Commonly Diagnosed Childhood Disorders

Commonly diagnosed childhood disorders include autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, dyscalculia, and dyslexia.

These disorders occur because of imbalanced or inadequate development of the brain, with the neurological causes usually beginning in utero or infancy but only diagnosed later when behaviors indicate problems.

Prevention is worth a pound of cure, and all the above may be preventable at the societal and individual level. Treatments may be effective, and some children have been cured, but universal cures have not been achieved due to the complex equifinality and multifinality of causes.

Immunological problems, including food sensitivities, gut flora imbalances, prenatal infections, and maternal autoimmunity or hormone imbalances such as thyroid issues are suspected causes or contributors to all these problems. A careful health history can reveal immune contributors to disorganized brain development. Additionally, all children with learning disabilities should be screened for food sensitivities. If caught early, intervention can make a huge difference because of the marvelous neuroplasticity of the brain while a person is still young.

Dyslexia is the most common childhood disorder, and involves difficulty reading. Dyscalculia involves difficulty with quantifying distances, numbers, and amounts.

Autism is primarily an autoimmune condition caused either by immunological inflammation in the mother while the child is in the womb, or in the child’s own body. The inflammation causes damage to certain parts of the brain and inflammation in other parts, leading to overexcitation of neurons (including sensory neurons) and underdevelopment of other brains areas, including the cerebellum. The effects are often lifelong, but if inflammation can be curbed early in life, prognosis is better. Science has shown convincing associations between environmental causes such as air pollution, pesticides and other contaminants, lead, aluminum, and other heavy metals with autism (and autoimmunity). Additionally, genetic associations are most strongly represented by differences in detoxification genes associated with immune system and cancer development. Prevention involves avoiding toxic exposures from industry, agriculture, home (such as lead paint), food, and water; healthy diet; curbing inflammation, and physical activity of mother and father during preconception and prenatally. Treatment of autism is nuanced, but includes broccoli sprout extract, shown in studies to upregulate detoxification pathways and significantly improve symptoms. It also includes tested exclusion of common dietary inflammatory triggers such as gluten and dairy. Additionally, balancing the gut immune system through improving microbial flora may help with autism symptoms.

ADHD is also usually preventable and treatable. Common causes of ADHD are prenatal iron insufficiency and iodine insufficiency. Additionally, inadequate omega-3 fatty acids may contribute, and addition of these fats is shown to improve symptoms of ADHD in children. As with autism, ADHD is associated with C-section delivery, maternal autoimmunity, thyroid problems, and immune triggers. Magnesium, zinc, and some vitamins such as B6 are shown to balance neurotransmitters and may calm an overactive brain. Improved dopaminergic and GABAergic signaling in the brain can improve ADHD symptoms, but modulation takes time. Physical exercise improves ADHD symptoms as well, likely through increased production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).

Since these conditions are biologically caused, seeking and addressing biological solutions should be foremost on the list of treatments. Drugs don’t help autism much. Stimulants improve attention in children with ADHD short term, but show no benefit in their development long term.

Placing the child on a brain healthy diet and lifestyle regimen can be the key to improving your child’s brain development and lifelong happiness. Seek out your functionally-trained pediatric practitioner for assistance.

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) is a technique used to teach children on the spectrum to behave in healthier ways. The intention is to use interventions to modify behaviors. Sometimes, however, it isn’t applied in a way that promotes the best emotional development of the child, despite efficacy in changing certain behaviors. Many children on the spectrum (and their parents) report negative emotional consequences of ABA therapy.

References

Niederhofer, H. (2011). Association of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Celiac Disease: A Brief Report. The Primary Care Companion to CNS Disorders13(3), PCC.10br01104. http://doi.org/10.4088/PCC.10br01104

About Nicholas Hundley, MS, CNS

Nicholas Hundley is a nutritional biochemist and certified nutrition specialist. He is the main author for the MindWhale blog at MindWhale.com. He practices nutrition and can be found at NicholasHundley.com

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