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.
At least a few times each month a new patient will come into my practice because they want to have intravenous vitamin and mineral infusions to treat fatigue. They usually start by saying that they have had IV infusions before and they really helped. They usually ask if we can do an IV infusion as part of the first visit and are often interested in skipping the “formalities” of the initial consultation. While I do offer a variety of IV infusion therapies to treat many symptoms, this request always sets off alarm bells in my naturopathic brain. It strongly suggests that the causes of the patient’s fatigue have not been identified or addressed and instead they have utilized IV infusion treatments to give them more energy. In this week’s column, we will discuss the areas we should investigate before we treat the symptom of fatigue with IVs.
IV infusions are a great tool for NDs to have in practice, especially when they are used for the right reasons. IVs can significantly help people with immune deficiencies, chronic infections, deep adrenal fatigue, poor healing capacity, depression, anxiety, addiction recovery … and the list goes on. However, I rarely consider IV infusions to be the most effective way to treat the underlying causes of most people’s health concerns. Instead, I view IVs as a potent way to stimulate healing and gain momentum with the therapies that more directly treat the causes.
The most common causes of fatigue that need to be assessed before jumping to any therapy include iron deficiency, blood sugar/insulin dysregulation, inadequate nutritional intake, poor digestion/absorption, thyroid conditions including auto-immune, adrenal dysregulation, and other forms of hormonal imbalance. IV infusions can help with all of these causes of fatigue, some more than others. However, I don’t believe IV infusions can be the stand alone therapy or even the chief therapy in the treatment plan.
IV infusions typically contain some combination of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and possibly other botanical or homeopathic remedies. They can quickly and potently make up for deficiencies of these nutrients. They can also quickly help people feel more energy, more capable, and a sense of calmness. It’s tempting for patients and doctors to use IV infusions because of their potential ability to make quick action. However, after looking at the most common causes of fatigue it becomes clear that the nutrients in IV infusions don’t actually treat the underlying causes of most people’s fatigue.
In conclusion, I highly recommend anyone suffering from fatigue to pursue advice from a medical practitioner who will take the time to identify the causes of fatigue. Don’t just jump to treatments. And don’t simply live with fatigue. In conventional medicine fatigue is often ignored or treated as depression with anti-depressants. Most patients I work with who suffer from fatigue do very well with improving their energy because we spent the time evaluating where the fatigue is actually coming from and then addressing that very cause.
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