Currently viewing the tag: "children"

To be sure, everything has an upside.  Take Tourette syndrome: A recent study has shown that children with the neurological tic disorder perform better on cognitive motor control tests than children without the disorder.  You don’t say?  Yes, the children with Tourette’s showed less impulsivity of movements and greater cognitive control–that is, they were less likely to act without thinking.

Tourette syndrome (TS) is characterized by repetitive, involuntary movements and vocalizations called tics.  The first symptoms of TS are almost always noticed in childhood.  Some of the more common tics include eye blinking and other vision irregularities, facial grimacing, shoulder shrugging, and head or shoulder jerking.  Perhaps the most dramatic and disabling tics are those that result in self-harm such as punching oneself in the face, or vocal tics including coprolalia (uttering swear words) or echolalia (repeating the words or phrases of others).

Researchers believe that the enhanced motor control stems from structural and functional brain changes that likely result from the need to constantly suppress tics.  According to one of the study’s authors, Stephen Jackson of the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, MRI exams confirmed that the “Tourette’s brain” showed changes in the white-matter connections that allowed different brain areas to communicate with each another.

Pretty amazing how the human brain compensates for disruptions in one area by tightening up the function of another.  If you can’t see the benefit of increased cognitive motor control, then you can’t see the downside to Tourette’s either, because they are two sides of the same coin.  Anybody that knows human physiology knows that the body will do what it needs to survive.  An anastomosis is a connection of blood vessels serving as backup routes for blood to flow if one link is blocked or otherwise compromised.  The body does this all the time, and I see the connections here in this recent Tourette’s study.

The researchers believe that the significance of these findings is that it may help explain why some people with TS who have profound tics during childhood are relatively tic-free by early adulthood, while others continue to have severe tics throughout their life.  They also point out the potential benefits from “brain training” techniques that help people with TS gain control of their symptoms.

Absolutely.  From what we know about neuroplasticity, along with these findings, it seems reasonable that new pathways can be created, benefiting people with TS.  My feeling is that will be seeing more therapeutic work involving brain training not just with Tourette’s but with other neurological disorders, like autism, in the near future.

Last post I described a phone conversation between me and a fifteen-year-old boy that called asking about ADD drugs.  When I explained to him how drugs like Ritalin and Concerta are essentially speed he asked what he could take as an alternative.  I said it depends on what the person you are asking believes about the label “ADHD.”

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“Well, for instance, some people, myself included, don’t really believe that ADHD, as it’s defined, is a disorder.  The inability to concentrate, being disruptive in class, or any of those other things that irritate teachers are characteristics we all have when we aren’t inspired by something.  It just tells me that the kid labeled as ADHD isn’t inspired in school.  That says a lot more about teachers than children in my book.”

“Well, I’m just bored in school.”

“Exactly.  But I’ll bet there are things you do that you have no problems concentrating on.  What do you like to do?  What do you love?”

“Sports.”

“What do you play.”

“Football…and baseball.”

“What’s your position in football?”

“Defensive end.”

“So when the ball is snapped, and you’re going after that quarterback, ready to crush his skull…are you thinking about something else?”

“Ha ha…no.”

“So you don’t have ADD when you’re playing sports.”

“No, I guess not.”

“Everybody has ADD when they are forced to do something they are uninspired by.  When you are in school, you are likely uninspired.  Unfortunately for you, you’ve got to go to school until you are eighteen–that’s the law.  In the meantime, find what you love and do it.  And when you are old enough to make your own life decisions, do what you love, and do it well.  You’ll be more fulfilled that way.”

He got it.  I don’t believe there are any dumb children.  But I do believe that there are plenty uninspiring teachers out there.  Maybe they’d be better labeled babysitters, because if they are not inspiring every one of their students, then they are failing as teachers.  In my opinion, teaching is finding what the student loves and showing them how the subject matter relates to what they love.  Give me a room full of football players and I will teach them every math concept under the sun.  All it takes is teacher creativity.  But we all know that’s lacking in our schools…we’ve all been there.

That wasn’t my experience in college, however.  I was so lucky to have outstanding and highly creative professors.  My college algebra teacher was a comedian and a genius.  Nobody finished that class without a basic understanding of math and a hell of a lot of laughs.

Just watch the movie, Stand and Deliver, to understand what I’m talking about.  Teacher Jaime Escalante, “is able to win over the attention of the students by implementing innovative teaching techniques, using props and humor to illustrate abstract concepts of math and convey the necessity of math in everyday lives.” ~ from Wikipedia

No, I’m not buying into ADHD one iota.  Find what inspires a kid, nurture it, and use that to teach them academic concepts, and that kid will thrive.  Giving them doctor-prescribed speed drugs is a cop out.


Want to know the flip side to our current obesity obsession?  Increased hospitalization for eating disorders…in children!  That’s right, the more society bashes the overweight, the greater the fear instilled in kids.  Heavens forbid they might turn out to be…big, fat, obese.  Scourges of society they’ll be–the press’ll beat ‘em, the public’ll beat ‘em, you’ll beat ‘em…and forget about what their school mates might do.  Sheesh.

A new American Academy of Pediatrics report shows that among children younger than 12 with eating disorders, hospitalizations surged 119% between 1999 and 2006.  This at the same time hospitalizations for eating disorders among all age groups increased 15%.

I’m not surprised as the focus on fatness–in the negative–must scare the appetite out of plenty of kids.  Being inundated with pictures of emaciated models, and seeing how skinny starlets are pedastalized in magazines and on television, while normal sized ones are denigrated for being “big” would lead any kid with a normal-sized ego to an ex-lax habit.

Quite honestly, I’m much more disturbed by anorexia and bulimia than I am about obesity.  Seems to me that although one might lead to a slew health problems, the other is a death wish, quick and to the point.  Nevertheless, one extreme must live with the other, and so I don’t doubt we’ll be seeing a steady rise in eating disorders (and subsequent hospitalizations) in the near future.

Too many kids are having to be treated for chronic constipation.  Gastroenterologists at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center report a 30% rise in these cases from 2008-2009, leading the center to open a new clinic to provide medical and behavioral therapy for children with the condition.

Constipation in children can be from poor diet and lack of activity, but the most likely cause, particularly as it relates to the current increases, is drinking too little water.  As I have pointed out previously in this blog, proper water intake is important for a multitude of metabolic processes, one being digestion and elimination.  Remember, the human body is highly intelligent; provide it with insufficient material and it will shunt what it needs, taking from one area to give to another.  Take in too little water and watch your body steal from your colon to give to other, more vital, regions.

Why are children not drinking enough water?  Gotta ask the parents.  But one thing I know for sure, being one of the most soda-consuming nations, the U.S. has plenty of children who get their fluids from liquid sugar.  Oh well.  Gotta wise up, folks; there’s always a price to pay.  Drink soda, your kid will drink soda.  Your kid drinks soda, he or she will probably bypass drinking water.  Bypass drinking water, say hello to constipation.  Cause, effect.  Your choice.

Signs of constipation in children is very often missed by parents, and it can lead to a severe or chronic case.  Things to look for are abdominal bloating and a feeling of fullness; straining with bowel movements; lumpy or hard stools and/or small pellet-like stools, accompanied by a feeling of incomplete emptying of the bowels.  Children with serious constipation may also refuse to go to the toilet for fear it will hurt; they may hide to go in a private place, or experience underwear soiling and bedwetting.  Knowing these signs can help you figure out if your child is suffering.

Finally, make sure your kid is drinking plenty of water.  Dump the soda (for yourself, too) and make water your drink of choice.  Or deal with chronic constipation if that’s what you’d prefer.

More stupidity coming out of the flu shot camp this year.  Same old propaganda.  Here’s the deal according to experts: You’re an idiot if you don’t get the flu shot.  All your reservations against getting the flu shot are false.  Not one thing you think negatively about the flu shot is proven, but get this…the flu shot is based on sound evidence.  Har, har, har.  Sounds like today’s best political style–if they disagree, denigrate them.

According to a recent report, many Americans are planning to bypass the flu shot this year.  A survey conducted by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) found that 43% of Americans will not be getting a flu shot this season.  Additionally, a second study found that one-third of American mothers said they have no plans to get a flu shot for their children.  Booyah!

I love it.  But the medical establishment doesn’t.  They’ve been ramming the flu shot malarkey down our throats for years, and they are WRONG!  Wrong.  I’ve been reporting on this sham for the last four years.  Every year they say the same thing.  2007 saw record flu shots given, yet the incidences of flu were off the charts.  The shot gave little protection that year.  In 2008, people kept away from the bull shot.  Guess what?  Flu cases went down!  Get it?

I’ve said this before, getting the flu strains right* in any particular year is very much like predicting the weather–it’s a crap shoot.  It’s freakin’ bogus.  But what really offends me is the arrogance by which the establishment belittles people who see this and choose not to swallow the BS being fed to them.

“Flu is serious. Every year millions of people get sick; more than 200,000 people are hospitalized and thousands of people die from influenza,” Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Yes, sick people, unhealthy people, immunocompromised people and malnourished children.  My children have had the flu every year–they’re alive.  God bless their immune systems.  If you want a flu shot–go get one; it’s available.  We’ll pass, though, thank you.  Are we stupid?  OK, I’ll take that under consideration.

Flu expert Dr. Marc Siegel believes that many people who opt not to get a flu shot are falling prey to myths about the vaccine. “It’s all because of this nonsense that’s been circulating that somehow the flu shot is dangerous.”

No doctor, listen up: It’s because the seasonal flu shot is bogus.  Plain and simple.  Wake up.

And his thoughts on the belief of some people that hand-washing helps prevent spread of the flu: “The idea that you are not going to spread the flu by washing your hands has never been proven,” Siegal noted.

And the sham that getting a flu shot prevents the flu has not only never been proven, it fails to do so many years–think 2007-2008.

I’ll keep reporting on this nonsense every year until the numbers of rejecters reaches high eighty percent.  Until then, hats off dissenters.  Glad you recognize the agenda.

* This year’s shot will contain the H1N1 strain…the same one they had to burn last season because nobody wanted.  Guess they found use for it.  How does it feel to be part of a massive public health experiment?

Yo kid, whatcha drinkin’?  Not water, that’s for sure.  A recent study to be published in the October issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, shows that children in the U.S. are drinking far too little water.  Since water makes up the bulk of the human body weight, getting sufficient amounts is vital.  And since we can’t store water for the long term, running on a water deficiency can wreak havoc on the health.

According to the study conducted by the Queens College of the City University of New York and the U.S. National Cancer Institute, American children drink far less than the minimum amount of water recommended by the U.S. Institute of Medicine.  The study looked at the water intake of 3,978 boys and girls, aged 2 to 19 years, who had been included in a national nutrition study from 2005 to 2006.  They found that only 15-60% of boys and 10-54% of girls, depending on age, drink enough water.  Instead, children are primarily drinking…yup, you guessed it, sugary drinks like sodas.

The study found that most kids drank sweetened beverages with meals and not plain water.  Yecchh!  And girls overall drank less water than boys.  The good news is that as children age, they start to drink a bit more water, but not enough to preserve good health.  Let’s go over some points on the importance of proper hydration:

  • Human beings cannot live without water for a few days
  • We lose approximately two liters of water per day through sweat, urine, tears, saliva and the breath, among other processes
  • Caffeinated drinks–sodas, iced tea, coffee drinks–are diuretics, which make us urinate more, thus increasing the need for water
  • Insufficient water levels lead to
  • fatigue
  • increased hunger
  • muscle weakness
  • headaches
  • dry mouth
  • heat stroke and other maladies

Furthermore, high consumption of sugary drinks leads to…yes, right again, obesity (along with other illnesses like diabetes).  And you heard childhood obesity is due to the common cold virus, now, didn’t you?

Listen, adults in the U.S. aren’t doing much better.  Sodas are still the number one consumed beverage in America.  And kids learn from their parents, so if you are a soda junkie, don’t expect less from junior.

Simple solution: stop buying soda! If you have younguns at home, don’t give them any of that crap, period.  My girls have never tasted a soda in their lives, and they won’t ever in our house.  Yes, I’m on a soapbox on this one, and I’m not getting off anytime soon.  That garbage is killing people, and I’ll keep screaming it till people listen.

Water is the elixir of life, and if you or your child are not getting enough, then you’re playing with fire.  Play with water instead, give your kids good ol’ H2O to drink and watch them flourish.  It’s in your hands parents–do the right thing.

Well surprise, surprise–pills in the medicine cabinet pose a greater threat to children than household cleaners.  This from a recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report stating that two out of every three children showing up at emergency rooms for poisoning were due to ingesting prescription drugs.  And you thought those orange canisters were child proof.

Poisonings being the number one health hazard for children makes it prudent to know which household items are causing the greatest harm.  Medications by far lead the pack–they are twice as likely to cause pediatric poisoning as cleaning substances, pesticides, personal care products and other toxic household substances.

Says Jay L. Schauben, a pharmacist and director of the Florida Poison Information Center in Jacksonville, Florida,

“Normally what occurs when someone is taking medicine on a chronic basis, they’ll leave it out.  Any pills left out are within the grasp and reach of a child. Some of the medicine can look like candy. Some of the cough syrupsare flavored and taste good. You can sort of see how that would be a disaster waiting to happen.

The drugs children most often overdose on are over-the-counter (OTC) medications, with 10% of all poisonings in children under five coming from common analgesics like Tylenol or Motrin.  Don’t forget that very young children put things in their mouths all the time–they are sampling their environment.  When common OTC meds are left out, children will likely want to try them.  Further, when hosting guests, always remember that they might be on medications, too, so keep an eye out for meds left out in guest bathroom.

Fortunately, not all kids that swallow pills overdose: only 26 deaths from 1.3 million poisonings in children 5 or younger were reported in 2008.

The best thing parents can do if they suspect medication poisoning, experts say, is to first call the Poison Help hotline: 800-222-1222. That number will connect them to the Poison Control Center nearest them.

“The only time you want to call 911 first is if the child is unarousable, the child is having difficulty breathingor the child is having convulsions or seizures,” Schauben said.

According to another expert, “More than 95 percent of the time, a child will be able to stay at home.  I don’t think just because a child got into something, the parents should automatically pack them into the car and take them to the emergency room. We can determine who needs to go to an ER or not.”

Once again,

Poison Help hotline: 800-222-1222.

To radiate or not to radiate, that should be the question all doctors ask continuously.  Unfortunately the explosion of higher-sensitivity diagnostic imaging has some patients asking for them by name, a dangerous scenario as CT (CAT) scans are being implicated in increased cancer risk.

I have had my Los Angeles chiropractic patients ask me (more like passively demand) for an advanced imaging study, despite it being unnecessary.  Why?  Because doctors have been pushing them in the same manner they’ve been pushing antidepressants, statins and other drugs.  When doctors order CT scans and MRIs for every patient coming in with an ache or pain, regardless of how small, the public will start to think advanced imaging is a medical necessity.  Often it isn’t.  Here’s the skinny:

An article just published in the New England Journal of Medicine, discloses that X-ray computed tomography (CT) is being overused by doctors, and this overuse is leading to increased medical mistakes as well as increased cancer risk.  CT scans generate three-dimensional images of the inside of an object from a large series of two-dimensional X-ray images taken around a single axis of rotation.  CT scans use far more radiation than traditional x-rays, and their use has increased dramatically over the last two decades–for example, approximately 72 million scans were performed in the United States in 2007.  According to the report, 10% of the U.S. population gets CT scans every year, and that number is growing by more than 10% every year.

Increased CT scans is a concern not only because of the heightened cancer risk, but also because one of the main groups getting this type of mega-radiation is children.  The lifetime cancer risk for children receiving CT scans in non-negligible.  To put this into perspective:

In the United States, of approximately 600,000 abdominal and head CT examinations annually performed in children under the age of 15 years, a rough estimate is that 500 of these individuals might ultimately die from cancer attributable to the CT radiation. (via Wikipedia)

The good news is that the FDA and Congress are considering measures to prevent medical mistakes.  However, discretionary use is still in the hands of doctors, and I imagine the overuse of CT scans will continue as long as the fear of liability continues to loom over doctors’ heads.

Although MRIs use no radiation, their overuse is also epidemic.  I am of the opinion that this is one reason medical costs are out of control.  You can give every American double the health coverage, if doctors don’t stop using these imaging techniques indiscriminately, costs will continue to soar.

The way I handle unnecessary MRI requests is to explain that diagnostics should guide treatment.  For the most part, if knowing whether a spinal disk bulge is present radiologically will not change my treatment protocol (and it rarely does), then the study is unnecessary.  I simply remind the patient that MRIs are not cheap–they run around a couple thousand dollars–and even with the best insurance, the patient is responsible for the co-payment, which will be several hundred dollars.

You still want it, even though it’s not going to change anything we do here?

Yes.

Be my guest.  Here’s your scrip.  Have fun.

Some people just can’t be convinced; but I’m hoping the fear of developing cancer from unnecessary CT scans wises people up.  We’ll see.


Well, parents–Mozart won’t make your kids smarter–sorry. I know, I know what you’ve heard: classical music improves brainpower. Well, it’s wrong. So says a recent Austrian study that looked over 3,000 subjects.

According to psychologists at the University of Vienna, who looked at over 40 studies and unpublished research, there is no evidence that listening to Mozart will do anything for anyone’s cognitive powers.

Researchers report that they could find no psychological or cognitive benefit to listening to Mozart music, despite a famous 1993 study claiming it does. The study, published in Nature, showed a link between listening to Mozart and improved spatial task performance (judging distances, depth, direction, motion and mental rotation).

Following the ’93 study, parents, day-care centers and schools rushed to purchase Mozart and music by other composers to start exposing children to classical music. But these recent findings show that this notion is a myth.

Aw well, it was worth a try folks. But, you know, think about it–were Europeans in general, and Austrians more specifically, spatially advanced relative to people from other cultures? Wouldn’t the myth of classical music enhanced brain power suggest just that? Uh…DUH!

No doubt music is nourishment for the soul. And it might even have cognitive and psychological benefits, but how one type of music is more beneficial than another is just silliness to me. Music, like all art, is subjective. The vast variation of the world’s music, throughout all of history, should attest to that. Musical tastes differ among people and cultures; yet we are all moved by music, and that has to have some effect.

Music probably has more of an effect on spirit and soul than on brain development, but good luck in proving that one. By my estimate, music inspires all of us in one form or another. I personally don’t need it to improve my children’s spatial cognition. If it inspires their hearts, then that’s good enough for me.


Get ready to say, “Ewwwww….” Ringworm is making a big comeback in urban elementary schools. Worse yet, this new and improved fungal infection is treatment-resistant. Eeeewwwww!

According to a recent study that looked at 10,514 children in kindergarten through Grade 5 at 44 schools across the bi-state Kansas City metropolitan area, 6.6% of them were infected with the fungus (T. tonsurans) that causes ringworm. Researchers also found that the oral antifungal medicine used to treat ringworm does not completely eliminate the fungus in many children, which means they can spread the infection to others even after treatment.

“The organism T. tonsurans has become the leading cause of scalp infection in the U.S., and we believe it is on the rise in inner city areas,” said study author Susan Abdel-Rahman, a professor of pediatrics at Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics. “This study supports what I and many of my peers are seeing, children with scaly, itchy scalps and hair loss are prevalent in metropolitan areas. If not treated, ringworm can lead to permanent hair loss, which can damage a child’s self-image. There is also some evidence that it may worsen seemingly unrelated problems such as asthma and allergic rhinitis.”

The fungus seems to have racial preferences. More than 18% of black children in kindergarten and the first grade were infected. That rate dropped to 7% by fifth grade. Infection rates were 1.6% for Hispanic children and 1.1% for white children. The reasons for the higher rate among black children aren’t clear.

Here’s what doctor Abdel-Rahman advises: Parents should “limit the sharing of items that come into contact with the scalp, such as hats, combs, brushes and pillows. Watch closely for signs of infection, such as flaking that looks like dandruff, white patchy scaling, itching, hair thinning or loss, and small pus-filled bumps, especially when your child has come in contact with another infected child. Make an appointment to see your doctor if you suspect that your child is infected and make sure to take the prescribed medicine as directed along with the application of a medicated shampoo two to three times a week.”

May I repeat, “Yuck!” If your child is in elementary school in an urban area, keep on the lookout. Kids are passing this funk between each other like wildfire. They can also get ringworm from pets, so check your critters often, and get them treated if you see a problem. Ringworm can cause permanent hair loss, so rapid treatment is of the utmost importance.

Yes, this new, improved ringworm is resilient; just keep hitting it like Manny Pacquiao–bing, bang, boom! Don’t give that fungus a chance to breathe. Oh yeah, and keep your kid away from my kids.


It’s not just American children sitting on their rumps these days–children all over the world are chronically inactive. So says a recent study that looked at over 70,000 teens in 34 nations.

Children from Argentina to Zambia are not getting enough exercise, and are spending three or more hours a day watching TV or playing on computers. Whether a country was rich or poor made no difference to the inactivity of their youth; dismal news on the state of modern culture. No knock on technology, but parents of all nationalities need to limit the amount of boob tube and web surfing their children do, and push them more toward physical activity.

The study, published in The Journal of Pediatrics, looking at 72,845 schoolchildren aged 13 to 15 from North and South America, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. The children were surveyed between 2003 and 2007. Children that spent three or more hours a day watching TV, playing on computers or chatting with friends–outside of school time or doing homework–were considered sedentary. Only 25% of boys and 15% of girls worldwide were getting enough exercise. Girls were overall less active than boys in every country except Zambia.

Some of the numbers:

  • Uruguay had the highest percentage of active boys, at 42%, while Zambia had the lowest, at 8%.
  • Girls from India were the most active, with 37% meeting exercise recommendations, while girls from Egypt were the least active, with just 4% getting adequate exercise.
  • Children in Myanmar were the least sedentary, with 13% of boys and 8% of girls classified as sedentary.
  • The most sedentary nations were St. Lucia and the Cayman Islands, with 58% of boys and 64% of girls spending at least three hours a day in sedentary activities.

Once again, parents would be wise to get the kids kicking, playing and using their bodies. Technology is a great thing; but with every great thing comes a downside, and in this case it’s the risk of becoming couch potatoes. Inactivity and the associated risk of childhood obesity is no longer an American phenomenon–it’s gone global. Time to change.


Health care trumps sick care again, but this time on the road. That’s right, health care traveled to sick care’s arena–the illness center–and beat sick care at its own game. Booyah!

A recent Japanese study showed that children taking 1,200 IU of vitamin D supplements daily during the winter and early spring helped prevent seasonal flu and asthma attacks. A timely victory in my analysis of true health care versus government-championed sick care.

Sick care pushes the seasonal flu shot, which my regular readers might recall has been fingered by experts as inconclusive in its effectiveness. Proponents of health care, on the other hand, myself included, really push upping the vitamin D intake. I think 1,200 IU is pretty good for children, and most adults need much more, like 5,000 IU per day. As we become more aware of the pervasiveness of vitamin D insufficiency in all Americans, including children, getting adequate sunlight and supplementing becomes paramount.

The study conducted at Jikei University School of Medicine, Tokyo showed that children taking the vitamin D supplements were almost half as likely as catching the flu as those taking placebo. And as an added benefit, children taking vitamin D were almost six times less likely to suffer an asthma attack. Holy inhalers! That’s quite a hit to pharmaceutical manufacturers. You mean, that a simple $8 bottle of vitamin D can prevent what a $30.00-$60.00 Albuterol inhaler treats. Well bless my Obamacare–I wonder if vitamin D is covered on the plan.

According to Dr. Adit Ginde, of University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study, told Reuters Health: “This is the first time a study has been done that rigorously shows that vitamin D supplementation can reduce a type of influenza in a dedicated clinical trial.” Ginde and colleagues published a study a year ago showing that asthmatics with lower vitamin D levels were at five times the risk for colds and flu.

Take that, sick care. Another victory in the arena of truth in health. I’ll keep ‘em coming.


How can seniors both reduce the effects of aging on the brain and give back to society? By tutoring children, that’s how. And it is exactly what thousands of elders are doing–teaching kids how to read, write and do math–giving many of the older folk a renewed sense of purpose.

According to a recent study, seniors who have volunteered for Experience Corps, a program matching elementary students in low-income schools with seniors who serve as tutors, showed improvements in the “executive function” regions of the brain involved in thinking and the ability to organize multiple tasks. The children had much greater reading comprehension and ability to sound out words compared to kids who were not tutored.

The study looked at eight women considered high risk of cognitive impairment because of their low income status, low education level [they had only completed an average of 12 years of school (high school)] and low scores on a cognition test. Researchers say that these preliminary results are encouraging, especially if they can carry over to prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.

Very nice. And no surprise to me. I know how important keeping the mind sharp is to staying young and vibrant. Obvious? Not really. The process of learning is instrumental in creating new dendrites, which leads to new processing pathways formed in the brain. New processing pathways = youth. Old processing pathways = wisdom. Youth + wisdom = vibrancy, influence and growth. Who doesn’t value that?

Research shows that keeping the mind conditioned through systematic mental exercise can protect against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Yes, physical exercise helps too–particularly cardiovascular work–and we know how vital staying social is to warding off cognitive decline; but when it comes to maximal brain function and protection, nothing beats good old fashioned learning.

On a final note, there is evidence that having “purpose” can actually prolong life–and volunteering is one phenomenal way to go about it. A recent study showed that retirees over age 65 who volunteered had less than half the risk of dying compared to their non-volunteering peers. Now that’s impressive. If you love helping others, consider volunteering your time and mental prowess to teaching children how to read and solve equations. Really, it’s a win-win situation–they get smarter and you keep trucking. Now what can be better than that?

Listen up parents–if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: Kids do as their parents do. This is true of how they care for their health, including what types of treatments they seek out. According to a recent study coming out in the February issue of Pediatrics, almost twelve percent of American children use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).

The study conducted at Harvard Medical School looked at data on 9,417 children younger than 18 years of age; it set out to differentiate between users and non-users of non-mainstream therapies. They found that if parents used alternative therapies, the more likely their children used them, too. In the study, they purposely ignored vitamins and minerals, so that they could get a better sense of the use of herbs and homeopathics. Chiropractic and acupuncture were not mentioned in the report, but were likely a part of the study.For the children using CAM therapies, they did so mostly for chronic conditions such as anxiety, stress, musculoskeletal conditions, skin conditions and sinusitis.

Surprisingly, 66% of children with cancer used CAM therapies. Some doctors find this disturbing since they say some alternative therapies can interfere with other treatments.OK, first off, for some people using non-mainstream forms of treatment or tonics are not “alternative”. I can tell you that in my family chiropractic was a way of life. I’ve been seeing chiropractors since I was seven years old; I adjust my daughters regularly, my wife when she was pregnant, and I adjust my siblings and mother, too. It’s a lifestyle for us, not alternative.

We’ve also been taking vitamins, juicing, eating whole, natural foods (sorry, we’re not vegetarian, my vegan friends), exercising and seeing acupuncturists for as long as I can remember…and we are not alone. Truly encouraging is that the numbers of people living healthy lifestyles keep growing every year.

Sure, if you are infatuated with the practice of medicine, you’ll shrink in abhorrence. God forbid anyone use something other than what Dr. Oz recommends. Wake up you people–mainstream medicine is jumping on the bandwagon with many CAM therapies because these same practices they’ve vilified for decades actually work.

The study itself can be taken in two different ways: one, that doctors (especially pediatricians) need to pay more attention to their patients, because their unspoken health habits could interfere with the good doctors recommendations (drugs); or two, doctors need to pay more attention because their patients are embracing CAM therapies, which…ehem…work.*

No doubt, every consumer needs to practice ultimate caution–some herbs and other therapies can be dangerous if used improperly, bought from disreputable sources, or not administered from a knowledgeable (and liable) practitioner. But isn’t this what today’s health care is all about–due diligence, self-information, professional consultation, scrutiny and personal responsibility? Sure better be–it’s your health.

*Most known and long-practiced therapies work for some people, yet no one therapy works for all people, not even medicine.


When it comes to children’s reading skills, nurture trumps nature. As it turns out, with proper instruction, children can improve dramatically in their reading development. So says a recent study out of Ohio State University.

The study looked 135 identical twins and 179 same-sex fraternal twins who were enrolled in kindergarten or 1st grade, and reading skills were assessed for two years. The researchers compared how the twins scored on reading tests and then used a statistical analysis to determine how much genetics and environment influenced their progress. Environmental factors included instruction in school, nutrition, how much the children were read to, and how they were cared for by their parents.

Although genetics were found to be more important in reading speed, skills like learning letters and vocabulary, as well as awareness of sounds were all vastly dependent on the learning environment. The importance of this study is it shows that regardless of the level of reading a child enters school with, they can learn to read effectively with the proper instruction.

Uh oh, teachers–the onus is on you. No excuses. The practice of having separate tables for “smart,” “average,” and “slow” kids, I hope, is a thing of the past (that’s how my childhood classrooms were set up). If the practice is still alive, kill it now. Most level-headed people understand that all children are teachable. They may have different processing pathways, which require different strategies, but ultimately the instructors have to find what works. Period.

And parents are responsible, too. Time for my high-horse again: If you are feeding your child soft drinks, sugary cereals, pop tarts, cookies, chips, candy…on a regular basis. Wake up! You are poisoning the poor kids.

And parents who don’t read breed children that don’t read. If you are watching oodles of T.V., guess who else is doing the same? Duh!

Finally, spending time and giving attention to your kids matters. Just being in the room with them while watching Oprah is not enough, you’ve actually got to interact with the buggers. Pick up a crayon, sing a song, bounce around…jump up, jump up and get down. And read a freakin’ book to them why don’t cha…give ‘em a chance; otherwise, you leave it in teachers’ hands.


mother_child_baby 4 17 09More on the mental health front today as new research shows breastfeeding may be linked to better mental health for kids. I’ll say, it’s always worked for me.

An Australian study showed that children who are breastfed for longer than six months could be at lower risk of mental health problems later in life. Breastfeeding could help babies cope better with stress, and may also signal a stronger mother-child attachment, benefits which may last, say researchers at the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research in West Perth.

The study looked at over 2,300 children, each undergoing a mental health assessment at 2, 5, 8, 10, and 14 years of age. Eleven percent were never breastfed, 38 percent were breastfed for less than six months, and just over half were breastfed for six months or longer.

Mothers who breastfed for less than six months were younger, less educated, poorer, and more stressed, and were also more likely to be smokers, than the moms who breastfed for longer. They were also more likely to suffer from postpartum depression, and their babies were more likely to have growth problems.

The children who were breastfed for the shortest amount of time had the worst behavior. This was qualified as internalizing behavior, in which negativity is directed inwards, for example depression; and in externalizing behaviors, such as aggression.

Behavior improved successively for every additional month of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding for six months or longer had the most positive behavioral results with regard to mental health and well-being of children and adolescents. The results were adjusted for social, economic and psychological factors as well as early life events.

I like this study as I am a huge advocate for breastfeeding. My eldest daughter was breastfed for two years, and my 15-month-old is still on the breast. And I’m certain of the many health benefits attached to the practice. It doesn’t surprise me that breastfed children feel more secure, I mean, think about it: The suckling/oxytocin response is as much security blanket as it is food cart. It allows baby to know that there is a nurturing protector there when they need support. And it’s instinctual. Deny that to Junior and I’d expect him or her to be…well…unsure.

No guilt trip on moms who have opted out early, really. It’s just that breastfeeding provides one more benefit to those who choose it for their young, that’s all. However, if you are a mom to be and on the fence about it–just know that mental well-being and self-assuredness later in life is one more thing you can help provide your kid with a year at the boob.


Last post I discussed the difficulty some parents have with guiding positive change in their children’s behavior with regard to health. For instance, when facing the task of limiting television time, many parents of overweight and obese children lack confidence in laying down the law.

I believe that uncertain parents simply lack a strategy, so last post I outlined a practical strategy for limiting T.V. time for children. It’s fair, and it’ll work if parents can stick to their guns. But like I pointed out in the post, it might be harder to implement with teenagers, as poor habits get harder to break the older kids get.

As promised, I’m posting some tips on establishing healthy eating habits for families. This was another area parents of overweight and obese kids lacked confidence in implementing. Some basic rules apply* when it comes to eating well, and they are:

  • Eat primarily whole, natural foods–real food; not processed. Fruits, vegetables, real dairy (yes, butter), real meats, and low-glycemic carbs.
  • Eat primarily at home. Eating out, no matter how healthy it seems, is still inferior to cooking at home. Believe that.
  • Cut out soda–worst damn crap you can put into your body.
  • Minimize the desserts–I know this is hard with kids, but you’ve got to keep the portions small. Two cookies (small to medium size) three times per week, and something more involved (cake, ice cream, whatever) one time per week is plenty to excessive. If you can avoid developing the habit from the start, even better. My daughter Delilah gets a small cup of ice cream once a week–that’s it; she doesn’t know any different.
  • Keep portions moderate–it’s my opinion that massive portions are the greatest contributor to obesity. Most Americans don’t need half the food they are consuming. Bring it down, big boy.

That’s it. Simple. But, as I’ve said before, this will be much harder to implement with teenagers. Teens have enough independence to make their own food choices throughout the day. This one simple fact may make it impossible to completely change their bad eating habits–the same one we’ve all had at that time in our lives.

But it’s the little kids we can influence. They may still move toward unhealthy diets as teenagers, but I guarantee you by the time they go to college they’ll remember what you’ve taught them as children, and return to eating that way. Guaranteed.

So that’s a lot of responsibility you have parents. You can be soft and uncertain, or you can be firm and certain that you are teaching your children good habits which will last them a lifetime. Your decisions now, as well as your challenges, will shape their future. They’ll thank you for it one day. I’m certain of that.

*For a more comprehensive list of healthy eating tips, read my book, The Six Keys to Optimal Health.

Many parents have a hard time disciplining their children. Laying down the law doesn’t come easy to all of us. Some find it so hard that they even risk their child’s health. Check it.Current research from Harvard University shows that many parents of overweight or obese children lacked confidence in implementing and enforcing various lifestyle behaviors that could help their children improve their health. When it came to laying down the law with regard to limiting television viewing, removing TV from children’s bedrooms, cutting back on fast food, reducing intake of sugary drinks, increasing physical activity, and improving the family’s overall eating habits, the parents studied scored pretty poorly in the confidence category. What this means is that these parents (446 surveyed) were unable to satisfactorily push their children to do the right thing.

I know it’s not always easy getting the kids to do what they should be doing–lord, I’ve got two champion tantrum throwers myself; and, of course, not everybody is as hard-assed as I am. But here are some tips that might just help some parents get their children to make a change:

  • Have a strategy–going in blind is a sure way to fail.
  • Start slowly–making drastic changes will create resentment and possibly a revolt.
  • Have your child list all the television programs he or she watches regularly. Have them pick two or three, and let them know they’ve got to dump the rest.
  • Choose a reasonable amount of time you will allow your children to watch T.V. weekly (I personally think 9-12 hours is fair to generous–one hour per night during the week, and two hours each on Saturday and Sunday).
  • No T.V. in the bedroom, period. Same with internet–sorry–too easy to watch via web.
  • Once their allotted time is up. (Click) Shut off the tube, and remove the remote.
  • Set aside time for the whole family to be together for reading or talking. If you don’t like to read, better start–kids do as their parents do.
  • Expect pissin’, moanin’ and grumblin’–stay strong, it’ll pass.

I realize that the age of one’s children will impact the success of this type of plan. No doubt, teens who have developed bad habits will be tough to break, but you’ve got to try anyhow. It’s why I always say, “Start early.” The younger the kids are when you develop habits, the easier it is to influence and form them. Hate to say it, but it might turn out that the only families able to successfully implement this type of regimen might be the ones with youngsters. Nevertheless, I’d try anyway if I were you. Can’t hurt.

Check in tomorrow for tips on how to get your family’s eating habits up to par. For sure, T.V. can be fun; but as a regular habit for kids, it’s as damaging as they come.


I wrote a post back in March questioning some conclusions from a Columbia University and UC Berkeley study stating that fast-food restaurants located near schools increases childhood obesity. While I didn’t deny the data, I certainly disagreed with the authors’ conclusion that banning fast food joints near schools would decrease obesity in children. Well a new study has just been released that closes the lid on the fast-food ban argument. In fact, it shows that the presence of fast food restaurants has no effect on childhood obesity at all.

According to research conducted at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, which looked at a decade of data on more than 60,000 children aged 3 to 18, living near a fast food restaurant had little effect on weight gain. And surprisingly, living instead near a supermarket stocked with fresh fruit and vegetables wasn’t associated with lower weight either.

These results go against anecdotal data that have led some to believe that the types of food choices in a neighborhood have an effect on weight gain. The study looked at details such as both sick- and well-doctor visits, changes in a child’s address, annual food-service establishment inspection data, aerial photographs of neighborhoods and crime statistics over time. This study provides more accurate data since it was collected over a period of ten years and not a single year as in previous studies. As an interesting side note, living near recreational facilities was associated with lower childhood weight.

Well, all I can say is…I figured. C’mon folks, temptations are all around us, all the time. Does anybody really believe that not having a fast food restaurant near their home will prevent them from getting fast food? I mean, everybody knows that crack addicts come from every neighborhood, right?–even travelling into dangerous neighborhoods to get their goods, right? What’s the difference with junk food? Listen, staying away from junk is an issue of upbringing. You either learn fast food is junk, or you don’t–you think it’s food. Whether you’ve got a dozen fast food restaurants in your hood, or zero, if you think fast food is a viable dietary choice, then you’ll find it when you want it. And it’ll show in your waistline…your kids, too.


What do you think—should courts decide how you care for your child’s health? Tough question, since the law is ultimately supposed to protect people, and children are often in need of such safeguarding. But how much is too much?

A Minnesota judge ruled yesterday that a 13-year-old cancer patient must be evaluated by a doctor to determine if the boy would benefit from restarting chemotherapy over his parents’ objections. The family belongs to a Native American spiritual organization called the Nemenhah Band, which believes in natural healing. The boy—who is considered a medicine man and an elder in the group–has been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Apparently he has made the decision himself to refuse chemotherapy (he only went through one session) and instead treat the cancer with nutritional supplements and other alternative therapies.

The treating oncologist, Dr. Bruce Bostrom, from Children’s Hospital and Clinics of Minnesota has stated that the boy’s tumor had shrunk after the sole chemotherapy session. Other doctors have said that the boy has a 90% survival rate if he continues with chemotherapy; but if he opts out, they say, he only has a five percent chance of survival.

The family, and the boy according to his legal team, want the right to choose whatever treatment option best suits them. But the court has ruled that the boy is unable to properly make that decision, stating that he has a learning disability* and can’t read. According to Judge John Rodenberg, the boy has only a “rudimentary understanding at best of the risks and benefits of chemotherapy. … he does not believe he is ill currently. The fact is that he is very ill currently.”

And so the judgment is that the boy must adhere to the doctors orders regarding chemotherapy, and if the parents refuse, the boy will be taken in protective custody. But it gets even more complicated. Check this out: If the boy refuses the chemo–hold onto your hats–doctors do not yet know how they will administer the drugs to him. Why don’t they just pin him down and inject it into him by force? Isn’t that the way to ensure compliance—gangstick ‘em, Frances Farmer style?

Tsk, tsk, tsk…now if I haven’t heard it all. OK, first let me accede: these Nemenhah Band people are a bunch of nuts—no doubt about it. But who the hell is the government to step in and tell people what to do with their own bodies. Ok, ok…if the kid was absolutely clueless in all this, then maybe the parents are negligent and responsible for child abuse. But this kid knows what he wants. No, he doesn’t understand the full implications. Nonsense! He knows enough; and anyway, who the hell understands the full implications? Nobody has a complete handle on cancer; if they did, it wouldn’t be the new second leading cause of death worldwide.

Here’s the main problem with this ruling: At what point is governmental protection simply intrusion? Sure this is a tough case—as I’ve said, the family is teetering on the brink of lunacy. But ruling for court mandate in these complicated cases can far too easily lead to the same in other less complicated cases—like mandatory vaccinations, or worse, court-ordered psychiatric drugging of children, particularly those in “protective custody” (to get your bloodcurdling, read this frightening essay on state-prescribed medicating of children).

To what degree do we want our freedoms taken away, like the right to choose what each of us deems right for our family’s health and well being? It seems innocuous enough, this case in Minnesota—for sure it’s dealing with loonies right up there with Christian Scientists, those nut jobs refusing any medical treatment at all because of their belief that God will protect them. But this case is bigger, much bigger, because it’s deciding where Big Brother has the right to step in and dictate what we can and cannot do with regard to our families’ health. No vitamins—doctors say they aren’t necessary. Vaccinate your children or go to jail—like in Belgium. And absolutely, positively, without question you must take your pharmaceuticals because…well…doctor knows best. Just one question: What the hell are they going to do if that kid dies anyway? Doh!

*Learning disorder was a term coined by the psychiatry profession in 1963 to include children in the ever-growing envelope of mental disorders and to provide funds for disabled children in schools.

Copyright © 2013 Dr. Nick Campos - All Rights Reserved. Web Services by David Cosgrove Los Angeles Web Design