Food Sensitivities or Total Stress Load?
Factors that affect how children learn at home and at school
© Beverley Paine 2006
I have noticed over the last decade or so many children who have problems coping with school and are labelled as ADHD or similar. When parents take these children out of school and change their diets they see a dramatic improvement in learning and social behaviour. I started modifying my diet over two decades ago, thinking that I was allergic or intolerant, but I now think it's the total stress load on my system, not simply diet or airborne particles, that give rise to the range of symptoms I experience. Adjusting the diet definitely offered relief, but was never the complete answer.
Salicylate intolerance is something I've played around with for decades. Some information I read a week or so ago basically said that there is increasing evidence that dietary salicylate is nowhere near the problem it was thought to be in NSAID intolerant people. Sorry I can't remember where as I've been doing heaps of researching on the net regarding health issues recently and this wasn't on topic so I didn't keep the reference. NSAID stands for non steriod anti inflammatory drugs; there's dozens of them, aspirin being the one that most people react to.
The main issue that many dieticians and immunologists have with a salicylate free diet (or one which is low in salicylate) is that it cuts out a lot of really good food, especially for children, and it becomes very hard to eat a fully balanced diet. This can produce it's own problems over time. My dietician recommended low allergy vitamin pills while on the low salicylate diet. I personally found that it wasn't the salicylate alone that caused my intolerances, but an inablitiy to adequately handle stress caused by many different factors - eating a diet loaded with salicylate over a couple of days exascerbated my problems and usually triggered asthma and other allergic symtoms. If I wasn't stressed physically or emotionally (eg from being cold, or a sudden change in temperature or barometric pressure, sitting an exam, visit to a new doctor, etc, or even simply hanging out with a group of friends) I could tolerate normal levels of salicylate in my diet.
I've been desensitised a couple of times (Royal Adelaide Hospital - the doctors mentioned in a previous post are all familiar with the desensitisations) - and that seemed to help settle the asthma and other obvious allergic symptoms. I think it helped, but lifestyle changes helped a LOT more. Ultimately I've found that I can eat almost anything - even foods high in salicylate - provided I manage my overall stress levels. This means low social activity, getting to bed before 10.30pm, exercise every day (usually only walking), avoiding stressful situations like deadlines, running late for appointments, etc. I watch intake of stimulants like caffeine. Anything that stresses the physical body in any way at all can trigger sensitivities to food and airborne particles...
For children with sensitivities to food or airborne particles (pollen, dust, mould, etc) I'd recommend closely monitoring their social activity as well what they eat, perhaps with a log similar to a food diary. My food diary included a space for comments about the weather, my moods, exercise, and social activity as well as what I was eating and which medications I took. This is how I discovered that it was the total stress load that was a better predictor of symtom severity than diet alone.
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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine
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