Archive for the ‘Nutrition and Supplements’ Category

Preventing Autism

November 28, 2014

Researchers have learned SO much in the past 10 years about risk factors for autism and other developmental delays that I included the word “prevention” in the title, and devoted a chapter to this subject in Outsmarting Autism. I was thus thrilled when a friend introduced me to a mother who runs a parent support group for families with members on the spectrum. She thought the group a good match as a host for me on my year-long book tour.

What a surprise when I received the following response: “Thank you so much for reaching out to me. To me, autism is not something that needs to be healed or prevented. I truly believe with all my heart that it is just as much a part of my boy as him having brown hair and hazel eyes, and I want folks to accept my boy and his neurology the way it is. I respect the fact that you have dedicated your life to what you believe in. But as you can see, I may not be the best person to help you reach your readers. Respectfully yours,”

At least she was civil; the next “push back” was not. The Executive Director of an autism support group cancelled an already scheduled and promoted book signing and talk, because I use the word “prevention” in the title.  She accused me of attempting to eliminate individuals with autism. Those who have followed my 40-plus-year career of counseling families of children with disabilities know that my goal is neither annihilation nor elimination, but rather rehabilitation.

Clearly, as British homeopath Alan Freestone points out, there are two very divided camps on autism:  Those who believe we can only increase autism awareness, but not function, and those whose goal is healing.  I belong to the second contingent. Parents know that their children with autism are medically sick, not just quirky.  Any parent whose autistic child has chronic diarrhea, sleep issues or unremitting epilepsy wants more than awareness.  Haven’t the awareness folks read the desperate Facebook posts from moms who have been up every two hours bathing a child covered in feces or are sitting a vigil at a hospital where doctors are trying to stop a young boy from constant grand mal seizures?  Maybe not. Well, I believe in prevention.  My beliefs in prevention are not the same as believing in the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy.  They are based in science and I will continue to educate couples who are interested.  I do not need the naysayers in my ear. And here is what I tell them:

PRECONCEPTION

A year before conception, couples should start thinking about cleaning up their environments, changing their lifestyles, and getting rid of their body burdens. A full year out? Yes, because that’s how long it takes to replace the bad stuff, to   learn about the good stuff, and for the body to detoxify safely. The steps I recommend not only improve fertility, discourage complications of pregnancy, miscarriage, and problems during delivery, but also improve the chances of having a healthy baby. Run Laboratory Tests I love tests. For over 30 years I administered diagnostic tests to help parents understand and make informed decisions about their children’s education, health and functioning. Tests only give you information; what makes information powerful is your freedom to decide what to do with it. Here are some tests to consider BEFORE becoming pregnant.  None are routine; in most cases, you must discuss them with your doctor. If your doctor refuses to order them, you can also work with Life Extension Foundation, a membership organization.  This is a wonderful Florida-based company sells both lab tests and high quality supplements.  You have the blood work done at a local lab and one of their doctors interprets the results.  They make money by selling supplements, but their prices are good, and a bonus is a periodic magazine of research that is worth the price of membership.

  • Identify toxic elements – The earlier in gestation toxic exposures occur, the more detrimental they can be to development. Every woman should know what toxins her body is holding before she gets pregnant, and detox appropriately, to assure that her baby isn’t exposed in those early weeks before a positive pregnancy test.

Doctor’s Data Lab offers a hair analysis of over 30 potentially toxic elements, including lead, mercury, arsenic, aluminum, copper, antimony and cadmium to which we are all exposed.  According to Phillipe Granjean MD, internationally recognized environmental health expert, and author of the extraordinary book Only One Chance:  How Environmental Pollution Impairs Brain Development- and How to Protect the Brains of the Next Generation, this inexpensive test is very predictive of the toxic load a pregnant woman dumps into her unborn baby.  Shouldn’t EVERY woman have this test?

  • Screen thyroid function – Low levels of T4 or marginally elevated levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) can affect the unborn baby.  Environmental toxins are endocrine disrupters. Insufficient levels or even a mild drop of thyroid hormone in the mother at critical stages of brain development can affect cognitive function in the fetus. Have complete thyroid testing done. Once you know your levels, take natural measures, such as adding iodine to normalize thyroid function.
  • Measure vitamin D levelsEvery day we are learning about the importance of Vitamin D in health.  In 2009 researchers concluded that vitamin D deficiencies in pregnant women should be considered a risk factor for neuro-developmental disorders such as autism. Vitamin D regulates thousands of genes in the human genome. The importance of prenatal, neonatal, and postnatal vitamin D supplementation cannot be underestimated. Vitamin D during gestation and early infancy is essential for normal brain functioning.

Insufficient vitamin D is a universal problem. You want your number to be over 30, even though 25 is considered “normal.”  40 is even better!  If your level is low, start taking supplements at 2000-5000 units of D3 per day, preferably in more absorbable liposomal drops available from Biotics.  Recheck in 3 months. High doses are sometimes necessary for a short time to elevate levels. To learn more about vitamin D, check out the Vitamin D Council.

  • Run an ELISA IgG test for food sensitivities – Your doctor can order this from a local lab. Look for gluten, casein, soy, egg, garlic, and other intolerances.  Rotate mildly problematic foods and eliminate those with moderate to severe reactions. 
  • Know your genetic profile Go to 23andME and do a quick gene screening to pinpoint possible difficulties with detoxification. Work with a health-care professional to identify supplements that can remediate glitches called single-nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs . 
  • Run antibody titers Find out which diseases you are already immune to by running blood titers.  Make sure that you are not a hepatitis carrier.  Put that in writing to prevent your baby from getting the Hep B shot at birth.
  • Remove any mercury-containing amalgams – Even one or two “silver” fillings off-gas into the mouth with brushing, chewing and drinking hot liquids. Mother’s mercury load crosses the placenta, landing in the liver and kidneys of the fetus. Infants’ levels correlate with the number of amalgams in the mother. Later, mercury shows up in the breast milk, which may provide better absorption of mercury in the nursing infant.  Be certain to have amalgams removed safely by a biological dentist.
  • Detoxify the bodyMothers dump a good part of their body burden into their unborn babies. Consider a homeopathic detox program that clears out chemicals, metals, parasites, bacteria, viruses and radiation. The lower your toxic load, the lower the baby’s.
  • Check for retained reflexesThe Spinal Galant and Asymmetric Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR) assist the baby in maneuvering through the birth canal.  Mothers who retain either of both of these reflexes may have difficulty giving birth naturally. The baby may not “drop,” be breech, or require a Cesarean section. Simple reflex integration activities for a month prior to birth can help the birth be smoother.

While Pregnant increase input in several areas:

  • FoodThe old saying that goes, “Eating for two,” is correct.  Make nutrient rich, not high caloric choices. Say “yes” to 75-100 grams of protein, organic fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, asparagus, spinach, nuts and free-range, antibiotic-free animals. Say “no” to sugar and its substitutes, wheat, dairy and hydrogenated fats.  Say “once-in-a-while” to small, cold water fish and soy products.  Take the time to sit down and eat slowly, chewing well.
  • Supplements While the right, good quality foods can provide much needed nutrition, eating adequate amounts of some nutrients is simply impossible. Contraceptives and other medications can deplete minerals. Calcium, mercury-free fish oils, iron, folate and B vitamins are essential for growing babies.  Work with a health care professional to determine the right amount for you.
  • Drinks At least eight cups of good quality water. No alcohol, sodas (especially diet), caffeinated tea or coffee.
  • Relaxation & SleepLearn meditation. Take a yoga class for expectant mothers. Practice daily, breathing deeply. Oxygenation of cells enhances their function. Releasing stress allows the body to put its energy into growing a healthy baby. Turn in before 10:00 pm and sleep at least nine hours.
  • ExerciseStretch to increase flexibility. Walk or attend a class two or three times a week.

How many sonograms do you need? It is really exciting to see a baby in utero, know whether it is a boy or girl, and then call it by name. But, no one knows the long-term effect of sonograms on the unborn baby. A sonogram is sound…sound as loud as a plane’s engines revving up in a baby’s ears. One study showed, the more sonograms, the more likely the baby is to have ear infections.  Another showed that babies later diagnosed with autism had endured three or more sonograms.  Consider limiting them unless medically necessary, and not do them just out of curiosity.

TAKE HOME POINTS

Know the risk factors for autism.  Limit exposures to toxins, while maximizing nutrition and health during preconception and pregnancy. Understand how your lifestyle choices support a baby’s health!  Every child deserves to be healthy, have the opportunities to develop language, have friends and learn! Autism is preventable! Let’s start now!  

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Outsmarting Autism

July 6, 2014

Front Cover

With great excitement and pride I announce the release today of my second book, Outsmarting Autism: The Ultimate Guide to Management, Healing and Prevention.  It is available on Amazon in both an e-book and a paperback, as well as from the publisher.  As I watched the magnificent spray of fireworks brighten the skies over the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh last night, I secretly thought they were celebrating not just Independence Day, but also this momentous milestone of mine.

In 2008, I downloaded 40 years of experience and knowledge from my brain into EnVISIONing a Bright Future, my first book. It contains all that was known then about possible causes, treatments and management of autism spectrum disorders. I never dreamed that just as much NEW information would emerge in the next six years: genomic testing that explains in part why some kids become autistic, and iPads with amazing apps, are just a couple of additions.  So…I just HAD to write another book!

Outsmarting Autism, like EnVISIONing in 2008, is the most comprehensive book available on what is now called Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). Whether you are new to the world of autism, are familiar with treatment options, or are a veteran who has “been there, done that,” this book is for you! Discoveries about possible etiologies and promising therapies are emerging so quickly that you are sure to learn something new.

Outsmarting Autism guides you step-by-step with practical information from a variety of fields that families, specialists, and educators can put to use immediately.

Step 1: Take Away the Bad Stuff, and Add Back the Good Stuff

♦ Clean up the environment ♦ Eat, sleep, and drink smarter ♦ Boost the immune system ♦ Balance hormones ♦ Detoxify

Step 2: Correct Foundational Issues

♦ Remove structural impediments ♦ Integrate reflexes

Step 3: Address Sensory Problems

♦ Improve sensory processing ♦ Develop vision

Step 4: Focus on Communicating, Interacting, and Learning

♦ Build language ♦ Concentrate on social-emotional skills ♦ Learn to read, write, and calculate ♦ Use technology

Step 5: Plan for the Future

♦Transition to independence ♦ Prevent autism from conception

Don’t let the book’s mammoth size scare you. Even though it is over 500 pages, I have made it extremely easy to understand, and Cindy Coan’s amazing index allows you to find anything you are looking for quickly and easily.

I hope you will read Outsmarting in sequence.  If you decide not to, at least read Chapters 2 and 3 on Total Load Theory and how today’s lifestyle has contributed to the autism epidemic, before jumping ahead. Autism did not just show up overnight. We now know the many risk factors, and how to be proactive and prevent more children from becoming affected. Individuals with autism are physically sick, and making healthy lifestyle changes, no matter how overwhelming they seem, can be the difference between management and healing.

This book could not have happened without the help and support of so many people.  To the owner and staff at Word Association, my awesome editor, Kendra Williamson, and all of my colleagues and friends who contributed material, proofed and edited, and stood by me while I worked every day for the past two years, my deepest gratitude.

Outsmarting Autism is meant to challenge some of your beliefs. If you have questions, I have answers. “Like” the book on Facebook, and write me a comment.  Go to Amazon and review it. Check out my website at www.OutsmartingAutism.com and see where I am speaking next.  I will be launching the book in Denver and Boulder on July 29th.  From 3- 5pm I will be at Proactive Wellness and at 7:30 pm at the Boulder Bookstore. In September, I am finalizing dates for New York City, Westchester and New Jersey.  Want me to include your town on my year-long book tour?  Let me know.

Now it’s time to get started. We can outsmart autism together.

 

Fire, Water, Air and Earth: Start Cooking!

December 6, 2013

I just finished reading Michael Pollan’s newest and seventh book, Cooked:  A Natural History of Transformation.  In it Pollan takes us on an odyssey of the elemental ways in which man cooks:  with fire, water, air and earth.  After renewing it from the library three times, I finally bought it!  Reading Cooked was like savoring a delicious meal…yummy and satisfying.  This book is truly transformative!

I have been a big fan of Pollan’s since reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food. Until now, my favorite was the tiny guidebook, Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual.  When people ask me what I eat, I just quote Pollan:  “Eat food…not too much…mainly plants.”  That says it all.

I guess by now you’ve surmised that I love food, and I adore cooking.  I am absolutely an omnivore.  I’m sure I got that trait from my father who offered up brains, sweetbreads, and liver as if everyone ate them. No chicken nuggets in my house.

In the 21st century, cooking is optional, not obligatory.  Today, typical Americans spend less than half the time cooking and cleaning up than they did when I graduated from high school in 1964.  Some of what people call “cooking” is opening a can of soup or microwaving a pizza! According to Pollan, that “marks a major shift in human history, one whose full implications we are just beginning to understand.”

Pollan begins by explaining that cooking food is what distinguishes us from other animals. EVERY other mammal grazes; we eat meals. That connects and socializes us.  All animals eat raw, except when nature “cooks” a forest full of birds, nuts, berries and furry animals in a fire.  They then experience the treat of eating roast quail, toasted walnuts, baked apples, and barbequed squirrel.

My raw foodies aren’t going to like this next part.  Cooking makes us smarter!  Digestion is a “metabolically  expensive operation,” according to Pollan.  Cooking our food before eating it diminishes the energy our bodies must expend for digestion.  Cooking plants breaks down the fibers, allowing our not-so-strong jaws and digestive systems to work less hard.  And…get this!  Where does that extra saved energy go?  To our brains!  Want to know more about this theory, read Richard Wrangham’s Catching Fire:  How Cooking Made Us Human.

The first element is fire, the oldest method of cooking. Pollan travels to North Carolina, where we learn from barbeque experts. Roasting meat goes back to the Bible. Remember when entire animals were presented to God as burnt offerings?

Water is next; it is used to cook in virtually every cuisine in the world.  A universal recipe is: Dice some plants, sauté them in fat, brown some meat, put everything together in a pot of water and simmer for a long time.  This is the beginning of the transformation into Indian curry, Moroccan tagine and French cassoulet  which all start with three basic vegetables: onions, carrots and celery.  Amazing!

Air is about baking bread.  I’ve never been much of a bread lover, and could never understand why anyone would spend so much time waiting for dough to rise.  My impatience and gluten intolerance disallow me from grooving on this section.

My favorite section is “earth.”  How, you might wonder does earth “cook” food?  By fermentation!  An ancient form of preservation and transformation, fermenting is making a huge comeback as we are able to identify and control those critters that work their little butts off making cheese, wine, beer and sauerkraut.  Eating fermented foods is a natural way of ingesting probiotics.

I loved the story of Sister Noella, the cheese nun, who knew just how to make Saint- Nectaire cheese ripen perfectly using ancient wooden molds.  One day, the health department showed up and declared the mold “unsanitary.”  Sister was told that she must wash them between batches.  Wash away years of accumulated families of fermentation bugs?  No way!  The inspector insisted that Sister trade in her moldy molds for some sanitized ones made out of stainless steel.  Here is how this savvy sister solved her problem.

She and the inspector inserted the nasty bug e. coli into both the wooden mold and the stainless steel one and waited out the fermentation period.  Which batch do you think had the e. coli? Right!  The “sanitized” stainless mold still contained the dangerous bug, while it had disappeared from the moldy wooden one!  The “good” bugs destroyed the “bad” bug, just as they do in your digestive tract when you take probiotics!

I couldn’t help but wonder if Pollan and Donna Gates, developer of the Body Ecology Diet (BED), which emphasizes fermented foods, had ever communicated.  I would love to be a fly on the wall when they do!

Looking for a holiday gift for a foodie friend?  Buy Cooked.  And if you want to guild the lily, also purchase Fifty Shades of Kale, a parody of that pornographic best-seller.  It will make you laugh as you prepare “afternoon quickies” such as Zucchini and Kale Bites and “forbidden cravings” such as “Chocolate Chip Kale Cookies.”

Have a yummy holiday season!

Stress

February 17, 2013

Stress from Google

Everyone is stressed! The fewer the stressors, the more opportunities for learning and development for children of all ages. Our goal is to identify and eliminate as many stressors as possible.

Environmental – Our homes and schools are full of stressors.
o Toxic Chemicals – Lead, mercury, antimony, aluminum, and other “heavy metals” reduce immunity, and interfere with the body’s ability to perform its many functions. Lead is “old news” and we know that any amount is unsafe for cognitive development. Every child should have lead levels tested.
Mercury, antimony, and aluminum are the “new” toxins that are also showing up in the bodies and brains of children with all types of delays. Their sources are power plants, ground water, petroleum plants, dental amalgams from the mother, vaccines, flame retardants, cookware, and other unlikely places. Read more about these metals here  and here.
Green your building with non-toxic materials for flooring, paint, cleaning supplies, building products, art and office supplies.
Chemicals from disinfectants, cleaners, building materials and other supplies “off gas” and when a person breathes them, they are toxic to the body. They are especially harmful to people with compromised immune systems, and those who have asthma.
The standard benchmark for design, construction, and operation of high-performance green buildings is LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Find a green building in your city, learn who greened it and consult with them.  Here is a handbook on how to green an existing building.
o Air Pollution – Open the windows when possible. When too hot, make sure air conditioning equipment is clean and not moldy. Use HEPA (an acronym for “high efficiency particulate air”) indoor air filters throughout building. HEPA filters can trap a large amount of very small particles that vacuum cleaners recirculate back into the air.
o Fluorescent lighting – Replace with bulbs that do not make noise or flicker. Use bulbs that offer the right color of lighting. Read this article on lighting.
o Noise – Play soft, gentle music, such as Mozart, which is the same rate as the human heart beat. Read more information  on “The Mozart Effect.”
Biological – Our bodies are toxic waste dumps too. Reduce our exposures.
o Water – Good hydration is essential for learning. Ensuring that our drinking water is pure is one of the most important steps we can take for children with developmental delays. Water should be available and offered frequently. Use water filters throughout the building.
o Diet and Nutrition – What kids are eating can be the determining factor between health and sickness. This is especially true for children with developmental delays. Sugar is one of the most damaging of all products ingested. Read more about it here.
Encourage families to cook and not eat “fast food.” Help them understand the importance of a varied diet of natural foods, such as fruits, vegetables, good quality protein and good fats.
Research is showing that eliminating some foods from kids’ diets helps their development and learning tremendously. Many foods are shown to cause ear infections. Two types of foods that are particularly problematic for kids with delays are those containing gluten, the protein from wheat, and casein, the protein from dairy products. Read about gluten and dairy in many websites containing “gfcf.”
Children with Down syndrome have especially high nutritional needs. A company that specializes in the care and feeding of those with this genetic syndrome is Nutri-Chem, in Ottawa, Canada. The founder, Kent MacLeod, a pharmacist has written a book on the importance of diet and nutritional supplementation: Down Syndrome and Vitamin Therapy.
o Allergies – Many kids with developmental issues have allergies, not only to airborne particles, insects, and other environmental pests, but also to foods. Some allergies are life-threatening and immediate, such as shellfish and peanuts. Others are troublesome, causing fatigue, rashes, respiratory and digestive problems, and are delayed, taking hours or even days to show up. Read about the different kinds of allergic reactions here.

Physical – The physical body needs a good sensory diet and sleep to reduce stress.
o Movement – Use every opportunity to move to learn. Little children’s bodies learn by moving and using their senses of touch and having their muscles and joints take in sensations. Two good books about the importance of movement in learning are, Smart Moves: Why Learning is not all in Your Head, by Carla Hannaford, and Physical Activities for Improving Learning and Behavior by Cheatum. Obtain the workbook “Begin Where They Are,” with therapy activities, from http://oepf.org/product/begin-where-they-are-0.
o Reflexes – Over 100 different reflexes are programmed into the body to get the body moving appropriately. If demands on the body are premature, before the reflexes are fully integrated, then delayed development can be the result. Learn about reflexes through an intensive training session. Learn more about reflexes at http://masgutovamethod.com
o Vision – While some children have eyesight problems that can be corrected by glasses, others have vision issues, such as the two eyes not working together, in conditions called exotropia, esotropia and strabismus. Motor activities that are the foundation for vision development and the body must be strong to support binocular vision. The relationship between vision and learning can also be a training session for those at the center. To learn more about vision, read this.
A book explaining the role of vision in learning is How to Develop Your Child’s Intelligence by Getman.
o Hearing – Listening is to hearing as vision is to eyesight. Although a child can hear, his brain may not process what it hears. Several “listening programs” are available to help children give meaning to what they hear. Look here for understanding of this area.
o Sleep – Everyone needs uninterrupted sound sleep for their bodies to heal and repair. Pre-school aged children require 11-12 hours of sleep per night. Young children with disabilities might need more if they are contending with health issues. Help parents and teachers understand their kids’ need for rest periods. Read this.
Educational – Schools are often unknowingly a source of stress too.
o Inappropriate curriculum – All children learn in a predictable developmental sequence, just as they learn to walk before they run. We discourage teaching rote concepts such as the alphabet, counting and naming to young children. These skills will emerge when a child is developmentally ready. Here is an article on this subject.

o Non-ergonomic furniture – Sitting in small chairs when the trunk and head are not stable only results in compensatory techniques like tilting the head and rotating the hips. Replace hard, wooden chairs with soft gym mats, beanbags, cushions and pillows to help children develop core strength.

Emotional – Families have so many situations that add stress.
o Unreasonable expectations – This stressor is tied to the one above related to an inappropriate curriculum. Children want to please adults, and when they cannot comply with expectations, they become discouraged. Make sure that requirements are consistent with a child’s developmental age.
o Worries and fears – Some kids like being around many people; others find crowds difficult. It appeared that many of the children we saw were somewhat fearful of having so many adults watching and prodding them. Observations should be limited to one or two adults at a time until a child is comfortable emotionally.
o Family Issues – Today’s families, especially those with multiple children with disabilities, are under a great deal of stress. They need support systems to help them cope. Offer parent and sibling support groups where adults and children can share their experiences and learn from each other.

Behavioral – Treating symptoms is never the right answer.
o Medications – Pharmaceutical and over-the-counter drugs all have side effects which can cause behavioral symptoms as benign as restlessness and irritability, and as serious as rashes, seizures and fevers. They can also interfere with sensory processing, such as cause double vision and tactile defensiveness. Instead of treating symptoms, look for natural alternatives to prescription drugs, and search for underlying causes of illness, such as food allergies and toxicity,.
o Screen Time – While young children are attracted to the bright colors, sounds and movement of objects on computers, iPads, and iPhones, these two-dimensional objects are not good for development. To learn, children need to touch and see objects in three dimensions, not on flat screens. Please consider replacing electronic toys with playthings made out of natural materials. For non-verbal children, speaking with real people is superior to speaking to a machine. Psychologist Jane Healy is the expert on brain development and screen time. Please refer to her books, Failure to Connect: How Computers Affect Our Children’s Minds — and What We Can Do About It, and Your Child’s Growing Mind: Brain Development and Learning From Birth to Adolescence.

Summary
Even with loving, supportive parents and teachers, the our lifestyle and environment add stress to the lives of our children with developmental delays. Start with the physical environment, and reduce exposures to noise, light, toxins and sensory overload. Every time you replace a product, purchase one of higher quality with fewer toxins. Gradually, stressors will reduce, and the home and school will be more conducive places for learning and growing.

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!

 

 

 

The “Diet”

June 3, 2000
“Are you on ‘the diet’? is a query commonly heard wherever I go. At my weight loss clinic “the diet” is the protein shake that allowed me to drop 25 pounds. At the health club, “the diet” could mean The Zone, Atkins or “Eat Right for your Type.” Friends have used these programs to drop poundage and feel better.Most DDR members have heard of the Feingold diet, a program that eliminates artificial colors flavors, preservatives and salicylates. It has helped many children overcome difficult behaviors. In disability circles, however, “the diet” that probably works best is a gluten/casein-free program. I find it one of the simplest, most exciting discoveries in my 30 years in this field.

Originally, Lisa Lewis dug into diet literature looking for a way to help her son. She located the research of Paul Shattock and Karl Reichelt, who link gluten and casein with autism spectrum disorders. In 1998, she wrote Special Diets for Special Kids, sharing her findings with other families. Later she co-founded the Autism Network for Dietary Intervention (ANDI) with Karen Seroussi, who popularized “the diet” further in her book, Unraveling the Mystery of Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorder: A Mother’s Story of Research & Recovery (see DDR booklist).

These two courageous women have changed the lives of many families. Others have joined their bandwagon. More and more companies now produce time-saving, quality, gluten- , dairy- , soy- and yeast-free products. Lists of gluten-free products are available from Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and MOMS (in the DC area). Contact two DDR sponsors, Gluten-Free Pantry (800-291-8386 or http://www.gluten-free.com) and Miss Roben’s (800-891-0083 or http://www.missroben.com.)

Whatever ‘the diet,‘ here are some ways to assure best results with the least amount of distress: Switch to additive-free, real foods. Eliminate junk. Because strawberries are available all year round, most of today’s kids don’t have the experience of eating a just-picked local, organically grown berry in May. What a shame! Shop at stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods that specialize in wholesome products. Eat a varied diet. Menus that reflect the seasons provide natural variety. If you serve corn cereal for breakfast, use a rice product for dinner. Rotate seed and nut butters for extra calcium. Vary cooking methods according to season, using long-cooked foods in the winter and raw or steamed foods in the summer. Watch those fats, including good ones such as olive and flaxseed oils. Eliminate hydrogenated fats and oils.

Eat better; exercise more. Today’s kids are chubby because they are eating empty calories, playing video games instead of hopscotch, and riding school buses instead of their bikes. Put the whole family on “the diet”; everyone’s health will improve. Children with autism frequently have siblings with similar issues to a lesser degree. AD(H)D, learning disabilities and perceptual issues could dissipate. So could adult arthritis, mental and physical fatigue, asthma and allergies.

Find out individual needs through elimination or laboratory testing. Some call food sensitivities “allergies,” while others say a true allergy requires a reaction such as hives. Nutritionist and DDR co- founder Kelly Dorfman described this phenomenon in the Fall ‘99 New Developments. She believes that the best and least expensive test for food reactions is elimination of that food followed by a challenge.

If that process overwhelms you, and if your pocketbook can withstand the cost, have your physician order laboratory tests. A wide variety of reliable tests, including organic acid tests for yeast problems and urinary peptide testing for gluten and casein sensitivities, is available from Great Plains Laboratory

Learn to cook again. Share the kitchen with your children, who are more apt to experiment with new foods if they are involved in making them. Cooking is also a great way to gain fine motor control and to learn some math, physics and chemistry. Use soy products. Although some children on the autism spectrum are sensitive to soy, many are not. Try miso (fermented soy paste) for soup, tempeh for a meatless stew, and tofu for salad dressings and delicious pudding and “cheesecake.” All are high in essential vitamins and minerals. Use new natural sources of vitamins and minerals. In addition to soy, try sea vegetables.

Ever eat sushi? That black wrapper is nori, a seaweed rich in minerals. You can buy it in sheets or flakes. It is salty and adds flavor to popcorn, soups and any foods. Dulse, another seaweed, is the world’s highest source of iron.

Be open and flexible. If a child ingests a little gluten or a muffin made with milk, don’t panic. Most children will not go into anaphylaxis. The constant assault of problematic foods causes illness, not a single serving. That’s why I ate wedding cake without guilt last weekend, and because I exercised and watched the rest of “the diet,” I still lost another pound!

[New Developments: Executive Director’s Column, Summer 2000]