Nutrition and Behavior

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By: Thomas Cowan, M.D.

In 1950 a survey of American public school teachers determined that their main concerns were gum chewing in class, speaking out of turn, and failing to raise one's hand before speaking among high school students. At that time the diagnosis of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) had not been "invented" and dress codes were en­forced in public schools. Ah yes, the good (?) old days.

What about the '90s? According to the latest information (a recent Time Magazine survey) between 5-7% of all American children in grades 1-4 take medicine for ADHD and this goes up to between 9-11 % of the boys. At a meet­ing I went to at a local public school, the statement was made that the normal in­cidence of the disease ADHD is 10% of the boys, and if less than 10% of the boys are on medication then the school is not doing a good enough job of diagnosing these children.

In fact, as an overall theme the health of the American children is much differ­ent than it was in the 50s (and earlier). Then, the main concerns were childhood diseases (measles, mumps, chicken pox, etc.), all fundamentally short-lived and mostly harmless. Now the main medical concerns are asthma (25% of urban el­ementary children carry an inhaler to school - higher in some cities), diabetes, leukemia and of course ADHD - all very serious and chronic diseases. The big unanswered (and unfortunately, unasked) question is - why?

While there is certainly no defini­tive answer to this question one "lead" is provided by the work of Western Price.

Dr. Price, a dentist, was concerned about another epidemic which has actually se­verely worsened since his time. In the '30s Dr. Price noticed that more and more of his young patients were having oc­clusal troubles (i.e., their teeth were not coming in straight and proper). This pre­viously relatively rare occurrence was quickly becoming the norm to the point that currently it is 100%, that is, nobody is born today with enough room in their mouths for all the teeth including the "wisdom" teeth, to come in.

Folks, our jaws are not supposed to be bowed, our teeth crooked, the woman's pelvis too small to birth babies, our chest caved in, our hips os­teoporotic.

In setting out to determine why no­body is born with enough room for their teeth, Dr. Price went all over the world looking for people with normal dental development - that is, properly spaced teeth with the absence of dental caries (cavities, which by the way are infections and are a good marker for general resis­tance to infection). Dr. Price found many such groups and was able to document conclusively that the sole reason for the near perfect health of these indigenous people's teeth was their diet. For, with­out racial intermixing, without any sig­nificant changes in their culture but solely with the introduction of Western pro­cessed foods into their diets, within one generation their immunity to cavities was lost and their teeth became misaligned, just like us Americans.

Dr. Price also demonstrated that a reason for the changes that accompany the new diet is that the skeleton of those eating Western foods can lose up to 40% of its calcification. This means that even at birth the bones can be as much as 40% less calcified and strong as bones of in­digenous people with their traditional diet. The misalignment of the teeth is the result of a weakened jaw bone bend­ing up ( a more "stable" opposition for the weaker bone) which, however changes the angles of the erupting teeth. While this in itself may not seem impor­tant (except, of course, if you are an orth­odontist), the `bending' jaw bone is re­ally just a marker. For the pelvis is formed at the same time as the jaw, and it also is under-calcified and bowed, re­sulting in our C-section rate of greater than 20%. Another result of this facial bone deformity is that the nasal arches become narrow - breathing is pinched, the tonsils and adenoids move closer to the midline, closing the Eustachian tube leading to chronic ear infections and on and on.

When we also realize that the adop­tion of the Western diet by indigenous people led to their loss of resistance to infectious disease (including dental car­ies), we have a plausible explanation for a number of current health concerns.

Getting back to our discussion of food and behavior (I bet you thought I forgot the topic) there are three impor­tant additions to be made. First, modern psychiatry has made it quite clear that chemistry, particularly the chemistry of proteins, (amino acids) and fats are de­terminants of behavior. Truly, Prozac, anti-depressants and Ritalin, etc. the medicines used to treat depression and ADHD, do nothing more than manipu­late amino acid levels in the brain of the patient. One could ask why these amino acids are abnormal in the first place. Is there something wrong with our food, our digestion, or both?

Second, in his life, Rudolf Steiner spoke about the relationship between di­gestion, thinking and other "mental pro­cesses." He went so far as to say that the brain is the mirror image of the intestines in its shape and function. He further pointed out that one's physical structure is the external manifestation, and in fact, the basis of an orderly thinking process and even an orderly society. Our bones are (or at least were) formed in precise mathematical relationships, which gives our subconscious the experience of form, order and even logic. Folks, our jaws are not supposed to be bowed, our teeth crooked, the woman's pelvis too small to birth babies, our chest caved in, our hips osteoporotic. If they are, one will see rampant disorder all around us, par­ticularly in our thinking, logic, and other "inner processes."

Third (and probably most practi­cally) in all human and animal studies that have ever been done, when a switch from an indigenous diet to a current Western processed diet is made, extreme behavioral changes occur without fail. Prison inmates fluctuate in their level of violence depending on their food, and we see it all around us every day. Dr. Price, in his studies, detailed again and again how previously unknown behavior and emotional problems were being seen in indigenous people with the introduction of Western food. When he returned to the U.S. and set up a clinic in Cleveland to treat dental caries for disadvantaged inner city children, he noticed and docu­mented dramatic changes in behavior, emotional life, and school performance when he put these children on a program approximating a diet used by indigenous people; i.e., a diet of fresh, vital and properly grown grains, vegetables, raw milk and select fish and meat products.

The bottom line here seems to be that a diet of sugar, caffeine, pasteurized milk, white flour and chemically grown fruits and vegetables is literally enough to drive you crazy.

Dr Cowan is a general practitioner who is board-certified in anthroposophical medi­cine. His nutritionally based practice is lo­cated at both Noone Falls in Peterborough and at Concord, NH. His phone number is (603) 924-3644 in Peterborough, and (603) 228-0407 in Concord.

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