The question I hear the most often from parents is, “Why does my child struggle with hyperactivity, overstimulation and impulsivity?” Parents are often looking for the “why” and for the “fix”. There are answers and fix’s but there is not one answer and not one fix. This is a loaded question that doesn’t have a simple answer. There is no short answer to this question when in fact it’s a long and very complicated answer. The answer is unique for each child, which adds to the complexity. There are a multitude of reasons our children struggle. Each of those reasons require careful consideration and a thorough review on how it effects each individual child. We must do our detective work to uncover root cause for an individual child but, there are many similar issues that are linked to children who struggle with hyperactivity, overstimulation and impulsivity. Children who have these struggles will often fit the criteria in the conventional medical model for ADHD, Autism, anxiety disorder, sensory processing disorder, mood disorders or oppositional defiant disorder. Common threads and contributing factors exist for these groups of children. Its important to understand the common links and look outside the conventional medical model box.
There are biomedical, neurological and autoimmune reasons for a child’s symptoms. Symptoms are not just behavioral in isolation. In general, children who struggle with hyperactivity, overstimulation and impulsivity have similar issues and root causes going on in the body. The problems should be defined as brain inflammatory responses and autoimmune responses. Symptomology isn’t usually happening for only “behavioral” reasons. When we approach a child to fix the symptoms with “behavior management” alone, the problems will often persist. We need to consider the entire body when looking for root cause and answers to difficult questions.
Behavioral issues are typically a compilation of issues that start to develop during infancy. In order to find root cause issues, the infancy stage needs to be evaluated. Pregnancy and infancy are the beginning of your child’s developmental story. According to Dr. Elisa Song M.D., many toxins are passed on to the baby during pregnancy and birth. Those toxins can include: lime, co-infections to lime, pesticides, mercury (could be from mom’s dental amalgams) and, other heavy metals. When a mom is overloaded with toxins in the body, the baby will in turn carry a toxic load. Some mothers add to the baby’s toxic load by taking medication, getting vaccinations, taking drugs, smoking, or drinking alcohol during pregnancy. The number of babies who are born drug affected grows each year. Drug affected babies will be malnourished, overloaded with toxins, going through withdrawal and will be delayed with physical development. Further toxins can be passed on from breastmilk or unhealthy formula. Through the breastmilk, mom could also be passing on high levels of cortisol (the stress hormone), estrogen, and adrenaline. When hormone levels are too high, the infant’s neurological development will be impacted. Although toxins can come from the breastmilk, the breastmilk is critically needed for a baby to have a healthy microbiome (ecosystem of bacteria in the body). A baby will have a less healthy microbiome at birth if they are born through a c-section and not breastfed. An unhealthy microbiome sets the baby up for a whole host of health issues as they develop.
During infancy, the gut has a high probability of limited gut bacteria. It has been reported by Dr. Anju Usman M.D. that the flora in the gut has low diversity at birth. Limited gut bacteria is called gut dysbiosis. With dysbiosis normal levels of hormones and neurotransmitters are not being produced properly in the gut. Behaviors will be affected when hormones and neurotransmitters are not being produced properly in the gut and then not getting to the brain. Dysbiosis can lead to parasite overgrowth. Gut dysbiosis is an underlying issue for many children who have behavioral challenges.
As your child continues to have gut dysbiosis the parasites can start to multiply. Parasites hold on to the heavy metals and lime in the body. When the body holds on to parasites, heavy metals and lime a child may also struggle with being overweight. Metals, parasites and lime hide in fat cells. Behavioral and neurological symptoms will persist when the body holds onto lime and heavy metals. Parasites can lead to teeth grinding or excessive biting in some children.
The gut may have weak walls, or doesn’t heal when its damaged, which leads to leaky gut. With leaky gut, food is viewed in the body as foreign invaders which results in food intolerances. When proteins get into the blood stream the body will automatically attack those proteins. The immune system is trying to protect the body. The body will develop antibodies against the foods leaking into the blood stream. To further complicate matters, if the food particles have detectable glyphosate (a dangerous pesticide on most foods) the body will be on a higher alert to defend itself against the food that is not technically a foreign invader. Eventually, the thyroid hormone may get attacked as well because it mimics gluten protein.
Leaky gut is often the starting point for chronic inflammation and chronic encephalitis of the brain. Chronic encephalitis is also triggered by lime, co-infections and heavy metals. When Lime, babesia and bartonella contribute to encephalitis it is called autoimmune encephalitis. Autoimmune encephalitis will result in a behaviorally agitated child.
The blood brain barrier may be weak in many children which results in leaky brain. Toxins, pesticides and metals will cross the blood brain barrier with leaky brain. Repeated exposures of toxins, metals and pesticides will affect the child’s body and brain. Repeated toxin exposures will affect a child’s behaviors. Heavy metals can cross the blood brain barrier. Metals attach to proteins and cells in the body which progress food intolerance issues. When heavy metals stay in the body the immune system prolongs making mistakes. Children have immune systems that are making mistakes and are on high alert. When the immune system is on high alert our children may have an increased histamine response. This increased histamine response can lead to: allergies, bedwetting, asthma, ear infections and respiratory infections.
Young children who struggle with hyperactivity, overstimulation and impulsivity could be dealing with PANS (pediatric acute neurological syndrome). PANS is caused when infections attack the body and cause further encephalitis in the brain. Infections or viruses get into the brain by crossing the blood brain barrier. Those infections or viruses can be: Epstein Barr, lime, yeast, mold, strep, and cytomegalovirus.
Toxins light a fire in our children’s brains and bodies. Toxin overload will create stress on the body. Toxin overload is called an epigenetic factor that leads to disease and chronic illness. The brain continues to become inflamed with toxin overloads (encephalitis). Continual toxin burdens come from: processed food, glyphosate, mold, fluoride, poor air, poor water, dental fillings, cleaning products, personal care products, medications, EMF’s, Wifi, and further vaccine damage. Collectively toxin burdens are contributing to our children’s behaviors because the immune system, neurological system and digestive system isn’t working properly.
According to Dr. Steven Geanopulos D.C. (who has an alternative medicine practice in N.Y.), when we see our children struggle with motor ticks, stimming, gross motor issues and fine motor issues this is the result of a movement disorder. The movement disorder is due to neurological distress. Our children are under systemic and neurological distress.
Unfortunately, neurological distress is prolonged longer than it needs to be for many children. When our children suffer from chronic encephalitis or autoimmune encephalitis the entire body is affected. Brain inflammation can cause scar tissue to build up in the brain where nerves are glued together. When nerves are glued together there is limited oxygen going to certain areas of the brain. Limited oxygen will result in slow growth and learning. When the brain is inflamed and when the body is overstressed with toxins the liver and gallbladder lock up. This lock up causes a struggle to eliminate toxins. When the liver locks up toxins may come out of the skin instead of the liver. When children have a hard time eliminating toxins from the body, they may have skin issues (chronic rashes) and bad breath because toxins are escaping the body in unconventional ways.
Neuro inflammation makes the immune system overreact and the nervous system thinks it’s under assault. Your child may experience brain fog or a decreased sense of smell. With encephalitis the body perceives it is in fight or flight, so it stays in the sympathetic phase of the nervous system and can’t reset itself. In the sympathetic dominant phase, the body can’t detoxify, rest or digest. In this phase the child is: impulsive, reactive, has a rapid heartbeat and has rapid breathing. The sympathetic phase signals unhealthy bacteria to grow in the gut. The body needs to be parasympathetic dominant for resting, digesting and detoxifying.
For many children chronic inflammation grows in the body which causes digestive issues and malabsorption of vitamins and minerals. Due to malabsorption, a child could have poor teeth and could have many nutrient deficiencies. With chronic inflammation muscles are not working properly due to the inflammation. Food, liquid and acid move in the wrong directions. Your child could have chronic issues with constipation, diarrhea, gerd and reflux.
For a nutrient deficient child, there body may have low iron. According to Dr. Steven Geanopulos D.C. low iron is a subtle anemia that reduces oxygen going to the brain. Low iron could be compiling the issues of less oxygen getting to the brain. According to Dr. Jared Skowren N.D., low Zinc results in high copper. When your child has low zinc, high copper, low vitamin D and low B vitamins they could have dramatic behavioral difficulties. Those difficulties could be: high anxiety, aggression and repetitive behaviors. According to Dr. Tom Levy M.D., low vitamin C is a problem because this vitamin is the main fuel that runs the body. Overstressed bodies use up vitamin C and need more of it. This is an anti-toxin vitamin. Our most distressed children are most likely not getting enough vitamin C.
Many children who struggle with chronic hyperactivity, overstimulation and impulsivity have volatile blood sugar issues. Mary Coyle, D.I. Hom, reported that many children on the Autism spectrum could be suffering from hypoglycemia. Blood sugar levels are often dropping below normal. Low blood sugar causes the liver to produce glycogen. For many children with neurological based disorders the liver is not producing glycogen when the blood sugar levels are low. The liver isn’t typically working well for children on the spectrum so, glycogen isn’t being produced the way it should be. Spectrum children and ADHD children are poor eliminators based on: poor liver functioning, digestive tract disfunctions and inflammation. Blood sugar can spike very quickly for many children and the body produces a high amount of insulin. When insulin levels are high, the adrenals in turn kick out cortisol. Children with Autism and children with hyperactivity issues are often running on cortisol and eventually the adrenal glands will become overworked and fatigued. According to Coyle, elevated cortisol shrinks the brain, causes thyroid issues, causes sleep issues and causes constipation issues. Sugar sensitive children are children who will struggle with a rapid spike and crash of blood sugar. They will have over-reactive beta endorphins causing a craving or addictive reaction. Children who are sensitive to sugar will have low levels of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that quiets the brain and helps us tolerate pain or discomfort. Children with low levels of serotonin will be highly reactional to falling or getting a scraped knee. Some children will be overly sensitive to pain and this will be hard to control with elevated levels of sugar in their diet.
Children who have blood sugar dysregulation issues and sugar sensitivities will often have adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue happens when the glands above the kidneys are overworking to produce cortisol. With adrenal fatigue children can still experience hyperactivity but will feel fatigued at the same time. When the adrenals are kicking out too much Cortisol or working on overdrive, that is called adrenal stress. It is very common that children with neurological issues have adrenal stress.
Many children who struggle with chronic hyperactivity, overstimulation and impulsivity could have the MTHFR genetic mutation. According to Dr. Jared Skowren N.D., 50% of population has this mutation and 90% of kids with Autism have it. With this mutation, folic acid is not methylated properly and doesn’t help the brain. The brain is folate deprived. Children who are deprived of folate in the brain will have symptoms of: fatigue, gray hair, mouth sores, tongue swelling, weakness, pale skin, anxiety, and irritability.
Many children who struggle with chronic hyperactivity, overstimulation and impulsivity have slow methylation happening in the body. Methyl groups are needed in the body to take metals out of the body. Stress slows down the methylation process. When methylation is slow the body can’t clear toxins, adrenaline and cortisol. Your child could be running on excess adrenaline and cortisol most of the time. Calming the body in this situation would be very difficult.
According to Dr. Daniel Pompa PSc.D., mitochondrial dysfunction is a huge issue today. When a child’s body can’t eliminate toxins, they will eventually suffer from mitochondrial issues. Mitochondrial dysfunction happens when toxins are slowing down cell membranes and cells are not moving or changing. Children who have mitochondria dysfunction will be fatigued easily and will be very slow to detoxify. Lymph nodes will not be circulating. When the lymph nodes can’t circulate toxins are not draining from the brain. Your child may have swollen lymph nodes in the neck. If the neck lymph nodes are not draining properly the brain won’t be able to drain toxins properly at night during sleep.
Many children who struggle with chronic hyperactivity, overstimulation and impulsivity have vision issues due to neurological distress, heavy metal toxicity, lime, co-infections and nutritional deficiencies. Some children struggle to move their eyes back and forth together. Some children have tracking issues and light sensitivity. Many children will have enlarged pupils from adrenal fatigue.
Many children who struggle with chronic hyperactivity, overstimulation and impulsivity have and imbalance of brain waves as a result of brain encephalitis. Brain waves are often stuck in beta, delta or theda. These children struggle to move into alpha brain waves. Children who have limited alpha brain waves will have poor sleep. Brain wave imbalances prevent sleep. The brain can’t detoxify and drain without enough sleep and lack of melatonin from gut dysbiosis. Alpha waves help with spacial awareness. Children who lack alpha brain waves can be dissociated from understanding the world around them. Children who hit others can’t imagine the person getting hurt. These children are checked out from emotions and feelings that are outside of their own experience. According to Dr. Patrick Porter PH.D., children with high beta brain waves will be hyperactive and children with high theda brain waves will be tired and withdrawn. Children need to have balanced brain waves each day.
Children who have a trauma background or just experience a high level of stress will experience limbic kindling. With limbic kindling the physical energy of emotions is stored neurologically and in the muscles. Emotions of stress limit detoxification and disrupts the gut. When the energy of stress and traumas are stored in the body, we re-wire the brain to be hypersensitive. A hypersensitive brain leads to significant chemical sensitivities.
All the energy in a distressed body is being used on fighting infections, fighting off foreign invaders(foods), producing histamine responses, producing inflammation, and producing hormones. Hormone production is needed for the fight or flight responses. When the body is using its energy to protect itself, limited energy can go to: talking, eye contact, social skills, or play skills.
When a child’s body begins the healing journey new symptoms will naturally occur. When a child begins to heal the bacteria’s, parasites and infections will decrease. Dye off symptoms are likely to happen as endotoxins are released by microbes when they die off. Symptoms may worsen before getting better. Temporary symptoms could occur when your child goes through the healing processes of: detoxification, food elimination, bacteria elimination, heavy metal elimination and parasite elimination. Our children can heal, and symptoms can be reversed when we focus on healing the correct root causes.
Author: Dr. Elizabeth Ward, Ph.D., LCPC