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Nutritional Supplements, ADD & Children's Health

From Well Being Journal Vol. 7, No. 3 ~ May/June 1998

by Lendon Smith, M.D.

A symptom or a disease should be motivation for a person to get rid of the problem that allowed that symptom or disease to appear in the first place. A sick body is crying out for the wherewithal to get well. The lack of good foods, vitamins, and minerals is a root cause of sickness. My research has shown that we are all in need of supplements; at the present time there is no way to be healthy without supplements. We cannot wait until the next ice age, when we will get new topsoil and we will be eating bark, leaves, roots, and berries as our bodies are designed to do.

Some cases of chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia can be improved with minerals. Slow wound healing can be related to a zinc deficiency; it is often accompanied by white spots on the nails. Some cases of diabetes can be controlled with chromium and a weight loss program. The ravages of premenstrual syndrome are often brought under control with magnesium. Constipation is not just due to a lack of mineral oil in the diet; it is related to a modern diet with little roughage from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Dr. Dennis Burkitt has pointed out that in countries whose people have large bowel movements, the hospitals are small. In Western countries where the people, in general, have small, hard stools, the hospitals are large. He relates the increased reliance on the modern diet to the increased incidence of coronary disease, stroke, hypertension, appendicitis, diverticulitis, and hemorrhoids.

How do we protect our children from the needless ravages of civilization's diseases? If your child has one cavity, he/she is flawed, and that should be motivation to take special efforts to turn around that child's metabolism. That hole should motivate you to do something about your child's diet. Research indicates that cavities are not so much from a lack of fluoride or from improper tooth brushing; rather, they are caused by the lack of minerals, mainly calcium and magnesium. If mice are fed sugar via a stomach tube, so that no sugar touches their teeth, they still get cavities. If you have eaten whole foods with their proper complement of minerals and vitamins, you will not have cavities, and might even avoid disease.

Start at the beginning. Research on animals and humans indicates that pre-conception nutrition can affect the unborn all his/her life. How a child treats you when he is sixteen years old may be a reflection of how you treated your body before conceiving that child.

My experience as an army psychiatrist soured me on the treatment of mental illness. I had even once thought about becoming a child psychiatrist. Straighten out one whole generation and everyone would be normal after that. Wrong! The more I read about the diagnosis and therapy of psychiatric illnesses, the more I realized psychiatrists were making things up, as no one had a clue as to the etiology.

I became interested in the hyperactive child. We'd had a couple of those in our family. My mother had never labeled me as such, though; my behavior had been “just a phase.” I discovered that these children responded well to a nutritious diet: small amounts of food every three hours, no junk, and the addition of magnesium, calcium, and the B-complex vitamins. Blood and hair tests were able to reveal these deficiencies, so it was not just guesswork. I found, for instance, that if the child was ticklish and distractible, he was invariably low in magnesium. Chocolate and peanut butter cravings also suggested a magnesium deficiency. Many were scarfing down quarts of milk, cheese, and ice cream, but the calcium levels in their body were at the low end of normal. Where was it going? Apparently, they were sensitive to cow milk and the intestines rejected it; it just left via their nether throat. Many of the children sensitive to dairy had a history of colic and ear infections. It was all falling into place.

Most of the children I treated with diet and supplements no longer needed the Ritalin they had been taking. Their problem was not a Ritalin deficiency. They had mineral and vitamin deficiencies. Their behavior—good mornings and terrible afternoons; either sleepy or restless and inattentive—were easily explained by their diet. Along with a better diet, they needed minerals to act as co-enzymes for basic metabolism. As I expanded my research with reading and using nutrition as treatment for patients, I noted that the nutritional approach was valid for other conditions—not just the hyperactive child.

The central theme of my message, to whomever would listen, was that the root cause of minor and major diseases is flawed nutrition, along with a susceptibility based on a poorly nourished pregnancy and some genetic tendencies. As an example: an alcoholic may have hypoglycemia plus an inborn inability to detoxify alcohol. One drink is too many and a thousand are not enough. His diet becomes so depleted that he cannot recover without some heroic nutrition.

We have learned that smoking, pollution, stress, and the use of illicit drugs are factors in allowing disease to appear, but nutritional deficiencies are linked to most of the diseases that plague us today. Landmark studies done at major universities and reported in hundreds of articles in peer-reviewed medical journals have documented the relationship between diseases and nutrient deficiencies.

Two-thirds of our population sees alternative care health providers other than medical doctors, and alternative approaches to health care increase each year. Traditional care has not only failed to help people but, in many cases, has made them worse. Now many people want to take part in their own health care. They seek knowledge so that they can take an active part in the maintenance of their own health. Even conservative, traditional medical schools are offering courses in real nutrition. The clinic at my medical school now has a chiropractor and an acupuncturist on call if the patient wants a different approach.

Many Americans want to achieve maximum health and live to fulfill their genetic potential of 100 years or so, but they don't know how to do it, or their doctors only say, “Eat healthy foods.” They cannot make educated decisions. So, I am renewing my campaign to provide you with the hard evidence which you may have missed because TV and the newspapers seem only to be interested in revealing the name of the latest miracle drug. I would like to dispel a common belief that many of us have learned.

Most of us believe that if a food is on the shelf, it must be safe to eat and might even be good for us. One would think that our government, in its wisdom, would not allow anything harmful to get to our mouths. Wrong! The Food and Drug Administration was established to make sure that drugs would be tested for safety and efficacy, and that foods would not kill us—but it has not worked as well as had been anticipated. If a food is in a box or a can, it has been altered, and it should be avoided. We really should be imitating our ancient ancestors who ate many of their foods raw; nothing came from a box. When foods are processed so they will stay on the shelf without rotting, two-thirds of the vitamins and minerals have been removed—the result is empty calories, although the cadmium remains. You have probably noted that extra sugar has often been added to these prepared foods so they taste better. Someone pointed out that eating the cereal box might be safer than eating the stuff inside.

We often quote Hippocrates, who said, “Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food.” How upset he would be if he observed us today: Coffee, white flour, and sugar are the most commonly eaten foods. But can they be called foods? Many of these processed foods came into being when food processors discovered just one hundred years ago how to separate the endosperm from the kernels of grain, bleach it, and make bread and cereal. The good part went to the animals.

Today, almost half of the foods consumed by Americans are processed convenience foods. Even so-called “fresh” fruits and vegetables are picked before they are ripe and brought to market as they ripen on the truck. Incidentally, the most nutritious vegetables are the frozen ones, as they are picked at the height of ripeness and quick-frozen. Organic is better, obviously, but if the minerals were not present in the soil that food grew in, the food will not contain them.

Support for my position came from many dentists who had me read the research of Dr. Weston Price. This dentist went around the world in the 1930s hoping to find the cause of tooth decay. He examined the teeth of Masai in Kenya, Maoris in New Zealand, Aborigines of Australia, New Guinea people, North Canadian Indians, Eskimos, and people living in the isolated valleys of Switzerland. He found these people had decay-free teeth if they stuck to their native diets. They retained their teeth. Skulls showed perfect teeth with no crowding and no cavities. (In Western, developed countries most of us have cavities, and after age 60 about half the population is edentulous.) Once they had access to sugar and white flour, and they deviated from their native diet, they developed cavities. If the pregnant women ate these impoverished foods, their children had skeletal malformations.

Coprology, or the study of petrified bowel movements, indicates that our ancestors two to twenty million years ago lived on lean meat, fruit, seeds, grubs, roots, herbs, and some honey. They had no dairy or grains until about 10,000 years ago. They were hunters and gatherers. Our bodies and digestive processes evolved on that diet. To be healthy, we must imitate that diet and eat raw foods, lean meat, and a minimum of dairy and grains. We must have foods that are grown in soil that has all the minerals required for our metabolism and health.

We have allowed the food processing industry too much latitude over how it processes our foods and far too much influence over the regulatory agencies that are supposed to protect us. Read the label on the box of cereal: corn syrup, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, red and blue dye, and then more sugar and syrup. Chemicals and sugar! No wonder 40% of children and 90% of adults in our country are severely malnourished.

Recently my friend and colleague, Dr. Howe, took his two small boys to the world-famous San Diego Zoo. Near the vending machines were signs warning that the snack “foods in the machines are for humans only. Do not feed this food to the animals or they may get sick and die.” The zoo's vets know that those foods could endanger the health of a 400-pound ape. How about us?

Now look at the label of a good cat or dog food: minerals, vitamins, and essential fatty acids; no colorings, preservatives, additives, sugar, or bad trans-fatty acids. Maybe we should be eating pet foods. Vets see diseases in house pets because we feed Rover and Binky our table scraps.

A researcher, Dr. Stephen Schoenthaler, organized a diet plan for the New York City school system from 1979 to 1984. He worked with the food supervisor for the 800,000 pupils who ate breakfast and lunch at school. He got her to remove the sugar, artificial colors and flavors, and other additives from their foods. The children had no choice but to eat more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables—wholesome foods. In those five years, the average achievement test score went from a low 39 to an above average of 52. After that research finished, they went back to their old ways and the tests deteriorated again.

Our fast-paced society has encouraged the use of quick snacks, easy-to-fix foods that can be eaten while running for the bus or while driving. “Heat and serve” is the modern way to go—downhill, that is. One study found that 30 of 800 school children were consuming over 300 milligrams of caffeine daily from colas and candy. That equals about 5 cups of coffee. (Who needs Ritalin with all that stimulation?)

Only about 2% of the flour consumed in this country is whole grain. Twenty-four ingredients are removed in the refining of the flour, and about four of them are replaced. The flour is then called enriched! We are truly being deceived. First, the foods grown on our depleted soils are not up to par, and then most of what is in these products is processed out. You can see that we are being doubly cheated.

The recommended daily doses of vitamins and minerals have been established by government fiat. If the nutrients in a good 2,000-calorie daily food intake are added up, the results cannot possibly be those minuscule amounts of nutrients the government says we need for health.

Another problem has surfaced in the last 40 years. The farmers are not putting minerals into the soil—only nitrogen, potassium, and phosphates. Furthermore, because the plants are so fragile, the bugs tend to destroy them, so the chemical companies have been helping by selling the farmers pesticides and herbicides. Some of these find their way into the plant itself. We are eating these. If you have a great liver, you can detoxify them, but you need the vitamins and minerals as precursors for the enzymes that detoxify this junk.

While our bodies can continue to function—however poorly—without vitamins, we must have minerals to survive. Critical minerals like selenium, zinc, magnesium, calcium, copper, and iron are now only marginally present in the soil.

The Department of Agriculture in 1933 stated that the topsoil was being washed and blown away. Organically grown foods are healthier because they are free from pesticides, but that is no guarantee that all the minerals we need are in that soil, and the plants that grew from that soil.

Many diseases today have been linked to a deficiency in both trace and major minerals. Until the planet is subject to another ice age, with the glaciers scouring out more minerals from the earth to renew the topsoil, we will have to make use of supplements.

Lendon Smith, M.D., was in pediatric practice from 1951 to 1987, when he retired. He has written 15 books about children and more recently about nutrition. His latest book How to Raise a Healthy Child is available in paperback from M. Evans, Publisher, New York, NY.

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