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Unravelling Spectrum Disorders with Genevieve Mlotkowski

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Unravelling Spectrum Disorders with Genevieve Mlotkowski

How does diet and supplementation affect children with behavioural disorders? 

In this episode, Genevieve Mlotkowski discusses her clinical passion; helping parents see the gifts and uniqueness in children with autism, ADD, ADHD and other behavioural conditions. 

In addition to sharing her own story about the birth trauma of her first child and how it affected her son’s cognitive development, Genevieve takes us through the most common nutrient deficiencies and how they contribute to spectrum disorders. Genevieve also discusses how she works with families to navigate and maximise the success of their other therapies. 

Covered in this episode

[00:34] Welcoming Genevieve Mlotkowski
[05:11] Genevieve’s own birth experience
[08:15] Managing behaviour through balancing neurotransmitters
[10:45] 1-2-3 Magic for behavioural modification
[16:41] Incongruence in modern schooling
[19:01] Parents modeling healthy responses to stressors
[20:49] Therapeutics that aid recovery
[25:26] Protecting the immune system
[32:04] Iodine deficiency and behavioural issues
[35:00] Working with integrative doctors and paediatricians
[37:46] Working with parents to maximise their options
[42:14] Infections and parasites
[45:24] The methylation and detoxification connection

   


Andrew: This is FX Medicine. I'm Andrew Whitfield-Cook. Joining us on the line today is Genevieve Mlotkowski. Genevieve has been working in the natural therapy industry for 21 years. As a child, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, and she watched her mother change her diet and lifestyle to help her recover from breast cancer combined with the medical treatment. 

Genevieve is a mother of two great boys, one of whom developed many food allergies, behavioural and learning challenges, which he has overcome using a combination of diet, supplements, and lifestyle modifications.

As a naturopath, her passion is to help parents to see the abilities in their children and help children with autism, ADD, and ADHD and many other learning challenges, to have the best experience in life so they can get the most out of their education, and begin to speak and express themselves. 

Genevieve also works with many stage four cancer patients and ladies who have gone through up to 11 rounds of IVF without success to help them bring a baby into the world.

Welcome, Genevieve to FX Medicine. How are you?

Genevieve: Thank you, Andrew, I'm good. I'm camping at the moment in the beautiful Bulli on the south coast.

Andrew: Yes.

Genevieve: Yep. 

Andrew: You are truly doing the naturopath thing. You're truly embracing nature. That's fantastic.

Genevieve: I am, yeah.

Andrew: And we were just talking earlier about wonderful technology, how it's great in some instances, but you can't get away from it in others, like today.

Genevieve: Yes, like today. Exactly.

Andrew: Genevieve, first, can you take us through a little bit of your history? What first attracted you to do naturopathy in the first place? And then a little bit about your children?

Genevieve: Okay, certainly, Andrew. So I started having an interest in naturopathy when I was at high school. I became a vegan when I was about 15 or 16. And then just started to learn a little bit about naturopathy through watching my mum on her health journey with breast cancer. 

She was put into a group of terminally ill patients, and she was the only one out of 20 that managed to survive. So she was very positive in her mindset. She did a lot of juice fasting and a lot of meditation as part of that health journey to help her to recover. And then I was chatting with my careers advisor, and he gave me the information on naturopathy and I thought, “well, this is me, this is where I'm supposed to be.” So that was very exciting. And so that was quite an easy transition. And yeah, coming to Sydney, and going to Nature Care, I just was like, “this is where I was meant to be and this is my home.” So, yeah.

Andrew: Wow. That’s really interesting that your school careers advisor had some information about naturopathy, because it's usually sort of pushed to the side, as you know, not even accepted, isn't it?

Genevieve: Absolutely. And I grew up in Orange, so country New South Wales. And of course, you know, not many people in country New South Wales have heard of naturopaths. So, you know, that was fantastic that he had given me the information. It was thanks to another student from Orange High that was studying to be a naturopath that he had collected that information. 

So that was a real blessing for me. And yes, certainly, quite outside the mainstream ideas of country people. So yes, there was only I think one naturopath practicing in Orange at the time. And now there's quite a few, quite a few girls that I went to school with. And actually, one girl I met on a train and we were chatting and I mentioned that I was studying naturopathy and that convinced her to change careers from nuclear medicine to naturopathy. So that was very exciting.

Andrew: Wow. I always have an interest in people that have come from, if you like, the orthodox medical bent.

Genevieve: Both of my parents were nurses. So my dad worked as a psych nurse and my mum worked as a nurse just in the regular hospital. But they were certainly open to natural medicine after mum was diagnosed, and they realised that medicine itself wasn't enough for breast cancer. They realised that they needed to combine the two. 

And I remember, mum actually took my brother and sister to a naturopath when I was quite young, maybe I was about 13 or 14. So yes, she was certainly open to naturopathy and to discovering, you know, what could they use that to help with their health. So that was quite exciting.

Andrew: Yeah, yeah. Let's first talk though about, you had some real issues with your firstborn. Is that right?

Genevieve: Yes. So my firstborn... Unfortunately, while I was a naturopath, I didn't know enough about the whole birthing process and preparation for labor and everything. So I ended up going 11 days overdue, and I was induced. And then, you know, I didn't have any support. Like I had my husband there at the time, but I didn't have any women. And I'm a big believer that it's a woman's job to be there, and I needed someone with experience.

So they were going to induce me, but then they forgot about me. Then they like, left me with no food for a day and then they induced me. And eventually, Cadel was starving, my firstborn, and he needed to be taken out by emergency caesarean. So you know, had I known what I know now, it would have been a much easier process. So by the time he was taken out, he was as blue as a smurf, and it took them quite some time to revive him. And when they did, you know, someone said, "Time of birth?” and then one of the other nurses said, "Oh, just count back seven minutes.” So they pretty much made it up. 

And I think that that definitely affected him in his cognitive function as he got older. And I really noticed a big difference between my sister's daughter and my son, and his learning abilities. So when he was about five, I started him on zinc supplementation. And within a week he was reading, which was phenomenal. So that was really fantastic to see that change just by giving him some zinc. We also noticed about 13 months old, he had very severe eczema and we cut out all dairy and within three days it completely cleared up. So we noticed food and supplementation made a huge difference in a really short period of time with him, which is fantastic. And later on down the track, we did some Paleo diet with him as well, and we just noticed socially it really changed him to the next level at school. Instead of being the quiet shy boy who got bullied, he is actually now really outgoing, and he wants to be an actor. 

Andrew: Wow.

Genevieve: And he's really just embracing his gift now, which is fantastic.

And I think that's really important as a practitioner, is we need to help parents to discover their child's gift. Because I think a lot of parents are not aware that their child has a special gift. And especially with the kids that I see who either have autism, or ADD, ADHD, or perhaps no diagnosis. However, the child isn't performing as well at school as perhaps their potential is. And they can see that, the parents can see that. There's just a few little things that need to be changed because that child has potential to do a lot better at school.

Andrew: When you're talking about behavioural issues, things like spitting, you know, there's this affront to the receiver. And, you know, one would say, "Why do I have to put up with that?" But then, you know, what allows that spitting behaviour to occur? And then you can talk about, well, how do we manage that? How do we intercede to help that child so they don't spit? And this is this...

Genevieve: And I think...

Andrew: ...there's a real responsibility issue there.

Genevieve: Yes. And see, a lot of kids with spitting or mouth things, when they're mouthing foods and that kind of thing, that's a real neurotransmitter problem. So, I find one of the best tests that I use is a 24-hour urine neurotransmitter test…

Andrew: Yes.

Genevieve: …just to discover which neurotransmitters this child is deficient in and which they have excess of. Then what you can do is modify their diet, take out foods that are particularly high in certain neurotransmitters, which tomatoes is one of the worst for these kids.

Andrew: Wow.

Genevieve: And a lot of them become very overexcited when having tomatoes. And tomatoes are a fantastic healthy food. However, for some kids, they can really set them off. And I find that, you know, by discovering what they're deficient in or have excess of and modifying that, a lot of these mouthing, spitting like, you know, self-soothing with putting things in their mouth, those behaviours go by treating those deficiencies.

Andrew: So that's really interesting about tomatoes. Are we talking about salicylate sensitivity here?

Genevieve: So it can be salicylate and glutamate as well. So it just depends on if they have a salicylate or have a glutamate problem. So the only way that you can definitively do that is through an elimination diet. However, I find elimination diets are very strict for children. And a lot of these children already have a limited range of foods, just based on their behaviour and what they want. 

Andrew: Yeah.

Genevieve: So if we do the 500 Foods Test through Naturopathic Services, then we can actually identify what foods they're reacting to, and take out those foods in their diet.

But then also look at the neurotransmitters and what foods are particularly high in certain neurotransmitters, or particularly low, that are going to affect their levels. So that combination worked really, really well. And also if the parents are willing, the GAPS diet is fantastic for these kids as well, to help to heal their gut, another area that we can work in.

Andrew: Okay, and was there something...forgive me if I've gotten this wrong. But Magic 1-2-3, what's that?

Genevieve: Yes, "1-2-3 Magic" so that's...

Andrew: "1-2-3 Magic," right.

Genevieve: Yes, so that's a really good behaviour modification system. We used that with Cadel when he was young. He was about two and he was biting me, and hitting me, and kicking me, and doing a lot of those really bad behaviours. And we used that, and phenomenal. Within about three or four days, the behaviour stopped. So that was really fantastic. 

And I think the earlier you start this, the better it works. But it's also about the strength of the parents because you really have to be strong. And you have to just do this over and over again. And I think it's hard because nowadays, we have a lot of parents who are working full-time by the time their kids are two. And it's very hard to do this if you're working full-time, because you really need to have that one on one time with your child for a few days to really change their behaviours. 

So if you're going to change a behaviour, it might be good to take two or three days off work, just so then you've got the weekend plus a couple of days during the week to change their bad behaviour. And some of these kids respond to this. Other kids, they're so intelligent, you have to work at different behaviour modification techniques because they are so gifted. So you might have to do things a little bit differently to what you do with other kids.

Andrew: Can I ask a question there? With regards to...I'm going to play the devil's advocate here. You know how we constantly hear about “this doesn't work and that doesn't work” for ADD, ADHD, whatever, ASD. And so various nutrients in their isolation are used, and are picked upon to say, “No, it doesn't work, no, it doesn't work, no, it doesn't work. Therefore, all of these therapies don't work.” So well, no naturopath would add in one therapy in isolation, unless they're trying to determine an elimination type thing.

So, how do you respond to people who might say, "Well, okay, if that person takes three days off work, the child's getting more interaction with their parents, and maybe that was what was missing. It was just a behavioural issue because they were missing mum or dad." How do you respond to that?

Genevieve: It's definitely not to do with lack of interaction, because at the time when Cadel started hitting, and kicking, and biting, I wasn't working much. I was only probably working one or two days a week. So it's definitely not about that lack of interaction. It's that they have potentially neurotransmitter problems, but they also need their behaviour modified at such a young age. And it's never too young to start to discipline your child. So if you can start from 18 months, just those boundaries. You know, if you don't want your child to jump on the lounge, or to climb on the lounge, you need to implement that at such a young age. So that becomes a normal idea for that child, rather than the child doing the behaviour and you letting it go for a period of time, and then trying to change it.

So often we see on "A Current Affair", and different programs, 14, 15-year-olds with massive behaviour problems. However, did that parent start at 18 months to 2 years to change those behaviours? Did they look at, well, the child might not be doing particularly aggressive stuff, but it might be a little bit aggressive at such a young age. And if we can change it then, then we've set that child up for life to understand that, you know, it's not okay to hit, it's not okay to bite, iit's not okay to kick. And we like, get on top of that at such a young age. So I think that that's really the key.

Andrew: And what sort of behaviour modification do you employ? Do you take away something that they like when a bad behaviour is chosen?

Genevieve: So "1-2-3 Magic" is giving them a timeout. So we use the bottom of the stairs as a timeout. And then basically, you know, you say...to stop a behaviour you just say it once, “No.” And you have to get down to their level, so you don't stand up above them and say no, you actually have to sit down and make eye contact and say no. 

Andrew: Yes.

Genevieve: And if the child doesn't stop it, then they go into the timeout, which can be the bottom of the stairs. That was what we used. 

And then if they're particularly loud or have a tantrum in that area, you can put them in another area that's a bit further away. But we actually found that, you know, the tantrum and all that kind of stuff it was...you know, we were pretty strong, so we just put up with it. And you just keep putting them back in that spot, so they learn “this is the spot that I go.” And it's funny because some parents, they seem to have a bit of a resistance to this. I think when I grew up my parents were very strict and, you know, we got smacked, and I'm not a believer in smacking.

But I think a lot of parents are not disciplining enough and letting their kids walk all over them. And also letting the child be the parent, and the child should never be the parent. And also, you should not be your child's friend and a lot of parents struggle with that. You should be their parent.

Andrew: I had a very hard time with that. It was a really big lesson for me. Keep going. Forgive me, I interjected. Sorry.

Genevieve: That's okay. I think a lot of these kids that I see, I say to the parents, "You just need to parent." Like, you're telling me that we have this issue, and yes, we're working on it. But ultimately, you're not parenting that child. You need to give them boundaries, and you need to have the same boundaries every day. 

And you also need to pick your battles. At the end of the day, if a child is tired, and you say, "Can you take your bowl to the sink," but that child is exhausted because they didn't have a day sleep, or they went to daycare and they ran around. You've got to pick your battles and go, “is it worth me then disciplining for something that I understand, my child's tired?”

And we also need to understand that kids before school, it's going to be challenging because at daycare, they may not have a sleep every day, they may need a sleep. They're doing a lot of running around. And when they go to school, potentially not as much running around, because most daycare centres are all about learn through play now. They do a lot of physical activity before school and that child is going to be exhausted. And then to try and get their brain to go “oh, I have to put my plate in the sink,” that's going to be a bit of a challenge.

Andrew: And most schools are now about beating into submission sitting at a desk quietly. It’s such a…

Genevieve: And it's really interesting about the whole learning ability. So Anthony Robbins, I remember something that I learnt in one of his seminars, that we learn a very small amount if we sit down and listen to the information. If we stand up and listen to the information, we learn a lot more. If we stand up and write, we learn even more. So it doesn't make sense the school system where we're sitting at a desk and listening to information, like, the child is only going to take in a very small portion of that.

And especially if you've got boys, boys need to be standing, they need to be moving, they need to have movement. And a lot of these kids that are diagnosed, are boys. And then we're telling them, "Oh, no, actually, you're not allowed to stand up, you're not allowed to move. You have to sit still and be quiet." So it kind of goes against what boys are naturally born to do.

Andrew: Is there any work done on this? Any research done on this?

Genevieve: I haven't seen it. I just remember hearing in one of Anthony Robbins' lectures, and he gets you...in the "Unleash the Power." He gets you to stand up and write at the same time so you're really taking in the information. And it makes sense that we do that. Plus he has music as well to stimulate other parts of your brain, so you've got it all happening. And, you know, schools are quiet, very quiet and...

Andrew: Ooh, can I relay an example to you here?

Genevieve: Yes.

Andrew: One of the teachers at the school that Lee works at, she has the class singing ABBA.

Genevieve: Now, that's fantastic I love it.

Andrew: And that class is one of the best-behaved classes, not because of the cohort. It has a very heavy, a high amount if you like, a high number of students in there with behavioural issues. And yet they are one of the best behaved. And another teacher takes the class outside regularly and yet...

Genevieve: That's the key.

Andrew: Yep. And the other thing that I just hooked into, when you were talking earlier, was about trying to see...you know, like you're stressed, you've got your own issues. There's the rent, the bank balance, all of that sort of thing. The child is misbehaving, your child is misbehaving, and you're going to transfer your stresses onto the child. It's very important for parents...I'm putting my hand up here, to check in about, don't view it from your point of view, view it from the child's point of view.

Genevieve: Absolutely, that's so true. And I see a lot of kids that are brought to me for anxiety or mood problems. And I can see at the first appointment that it's actually not the child's issue, it’s the parent's issue. And they're projecting their issue onto the child. And that's really important for parents to know, that their response is what their child will then respond to in stressful situations. Like we're going to have stress in life. We’re going to have changes. People are going to die. These things are going to happen. We can't control what's going to happen, but we can control our response to it. 

Andrew: Yes.

Genevieve: And we can also control what our kids see as a normal response, a normal healthy response, to a stressful situation. So that's really important for our kids to see that and to take that on board and go, "Okay, well, yes, this has happened."

And I also think it's okay for parents to cry in front of their kids as well. And I think a lot of parents try and hide that emotion. But I think it's really important, iif your kids see you cry, and you explain to them obviously, the reason I'm crying and it's okay to let emotion out. Then they go, "Oh, well, that's okay. It's okay for me to cry." You know, especially boys, there's so much of this “Oh, no, no, no, boys don't cry,” and things like that. But it's actually good.

Andrew: So, jumping sort of back to the family here, you've learnt a lot that you can help families with. What about families helping you? What have you learnt from families who have successfully...do I say the word “treated” their child?

Genevieve: So in the whole autism community, we use “recover." 

Andrew: Aha.

Genevieve: Because these kids, they don't have an illness per se that we're treating. Their brains will always work differently. Their brains will always be unique and fantastic. And they'll come out with things that you're like, “Where did you even think that up?” Like, they'll be so far out of the mainstream way of thinking, which is a good thing. And by helping them to recover, we're never going to change the way their brain works. Their brain will always be this fantastic, beautiful, unique entity. That, you know, they will go on to do extraordinary things with their lives.

However, you know, it's the kids who are nonverbal that we really want to help them to be able to speak. And recently when I was doing a homeopathic detox with a little boy, he's 11 and we were able to get him to start making sounds after the first dose of the homeopathic. So that was phenomenal. Because this family spent a lot of money with an integrative GP, with different practitioners, with speech therapists and he's now actually saying some words, which is phenomenal. So we've done other different things with him, some essential oils and a few other things. And he's now actually saying some words, which is great. 

So, you know, this mum...you know, ultimately they just want their children to say, "I love you, mum." They want to get to a point where the child can make eye contact and be present with their parents and give them that love that they're craving so much. So, I think, you know, speech is a big area that I get some pretty phenomenal results.

And another thing we use a lot is GABA, so working on their neurotransmitter deficiency there. And GABA can make a phenomenal response in these kids. However, it has to be the right type of GABA. So there's a lot of different supplements on the market, and I think the big problem is a lot of American supplements as well. 

Andrew: Yep. 

Genevieve: And so parents will go online, buy something, "Oh, well, I tried it and it didn't work." However, our supplement industry is very different in Australia. And we have the TGA here, we have the best quality supplements in the world. And you need to be seeing a practitioner who can prescribe you a good quality practitioner-only strength GABA for it to actually work.

And so that's the big problem is, there's a lot of things that people are trying because they're going online and they're reading a bit of information. "Oh, I might try this, I might try that." But you really need an experienced practitioner who's worked with kids on the spectrum or kids with special needs for some time, so that they can understand what does and doesn't work with these kids. And understand that this child needs some testing to find out why they're having trouble in certain areas.

So another test that I find to be really fantastic is a 24-hour urinary bromide test which tests iodine deficiency, but also excess bromide. And a lot of kids who...they might be struggling with their IQ, or they might be struggling with sports. So you'll see these kids... when all the other kids are playing sport, this child is having problems with coordination, or their hand-eye coordination, or just little bits and pieces. Like one mum said to me, after treating her for iodine deficiency, she's now able to do tumble turns. And she wasn't able to get her brain around the concept of a tumble turn beforehand. And it makes sense that if you're iodine deficient, then something like that isn't going to come naturally.

So just little bits and pieces that we're noticing a huge improvement with, by treating that deficiency. So certainly doing that test is going to make a fantastic result with those kids. And I use it through FHS Labs, I find that that is the best one to use for that deficiency. And, you know, unfortunately, kids need to be 30 kilos to do the 24-hour test. So the spot test, is not particularly accurate. I find a lot of kids will present with iodine deficiency, you do a spot test, they don't come up iodine deficient. So in those cases, you just purely have to wait until they're 30 kilos to be able to test them and find out if they definitely have a deficiency.

Andrew: There's so much ongoing controversy with regards to even standard tests. Vitamin D is in the spotlight at the moment.

Genevieve: Oh, okay. 

Andrew: You know, there's a lot of tests that don't use tandem mass spec and then there's even questions about which tandem mass spec. Where do you stop?

Genevieve: Yeah, well Vitamin D deficiency is huge. And I guess we're all obsessed with sunscreen and, you know, trying to protect against skin cancers.

Andrew: I think one of the major issues is…like I get that we do have skin cancers, we do have a high rate of melanoma, and we do need to protect against it. But does that mean that we should stop going outside at midday for 10 minutes?

Genevieve: Exactly, yeah. 

Andrew: So, you know, sunlight is good, sunburn is bad. And the problem is getting that message...

Genevieve: Yes. Exactly. Yes.

Andrew: ...across to the tanned Aussie, you know?

Genevieve: In blood tests, a lot of these kids are vitamin D deficient. And the reference range I use for vitamin D is over 100 nanomole per litre. I don't like to see it ever below 100, just because the clinical trials show that if you get cancer, even stage one cancer, you're much more likely to die from that cancer if you start off with a vitamin D under 100 nanomole per litre. 

Andrew: Yes.

Genevieve: So we really want to see it over 100. In all my years of clinic, I've only ever seen that once with someone who's not supplementing. And he was a big golfer, plays golf every Sunday. Never wears sunscreen when he plays golf. And I'm like, "Fantastic, keep doing what you're doing." You know, he doesn't get sunburnt, he had nice, you know, Mediterranean skin. So you know, he wasn't going to get sunburnt but fantastic that he goes and plays golf every Sunday and he had adequate levels. 

So most people will supplement to get it over the 100 because it's quite difficult unless you're a big sun worshipper that you would get the levels over 100. 

Andrew: Yeah.

Genevieve: So that's really important. And then I think… With these kids, they tend to have have quite weak immune systems as well. So then we go into the whole gut health and, you know, the over-prescription of antibiotics. 

So the parents, you know, as soon as their child gets a cold, or a flu or anything like that, back when I was a kid, you rode it out. You would be at home, you know, you'd be having like honey and lemon. You’d be having baths. You'd be having lots of chicken soup, that kind of thing.

Andrew: We'd be playing outside.

Genevieve: Nowadays, we typically run to the doctor... Yes, playing outside, going camping, lots of sunshine, lots of dirt, all of that kind of stuff. What I see with a lot of these parents is I always ask parents, "When did you first notice the changes?" And one particular mum said that after her daughter had IV antibiotics, she said she was never the same after that. And that's been the same for quite a few parents that I've seen once they've been on IV antibiotics.

And obviously, you know, those kids are quite sick to get to that point where they need IV antibiotics, but there are so many options that we can treat them naturally as a preventative to keep their immune systems strong. 

Like keeping their vitamin D over 100, like giving them vitamin C, giving them zinc, giving them a probiotic, they're just the basics. Most Australians...One study I read was 80% of Australians are zinc deficient. So if you're going to give your child something for their immune system, zinc is a fantastic mineral to give every day to boost their immune system, so they don't get sick. I think we have to be really proactive in preventing illness. And a lot of parents, will treat a child once they get sick. But what are they doing on a daily basis to prevent their child from getting sick? And, you know, giving probiotics, giving zinc, it's going to work out a lot more economical for you as a parent, than taking sick days off work. So you're better off to work on preventing that... as a preventative....

Andrew: Yeah.

Genevieve: So yeah, I think it's about us as parents being proactive in preventing immune problems, rather than treating them once they come on. Because yes, you can treat them once they come on, but it's a lot more work to treat a cold than just to have a child that never gets a cold. So my youngest, he's at the end of year one now. He's never had a day off school, he never been sick because he doesn't get sick. Because with him, I did my research and I thought “I'm not having another child with food intolerances and, you know, I'm not going to have another challenging birth.” So I did everything, took probiotics, took the zinc, the vitamin C. And, you know, he's got a fantastic immune system, he can eat anything. And you know, the only thing we've noticed with him is Smarties seem to send his behaviour off. 

Andrew: Right.

Genevieve: So we just avoid them because we know that one of the colours or flavours in there are sensitive, you know, have not worked well with him. So yeah.. 

Andrew: I'm going to give you a big rounding “Hear, hear!” for what you said about avoiding antibiotics. With the medical model, we're trying to avoid antibiotics. It's a known issue, we're really worried medically about antibiotic resistance.

Genevieve: Exactly.

Andrew: So, I wholeheartedly give you a rounding applause for looking at these behavioural and nutritional modifications that we can do, and supplements.

Genevieve: Yeah, well, I think definitely with the immune stuff there's a lot of kids with asthma and a lot of kids with like, the constant runny nose. Constantly, you know, mucus-forming, green stuff coming out. Most of those kids are going to be dairy intolerant and it's okay to take your kids off dairy. Your kids will never become deficient in calcium. No one in Australia is ever going to become deficient in calcium. Our diets are so calcium-rich with all the other foods that we have that taking them off dairy is fine. You're never going to affect their bone density. Bone density is more based on their vitamin D levels and their vitamin K. They're the things that affect bone density. And if you look at the ratio of calcium to magnesium in milk, it's a 9 to 1 ratio. As humans, we need a 2 to 1 ratio. So we've got way too much calcium...

Andrew: And phosphorus.

Genevieve: Phosphorous in the dairy is going to then strip your bones of calcium anyways. So it's fine. I play first-grade soccer. Every single person that I've played with over the years has broken something, I've never broken anything. I've been playing for 10 years, you know, I haven't had dairy since I was about 15 or 16. I became a vegan, so you know, dairy is not going to improve bone density. It is such a myth that having cow's milk, having yogurt is going to somehow have some magical effect on your bone density. It does not do that.

Andrew: You were talking earlier about iodine and thyroid issues. What about behavioural issues caused by deficiencies that might be accidentally...

Genevieve: Absolutely.

Andrew: ...diagnosed as like, you know, an oppositional defiant disorder or something?

Genevieve: So a lot of the kids that I see will either be ADHD or they're particularly fatigued. And so obviously, when I see them, they're usually already on some medication. However, they haven't had basic bloods done. They've been to see a paediatrician, but they haven't had their thyroid done. They haven't had their free T4, free T3 done, their thyroid antibodies. They haven't had reverse T3. They haven't had their iron done. 

Andrew: Wow.

Genevieve: And a lot of these deficiencies are there. They're present. And they'll automatically go, "Oh, this child has a behaviour problem. Quick, let's pop them on some medication." Not, hang on. Let's try and figure out is their thyroid overactive? Is this why this child can't sit still because they've got an overactive thyroid or is this child's thyroid underactive? Is this why this child stares into space and looks fatigued half of the time? 

We need to determine that first of all. And the reference ranges for thyroid that biomedical doctors use and naturopaths use are very different to the mainstream medical reference ranges. So what they're looking for, is they're looking for an extreme disease state. They're looking for something that is going to be very hard to reverse.

Whereas we're looking for, as soon as they come out of that optimal reference range, let's start treating that child for whether it be over or under-active. And then determine...well, we actually want to prevent them from developing Hashimoto or Graves, because usually, they've got some kind of family history of autoimmune problems. And then let's prevent them, instead of allowing the disease to progress to a state where, you know, they're attacking their own thyroid gland. And I've had ladies in their 30s and 40s who've got barely any thyroid tissue left because they've been left with an autoimmune thyroid condition, and just been on thyroxine as a treatment rather than looking at well, are you eating gluten? Because if you're eating gluten, and you've got an autoimmune disease, you're just going to increase the progression of that disease rather than treating it and taking the gluten out of your diet. 

So then, you know, iodine deficiency. One study I read was 50% of Australians are iodine deficient

Andrew: Whoa. 

Genevieve: So our brains are not going to be firing off as well as we can. And, you know, if this child is exhibiting low IQ, as they're iodine deficient, was the mum iodine deficient in pregnancy? You know, in Japanese diets they eat a lot of seaweed. We just don't eat seaweed. 

Andrew: Yeah.

Genevieve: And, you know, academically they perform really well. So we need to look at like, what are these countries doing differently to what we're doing in Australia? You know, they're doing a lot of things that will be fantastic. But, you know, realistically, we're not going to eat all that seaweed. So it's good to supplement if you're deficient. So, yeah.

Andrew: You mentioned a little bit earlier that you're working with certain doctors who understand what you do and how you help familiies/children recover from their behavioural issues. How do you find the acceptance these days of natural therapies in the medical model?

Genevieve: So, it's interesting. A lot of the integrative GPs that I work with are very accepting. I've found some fantastic GPs in a medical centre which is bulk billed, and there's four of them there who work very holistically. 

Andrew: Wow.

Genevieve: One of them came to me through one of my patients, who she basically said, "You've got chronic fatigue, there's nothing we can do as GPs. You need to see a naturopath." And then she came to me through that recommendation.

And, you know, these doctors are quite good. However, I'm finding a lot of paediatricians are not particularly open to what we do. And they might just warn the parents, you know, "You can't take that with your medication." A trained naturopath who's working in this area will only give you things that are safe with Ritalin or dex or, you know, whatever medication your child is on. 

Andrew: Yes. Yeah.

Genevieve: And, you know, that's really important to understand that these things can work in conjunction. And some kids might need the medication. The parents might have done everything, and they might still need the medication. And that's okay.

However, you know, let's not jump and put a child on the medication before during basic bloods. Because if a child is iron deficient, of course they're not going to be able to concentrate if they're iron deficient. And if a lot of these kids are also coeliac. And coeliac disease might only show up in a gene test, because there's also coeliac disease of the brain as well. And there's only one test you can do for that and it's through the U.S. We don't do it here, it's quite hard to get done.

But if a child's coeliac of the brain, it's not going to show up in regular blood tests, and that both parents might keep giving their child gluten, but that child's behaviour is off the charts. And as soon as they take out gluten, you know, they notice a huge change. But you need to also have a practitioner who understands that if you take out gluten, it also means if someone in the house is still eating gluten, you've got two separate toasters. Because even trace amounts of gluten will still affect these kids.

Andrew: Right.

Genevieve: So it's really important that they're not even having trace amounts of gluten. You need to be very strict to actually see a change. And a lot of parents are like, "Well, I tried that, and it didn't work." Well, did you try it with a trained practitioner who explained to you how strict you needed to be? And with a lot of these kids, it's just easier for everyone in the house to follow the diet rather than saying, "Oh no, this child can have this, but this child can have this." Because then that child starts to resent their siblings because they can eat things that they can't, so yeah.

Andrew: And what about the stress placed on families by, you know, the treadmill of various therapies? How do you cope with that, or even instruct parents what to do and what to expect?

Genevieve: Well, a lot of the parents that I see, they might have just a recent diagnosis. And then they're put on to, “Well, you need to be doing this therapy and you need to be doing speech and OT.” And, you know, they've got all these different therapies, and it's very time consuming for the parents to drive from one to the next. And what I really help the parents to do is work out what therapy you're getting the most out of. 

So if your child is nonverbal, you need to perhaps have a break from the speech therapy. Come and see a naturopath, work on their neurotransmitters or their iodine deficiency, or their, you know, whatever food intolerances they have that are blocking their speech. And then once they start making sounds or they start verbalising a bit more, then you go back to that therapy. 

If the child's doing OT but you're not seeing a huge change, then maybe they need to be working on those deficiencies to work on their muscle strength. Like, if a child is iron deficient, you know, the OT is going to be great. However, you need to treat the iron deficiency so they have enough strength. Like, you know, the thing is, like, if that child doesn't have enough strength, there's no amount of OT is going to get them to the level that they need to be. 

Andrew: Yeah. Yeah.

Genevieve: So you need to work on that first of all. But that needs to be more important than anything else, is treating that deficiency.

And so these parents, they're exhausted. You know, a lot of them, feel like they've tried everything. They feel like “Well, I've done this, I've done that, I feel like I've tried everything.” And, you know, they've spent...some of them are spending an absolute fortune with a psychologist for ODD. And the thing is, most kids with ODD, it's purely a salicylate problem. So you take out the high salicylate foods and sometimes you need to take out the very high and also the medium salicylate foods. And that child's behaviour will change very quickly. And I had one mum who'd spent, you know, a phenomenal amount of time with the psychologist. And she said to me, "All we needed to do was this. All we needed to do was change her diet." And she said one time they were at a barbecue, she was really relaxed. The child had grabbed some orange juice, she thought, "Oh, she hasn't had it for ages she should be fine." Anyway, soon as she had it, she was a runner. So she took off across roads. They were chasing her. She would not listen to anything. She would not listen to reason. And that's the thing with oppositional defiance is they will not listen to reason because of whatever's happening in their brain, whether it be a neurotransmitter problem or a food intolerance. You need to change that, so then you can reason with these kids.

So, you know, doing the psychology is great if it's like going to help with that problem. But if it's being caused by something else, then you need to look at what's it being caused by? If your child eats Smarties, and then you try and rationalise with them and you're not able to, then obviously, there's a colour or flavour or something in there that's causing a problem. 

So I think as parents, we need to be quite aware of what our kids are eating and say, “If my child eats this, this is what happens.” And also really important for these parents to keep a diary of everything that they're doing, which can be quite time-consuming, but then they can say, "Oh, well, I went and did this therapy, and we noticed this change." And then you can actually say “Okay, well, this is worth continuing with.” Or if we've got to a crossroads where we're not making progress with this therapy, let's either find a different practitioner. So say, for example, you're doing OT and you're not getting anywhere. Then maybe that's the wrong OT for your child. And then look for a different OT, or look at a different type of therapy that might be more specific for your child and work more effectively. 

But I think parents need to be really empowered to understand that every single child is going to respond differently. And just because your friend's child had a fantastic result with this particular therapy, doesn't necessarily mean that your child will. 

Andrew: Yeah. 

Genevieve: So yeah, really important.

Andrew: I think importantly, you're also prioritising them. You're not dissing them. You're saying, “Look, we're not saying don't do this at all,” you're saying, “Set the child up for the best success from that therapy.”

Genevieve: Yes. Absolutely.

Andrew: There are so many avenues that we could go down here. And Genevieve, would you mind coming back so that we could do another one, perhaps for our practitioners on, you know, various... And I have to say the word 'treatment considerations,' or various ways that we can hone in on, on helping these kids. 

But just before we leave, what about things like infectious aetiologies? What about PANDAS? We've covered this with Dr Elisa Song. Do you find that that's very prevalent in Australia?

Genevieve: Absolutely, yes. So I guess a lot of these kids, if you do a three-day parasitology, which is a three-day stool test, you'll find some really interesting parasites there that are not present in the general population. So I find some really interesting parasites and they're potentially affecting that child's behaviour or that child's concentration. And once you treat the parasite then that does certainly improve. 

So a lot of these kids they might have diarrhoea, they might have constipation, or they might even have regular stools. Some of them have particularly smelly farts, and you go, “Okay, you know, well, that's just part of being a kid.” Or they might have bad breath, or they might have something that the parents have picked up. But the parents might think that that's also normal. They might just say, "Oh, well, I had, you know, smelly breath when I was young, or I had diarrhoea." And they do think it's quite normal for that to happen. And so then they will just kind of ignore it and not do parasitology. So it's really important.

So the stool tests that the GPs do are always a one day test. So a one day test, the problem with that is you might only have eggs of a particular parasite on day two or day three, because they're not going to come out in day one. So you might actually not see them in the first day stool test. So they're like, "Well, I've gone to a GP, I've had a stool test, nothing came up." But it's really important to do these extensive stool tests with some of the, like, labs that we use through the U.S. because we can find some really fantastic parasites in there. And then we can treat them and we notice a huge difference.

So one little boy, we treated him, he was not toilet trained, he was about to go to school. And the mum was beside herself because she said, "He can't start a school at the regular school next year, because he's not toilet trained." And I said, "Okay, well, we'll test him for parasites.” Came up, treated the parasites, toilet trained before school. 

So very simple things that, you know, if you want your child to go to a regular school, and there's something that you need to work on, you need to find out what's causing it. If a child is not toilet trained, it could be because they have a parasite there and the parasite's causing diarrhoea or the parasite's causing constipation. And until you treat that, that child won't be able to be toilet trained because they'll either be holding it on, because it's uncomfortable, or they'll just be releasing at all times in a nappy because it's coming out when it needs to come out. And they're not able to control that bowel motion.

Andrew: I know this next question is a sort of elephant-in-the-room and a rather large topic in a podcast, or podcast series all on its own. But what about methylation in these kids? How important is it? How important are the effects that you find? And do you find any issues with certain types of methylation? Just quick tips.

Genevieve: Absolutely. So these kids, according to Dr Ben Lynch, I think he said 95% of kids on the spectrum have some mutation on the MTHFR gene. MTHFR gene purely means they don't detox well. With our diets, most of our breads and cereals are fortified with folic acid. Their folic acid receptor sites are full, they can't tolerate folic acid. It's a synthetic vitamin, and it has its place to prevent birth defects. However, in these children, it will actually really affect their behaviour. So it's really important to be avoiding regular cereals, regular breads that contain folic acid. 

So, you know, if you do have a child on the spectrum, have a look at the research on folic acid, have a look at the fact that it's a synthetic vitamin. And in Australia, we do fortify our breads and our cereals. So a lot of the gluten-free cereals, a lot of the gluten-free breads don't have it. A lot of the organic foods don't have folic acid. You really just need to have a look there. 

Also, their detox pathways don't work very well. So if they are to have medication, antibiotics, then they just don't detox as well. And also with alcohol. So as a parent, you might notice that you can't drink as much alcohol as your friend because you just don't tolerate it, you're more likely to get a hangover with the MTHFR gene. So it's important and, you know, you just don't tolerate toxins well. So you don't tolerate, you know, junk food and things like that. And you might have picked that up over the years. And then in your child, it will present differently. So it's just our detox pathways.

So doing things like Epsom salt baths are a fantastic way to detox these kiids. So, three-quarters of a cup of Epsom salt in a bath, but only stay in it for 20-minutes. And then avoiding, you know, processed foods as much as possible, trying to have whole foods, lots of green leafy vegetables, lots of fruit. And just avoiding your packet food as much as possible, because a lot of it does contain the folic acid in there. So that's really important for these kids. 

And, you know, for convenience, parents love packet food because it's convenient. However, you've got to look at what synthetic vitamins are in there that they just don't process. And folic acid is something that they just do not process. They shouldn't be eating it, it shouldn't be in their diet. So it's really important to look at that.

Andrew: Genevieve, thank you so much for taking us through just some, and I mean just some, of the many important facets of helping to rediscover the gift that these kids can give us in our world. I really thank you for taking us through this today. And obviously we'll listen out for so much more that we can now talk about in future podcasts.

Genevieve: Thanks so much, Andrew. Lovely speaking to you on this beautiful sunny Tuesday.

Andrew: I've learnt so much today, this is great. Thanks, Gen.

Genevieve: Thanks.

Andrew: This is FX Medicine, I'm Andrew Whitfield-Cook.



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FX Medicine Podcast
FX Medicine is at the forefront of ensuring functional and integrative medicine gains the recognition it deserves and ultimately establishes itself as an integral part of standard medical practice. Hosted by Andrew Whitfield-Cook, our podcasts are designed to promote research and evidence-based therapeutic practises, acting as a progressive force for change and improvement in patient health and wellbeing.