Thursday, January 20, 2011

New Book Explains How to Improve Sleep, Mood, Reflux, Allergies, Focus and Mental Health - Without Drugs

 In this era of vaccines, antibiotics, and prescription drugs, research shows that kids are sicker, and are for the first time, expected to live shorter lives than their parents.  One in 4 American children is taking prescription drugs, with children comprising the fastest growing demographic for the use of pharmaceutical drugs.  Recent reports suggest that doctors are too quick to reach for the prescription pad for drugs that have not been studied for use in children. (1)   Drugs approved by the FDA for a specific purpose may be prescribed by doctors for a different purpose, leading to unintended results. (2)  Not only is this overuse of prescription drugs potentially dangerous for children, some reports suggest it is largely an American phenomenon, with the highest antipsychotic prescription rates among poor children on Medicaid.  Makes you wonder, where is Nancy Reagan when you need her.  Remember, "Just Say No," the campaign against street drugs of the 1980's?  

If you are scratching your head wondering what this has to do with food sensitivities, let me explain.  A new book, Special-Needs Kids Go Pharm-Free by nutritionist Judy Converse, questions the practice of routine use of prescription drugs in children.  According to Converse, research shows that most special needs kids have underlying nutrition problems.  A nutrition problem may include food sensitivity and allergy, unbalanced gut flora needed for proper digestion and assimilation of vitamins, vitamin and fatty acid deficiencies, and other issues.   When a doctor prescribes medication without first addressing nutrition problems, she states, drugs mask underlying problems that get worse over time and turn into chronic health issues, such as asthma, diabetes, severe allergies, and learning and developmental problems.

Converse states that a critical stage of development occurs during the first two years when the establishment of healthy intestinal function is instrumental to long term health.  Kids who have repeated infections and antibiotic use are especially at risk for the entrenchment of bad gut flora, leading to a permeable small intestine, food sensitivities and allergies, and vitamin and mineral deficiencies.  Kids who have digestive problems that go unaddressed have a much tougher time reestablishing good gut health down the road.  She explains signs to watch for, tests to ask for and how to restore digestive health through good nutrition and the right supplements. 

Special-Needs Kids Go Pharm Free is filled with practical information that can help guide important medical decisions parents make for their children.  Converse discusses the underlying nutrition problems that can impede focus, learning and mood, and how to assess and fix these problems without the use of drugs.  She covers when the use of reflux drugs is appropriate, and how to wean your child off of them.  She discusses what to do if your baby has colic or thrush.  She covers how to assess food sensitivity in children, and what to feed them if sensitivities are present. (3) She brings us up to date on current nutrition research, noting that people with depression have a lower than normal level of inositol, a B vitamin that can help with rigidity (OCD),  mood and panic attacks.  Many therapies suggested by the book can be used in addition to prescription remedies already in place.

Which children can benefit from the tools in this book?  Children with anxiety, depression, ADHD, sensory problems, autism, and Aspergers are covered in this book.  But you might be surprised that the following symptoms may also be improved with the right nutritional regimen:
  • delayed or slow growth
  • sleep problems
  • problems with focus
  • frequent infections
  • problems with bowel movements
  • serious behavior problems
  • asthma
  • seizures
  • food allergy
  • blood sugar problems
  • eczema
This book is not for parents who are interested in a quick fix.  Nutritional supplements alone without dietary analysis and changes will likely result in only short term gains.  For many children, this will involve food sensitivity testing and possible elimination of the two most inflammatory foods, gluten and dairy.  But for parents willing to do the extra work, this book can mean the difference between a child having a normal healthy life, to living with chronic health conditions.

If I were master of the universe, I would make sure every pediatrician and every new parent has access to this book.  With informed parents and doctors, every baby who is treated with antibiotics, who is overly fussy or not sleeping well, who isn't growing appropriately, who has frequent infections, who has rashes or elimination problems would get their little problems solved before they become big problems.  One can only imagine the health care dollars that would be saved.  Perhaps Converse will write a sequel to this book, "What you especially need to know so your child does not develop special needs" that explains how mothers can prepare themselves and their babies for optimal digestive health.

Judy Converse bases her nutrition practice in Colorado where she lives with her husband and son.  She also consults with patients around the U.S.


(1)  Child's Ordeal Shows Risks of Psychosis Drugs for Young, New York Times, September 1, 2010.

(2) Vanity Fair reported in January that the F.D.A. approved the drug Seroquel for the treatment of schizophrenia.  The drug was ultimately prescribed for children with autism-spectrum disorders and retardation, as well as elderly Alzheimer's patients.  It was also promoted as a treatment for aggression, anxiety, anger management issues, ADHD, and sleeplessness.  One unfortunate side affect for some patients:  diabetes.  According to the article, the drug company has reached a half-billion dollar settlement with the federal government over its marketing of the drug.  The article calls into question FDA oversight of clinical trials conducted to determine a drug's effectiveness.  According to the article, clinical trials are increasingly being conducted overseas on poor populations.  The report suggests not only a problem with corporate ethics, but with the ability to compare test results between people in the U.S. with those who are poor and have no access to health care.

(3) The food sensitivity testing labs referred to in the book were inadvertently left out of the resources section.  The author tells me she uses the following labs: Metamatrix, Genova and Great Plains Laboratory.


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