniffles and coughs. They went home with those.  However, I started with a question:  Does “healthy” necessarily mean, “not sick?”

Philip Incao, MD, a physician in Colorado, describes health as “a beautiful sunny day with a brilliant blue sky and no clouds in sight.  At any time, if our Spirit is strong, then, like the sun we can dissolve the clouds that come our way. Sometimes too many clouds form at the same time, or a cloud becomes too large and obscures the sun’s light. If we don’t pay attention to these messages, the clouds can grow and merge into a huge thunderstorm. After the rain, the sky becomes clear again.”

I really love this description.  I can visualize my spirit making those clouds go away. I am also well aware of times when I have not paid attention to the messages and I have endured some thunderstorms!

Here are some of the points from my talk. 

Main ingredients for a strong immune system:

  • Nutritious, unprocessed, organic food in season,
  • Clean, filtered air and water
  • Daily and ample sleep/ exercise/ sun / nature

Impediments to staying healthy:

  • Toxins from foods, environment
  • Lifestyle stressors in job, family, friends
  • Issues of inconvenience and changing long standing habits

Here is a list of specific foods and supplements that boost the immune system. Thank you to Lisa Rudley for helping to compile it.

Foods  “Warming” foods. Less raw; more well-cooked for winter.  Soups and stews. Seasonal fruits – apples, pears, persimmons, vegetables – root veggies- onions, turnips, squash, parsnips, beets, radishes, greens, kale, collards, cilantro, parsley. Limit sugar!  Read Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.   

Supplements

Vitamin A – Important for vision and mucous membrane integrity.   RDA 1,000-2,000 IU for children,

Vitamin C – 2-4 grams per day or to “bowel tolerance.”  

Vitamin D3 – Adults need 5,000 IU when midday sun exposure is not possible. Infants need 1,000 IU, and older children need 2,000 IU. – Need good oils for absorption.

Vitamin E –  Anti-inflammatory effects and increases resistance to infection. Use only natural vitamin E (d-alpha-tocopherol), not the synthetic form (dl-alpha-tocopherol). A mixed tocopherol form of vitamin E is best because children need the gamma as well as the alpha forms. 100 mg for children under two and 200 mg for children aged 2-12.

Omega-3 fatty acids – As fresh, wild, cold-water small fish or their oils in capsules or liquid form.   Salmon, cod, mackerel, sardines. Flax & Hemp seeds for vegans.

Zinc – 25 mg zinc per day, but if you continue zinc for an extended period of time also take copper to prevent a deficiency (10:1 ratio of copper to zinc).

Colostrum – Immunoglobulin IgA coats the intestinal lining preventing attack by pathogens. Lactoferrin locks onto iron releasing it to red blood cells and depriving bacteria of the iron they need for reproduction. Lysozyme destroys microorganisms on contact. Cytokines boost T-cell activity and stimulate production of a baby’s own protective immunoglobulins. Polysaccharides bind to bacteria and block their attachment to mucus membranes. Take two capsules twice a day through the winter months.

Mushrooms: Activate white blood cells and stimulate antibodies. Reishi (ganoderma), maitake (grifola), shiitake (lentinus), polyporus, and tremella.  Use dried or in tablet, powder, or liquid extract form.

Homeopathics:

Influenzinum – One dose each week for 4 weeks (9C, 12C, or 30C) if you are exposed to the flu.   

Osccillococcinum – 3 X a day for 2-3 days

In today’s fast-paced world we “need” our kids to be “not sick.”  If they have to miss school, one of us has to miss work, or grandma, a friend, or other relative has to fill in.  It’s inconvenient, and in using a pathology model, means that something has gone amiss. 

If we trust our bodies, though, “sick” actually means our immune system is working well.  By coughing we bring up mucous; fevers help clear out toxins; rashes mean detoxification. In fact, in the “olden days” getting sick was a bi-annual house-cleaning ritual! 

Dr. Alan Scherr of the Northport Wellness Center on Long Island suggests that we give kids “well days” instead of “sick days!”  I like the idea of putting health into the positive.  Staying home is respectful of your body’s working to stay well. 

Nature is the greatest healer. Take a walk through the leaves. Hike, sit under a tree by a stream. One of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves and our children is to “SLOW DOWN,” says Susan Johnson, MD, a California pediatrician. Remember, doing “nothing” is often the best!