Sunday, June 8, 2014

Healing the New Childhood Epidemics, by Kenneth Bock, MD and Cameron Stauth

I knew from the start that there would be a few things I wouldn't agree with in this book.

The fact the title stated that Autism and ADHD are epidemics was indication enough of how the authors viewed them as diseases, rather than differences in neurology. Bock also views ADHD as a mild form of autism, owing to some similarities between the two. He brought up dyslexia and other learning disabilities/differences in the same light a couple of times, too.

After getting to know many autistic people and reading about their experiences, treatment and emerging science behind it, I don't agree with that. Being dyslexic myself, I've a lifetime experience and years of research to tell me my neurology is not a disease.

I suppose that can been seen as little more than a difference in philosophy. Despite my current opinion, I can still see validity in both viewpoints, and I may write about it on Alternative Wiring tomorrow morning.

I also have a problem with any book or program that bills itself as "groundbreaking". That's usually a surefire way to tell the person offering the program is in it for the money.

However, I was pleasantly surprised by a lot of it.

The authors start the book out with stories of children who were diagnosed with these various disorders and how they were affected. They then carry the stories on to how their lives progressed, whether they got treatment at Dr. Bock's clinic or not. Most of them did, but some of them did not.

As I was reading, I found that part to be rather contrived. There's no doubt those stories were put there in part to hook the reader, and perhaps guide them into a more positive view of his office from the start. On the other hand, it did humanize those who deal with each disorder from an early age, which may also be part of the motive.

Once the heart strings were sufficiently tugged, the book goes into the specifics of the program. This is where I was pleasantly surprised.

Bock's program is a combination of detoxification, trigger management, supplementation and medication. Before the kids get any sort of treatment, they're tested for things like allergy or substance intolerance, heavy metal levels, nutrient deficiencies and chronic infections.

Only after the results come back does he establish a customized treatment plan for each individual, with the help of the parents and children, should they be old enough. He admits throughout the book that not everything works for every child, and in some places that this treatment plan doesn't work for some.

I must admit, it was refreshing to see a medical professional say that. Too often, I've come across the arrogant attitude of "If MY program doesn't work, nothing will". That attitude is enough to send me right back out the door and into someone's office who's willing to work with me as a human being.

Bock does seem to genuinely care for the kids he treats, as well as for the entire families. He also gives the kids and families full credit for the hard work they do to get to a healthier place in life. I got the impression that he viewed himself as a part of their team, instead of a heroic rescuer.

As for the program itself, I can see how it helps the inflammation and reactivity which trigger allergy and asthma attacks. He also seems to have a very good handle on how to treat the gut issues common in people with ADHD and autism.

And, really, it makes perfect sense that when a kid's no longer suffering from chronic inflammation or digestive issues that they can concentrate more efficiently on school work or figuring social interactions out.

He also stresses the importance of using medication as a temporary, last ditch tool. For example, if a child is showing clear signs of uncontrollable rage, he'll prescribe one of the meds he trusts to calm them enough to get through the testing and begin whatever dietary changes or supplementation is suggested. However, once everyone is comfortable, and the initial rough spots are past, he'll wean the child off the medication. He also always starts at the lowest dose for the child's age and size.

Bock fully supports emergency medication in cases of severe allergy and asthma attacks. I've no doubt the need for those meds decreases as the child's bodies are balanced and triggers are better managed, but they're probably still kept on hand for safety's sake.

Of course, the question of vaccines came up, as it always does in books about autism. He believes when they're not safely administered, they may contribute to these disorders. He didn't say they're the exclusive cause, but he does feel they may add to the toxic exposure we already get on a day to day basis.

However, he's not anti-vaccine. Instead, he advocates for an alternate schedule for kids with a history of immunity problems or with a family history of those issues, and not vaccinating when a child is already sick. Again, he stresses it's not a one size fits all situation, but most immunizations are necessary, barring medical contraindications.

Since I suffer from them, the allergy and asthma sections are the areas that interested me on a personal level. I agree fully with him on how important it is to find the root causes of flair ups rather than only treat the symptoms. What struck me as rare is that he talked about treating substance intolerance in addition to classic allergies. I liked that a lot, especially considering how much of an effect those intolerances can have when you're already prone to inflammatory responses.

Unfortunately, I can tell you from experience that many doctors are more willing to put you on a daily medication in addition to the emergency stuff rather than helping you actually identify or manage triggers, or even referring you to someone who can.

I might write about some of those experiences in the future.

Anyway, the book also has a lengthy list of resources. Unfortunately, he refers to Autism Speaks, which I don't support. (You can read about why I don't like them at the bottom of this entry.) On the other hand, there are a few resources for asthma and allergies I plan on checking out.

If you agree with, or can at least tolerate, the idea of autism and ADHD as diseases, the book might be worth a read. It's a very good portrayal of holistic, individualized medical care. He concentrated mostly on treating the co-morbid conditions which often go with autism, though he also covered a bit about asthma and allergies.

If you're looking for information about a more holistic approach to treating asthma and allergies, I'd look elsewhere. This book is primarily about the biomedical approach to treating autism.

As always, do as much research as you can on whatever aspects catch your attention, and as stated repeatedly throughout the text, talk to your pediatrician about potential changes in care.

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