Neurological Conditions Often Begin in Childhood
Neurological Conditions and Childhood Neurological Conditions, in particular, are disorders of both the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and peripheral nervous system (all body nerves).
This collection of conditions is so vast, many sub-categories of disorders exist:
- mental health conditions
- acquired brain and spinal cord injuries
- multiple sclerosis
- autism and
- learning difficulties
The above are all forms of neurological illness, but each is very different. The aetiologies (causes) of these diseases represent some of the most complicated clinical situations for modern medicine to manage.
Despite the intricacies of these pathologies, some are renowned for presenting in infancy and childhood. Others present in young adulthood. Some conditions are endured by individuals their whole lives, only to receive some clinical insight and solutions from integrative health and medicine later in life.
This article will discuss childhood neurological conditions, those that predominantly present in childhood. Each has an excellent propensity for healing and reversal through the biomedical approach of nutritional, lifestyle and integrative medicine. Neurological health is a central pillar supporting the work of the MINDD Foundation.
Scientific literature is accumulating more and more research that children with the conditions listed below are deficient in micronutrients essential to cognitive, mental and behavioural health. Without treatment interventions, these conditions do persist into adulthood.
Conditions Associated with Compromised Neurological Development
- Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
- Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder (ADHD)
- Learning and language delays/impairment: including dyslexia and dyspraxia
- Visual processing delay
- Auditory processing delay
- Other sensory processing disorders
- Gross and fine motor skill delay
- Socialisation and emotional problems
- Behavioural concerns: including aggression, bed wetting, short tempers and poor concentration
Any of the above conditions or situations represent signs that
a) thorough routine medical investigation is required
b) illness is present, and change is needed
c) nutritional and possibly allied behavioural therapies are essential
Childhood Neurological Conditions Linked to Mental and Emotional Health:
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Objective Defiance Disorder (ODD)
- Pyrrole Disorder
- Anxiety and Depression
- Bipolar Disorder
- Anorexia and Eating Disorders
Compromised Neurotransmitter Biochemistry in Childhood Neurological Conditions
In a previous article published by The MINDD Foundation, Neurotransmitters and the Nervous System, the entire range of human neurotransmitters implicated in neurological conditions were discussed. Key neurotransmitters discussed included Acetyl Choline, Adrenaline, Gamma Amino Butyric Acid, Glutamine, Histamine, Noradrenaline and Serotonin
Critical Nutrients for Neurological Health:
- Vitamins: A, C, D, E. Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9 (folic acid) and
- Minerals: Zinc, Magnesium, Manganese, Calcium, Iron, Chromium and Selenium
- Amino acids: Tyrosine, Taurine, Glycine, Methionine, Glutathione, and Glutamine
- Essential fatty Acids: Saturated Fatty Acids (SFA’s): required for the structure of phosphatidylcholine, sphingosine and other lipids critical for building healthy neural tissues. Poly-unsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA’s): Alpha-linolenic acid, Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are all forms of omega 3 fatty acids. These are abundant in brain tissue and breast milk.
Problematic Environmental Substances and Contaminants:
- Lead (Pb): this heavy metal can substitute for calcium ions. Lead is particularly toxic to the developing brain.
- Mercury (Hg): methylmercury bioaccumulates in the food chain. Degree of exposure dictates the severity if neurologic issues, ranging from infant mortality to very subtle developmental delays.
- Arsenic (As): Inorganic arsenic (sodium arsenite). Contamination of groundwater with As is a significant environmental health issue for some countries.
- Pesticides: for example, organophosphates such as DDT.
- Solvents: used in everything from cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, household cleaners, paints and varnishes.
Breast Milk as a Contamination Source
It goes without saying that if you can breastfeed, breast milk is best for babies. However, a mother is exposed to countless toxic substances in the environment, the home, the workplace, her beauty and hygiene products and her diet. Many environmental contaminants known to trigger childhood neurological conditions are lipid-soluble and are stored in adipose tissue. Thus breast tissue and breast milk are potential sources of contaminant exposure for infants. Mothers must plan for reducing their toxin exposure while both pregnant and breastfeeding. Ideally, this would start in the very early pre-conception months.
What can you do immediately?
The take-away advice that you can implement today, for all childhood neurological conditions, without immediately seeking advice from an integrative health professional is as follows:
- Just Eat Real Food! Keep things simple; avoid anything that is a false, manufactured food-like substance
- Beware of preservatives: get to know food labels, or avoid any food with a very long shelf life.
- Avoid processed foods: they are depleted of micronutrients, difficult to digest and offer no real nutritional value for building health.
- Smart cooking methods: these include fermenting, and choice of cooking oils, fats and liquids. Learn how to make healthy staples and take classes.
- Ready-made foods: avoid these, as they often contain preservatives or additives that may not require a food label.
- Eliminate packaged foods: these often fall into the processed, preservative-laden category. You will become very savvy regarding packaged foods as you learn more. Healthy kitchen and pantry classes can help you here.
In theory, these changes can be made immediately at your next meal, or your next food-shopping trip. In reality, some individuals and families need to make changes in a step-by-step fashion for changes to be lasting. The crucial point here is to build life-long, permanent changes. Discuss these changes with your family, and select which change will be the easiest to implement first. Set a realistic time frame for change (it may be a few weeks to a couple of months). Researching new places to shop and source food will be necessary. If you do need to progress to an Integrative health practitioner, much of the challenging diet change work will already be done.
Most people notice enormous, positive changes in their children’s and family’s health by simply eating according to these principles. Often, the improvement in general health assists in revealing the precise clinical issue requiring attention, as opposed to being concealed by much lower grade or sub-clinical health issues.
Childhood Neurological Conditions can be Improved
Cellular and digestive health improves and can be recovered via targeted nutritional therapies and integrative medicine. The improvements in health are a physiological and biochemical cascade; the enhanced nutrient utilisation supports neurotransmission in the brain. These positive changes go on to support allied and behavioural therapies further. The human brain is incredibly plastic; very much so when we are young. A healthy diet, home and environment support the cells and structures needed for neural plasticity to reveal its full potential.
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- Castoldi AF1, Coccini T, Manzo L. (2003). Neurotoxic and molecular effects of methylmercury in humans. Reviews on Environmental Health. Jan-Mar;18(1):19-31.
- DeFuria, J. and Shea, T. (2007). Arsenic inhibits neurofilament transport and induces perikaryal accumulation of phosphorylated neurofilaments: roles of JNK and GSK-3beta. Journal of Brain Research. Nov 21; 1181: 74-82.
- Gomez-Pinilla, F., & Gomez, A. G. (2011). The Influence of Dietary Factors in Central Nervous System Plasticity and Injury Recovery. PM & R : The Journal of Injury, Function, and Rehabilitation, 3(6 0 1), S111–S116.
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- Nyaradi, A., Li, J., Hickling, S., Foster, J., & Oddy, W. H. (2013). The role of nutrition in children’s neurocognitive development, from pregnancy through childhood. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7, 97.