The Mental Health of Children

What are the top priorities of our society? If you were given a list to choose from, you would probably put the health and wellbeing of your children somewhere near the top. Parents will usually forego their own needs if their child has difficulty.

Mental health and behavioral issues in children have been on the rise for many years. Each and every school system has had to expand their services bringing on more counselors, psychologists, social workers and special education teachers. More and more resources are dedicated to helping struggling children.

Getting a child in with a mental health specialist tends to be a chore relative to a scarcity of practitioners and the barriers imposed by the insurance companies. If a child with behavior problems were able to see a good child psychologist or psychiatrist, would that specialist work to sort out the underlying causes of those problems? Generally not.

I am going to present three pediatric cases of children with significant mental and behavioral health issues where the root causes were identified fairly quickly and easily. These root causes are not rare either and are in play with many children who have elements of anxiety, depression, insomnia, self-control, irritability and others.

For the record, any investigations into behavioral issues in children needs to appreciate a wide variety of potential influences include diet, electronics, gut health, stressors, innate learning disabilities, the psychosocial dynamics within the home and many others.

The first case involves a six-year-old girl Amanda who had abrupt onset of intense anxiety with obsessive-compulsive tendencies and insomnia late winter of 2018. She almost stopped eating completely because of a fear that she was being poisoned. Her grandmother suspected her granddaughter had PANDAS, the Pediatric Autoimmune Neuroendocrine Disorder Associated with Strep. The mother had to tell a little white lie to the pediatrician. She reported that her daughter was having sore throats and fever so they would run a strep test.

The test came back positive so the girl was put on antibiotics for 10 days. During the course of amoxicillin, the anxiety and OCD symptoms improved, but then worsened again after she was done. She came to see me for a consultation. The ASO titer and AntiDNAse B blood tests used to assess for the streptococcus bacteria were both strongly positive. I extended the course of antibiotics and again she seemed to improve, but then regressed again.

I did some other testing and she was positive for a bacterium Mycoplasma that can have similar effects on a young brain. It took two antibiotics—one for strep and one for mycoplasma—plus a very specific probiotic and dietary changes for her anxiety and OCD to gradually resolve. If her grandmother didn’t identify PANDAS, I can only imagine the combinations of pharmaceuticals that would have been used for this child.

The next case involves a nine-year-old boy Dexter who came in with a list of diagnoses including Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED), Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). I wrote a blog a while back about the Walsh Protocols. Bill Walsh, PhD and his colleagues through The Walsh Institute have researched tens of thousands of adult and pediatric patients with mental health and neurologic conditions. Some of their findings:

  • 86% of the almost 6,000 ADHD/ADD kids they evaluated had biochemical imbalances on laboratory testing.

  • 95% with anxiety had zinc deficiency

  • 90% with IED had high copper levels

  • The majority of kids with ODD had elevated whole blood histamine levels consistent with the biochemical pattern Walsh calls Undermethylation plus high copper and/or low zinc

Dexter’s labs showed high copper, low zinc and, at the time they were drawn early in 2018, the highest whole blood histamine number I had seen. In short, his laboratory matched perfectly with what Walsh’s research would have predicted. Getting him to take his supplements is another story, but at least we have sorted out his individual underlying issues. These can be corrected over time.

Every practitioner and school system employee that has anything to do with children’s mental health issues should know this body of research, yet almost none of them have heard of Bill Walsh or his protocols.

The third case involves a child with relatively intense, intractable behavioral issues that came to see me for a consultation a few months ago. I discussed with his parents the many potential underlying causes. I recommended a urine test for a condition called kryptopyrroluria (KPU). This is a genetically acquired chemical imbalance in which the body produces an abnormally high level of pyrroles. These chemicals are the byproduct of hemoglobin synthesis and lead to chronic, severe deficiencies of vitamin B6 and zinc. His KPU test came back positive and supplementation of B6 and zinc should make a tremendous difference going forward. If not, there other elements in play and more testing will be needed.

Andrew Lenhardt, MD

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