It seems crazy to me that so many people, medical professionals and normal folks alike, still believe that what we eat has little to do with behavior, mood, and physical health (like how food dyes impact behavior and how sugar is as harmful as cigarettes!). Turning a blind eye to that simple relationship prevents so many people from finding relief from their suffering, whether that be chronic pain or hyperactivity.
A few years ago I read Kelly Dorfman’s What’s Eating Your Child? (now titled Cure Your Child with Food) and was very impressed. Dorfman describes herself as a “nutrition detective,” and on paper she’s a licensed nutritionist dietician.
While many dieticians seem to be stuck in the low-fat world, you’ll be encouraged to know that Dorfman not only appreciates healthy fats but advocates elimination diets for kids, being tough on picky eaters, and cutting gluten for many. Her book is utterly fascinating.
How Food Impacts Your Child’s Health
If you have a child with unexplained maladies or behavior issues of any kind, from recurrent ear infections to eczema to lack of focus, I encourage you to get the book from the library, grab it from your local bookstore or buy it from Amazon.
Shortly after I read her book, Kelly Dorfman came to Grand Rapids and spoke to a small but passionate crowd at Schuler’s Bookstore. I’m sharing a summary of her presentation today, and then the conversation we had when I was blessed to sit down with her for an interview, armed with reader questions and my own (catch the interview recap here).
Nutrition detective work involves asking 2 questions:
- Are you eating something that hurts you?
- Are you missing something you need?
By answering these two questions you can create a game plan for your child’s diet and lifestyle.
What Foods are Linked to Ear Infections?
Ear infections have an enormously strong link to nutrition that most people don’t understand – a 90% correlation to diet!
A study in Washington, DC followed kids with ear infections/fluid in the ears:
They took kids off 1-4 foods, and the ear infections went away. That simple!!!
The four foods:
Why dairy? Casein is a problem, because we’re not ruminants, so many people have trouble digesting those proteins. Some say no human should consume animal milk as it is designed for animals and is nutritionally very different from human breastmilk.
The protein in soy is similar to that of cow’s milk dairy, so often when people go off casein and switch to soy milk, they still have problems.
Why are Ear Infections a Problem?
With ear infections being so common, many say, “Eh, they go away, they just affect little people.”
Here’s why ear infections matter: As a child grows and begins standing up more than lying down, the ear infections go away, but then those same kids are sick a lot (the drainage just goes into the lungs instead of ear tubes).
Early recurrent ear infections are a sign of problems to come:
As a group, kids with many ear infections have more ADHD and distractibility in elementary, middle AND high school.
Learning is all about hearing when you’re so little; when the ears are plugged all the time in toddlerhood, the child never learns how to assign meaning to noise and turn noise into usable language, how to sort out the noise and filter it. The kids with chronic ear infections just can’t filter noise well and remain distracted.
So eliminating ear infections early on can have a profound impact.
Why are Young Kids Getting Bipolar Disorder?
Our brains are 60-70% fat, and the kind of fats we eat become the fats in our brain. Fats in fish are related to anxiety and depression with a one-to-one correlation. In a study of 70 countries, the more fish people eat, the less depression they have. For example, in Japan, they have low rates of depression, in New Zealand, high depression rates, low fish consumption.
The two fats in fish that might help:
EPA is particularly related to depression.
In one study people taking fish oil with EPA did as well as the people taking a prescription medication for depression.
In another study on kids, they looked at ADHD, social anxiety disorder, even dyslexia. They used a specific type of fish oil that is 90% EPA, same kind as Harvard researchers. The chapter in her book all about this is “The Worrier”.
Certain fats also enable you to remember knowledge and organize it. These include:
- phosphytitol choline – an essential nutrient (discovered in 1998) – the deficiency syndrome for that nutrient is a decrease in the ability to learn.
- Vitamin E – deficiency symptom include slow speech development, poor motor planning,… [and many others I missed!] Note that because E is fat soluble, your body will store excess. So don’t go overboard on supplements. Getting a lot of Vitamin E from foods is not a problem.
- fish fats
Without sufficient amounts of these fats in the diet, a child’s brain may not function properly. This can lead to conditions like ADHD and bipolar disorder.
Is ADHD Over-diagnosed?
ADHD meds do not help school performance at all, studies show, but it does help behavior. It’s really just behavior management. Fewer boys graduate from high school and college than girls now! They’re not getting through the system – boys aren’t built to sit and learn, they’re built to move and learn. The school system isn’t right for them so we have to drug them to keep them in it.
Dorfman even talks about “Vitamin M for Movement.” In 30 years she’s rarely seen a TRUE case of ADHD, and there are NO long-term studies on giving kids stimulants (like Ritalin).
Some short-term studies show the medications increase anxiety and change the way the anxiety part of the brain operates. Brains in rats started early sign of neurodegeneration.
Teachers and parents just have to be creative with boys – get them MOVING more often. Just changing a tough class to after gym class has made a big difference in success in learning.
Do GMO’s Cause Allergies?
Kelly Dorfman addressed her chapter on GMO’s (genetically modified organisms).
Why are there so many more allergies now – peanuts, etc.? One reason is GMO’s. 93% of soy and 80% of corn is genetically modified. Fast food is packed with soy and corn.
GMO’s cause more allergy responses in foods.
One year after releasing GMO soy in England, soy allergies went up 50%. A year after they released it here in US, peanut allergies increased by a bunch of percent, too (I missed the figure).
The distortion of thinking about food is because we’re competing real food vs. some odd chemicals that food scientists can use.
How Zinc Impacts Picky Eating
Zinc deficiencies create picky eaters because when you don’t have enough zinc, it increases the intensity of the taste of food.have lots of iron which can interfere with zinc absorption! In general high doses of iron are not recommended.
Two-year olds are often picky because they finally realize that they have some control and cause and effect. “If I close my mouth, she can’t make me eat.” Ha!
In America we have a really weird concept that is completely wrong: If a child rejects a food one time, he doesn’t like it. No! It takes a long time to acclimate to certain things.
One of my favorite quotes of the day: “Crackers are the road to perdition.” Death to nutrition.
Kids love to eat crackers because they’re crunchy, pick-up-able, and salty. (I’m hoping homemade crackers would pass the test, but I was afraid to ask.)
Getting zinc and iron levels in balance can do a lot for picky eating.
Why You Lose Your Memory In Menopause
Yes, losing hormones during menopause negatively impacts your memory. Dorfman believes hormone supplements are a good thing. Check with your health care provider if you want to explore that option.
Choline affects speed of processing in the brain. One reason people start to lose their memory is that they’re losing speed of processing. This is impacted by both nutrition and exercise!
Dorfman recommends supplements to fill in the gaps. I’m a fan of getting vitamins and minerals from food. But she says you’d have to eat A LOT of fish to get everything you need. The problem with that is then you’re eating a lot of mercury, which is a brain destroyer. It’s so sad that it’s safer to take fish oil capsules than eat fish, because the fish oil supplements are distilled to take the mercury out. Here is my guide on finding the right fish oil supplement for you.
How Should We Eat?
So, what does this all mean? How should we be feeding our children to keep them healthy?
“Eat as much plain, ordinary, Little House on the Prairie foods as you can.”
Keep it simple, not processed foods and juices.
Stick to whole, real foods that don’t come in boxes and bags and don’t have a lengthy list of ingredients. Simple and nourishing. Try eating the way God intended.
Check out my follow-up one-on-one interview with Kelly Dorfman where she answers some really good reader questions!