Yesterday it became very evident that continuing to dilute what was left of my organic dish detergent soap wasn’t going to “cut-it” for our dirty dinner plates. So, after one last unsuccessful effort, I ran out to pick up some non-toxic dish soap, silently reprimanding myself for not placing the chemcial-free dish soap in my recent online order. I felt that karma was also non-approving of my forgetfulness when I got stuck behind a massively long order (2 carts full!) in the check-out line. A few seconds later, a gracious woman allowed me to go before her when she saw my non-bleached paper towels and “Free & Clear” dish soap. Eying her “organic coconut milk,” I smiled gratefully at this fellow health devotee. I let out a grateful sigh, comforted by the “kindness of the design” in what originally appeared to be an obstacle to my timeliness of cleaning up my dinner mess.
What does all this have to do with my blog?
Well, absolutely nothing other than the fact that goodness came out of a mild trauma.
Just kidding….there’s more than meets the eye to my introduction. 🙂
A Step Back Down Doctor Doom Lane
As I patiently watched the clerk scan the 2 carts full, wondering if she would be using Boswellia serreta (frankincense) to comfort her soon-to-be sore wrists, I overheard her conversation with the owner of the massive carts that caused my biochemical recitation of various pathways of frankincense to be interrupted. It was regarding the fact that back to school can cause the nerves to become very frazzled in many people, especially teachers, parents, and children. In fact, the mom with the $348 order in front of me (and the $76 worth of coupons) exclaimed to the jittery clerk, “back-to-school makes us all a little nuts!”
I peered at her cart and could feel my unwelcome “Judge-bug” starting to jibber-jabber in a part of my brain that I’m not too proud of and need to tame on occasion. This mom’s cart was full of processed foods and chemical cleaners. “Yikes, those kids are getting set up for more hyperactivity!” I thought.
However, the kind part of my brain, which I am proud of, put in its two cents and over-ruled the “Judge-bug.” (My years of essential oils use can help calm the limbic brain for a more rational response of my kind brain.) I realized that the mom probably didn’t even know about how chemicals can cause her and her little ones more stress. Furthermore, I’m not perfect and I know these things! I digress…
How Chemicals May Drive Your Kids to Act Crazy
Here are some things I knew that some parents may want to consider when trying to keep their kids calm for back to school. Not to dismiss the societal implications of ADHD, there are also environmental influences on the brain that can cause a child to lose focus. For example, a 2010 study demonstrated a link between levels of polyfluoalkyl chemicals and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in children. Furthermore, a 2012 review of studies showed a correlation between maternal exposure to chemicals and autism and ADHD. The authors reported that the potential mechanisms were related to the negative impacts on the thyroid and the neurotransmitter, GABA.
Scientists have also linked exposure to pesticides near school grounds to risk of ADHD and other disorders. Finally, another study linked prenatal exposure to tobacco smoke and lead to risk of ADHD. (Note that the methodology had some caveats and points to consider which include that the study included ADHD diagnosis only with both a parental report and stimulant use. Furthermore, serum levels for lead, which is variable, were used.)
Besides pesticides and chemicals in foods and the environment affecting little bodies and brains, there’s also the fact that food could have been exposed to radiated areas. This affects our little one’s hormonal signaling. Finally, there’s the issue of soil being contaminated with metals, leading to all sorts of issues.
Now, I’m not saying that chemicals and foods are the only cause of hyperactivity and stress on the brain, but they could be a trigger. They can also contribute to any of the following underlying issues which I blogged about previously:
- Inflammation and oxidative stress
- Genetic variations (such as SNPs related to MTHFR, DRD2, DRD4, COMT, CBS, serotonin transporters (5HTT),)
- Nutrition and assimilation
- Dietary triggers and deficiencies (including cerebral folate deficiency)
- Mitochondrial dysfunctions and imbalances
- Hormonal imbalances
- Stress & cortisol levels
- The Microbiome
- Environmental toxicants
- Blood sugar levels
- Stealth infections
- Childhood adversity
- Emotional tone and spirituality
- Brain trauma
- Hyper or hypo-activity in a brain region
Stressing Out On Chemicals & Math Could Be Contagious
There’s no doubt that all of this news could cause more anxiety!! But, there’s plenty you can do to mitigate this issue. One thing NOT to do is getting more stressed out about the situation. Studies have shown that if you’re anxious, it may make your child more anxious.
Math anxiety is a negative emotional reaction to situations involving mathematical problem solving. Math anxiety has a detrimental impact on an individual’s long-term professional success, but its neurodevelopmental origins are unknown. In a functional MRI study on 7- to 9-year-old children, we showed that math anxiety was associated with hyperactivity in right amygdala regions that are important for processing negative emotions. In addition, we found that math anxiety was associated with reduced activity in posterior parietal and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex regions involved in mathematical reasoning.
Health Day continues:
“Although it is possible that there is a genetic component to math anxiety, the fact that parents’ math anxiety negatively affected children only when they frequently helped them with math homework points to the need for interventions focused on both decreasing parents’ math anxiety and scaffolding their skills in homework help,” the study authors wrote. The study was published recently in the journal Psychological Science.
Simple Steps to Keep Brains Calm and Ready to Learn
Step one of getting to the root of an issue is in knowing what the problem is. Step two lies in knowing all the contributors to the problem. Step three, my favorite, is the action you can take to empower yourself and not stay stuck-in-a rut.
Here are some simple tips.
- Avoid toxic chemicals and personal care products and replace with natural and organic ones.
- Replace conventional foods, as much as possible, with organic or non-GMO foods. Not only will you avoid more pesticides, synthetic hormones, and antibiotics, you may also receive more phytonutrients which modulate oxidative stress on the body. You can use the EWG’s website for low-residue pesticides in produce if you can’t buy all organic.
- Use essential oils to help with focus, concentration, and to support optimal movement. I discussed how different essential oils, such as lavender and peppermint, can modulate nervous system tone and assist with cognition.Other calming blends, such as Peace and Calming II, lemon, and other citrus oils could also be useful.
- Have active family outings and let little ones move their cute little booties. It helps academics and builds a better brain, according to some studies.
- Consider assessing for nutrient deficiencies, such as minerals, which can be calming for the brain. Fish oils may also be beneficial.
Of course, your friendly naturopathic doctor or functional medicine doctor can guide you into more specifics, if needed.
Remember, this information is not to scare you, but to give you action steps to optimizing wellness. If your friends and loved ones don’t know what could be harming their brains, feel free to share and forward!
Disclaimer: This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic, Grade A essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and quality and standardized. There is no quality control in the United States and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin. Please see the original study for sources.
This information is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime.
Why French Kids Don’t Have ADHD. Psychology Today. March 8, 2012. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/suffer-the-children/201203/why-french-kids-dont-have-adhd
Hoffman, Kate, Thomas F. Webster, Marc G. Weisskopf, Janice Weinberg, and Verónica M. Vieira. Exposure to Polyfluoroalkyl Chemicals and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in U.S. Children 12-15 Years of Age. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2010. 118(12): 1762-1767
de Cock, M., Maas, Y. G.H. and van de Bor, M. Does perinatal exposure to endocrine disruptors induce autism spectrum and attention deficit hyperactivity disorders? Review. Acta Paediatrica. 2012. 101: 811–818. doi: 10.1111/j.1651-2227.2012.02693.x
Pesticides And Schools: A ‘Tragic’ Health Hazard. Science Daily. July 27, 2007.
Braun JM, Kahn RS, Froehlich T, Auinger P, Lanphear BP. Exposures to Environmental Toxicants and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in U.S. Children. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2006;114(12):1904-1909. doi:10.1289/ehp.9478.
Lead neurotoxicity in children: decomposing the variability in dose-effect relationships. Am J Ind Med. 2007 Oct;50(10):720-8.
Goldenring JR, Batter DK, Shaywitz BA. Sulfanilic acid: behavioral change related to azo food dyes in developing rats. Neurobehav Toxicol Teratol. 1982 Jan-Feb;4(1):43-9
Synthetic food coloring and behavior: a dose response effect in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, repeated-measures study. J Pediatr. 1994 Nov;125(5 Pt 1):691-8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7965420
McCann, D, Barrett, An, Cooper, A, Crumpler, D, Dalen, L, Grimshaw, K, Lok, K, et al. Food additives and hyperactive behaviour in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the community: a randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial. The Lancet, 370 (9598): 1560 – 1567, November 3, 2007. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(07)61306-3
Kanarek RB. Artificial food dyes and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Nutr Rev. 2011 Jul;69(7):385-91. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2011.00385.x. Epub 2011 Jun 30
Relationship between caesium (137Cs) load, cardiovascular symptoms, and source of food in ‘Chernobyl’ children — preliminary observations after intake of oral apple pectin. Swiss Med Wkly. 2004 Dec 18;134(49-50):725-9.
DiLugllo, BE. Tracking and Mitigating Radiation Poisoning From the Inside-Out. Green Med Info. August 28, 2015.
The Neurodevelopmental Basis of Math Anxiety. Psychological Science. March 20, 2012. doi: 10.1177/0956797611429134
Parents’ Math Anxiety Can Undermine Children’s Math Achievement. Association for Psychological Science. August 28, 2015.
Settling the Back to School Jitters. Health Day. August 28, 2015.
The Impact of Organic Farming on Quality of Tomatoes Is Associated to Increased Oxidative Stress during Fruit Development. PLoS One. February 20, 2013. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0056354
Independent and Combined Influence of the Components of Physical Fitness on Academic Performance in Youth. Journal of Pediatrics. August 2014.165(2): 306-312.
Aerobic fitness is associated with greater white matter integrity in children. Front. Hum. Neurosci., August 19, 2014. http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2014.00584
Magnesium, stress and neuropsychiatric disorders. Magnes Trace Elem. 1991-1992;10(2-4):287-301.