In last week’s article we investigated the role Type II food allergies can play for some children’s behaviour problems in school. We learned that Type II food allergies cause a delayed reaction induced by the overproduction of the IgG antibody. Elevations of IgG chronic inflammation, especially when they are a response to foods or environmental substances a child is exposed to on a daily basis. The symptoms of Type II allergies can be very broad. The most common symptoms include brain fog, fatigue, malaise, headaches, joint pain, abdominal discomfort, gas, bloating, constipation, eczema, and other chronic inflammatory skin concerns. The best way to identify Type II food allergies is a blood test that measures IgG elevation in response to each individual food or environmental agent. In this week’s article, we will investigate the role of sugar in poor school performance.
Excess sugar consumption can cause behaviour spikes. This is relatively easy to identify after a child has too much sugar and then gets overactive. Their behaviour often changes towards the aggressive and their coping skills decrease. Another less obvious symptom of excess sugar that I’d like to focus on in this article is fatigue/malaise accompanied by poor stamina. Some school aged children consume too many carbohydrates compared to proteins and fats. They may not be eating too much pure sugar but they are getting too much unopposed carbohydrates. This leads to a decrease in blood sugar about 1-2 hours after eating and it coincides with poor concentration and poor school performance 1-2 hours after breakfast or lunch.
Most parents realize that sugar in excess almost always has some consequence. I meet very few patients who purposefully feed themselves or their children excess sugar because of how widespread this knowledge is. However, I meet many parents who are UNKNOWINGLY feeding their children excess sugar and they are not recognizing the consequences.
The most basic way children are exposed unknowingly to too much sugar is via low protein and fat consumption. Most of the staples in a child’s diet are high carbohydrate, low protein, and low fat foods like cereal, juice, bread, pasta, fruit, and convenience snacks like granola bars. These foods are often very high in sugar and many even list sugar as the first ingredient. It’s a good idea to investigate the sugar content of the foods you feed your child and make sure you limit these types of foods. Look at adding higher protein foods like hummus, greek yogurt, and protein-rich smoothies to their diet.
I wanted to start this article with a longer summary of last week’s article than I normally would write. This is because testing for IgG is not only a way to identify allergens but it’s also a way to shed some light on how the body responds to a few non-allergenic items. Sugar is one of these items. All carbohydrates are composed of chains of sugar. This includes all of our fruits, veggies, and starches. We also produce various types of sugar in our bodies. It’s not possible to be truly allergic to sugar because of how ubiquitous it is in our bodies. However, many children (adults too) over-produce IgG in response to high sugar exposure. This IgG production amplifies and alters the other harmful effects of excess sugar. Knowing if your child responds with excess IgG to sugar exposure can help us determine how strict we should be with sugar exposure.
In last week’s article, we discussed how poor digestion can contribute to poor performance at school. This is actually one of the most common reasons parents bring their kids in to see naturopathic doctors. They often feel that there is an underlying nutrition or digestion issue contributing to their children’s difficulties at school. In my practice, I would say that the majority of times the parents are on the right track. We are able to find nutritional and digestive problems causing or worsening the behaviour issues at school. In this week’s article we will investigate the role of Type II allergies.
It is very common for people to feel like they are allergic to a food or environmental substance. People often come into the office saying that they don’t feel well when they are exposed to the suspicious food or substance. The symptoms tend to be immediate upon exposure and tend to affect the skin or upper respiratory tract. These allergies are typically considered Type I allergies. Antihistamines usually work well for the symptoms but avoiding the food or substance is often the best treatment. Type I allergies are not the issue for most children NDs see with behaviour problems at school. This is because of how easy it is to identify behaviour changes upon exposure.
Type II allergies are known to have a delayed inflammatory response that starts to manifest at least two hours after exposure. Often, these symptoms are not visible for more than 24 hours after exposure. The symptoms of a Type II delayed allergy tend to be low-grade and inflammatory in nature. This makes them difficult to pinpoint to any one particular food or substance. We are most likely to have a Type II reaction to foods we eat on a regular basis. This is another factor that makes them so difficult to detect because regular consumption creates a near-constant inflammatory load in the body.
The inflammation from a Type II reaction comes from the production of an antibody called IgG. This antibody is not related to histamine and thus antihistamines have no effect. Inflammation from IgG can create a myriad of symptoms. The most common fit into the chronic inflammatory categories like eczema, psoriasis, dry skin, headaches, joint pain, malaise, fatigue, poor concentration, bloating, constipation, abdominal discomfort, and overall poor digestion.
Chronic inflammation from Type II reactions is relatively easy to test for. Most naturopathic doctors use blood testing to identify how much IgG is produced upon exposure to individual foods. The blood sample can be collected by a finger prick for young children or intravenously for older children and adults. There are dozens of labs across North America who process the Type II allergy tests. We usually get the results back from the lab in 2-3 weeks after collection.
Type II allergies are worthy of testing for if your child is having difficulties in school. There aretwo main reasons I say this. First of all, these delayed reactions can act like a cloud hanging over a child’s head. They tend to make a child less able to truly be themselves because there’s a near continuous inflammatory anchor on their back. The second reason is because of how easy these can be to identify and treat. The blood test is easy to do and it’s relatively easy to avoid a food once it’s identified. There’s often an initial backlash from the child when you remove a food from their diet. However, if that food was causing problems, everyone will notice the benefits, including the child. In many cases, the child doesn’t miss the food at all after 1-2 weeks of avoidance.
Just prior to and at the beginning of every school year I see an increased number of parents bringing in their children because there are concerns at school. Typically, the children are having difficulty with focus, concentration, and overall behaviour. These concerns usually translate into poor grades and difficulty fitting in. These behaviours often lead to varying opinions from teachers, principals, parents, and doctors about what the actual problem is and how to best address the problem. Over the next few weeks we will discuss some of the most common and most treatable reasons these types of behaviours develop.
In this week’s article, we will focus on poor digestion and how it can cause or exacerbate behaviour challenges at school. Interestingly, the most common thing parents ask for when looking for a diagnosis and treatment plan revolves around food allergies. This will be the topic of next week’s article. I chose to start with digestion partially because of how easy it is to miss and partially because poor digestion can lead to food allergies.
Digestion is the process of breaking down nutrients from food into microscopic particles. Absorption is the process of getting those nutrients into the blood stream. The phrase, “You are what you eat” is not exactly true. Just because a child puts food into his/her mouth does not mean it will be processed properly. We want to assess each step along the way to ensure the nutrients are actually getting into the bloodstream and being delivered systemically. It is more accurate to say, “You are what you eat, except what you excrete”.
The phases of the digestive system require a number of steps to work in harmony. Digestion actually starts before a child is even eating. This first phase is called the Cephalic phase and it involves the production of stomach acid, pancreatic enzymes, bile, and other digestive juices in preparation for the meal to come. This is often where a major problem exists for children. When food is simply “thrown” into a digestive system that is not ready for it there are predictable consequences like tummy aches, reflux, constipation, diarrhea, urgency, and behaviour problems.
The tendency for children with sub-optimal digestive systems is to eat a very limited diet. Typically, this limited diet will focus on plain foods that are simpler to digest. They will tend to avoid variety, complex combinations of food, or more difficult foods to digest. Many of these children are likely to have behaviour concerns or poor performance at school in part because they are not actually getting the nutrients their bodies require.
The consequences of poor digestion can get more complicated and create more complex behaviour problems. For example, the incomplete breakdown of proteins in the stomach (due to poor stomach acid) can increase the likelihood of food allergy reactions in the small intestine. This happens because the immune system starts reacting to proteins it has not encountered previously when stomach acid levels were more appropriate.
Another possible consequence of poor digestion is the imbalance of bacterial and yeast species in the intestines. The wrong species or an imbalance of species cannot only create lower abdominal digestive system concerns but can also create behaviour problems. All bacterial and yeast species consume nutrients and create waste. The right balance of species actually helps our immune system and digestive system. The wrong balance of species harms both of these systems and can lead to behaviour problems because of the creation of harmful waste products in the intestines.
In the weeks to come we will continue to discuss the causes of behaviour problems in school in more detail. If you have concerns about the behaviour of you children I strongly advise you speak with a health care professional who can properly assess and diagnose the causes of the behaviour concerns.
I was sitting at the Okanagan Sun football game Saturday night when my four year old asked me if there was a storm coming in. He loves storms! I looked over to the south and saw the smoke pouring over the mountains. I explained to him that there was a fire on the other side of the mountains and the smoke was being blown towards us. After about 50 more detailed questions he was satisfied with my answers. Every summer we have at least a few poor air quality days due to forest fire smoke. In this article, we will discuss some things you can do to support your lungs and feel better during these smoky days.
My approach to supporting the lungs differs somewhat depending on the health of the person’s lungs I’m working with. I would make more basic recommendations to someone who merely gets stuffed up during the smoky season compared to someone with COPD. However, you can think of the basic approach as being essentially identical. We want to support lung cleansing, enhance bronchiole dilation, and strengthen the immune system.
In this week’s article, we are discussing three of my favourite botanicals to support the lungs. I often use one supplement with these botanicals blended together that is designed to enhance lung function. In future articles, we will discuss some of the more advanced therapies like nebulized glutathione for people with COPD or other more serious lung disorders.
Eucalyptus is a botanical that has traditionally been used for lung support. It’s the essential oil of the plant that contains the antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antispasmodic properties. When you inhale or ingest eucalyptus oil it decreases mucus in the bronchioles, opens up the airways, and decreases muscle spasms around the bronchioles. All of this results in clearer breathing and the elimination or expectoration of metabolic wastes from the lungs.
Peppermint is another botanical remedy that has traditionally been used for support respiratory function. The essential oils are the part of the plant that contain the active nutrients like menthol and menthone. These essential oils are help fight off infection, open up the airways, and relaxes the musculature around the bronchioles. These properties promote better breathing and elimination of waste.
Pleurisy root is another one of my favourite botanicals for supporting the lungs. It reduces inflammation in the pleural membranes of the lungs, which is essentially where the oxygen from the air we breathe meets our blood. Pleurisy root promotes lymphatic drainage from the lungs to systemic detoxification.
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