• Rebecca Genuis

PCC to reduce mental illness


I recently had the opportunity to speak at a conference in Park City, Utah on the importance of good and thorough preconception care as a tool to help reduce the incidence of mental health problems in our children.


The rates of mental illness facing children today are astounding. 1 in 6 American children will be diagnosed with a developmental delay and 1 in 10 will be diagnosed with ADHD. 1 in 68 children are currently being diagnosed with autism, a figure that has sky rocketed over the past few decades, with rates even higher in certain parts of the country. In the general population, 25% of Americans are currently on psychiatric medications (anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medications, anti-psychotics, medications for ADHD etc). The problem is real and it appears to be growing.


The good news in all of this is that there is much that can be done to potentially avoid the development of mental illness in our children if women are educated and well cared for in the preconception and prenatal period.


Numerous nutrients have been found to be absolutely critical for brain development in the womb. Many of these nutrients are often found in insufficient levels in the general population, but if there is awareness ahead of time, or even once conception occurs, then attention to diet, and supplements as required, can fix this problem! Some of these nutrients include

  • Vitamin D

  • Omega 3 fatty acids

  • Choline

  • Folate

  • Iron

  • Zinc

  • Copper

Here’s a great graphic from a 2015 journal article that illustrates the importance of nutrients in fetal brain development



Whenever I talk about what our bodies need, or what our babies need, or even what our brains need, I find it useful to consider (1) the things that are required and (2) the things that can interfere or cause toxicity.


In this case, there are numerous chemicals and other exposures that have been found to potentially interfere with brain development. Over the course of good preconception care, women are helped to identify where their exposures may be and provided guidance for eliminating or minimizing them. Some of these exposures include

  • Tobacco

  • Heavy metals (lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium etc)

  • Pesticides

  • Bisphenol A

  • Phthlates

  • Perflourinated compounds (PFCs) often found in carpet treatments, non-stick products

  • Polybrominated biphenyl ethers, common flame retardants chemicals

  • Sources of electromagnetic radiation (i.e. cell phones)

Most of us have either been affected ourselves by mental illness or know someone who has. It can be a time of real trial and devastation and in some cases mental illness may have life long effects. For children who are not able to learn and process information easily, a real burden is placed upon them, and their families, as they strive to achieve their full potential in what can be very frustrating circumstances.


Taking the time before pregnancy to prepare a woman’s body can, in some cases, be the difference between that struggle and a normally functioning brain. If we can be of help, please don’t hesitate to call.



References

Schmidt, R., Tancredi, D., Ozonoff, S., Hansen, R., Hartiala, J., Allayee, H., Schmidt, L., Tassone, F. and Hertz-Picciotto, I. (2012). Maternal periconceptional folic acid intake and risk of autism spectrum disorders and developmental delay in the CHARGE (CHildhood Autism Risks from Genetics and Environment) case-control study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 96(1), pp.80-89.


Colombo, J., Kannass, K., Jill Shaddy, D., Kundurthi, S., Maikranz, J., Anderson, C., Blaga, O. and Carlson, S. (2004). Maternal DHA and the Development of Attention in Infancy and Toddlerhood. Child Development, 75(4), pp.1254-1267.


Morse, N. (2012). Benefits of Docosahexaenoic Acid, Folic Acid, Vitamin D and Iodine on Foetal and Infant Brain Development and Function Following Maternal Supplementation during Pregnancy and Lactation. Nutrients, 4(12), pp.799-840.


Rufer, E., Tran, T., Attridge, M., Andrzejewski, M., Flentke, G. and Smith, S. (2012). Adequacy of Maternal Iron Status Protects against Behavioral, Neuroanatomical, and Growth Deficits in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. PLoS ONE, 7(10), p.e47499.


Morales, E., Julvez, J., Torrent, M., Ballester, F., Rodríguez-Bernal, C., Andiarena, A., Vegas, O., Castilla, A., Rodriguez-Dehli, C., Tardón, A. and Sunyer, J. (2015). Vitamin D in Pregnancy and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder-like Symptoms in Childhood. Epidemiology, 26(4), pp.458-465.


Wu, B., Dyer, R., King, D., Richardson, K. and Innis, S. (2012). Early Second Trimester Maternal Plasma Choline and Betaine Are Related to Measures of Early Cognitive Development in Term Infants. PLoS ONE, 7(8), p.e43448.


Braun JM, Kahn RS, Froehlich T, Auinger P & Lanphar BP. (2006). Exposures to environmental toxicants and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in U.S. children. Environ Health Perspect. 114(12):1904-9.


Kim, Y., Ha, E., Park, H., Ha, M., Kim, Y., Hong, Y., Kim, E. and Kim, B. (2013). Prenatal lead and cadmium co-exposure and infant neurodevelopment at 6 months of age: The Mothers and Children's Environmental Health (MOCEH) study. NeuroToxicology, 35, pp.15-22.


Sanders, A., Claus Henn, B. and Wright, R. (2015). Perinatal and Childhood Exposure to Cadmium, Manganese, and Metal Mixtures and Effects on Cognition and Behavior: A Review of Recent Literature. Current Environmental Health Reports, 2(3), pp.284-294.


Greenop, K., Peters, S., Bailey, H., Fritschi, L., Attia, J., Scott, R., Glass, D., de Klerk, N., Alvaro, F., Armstrong, B. and Milne, E. (2013). Exposure to pesticides and the risk of childhood brain tumors. Cancer Causes & Control, 24(7), pp.1269-1278.


Bouchard MF, Chevrier J, Harley KG, Kogut K, Vedar M, Calderon N, Trujillo C, Johnson C, Bradman A, Barr DB, Eskenazi B. Prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides and IQ in 7-year-old children. Environ Health Perspect. 2011;119:1189–1195


Kim Y, Ha EH, Kim EJ, Park H, Ha M, Kim JH, Hong YC, Chang N, Kim BN. Prenatal exposure to phthalates and infant development at 6 months: Prospective mothers and children's environmental health (moceh) study. Environmental health perspectives. 2011;119(10):1495–1500.


Miodovnik A, Engel SM, Zhu C, Ye X, Soorya LV, Silva MJ, Calafat AM, Wolff MS. Endocrine disruptors and childhood social impairment. Neurotoxicology. 2011;32(2):261–267.


Stein CR, Savitz DA. Serum perfluorinated compound concentration and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children 5-18 years of age. Environ Health Perspect. 2011;119:1466–1471.


Gascon M, Fort M, Martínez D, Carsin AE, Forns J, Grimalt JO, Santa Marina L, Lertxundi N, Sunyer J, Vrijheid M. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in breast milk and neuropsychological development in infants. Environ Health Perspect. 2012;120:1760–1765

©2018 by Dr. Rebecca Genuis