Nutritional Therapies Prove Beneficial for Those with Down Syndrome
(SAVANNAH, GA) Down syndrome, also called Trisomy 21, is a condition in which extra genetic material causes delays in the way a child develops, both mentally and physically. It affects about one in every 800 babies. The physical features and medical problems associated with Down syndrome can vary widely from child to child. While some kids with Down syndrome need a lot of medical attention, others lead relatively healthy lives.
Down syndrome is a genetic condition that predisposes an individual to experience certain potentials such as specific physical traits, developmental delays, problems with the thyroid and brain, cardiac anomalies, immune conditions and gastrointestinal problems.
Most all of the health problems commonly related to Down syndrome can now be treated. There are many resources within communities to help individuals and their families who have been touched by the condition. Family support groups like Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society (LDSS) are active in raising awareness within the community while providing camaraderie and various assists to families living with the physical disorder. Many therapies are also available that help those living with the condition, including speech therapy, occupational therapy and nutritional assistance.
Many parents of children with Down syndrome would like to help their child improve nutrition and manage weight, but don’t know where to begin. Today modern science looks at all aspects of nutrition and healthy living for children with Down syndrome.
A great amount of research has been conducted in the area of nutrition specifically related to Down syndrome. By examining the biochemical make-up of those with Down syndrome, common trends in imbalances and deficiencies have been identified. Research has shown that many of these symptoms can be greatly mediated in those with Down syndrome by giving the body what it needs in the form of nutrition and supplements.
Nutritional assistance (also referred to as orthomolecular therapy) involves addressing the condition by providing the body with optimal amounts of substances which are natural to the body such as minerals, enzymes, vitamins and food. This type of holistic nutritional care has been shown to further minimize the effects of Down syndrome
Empowered with this information, parents of children with Down syndrome are now able to have simple tests conducted to check for imbalances in areas such as amino acids, minerals, and nutrients as well as food sensitivities—allowing for dietary modifications and supplementation where necessary.
Some examples of areas where nutritional research has identified specific trends in the Down syndrome population include amino acid imbalances, abnormally low levels of Zinc and food sensitivities specifically connected to celiac disease.
Amino acid imbalances are common in those with Down syndrome. Amino acids are the building blocks for the body—building cells and repairing tissues along with forming antibodies to combat bacterial and viral infections. An amino acid profile is recommended for individuals with Down syndrome to test for below and above average ranges of amino acids. A large number of nutritional practitioners who treat Down syndrome place a high degree of emphasis on correcting amino acid imbalances in their treatment programs.
Zinc has been shown to be lower than normal within the Down syndrome population which is thought to be related to abnormalities in zinc metabolism. Zinc is an essential trace mineral that helps the body maintain the immune, reproductive, and digestive systems. It is needed for healthy skin, bones, hair, nails, and eyes, and is essential for making growth hormones. Giving individuals with Down syndrome Zinc supplementation has been shown to improve growth rates, thyroid function, and support vision and immune function, as well as assist in reducing infections.
Regarding food sensitivities, there is a high occurrence rate of celiac disease—which can often go undetected—in those with Down syndrome. Celiac disease is an intolerance of gluten, a protein in many grains such as wheat, rye, oats and barley. It is recommended that people with Down syndrome be screened for celiac disease as well as tested for casein sensitivity (a protein in dairy products) which often accompanies celiac disease and is also common in those with down syndrome. An allergy to gluten or casein can cause many digestive issues and physical complications.
These are just a few of the common trends in nutritional science related to those with Down syndrome. Other considerations are enzyme supplementation and probiotics to further assist with gastro-intestinal related issues as well as the addition of high grade fish oil to the diet which can assist with cognitive functions such as speech and attention. Additionally, a clean diet consisting of whole foods and organic fruits and vegetables is recommended.
Because Pediatricians and Doctors of internal medicine do not always look at the condition through a nutritional lens they may not specialize in the use of nutrition in their treatments. Finding integrative physicians who incorporate holistic care into their practice or seeking out dietitians or holistic health counselors to work synergistically with a MD is a good way to incorporate these nutritional therapies into existing care.
The father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, originally said “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” With extraordinary attention to diet and nutrition many challenges can be overcome and people with Down syndrome can achieve their full potential.
Today, there are more opportunities than ever before for individuals with Down syndrome to develop their abilities, discover their talents and realize their dreams. It is the mission of Down syndrome support groups, such as Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society (LDSS) to ensure that people with Down syndrome are provided the opportunity to achieve their full potential in all aspects of their lives. The LDSS currently provides outreach to families in eight local counties (912) 728-8505 http://www.ldssga.org.