Kids are our most precious resource. Yet, they have become a dumping ground for more than 80,000 toxic chemicals—heavy metals, food preservatives and antibiotics. There is an alarming rise in childhood asthma, allergies, immune system disorders, ADHD, obesity, and diabetes. The result is the current generation of kids may not live longer than their parents.
Diabesity is the new term for the rise of diabetes in an overweight population. In 2010, 66 percent of adults are overweight or obese; 16 percent of children and adolescents are overweight and 34 percent are at risk. By 2015, 75 percent of adults will be overweight because the overweight children of today will be the obese adults of tomorrow. Being overweight is the number one "cause" of diabetes.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is labeled a mental disorder that develops in children. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that between three percent and five percent of preschool and school-age children have ADHD. That's at least two million children in the U.S. or one in twenty kids.
I think that's an underestimate. When I consult with parents of ADHD kids, they tell me that often at least one-third of their child's class is on Ritalin or other ADHD medication. One of my clients in New York taught an after school program for kids. Shockingly 11 of the 12 students were on Ritalin. So, I'm positive the NIH numbers are too low.
Who Is to Blame?
Both parents working and the increasing number of broken families have led to social disruption on a broad scale. Parents have no time to cook real meals for their children. Fast food has become the diet of choice. Kids spend much of their non-school time wired—texting, on cell phones, watching TV, playing video games and on the Internet. Physical activities are not encouraged at school or by parents because that requires more supervision that sitting over a Game Boy.
Antibiotics and ADHD
Antibiotics are an overlooked cause of behavioral changes in kids. Antibiotics are overused for kid's ear infections as well as colds and flus. Antibiotics can aggravate and even cause hyperactivity. They upset the stomach and intestines and their toxic by-products can irritate the brain.
Antibiotics cause yeast overgrowth. They kill off good and bad bacteria so yeast leap into the vacuum created. Yeast that overgrows their territory becomes invasive. Their toxic waste products number about 178 and they irritate the intestinal lining to the point of causing a "leaky gut." Undigested food molecules and yeast toxins flow freely through a leaky gut into the blood stream causing allergic reactions.
Dr. William Shaw at The Great Plains Laboratory finds high levels of toxic by-products of yeast and harmful bacteria in the urine samples of children with ADHD. These results indicate an overgrowth of these microorganisms in the digestive tract. Good bacteria produce digestive enzymes and certain vitamins, police harmful microorganisms when they are destroyed; a critical metabolic and defense system in the body is lost.
Medicating Symptoms of a Bad Diet
For many parents around the country, Ritalin has become a stipulation for their children continuing in school. Social agencies threaten: "If you don't allow us to prescribe Ritalin for your ADHD child, we may decide that you are an unfit parent. We may decide to take your child away. This drugging of children is fueled by teachers, principals, and school counselors, none of whom have medical training. Even so, medicine is not the answer. ADHD is an assumption not a proven condition.
Ritalin Side Effects
In The International Journal of the Addictions, Richard Scaarnati wrote, An Outline of Hazardous Side Effects of Ritalin. It's a shocking list of symptoms that we are creating in our children in order to force them to conform.
- Paranoid delusions
- Paranoid psychosis
- Hypomanic and manic symptoms
- Activation of psychotic symptoms
- Toxic psychosis
- Visual hallucinations
- Auditory hallucinations
- Can surpass LSD in producing bizarre experiences
- Effects pathological thought processes
- Extreme withdrawal
- Terrified affect
- Amphetamine-like psychosis
- Psychic dependence
- High-abuse potential
- Decreased REM sleep
- When used with antidepressants one may see dangerous reactions including hypertension, seizures and hypothermia Convulsions
- Brain damage may be seen with amphetamine abuse
According to Dr. Peter Breggin in Talking Back to Ritalin. "Stimulants such as Ritalin and amphetamine... have grossly harmful impacts on the brain—reducing overall blood flow, disturbing glucose metabolism, and possibly causing permanent shrinkage or atrophy of the brain."
Robert Whitaker delivers the following wake-up call in Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America (2010).
"...the rise of juvenile bipolar illness in this country...appears in lockstep with the prescribing of stimulants for ADHD and antidepressants for depression. ¡Konce psychiatrists started putting "hyperactive" children on Ritalin, they started to see pre-pubertal children with manic symptoms. Same thing happened when psychiatrists started prescribing antidepressants to children and teenagers....the number of children and teenagers that have ended up "bipolar" after being treated with a stimulant or an antidepressant is now well over one million."
The Failure of Our Diet
A child sees an estimated 10,000 junk food commercials per year. Billions of dollars of advertising messages promote sugar-coated cereal, liquid candy (sodas) and empty calorie junk food. The bias in research is rampant. When the food industry funds its own research, invariably the food is declared healthy. Soy and corn, two incredibly allergenic foods, are cheap commodities subsidized by the government. They are largely genetically engineered (GMO) and have become the basic foods in the school lunch program and in the cattle industry.
My advice is to eliminate foods that are toxic, GMO, high caloric and not nutritious. Just consider the standard kids' diet.
- Commercial hot dogs contain carcinogenic nitrates, GMO soy, and animal waste products.
- Diet products are sweetened with aspartame, which contains wood alcohol (causing blindness) and two powerful neurotransmitters.
- Deep fried foods create trans fats and are carcinogenic.
- Ketchup has more sugar than tomatoes!
What Can You Offer Instead
- Nitrate free hot dogs.
- Drinks and products sweetened with stevia and xylitol.
- Baked fried potatoes and sweet potatoes.
- Ketchup sweetened with xylitol.
- And introduce kids to fruits and vegetables and home cooked meals.
Sidelining Allergies and Yeast
Eliminate trigger foods that are allergenic and that contribute to yeast overgrowth. The foods that kids are most reactive to are the foods most craved and most frequently eaten.
- Reduce sugar, wheat and diary. These foods fuel yeast growth in the body.
- Substitute fruit for candy and processed foods with high concentrations of sugar.
- Put your kid on an avoidance-and-challenge diet to find out what he's allergic to.
The Junk Food Experiment
If your child is not easily convinced he should eat a better diet, then offer him the "junk food experiment." Here's how it goes. Have him avoid all junk food and sugar for six days and on the seventh day, he can eat all he wants. Make it a Saturday so he can recover on Sunday. Kids are usually convinced to do the experiment because they get excited about the prize on day seven.
Most kids actually feel better, sleep better and are in a better mood on days four to six. On days one to three they can be a bit gnarly and irritable as they go through withdrawal. Then on day seven they think they've hit the jackpot. They wolf down candy, ice cream, pizza, soda and cookies like they're going out of style. But it's not long before they start to feel the effects. Headaches, nausea, wooziness, sluggishness or hyper behavior are the norm. That's when kids realize on their own what these foods do to them. And they often make their own decision to cut back.
Repopulate the intestines with billions of beneficial bacteria that will also push out the bad guys. Use lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidis and bulgarus with guaranteed two to ten billion colonies per capsule at the expiry date. Have children take them without food an hour away from meals. Probiotics are usually tasteless and can be mixed in an ounce of water if your child can't swallow capsules.
Use anti-fungal supplements to counteract yeast overgrowth. Dr. Leo Galland suggests either oregano oil or grapefruit seed extract. Add two drops of oregano oil to juice or food daily. This is a very small amount but sufficient for children.
Grapefruit seed extract can be taken as a liquid or a capsule. The liquid is bitter and should be mixed into food or juice. According to Dr. Galland, you can use the equivalent of about 250 mg twice a day for a six-year-old, and double that amount for a 12-year-old. Another beneficial yeast treatment is garlic. Children can take as much as an adult. Open the capsule, and mix the contents into their food.
My Recommendations for Children's Supplements
Try to find the following in a multiple. You can check my website Resources link for my current supplement recommendations for kids.
- Magnesium: 200 mg per day
- Calcium in balance with magnesium: 200 mg per day
- Zinc: two-five mg per day
- Essential fatty acids: EPA and DHA: 150—200 mg per day of each
- B vitamins in methylated form
- Vitamin C: 200 mg per day
- RDA of Vit A, Vit D, Vit E and trace minerals
What's the Best Form of Supplements?
Non chewable: Gummy vitamins stick to the teeth and can cause cavities. A liquid form of supplements is best absorbed. The sweeteners should be non-sucrose, like stevia, organic agave and xylitol.
With or Without Ritalin
Diet, probiotics and supplements can be initiated even if your child is taking Ritalin. However, if the Ritalin has been working, parents won't know if there is a benefit from the natural approach until the drug is temporarily discontinued, such as over a weekend or vacation. Then you can assess the effectiveness of the program. If it hasn't been working then the benefits can come within a week to a month.
When you see a change, consult your pediatrician about reducing or eliminating Ritalin. If your child really seems to be doing well, most pediatricians should be happy to agree to a trial period without Ritalin.
What to Expect
Whether you're trying to eliminate asthma, allergies, immune system disorders, ADHD, obesity, and prevent diabetes my brief outline for diet, probiotics and supplements can greatly improve your children's health and behavior.
Progress is cumulative. You may see changes within four to seven days, or it may take a month. Be patient and if you don't think this approach is enough consult a knowledgeable health professional who will look for underlying conditions such as low thyroid, heavy metal toxicity or celiac disease.
Dr. Carolyn Dean is a medical doctor and naturopathic doctor. She has been in the forefront of the natural medicine revolution for over 30 years. Dr. Dean is the author/coauthor of 20 health books (print and eBooks). Her latest book is called Kids Health available in September 2010. Dr. Dean has a free newsletter and a valuable online wellness program called Future Health Now! at www.drcarolyndean.com. Dr. Dean is also available to assist individuals with all types of illness at any stage or degree of severity through her Telephone Wellness Consulting practice.