According to the CDC, 1 in 100 children are diagnosed with Autism (up from 1 in 150 2 years ago), 1 in 16 children with ADHD, 1 in 11 with asthma and 1 in 4 with allergies. This was the topic of discussion for the second Urban Zen Food Solutions workshop I attended, Managing Autism, ADHD, Asthma and Allergies with Dr. Kenneth Bock and Dr. Stephen Cowan (see post on workshop #1 here). Dr. Bock and Cowan are both NY based pediatrician’s specializing in children suffering from allergies, asthma, ADHD and autism (the 4 A’s).
“Health is a lot more than absence of illness” states Cowan, a shift is needed from survival to a holistic model of healing where the immune, digestive and cognitive systems are inter-connected. When one third of all children are affected by one of the 4 A’s, Bock asserts much of the problem is that children’s immune systems are becoming skewed and much more hyper-reactive. A child with autism is by definition a child with an overwhelmed immune system, more precisely, an impaired and inflamed “leaky gut” with a higher occurrence of microbes, toxins, candida, food sensitivities and intolerances claims Bock. Leaky Gut occurs primarily because of environmental and dietary toxins to their small and still developing systems. Gluten (proteins found in wheat) and casein (proteins found in dairy) are thought to be two of the principal causes of leaky gut as many children are unable to digest these specific proteins. When foods aren’t properly broken down a build-up of opiods in the body can occur, leading to cognitive issues of attention and focus. As a result, children with food intolerances and sensitivities have a high probability of experiencing repetitive actions, lack of concentration, lack of impulse control, lack of speech and hyperactivity.
Bock gives his 5 recommendations for healing the 4 A’s:
- Reduce environmental exposures – such as BPA chemicals in plastic and styrofoam and heavy metal exposure.
- Dietary modifications – gluten, yeast and casein free diets.
- Nutritional supplementation – vitamin D and probiotics help to balance the immune system and antioxidants to balance oxidative stress (cell death) of toxins.
- Detoxification – reduce high fructose corn syrup where mercury residue levels are significant and watch for high toxicity in chicken and fish.
- Medication – as needed, prescribed by a doctor.
There is a lot of confusion surrounding what is best to eat. Many nutritional theories are diametrically opposed and parents have had to take on the role of nutritionist and scientist in the home, experimenting with what will help their children. The good news is, many parents I’ve met have seen a dramatic reduction in 4A symptoms by eliminating high fructose corn syrup, gluten and casein from their children’s diet.