In our last case study, Could Gluten be to Blame for Your Child’s Behavioral Issues?, we shared Kasey’s story – she is a patient from our San Francisco practice who came to us for help with an ADHD and anxiety disorder diagnosis. As the title suggests, we were able to link Kasey’s behavioral issues to a gluten sensitivity. But it turns out that gluten was only partially to blame.
Dr. Getzelman recently announced her new, innovative service in which she uses 23andMe genetic data along with other cutting edge tools to get to the bottom of many chronic illness diagnoses. By diving into Kasey’s DNA, Dr. Getzelman was able to uncover genetic predispositions that were the root cause of her behavioral issues. In this post, we’ll continue on with part 2 of Kasey’s story describing how we were able to treat her successfully by going as far upstream as possible (not simply relying on downstream symptoms) without the use of pharmaceuticals.
But first, let’s learn a little more about Kasey…
Kasey was a little girl in distress. She could only pay attention for short periods during the first half of the school day, and by the afternoon she was spacey, tired, and challenged not to tantrum. Kasey’s moods and lack of focus were so severe that her teachers grew increasingly concerned that she’d have to be held back a year. Kasey’s parents noted that she had always seemed to lack vitality compared to her two sisters, never whistling or singing to herself as they were accustomed to seeing her siblings do. She didn’t dance or skip from one activity to the next either, and this was concerning to them.
Kasey’s parents knew their daughter was bright and curious but felt there was something in her way, something keeping her from expressing her true potential and experiencing happiness. They came to GetzWell seeking alternative treatments to the typical medications (such as Ritalin) that her pediatrician wanted to prescribe because of her symptoms of ADHD. Her mom and dad were worried that her developing brain could be negatively impacted over the long term if she took medication.
As functional medicine pediatricians, we wanted to know the underlying reasons behind Kasey’s behavior, not just how to suppress her symptoms, and turned to 23andMe genetic testing for answers.
Getting the to the bottom of Kasey’s condition.
23andMe provides useful information about genetic predispositions that relate to neurotransmitter production and breakdown, oxidative stress (free radical formation), and toxin accumulation – all of which can contribute to inflammation leading to chronic disease and brain dysfunction.
We discovered that Kasey had blocks in fundamental enzymes involved in the production of dopamine (the “get up and go” neurotransmitter) and serotonin (needed for emotional regulation and contentment). Additionally, she had low levels of glutathione, the body’s master antioxidant, causing a build-up of plastic by-products and mercury in her body, which in turn was slowing down her thyroid gland. Proper thyroid function is essential for focus, attention, energy, and mood, as well as detoxification of environmental chemicals.
We also discovered a gut parasite that needed to be treated first, thus providing a starting point for Kasey’s treatment plan.
Our strategy for treating Kasey:
- Go to the gut. Intestinal health is fundamental to our overall health – it’s where most of the immune system lives and where nutrients that support enzyme production and function are absorbed. With Kasey, we prescribed botanicals and herbs to treat her parasites and to “heal” her gut. By doing so, we were able to address the gut inflammation and permeability preventing her from digesting and absorbing important nutrients.
- Glutathione boost. From the gut, we moved to boosting Kasey’s glutathione levels so she could begin to “off-load” the toxins she had been unable to get rid of due to low antioxidant levels and gut problems (toxins are released from the body primarily via regular daily pooping).
Boosting Kasey’s glutathione levels caused her thyroid to begin to work better and her energy and focus began to improve. By this stage her teachers and parents were quite happy, asserting that Kasey had improved by 60-70% from where she had been. But we wanted better than that, so we took her treatment to a third step…
- Supplementation. We knew we hadn’t directly addressed Kasey’s neurotransmitter issues, which we were clued in to based on her genetics. That’s when we decided on a protocol using vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids (or DHA), magnesium and amino acids — key nutrients that support levels of dopamine and serotonin.
And that did the trick. Not long after this, Kasey’s parents reported that she was humming regularly, skipping around the house for the first time ever, and staying on task all day at school. AND she was not held back a grade!
Let GetzWell get to the heart of your child’s condition.
Kasey’s story is evidence that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to treating health challenges like ADHD and other chronic illness. We are all products of our unique genetic makeup, lifestyle, nutrition, environmental exposures, etc. And by going upstream to get at a condition’s root cause, we stand a remarkable chance of helping the body to heal and allowing our patients to thrive.
If your child has been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, anxiety, depression or other mood disorders or is challenged by other chronic health issues, please contact our San Francisco offices at 415-826-1701. We’d love to help you find the answers to address your child’s unique needs.