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As featured in Health Freedom News Magazine Winter 2015 Volume 33
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TO MEDICATE? OR RE-EVALUATE:
POSSIBLE UNDERLYING CAUSES OF CHILDHOOD BEHAVIORAL PROBLEMS
By: Jennifer M. Wolff-Gillispie, HWP, LC
There are many factors to consider when determining what constitutes health, so how do we really know if our doctors are making an accurate diagnosis when we feel something is wrong? What about when it has to do with our children? If your child is facing a mental or neurological diagnosis such as depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD, or even Autism Spectrum Disorder from their healthcare provider, there are many important factors to take into account before deciding on the appropriate treatment options.
As parents we are constantly focusing on doing what is best for our children; protecting them is our number one job. This often means seeking the help and advice from health-care providers when our children are struggling in school, at home or with peers because of performance or behavior. According to the U.S. Center For Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 11-19% of school-aged children are diagnosed with ADHD and according to The Federal Center For Mental Health Services 1 in 33 children (and as many as 1 in 8 teens) suffer at one time or another from some form of depression.1 In addition, in 2014 the Center For Disease Control reports that an estimated 1 in every 68 children is diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum.2 How could it be that so many of our children are now suffering from mental and neurological disorders? Perhaps there are some often overlooked factors to take into account before accepting a diagnosis and medicating.
One of the first factors to consider is diet and nutrition, as this is the basis for health and well-being. Often times our children are fed things at home, school or with friends and family that we as health conscious adults would never dare eat. Those bright colored candies, sodas, crackers, chips, and even some vitamins are often loaded with sugar, caffeine, chemicals, preservatives, and dyes. One study done by Southampton University found that these dyes were not only linked to cancer, ADHD, and other health conditions, but school-aged children failed attention tests after consuming them.3 According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, even moderate doses of caffeine lead to “increased reports of nervousness, jitteriness, fidgetiness...in children and adolescents”.4
The second factor to consider is possible undiagnosed food allergies and sensitivities. These intolerances are usually difficult to pin-point and can mimic many symptoms of mental and neurological disorders. The British medical journal The Lancet reports at least 2/3 of all cases of ADHD that were studied were actually cases of food sensitivities.5 In fact, Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride author of Gut and Psychology Syndrome says that a condition called “gut dysbiosis” is what is to blame for this gut-brain imbalance.6 This can occur with repeated introduction of allergen causing, highly processed food and become what is known as Leaky Gut Syndrome. The undigested proteins cause disruption in the gut flora which leads to poor digestion and Candida overgrowth. When this happens by-products, ethanol and acetaldehyde, are produced which have a profound, negative impact on the brain leading to perceived “behavioral” problems.
A third, but extremely important and often overlooked factor to consider is your child's emotional and physical needs. Are they dealing with divorce, split-homes, bullying, lack of time and attention from one or more parent? Do they have an older, younger or special needs sibling that constantly steals the attention? Maybe they are overstimulated by T.V., video games and the internet or are just not getting enough sleep. It may seem obvious, but if your child is not receiving quality time, attention, physical contact, and love, they will often misbehave. With 50% of all marriages failing, many of these children have unresolved feelings and emotions that need to be addressed. If they are not, they will often manifest as behavioral issues. According to the website, http://www.children-and-divorce.com, children of divorce are more likely to have psychological disorders, tend to have more difficulty in school, are more aggressive, are 4 times more likely to have difficulty with peers and are reported (as many as 6 years or more after the divorce) to still be lonely, anxious and insecure.7
It is not hard to see how understanding, diagnosing, and treating these behaviors can be complex. Often, multiple factors are responsible and need to be considered, but in most cases when looking for solutions for your child's behavioral challenges you need to look no further than your own home.
Here are a few suggestions to consider when addressing your child's needs:
1. Do a diet overhaul. Not just for your child but for the whole family! Eliminate prepackaged snacks and meals in favor of home-cooked, nutritious alternatives. Fresh, organic fruits, and vegetables free of chemicals and GMO's are the building blocks of a healthy body and healthy mind. Eliminate excess sugar, caffeine, additives, preservatives, and dyes. Be aware of the food your child is being served when away from you. Inform all caretakers and friends of your child's needs and restriction
2. Be aware of potential food allergens. According to statistics from the Food Allergy and Education organization, as many as 1 in 13 children have a food allergy with the top offenders being wheat (gluten), dairy, corn, peanuts, shellfish, and soy.8 If you suspect an allergy or sensitivity start keeping a food journal or try eliminating the suspected offending foods for a week or two. Notice any differences in your child's behavior. Once you slowly begin adding the foods back in, take notice and see if the behaviors return. If you need support, seek the help of a Holistic Nutritionist or Naturopath for advice and guidance with diet and how to restore proper intestinal (as well as brain) balance.
3. Spend some time getting to know your child. Understanding the challenges they are facing better equips parents to help their children get what they need to succeed. Usually this is as simple as a hug, thoughtful gesture or word of encouragement. Spending time outdoors, painting, cooking, gardening or just playing are ways to include and encourage your child. Strengthening this connection will allow your child the room to share and be open in a non-threatening way. One of the most valuable lessons about parenting that can be applied to any child was shared by author Toni Morrison. "Does your face light up?" She told Oprah in 2000. "When my children used to walk in the room when they were little, I looked at them to see if they had buckled their trousers or if their hair was combed or if their socks were up. . . . You think your affection and your deep love is on display because you're caring for them. It's not. When they see you, they see the critical face. What's wrong now?”..."Let your face speak what's in your heart. When they walk in the room my face says I'm glad to see them. It's just as small as that, you see?"9 Simply put, a child's self-esteem is a reflection of how they feel the world perceives them. Show and tell them, often, how much they are loved and appreciated, especially by you.
In conclusion, most kids throughout their childhood will experience phases where they seem to be acting out. More often than not this is a normal part of childhood and often a way of coping with the complex, hectic, and often over-stimulating world they live in. If you have addressed all these issues and still find that your child is struggling, other natural treatment options are available. Do not hesitate to contact Therapists, Chiropractors, Naturopaths and Nutritionists, as well as Neurologists and Psychologists to help you find answers. Once you have a truly accurate diagnosis, you can formulate the best, safest, and most effective action plan for your child and your family.
Robert Preidt, “1 in 10 US Kids Diagnosed With ADHD”, Web MD News from Health Day, April 1, 2013, at http://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/childhood-adhd/news/20130401
Data and Statistics, Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, March 28, 2014, at http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html
Dr. Michelle Kmiec, “Food Dyes & Additives Proven Unsafe!”, Online Holistic Health, Feb. 26, 2015, http://www.onlineholistichealth.com/food-dyes-additives-proven-unsafe/
Jennifer L. Temple, “Caffeine Use in Children: What we know, what we have left to learn, and why we should worry.”, US National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health, Jan. 20, 2009, at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2699625/
Kristen Michaelis, “New Research Confirmed ADHD Caused By Food”, Food Renegade, March 16, 2011, at http://www.foodrenegade.com/new-research-confirms-adhd-caused-
Kathryne Pirtle and John Turner, DC, CCSP, DIBCN, “Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Natasha Campbell-McBride”, The Weston A. Price Foundation, March 13, 2009, at http://www.westonaprice.org/book-reviews/gut-and-psychology-syndrome-by-natasha-campbell-mcbride/
Jenny Lewis and Bill Sammons, “Children Divorce Statistics”, ChildrenandDivorce.com (2013) at http://www.children-and-divorce.com/children-divorce-statistics.html
Facts and Statistics, Food Allergy Research & Education (2015), at http://www.healthline.com/health/allergies/common-food-allergies#Overview1
Brene Brown, “The Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto”, Huffington Post, Sept. 28, 2012, at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bren/wholehearted-parenting-manifesto_b_1923011. html