Today’s young people face a constellation of social, health, financial, school and career pressures and choices that are weighing down their minds at the same time that diet, stress, poor exercise habits and environmental toxins are affecting their bodies. The result is a generation of children and teens at increased risk for mental illness.
From ADHD and depression, to anxiety and schizophrenia, mental illness affects as many as one in every five youth — making it the single most disabling and devastating group of disorders worldwide. In Canada,
• a staggering 3.2 million 12‐ to 19‐year‐olds are at risk for depression;
• the teen suicide rate is third highest in the industrialized world; and
• mental disorders in youth are the second highest hospital care expenditure in the country.
Medication has an important role to play in the treatment of serious mental illnesses, but it is not and should not be the only option. More often than not, medical professionals, trained in pharmacology and not complementary treatments, diagnose and prescribe psychotropic drugs for children as a standard approach without first considering factors like diet, nutrition, allergies and exercise.
Both Health Canada and the FDA have issued black box warnings for antidepressants in children and adolescents, saying they may increase the risk of suicidal thoughts or behavior. Risk factors for sudden death prompted the Canadian Pediatric Society to recommend a yellow‐light approach to ADHD.
The reality is there is a gap in the treatment of children’s mental health. It’s about time we did something to fill it.
Overwhelmed and frustrated with the medication‐first approach and its often crippling side‐effects, patients and families are demanding new perspectives and practices. Medical students and health care providers are opening the door to alternative and complementary approaches to diagnosis and treatment.
Orthomolecular Treatment to the Rescue!
Orthomolecular medicine is the practice of optimizing health and treating disease by providing correct amounts of vitamins, such as B3, B6, C, and minerals such as zinc, magnesium, along with amino acids, enzymes, essential fatty acids and other substances which are natural to the body’s environment. Each patient has his or her own specific needs according to their own biochemistry. Blood tests are available for various nutrients and other disorders such as low iron, infections, bowel problems and thyroid disorders. Food allergy testing is another important marker for children’s mental health issues. A healthy diet, free of allergens and an improved lifestyle is also stressed as part of orthomolecular medicine. Two books written by Doctor Hoffer to improve children’s mental health are “Healing Children’s Attention and Behavior Disorders”, and “Dr. Hoffer’s ABC of Natural Nutrition”.
In the early 1950’s, Abram Hoffer conducted the first double-blind studies for the treatment of schizophrenia using nutrients. Hoffer headed up a team of 30 researchers in four mental hospitals and three psychiatric wards in Saskatchewan. Initial success with using niacin soon grew into a considerable body of eight double-blind clinical trials. In these early trials, patients’ recovery rates doubled from 35% to an astonishing 70%. Some attempted to repeat the studies and failed due to poor methodology, but when Hoffer’s protocols were followed, as they were in the National Institute of Medicine study, the doubling of recovery rates was confirmed. Over time, other nutrients were added for optimal outcomes.
Are Orthomolecular Treatments Safe and Effective?
Orthomolecular treatments are inexpensive, safe and effective and can be included with medication to optimize outcomes for adults or children. When managed by a qualified practitioner and customized to individual biochemistry, orthomolecular medicine is increasingly recognized as a safe, effective and viable alternative or complement to medication for preventing and treating mental illness.
Food Allergies and Mental Illness/Health
The connection between food allergies and mental health is another issue that needs to be addressed since about half of the chemically ill patient population experience allergies to one or more foods (Hoffer). According to Doris Rapp, M.D., FAAA, FAAP, in her books, “The Impossible Child” and “Is This Your Child?” about food allergies and mental health, certain foods can cause cerebral or brain allergies in some individuals. Medication may help control some of the symptoms in children and adults, however according to Hoffer, “If a person is allergic to dairy products, there will be no cure until the dairy products are removed from the diet.”
Physical Clues to Food Allergy
In Doris Rapp’s book, “The Impossible Child”, she outlines various symptoms, typical facial, or body clues which may indicate that a child might be having an adverse reaction to either food or fumes they may have inhaled. Some children may develop glazed eyes along with red earlobes, red cheek patches, dark blue, black or red circles or wrinkles below the eyes. Some may act ‘spaced out’ or sleepy or tired, fidget and cannot sit still. Many have difficulty concentrating. Parents are often disturbed and distraught by their child’s erratic, intermittent inability to learn and behave.
Some children may develop symptoms of hyperactivity, depression, fatigue, headache, abdominal discomfort, asthma or hayfever. Rapp documents children’s experiences after eating offending foods such as coughing or wheezing, itchy or watery eyes, ear infections, diarrhea or constipation.
Common offending foods can be colored sweet drinks or cereal, candy, popcorn or corn products, chocolate, peanut butter, tomato products (pizza), milk or dairy products, baked goods which contain additives or preservatives and apple, grape or orange juice.
Food allergy testing or removing a single food item from the diet for a few weeks to see if there are any positive changes in the child (one food at a time) is highly recommended as treatment especially for children. See www.ionhealth.ca