I’m back!

I have taken a long break from writing posts for my blog or actually replying to comments. I apologize for the long delay for some of you on your questions/comments. As you know, even the strongest warrior moms need a break…so I took one. I’m replying to comments each day and hope to be caught up by the end of the week. Next week I hope to start writing again. Stay tuned to hear about our experience with yeast and leaky gut issues (yet again!).  I’m really into whole foods and diet changes, so look for posts about that and how to incorporate it into your child’s diet.

Cheers!

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ADHD: Prescription Drugs or Not?!

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I’ve been listening to so many stories from friends, acquaintances, and strangers that have experienced their child’s school teacher/psychologist/administrators either hint at or outright suggest their child be put on prescribed meds for their ADHD/autistic behaviors. I personally have felt the constant pressure that I should do more for my kids and the “he just doesn’t focus and that is his main problem” statements during IEP meetings or parent/teacher conferences.

Over the years I have presented my natural approach to my sons’ school and have also received tremendous support. But it seems lately with the school budget cuts, and teachers/staff stress over increased classroom sizes that the “quick fix” of ADHD drugs seems to be the popular method of controlling the kids in the classroom. I have always said that the decision to put any child on prescription medications is a personal family choice. One that should not be made without careful consideration as to the ramifications, side affects, and health and well being of the child. This is not something that others should put upon parents whether guilting them into it, or painting a scenario that “he just isn’t working at his full potential”.

One approach that helps kids with ADHD and autism (all kids for that matter) is physical exercise EVERY day. Good, aerobic, physical activity. School budget cuts have forced schools to eliminate regular P.E. classes at the elementary school level, and team sports in middle school at a time when children and adolescents need daily physical activity to help them grow and learn. Thanks to the advances in technology, kids now have more electronic devices to occupy their free time instead of going outside to run, bike, skateboard, and play. Parents seem to be at a loss for what to do for their child and prescription meds are a seemingly sensible solution.

What prompted me to write about this is an article I read today about how low-income kids are being prescribed ADHD meds to boost academic performance. I know this sound like an outrage and “how can anyone do that?!” To me it’s really no different than kids given this for ADHD or autism. Unless a family has fully tried all methods of helping their child with natural approaches like a healthy, organic diet, addressing food allergies, supplements, getting the right amount of sleep and enough daily exercise, just to name a few, then perhaps researching how prescription meds can help the child is in order. More often than not, the natural approach is not taken. Most of the time I see this because the parents don’t even know they had other options available to them besides prescription drugs. Thanks to their doctor and the pharmaceutical industry capitalizing on today’s fast-paced, quick fix mindset of overworked, overextended, stressed out families, prescription medication for ADHD is the go to solution.

http://news.yahoo.com/medication-prescribed-low-income-kids-boost-academic-performance-133319856.html

The goal of my blog is to help educate parents that turn to their computer’s search engine for answers or ways to help their child. The results I’ve seen in helping my own children merits sharing and the extensive research I’ve done can help others to know that there are alternatives to prescription drugs for their child. I am humbled each and every day by the comments of parents and individuals that I’ve helped through this blog. Please spread the word. Biomedical approach works, heals, and offers a lifetime of health!

Sugar. Oh how I (heart) thee!

Lemon Shortbread Heart Cookies

Lemon Shortbread Cookies photo by Craig Cutler

This Valentine’s Day I must confess my secret love affair. Yes, you guessed correct…it’s with sugar.  I love sugar! All foods taste yummier with sugar.  Whether it’s sugar in my coffee, sugar in my pastries, sugar in my yogurt, sugar in my, well, candy…I crave sugar! Sugar is delightful and never fails to lift my spirits. It gives me that extra energy at the end of a long day. When I’m bored it entertains me with its sweet kiss on my lips. When I’m sad it consoles me better than any therapist. When I’m PMSing it saves me and others around me! (sigh) But my love affair with sugar is coming to an end.

I have finally decided that I must give up this addiction and only taste sugar’s sweet delight occasionally. Not every day. How in the world and I am going to do this? Better yet, why?!

Well, I have always known that sugar is bad for my health. But aren’t all addictions bad for you in some way? I know that in order to get fit and healthy, I must conquer my addiction to sugar. I know it can be done. I have friends that actually don’t eat it at all. I know! Sounds insane, but apparently it can be done and you do survive. So they’ve told me.

In the process of convincing others how sugar affects our health, perhaps I’ll see the benefit in going through my (painful) sugar withdrawals and know that better health awaits me.  First let’s begin with how ubiquitous sugar is in our diet. It’s not going to be easy to give it up, unless I eat mostly freshly prepared meals and snacks. I’ll have to be strong when I bake chocolate chip cookies for my sons and not have any. (groan)

Sugar is in ketchup, yogurt, cereals, breads, brownies (seriously?! I thought it was just chocolate), instant oatmeal, pancake mix, and most conventionally package good foods/snacks. I’m talking about sugar, not high-fructose corn syrup. HFCS does not exist in my diet. But the sad thing is you can’t completely avoid all sugars because they are in fruit in the form of fructose. So I will have to get my sugar high from my fruits. (I wonder if anyone ever struggles with strawberry addiction.)

And then to top it all off, your body converts carbohydrates to sugar! What’s up with that?!  Whole wheat bread, potatoes, white rice…all gets converted to glucose and stored as FAT. Not fair! All the yummy things to eat in life are bad for you…unless you eat them in MODERATION. That’s the key.

You may wonder just how is sugar addicting. Well, when you eat sugar it triggers dopamine, (a neurotransmitter and neurohoromone in the brain) which is our “pleasure” hormone. What brain wouldn’t like that feeling? So of course you crave it more. I was horrified to learn that heroine, morphine and sugar all trigger the same pleasure centers in the brain! This is when I learned I was an addict. And one of the first steps in conquering any addiction is knowledge, then acceptance. So is depression the next step because all the pleasure sensors in my brain will wither up and die without sugar giving them that instant gratification on a regular basis?!

Where do I begin? Well, I’ve already started by not putting sugar in my morning coffee (latte). I use Organic Blue Agave Nectar. It has a much lower glycemic index. And that’s the key in keeping your blood sugar level and staving off diabetes and other chronic diseases. If you’re not familiar with the glycemic indices of foods, check out http://www.glycemicindex.com and learn more. Here’s a quote directly from their website.

The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 according to the extent to which they raise blood sugar levels after eating. Foods with a high GI are those which are rapidly digested and absorbed and result in marked fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Low-GI foods, by virtue of their slow digestion and absorption, produce gradual rises in blood sugar and insulin levels, and have proven benefits for health. Low GI diets have been shown to improve both glucose and lipid levels in people with diabetes (type 1 and type 2). They have benefits for weight control because they help control appetite and delay hunger. Low GI diets also reduce insulin levels and insulin resistance.

Next, I’m going to have to give up ice-cream…oh the horror! I know there is not one redeeming health quality of ice-cream, but it’s just so, um, delicious. Better yet, I’m going to have to replace my craving with something that will satisfy me and help my body get through “detox”. Yes, when you eliminate sugar from your diet, your body goes through detox. I’m told that I might experience feeling lightheaded, headaches, lack of energy (duh!), skin itching/rash/pimples, mood disorders (another duh!) and intense cravings. But apparently this should only last 3-4 weeks. That makes me feel better. (note sarcasm) I have to have incredible self-control for a month. Then it gets easier.

There are two major health reasons that I want to eliminate sugar from my diet. The first is that sugar feeds yeast in the gut.  When yeast takes over your gastrointestinal tract, it creates immune dysfunction and gastrointestinal distress. Yeast lives and feed off of sugar and foods that convert to sugar. Yeast is a huge biomedical factor in autism and ADHD and its related behaviors in children. The second health reason is cancer. Sugar feeds cancer cells and helps them grow and proliferate in your body. Cancer cells thrive on cell inflammation and sugar/glucose promotes inflammation. This is the one step that I’ve failed miserably at when following the recommendations of “The Anti-Cancer Diet” book by David Servan-Schreiber. I know, I’m an addict and I need to acknowledge that fact. But still.

So I’m going to keep reminding myself that I am giving up sugar for my health and my children. Next step is to stock up on healthy snacking alternatives like veggies, fruit and nuts. I’m going to package them up in my BPA-free snack bags and take them with me wherever I go. When I’m feeling low-energy, they will give me that lift I usually seek from sugar. If anyone has any tips on how to overcome sugar addiction, I welcome them! Oh, and Happy (sugar-free) Valentine’s Day.

Essential Fatty Acids and Why We Need Them

Omega-3 and omega-6 are considered “essential fatty acids” (EFA) because our bodies need them for building healthy cells, and maintaining nerve and brain function. Our bodies can’t produce EFAs, so our only source is from food. This is one area where your diet will greatly affect the balance of omega-3 vs. omega-6 and your overall health. Essential fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats that can protect us from diseases likes type-2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, heart disease and age-related brain decline.

Omega-6 fatty acids primarily comes in the form of linoleic acid from plant oils. The main source that the western diet provides these are in the form of corn oil, soybean oil, and sunflower oil. But the healthier source of omega-6 should come from seeds and nuts. We really should only be getting 5%-10% of our food calories from omega-6 fatty acids in our diet.

Omega-3 fatty acids come from fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and tuna. Unfortunately, with our polluted oceans, tuna and mackerel contain unsafe levels of mercury, and other contaminates, while salmon is only best as wild caught Alaskan salmon. There are other sources such as flaxseed, walnuts and green leafy vegetables. Flaxseed oil, for example, contains about 55% omega-3 fats. Canola oil has about 10%.

All of these foods are healthy choices, but there’s still some debate about whether they have all the benefits of fish oil. The reason: the omega-3 in flax, canola, walnuts, and other vegetable sources are in the form of alpha linoleic acid, or ALA. Although the body can convert some ALA to EPA and DHA, the two forms of omega-3 fats with proven heart protection benefits, it’s not clear how much is converted. Diets high in omega-6 fats interfere with the conversion of ALA to DHA in omega-3s.  As you age that conversion becomes even more inefficient, at a time when your brain and nerves really need the protective benefits from EPA and DHA.

Omega-6 fatty acids compete with omega-3 in the body, so the ratio of these two forms of polyunsaturated fats is very important. We need more omega-3 in a ratio of 1:1 to 1:4 (omega-6:omega-3).  With all the fast food, prepared convenient foods and packaged foods in the America diet, this ratio is way off since it’s flooded with omega-6 fatty acids in the form of vegetable oils such as corn and safflower oil.

So if you don’t eat fish, or want to limit the amount you eat due to exposure to toxins, a supplement is recommended in the form of omega-3 that is high in DHA.

BENEFITS OF EFAs

Essential Fatty Acids, particularly Omega-3s (high in DHA) supports brain function with focus, concentration and mood. About two-thirds of the brain is composed of fats. Myelin, the protective sheath that covers communicating neurons, is composed of 30% protein and 70% fat. DHA reduces oxidative stress, enhances learning and memory, and is the most abundant omega-3 fatty acid in cell membranes within the brain. Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory and the primary building material for cell membranes, which let nutrients in and toxins out.

  • Our bodies cannot produce Omega fatty acids, so we must get them through our diet and supplementation.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids are utilized by our eyes, brain, heart, joints, digestive system and many other tissues and systems.
  • Omega-3 improves your ability to concentrate as well as your energy level.
  • Omega-3s in the form of DHA are beneficial to kids and adults with ADHD or autism.
  • Through it’s anti-inflammatory effects, cod liver oil is a promising treatment for arthritis sufferers.
  • The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oils keep platelets in the blood from sticking together, which reduces blood clotting and lowers the risk for heart attacks. They may also provide protection by reducing inflammation in the blood vessels.
  • Omega-3s help with mood disorders, such as depression.
  • Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory and omega-6s are pro-inflammatory. Diseases like heart disease, cancer, type-2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s thrive on cell inflammation. Diets rich in omega-3s reduce inflammation and disease risk.
  • Grass-fed cattle are higher in omega-3s vs. omega-6s.  Conventional beef is fed diets high in omega-6s with grains like corn and soybeans.  Organic beef doesn’t necessarily mean they are grass-fed, which is the type of beef we should be consuming. It just means the grains they are fed are organically grown.

Our family has reduced our intake of omega-6s and eat a diet richer in omega-3s, yet we still take a dietary supplement of omega-3 fatty acids in the form of DHA.  Remember, our bodies may not be efficient at converting enough of the ALA (from EFAs) to DHA.

An informative source with a great list of FAQs on this subject is the DHA/EPA Omega-3 Institute.

http://www.dhaomega3.org/

 

Is it OK to eat that?!

Lately it seems that we keep hearing about produce or meat recalls due to one of the many types of bacterial contamination.  Or that lead, antimony or mercury is found in unsafe quantities in our kid’s juice. Our ocean’s are polluted and the fish aren’t safe to eat. Tap water is not a viable option for the most part due to chlorine, flouride, and numerous other contaminates that leach into the supply. You know, growing your own garden, raising farm animals and digging a well is about your best option these days…unless you live in a populated city like Los Angeles. 

We live is such an area and I’m constantly having to research what foods are not only healthy for our bodies, but which ones to look out for that are not. I recently saw another article on this subject by Prevention Magazine and it summed up some of the most important foods to eat “clean” or avoid altogether. Here is a summary of their article that lists seven foods to avoid:

  1. Canned tomatoes. The lining of the cans they come packaged in contain bisphenol-A (BPA) and the acidity of the tomatoes cause it to leach into the food. BPA is a synthetic hormone that wreaks havoc in the human body. Can’t live without your canned tomatoes? Suggestion: buy them in glass containers or grow your own.
  2. Corn-fed beef. Not sure if you know this or not, but cattle evolved from eating grass, not grains. They don’t graze on corn fields or soybean plants. It’s grass…green, unfertilized, grass. Grass fed beef is richer in the good omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins E, A and minerals. Corn-fed beef is high in omega-6 which is pro-inflammatory and proven to increase cancer, diabetes, and heart disease risks. Suggestion: buy grass fed beef and if it’s too costly, eliminate it from your diet. You’ll do just fine without it.
  3. Microwave popcorn. This should be a no-brainer, but it’s not for a lot of people. We have really gotten lazy and dependent on instant gratification. At least that’s what packaged food manufacturers think of us. Chemicals line the bag (shocker!) vaporize and migrate into the popcorn as it heats and pops. These chemicals stay in your body and accumulate there. Another factor that contributes to cancer risks. Suggestion: pop your own on the stove top in a pot, the old fashioned way. Or buy an air popper. It’s infinitely less expensive and you can control how much salt and butter to put on it.
  4. Non-organic potatoes. Root vegetables absorb pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides that are in the soil. Potatoes are treated with fungicides while growing then sprayed with herbicides after harvested. If potato farmers won’t eat conventionally grown potatoes they grow and sell themselves, then you know it’s bad. Suggestion: buy organic. Don’t compromise on this one. Washing the potato does not remove the chemicals that absorb into the flesh.
  5. Farmed salmon. Atlantic salmon is farmed in crammed pens and fed soy, antibiotics, hormones and dye to make it’s sick flesh pink. There are high levels of antibiotics, pesticides and other contaminates in the fish that outweigh the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. Suggestion: buy wild, fresh, Alaskan salmon when in season. When it’s not, buy canned salmon that is from wild Alaskan salmon.
  6. Milk produced with artificial hormones. Avoid all dairy, not just milk that is made from cattle treated with the recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST). These hormones increase milk production in cattle, are passed on into the milk and leads to higher levels of a hormone called insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) in milk. In humans, high levels of IGF-1 increases risks of breast, colon, and prostate cancers. It’s pro-inflammatory, and cell inflamation feeds cancer growth. Suggestion: buy milk and dairy with the label rBGH/rBST free or organic milk. A lot of dairy farmers produce milk without these hormones, so it’s easy to find.
  7. Conventional apples. Yes, that means any apple that is not organically grown. It’s one of the “dirtiest” fruits grown. The high level of pesticides are sprayed on them due to their inability to develop a resistance to pests. Recent studies have shown that higher level of pesticides in children contributes to ADHD and Parkinson’s disease as adults. Suggestion: buy only organic apples and applesauce. The phrase “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” was coined long before we grew pesticide laden fruit.

We need to take care of our health by first feeding our bodies good, healthy foods that aren’t artificially produced or poisoned with chemicals. Today’s consumer need to be aware of the dangers in certain food supplies and stay educated in making good food choices. We can’t leave our health and well-being up to the food manufactures and FDA. They are not looking out for our best interest. Only you can do that for you and your family.

To read the extended article referenced above, click on this link:

http://www.foxnews.com/health/2011/12/01/7-foods-should-never-eat/?intcmp=obinsite

What is Normal?

I haven’t written a post in a while and thought about which topic to start with first. But I’m thinking an update on all the good things that have happened over the past several months is deserved. Life has been pretty good, busy and somewhat “normal”. But what is normal in the life of a family overcoming autism?

Well, for starters, both my sons are growing like weeds. I can’t keep enough food in the house, let alone in their stomachs.  My preteen son eats more than both my husband and I combined. His shoe size is a men’s 10 and is already 5’6″ at age 12.  I think I’m actually spending more money on groceries and his shoes each month than vitamin supplements. And that’s a lot!

My younger son with autism went through 35 treatments (dives) of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) this past summer. It was tough to keep up the treatments at a facility that was an hour drive away from home (each way). We saw immediate gains after the first 10-15 dives. His expressive language was soaring and his eye contact rocked! We slowly saw improvements come gradually during the remaining dives. His gut was improving and bacteria died off.  Focus, attention and eagerness to have friends come over for play dates all improved. We continue to see steady improvement each month. It’s very gradual and he just seems to do better and better each week. HBOT stimulates the growth of new blood vessels and increases blood vessel diameter which improves circulation to damaged organs (his brain). This process continues for up to six months once treatment is stopped.
I am proud to announce that both of my boys are now first degree black belts in Taekwondo! It is such a huge accomplishment for them, especially for my son with autism. He had to learn to focus, stay at attention, do numerous kicks, blocks, punches and all eight Taekwondo forms. Each form has 18 steps in them which must be done in sequence. He also had to break boards with punches/kicks five times during testing. Not an easy thing for a child that started classes three years ago, with lack of attention, focus and just plain disobedience to his Taekwondo Master. He also feared board breaking, mostly due to the sound it made. He is doing awesome in class now and a lot of the parents keep telling me what a different boy he is today, verses when he began. I could tell they wanted to say that he seemed “normal” now, but held back because that would be an odd thing to say.

So what is normal in the life of a family overcoming autism? My boys argue over inane matters, are competitive with each other, vie for their parents attention, go to school, do homework, have friends and have overcome a lot in the past four years. Our normal may be a lot different from other families. Autism will forever touch our lives. We deal with it each and every day. Some days we see it more than others…sometimes not at all.

Artificial Food Coloring Is Evil (Part 2)

The U.S. Food & Drug Agency (FDA) is holding hearings over the next two days on artificial food coloring in our food supply and the effect it has on children with ADHD. They have asked for a panel of experts to present evidence of a link between these artificial dyes in food and ADHD in kids, with possible recommendations on policy changes like warning labels on food. Believe me, I’m pleased to see the attention it is getting which means more parents are learning about the harmful effects of artificial food colors. Here are the links to some of the mainstream media coverage of it.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/30/health/policy/30fda.html

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704471904576228550619608050.html

http://www.usnews.com/mobile/articles_mobile/fda-panel-examines-possible-links-between-food-dyes-adhd

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/food-dyes-hyperactivity/story?id=13221478

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-rainbow-of-food-dyes-in-our-grocery-aisles-has-a-dark-side/2011/03/21/AFyIwaYB_story.html

http://healthland.time.com/2011/03/28/does-food-dye-make-kids-hyper-an-fda-panel-will-investigate/

I am not holding my breath that the FDA will actually ban the dyes, in fact I know they won’t. Maybe a warning label, but I doubt it would be stern enough to draw any attention from unsuspecting consumers. Yes, I’m cynical when it comes to our FDA actually doing something that is good for us, the consumer. They lean more toward protecting the food and drug manufacturers that will put a lot of money against any initiative to ban or label their products with artificial dyes. After all, their future job security at these consumer packaged goods companies are at risk if they do their present job at the FDA correctly. Yes, the job exchange program between food and drug manufacturers and our FDA and CDC happens all the time…and it’s been going on for years.

All that really needs to be done is have some of the high level decision makers at the FDA feed their kids a diet filled with these toxic food dyes for two days and monitor their behavior at home and school. Then take them completely off the dyes for a few days and see the dramatic difference. And it does not ONLY affect kids with “sensitivities” like some media outlets are reporting. You don’t have to have ADHD or autism to be affected by these dyes. Read my original post to learn more about them and how they are manufactured.

https://healingautismandadhd.wordpress.com/2010/02/12/artificial-food-coloring-is-evil/

I’m sure if food and drug manufacturers do have to put a disclaimer on their packaging we will see some really awful television ads renaming their artificial food dyes to something like “natural colorful additives”.  You may think I’m being sarcastic, but have you heard how the Corn Refiners Association (corn farming industry) has renamed High Fructose Corn Syrup to “Corn Sugar”?  And they even have the audacity to say that corn sugar is handled the same by your body as sugar or honey. HA!  You can read just how our body processes that artificial sweetener in my post below. This deceptive marketing is tolerated by our FDA.  Enough said.

https://healingautismandadhd.wordpress.com/2010/02/17/just-say-no-to-high-fructose-corn-syrup/

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