What do you do when your child is lagging behind in school? What do you do when your child’s behavior is out of control and you have tried everything? What do you do when you don’t know where to start?
I have heard these questions from parents for years. Often the desperation in their voice is palpable. How did they get to this point with their children? What are some steps they can take to start to turn things around? I hope this article can help to answer some of those questions.
How did we get here?
Evan was an unhappy baby. He didn’t sleep for very long periods, he seemed to cry all the time, and he spit up after feeding much more than the other babies in the family. His parents called him their “high-maintenance child.” He developed some ear infections, which were treated with antibiotics. He got over the ear infections, but continued to be whiny and had diarrhea. After one round of antibiotics, he developed a white coating on his tongue, which the doctor called thrush. As he grew, it became increasingly evident that he was intolerant to milk, oranges, and tomatoes.
In his preschool years he was loving and sweet one moment, but easily flew off the handle if he didn’t get his own way. Sometimes his temper tantrums were a sight to behold. As he grew, he continued to be plagued with difficulty falling asleep, stomach aches, and frequent canker sores and bed-wetting. He had some oddities about him, like more unusual fears than his brothers and sisters and a memory that wasn’t as good as his siblings’. He would learn something one day, and forget it the next. It was hard for him to sit still. Many times he appeared “spacey” during lessons. It was like his mind was always wandering. When a lesson or project became hard for him, he became frustrated very easily and would flare up or even cry. Evan’s mother tried tutoring him at home in the evenings. This often ended with both of them in tears and lots of yelling.
The Role of Serotonin
Evan was likely suffering from a lack of the brain neurotransmitter, serotonin. Serotonin is the brain chemical that keeps us focused, instills a sense of well-being, and helps us fall asleep easily. How had he gotten this deficiency in serotonin?
Ninety-five percent of this brain neurotransmitter, serotonin, is produced in our “gut.” In our intestines, we have both yeast and healthy bacteria. When the mother takes an antibiotic while she is pregnant, or the child takes an antibiotic, the yeast in the intestines begins to overgrow because the good bacteria in the gut is eliminated right along with the bad bacteria that was causing the infection. When a child has too much yeast, or mold in his body, it often will “come out” of the body in the form of diaper rash, hives, thrush in the mouth, canker sores or athlete’s foot. When the yeast in the gut overgrows, it causes tiny perforations in the mucosa lining of the gut, creating some damage to the lining. It is in this area that the body makes the calming, focusing, feel-good neurotransmitter, serotonin. This slightly damaged gut lining, sometimes referred to as the “leaky gut syndrome,” also allows some undigested food to pass through into the bloodstream, and food allergies are created. The longer this unbalanced environment is allowed to continue, the more allergies that will be created. With this knowledge, what could this mother do to help her child feel better, act better, and learn better?
How do we fix the gut?
One of the first things that Evan’s mother could do is to replace the good bacteria that had been destroyed by the antibiotics. A good acidophilus in capsule form is sufficient. We like to use a product called GR8 Dophilus because it has 8 different strains of acidophilus. Variety is key when trying to establish a healthy gut flora! Evan’s mom can also change from cereal for breakfast to eggs, peanut butter, protein shakes, even leftovers from dinner, because protein-containing foods not only starve the yeast, but keep the child’s blood-sugar level more stable during the day. Next, she needs to absolutely stop serving juice or milk to drink. Additional nutritional changes are needed to further reduce processed carbs and sugar that act to feed the yeast inside of Evan’s gut. She should substitute these unhealthy foods with foods that are high in healthy bacteria counts (kombucha tea, sauerkraut, apple cider vinegar, etc.) and foods that feed the healthy bacteria (sweet potato, parsnips, yucca, carrots, squash, etc.). These changes will have a profound effect on Evan’s overall health, attitude, and cognitive function.
For more info on how to heal the gut, check out the video of our “Heal The Gut” class on our website: http://www.coreroanoke.com/heal-the-gut-class-video/
Let the Healing Begin
Some small changes will happen first with Evan, such as Evan’s voice won’t be as loud and he will begin to fall asleep easier. Often a mellower disposition will be observed with a greater ability to handle frustration and to pay closer attention to the lessons in class. As his school day becomes easier, Evan will become more confident in his ability to learn. This is because his gut is healing allowing for the production of serotonin right where it was meant to be.
Now we can focus on Evan’s brain. The addition of high-quality Omega-3 fatty acids to the diet has been shown to rebuild brain cells that have been damaged by years of high levels of inflammation. The link between poor diet and high systemic inflammation has been well established for over a decade now, leaving researchers with the task of discovering how to reverse damaged tissue in the brain. So far the most promising area involves the supplementation of Omega-3 fatty acids. The Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and flax oils are the same fatty acids that the brain naturally possesses. Other foods containing Omega-3 fats include coconut oil, avocados, olive oil, free-range eggs, and salmon. By placing Evan on a high dose of Omega-3 fats daily, his mother is allowing his body to recover from the oxidative damage of poor diet and poor hormonal production.
Connect the Brain
The last piece of the puzzle to helping Evan have his best school year ever is to connect his brain. This refers to the coordination of the brain to the rest of his body and integrating the different areas of his brain together. The brain is broken into left and right hemispheres, each with separate roles that influence learning. The left-brain hemisphere is our auditory-learning hemisphere, while the right brain is our visual-learning hemisphere. The auditory hemisphere learns using oral repetition, writing repetition, black-and-white flash cards, and rules to learn and retain material. The visual hemisphere uses color, picture, story, humor, and emotion to store information.
Smart kids who struggle with specific subjects such as math, reading comprehension, or spelling often struggle with a glitch or learning block between the two hemispheres of the brain. Connecting the hemispheres back together is best accomplished with exercises involving balance and proprioception. Yoga, hopscotch, climbing walls, jump rope, and even running can help to integrate both sides of the brain together.
Chiropractic adjustments can also be extremely helpful to connect the brain. The chiropractic adjustment reduces the interference of the neural pathways from the brain to the rest of the body. This helps to enhance coordination and movements of the body further integrating the hemispheres of the brain. This in turn helps to improve learning abilities. Many parents who have had a child similar to Evan get adjusted noted great improvements in walking, running, and other gross motor skills. These gross-motor improvements occurred parallel to improvements in learning and performance in school.
While nothing is as easy as it seems on paper, behavior patterns and learning abilities are changeable. The role of good nutrition, exercise, and chiropractic care in helping children achieve optimal health cannot be understated. If you have more questions on how to help your child have the best school year ever, please let us know. We look forward to partnering with you in the health of your entire family.
Daryl C. Rich, D.C., C.S.C.S.