Printer-friendly format

That Kid Who Drives You Crazy!

You could run through an alphabet of symptoms:  Aggressive, Belligerent, Clumsy, Distractible, Emotional, Forgetful, Gauche, Hyperactive, Impulsive ...

There is evidence to indicate that many children like this are reacting to everyday substances; and, fortunately, a great deal can be done to help them.


Do you wake up some days and wonder why you ever chose to be a teacher? Of all the challenges you face, let's isolate one, and take a closer look at it -- and in this case "it" is a child we'll call Jeremy.  He's bright.  The tests show that, but you wouldn't know it from looking at his work.  He understands a concept one day, and is bewildered by it the next.

He does foolish/destructive things even though he knows better.  When you ask him why, and he responds, "I don't know," his answer seems genuine.  His hands, legs and mouth appear to possess a life of their own.  He says the wrong things, too loud, and at the wrong time.  Most of the other children avoid him; although a few find him an easy target and convenient scapegoat.

As you speak with Jeremy's mother you listen carefully for clues that would explain where she went wrong.  But she's as exasperated as you are, and her other children are fine.  "Poor parenting" just doesn't fit.

Is there "something wrong" with this little boy -- something in his brain that doesn't work properly? Is there a defect he was born with? This is not a comfortable fit either, as his behavior is inconsistent. On some days he functions quite well, and on others he's impossible. Similarly, his mother notes there are wide variations at home. She also mentions that Jeremy was a contented baby during the time she was breastfeeding, but he had difficulty sleeping after she introduced table food. Both of you notice he's worse after holidays and parties, but conclude that he is just overstimulated.

Although various tests show Jeremy's brain is perfectly normal, your suspicion is correct that something is wrong with his "internal environment." A relatively new branch of science deals with this. It's called "behavioral toxicology," and looks at the way a sensitive individual's behavior can be affected by external substances.

While the formal study of behavioral toxicology is new, the examples are as old as recorded history. Take an external substance called "wine." If a person consumed a large quantity of wine, and then behaved abnormally or couldn't remember how to solve a math problem, we wouldn't be mystified.

If we were to conduct an experiment with many individuals, we would see wide variations in the ability to tolerate this substance (wine). The reactions to it would depend upon the amount consumed and each person's degree of sensitivity to it -- in other words, their individual chemical make-up would be an important factor.

There are many substances besides wine which can affect a person's behavior and ability to focus and learn. Some are believed to be transient and some are known to be permanent. Examples include: heavy metals such as lead, mercury and cadmium; alcohol of all types; nicotine; caffeine; drugs -- both legal and illegal; solvents and glues, such as airplane glue; petroleum.

Petroleum? Who thinks about this, except when we fill our gas tank or read about OPEC? Few people are aware that thirty seven percent of the crude oil used in the United States goes into the manufacturing of other products with which we come in contact every day. Derivatives of petroleum and crude oil are in our clothing, cosmetics, shampoos, detergents, perfumes, paints, plastics, pesticides, and -- most significant of all -- in our food. We eat, breathe, and surround ourselves with the by-products of crude oil every day, and some of us are having a hard time coping with these powerful substances.

Let's take a look at a typical morning in Jeremy's life as he gets ready for school. (Every substance which is likely to be an irritant for a chemically-sensitive person is noted with a ).

He wakes up between sheets which have been exposed to scented fabric softening strips. He walks down the hall on new carpeting which still retains the smell of the chemicals used in its manufacture. An air freshener adorns the bathroom, and competes with scented soap and scented tissue. The tub has been cleaned with a miracle spray, and the scent of chlorine clings to the tile floor. His toothpaste is green. Breakfast is a bowl of sugar frosted grains and synthetically colored marshmallow bits, all treated with the preservative BHA. They float in a sea of low fat milk which has BHT hidden in the added vitamin A. What looks like juice is a blend of water, sugar, and synthetic dyes plus artificial orange flavoring. An artificially colored and flavored vitamin tops off the meal.

If Jeremy is having one of his frequent ear infections, his mother adds a spoonful of bright pink, bubble gum flavored medicine. He runs past the fragrant potpourri out the door, across the lush green lawn -- recently treated with powerful pesticides -- across the newly paved asphalt street. He has forgotten his homework and his lunch money (for the third time this week) and Jeremy's mother wonders why her son simply can't get his act together.

If you recognize this child, there is a lot you can do to help.  To start, become familiar with the dietary connection to health, learning, and behavior by browsing through these pages. Feel free to call our Help-Line (631) 369-9340, 10-3 Eastern Time (USA) Monday-Friday to ask any questions you may have that are not answered for you here.


Updated 2/1/08
|| Home || Contact Us || Get the Program ||

Article originally appeared in Pure Facts Newsletter.

The Feingold Association of the United States
11849 Suncatcher Drive, Fishers IN 46037
Tel: (631) 369-9340