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.

Red Gatorade, Blue Jello, Purple Yogurt. What the __?

What is the consumer packaged goods industry doing to our children?  Better yet, do parents know what makes that yogurt neon purple, the Gatorade fire engine red, or the Jello bright blue? Do you know what is in your child’s junk, er, I mean snack food? I’m not even sure they should qualify as a food item.  Junk food is an oxymoron; junk is not a food.  Our bodies don’t require red dye #40 to function properly. Nor does it need high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) for energy.

What ever happened to giving our children water when they are thirsty?  Kids on the soccer field are panting, drenched in sweat, thirsty and refueling their bodies with Gatorade that contains red dye #40, blue #1, or yellow #5.  Not to mention the HFCS, citric acid (aka MSG), and artificial flavors.  I’ve heard it before,  “my kid won’t drink water”.  Well, it is boring and unflavored. But does everything a child consumes need to have a color and flavor added?

My kids, given the choice, would choose a sugary drink like Capri Sun or a juice box over water (most of the time) when they want a drink.  But when they open the refrigerator door at home, their only option is water. Juice is there, in a jug. But my seven-year-old said juice is only for breakfast. Today, he chose to drink water over juice with his eggs at breakfast. Sounds strange, I know. But our children don’t always make the right, healthy choice for themselves. So it is up to us parents to help them.

And it’s increasingly hard to do that with all the unhealthy, popular options the consumer packaged food industry provides.  So what is a parent to do? Well first off, try to shop alone, without your kids who have been bombarded with t.v. commercials touting the latest and greatest snack food. Here’s what I have done, and it works for us in our home.

  1. Thirsty? Only bring water in BPA free bottles. Kids will drink it, if they are thirsty enough. And once they get used to it, their thirst will only be quenched by water. Their body will crave it.
  2. Soda? Not in our house. Our “special treat” drink for my eleven-year-old is the Virgil’s Root Beer sold at Trader Joe’s. It uses natural spices and cane sugar. Another option is Izze Sparkling Juice drinks. They contain no refined sugars, caffeine, preservatives, artificial colors or flavors.  These drinks are only bought as a special treat, once in a while. Not stocked in our fridge on a regular basis.
  3. Pop tarts? For those of you not on a GF/CF diet, and your kids can’t live without a Kellogg’s Pop Tart, try Nature’s Path Organic Toaster Pastries sold at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and your local grocer.  Free of artificial colors and flavors!
  4. Snack chips? Well, no Doritos or Cheetos at our house. Too much MSG, artificial colors, flavors and preservatives.  We buy Lay’s Potato chips. Plain, no added flavor (or colors).  Trader Joe’s sells an alternative to Cheetos, called Cheese Puffs (not gf/cf).  Sun Chips (also not gf/cf) original flavor are the only ones without artificial colors, flavors, preservatives and MSG.
  5. Yogurt? Please read the ingredient listing on any yogurt you buy in the grocery store. You’ll find numerous colors, artificial flavors and tons of (hidden) MSG. The worse offender is Trix yogurt with the artificial colors and flavors, but Dannon’s Danimals have a lot of hidden MSG.  Better options are available at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.
  6. Chocolate syrup?  Well, Hershey’s is made from high fructose corn syrup and has artificial flavor and preservatives. Nesquik Chocolate syrup has HFCS, artificial flavors, preservatives and colors. Trader Joe’s sells Midnight Moo that doesn’t contain HFCS or artificial ingredients. Whole Foods sells one that is gf/cf.  Better yet, make your own with your own natural ingredients.
  7. Ketchup? Heinz contains HFCS and natural flavoring (where MSG hides).  We use Trader Joe’s Organic Ketchup.
  8. Fruit Roll Ups?  Try Stretch Island Fruit Co. fruit leathers, Florida Natural’s Fruit Juice Strings/Nuggets or Clif Kid Twisted Fruit Ropes.
  9. Breakfast Cereal?  There are so many unhealthy brands in the grocery store. They are chock full of sugar, artificial colors, flavor and preservatives and hidden MSG. Our alternatives are Kellogg’s Crispix, EnviroKids Gorilla Munch (found at Trader Joe’s/Whole Foods) and Trader Joe’s Honey Nut O’s.
  10. Cookies?  Bake my own with natural ingredients. We also will purchase Trader Joe’s All Natural Joe Joe’s. Just like Oreos, but without the artificial ingredients and HFCS.

I know it may be less expensive, convenient and popular to buy the packaged foods available in our local grocery store. But what are you sacrificing to save that money, time and whining from your kids?  Our children need us to play food cop and teach them the right choices so they can avoid obesity, diabetes, cancer and unnecessary hyperactivity. Ideally they are eating fresh fruits and vegetables, and good sources of protein. Right now, I’d settle to just see our generation of children eat better packaged food choices. And less of them.


Related blogs:

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

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

https://healingautismandadhd.wordpress.com/2010/03/04/get-extra-msg/

Just say NO! to High-Fructose Corn Syrup

My son’s elementary school promotes the anti-drug campaign Just Say No To Drugs! each year. It’s a wonderful awareness campaign. I really wish they could include high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in that campaign. Does that mean I am comparing HFCS to drugs?  No. But I believe it’s something our kids should be taught to avoid, for their long-term health.  I know, for those of you out there that feel some HFCS won’t hurt and tell me, besides “my kids don’t drink sodas”, well, I may have some news for you. HFCS is in almost everything on the grocery store shelf that requires a sweetener. Why? Because it’s a much cheaper ingredient than sugar in the manufacturing process and it extends shelf life. Cheaper ingredients, extended shelf life means less cost to the consumer. Less cost equates to a  higher volume of products that will fly off  the shelf and into America’s stomach. Ugh!

In case you’re not familiar with what exactly HFCS is, I’ll give you the less technical, modified version of the manufacturing process. First off, it’s an artificial sweetener. Granted, it’s a byproduct of corn (which isn’t artificial) but it is processed in such a way that it becomes artificial. Corn kernels are soaked in warm water containing sulfur dioxide. This warm solution hydrates the kernels and makes it easier to separate its starch, hull, protein and oil components. After soaking, the kernels are wet milled to remove the oil containing germ. In this process, the wet starch is mixed with a weak solution of hydrochloric acid and is heated under pressure. The hydrochloric acid and heat break down the starch molecules and convert them into a sugar.  Next, the remaining corn starch is washed, and three types of enzymes are added to the resulting mixture. The resulting syrup is then place through an evaporation process to create the desired consistency for shipping. Sound natural to you?

Me neither. But the Corn Refiners Association put a lot of effort and money into “debunking” myths surrounding HFCS. One of them being that it’s the leading cause for America’s obesity epidemic. I’m not blaming obesity on HFCS, but it is in most processed foods that America eats.  When HFCS is ingested, it travels straight to the liver which turns the sugary liquid into fat, and unlike other carbohydrates HFCS does not cause the pancreas to produce insulin; which acts as a hunger quenching signal to the brain.  It makes sense to me that eating food that gets immediately stored as fat and never feeling full might lead one to obesity.

Because HFCS extends the shelf life of foods, and farm subsidies make it cheaper than sugar, it’s added to a staggering range of items, including sodas, yogurt, cereals, crackers, ketchup and bread — and in most foods marketed to children. So, unless you’re making a concerted effort to avoid it, it’s pretty difficult to consume high-fructose corn syrup in moderation.  Try buying a loaf of bread at your local super market chain that does not contain HFCS. I nearly went blind reading all those tiny labels trying to find one. I gave up and purchase my HFCS free bread at Trader Joe’s.

A pilot study reported that some HFCS manufactured in the U.S. in 2005 contained trace amounts of mercury. The mercury appeared to come from sodium hydroxide and hydrochloric acid, two chemicals used in the manufacture of high-fructose corn syrup. The Washington Post wrote an article on January 28, 2009 that stated “Almost half of tested samples of commercial high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) contained mercury, which was also found in nearly a third of 55 popular brand-name food and beverage products where HFCS is the first or second-highest labeled ingredient, according to two new U.S. studies. The chemical was found most commonly in HFCS-containing dairy products, dressings and condiments.”  Now I don’t think I need to point out that ingesting mercury, a neurotoxin, is bad for your health. For the complete Washington Post article, click on the link:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/26/AR2009012601831.html

The good news is, I think the tide is turning. Public outcry and perhaps a few lawsuits thrown at food/drink manufacturers (Kraft was sued in 2007 for claiming Capri Sun was “all natural” even though it contained HFCS) has prompted some companies to switch from HFCS to sugar in their sodas/drinks.  Soft drinks groups, HFCS’s core consumers, are “preferring to switch to sugar given the poor health image of high-fructose corn syrup,”  Credit Suisse’s report stated on January 7, 2010 (http://www.agrimoney.com/news/corn-groups-hit-as-drinks-makers-return-to-sugar–1183.html). Snapple, Ocean Spray and Capri Sun had switched some months ago, with Gatorade in November saying it would replace corn syrup with sugar. That’s huge! Mainly because corn syrup was selling for about half the price of spot sugar.

My hope is that more people read ingredient labels so they are aware of the types of additives they are consuming.  Next time you pick up something at the grocery store, spend a minute reading the ingredient list and ignore the marketing on the front of the package. My family just says NO! to HFCS and perhaps more families out there will join us. And live long, healthy lives.

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