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Autoimmune diseases of children and plant based diet - Leila Masson

What impact can a plant based diet  have on children with autoimmune or chronic diseases? Dr. Leila Masson, director of the Institute of Integrative Medicine for Children in Sydney, Australia, replies to this question. 
"I have a practice in Sydney and I see children with illnesses. In Australia pediatrician doesn't see children if they have a cough and cold or for prevention but more for chronic problems. So I see a lot of children with ADHD (Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder), with autism, behavior problems, developmental problems, autoimmune diseases, like celiac or diabetes and allergies. So it's very different from here, in Europe, where a pediatrician really follows children from birth to 18 through the good health and bad health. I only see when them when they are sick. And I use nutrition mainly in my practice. I'm what we call Functional Medicine doctor. When I see a child, for example, let's say, with ADHD, I don't just give him a drug and say: "You have a Ritalin deficiency, you need that". I look for the causes why the child may have problems with focus and attention and hyperactivity. 
So sometimes it's a deficiency, like iron deficiency very commonly can make kids irritable and hyperactive, and they don't sleep well and they can't concentrate well the next day. Also Omega 3, low Omega 3 definitely interferes with learning and attention. And sometimes it is toxins that the child is ingesting. So for example, kids will have lead poisoning, maybe from old paint or from some toys that are painted with lead. They have all the symptoms of ADHD. Children who eat a lot of fish and have high levels of mercury can also be very hyperactive and really straggle to concentrate. And then even just additives in food, the E-numbers, like 102 - the orange color, the 202 - the preservative. Many studies show that this can affect children's behavior, attention and focus. So I look like a detective to their diet and see what may they be lacking, what may be not so good in their diet for them, then help the family to improve their nutritional status and maybe do some blood tests, maybe give some supplements but the bases really is a whole foods diet.
I don't really push people to be plant based, I always push them to eat more plants. That's really the thing. I mean the recommendation of 5 servings of vegetables a day, I push that because I think if kids start eating more vegetables, they really get a lot more antioxidants, more fiber, more vitamins, more minerals. It is beneficial. Everybody agrees on that. 
Veganism in Australia is not very big, so I don't push that. I have a lot of patients teenagers who come, who want to be vegan and don't quite know how to do it well. They come either with their parents or without to find out what they need to do to be a healthy vegan. And I love that when they come but I don't usually just push a vegan diet because people come with very ill children and they just want their child to get well. Of course a plant based whole foods diet is a good idea but it's not like with adults who have a heart attack when you know that's a way to go. With children it's a bit more complicated. They have really intense nutritional needs when they are unwell. I meet those first and then usually people ask me and say: "How do you eat?" And I give them a lot of meal ideas that are plant based. I say: "Eat, for example, a stir fry with some protein. And the protein could be either tofu or some meat if you choose that". And then it opens their mind".
This video was realised during the International Congress VegMed 2018 in Berlin.
This is a video of the web-tv Veggie Channel.
Director: Massimo Leopardi
Editor: Julia Ovchinnikova

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VegMed 2018

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