What About Neurofeedback Instead Of Drugs?

When our son was diagnosed with ADHD approximately four years ago, we looked into a drug free treatment for it and stumbled upon neurofeedback (NFB). We never did take the pharmaceutical route, but it wasn’t until this past January (four years later) that we finally jumped in feet first and committed to the neurofeedback for our son. He was 10 yrs old. Our son had difficulty focusing, self-initiation of work, emotional and impulse control, incomplete classwork, couldn’t take notes during lectures, or do his homework without my constant nagging, prodding and watchful eye.

Oh, how I wished we had saved him years of frustration, poor self-esteem, forgetfulness and difficulty with school and homework by doing this back when he was 7 yrs. old.  It is by far the most effective treatment for ADD/ADHD I have ever experienced. We’ve done biomedical treatments for him which has eliminated a lot of symptoms, but his brain neurons needed more help. I highly recommend incorporating biomeds or at the bare minimum, a clean diet with neurofeedback.

The brain is going to need all the support it can get and the first thing you should do before starting NFB is to change the diet. By eating fruit and veggies with less pesticides, no artificial dyes/flavors/preservatives, eliminating msg, nitrites and sulfites. Yes, that means cut out Gatorade, Flamin Hot Cheetos, Skittles, Beef Jerky, cured meats and add in whole grains, lean protein, fruits and vegetables. Oh the horror! Trust me, the pay off is well worth the pain of denying a 9 yr. old his request to stop at 7Eleven for his favorite junk food run.

What is Neurofeedback?

Neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback. In biofeedback, information about some part of your body is fed back to you, and you are able to gain control over yourself in a way previously unavailable.

In neurofeedback the information that is fed back to you is EEG (electroencephalogram) data read by sensors placed on your head. Very tiny amounts of electric energy are read and processed by electronic and computer equipment to provide you with moment by moment information about your brain activity.

Brain cells communicate with one another, in part, through a constant storm of electrical impulses. Their patterns show up on an electroencephalogram, or EEG, as brain waves with different frequencies. NFB practitioners first create a “brain map”, the initial EEG readings on their patient to serve as a guide for treatment.

Excessive fast or slow activity is associated with brain dysregulation, and a variety of clinical symptoms.  For example, my son’s EEG showed high Theta waves which are responsible for our daydream state. That explained why he “zoned” out in class and daydreamed, lacked focus and attention. The EEG can show which areas of the brain have high or low wave frequency, or when parts of the brain aren’t communicating adequately with other parts.  Training changes in that activity helps improve self-regulation.

This activity is shown to the neurofeedback therapist as wave patterns on a computer screen, and to patients as visual graphics–ranging from cars racing one another to rapidly changing side by side puzzles. The NFB practitioner will help the patient speed up or slow down the brain waves. The goal is explained to the patient (make one car go faster than the other), and the brain learns how to make that happen without the person knowing how they do it. A sound also beeps when the brain behaves as desired, which helps. Simply wanting to hear the beeps seems to be enough to get the brain to cooperate. This is known as operant conditioning, which forms an association between a behavior and a consequence.

Why do neurofeedback?

When you or your child has difficulty paying attention, or has feelings of depression or anxiety, or perhaps can’t stop thinking about something, is it a psychological or a physiological problem?

Utilizing neurofeedback to train the brain can change these problems.  This is a short list of what NFB can improve:

  • alertness
  • attention
  • emotional regulation
  • behavior
  • cognitive function and mental flexibility

Some of the conditions NFB is used to treat are:

  • ADD/ADHD
  • Autism
  • Epilepsy/seizures
  • Migraines
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

When you change the brain, it undoubtedly affects the mind.  The NFB training produces a measurable physiological effect on the brain.  When you give the brain information about itself, it has an enormous capacity for change.  Neurofeedback makes the information available to the brain almost instantly, and asks it to make adjustments.  The brain can respond rapidly.  Changes in the EEG due to feedback tend to correlate with improved behavior, mood, affect regulation and attention.

Our Success Story

Neurofeedback is usually done in 1/2 hr sessions, one to three times per week. Approximately 30-40 sessions are the standard for optimal change in brain waves. After the first 10 sessions, about 3 weeks into the therapy, I noticed the first dramatic change in my son. He no longer displayed oppositional behaviors and his emotion regulation was normal. He used to anger or get frustrated easily, but that was changed to a more normal emotional response. About the 20th session, his teacher at school noticed his ability to start his work independently. He was able to complete his work 75% of time and it was improving with each session. By the end of 40 sessions, my son was able to focus in school, complete assignments, take notes, write paragraphs unassisted, start and finish his homework by himself.

NFB is not covered by most health insurance and can be costly. The price ranges between $3,000- $5,000 for the brain map and 4o sessions. The good news is that NFB changes are permanent. As a parent that has forgone new living room furniture, a new car in the past 7 years, and countless other material things, the cost was well worth the payoff for my child and my sanity!  NFB works.  All I can say is if you are considering it, do it now. Don’t put it off until “we can afford it”. Work it out and it can change your child’s life. It has mine.

Apples, Bananas and Grapes, Oh My!

One of my favorite childhood movies was The Wizard of Oz. It’s funny how my life has traveled down a path that feels like the yellow brick road. Searching for the Emerald City, all the while dodging flying monkeys, evading a wicked witch and meeting a talking scarecrow. It seems a lot like our biomedical journey through autism.  And what was in that picnic basket Dorothy carried with her? My son would have filled it with apples.

Apples, applesauce, apple juice. Not that long ago, that was about the only fruit my son with autism would eat. Oh, and a banana every now and again. Orange juice is OK now. He LOVES grape juice and will eat an occasional grape. The problem is, these fruits are highly phenolic in nature. Makes him react like a hyperactive chipmunk on catnip!

My older son will eat any fruit he can get his hands on, but does not react to phenols like my youngest. Not fair, I say. So I let my son with autism eat apples, bananas and grapes now. He takes a digestive enzyme to help him process it, called No-Phenol. I also give him Epsom salt baths each night to help his body detox the phenols.

Ketchup, pasta sauce, pizza sauce. All phenolic and make him a crazed energizer bunny! But he sure does love those tomato based foods. So every time his meal has anything tomato based in it, he gets a No-Phenol enzyme. And all is good in the Allor house.

We just went camping for five days. It was beautiful, fun-filled and great to be in the mountains. The only problem was I couldn’t give my son with autism his nightly Epsom salt bath.  Without the baths, his emotion regulation gets  a bit crazy and he gets weepy on me over the little things. I did bring our Epsom salts along and decided to soak his feet in a small tub before bed. That helps in a pinch. It’s not the same as a full body soak for 15 minutes, but it definitely helps his body detox.

That yellow-brick road seems never-ending. We haven’t found the Emerald City yet so we can ask the Wizard just how to completely heal our son’s biochemical pathways. I’ll keep you posted on what I learn in my continued research. In the meantime, we’ll rely on No-Phenol and Epsom salts. One day, we’ll find our way home, and out of the land of Oz.

Related posts on phenols, epsom salts and the PST pathway:

https://healingautismandadhd.wordpress.com/2010/06/08/epsom-salts-old-wives-tale-or-medical-fact/

https://healingautismandadhd.wordpress.com/diet-2/phenolssalicylates/

https://healingautismandadhd.wordpress.com/diet-2/feingold/

Artificial food coloring is evil.

A magnet with this phrase hangs on my refrigerator; and it’s also stated on my cooking apron. As I pondered on how to approach this subject, I remember back to the days when I never read a food label or candy (no, it’s not food) label.  Ignorance sure was bliss…but was it? My kids would get impulsive, oppositional, hyper, spin around, lack focus, and make non-stop sounds before the “food label police” showed up at our house.  So I guess it wasn’t really bliss after all. I traded those behaviors for the inconvenience of having to read every single label on every single food item I bought or was given to my kids. But the trade-off was worth it!

My kids became calmer, quieter and not so emotionally charged. Melt downs decreased. Sleep habits improved. And above all, I knew that I was improving the health of my children, which is a good thing.

Yes, I do have to tell my kids NO to certain requests for food or candy their friends are eating, and at parties, or that dreaded artificial food colors and flavors/high fructose corn syrup holiday we celebrate, Halloween.  Or I pay the price of crazy behavior if I cave in and “let them eat colorful cake”. So I got resourceful or creative, however you view it. I taught my oldest son (he was eight-years-old at the time) to read food labels and explained what additives are bad for our bodies. He actually learned to read the label before he asked if we could buy something.  And I’d bite my lower lip whenever he picked up something I knew would have artificial ingredients in it and say “Shoot!” as he came across some artificial preservatives, colors or flavors. I let my kids trick-or-treat on Halloween. It’s one of their favorite holidays.  They get to choose one piece of candy to eat and then we trade the bag for a new toy (Legos at my house).  I buy candy treats that don’t have artificial ingredients. It definitely tastes better.

If you are not already familiar with the numbers you see on food labels, here are the most common: FD&C Blue Nos. 1 and 2, FD&C Green No. 3, FD&C Red No. 3, FD&C Yellow Nos. 5 and 6, Citrus Red No. 2.  And that lovely, ubiquitous Red No. 40 that can trigger such ugly behaviors in most kids. Red 40 is used in many food products including Kool-Aid, orange and other flavored sodas, Cheetos and Doritos chips (and the ever popular Flamin’ Hot Cheetos), strawberry Pop-Tarts, any candy with red coloring to it including M&M’s, Skittles, many chewing gums, etc. Also many children’s vitamins and pain relievers/cold medicine have red 40 in the ingredients. Why? Because if it’s colorful, our kids will want to eat it or take the medicine.

How many asthma sufferers are told by their allergists to avoid FD&C Yellow No. 5 (tartrazine)? There is a reason that food and medicine labels must declare that ingredient. This is an extended version of the ingredient declaration:  “This product contains FD&C Yellow No. 5 (tartrazine) which may cause allergic-type reactions (including bronchial asthma) in certain susceptible persons.”

Here is the biggest reason I think artificial (synthetic) food coloring is evil. Petroleum. Yes, most synthetic food dyes are created from petroleum.  The same base used to manufacture gasoline and heating fuels.  And if that’s not enough to make you spit out that Skittle, FD&C Blue No. 2 is manufactured in a chemical process that includes formaldehyde, aniline, several hydrozides under ammonia pressure, and heating in the presences of sulfuric acid. Oh, don’t worry, each batch is tested to ensure it doesn’t exceed the FDA’s prescribed limits for impurities. Most impurities are in the forms of salts or acids, but others include lead, arsenic and mercury. Yikes!

I’m sure you are asking yourself  “Why are these food dyes so common in our processed food supply? Why does the FDA allow it?” Well, that’s a topic for another blog.   The U.S. FDA hasn’t studied the effects of synthetic dyes on behavior in children. Another country did though. A randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial was conducted at Southampton University in England. They found a link to food dyes and hyperactive behavior in children. The research does not prove that food colorings actually cause ADHD behaviors but there does seem to be a link. The results were published in The Lancet medical journal in September of 2007.  The results of the study was a story in Time magazine. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1661703,00.html

Since this study, the U.K. banned artificial food dyes in 2008 and demand manufacturers use natural ones. U.S. companies use natural products in the U.K., while continuing to use artificial dyes in the products sold in the U.S.  Here’s something to chew on:

  • Aunt Jemima Blueberry Waffles contains no blueberries. The blue “bits” are Red 40 and Blue 2.
  • McDonald’s strawberry sauce, well it’s actually “McRed40” sauce. (The U.K. gets real strawberries)
  • Kellogg’s Frosted Mini Wheats Blueberry Muffin has no real blueberries. Their “blueberry crunchies” are made with corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, artificial flavors and the colorful combo of Blue 2 and Red 40.
  • Kraft’s Guacamole Dip doesn’t get its greenish color from actual avocados. It gets it from the dye combo of Yellow 5 & 6 and Blue 1.
  • U.K. M&M’s and Skittles have natural food dyes in them. The ones with the bright colors made with artificial dyes are sold in the U.S.  Ours are prettier and brighter because natural dyes don’t have that artificial bright pigment you can obtain with a petro base. Don’t you feel special? Thanks to our FDA!

There are alternatives to foods and candy without dyes. And a great source is the Feingold Association. They have a shopping list of foods without these dyes listed by category and manufacturer.  Their website is http://www.feingold.org/.

https://healingautismandadhd.wordpress.com/2011/03/31/artificial-food-coloring-is-evil-part-2/

Biomedical interventions 101

By Joanne Allor

I am not a professor, nor an educator. I am a mother of a child with autism, self-educated in the field of biomedical treatments for children with autism and ADHD.  You may find yourself, like I did,  in one of three autism camps out there. One, you just figured out or received your child’s autism diagnosis and don’t know where to begin or what to do to help him/her. Two, you’ve been dealing with autism for a while now and are certain there is something more you can do in addition to behavior intervention. Or three, you’ve heard of the biomedical treatment of autism and don’t get it. What is it?

Biomedical interventions for autism and ADHD heal the body, which in turn, heals the mind.  By addressing underlying health problems, you will see an improvement in your child’s behaviors and the behavioral therapies (like ABA) will take hold. Developmental growth will follow.

Most autistic behaviors are symptoms of the body’s distress, such as pain, frustration, fear and a biochemical disruption.  While treating symptoms can ease distress, we still need to get to the core issues causing it. For example, your child might be experiencing gut pain with bloating, diarrhea or constipation every time he eats wheat or dairy. This may cause aggression, disturbed sleep, repetitive behaviors, etc. Removing these possible allergens and following a gf/cf diet, may ease the distress and bloating, correct bowel function, and eliminate some of the behaviors.  But the core issue still needs to be addressed in order to completely heal the gut and eliminate all the behaviors associated with its dysfunction.  Is there an in-balance of the gut flora due to yeast or bacteria? Are there viruses or heavy metals disturbing the gut? Is it a leaky gut that doesn’t allow for proper absorption of nutrients?

Once I started down the path of “what can I do to help my child” outside of pharmaceuticals, I learned of the Feingold and gf/cf diets.  Then my research led me to The Autism Research Institute (www.autism.com) and their DAN! project. DAN! stands for Defeat Autism Now!  The ARI trains physicians with research they have gathered on the biomedical treatment of autism. Their guiding principle is simply stated: “remove what is causing harm, and add what is missing.”

So I began with cleaning up my sons’ diet by removing all artificial ingredients (including sweeteners), colors, flavors and preservatives, MSG, high fructose corn syrup/corn syrup, and nitrites/nitrates.  Suddenly, both my children became calmer, quieter and less impulsive.  Then I added in a children’s multi-vitamin with high doses of B6 and magnesium called Super Nu Thera, by Kirkman Labs.  My son with autism was 4 years old and still wasn’t potty trained. One week on Super Nu Thera, and he developed “the pee pee dance”.  He was potty trained within a few months with behavior therapy. This was unattainable until then. Believe me, I tried EVERYTHING to potty train him. I was onto something! I found a DAN! doctor on the ARI website and our son’s biomedical journey began.

To help you with your child’s biomedical journey out of autism, see the links below:

http://www.autism.com/treatable/index.htm

http://www.autism-society.org/site/DocServer/Pages_47-50EH.pdf?docID=10452

http://www.tacanow.org/medical/parents-role.htm

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