Warning: in this blog, I will tell you my very personal experience. At no time do I ever recommend to parents to stop their child’s medication without the doctor’s advice. Nutrition can help, I encourage everyone to explore this avenue, at the same time as the doctor’s recommendations.
In November 2015, I heard the following words from the mouth of the pediatrician « well, things are going so well, even amazingly well, that I won’t need to see you again for follow ups, you’ve solved the problem on your own ». File closed! WOW, I think those are the most beautiful words in the world!! Why? I’ll tell you about a part of my life that is really personal and you’ll understand.
My son has always been an anxious child, easily distracted and a daydreamer. In first grade, he started pulling out his eyelashes. The optometrist thought he might have allergies, but we soon realized he was doing it because he was anxious. First grade was really hard on him. The school’s expectancies for an anxious 6 year old are not funny. On top of pulling out his eyelashes, he was not attentive in class, was often chatting and he daydreamed a lot. It didn’t take a long time before the teacher told us he probably had attention deficit disorder. We didn’t really know what to do, we decided to let time go by and see what happened. In second grade, we were getting the same comments. Not attentive, pulling out his eyelashes, talks in class, daydreams. In third grade, the teacher highly recommends to us to have him evaluated.
What a hit to us as parents. As a mother, I blamed myself, what could I have done to cause this to my chid, maybe when he was a baby I didn’t stimulate him enough….and the list goes on. We gave up and decided to have him tested for ADD. As expected, the diagnosis is one of ADD without hyperactivity. But strange fact is that the neuropsychologist doesn’t think he suffers from anxiety…really? He pulls out his eyelashes!!! Whatever, we leave, evaluation report in hand and wait to see a pediatrician. We manage to see a pediatrician in October of his 4th grade. At that point, he’s failing school so we opt to try out the ADD medication.
And the judging begins from the people around us. It’s already extremely difficult to decide to medicate your child, to have people confront and judge you about it makes it even harder. Yes, I will medicate my child. There, we don’t know what to do anymore, we are at the end of our rope, the teachers say he will only keep failing and the neuropsychologist had told us that he couldn’t see your child succeed in life without medication.
October, we then begin the medication Concerta. In December, so two months after beginning, not only did he pull out ALL his eyelashes, but his eyebrows and spots of hair on his head. He has never pulled to that extent. I am now FREAKING OUT!!!! I call the pediatrician, and like any other doctor, she adds a medication to calm him down. She too refuses to say though that he suffers from anxiety or trichotillomania….HELLO???? The added medication is an anti depressant. At 9 years old…very hard for us as parents. But the teacher is happy, my son is more attentive in class, but it won’t last very long.
The new medication does NOTHING, so in March we stop it. The attention deficit is back full force, even though he is taking the ADD medication Concerta. The dose is therefore increased. My son keeps pulling his eyelashes, eyebrows, hair, he is not any more attentive in class, and it’s really not going well. So I decide to do my own research being a biochemist: Concerta has as a side effect increased anxiety, so in a person already anxious, this can push the anxiety to a higher degree to the point of developing OCD behaviors such as trichotillomania. I can’t believe that a doctor would prescribe this to a child that the parent keeps telling her that the child is extremely anxious. Why won’t she believe me? I call the pediatrician and she wants to change the medication. NO!! I am stopping ALL medication. My son is so skinny because he’s not eating anymore, he has dark circles under his eyes because he’s not sleeping anymore, he doesn’t have any eyelashes, eyebrows and parts of his hair because he is so anxious. We are in June anyways, school is ending. My child looks like he’s suffering from cancer, this is far from normal.
From April of his 4th grade to September of his 5th grade, he was being seen by a psychologist for his anxiety, no success.
In October of his 5th grade (2014), I brought him to a naturopath that performed a battery of blood and urine tests on him (a LOT more than what doctors typically do). It turns out my son has many nutritional deficiencies that play on attention/concentration and anxiety. And well well, his neurotransmitters levels are all super high, so his anxiety is not a neurotransmitters problem, and giving him an anti-depressant would NEVER work on him. The pediatrician could not have checked this before prescribing blindly anti-depressants to a 9 year old? The frustration and the hope were mixed feelings when I received those results. Frustration that traditional medicine does not perform all these tests but hope that finally we might be able to help our son with natural methods.
Following the tests, the naturopath recommended some supplements to boost him where he had deficiencies, and she recommended a no sugar, no gluten, no dairy product diet for at least three weeks to clear his system and see the effect on him. Here goes, judgement time again! Now we are getting critics for not medicating and trying to help with his diet. No way can you win. He hear things like “what, fixing ADD and anxiety with food? That’s nonsense, charlatan bla bla bla » etc etc… But we ignored the negative and moved forward. So 3 weeks before Halloween…yes yes 3 weeks before Halloween, I cut out ALL those from my son’s diet. It seemed like a very hard task to accomplish. Thankfully, my own journey had begun and I was eating a lot healthier myself so extending it a bit further was not that hard. But I would have done it anyways to help my child
So we do our very strict 3 weeks. We already see changes on his level of attention and anxiety. He is a lot more attentive in class, and a lot less nervous. Even the teacher tells me. At Halloween, I made an exception and let him eat sugar, of course he ate a lot for a week. The teacher wrote to me after a week to ask what was going on with him. He started pulling out his eyelashes again, he had stopped, he’s not attentive in class, and she has to bring him back to his task all the time. We stop the sugar and the eyelashes grow back, the anxiety decreases and the attention in class increases. Then come Christmas. Again, I make an exception, he eats sugar. Result: he pulled out all his eyelashes of both eyes. We thought before that his anxiety was school performance related, but at Christmas, no school, so it’s clear sugar plays directly on his anxiety levels. Eventually we reintroduced gluten and dairy and he seems to tolerate those well. He doesn’t eat a lot of those foods but for him, it’s really the sugar that has the biggest impact.
The moral of this story: we don’t realize to what extent food can have an impact on us and how we feel and function. NEVER would I have thought that sugar was the major cause of my son’s anxiety, to the point of pulling out his eyelashes, and that from 5-6 years old. Never would I have thought that vitamin and other deficiencies related to food could play that much on attention/concentration. I tried for years to figure out how to help my son, seeing doctors that only prescribe pills based on symptoms rather than true data, not really knowing if they will help or not. At least he naturopath made recommendations based on specific data for my son. So even if you don’t think the way you are eating has a big impact on you, without trying to change it, you’ll never know. Have an open mind, a critical mind. Test for yourself, you’ll see. Like my son, sugar affects me a lot. Chronic fatigue, difficulty concentrating, heavy head, dizziness.
Now my son is in 6th grade and like the beginning of my blog says, everything is going really well. He eats a sugar free diet about 90% of the time, takes his supplements for the nutritional deficiencies and the difference to previous years is remarkable. He gained weight, sleeps, and he is passing at school. Eating healthy is always worth it.
I invite you to comment this comment, ask me questions, discuss with me, I will be more than happy to share more with you.