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The following was written by Dr. Loan Huynh of Optimal Wellness Chiropractic Center in Raleigh.

When I was younger, I don’t remember hearing about autism or AD(H)D or having classmates that were diagnosed with these behavioral disorders.  Unfortunately, times have changed and Autism and AD(H)D are becoming common household names.  According to the CDC, Autism affects one in 68 children and that’s a 30 percent increase from 2 years ago.   AD(H)D affects 1 in 10 children, a 42 percent increase in 8 years.  The prevalence of these behavior disorders are growing and causes can be multifactorial and can be different from one child to the next.  Poor nutrition, environmental toxicity, poor gut and brain function, etc are all possible culprits.  Children have been prescribed drugs which do not address the root causes and can cause side effects and dependency.  The good news is that there are natural alternatives:

Eat an anti-inflammatory diet:

How can we expect children to have normal behavior when food choices are poor.  The three most inflammatory foods are grains, bad fats (vegetable oils), and sugar.   I recommend nutrient dense foods including grass-fed hormone-free protein (meat, wild fish, turkey), vegetables, and good fats (avocados, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil etc).  Following a Paleo diet or stricter diets like GAPS or SCD can significantly change your child’s behavior.  Everyone ‘s dietary needs are different so you would have find the best diet that is suitable for your child. 

Remove Food sensitivities/intolerances:

Food sensitivities also cause inflammation.  Anything that inflames the gut can inflame the brain.  It is important to identify these food sensitivities and eliminate these foods to expedite your child’s healing.  For example, gluten sensitivity is common in children with behavior problems.  Research suggests  that it can be at the root of a number of neurological and psychiatric conditions.  A gluten-free diet has been shown to significantly improve behaviors in kids.  Other common sensitivities include casein (dairy), corn, soy, peanuts, etc.  There are a few ways to determine if a person is sensitive to specific foods.  One method is a food elimination/provocation diet.  There are also blood tests and other tests available. 

Consume fermented foods:

Abnormal gut flora can affect your brain and entire body.  Healthy gut flora helps us keep other microbes in check.  However, when we don’t have enough of the good bacteria, the disease-causing species of bacteria, yeast, viruses, etc can release toxins.  These toxins can flow into the bloodstream to affect the brain causing symptoms of autism, AD(H)D, and other mental disorders.  Therefore, it is critical to optimize your child’s gut flora. Types of fermented foods and drinks include kimchee, sauerkraut, cultured beets and carrots, water or coconut kefir, etc.   If your child is not eating fermented foods, you most likely need to supplement with a high quality probiotic on a regular basis.  However, fermented foods have a much greater amount of good bacteria then probiotic supplements.   Fermented foods and probiotics can also boost our immune system, improve bowel health, help detoxification, improve digestion, and provide us with more energy!

Add Omega 3 Essential Fats:

These fats are called essential because our body is unable to synthesized it so if must be derived from food.  We can get a high amount of omega 3 fats in cold watered fish (wild salmon, sardines, anchovies) and some in grass-fee meat and leafy greens.  Most of us must supplement with high-quality fish oil or krill oil to have adequate omega 3’s (EPA and DHA).  Research has shown kids who supplement with these essential fats show significant improvements in both cognitive function and behavioral problems.

Address other causes:

Nutrient deficiencies, chemical/heavy metal toxicity, immune system dysfunction, and other sources of inflammation can prevent your child from healing completely.  If your child doesn’t make significant headway with the above-mentioned recommendations, you may want to consider consulting a holistic health practitioner or a functional medicine doctor to help you get to the root of your child’s health challenge.  

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