I was doing a podcast the other day (by the way, if you ever want to hear one of them, I post most of the shows I do on my website, and the host brought up the first book I ever wrote. It’s called Feed Your Kids Well. He told me it was his favorite of all my books. I had to agree that it’s a pretty important one (if I do say so myself). And, sadly, the information in it is needed now more than ever.
Having been an overweight child, I never want any kid to go through what I did. So perhaps I’m more sensitive to it than others might be. It’s certainly why the findings of a new study were so personally jarring to me. According to researchers, while the number of children with physical disabilities has decreased 12 percent over the course of a decade, the number who have disabilities related to a neuro-developmental or mental health condition has increased by 21 percent.
As of 2011, 6 million children in the U.S. were living with a disability. In this, the supposed “best” country in the world. We should be ashamed that any one of us could be comfortable sleeping at night knowing this is happening.
I was a decade ahead of my time discussing the effects of the Standard American Diet on kids. Now, we have progressed to epidemic mode, where American medicine is more than happy to respond with their “solutions.” And yet, nothing of true value is being done. This saddens and infuriates me at the same time.
But before I step up onto my soapbox, let’s get back to the study for a moment.
Those living in poverty continue to have the highest rates of disability, at 102.6 cases per 1,000 people. But you might be as surprised as I was to learn that middle class families actually saw the largest increase—28.4 percent during the 10-year period.
The researchers feel this dramatic increase is due to “less stigma associated with mental health conditions, more awareness of disorders by parents and physicians, and more willingness by physicians to diagnose conditions.”
And, to some degree, that might be true. But what bothers me about this blanket statement is that it completely discounts lifestyle. What they’re implying here is that the way we live our lives and these alarming statistics have basically no correlation.
They go on:
“Decades ago, a child might have had substantial cognitive disabilities and abnormal behaviors that didn’t get diagnosed as something specific.”
Now we call it autism, which is increasing at alarming rates. And then the researchers tread into even more dangerous territory…
“Diagnoses of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder are also on the rise, which may be pushing up the numbers because of school-related difficulties.”
Ugh. I can just hear big pharma’s rabid shouts to “Call in the meds!”
But if the so-called “experts” would take the time to look at the big picture where these childhood disabilities are concerned, they would see drugs aren’t the real answer.
I have no doubt that our abysmal diets and chronically toxic lifestyles—which, by the way, exist across the economic spectrum—are a primary cause of autism, ADHD, and many other “disabilities.” And addressing these aspects first (before reaching for the prescription pad) isn’t just a safer approach—it’s also healthier.
To start, eliminate gluten. Last year, I told you about a study that showed children with autism have a higher immune reactivity to gluten. And parents who eliminate gluten from their child’s diet frequently note dramatic improvements in symptoms. In fact, compared to all other complementary modalities for treating autism, eliminating gluten ranks highest in effectiveness.
Another important nutritional aspect to consider: Is your child getting the omega-3 fatty acids he or she needs for proper brain development and function? Specifically, kids need plenty of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). In fact, one study showed that just 600mg of DHA a day for four months, significantly improved both behavior and cognitive abilities (reading scores and working memory)in British kids. So if you give your kids nothing else, please give them a quality fish oil supplement (again, one that contains both DHA and EPA) along with vitamin D. I recommend a fish oil supplement (containing at least 800 mg of DHA and 400 mg of EPA) twice a day and 1,000-2,000 IU of vitamin D per day.
And then there’s the role of environmental toxins.Which may very well be the biggest smoking gun behind the recent increase in childhood mental and developmental disabilities.
And what makes this risk factor even more frightening is that these toxins are everywhere. Some of the most notable chemicals to keep your child away from include carbamates (chemicals found in bug sprays), polybromated biphenyl ethers (these exist in any toy or piece of furniture that’s been treated with a flame retardant), and tetrachloroethylene (commonly seen in popular dry-cleaning solvents). These are all associated with an increase in brain disorders and developmental problems in kids. Visit the Environmental Working Group’s website at www.ewg.org to get a better sense of what other toxins may be unwelcome guests in your home.
Yes, this new research uncovered a sad, disturbing trend. And, not surprisingly, the researchers led parents straight into the lion’s den (i.e. big pharma) for answers. But as you can see—there are safer, healthier options. And when it comes to our kids, isn’t that a better place to start?
“Mental Health Disabilities in Children Up 21% in 10 Years,” Medscape Medical News, 8/18/14 (http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/830060)
“Changing Trends of Childhood Disability, 2001–2011,” Pediatrics 2014;134:530-538