Nutritionist’s View: What’s Ailing Kids today?

March 9, 2000

The Lewisboro Ledger
Lewisboro, N.Y. 5A
Clinical Nutritionist

I used to see mostly adults in my practice. Now I see children with learning disabilities, autistic children, children with immune system problems, like ear infections, allergies or bouts of colds and flu. Digestive problems, migraines and other illnesses are also common. Why are so many kids sick today?

To understand the root of the problem, it’s important to look at the interrelationships between the brain, and the digestive and immune systems. Psychoneuroimmunology refers to interactions between the emotional state, nervous system, and the immune system. There is a growing body of knowledge documenting the minds profound influence on health and disease. We know our mood affects the way we feel on a daily basis and that posi­tive imagery can reverse disease.

We also know that stress has a big role on the causation of diseases. We have a lot of stressed‑out children. Divorce is on the rise, and many households have both parents working. School is more challenging and children are bombarded with a myr­iad of after‑school programs to choose from. Where is down time?

In terms of an immune system tie-in, stress increases adrenal gland hormones that inhibits white blood cell formation and causes the thy­mus gland to shrink (a key gland for fighting off viral infections).

Another tie‑in is possible nutri­tional deficiency that can affect the emotional state and immunity. Some studies now show depression to be associated with functional immune decrements and immune over activation. Many kids with learning problems and associated self‑esteem issues are now being labeled with depression.

In terms of digestive system tie-­ins, after seeing clients with poor immune function, there is usually a relationship. It could be a chronic yeast overgrowth problem from years of antibiotic treatments caus­ing leaky gut syndrome and problems with nutrient absorption. It could be a constipation problem causing the body to store excess toxins, which may lead to immune deficiencies, or it could be irritable bowel, colitis or crohn’s.

According to Jeffrey Moss, D.D.S., C.N.S., C.C.N., in his newsletter The Moss Nutrition Report, “Treatment of all illnesses of immune dysfunction must include efforts to optimize gut function. In addition, unless gut function is opti­mized, any improvements of immune‑related illnesses must be considered symptomatic in nature. Finally, any symptom that was alle­viated via modalities that do not address gut function in some way will tend to return and or manifest in some other way once the modality is discontinued.”

Bearing this in mind, and under­standing that there are also environ­mental factors like outdoor/indoor pollutants, pesticides, food and water chemicals that can wreak havoc on the immune system, what is a concerned parent to do? The key is to try to prevent it. Would a child without underlying immune problems develop allergies, asthma, or learning disabilities if he were not genetically predisposed? I would suspect the answer to be no. Even if your child is prone to getting infec­tions, following these suggestions will help build a strong immune Sys­tem. The following is a Iist of basic tips that I have found helpful in getting started in a healthier direction:

  1. Begin to decrease or eliminate processed foods (candy, soda, foods with preservatives and col­orings, etc.) Use instead whole­some, organic foods like fresh fruit, raw vegetables, and quality protein and complex carbohy­drates (high fiber cereal, sprouted wheat bread and spelt pasta).Between fiber and the water your child should be having at least one good bowel movement per day. The human body was designed to eliminate toxins on a daily basis. If the colon gets backed up, toxins that need to be eliminated are reabsorbed.
  2. Make sure your child consumes enough water. I recommend 48 ounces for a younger child, and 64 ounces for a teen. Get a water purifier or order bottled water from a reputable company. Dilute juices with water. Some juices contain almost as much sugar per serving as soda.
  3. Find a professional to work with who can help identify foods that your child may be allergic to. This method is accurate and will let you know if food allergies are a contributor to your child’s problem. We find that many kids with learning problems and chronic ear infections have a milk and wheat allergy. Other culprits are peanuts, eggs, yeast and soy. Sensitivities worsen over time by kids often eating the same foods daily.
  4. Investigate the possibility of yeast overgrowth. Yeast problems can have an impact on behavior and can weaken the immune system. A stool test by Great Smokies Lab (you can get the kit at our office) can identify if this is a problem.
  5. Another test that can be a great diagnostic tool is hair analysis. We often find children with depressed levels of iodine, iron, magnesium and zinc and elevated levels of aluminum, copper, cad­mium, and lead are prone to ADD/ADHD and other illness. When exposed to lead it will show up in the blood for around 30 days and then migrate to cells and tissues. The analysis will reflect the biochemistry of the patient over time, including the mineral and metal levels.
  6. After decreasing your child’s intake of allergenic and processed foods, give him or her a multi­vitamin and mineral supplement. Give these vitamins with meals and divide into at least two doses. At the first sign of infection use the herbs echinacea, garlic and astragalus as well as vitamin C and carrot juice.

If the child has an ear infection, use warm garlic and mullein oil in the ear canal for a week. If you’ve missed those indicators and your child ends up with a full‑blown infection, follow this procedure as soon as possible to provide the immune system with the extra fight­ing it needs. If an antibiotic is necessary, always take acidophillus/bifidus to make sure that the drug does not kill off the good bacteria along with bad. I recommend that your child continue to take acidophillus for a week after the antibiotic is finished to continue to build good intestinal flora and reduce the chance of a yeast infection.

My final point is simple: take charge of your child’s health! By identifying and treating underlying conditions, giving your child optimal nutrition, providing a non‑toxic, structured environment that includes time to de‑stress and enjoy everyday, you and your child will be well on your way.
Renee A. Simon MS. is a Clinical Nutritionist with private practices in South Salem and Mt Kisco, New York and Ridgefield Connecticut. She frequently lectures on children’s health. For more information call Ms.Simon, at (914) 763‑9107.