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For the first time since the US government has been collecting data on it, the top five disabilities affecting U.S. children are no longer physical problems, but rather, mental problems, as reported recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Additionally, almost 8 percent of children now have a disability that limits their activity, a four-fold increase since 1960.

One of the suggested reasons for the increase in mental health disorders is the, “exposure to new or more environmental toxins during pregnancy and early childhood.” Improvements in diagnosis were also suggested as a contributor to the increased rate. Although conclusions about what has caused the increase are premature, we will certainly be seeing more research in the coming years.

“In terms of reduced economic outcomes, mental health issues in childhood are a serious problem, way bigger than obesity,” stated James P. Smith, a researcher of child health histories. The report stated that only about half of children with mental health problems get any kind of services, highlighting the gravity of the issue.

Bruce Lanphear, professor of health sciences at Simon Fraser University in Canada, stated that prevention of children’s disabilities in the first place will be more effective than treating them. “Children, who are more vulnerable than adults to adverse effects from environmental toxins are sometimes exposed to numerous chemicals that may be contributing to mental and developmental problems,” stated Lanphear.

The report went on to cite studies linking environmental exposures to mental health in children, including, “the association of black carbon (an airborne byproduct of fossil-fuel combustion) with reduced verbal and nonverbal intelligence and poor memory; of low lead exposure with lower IQ scores; prenatal exposure to tobacco with ADHD; and organophosphate pesticides, mercury, and PCBs with ADHD. Lamphear’s own research found associations between prenatal exposure to bisphenol A and depressive symptoms, anxiety, and hyperactivity in young girls.”

We can no longer deny or turn our backs on the fact that environmental toxins are taking an enormous toll on our health.

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According to a recent study published in the journal Chronic Illness, women with celiac disease are more likely to report stress, depression and disordered eating, even if they are following a gluten-free diet.

The researchers found that women adhering to a gluten-free diet did experience greater vitality, lower stress, decreased depressive symptoms, and greater overall emotional health than those women not following the diet, but even so, they still experienced more stress, depression, and body dissatisfaction when compared to the general population.

Eating gluten-free, even in today’s world of readily available gluten-free fare, is a big adjustment, even when you have been eating gluten-free for years. Food becomes a central focus, rather than an afterthought. Everyday meal planning is required to be sure you have access to the right foods. Shopping at multiple grocery stores becomes the norm. Eating gluten-free creates a whole new way of life. This has the possibility of becoming stressful—and even alienating, depending on the company you keep.

But eating gluten-free—especially in those with celiac, but even in those who are gluten sensitive—is also a ticket to freedom for many people. Freedom from constant digestive issues with seemingly no solution, freedom from wondering, “What the heck is wrong with me?” and freedom from a downward health spiral that itself can cause more stress, dis-ease, and depression.

If you have celiac and you tend to get down about it, take a moment to think about what a gluten-free diet has given you, rather than what it has taken away. Sometimes a shift in perspective is all you need.

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