In this Episode
Did you know that dairy could aggravate dyslexia?
If you have food sensitivities, eating certain foods like dairy or gluten can affect your mood, behavior, memory, learning...The list goes on.
This week’s podcast guest is Lorraine Driscoll, a registered Holistic Nutritionist and Educational Therapist. In her practice, she focuses on addressing the biochemistry of learning difficulties through identifying nutritional deficiencies, food sensitivities, gut healing, and toxicity to ensure the brain is nourished and has the ability to learn optimally.
She shares our philosophy of getting to the root cause of learning and attention challenges, and talks about how gut health fits into that picture.
In this week's episode, you'll learn:
- Real life-examples of how food sensitivities and nutrient deficiencies can affect behavior and learning
- Symptoms that might indicate food sensitivities or biochemical imbalances
- How to make sustainable lifestyle changes in your family’s nutrition
"What does your child crave?
When kids have cravings and so forth and they eat food that they are sensitive to, their body releases histamine, and histamine will affect the brain.
And if there's enough of it, it can cause ADHD type behavior, OCD type behavior, SPD, all that type of stuff.”
- Lorraine Driscoll
- https://lorrainedriscoll.com/ - Lorraine Driscoll's company and contact information
- Research studies associating mineral deficiencies with learning disabilities
How can you start flushing/detoxing your system safely?
Tune in to the Bonus Q&A to hear practical advice and nutrition questions from other parents of children with learning challenges.
[00:00:01.510] - Jill Stowell
Have you had that beginning of the year conversation with yourself about eating better and exercising more? Most of us probably have what we innately know is good for us is also important for learning. Today we're going to explore biochemistry in relation to dyslexia and learning difficulties.
[00:00:27.170] - Jill Stowell
I was really excited to meet today's guest. She has a learning center in Ontario, Canada that is very similar to ours here in California. She improves learning by addressing the underlying neuro-developmental and processing skills at the root of the problem. But first, she prepares the brain for learning by looking at nutrition and biochemistry. And that's what we're going to be talking about today. This is LD expert live.
[00:01:05.970] - Jill Stowell
Welcome to LD Expert Live, your place for answers and solutions for learning differences, dyslexia, and attention challenges. I'm your host, Jill Stowell, founder of Stowell Learning Centers and author of At Wit's End: A Parent's Guide to Ending the Struggle Tears and Turmoil of Learning Disabilities. This book will help you understand why some bright children and teens struggle in school and what can be done to change that permanently. To get a free copy, go to [email protected].
[00:01:41.610] - Jill Stowell
Our guest today is Lorraine Driscoll. Lorraine is a Registered Holistic nutritionist and educational therapist who is passionate about addressing the root cause of why a child is struggling with reading, learning, and behavior. Lorraine's program focuses first on addressing the biochemistry of learning difficulties through identifying nutritional deficiencies, food sensitivities, gut healing, and toxicity to ensure the brain is nourished and has the ability to learn optimally. The next step is making changes at the neurological level through neuroplastic learning therapies that identify and strengthen weak and underdeveloped areas of the brain. Welcome, Lorraine.
[00:02:30.520] - Lorraine Driscoll
Hi, thanks for having me.
[00:02:32.650] - Jill Stowell
Oh, it's so great to have you. I'm really excited about our topic. Tell us first a little bit about your practice.
[00:02:41.850] - Lorraine Driscoll
So you sum it up really great. But most of my practice is I would say about 90% of my clients are online in terms of all over the world. I do have clients who come into my office as well. And really what we are doing is looking at what are the root causes of why a child is struggling with learning, reading, writing, behavior. And as you probably know, there's a lot of layers. It's usually not just one thing. It's trying to peel back those different layers and so forth. Over the course of generally the program is about six months, so over that six month period.
[00:03:23.550] - Jill Stowell
So I'm curious, did you start out as a learning specialist and add nutrition, or was your original focus nutrition and then you added learning to your practice?
[00:03:35.870] - Lorraine Driscoll
That's such a great question. I would say originally it started out as nutrition. I had actually been a fulltime teacher for well over ten years with public schools. And early in my career, I was struggling with my own health issues. I decided to retrain as a Registered Holistic nutritionist, which kind of what? What are you doing? And it was really fascinating because early on I was really struck in my training that they focused quite a bit on the impact of nutrition and learning disabilities and brain function and so forth, which I wasn't expecting.
[00:04:15.100] - Lorraine Driscoll
And as a teacher, I just became more and more aware in the classroom of how many of my students situation could be improved or even overcome by addressing these factors that we typically don't look at from an educational standpoint. So then I opened my own practice and started working with both adults and children in nutrition and so forth. And not long into that, my daughter developed a neuroimmune condition which her immune system was attacking her basal ganglia in her brain. And we did all of the things in terms of nutrition and gut healing, detoxification, and all of those things helped.
[00:04:55.800] - Lorraine Driscoll
But ultimately what really helped to overcome it completely, if you will, were functional neurology. So these different brain training therapies that address weak connections and so forth, because the inflammation and so forth that had taken place in the brain over the course of several years, there were these underdeveloped in weak areas and no amount of nutrition and detoxification could address that. So that's whenever I decided I was going to add a whole other element into my practice because it just seemed like the missing piece that for so long had left us really frustrated and wondering, what else can we do?
[00:05:38.110] - Jill Stowell
I think that goes both ways that you could be really working with incredible therapies, and the missing piece is the biochemistry or vice versa. You have a great combination there. It's really pretty common to think about diet and gut health in relation to ADHD and autism, but you don't hear as much talk about that with Dyslexia, Dysgraphia and other learning challenges. Can you talk about that a little bit more, explore that with us?
[00:06:16.690] - Lorraine Driscoll
Totally. It's like my purpose in life is for people to understand that as much as nutrition and gut healing and food sensitivities and all those things can impact behavior and mood, it can also significantly impact everything from reading, writing, coordination, memory, all of those things.
[00:06:44.470] - Lorraine Driscoll
I love to just give this one simple example. We can dive into it more after if anyone wants. But I had a client about a year and a half ago, and they had tried all of these different reading therapies with all kinds of great, I'm sure, programs and practitioners. They spent loads of money and they were really discouraged because nothing was helping their daughter. She was really struggling with visual processing issues.
[00:07:11.290] - Lorraine Driscoll
As we went through the program and we're addressing the nutrition component, we decided to eliminate dairy. And as soon as we remove dairy, within, I would say four weeks, her letter reversals completely disappeared. All of her visual processing issues disappeared. And then mom would message me every now and then and say, okay, so we added dairy back in or we kind of had a slip this weekend and went crazy. And now her visual processing has gone down the drain again.
[00:07:39.030] - Lorraine Driscoll
But then whenever they remove it, it would improve. So it's not always as simple as just one thing like that, but I think that it really speaks to the impact that nutrition can play in terms of if we're nourishing the brain or for unknowingly hurting the brain by eating certain foods or something that could be triggering.
[00:08:05.150] - Jill Stowell
Wow, that's a great story. So with that child, when you looked at those reading issues, did you just start exploring or did you believe there was a connection between dairy? I mean, is there something about dairy that we would expect that I know we've seen that dairy can be connected with slow processing speed.
[00:08:35.400] - Lorraine Driscoll
Yeah, that's a great question. And really, I know in my program, like, the big thing is we kind of just go through all the layers because you can guess or make assumptions about what you think it might be and then sometimes there are surprises. Now with dairy, I had heard in different books and research I'd read that dairy can affect visual processing. I'd never really seen it have that big of an impact on a client, but I thought maybe someday I'll see that, whatever we'll see. And then I had this client huge impact.
[00:09:10.270] - Lorraine Driscoll
And then what was strange, about six months later, we did it again with another client and same results, visual process approved. And again, I'm not suggesting the cure to visual processing disorders removing dairy. I wish it was that simple. How everyone's bodies react is different, but that's where we get into the food sensitivity portion. The first thing you want to look at is dairy. We hear a lot about gluten. Dairy is definitely the number one allergen that you want to look at. But we do run through a list and determine what else can be impacting and so forth.
[00:09:43.130] - Lorraine Driscoll
So yeah, it's definitely what I tell clients is trial and error. And that's why I do six month programs because you just never know. And we can do testing to a certain degree, but I sometimes get frustrated with our obsession with testing because we also need to look at the person, not just the test results. Right. I know a lot of us can be frustrated that in terms of we go to the doctor, we're not feeling well, and they say the test results are fine. It's just whatever that comes through. And I see that with clients as well. They're being told everything's fine and it's not. So that's where you really need to dig deeper and just do some kind of routine trial and error and see what happens and what shifts.
[00:10:30.990] - Jill Stowell
I like what you're saying. And we have to look functionally. We have to look at how it's impacting that student because each student is different. And I know you've said, you are not a one size fits all nutritionist. And I really appreciate that. I know each student that we see at the learning center has their own unique set of strengths and challenges. It looks different for each student, even if they have the same diagnosis.
[00:11:06.030] - Jill Stowell
So the learning therapy plan has to be very specific to that child and clearly the same is true when it comes to biochemistry. So how do you can you just dig in a little bit more about how you determine what a student will need? Like when you get a client from anywhere in the world, how do you figure that out?
[00:11:32.670] - Lorraine Driscoll
Yeah, great question. So first of all, we do an intake and one of the first things I want to know about is their infancy in terms of where they call the key. Were they the baby that was constantly constipated or had a lot of diarrhea? Were they fussy? Did they creep? Did they crawl? Did they roll over? So both on a biochemical level trying to get information, cradle cap, that's a classic sign of candida yeast overgrowth.
[00:12:02.010] - Lorraine Driscoll
So I'm looking at all of those factors and a lot of the times when I'm doing the intake, it becomes pretty clear that one thing is having a greater impact than the other. Not that we don't have to do, say, the biochemical piece or the brain training piece, but for example, I will work with a certain child who just it was chronic ear infections and they have all kinds of digestive issues and they have eczema and they're just sickly in general and they are picky eaters. So I know that biochemistry is going to play a huge role, particularly gut health. And we know we're going to really have to roll up our sleeves and dig into that.
[00:12:41.190] - Lorraine Driscoll
And then other children I screen, there are some things that we need to iron out biochemistry wise. But ultimately whenever we start doing what I call the advanced brain screening and that's where we're checking for primitive reflexes and brain imbalance and all of those types of things. So it really is a process. But I really start with tell me about the developmental history. And actually that's what I do. Even when people reach out to me and want to do the program, I tell them I can only take on so many people anyway. So give me some information and let me see, first of all, if I can help. And that's where I get the background of where this started. Basically. What are some of the very obvious root causes.
[00:13:30.570] - Jill Stowell
That's really interesting. What are some of the symptoms that a parent might see or that maybe they should be watching for that would indicate there are food sensitivities or some kind of biochemical imbalance?
[00:13:49.590] - Lorraine Driscoll
Yeah, and that's such a great question because there's the really obvious ones, right, that we know about. We know about food allergies which are going to produce highs and for serious anaphylactic reactions and all those types of symptoms. But then there's much more subtle symptoms, even on a physical level.
[00:14:10.340] - Lorraine Driscoll
So an example would even be just rashes, eczema. If I'm working with teens, if they have acne, for sure, gut health can play a role. But for a lot of teens, dairy again plays a role. So we want to look at their skin. Other things are a lot of kids have darkish circles under their eyes and it's not because they're sleep deprived sometimes. That's a classic. We call them shiners. They get that from continuously eating foods that they are sensitive to.
[00:14:44.430] - Lorraine Driscoll
And then the other thing is that this is where it gets tricky, is it can be behavior. So there was one colleague that I was talking to, and her son, I believe it was pineapple, became absolutely bananas when he ate pineapple. And obviously it took them quite a while to figure this out because you would never suspect that pineapple could be causing their son to be I think he had become quite aggressive and full of rage and so forth.
[00:15:14.590] - Lorraine Driscoll
So it's really important to note if certain like your son or your daughter is fine and then all of a sudden they're having a really hard time focusing or they're just feeling super irritable or something of the sort, then you definitely want to consider that maybe this isn't just their personality or their temperament or whatever the case may be.
[00:15:36.210] - Jill Stowell
Yeah, and that's where it becomes really important to maybe even journal a little bit, do a food journal or what time of day just to start to see some patterns.
[00:15:51.870] - Lorraine Driscoll
Yeah, and that's the thing. Even if you're just jotting it in your phone, whatever works for you to pay attention to what are they eating. And the other thing to go back to food allergies and sensitivities is to pay attention to I always ask parents, what is your child crave? Because sometimes cravings can be an indication of a few things. I mean, sometimes we just like certain foods. But if a child, especially a picky eater, really gravitates towards a certain food, then it could be triggering a reaction, inflammatory reaction in their body.
[00:16:31.230] - Lorraine Driscoll
Because what happens is that when kids have cravings and so forth and they eat a food that they are sensitive to, their body releases histamine. And histamine will affect the brain and if there's enough of it, can cause ADHD type behavior, OCD type behavior, SPD, all that type of stuff. But it also, on one level, stimulates our feel good hormones and so forth. And that will cause us to want to eat more of it. Coffee, actually, that's the whole thing with caffeine. Wakes us up because it stimulates our histamine. So really, I tell parents to really look at what their child is craving.
[00:17:14.820] - Lorraine Driscoll
I work with a lot of kids who are picky eaters and they crave nothing but carbs and dairy and sometimes that's the very thing. Maybe it's, maybe it's gluten, maybe it's dairy that they're sensitive to. And so they're just on this vicious cycle of food addiction, almost, or addiction to a certain food that's actually causing the problems with their behavior or their focus or their learning.
[00:17:42.690] - Jill Stowell
So that brings up a really tricky question. Making the changes are really hard for families. I remember a boy that we worked with, he was about ten, and he had painfully slow processing speed. And we have really good tools for working with slow processing speed and response time. But to us it was so evident that there was a biochemical factor.
[00:18:15.640] - Jill Stowell
I suspected that it was dairy. He had these dark circles under his eyes and he was very lethargic. But it was too hard for the family to make the lifestyle changes that needed to be made. And it is hard. There's a couple of things there. How if you have a child who's really craving something and they won't eat anything else, how do you guide parents through that?
[00:18:51.070] - Lorraine Driscoll
And I would say a good percentage, like maybe 40% to 50% of my clients, possibly more, have this issue. So the first thing I want to say is you need to don't try to do, during that situation, insane restrictive diets where you're trying to do complete overall. Because oftentimes parents, if that's the case, are kind of in a rut with what they're making and eating and so forth as well. And if you just try to completely do this insanely, perfectly perfect diet, it's going to be exhausting for everyone. You're definitely going to have mutiny on behalf of your child or children, and it's just going to feel hopeless and you just think, we can't do this.
[00:19:35.510] - Lorraine Driscoll
So what I do with my clients is, number one, I like to talk to I tell parents when we have our coaching calls, have your child hop on, let me talk to them. And it just helps to hear it from me about the importance of nutrition and so forth. And that's definitely not where it ends and such, but letting me talk to them and explain it just seems to resonate. So there's that piece, and then the second piece is we want to focus on what does your child love to eat?
[00:20:06.930] - Lorraine Driscoll
So if they want to eat mac and cheese three times a day, then we're going to do mac and cheese to start. But we're going to figure out ways that we can start making mac and cheese more nourishing. Whether it's adding nutritional yeast so they get more B vitamins or pureeing some cauliflower and mixing that in the sauce so that they're getting a little more fiber, nutrients, whatever it is that they do like to eat. We want to focus on increasing nourishment first before we start trying to put too much in or take stuff out.
[00:20:39.580] - Lorraine Driscoll
That's one thing that drives me bananas is where I work with people and they were told to pull - they have all of these maybe they went for food allergy or sensitivity testing, and we're told they're allergic to like 40 things and their child can eat boiled carrots and chicken. Where do you go from there? Right, so my thing is, okay, let's nourish, let's slowly add more things and work on gut healing. If there's a ton of food sensitivities, clearly there's something up with the gut that needs to be healed while the immune system is responding in that way.
[00:21:17.030] - Lorraine Driscoll
So it really is slow and steady. I don't advise normally to just do the school of hard knocks and be like, this is what you're eating. There is the odd parent who does that and is successful, but most of the time you have to take a more sane approach to this.
[00:21:38.370] - Jill Stowell
So what about supplements? Can you talk a little bit about your feeling about supplements? Any things that parents need to watch out for?
[00:21:52.230] - Lorraine Driscoll
Sure. So, first thing is, I'm not someone who likes to oversupplement. I don't think kids should be on much more than five, six at the most, depending on the situation. And the big thing is, first of all, to make sure that they're really targeted. Like, as you know, you just said earlier, I'm not a protocol type of person, so I don't have a protocol for Dyslexia. People ask me that all the time.
[00:22:18.460] - Lorraine Driscoll
Definitely there's key nutrients that studies have found certain kids with LD or Dyslexia or processing issues have deficiencies in. But you don't want to just assume that you want to look at the child and the symptomology and so forth. And then number two is you can't supplement a bad diet, right? So the goal has to be that we're working slowly on weaving in more and more changes to improve diet and the health status of the child with nutrition.
[00:22:51.510] - Lorraine Driscoll
And then the other piece I'm a big fan of is, first of all, if you do supplement, just being aware, first of all, for quality supplements, I wouldn't advise just doing it to do yourself approach. I definitely would advise working with someone who's trained in supplements because, for example, there's one supplement sometimes that I recommend for kids have a lot of anxiety, sleep issues, focus issues, and it's just to put the fires out temporarily until we address the real root cause of that.
[00:23:20.430] - Lorraine Driscoll
But you absolutely don't want to be taking that supplement if your child is on antidepressants or anti anxiety medication because it can actually become quite problematic. So just a perfect example of why you want to make sure that you are working with someone who's aware of all these contraindications.
[00:23:38.670] - Lorraine Driscoll
And then the other thing with supplements is also I like different supplements that have like instead of if you think a child is deficient in iron and B twelve, because maybe they don't like to eat meat instead of taking an iron and B twelve, I have a lot of my clients take organic grass fed beef liver capsules. It's like a multivitamin, and it's closer to food, so we know there's less likelihood of problems and so forth, and it's just more easily absorbed.
[00:24:10.250] - Lorraine Driscoll
Or we'll do the juice plus veggie caps and so forth. It's just packed with all kinds of good antioxidants and vitamins and minerals and so forth. So the closer you can get to sticking with real food or the real deal, the better. But, yeah, that's kind of my approach with supplements in a nutshell.
[00:24:31.890] - Jill Stowell
Well, it's very detailed and complex, and for us, nutrition and biochemistry are not our area of expertise, so we work with other professionals to provide guidance for families. And I agree. I think it's really important to have that professional guidance when you're trying to make dietary adjustments or use supplements. There are just so many pieces that we wouldn't automatically know. So, Lorraine, what advice would you give for parents when they're trying to look for this kind of help?
[00:25:11.370] - Lorraine Driscoll
In terms of, like, seeking a practitioner, you mean?
[00:25:13.930] - Jill Stowell
[00:25:16.110] - Lorraine Driscoll
I think that the key thing is, first of all, I would say someone who specializes in pediatric nutrition, because it is different. I know quite a few, even nutritionists or Naturopathic doctors in my area who do amazing work, but they're like, no, I don't want to work with kids. And it's nothing that they have anything against children. It's just they know that it's just a whole other situation. Right.
[00:25:43.350] - Lorraine Driscoll
So I think the big thing is someone who specializes in pediatric nutrition, ideally someone who's trained in holistic or functional nutrition, and that just means they have a bio individual approach. They understand that there's no protocol for a disorder. We're looking at the person. And as you said, Jill, you can have 20 kids with dyslexia or learning disabilities, and all 20 of them need a different approach. So you really want someone who understands that there's no one size fits all diet.
[00:26:16.930] - Lorraine Driscoll
I was just having this conversation with a colleague last week because someone had kind of had suggested that she should have all of her patients on this particular diet. And I think I find that so frustrating because, for example, I was vegetarian for like, 20 years and did not realize that that was how much that was impacting my health, because I pulled a lot of my mom's Native American genes. We had genetic testing done, and they thrived off a very kind of what we call paleo diet with lots of meat. I add meat back in and I feel much better. Is that going to work for everyone? Absolutely not.
[00:26:58.380] - Lorraine Driscoll
I have some kids who need higher protein, higher fat. Some kids need less carbs, some need more. So you really want to make sure that whoever you're working with also understands bio individual nutrition and the role of genetics even and not even just genetics, but just where you are in your life when kids are super stressed, if they're having major gut issues, maybe all that they can digest right now is cooked food. Right? We hear a lot about how good raw food is, but that's harder on the digestive system if the gut is a mess. So someone who just basically has that awareness of bio individuality. Great.
[00:27:39.010] - Jill Stowell
Well, I really appreciate all of that. It's so helpful. And I just want to say to our audience, Lorraine does work remotely, and we will be putting up her contact information towards the end of the show. I am thrilled, Lorraine, to have you as a resource for our families. I have one other thing I want to ask you before we jump into the chat. A question came up today, actually, about learning disabilities and zinc deficiencies. Can you talk about that a little bit?
[00:28:18.030] - Lorraine Driscoll
Totally. It's one of the top minerals that, first of all, we tend to as a population are deficient in. But studies have found they tested the sweat of kids who had learning disabilities and those who did not. And what they found is that the sweat of children who had learning disabilities was significantly more depleted in zinc. And they also found that even prenatally, the mothers who had been zinc deficient during pregnancy were much more likely to have children with learning disabilities. Now, that's not to say that there's nothing you can do, right? Definitely zinc can help turn things around.
[00:29:01.380] - Lorraine Driscoll
Zinc is key for developing the hippocampus. So that's very much linked to the memory. And it's just so important for so many functions in the brain. There's a saying zinc makes you think. And there's more zinc in the brain, apparently, than anywhere else in the body. So it's a really, really critical brain nutrient. And definitely one of my first things I look at biochemically whenever there's learning disabilities.
[00:29:32.530] - Lorraine Driscoll
One indication or a couple of indications that your child could be zinc deficient. And I don't want to suggest this is a definite test, so to speak, but if a child has white spots on their fingernails and they don't have to have a lot, they could have one or two, like a white spot on one fingernail, maybe another fingernail, they have another one that's often related to zinc deficiency.
[00:29:56.710] - Lorraine Driscoll
If they have cracks in the corner of the most, sometimes they're mistaken for cold sores, especially in the winter. That's an indication of zinc deficiency. So there's a few things we can kind of look at to get an idea. And again, you want to be careful of the zinc because it is a mineral, so you can have zinc toxicity as well. So, again, you want to be wary of just randomly supplementing, and you want to make sure you're getting the right form of zinc.
[00:30:23.930] - Jill Stowell
Are there certain foods that are good sources of zinc?
[00:30:29.030] - Lorraine Driscoll
Definitely. So eggs are a great source. I'm a big fan of getting I love mussels, so I like to eat mussels at least twice a week to get zinc. Pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc. A lot of your red meats are rich in zinc. So there are some really good go, two ways to access it from food. And then sometimes when we're supplementing, we have to I start off with a supplement just to kind of top up because when we're in that kind of deficit, it can be harder to get the zinc levels up just through nutrition. But again, I don't like to do that for longer than three months if we're going to go down that road.
[00:31:10.250] - Jill Stowell
And that's a really important thing that you just said is to top it up. It's not to be forever because a lot of times I think people get going on supplements because it seems like a really good, healthy thing to do and just go forever. So again, that's a good reason to have guidance there so that someone's really watching. Is it making the changes we're looking for? And at what point do we discontinue those particular supplements?
[00:31:46.830] - Lorraine Driscoll
[00:31:49.470] - Jill Stowell
At our learning centers we work with a full continuum of learning skills. At the core learning skills level there. On the bottom rung of the ladder, we work with integrating retained reflexes and many other visual, motor, body and integration skills. When students have retained reflexes, particularly the Morrow or startle reflex, they have a tendency towards allergies and upper respiratory issues because the stress on the immune system caused by their constant state of high alert just can trigger that. What role does biochemistry play with retained reflexes?
[00:32:41.010] - Lorraine Driscoll
Yeah, so I was surprised when I first started learning about all this. I thought, okay, retained reflexes is because maybe they moved through milestone too quickly and it just never integrated during infancy. But that is partially true. Other factors that can affect retained reflexes are heavy metal toxicity, pesticides, just inflammation in the body because there's food allergies or other toxins that are driving up that inflammation. And you probably already know this, Jill, but obviously even stuff like head injuries, right, a reflux can be integrated and then there's a concussion and then that reflux becomes unintegrated.
[00:33:24.230] - Lorraine Driscoll
But definitely biochemically. These reflexes can either not integrate because of these biochemical factors like toxicity, or maybe they were integrated and then there's an exposure, whether it's living in a really multi home or something like that. And then those reflexes can reappear again. And I know I'm seeing it a lot more with Covid, with certain reflexes related to anxiety that are reappearing. Obviously that's stress and the biochemical effects of stress on the brain. So yeah, it's really interesting and really shows that the importance of addressing all.
[00:34:04.480] - Jill Stowell
Of those layers and that we are such dynamic systems.
[00:34:11.310] - Lorraine Driscoll
[00:34:12.510] - Jill Stowell
So we talked a little bit about picky eaters. Many children with learning challenges are picky eaters and especially when there are issues at that core learning that really neurodevelopmental learning level. Why is that?
[00:34:31.890] - Lorraine Driscoll
So there are several reasons why kids are picky eaters, obviously. Number one, I want to say it's the number one reason, but one factor which is not biochemical can be retained reflexes. Right. So there is that. And I do address that layer, but there is some really biochemical layers that a lot of people aren't aware of.
[00:34:51.910] - Lorraine Driscoll
So, number one, you want to look at mineral deficiencies. The zinc is a huge one. If a child or adult is deficient in zinc, it's going to really affect their taste buds, as certain mineral deficiencies can. Whenever people are really mineral deficient, they might find that your leafy grains taste really bitter to them. Right. And so that's why we're like, what is wrong with them? It tastes fine. Broccoli is not that bad, but to them, it's just a totally different taste.
[00:35:19.950] - Lorraine Driscoll
Deficiencies can also affect how their brain processes texture. So we have a lot of kids, it's not the taste of the food, it's the texture. It's too mushy, it's too crunchy, it's too this, it's too that. Right. And the other piece that I really look at, especially if there's ravenous cravings, is overgrowth of bad bacteria in the gut or candida yeast, all that type of stuff that will really, you know, just cause kids to just really crave those white carbs and so forth, because that bacteria or yeast just wants to be fed.
[00:35:55.890] - Lorraine Driscoll
So again, really looking at those layers and seeing what are the factors that are affecting this driving, this picky eating, or is it all of the above? And oftentimes it's all of the above.
[00:36:09.090] - Jill Stowell
Right. Because it's not usually just one piece that's really interesting. I remember a little girl that we worked with named Zoe who was one of the very first students that we did with core learning skills training and reflex integration. She was seven. She was very dyslexic, and in fact, she came to us for reading and attention work. But we approached it in part through reflex integration and core learning skills training. And when she came, this little girl was just mentally and physically all over the place. And when she finished, she was one of the top readers in her class. And I was really excited about all the changes that she'd made with attention and test scores and reading. And her parents were really happy about that, too.
[00:37:04.550] - Jill Stowell
But the thing that made their life so much easier and that I didn't expect, because I was pretty new with reflex integration, was that Zoe had stopped being such a picky eater and dresser. She was able to wear anything in her closet and she could eat a whole meal with the rest of the family. I think people tend to think about things in isolation. There's the reading box, the reflex box, the diet box. But in reality, human beings are a whole system where everything works together.
[00:37:41.310] - Lorraine Driscoll
[00:37:43.050] - Jill Stowell
So Lorraine, especially with all the information that's out there on the Internet, many parents feel like they have just tried everything and nothing has worked. What is your take on that?
[00:38:00.810] - Lorraine Driscoll
My big thing, whenever I hear they've tried everything, first of all, I want to know what they've tried, because when they say, we've tried everything, sometimes they've tried everything conventional and I hate that term, but for lack of a better term. So they've done the psycho ed evaluation. They've done everything that the psycho evaluation has recommended, like IEP, IEP and different learning strategies and stuff like that, tutoring, whatever.
[00:38:26.460] - Lorraine Driscoll
But have they dive deeper into root causes like the role of nutrition, like gut health, like primitive reflex integration and so forth? And if they say yes, okay, that's fantastic. Now what order did you do it in? How was it done? And so forth. Because sometimes people will say to me, well, I don't really think we need to do primitive reflex integration. We already did it. And I say, okay, how did you do it? And they're like, well, we went to an OT once a week. And I'll say, okay, what did you have to do? And they're like, well, the OT did everything. And I'm like, no, my experience is that you can't integrate reflexes once a week. You have to do it on a daily basis and you have to do these exercises.
[00:39:08.330] - Lorraine Driscoll
And maybe for some kids that works. And I don't want to be clear. I'm not saying that anything to OTs. This is like the odd person where that was the protocol. I know that all different OTS all work in different ways just as educational therapists, but it's right action at the right time is really, really key. That's what I always say.
[00:39:30.030] - Lorraine Driscoll
Sometimes I will have people who will say, we did vision therapy, but it wasn't very effective. But they haven't addressed the primitive reflexes first. And all the research shows we need to address permitted reflexes and cerebellum development before we start working on doing the vision therapy piece. And it's the same for gut healing.
[00:39:51.010] - Lorraine Driscoll
So it'd be like the woman earlier who had said, my child can't have high histamine foods. So then we need to address the histamine issue before we even start working on healing the gut and figure out why is the histamine so high in the body so really key to right action at the right time? And sometimes it's just that persistence, right, that you just need to shift how you're doing it as well. Maybe you're trying to do an all or nothing approach and so forth.
[00:40:24.430] - Lorraine Driscoll
And that's why I really like I used to do more individual consults and I really like doing programs because people have to kind of buy in, stay on track and do these regular check ins. And then we're finding out if something's not working and you're doing kind of a do it yourself approach. More likely to throw in the towel and just think this isn't working, where sometimes we just need to adjust and tweak. It's not that the whole thing is not working right.
[00:40:53.550] - Jill Stowell
And I love that right action at the right time. That's just so true. We also often have parents come to us with this long list of things that they've tried, and they're so discouraged because they feel like they've wasted all this time and money. And what I see is that they started too high on the learning continuum. It's not that what they did was bad or waste. It's just that there are things that have to be in place first in order for everything else to come together. So we have to explore and work lower on the learning continuum and look at diet and biochemistry.
[00:41:38.130] - Lorraine Driscoll
[00:41:39.510] - Jill Stowell
Lorraine, it has been such a pleasure to chat with you this morning. I know we're running over what quick, last thought do you have for our viewers?
[00:41:51.630] - Lorraine Driscoll
I think that the last thought is if you're trying to shift nutrition at home to start simple, because a lot of the clients I work with, they've tried it on their own, and they just get so overwhelmed because they're trying to do too much at once. So I always recommend to avoid too much change too fast and just think, what is one thing I can do? What are some nutrient dense foods that I can just start adding into the meals that we already eat? Great.
[00:42:17.800] - Jill Stowell
Thank you so much. Thank you for all your doing to alleviate learning and attention challenges. I'm so glad you were able to join us today, and I hope 2022 is a fantastic year for you.
[00:42:31.980] - Lorraine Driscoll
Thank you all. Thanks for having me.
[00:42:34.110] - Jill Stowell
Here is Lorraine's contact information. Her practice is in Williamstown, Ontario, Canada. But remember, she does most of her work remotely, so take advantage of that incredible resource. This is All The Expert Live your place for answers and solutions for learning disabilities, dyslexia, and attention challenges. I have a new book called Take the Stone Out of the Shoe that will be coming out in April with lots of practical tools for parents and teachers, as well as the research behind the program that we use at the Learning Center to eliminate learning difficulties.
[00:00:00.610] - Lauren Ma
We have a question from Kate. It's a little bit long, so I'm going to read it and then take it away. My daughter has processing focus and memory challenges as well as cyclical vomiting syndrome. And I don't know what that is, but it doesn't does not sound good. I feel they are all connected. So interesting how you mentioned gut health related to challenges. She isn't on any daily medication for her challenges. What is the name of the supplement you recommend for processing challenges? Thank you. Or recommendations that you would make in that instance.
[00:00:33.470] - Lorraine Driscoll
Right, okay. So number one, definitely I would look at gut health. You're 100% right, mom, to think that gut health is playing a role, that the cyclical vomiting is connected to the processing and the other cognitive issues and so forth. I see that a lot. And in fact, even there's, like, children with autism who notoriously have poor gut health, I think it's like 40 or 50% have colitis and Crohn's and their children.
[00:01:04.780] - Lorraine Driscoll
So we know that there's a huge connection there with digestion and the brain in terms of processing and supplements. I don't, again, recommend that just in terms of not knowing enough about the background. Obviously, things like Zinc, which we talked about, is super important for processing and memory. But if she has cyclical vomiting and is having that kind of gut issues, the reason why we really need to tackle gut issues is because a lot of the time these supplements are not absorbed that well. Gut is that compromised. So that's why I tell parents, you don't want to spend all this money. I know parents have spent hundreds of dollars a month on supplements, and it's really having no effect.
[00:01:50.120] - Lorraine Driscoll
And it's not because the supplements are not necessarily good. It's just that the gut and the body is not able to properly absorb it. So the first place I would start on whenever there's processing issues as well as the cyclical vomiting is working on gut health. And I would start, if possible, I don't know what kind of eater she is, but if possible, start off with cooked veggies and foods.
[00:02:16.410] - Lorraine Driscoll
First of all, I would stay away from raw, and I would start increasing bone broth to the point where she hopefully be eating bone broth every day, whether it's in a soup stew or just drinking like half a cup even to start. I'd be curious to know how she would do certain probiotics, certain strains are better for certain kids than others aren't. So I would definitely look at those factors because I feel like that's typically, if the gut issues are that serious, that's really where you want to start first.
[00:02:48.770] - Lauren Ma
Great suggestion. It reminds me we had a student years ago, but I always think of him because we were dealing with the learning aspect. We'd worked with his older brother family history of Dyslexia Remediated, the brothers Dyslexia and then family came to us and said, we think he was only in pre K at the time. He was just getting into school and they're like, we don't really know if it's a learning challenge and honestly, that's the least of our problems.
[00:03:17.750] - Lauren Ma
Our concern is the behavior and can it all be related. So he had just started pre K and was having all these meltdowns at school and at home, and the family had kind of like, rearranged their entire lifestyle to accommodate his behavior. They couldn't change any plans last minute. They had to prep him and front load him and everything. And he definitely had learning challenges. We started working with him and he definitely had learning skills that we need to work on. But we did make a recommendation to have his diet looked at and do the nutritional route, and it was crazy. Within four weeks, they found a series of food sensitivities, but they eliminated dairy and gluten to start.
[00:04:01.810] - Lauren Ma
And he was a completely different child and he was different in school and he was different with us and he could learn and he could access all the materials. That was the other part. Like, we're talking a lot about learning, but behavior and just kind of the way that a child is operating in their world, if their gut or if their body is not serving them, that was just a story that stands out to me. And then we were able to do our work. And he's thriving now in school. So it's definitely a component that parents sometimes forget about nutrition related to learning or behavior, but it's so important it can change the game, right? Yeah.
[00:04:44.430] - Lorraine Driscoll
And it's interesting because I know Jill asked earlier, what do you do if you have a kid who hardly eats anything and is a picky eater? What's really interesting is I have parents sometimes say to me, I really want to do your program, but I don't know because my kid is such a fussy eater and sometimes they're in their teens and it gets a little bit harder now to start saying, this is what you're going to eat.
[00:05:05.920] - Lorraine Driscoll
I just had a client last week tell me. I believe their daughter was around nine. And when I first started working with them, we had to have a chat and I had to try to kind of help her, sell it to her, the importance of these diet changes. And she really was not keen. And we did think it would be good to remove dairy and gluten as a trial. And she was like, Why is this lady that I don't even know trying to ruin my life? And she made such an improvement. She went from having D's to having A and B's and made such an improvement that her nearest resolution this year was to continue to not eat dairy and gluten because she was feeling so much better.
[00:05:44.990] - Lorraine Driscoll
And I like to share that because that happens often enough with me where kids who are like, I don't want to do this, feel so much better, and they're not getting in trouble in class, so they're able to focus and read and they're like, no way, I'm not messing with this. So if we can just get them on board for a stretch and they can see those results, it's incredible how much even an eight year old or a 15 year old will come forward.
[00:06:12.350] - Jill Stowell
We have seen that too, and I think it's so important to involve our kids in the process. Whether it's learning therapy or nutritional, whatever it is, we want to educate them, help them understand what we're doing as opposed to we're doing something to them.
[00:06:32.680] - Lorraine Driscoll
[00:06:33.460] - Jill Stowell
It's something we're going to do together. And it is helpful to have an outside person other than the parent to help them get on board. But yeah, we've seen the same thing. I remember a boy who was about nine who they really reduced sugar. That was the thing. And they had guidance for it and everything. And so he knew exactly how much sugar he was allowed to have each day. And after a couple of weeks, he went to a birthday party and they had these beautiful cupcakes, and his mom said, it would be okay if you had that today. And he said, no, I don't want that. I won't feel good.
[00:07:19.820] - Lorraine Driscoll
Yeah, it's so great.
[00:07:22.030] - Jill Stowell
[00:07:25.450] - Lauren Ma
We have some other parents checking in and some sharing kind of their experiences. Christine hi from Denver. After urine and blood work, we found out that my daughter is low in zinc and fish oil, and foods with Folate are not good for her. Biochemistry testing is super important. She has Dyslexia and auditory processing disorder, APD. So, yeah, definitely a missing component for some families. Let's see.
[00:07:52.990] - Lauren Ma
Jesse. Hi, Jesse from Illinois. My daughter seems to have problems focusing and following through on one task, although I feel she should be able to do more than one task. She is seven years old and her teacher says she has no problems with this at school. She seems to be really hyper, and I was wondering if you had any suggestions on how to bring her focus. In a bit. We do let them have sugar and process flour, but I do try to feed her balanced meals and do not let her eat or drink junk. She does sometimes drink and it got cut off. Let me see if I can get it. M-I-O like drinks or Mia. Like drinks. I don't know what those are. Do you have any suggestions?
[00:08:35.050] - Lorraine Driscoll
So the first thing I would suggest is if they are still eating sugar, even if they are eating balanced meals, and I see that a lot. We just don't recognize or realize the impact that sugar can have on a focus and attention and all of that type of stuff. I would love to see like, a trial of eliminating sugar and see how that shifts things.
[00:08:58.500] - Lorraine Driscoll
Because I have kids, that's maybe the first place we start, and once they get through that initial getting over the sugar cravings and so forth, after a couple of weeks, I have kids where the teachers are calling the parents saying, oh my goodness, he must have changed his medication. He's so much more focused. I think it was four to six weeks into a program. A girl, she was about ten or eleven years old, was really struggling with reading comprehension. Dad did not buy into my program. Mom was all over it, and dad was kind of like, whatever, we're doing this, I guess.
[00:09:33.130] - Lorraine Driscoll
It was really funny because I got an email from him saying, oh my goodness, this stuff really does work. I thought you were quack, but we got a note or something or a call from the teacher saying that her reading comprehension has improved so much and all we've done so far is eliminate sugar.
[00:09:51.370] - Lorraine Driscoll
So I would start with that. I would look into deficiencies and I would also look into is there other food sensitivities that could be playing a role as well? If they are eating sugar, they most likely are consuming other preservatives as well, whether it's food coloring and all that type of stuff. So that can definitely affect focus.
[00:10:16.870] - Jill Stowell
The other thing that came to mind. And this isn't specifically related to biochemistry. But just with mom saying that. The teacher says there's not a problem at school and then the child is pretty out of control at home to me. That triggers me to think. Wow. This child may actually be struggling at school with something. Reading or some kind of learning issue. But she is maintaining.
[00:10:53.000] - Jill Stowell
She's putting all of her energy and her attention into being good and doing well. And then she gets home to that safe space and she just can't do it anymore. And she kind of falls apart. We do see that as well. And so keep an eye out to see are there some struggles with learning going on? There may or may not be, but sometimes that's what you see that the teacher thinks they're doing fine, but the child has used up everything they've got to do fine at school, and then they're done when they get home.
[00:11:36.930] - Lauren Ma
And then we have Amy asking, how do you handle those with allergies and bone broth histamine issues? How do you heal the gut health for them?
[00:11:48.090] - Lorraine Driscoll
Amy, that's a tricky one. I totally get it because my daughter was the same way. So if she has histamine issues, the first thing I would do is put her on a low histamine diet. And a low histamine diet is not permanent. It's usually we only need to do it for about six weeks, six to eight weeks, and that can really help to just shift the histamine response in the body. And then I would start trialing again.
[00:12:14.860] - Lorraine Driscoll
The broth, but I wouldn't start with a bone broth, which is typically cooked for proper bone broth is cooked for around twelve to 24 hours. I would just start off with meat stock. So maybe you take like roasted chicken, you put it in a Dutch oven and you cook it for just 2 hours. You have the water, maybe onions or whatever at the bottom, and you just use that and then you help. Or you do that for a few weeks at least, and then you slowly start cooking it longer and longer, depending on her tolerance level. If there is histamine issues, I also would look into is there an overgrowth of certain bacteria or candida that could be causing the problem?
[00:12:58.380] - Lorraine Driscoll
As well as looking at mold toxicity. It's a huge factor. Finally getting a lot more awareness, that was a huge factor with my daughter. We had no idea there was mold in our 30 year old home, and it was full of it. So I would look into those factors to find out first why there could be a histamine issue. Because if, for example, there's mold, it could be mold in the school, it could be at home. Whatever the low, histamine diet will not obviously address that if we need to clear up molds.
[00:13:30.030] - Lauren Ma
Lots of questions and stories in the Chat, the first one, "Please address poor nutrition and Dysgraphia. What is the biochemical connection and where to begin with diet changes or supplements for picky? A very picky eater who has Dysgraphia. Ten years old."
[00:13:48.930] - Lorraine Driscoll
Okay, so Dysgraphia, I find, is very similar to Dyslexia. So there's not like a different protocol for dysgraphic than Dyslexia. Again, we're looking at the child, but definitely I want to look at factors, nutrients that affect motor coordination as well as vision and so forth. So things like making sure your child's getting enough essential fatty acids in their diet, that they're getting enough magnesium, that's like, I think the mineral that we are most efficient in. 80% of us are deficient in it, and probably with the stress of covid even more. So you really want to make sure your child's getting enough magnesium. And obviously zinc is really important as well.
[00:14:36.580] - Lorraine Driscoll
But in terms of Dysgraphia, what I tend to do is we look at the nutrition piece and we look at the gut health. Gut health actually is really interesting in terms of the role it plays with Dyslexia and Dysgraphia and I often have parents want to do the program, but they're like, well, we only think nutrition is the problem. We're going to focus more on the brain training aspect, and usually I have to kind of coax them a bit to stick with the nutrition part.
[00:15:04.260] - Lorraine Driscoll
And it's always really interesting because once we start going through addressing the food sensitivities and the gut healing and all of that. Before we've even gotten into the actual brain training portion of the program. They're like. Oh my goodness. I can't believe the results. How much his coordination has improved since we've changed the diet or how much the handwriting or fine motor or whatever you want to say has improved. So those are places that I would start in terms of diet, supplementation and so forth.
[00:15:34.990] - Lauren Ma
Okay. And then just a follow up question. Are there liquid zinc supplements? Our son cannot yet swallow pills or capsules.
[00:15:43.510] - Lorraine Driscoll
Yeah, there are usually most supplements, if you're getting it from a good provider, has pretty much most supplements available in liquid form in some form and others.
[00:15:53.390] - Jill Stowell
So definitely, and I just want to jump in here and reiterate, I really encourage you, if you are going to try to attack these issues, to get some professional help with that. There are just so many pieces to this puzzle, and if you haven't really studied it, you probably don't have all those pieces.
[00:16:23.930] - Lorraine Driscoll
Yeah. Thanks, Jill. Because that's when people say what supplements are good for Dysgraphia. It just depends on the child. And that's where we look at what are the factors going on, what are the symptoms, all of that type of stuff. Because there's so many that I have kids, I would say right now my program, about half of them have Dysgraphia, and we have different ways of approaching that for each child.
[00:16:54.930] - Lauren Ma
Makes sense. Okay. Amber is asking, is there anything you recommend to flush the system to build up better nutritional decisions, like to slowly monitor and catch what may be part of the issue? So I think that's like referring to what we call like a detox or flush the system. Anything.
[00:17:13.140] - Lorraine Driscoll
Okay. Right. Okay. So I'm going to say be really careful detox, especially with yourself detox. Because the big thing is you need to make sure that the detoxification pathways are open. First of all, there's a lot of people who are doing protocols where they're killing off candida or whatever and their liver maybe isn't 100%, or a lot of these kids do have genetic variance that affect their detoxification pathways. My daughter did.
[00:17:43.580] - Lorraine Driscoll
So you really want to make sure that those detoxification pathways are well supported and focused on strengthening those pathways before you start doing any kind of flushes. Because if you do that and they are, I think the best description I ever heard is if you think of a sink, and if you start trying to run that sink, say there's brown water coming out of the sink and the sink is clogged, you're just going to fill the sink up. And so that means that mess is now recirculating into your child's brain. And the body is really intelligent, right. So what it does with toxins is as much as it can it will put those toxins in areas of the body that would be least harmful for those toxins to be, like, the fat cells.
[00:18:28.630] - Lorraine Driscoll
Even whenever someone's doing, like, rapid weight loss, it makes me nervous, and I always warn them to make sure the liver and all these systems are working because you're also going to be releasing a lot of toxins. So I'd be careful of the term flush. Makes me nervous, to be honest. It seems a bit aggressive.
[00:18:48.510] - Lorraine Driscoll
I would really just support the detoxification process and realize that anybody who's trying to tell you that you can flush years of toxins out of your body in a couple of weeks, even six weeks, it's not happening. It's possibly risky, and it just doesn't work that way. And so the way I like to do it in my program is we are just slowly improving the diet and allowing the body to detox as it should with healthy foods and so forth.
[00:19:18.100] - Lorraine Driscoll
I do detox, if you will, spring and fall, but I'm doing it very gently and I'm doing it continuously, and I'm just doing it with some very gentle supports and so forth. And that's what I have my clients do. So, yeah, I would definitely use caution and I would definitely seek a practitioner who's trained in that avoid do it yourself at home.
[00:19:42.570] - Lauren Ma
Definitely. Stacey is asking, when asking the doctor to test for deficiency, what's the best way to get all these elements tested? I think is what it's supposed to be. So if a parent is just going to their regular general practitioner or should they seek a specialist, what's the best way to cover all the bases?
[00:20:06.190] - Lorraine Driscoll
Right, okay, so a few things that to be aware of with deficiencies. The first place I start with addressing deficiencies is looking at symptomology, meaning looking at the person. I'm not against testing, but testing also has its limitations. For example, if you go to your doctor and just get a standard magnesium test, your test results will probably come back fine because you need to have magnesium for your heart to pump, otherwise the heart is not pumping.
[00:20:34.970] - Lorraine Driscoll
But that doesn't mean there's enough magnesium for other nonvital functions such as brain function and so forth. You can get red blood cell tests through a functional medicine doctor. For magnesium, I do like the organic acids test. It's really good for telling you a lot about different deficiencies. But I would encourage you to first focus on symptomology, work with someone who's trained in that and focus on just increasing nourishing foods in the diet. Because I find what can happen is people get really hung up on testing and, okay, I'm deficient in this, or he's deficient in these things, and we need to take all of these supplements. And the problem is that it's not always as simple as taking the supplements.
[00:21:23.200] - Lorraine Driscoll
If there are gut issues, if there are issues at the cellular level with absorption, you can take all the supplements in the world, and it doesn't mean it's going to have any effect. And that's where you're going to think things are not working right.
[00:21:35.140] - Lauren Ma
Absolutely. Karen has a quick success story when my son was weaned, between a year and two years, he developed severe constipation colonoscopy revealed no known cause, just an immature system by five years old. When asked if he wanted to eat, he simply said, I'm not hungry. I'm never hungry. He wasn't growing either. We found a video of a doctor, Aliceo Fasano, who described the many effects of gluten, including suppression of growth hormone. After one month of gluten free, he couldn't stop eating and grew at almost 14. Cut off, he's taller than his projected maximum height, and he's still gluten free.
- Episode 64: Brain Training for Self-Care, Focus, and Productivity – Alex Doman
- Episode 63: Dear Moms of Neurodiverse Learners… – Megan Champion
- Episode 62: 2E and Misunderstood – Lauren Ma
- Episode 61: School Refusal, Digital Media, and Medication and ADHD – Dr. Keeban Nam
- Episode 60: Mental Flexibility Tools for Neurodiverse Learners – Jill Stowell
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