Well, I mean kids' brains have a lot of plasticity. That means flexibility, right down to each nerve and its connection with other brain cells.
At this point, I think I may be to old to be a protege of any sort, and I wasn't one of those kids who is a violin or calculus genius.
No, I think "spazzy" might have been used more commonly. Or "very active," "busy" or "curious" if one was trying to be nice. I like to think that I was just very interested in everything, and wanted to do everything at once. But if I had ever become too much for my parents, I very well could have ended up with an ADHD diagnosis (or ADD as it was known just a few years ago).
Lucky for me I grew up in the time before prolific medication of young ones. Today, around 5-7% of school-aged children are diagnosed with ADHD and with the development and widespread use of medication for this population, many children are on behavior-altering medications for years. Both intentionally and unintentionally, this affects developing brains, since the meds specifically target the part of the brain which is most plastic (prefrontal cortex), which actively grows and matures into one's 20s.
At the bottom of the page is the full research article I came across recently- it's 9 pages long and dense on the topic of psychophysiological coherence- one of my professional passions.
This is what I am tapping into when I use when I train people with stress and anxiety using in-office and at-home biofeedback therapy techniques. Knowing how simple and powerfully effective it is in children (and adults) with ADHD, I incorporate biofeedback into my patient plans before starting strong, potentially habit-forming psychostimulants- particularly with my pediatric patients.
To sum up the research results, all of the children (ages 6-8 grade) showed improved cognitive function and behavior after a series of 6 weekly biofeedback sessions (involving a Heartmath game to make it fun). Some of the surprising findings are that most of the kids were using Heartmath skills every day after a three month check in, on their own, with no adults prompting them. Another is that some (18%) of the children at that check in were completely off their psychostimulant medication (at be beginning of the study, all the children were medicated).
No parent wants their child to be excessively medicated- and with some emotional and psychological conditions, medication can allow someone to better function in their day to day activities. Looking at non-pharmacologic options is my focus when working with children (and adults) with ADHD, and I look forward to continue reinforcing these positive results using biofeedback for these individuals.
As with any chronic issue, there are often multiple factors at play- people experiencing ADHD often have food or chemical allergies or sensitivities for example- so my approach always takes into consideration each patient's unique history in order to make a customized plan of action for improved quality of life.
Stay happy, healthy and warm,
Stress vs. Well-Being: how do you measure up?
From overwhelmed to overjoyed
Glucometer measuring a diabetic level of glucose in the blood.
The International Diabetes Federation met two weeks ago to document current cases of diabetes and what unified proposals they agreed upon to recommend to last week's UN meeting. This federation represents associations from 160 countries, all of whom are finding ever more increasing and concerning numbers of diabetics in their healthcare systems (information from their symposium may be found here).
So what's the current picture? There are now an estimated 366 million people with diabetes (data combines types 1 and 2). Their total estimated yearly financial impact on healthcare systems is $465 billion. Annually. That's a huge number of people and a huge financial impact- both on larger systems and on a personal level.
To put this number into perspective, there are 54 million more diabetics in the world than the entire U.S. population combined. Although this is far from an American problem, many chronic non-communicable diseases rise in countries in proportion to their adoption of industrialized (American) culture and food (diabetes, heart disease and cancer are a few).
Type 2 diabetes has been around for some time but has been rapidly growing from the 174 million diabetics estimated worldwide 30 years ago. What was at one time termed "Adult Onset Diabetes" can now be found affecting grade-school children. Type 1 or "Juvenile Onset Diabetes" was a rare disease to my knowledge as a child, and I knew of no children with Type 2. I'm thinking that this is not the case with today's children.
So where does this all end? Personal choices, government choices and companies' influence impacts all our lives. Whether it's diabetes, cancer, lung disease, an autoimmune disease or some other chronic non-communicable disease, it's a long and difficult path towards continual improvement of one's health. Our modern medical establishment it not set up to optimally serve people in a preventative and health-supporting manner, so check out what the Naturopathic profession can do for you if you have one of these or a similar concern.
But can it make a phone call? Just show me that.
Cell phones: do they cause, hasten or otherwise affect one's development of cancer or not? This question seems to have been batted back and forth for a few years now. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently analyzed current research on the topic, and has declared their own opinion on the matter (CNN article here).
Their stance is that cell phones should be defined as a carcinogen- a substance that promotes the development of cancer, but not a direct cause of cancer. The WHO compares cell phone use's damage on par with health effects from "lead, engine exhaust and chloroform."
While not making the direct link between cell phone use and incidence of cancer, the types of cancer which have been shown to increase with use are two types of brain cancer: glioma and acoustic neuroma. Comparing the radiation given off by cell phones to a "very low powered microwave," the research author neurologist Dr. Keith Black makes this statement pertaining to how this may affect children:
"Children's skulls and scalps are thinner. So the radiation can penetrate deeper
into the brain of children and young adults. Their cells are at a dividing faster rate,
so the impact of radiation can be much larger."
So, cell phones aren't going anywhere as they're now an inextricable part of society. What's a person to do? Well, cell phone manufacturers suggest holding the phone away from the body while it's transmitting (such as during calls, texting, using the internet, etc.), and with Oregon law requiring drivers to use head sets and other away-from-the-head technology I think I'll start following their recommendations and hopefully reduce my chance of brain cancer at the same time!
Thanks for reading, responses are always welcome!
So many choices, so many half-truth health claims.
Boosts your immunity. Good for digestion. Improves attention. These are some of the common claims made by major food companies to market their "functional food."
This phenomena has been explained by a recent NY Times article (5/14/11).
But how healthful are they? Is there actually science behind these claims?
Usually there is at least one scientific study which the companies use as a marketing springboard for their "functional food" product. But as far as how healthy the food item may be, the "for your health" advertising is often misleading and incomplete.
One such example is American Heart Association-approved Welches Grape Juice. It is approved because it is fat free (as opposed to those lard-laden juices?). Welches Grape Juice earns the AHA red "Healthy Heart" logo on the front of the juice containers, even though it contains 36 grams of sugar per serving (eight ounces). This amount of sugar falls somewhere between a Mountain Dew and a Pepsi- not what I'd call healthy, and probably not the best for your cardiovascular system.
In another particularly egregious use of research to promote "functional foods," Kellogg's Frosted Mini Wheats was marketing their cereal as improving children's attentiveness. These results were obtained by comparing children's attentiveness in the morning before their breakfast and after three hours. The control group got water for breakfast. Only half of the Mini Wheats kids showed better attentiveness than the water-fasted kids.
So it doesn't appear that concerned parents should be loading their kids up on those sugar bombs just quite yet. After whole wheat, the three remaining primary ingredients in Frosted Mini Wheats are sugar, high fructose corn syrup and gelatin. I can think of just a few better ideas for improving a child's attention than those food items.
So, how to tell what's what when grocery store items are being branded and sponsored by national disease associations faster than NASCAR drivers? First take a look at the ingredients, and turn a discerning eye to those which are "enriched" or include ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, artificial coloring (like red # 40). If the food has a longer ingredient list than you have an attention span for reading, the processed nature probably outweighs the health benefits.
Lastly, if the brand is a billion-dollar international company, they're probably not too concerned for your digestive health. Just look to that food critic in you to sift the food that's actually good for you from the bright colors and cartoon figures promising health benefits.
Thanks for reading!
What was your favorite school lunch item?
I'll admit mine was the chocolate milk; less than healthy choices such as mine may soon be a thing of the past.
School lunches are in the cross-hairs of the current legislative activity aimed at improving children's nutrition. Last year, Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act, showing how concerning our children's lunchtime food choices are (even the presidents getting involved here!).
Today's Washington Post featured an article titled, "School lunch debates heat up," where author Jennifer LaRue Huget asks:
"...whose responsibility it is to decide what to feed America’s schoolchildren, who should determine what’s healthful and what’s not, and what role [do] parents play in that decision-making process. We also have to consider whether serving nutritionally sound meals at school is itself part of the curriculum; teaching kids what foods are best for their bodies by offering such foods at lunchtime."
Don't let me eat it if you're scared to look at the ingredients.
So whose responsibility is it that kids eat healthy lunches?
Shouldn't it be everyone's?
If healthy meal choices are made at home, then children will (by extension) bring healthy lunches to school. And for those who are provided meals at school (for parental convenience and/or reduced-price), then shouldn't this be where the schools step in with healthy choices?
If childhood (and adult) epidemic levels of obesity and diabetes are to be reversed, we need to take what kids eat seriously.
When nutrition becomes a value that we as a society act upon, only then will children benefit and chronic disease stats decline. Until that time, Lunchables will continue to be the top lunchtime trading commodity, and our following generations will grow evermore unhealthy and overweight.
I love to hear all of your comments, questions, and suggestions for upcoming articles. Feel free to contact me any time!
Thanks for reading!