By Dr. Shawn VanWinkle
Incidences of Autism and ADHD in our society have been rising at an alarming rate that could be considered epidemic in nature. Autism and ADHD are part of a spectrum of conditions in the childhood developmental disorders category. Other conditions in this spectrum include Asperger’s syndrome, dyslexia, OCD, ODD and Tourette’s syndrome. Chances are, with the rising prevalence, you or someone you know, has a child that suffers from one of these conditions.
Functional Disconnection Syndrome
For years, these conditions have eluded researchers and health care professionals alike. Current research is now helping us understand that these disorders are related to an imbalance of electrical activity in different areas of the brain. The term for this problem is called Functional Disconnection Syndrome (FDS). In FDS, when the different areas of the brain do not mature at the same rate, communication between these areas is compromised. It is like taking a computer from the 1980’s and trying to get it to talk to a computer today. They have the same basic language and are able to speak with each other but with very poor efficiency. The newer computer will get bored with the older one and the older computer will get frustrated with the newer one resulting in multiple “error” messages.
10 “Error” Messages Related to FDS!
1. Developmental Milestones. Achieving milestones too early, too late or not at all are warning signs that the brain is having growth and communication challenges. As a result, many children with FDS will also have persistent primitive reflexes leading to many motor and sensory problems.
2. Poor Body Awareness & Poor Gross/Fine Motor Skills. Children with delays in brain development have errors in processing information from their environment. They are unaware of where their body is in space which results in them feeling ungrounded. When children cannot feel their body very well, they have difficulty learning to use their muscles and are unable to accurately and fluidly move well.
3. Poor Eye Coordination. Our brain tells our eyes how to move. Deficits in brain development can lead to a weak eye muscle. This appears as a lazy eye or an eye that doesn’t move with the other one.
4. Poor Social Skills. Children with FDS frequently misinterpret facial expressions, tone of voice and various body gestures. This leads to challenges learning how to socially communicate with others.
5. Abnormal Emotional Reactions. When our brain observes body language, emotion is assigned to it. Related chemicals are then released in our body. Have you ever felt better when someone randomly flashes you a huge ear to ear smile?
6. Sensory Processing Symptoms. FDS children will have abnormally sensitive nervous systems. They may be fussy eaters. Some have difficulty with being hugged or touched. Sometimes they cover their ears to noises that only moderately loud. Children who have difficulty seeing the big picture or the details may have visual processing issues. Many FDS kids have both sight and sound issues.
7. Digestion/Immune System.
- Digestion: The brain controls release of enzymes that help break down food so the body can use it. Many FDS kids have poor nutrient absorption and may suffer from constipation or diarrhea.
- Leaky barriers: Babies are born with a leaky digestive barrier. This is critical because it allows large immune molecules from mom’s milk to enter the blood stream to support the immune system. The brain also has a similar barrier system. Health and integrity of these two barriers are connected. As the brain matures, it seals these barriers. Later inflammation and immune attacks weaken these barriers causing them to become “leaky”. Inflammation in the gut it will lead to inflammation in the brain. A GUT on FIRE = BRAIN on FIRE! Children with FDS are at risk for further nervous system damage when the immune system gets ramped up from foods they are sensitive to.
- Immune balance: Our brain controls our immune system. Delays in brain development lead to immune system imbalances. In some cases, part of the immune system can get overactive and it starts to attack self. Children with these problems typically have asthma, allergies and food sensitivities. Also, part of the immune system can become underactive making it difficult to fight off bacteria and viruses. They frequently get ear infections, colds and the stomach flu.
8. Food sensitivities. Food sensitivities are common causes for inflammation and flare up the immune system. The two most common food culprits are wheat (gluten/gliadin) and dairy (casein). According to Dr. Robert Melillo, author of “Disconnected Kids” and founder of the Brain Balance centers, up to 85 percent of children with FDS have food sensitivities and when these foods are ingested, they produce an inflammatory response that results in more subtle mental and behavioral symptoms that can take anywhere from 6 to 72 hours to appear. These symptoms can last for days, weeks or even months after the exposure!
9. Academic Symptoms. The right and left brain are responsible for different academic skills in school. Because there is an asymmetry of development of these brain areas, FDS children will often be really good at some subjects in school and do very poorly with others.
10. Cognitive Symptoms. These can vary significantly in nature but usually will be seen as problems with acting appropriately for one’s age, being unable to pay attention or having issues with making friends.
Most children will have more than one of the problems listed above. We also know that the brain is very capable of rewiring itself when the proper stimulation is given to it. Identifying which areas of the brain are under or over developed and eliminating foods they are sensitive to are the first step to helping your child restore balanced brain function. At Integrated Health Systems, we can help you assess your child’s brain and nutritional issues and develop an action plan that will help them live a fuller, happier, more focused and more meaningful life!
Copyright © 2013 Integrated Health Systems. All Rights Reserved. Dr. Shawn VanWinkle is an Associate Doctor at Integrated Health Systems. To learn more about how we can help you with your health goals