There is now a tragedy of epidemic proportions:
- Every 20 minutes a child is diagnosed with autism
- The CDC now reports that 1 in 91 children are autistic
- The National Survey of Children's Health study (NSCH) found a staggering 1 in 63 children were reported to be autistic and the rate climbed to 1 in 38 if the child was a boy!
- Every 2 minutes a child is diagnosed with ADHD, the rate of ADHD has now reached levels of 1 in 10 children
- Even more frightening is the fact that 1 in 6 infants now have developmental delays
- Childhood depression is now epidemic in the US, according to the World Health Organization American children have the most psychiatric illnesses
- Diagnoses of pediatric bipolar disorder went up 4000% in a 10 year, hospitalizations for the disorder increased 500% between 1996 and 2004 .
Canaries In The Mine
If your child is afflicted with this spectrum of brain health disorders it affects you very personally. But in reality it affects each and every one of us for multiple reasons. First and foremost these children are 'the Canaries' in the mine of our postmodern world! Years ago miners would always bring a canary in a cage down into the mine with them. The reason for this was simple, with a higher metabolism rate in the canary was more sensitive to any poisonous gases that accumulated in the mine. If the canary died the miners would run for their lives. This epidemic now affecting the brain of so many infants and children arises from the simple fact that the complex developing human brains is extremely sensitive to nutritionally deficient diets and even more importantly toxicity of the environment. When we finally grasp this we realize it is not only imperative that we help these children because they are our future, but we are also healing ourselves when we address the actual underlying issues of this epidemic.
Rachel Carson warned us a half a century ago in her book Silent Spring that we were poisoning ourselves and our children. As early as 1962 she realized, "For the first time in the history of the world, every human being is now subjected to contact with dangerous chemicals, from the moment of conception until death." What has changed in the last half century? Things have only gotten worse. The Environmental Working Group measured the industrial chemical contamination in the umbilical cord blood of newborns. They tested for 413 different toxic chemicals and they found 287 different chemicals in these newborns, ranging from 154 to 231 chemicals per child. These 287 chemicals found within the blood of newborns do have serious ramifications; 180 of these chemicals cause cancer in humans or animals, 217 are known toxins to the brain and nervous system, 208 will cause developmental problems in children . Is there any wonder why we're seeing so many brain health problems in children today? However, you are not immune from these chemicals. They are affecting your brain function even as you read this article, only to a lesser extent than that of an immature developing brain found in your child, and the human brain is not fully developed until the age of 25.
Disconnected Kids Disconnected Brains
For some time now research has demonstrated that children with these brain health disorders, compared to 'normal' children, have impaired metabolic and cellular function throughout the brain and body . Studies have found nearly 100% of children on the ASD spectrum have genetically impaired cellular detoxification pathways , making them more susceptible to toxic chemicals. Other studies have found more than two thirds of these children have poor digestion and nutrient absorption, along with inflammation of the intestinal tract . This all leads to an exaggerated response to specific foods, airborne allergens, toxic chemicals and metals in our environment compared to children without these disorders. Furthermore, it is well documented that they often lack various nutrients, enzymes, anti-oxidants, and essential fatty acids, and that they require methylation support .
Research at Johns Hopkins University demonstrated immune system dysfunction causing low-grade inflammation in affected brain tissues of these children. It is a combination of the above metabolic factors that leads to or aggravates this low-grade chronic inflammation in the brains of these children. Research has shown that this low-grade inflammation in affected brain tissues can cause the nerve cells to not communicate properly with one another . These disorders have aptly been called disconnection syndromes, meaning one area the brain is not communicating well with other areas leading to symptoms in sensory integration, language development, cognition, emotion and behavior. Since research is now showing that combination of genetics, dietary deficiencies and toxic exposures may be a source for our children's brains not functioning properly, what we can do that safe and natural to optimize brain function in our children.
A Science-Based Natural Biomedical Approach
We must all take responsibility and do all we can to stop this cumulative poisoning in those we love so dearly, our family, for if we do not who else will? One approach that is gaining ground is a natural biomedical approach for children with autism, ADHD, OCD and behavioral problems. Biomedical care for these disorders is a science-based, metabolic approach to treatment. Everyone is now agreed that psychotropic drugs do not treat the problem; they simply reduce or suppress some of the symptoms. It would seem that a better choice is to address the underlying metabolic issues and health problems in these disorders. The primary 3R guiding principle of biomedical care is simple: Remove what is causing harm (e.g. chemical exposure, toxic metals and GI endotoxins), Restore what is missing (e.g. nutrients, probiotics), and Repair what is damaged (e.g. neuron cell membrane, gastrointestinal tract).
To better understand this approach lets examine a partial outline of possible biomedical care for a child with one of these disorders:
- Specific laboratory tests through blood, urine and stool are performed to rule out any frank pathology and provide vital clues on what road to take to optimize the child's body and brain health.
- Diet is primary; usually the diet is improved along with specific dietary restrictions. This can be especially challenging in the ASD child with sensory integration issues involving food choice. Dietary goals are established for a reduction in chemical exposure through the removal of sugar, artificial sweeteners, preservatives, food additives, processed foods and the addition of organic foods. Adverse brain effects have been associated with casein (dairy) and gluten (wheat & rye) opioid-acting peptides called exorphins. One well-conducted study found 80% ASD children had sensitivity to casein and gluten, with improvement following strict dietary exclusion of these foods.
- A specific type of laboratory IgG food allergy blood test may be performed to identify other food allergies that could be leading to immune system activation and possible brain inflammation. Once identified these problem causing foods can be easily removed from the diet
- It is vital to identify any problems with maldigestion, malabsorption, and dysbiosis through specific laboratory tests such as a CDSA or comprehensive of digestive stool analysis and a urinary organic acid profile. Once digestive problems specific to the child have been properly identified and they can be improved. Many times this involves overcoming the challenge of imbalanced gut bacteria, known as dysbiosis, which can lead to leaky gut problems, a primary source for food allergies and chronic inflammation in these disorders.
- At this point specific supportive nutrients for autism and ADHD are added, depending on what has been found on history, exam and clinical lab results.
- It is then usually vital to support proper methylation through folic acid and B12 supplementation. Also sulfoxidation-sulfation inadequacies and other cellular detoxification pathways must be supplemented and supported. Besides specific nutritional supplementation, such as N-acetylcysteine, many times Epson salt baths is of benefit for the ASD child.
- At this point chelation of heavy metals can have marked benefit once all other factors have been addressed; however this complex subject is beyond the scope of this article.
About Dr. Greg Fors
Dr. Greg Fors, D.C. is a Board-certified Neurologist (IBCN), certified in Applied Herbal Sciences (NWHSU) and acupuncture. As the director of the virtual Pain and Brain Healing Center, he specializes in a functional medicine approach to fibromyalgia, fatigue, brain fog, digestive disorders, depression and anxiety. He is a sought after international lecturer for various post-graduate departments and state associations. Dr. Fors is the author of the highly acclaimed book, “Why We Hurt” available through booksellers everywhere.