Tag Archives: learning disabilities

Pesticides and your child’s health

I am going to take a one day break from my series on solving childhood obesity to mention this study that I just read about.  The study shows that children exposed to small amounts of pesticides have a significantly higher risk of developing ADHD.

In my last blog I spoke about controlling chemical exposures to limit obesity in children.  This study reveals yet another reason you should be wary of what goes in your child’s mouth.  The study looked at pesticides that are used on fruits and vegetables to improve the yield of a crop.  Sure, the pesticides work because they stop insect infestation but at what cost.

The pesticides are in a class of compounds called organophosphates.  These organophosphates are neurotoxins (toxic to the nervous system).  They act by inactivating an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase (A-see-tal-kole-in-es-ter-ace).  By inactivating this enzyme in an insect they die.  The problem?  Humans also need this enzyme to function.

In the human brain the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (A-see-tal-kole-een) is used for many things.  It is essential for learning and memory.  Acetylcholinesterase is also present in the brain.  It is designed to breakdown excess acetycholine.  By inactivating this key enzyme you may have too much neurotransmitter causing detrimental side effects.

This recent study isn’t the first to link organophosphates to ADHD, but it is the first to look at exposure to the general population.  Other studies have looked at farming communities and workers.

Researchers measured the levels of pesticide byproducts in the urine of 1,139 children from across the United States. Children with above-average levels of one common byproduct had roughly twice the odds of getting a diagnosis of ADHD, according to the study, which appears in the journal Pediatrics.

Where is the exposure coming from?  The EPA has banned most organophosphates from general lawn and garden use so the exposure is likely our fruit and vegetable supply.  That’s a scary thought because these are supposed to be our healthiest options.

Detectable levels of pesticides are present in a large number of fruits and vegetables sold in the U.S., according to a 2008 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture cited in the study. In a representative sample of produce tested by the agency, 28 percent of frozen blueberries, 20 percent of celery, and 25 percent of strawberries contained traces of one type of organophosphate. Other types of organophosphates were found in 27 percent of green beans, 17 percent of peaches, and 8 percent of broccoli.

Nearly 95% of the children studied had detectable levels of organophosphate metabolites in their urine.  The children with the most had the highest rates of ADHD.

I always encourage my patients to eat organic or at the very least buy local.  Organic is best because it ensures that there is very little, if any, pesticide residue on your fruit or vegetable.  Buying local is also good because studies have shown that local produce also has less pesticide on it.

In my practice I see children with ADHD very frequently and our first step is always to clean up the diet and go as organic as possible.  In general parents are receptive to this which is good.  Most of the time, however, they get very little support from their family doctor or their child’s pediatrician.  In general I find, pediatricians don’t believe diet or chemical exposure has anything to do with ADHD.  It’s nice to finally have a study that will be published in their own trade journal that proves it does matter what a child eats.

The authors of the study suggest washing and peeling fruits and vegetables before you eat them.  I agree with the washing advice but don’t suggest you peel anything.  The skins of fruits and veggies is where some of the best nutrients are.  They are important to consume.  My advice is to buy organic and still wash the fruit or vegetable.  This will significantly reduce your risk of consuming organophosphates.

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Vision Therapy For ADHD.

I recently came across an article in the NY Times that speaks of using vision therapy to correct problems in children like learning disabilities and ADHD.  The article explores the divide that exists between what mainstream medical practitioners think and optometrists think when it comes to vision therapy.  Most of the health practitioners who practice vision therapy for leaning disabilities happen to be optometrists.

Behavioral optometry, as it is called when optometrists focus on these types of conditions, is a growing field within optometry.  This is similar to my own chiropractic profession in which regulated subspecialties like neurology, radiology and nutrition have emerged over the last 20 years or so.  Behavioral optometrists use eye exercises to improve conditions such as ADHD, Autism, learning disabilities and even neck pain.

Mainstream medicine, of course, finds this abhorrently offensive because it does not fit into their own paradigm of drug therapy.  To them, everything that can be known is known and anything ‘outside the box’ is without a doubt wrong and probably dangerous.  As a matter of fact, they will often tell you if you seek these treatments the practitioners offering it are ‘quacks’ and are out to steal your money.  This may sound harsh, but it is not an exaggeration.  I have heard it many times from my patients who were unsuccessfully lobbied by their primary care doctors to stop seeing me for their treatments.

Eye exercises along with other modalities is something that we use with regularity to treat children with a range of conditions that includes ADHD, Autism and other learning disabilities.  It is extremely successful.  Many doctors will say that there is no scientific research that shows it works.  Takes this quote for instance.

“It has no validity,” says Marshall Keys, a Rockville, Md., pediatric and adolescent ophthalmologist who is an outspoken critic of vision therapy.

Dr. Keys clearly has not picked up a neurology text in a very long time. The fact that they eyes and the brain act as virtually one entity is well known.  If they eyes do not work properly the brain cannot process information correctly.  If the brain is not working properly it cannot control the eyes.  The connection is easy to understand.  Try this simple demostration:

Stand up and put your feet together and with your eyes open look up at the ceiling and roll your head in several circles.  Now repeat this with your eyes closed.  It was much easier to stand and roll your head in circles with your eyes open wasn’t it?  You felt more stable with your eyes open.  Why?  Because you depend very heavily on your eyes for your sense of balance.  When you close your eyes you rely solely on the information coming from your inner ear and the receptors in the joints of your legs and spine.  Without the input from your eyes, your brain finds it slightly more difficult to process information.  Now extrapolate this to reading, writing, attention, etc.  Is it not easy to see that if you had an issue with your eyes or your brain that these tasks might be difficult to perform?

I do take exception to one thing in behavioral optometry.  They tend to attribute everything to a problem with the eyes.  While this is the case many times, just as many cases are problems in the brain.  I have seen many children with learning disabilities and sometimes the problem is with the eyes and sometimes it’s in the brain.  The treatments, however, are similar.  You must retrain the eyes or the brain.  To do so eye exercises, light therapy, sound therapy, vestibular therapy, cognitive visualization and balance exercises are applied to name a few.  This, when applied correctly and specifically, corrects the underlying issue.  It is really very amazing.

The brain is an amazing environment, but it is not perfect.  It makes mistakes and can under function just like other parts of the body.  When this happens it needs to be rehabilitated.  This rehabilitation is a simple process, but often requires months to be effective.  This is because of the very nature of the brain.  While it is malleable, it resists change.  A perfect example is trying to master a new skill.  You can’t master it overnight.  It takes many hours of repetition before the skill has been mastered.  Rehabilitating the brain is similar.  Exercises must be done over and over again in order to reap the rewards and see benefit in the end.  People are often frustrated at the pace of therapy, but are extremely pleased with the overall results.  You wouldn’t expect to be able to run a marathon after training for a month would you? The brain is very similar to a muscle.  It must be trained and maintained to function at its very best.  When it isn’t working well, training is the only way to fix it.

If you have a child that is having trouble in school have someone who is trained in functional neurology examine them.  A great website with a list of doctors is www.acnb.org.  They have a doctor locator in which you can put your address and zip code in and find all of the doctors within a defined radius.  If you ask your pediatrician for advice, your child will end up on drugs that have dangerous, even lethal side effects with no prospect of producing any permanent benefits.  Functional brain rehabilitation is the only way to permanently change the function of a child’s brain.

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Brain Games

I recently came across a cool website.  The website, http://www.lumosity.com, has free games that can be used to keep your brain sharp.  They have games for processing speed, memory, attention, flexibility and problem solving.  Playing just a few games a day can keep your brain sharp and ready to go!

New scientific research shows that we can improve the health and function of our brains with the right mental workouts. Lumosity is designed by some of the leading experts in neuroscience and cognitive psychology from Stanford and UCSF. It was shown to improve basic cognitive functions in randomized, controlled clinical trials.

To play, you will need to create an account, but it’s free.  Simply create an account and have access to dozens of games that will improve your brain function.  Have an iPhone?  They have an app that you can download so you can take your favorite games with you and train on the go.

Click here to visit their site

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