When little Jimmy’s mom wakes him up for school, he flops out of bed resistantly. He did not sleep well last night, like most nights, because he is a restless sleeper who grinds his teeth, wets the bed and snores. His mother often wonders if this is why he always has dark circles under his eyes. Despite instructions to get ready quickly, Jimmy’s mom finds him 5 minutes later only halfway out of his pajamas and playing with some items on his dresser and scratching at his nose. She hopes his chronic congestion isn’t bringing on yet another ear infection. As she moves towards him and urges him to get moving, she notices the eczema on his arms is flaring up more than usual. During the next five minutes, she has to physically guide him to complete his task and move on to brushing his teeth. He begins to whine and stomp his feet complaining that, “This is not fair! I hate brushing my teeth! Why are you always so mean to me!?” and hits the wall all the way down the hallway. His mother silently hopes he doesn’t put holes in the walls like he did last week during his meltdown.
Fifteen minutes later, he is at the breakfast table picking at his food. He doesn’t want to eat because it is not one of his few favorite foods (bread, cheese, nuggets or candy). He doesn’t like the taste or texture of so many foods. His mother reflects on his distended little belly and tries to accommodate his needs hoping it will alleviate his chronic problems with constipation and diarrhea. Jimmy decides it would be more fun to sing silly rhyming songs than eat breakfast. He is reminded by his mother that school begins soon and he needs to finish up. He pouts and then decides he would rather pick a fight with his brother.
When it is time to leave, Jimmy’s mother asks him to get his shoes and coat on while she gets his brother ready. Jimmy walks over to the shoe rack but stops along the way because he spots a hot wheels car on the hallway bench. He begins to play with it. When his mother puts him back on task, he walks over to the shoe rack and sits down. He notices his dress up shoes sitting next to his school shoes and begins to play with the laces. A few minutes later, his mother again puts him back on task. He picks up his school shoes but then realizes he forgot to put on socks that morning. He begins to go towards his bedroom and notices the book he left on the counter and begins to look through it. When his mother urges him to move quickly, he throws the book and starts to scream and cry with despair that he will never make it on time because he has to go get his socks.
Once at school, Jimmy’s mom drops him off at his class only to be pulled aside by his teacher. “Jimmy has been having a lot of difficulty in school,” his teacher reports. “ Either he does not seem to care about learning, or he has a learning deficiency,” she continued. Jimmy’s mother has heard this before. He has had ongoing difficulties with sitting still in class, understanding and following directions and is easily frustrated. His mother is concerned that soon the teachers will be trying to diagnose Jimmy as ADHD, Learning Disabled or Oppositional Defiant. She had expected to have some issues with him at school related to his asthma needs but she never thought he would have so many behavioral and learning issues. On so many days, she ends up feeling helpless, confused and overwhelmed trying to manage Jimmy and figure out how to best care for his physical and mental health.
The number of children who share Jimmy’s story is rising significantly. They may be struggling with mood, behavior and learning issues. They may already be diagnosed with a learning disability or one of the Four A Disorders: Asthma, Allergies, Autism and ADHD. These children are quite sensitive to many hidden factors that are contributing to their dysfunction in mood, behavior and ability to learn. Potential External hidden factors like toxins come in many forms: Air (pollution, artificial scents), Water (Heavy metals, fluoride, chlorine), Plastics (carcinogens like BPA), Pharmaceuticals (vaccines), and Household products (shampoo, cleaning products).
While these External factors are quite damaging, the food we ingest can be considered a significant Internal hidden factor. Food can impact our mood, learning, and behavior in many ways. Mood-regulating neurotransmitter receptors are found in the digestive tract as well as the brain. Sadness, disappointment and meltdowns can all be signs of depletions in the neurotransmitter Serotonin. The serotonin receptors in the gut are often blocked by yeast overgrowth, which thrives on flours and sugars. So although we may think giving a child a lollipop will make them happy, it will likely contribute to a state of sadness somewhere along the way.
The nutrients in whole foods dictate the health and function of the gut and brain. For example, it is widely known these days that Essential Fatty Acids (i.e. ALA, EPA, DHA) found in fish oils are significant in the development of the immune system of infants, in decreasing mental issues like ADHD and depression, in reducing learning disabilities, and in reducing risks of coronary heart disease and cancer. In order for the body to properly absorb and utilize these EFAs, however, one must also ingest certain vitamins like A, C, E and some B vitamins (without also ingesting sugars, which can counteract the proper utilization of EFAs). Most foods, however, in the standard American diet these days have tons of sugar, have little to no nutritional value and are referred to by Michael Pollen in his book In Defense of Food as “Food-Like Substances”. These “foods” typically lack vital minerals and vitamins that provide balance in the brain and gut. Deficiencies in magnesium, for example, can manifest as anxiety, ADHD, muscle tension, teeth grinding, fidgeting, and racing thoughts.
These “food-like substances” our children consume daily are also usually loaded with artificial preservatives, sweeteners, and colorings. According to the BBC, there has been a call “for a Europe-wide ban on six artificial food colourings after research found a link with hyperactivity in children.” In America, although the FDA still approves artificial food dye, it may be a conflict of interest as the FDA fact sheet states that, “the law requires manufacturers to pay FDA a user fee for each pound of color the agency certifies.”
A large number of professionals and parents in this country have joined together with the Feingold Association (www.feingold.org) to support families in finding food and products without chemicals. Dr. Feingold was an allergist who is known for his work with salicylates. He discovered that this naturally occurring compound found in many fruits and vegetables can cause an excitotoxic effect on the brains of some children causing ADHD-like symptoms. Children with salicylates sensitivities can nearly eliminate these ADHD symptoms when they follow a strict salicylate-free diet. Many parents never suspect that these healthy foods (i.e. apples, almonds, grapes/raisins, tomatoes, citrus) are contributing to their child’s inattention, fidgeting, and argumentative nature. For a more complete list of foods containing salicylates please visit http://www.feingold.org/.
Feeding our children whole and nutritious foods, the way nature intended, is vital to the development of healthy neurological, gastrointestinal and immune function. Without this proper nutrition, we may see one or more of the following issues:
Low frustration tolerance
Sad / Lethargic
Takes things personally
Easily angered or offended
Alternating highs & lows
Overly silly/goofy (can’t get serious)
Unsatisfied most of the time
Lethargic / Tires easily
Sleep is restless (maybe teeth grinding or snoring)
Refusal to cooperate
Need to be told things repeatedly
Developmental delays (speech, toileting, fine motor)
Lacks interest in learning basics (letters/sounds, shapes/colors)
Struggles with comprehension
Difficulty sitting down & focusing on task
Easily frustrated with challenges
Needs a lot of repetition to fully learn
Heightening our awareness to these hidden factors in our children’s mood, behavior and learning and beginning to take baby steps towards decreasing their exposure to these External and Internal factors is a journey. Parents need information, patience (with their child and themselves), and support from others who are on the same journey. Society at large is already on the journey with “greener” products down every shopping isle. We can make changes for this next generation of children and Nourish Our Kids properly if we educate ourselves as parents and feel empowered to heal our kids…one meal at a time.
Contact the Mental Fitness Center at (248) 601-3111 and ask about our affordable home consultation program. Click here for the Mental Fitness Center website.