You may have noticed something different about children today: The vast majority seem to have some kind of diagnosed chronic illness such as ADHD, allergies, asthma, or autism. No matter how you look at it, our children are in trouble. Something is causing these varied symptoms in their bodies. If you look closely at these children’s symptoms (inattentive or hyperactive behaviors, skin rashes, gastrointestinal symptoms, sensory symptoms, breathing problems, learning disabilities, etc.) you will find that they all have common inflammatory roots. In other words, what we are witnessing is actually an unprecedented epidemic of chronic inflammatory conditions in our children. The job of the immune system is to protect our bodies from dangerous exposures in our environment. Inflammation is our bodies’ way of dealing with those exposures—it’s the body’s way of telling us that something in our environment is toxic to our wellbeing. Why are our children so inflamed and what can we do about it?
Common, Not Normal
While rapidly expanding special education programs, ubiquitous epi-pens and the dolling out of pharmaceuticals like candy to elementary school students may seem normal, it is not. Just because these experiences are common, does not mean they are normal. These are hallmarks of a sick and dysfunctional population of children.
Many parents are so overwhelmed dealing with their own children’s health, learning or developmental issues that often they don’t see the bigger picture. They don’t yet recognize that everyone else’s children are sick or struggling too. Children are supposed to be healthy, vibrant and full of life. Yet today, 54% of American children have a diagnosed chronic health condition. Consider this: if (at least) 54% of American children today have a diagnosed chronic illness (autism, ADD/ADHD, asthma, gastrointestinal disease, autoimmune conditions, life-threatening allergies), what is our future going to look like?[i]
I am not the only one asking this question.
A Health Epidemic or a National Security Crisis?
In 2010, retired U.S. military leaders got together and published a report entitled “Too Fat to Fight” (I’m not kidding, that is really the title), and this is what they had to say in that report:
“As retired Generals, Admirals, and other senior leaders of the United States Armed Forces, we know firsthand that national security must be America’s top priority. Our organization recently released a report citing Department of Defense data indicating that an alarming 75 percent of all young Americans 17 to 24 years of age are unable to join the military because they failed to graduate from high school, have criminal records, or are physically unfit. If we don’t take steps now to build a strong, healthy foundation for our young people, then it won’t just be our military that pays the price – our nation as a whole will suffer also.”
This epidemic may be a national security crisis but it is also an economic and humanitarian crisis. The statistics reflecting an epidemic of chronic inflammatory conditions and developmental delays in the U.S. are staggering:
- Asthma affects 1 in 8 children, and as many as 1 in 6 African American children. Asthma costs the US $56 billion per year.[ii]
- One in 3 American children is either overweight or obese; Obesity-related medical costs account for $190 billion or 21% of medical spending in the United States; childhood obesity carries a price tag of $14 billion a year in direct medical costs.[iii]
- One in 5 children entering kindergarten carry a mental health diagnosis.[iv]
- Rates of autism have risen over the last few decades from 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 50 children. Autism costs the U.S. $268 billion per year with the potential to reach $1 trillion by 2025.[v] What we pay to manage autism in this country on an annual basis is more money than has been spent on the entire NASA program since its inception in 1971. Autism costs the US more than the combined budgets of the Department of Health and Human Services ($73.7 billion), the Department of Education ($68.6 billion), the Department of Housing and Urban Development ($32.6 billion), and the Department of Agriculture ($21.5 billion).
Is There Hope?
All too often we assume that our children’s chronic health conditions are genetic and life-long. In rare cases, you hear about some children “growing out of it,” but otherwise the only treatment options offered are symptom management, often with medications that can cause negative side effects. Despite what you may have been told by well-meaning ‘experts,’ science and clinical experience is beginning to paint a different picture. Most chronic inflammatory conditions, while they may have a genetic component, can be largely improved and even full reversed through personalized therapeutics and coordinated modifications to diet and lifestyle.
Why Hasn’t My Doctor Told Me About This?
We know anecdotally that chronic conditions can be reversed. Everything from autism to rheumatoid arthritis to allergies and asthma. There are many hopeful and uplifting stories of chronic illness recovery all over the internet. But are these stories real? While many integrative physicians and other healers have been documenting this phenomenon in their own practices for quite some time, the number of rigorously documented cases in the medical literature remains thin. Why aren’t we documenting this? I have been documenting anecdotal recovery stories for over 7 years and I have met families of children who have recovered from most every chronic condition: life-threatening peanut allergies, rheumatoid arthritis and even autism. It is time for the scientific community to study these “miracles,” and better understand them so that we can make this type of healing the standard of care for all children. If we don’t, we will risk losing an entire generation of children. Our very future is at stake.
Documenting Hope: Recovery is Possible
To meet this challenge a pioneering group of scientists, physicians, healers, parents and children’s health advocates have assembled to scientifically demonstrate that recovery is possible, and provide the inspiration for the medical community to make these solutions available to all children.
The Documenting Hope Project, a not-for-profit science and media initiative, aims to run a pilot recovery program (with 14 chronically ill children), document their recovery scientifically (collecting relevant biomarkers and observational data), and capture their inspirational stories on film. The Documenting Hope Project seeks to inspire parents, physicians, and policy makers to think differently about children’s health and redesign a system that truly understands how to prevent and reverse chronic health conditions.
The project’s Medical Director and Principal Investigator, Martha Herbert, PhD, MD is a pediatric neurologist and neuroscientist from Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Herbert believes that the current attitude toward chronic illness, one that is based in genetic determinism, is a dead end. “When you tell a person that there’s no hope, that their child will always be this way, that there’s nothing you can do about it, that their prognosis is known, that’s not science. That’s a misuse of statistics.”
Real Stories of Recovery
Families all over the country are already doing this healing work on their own and with their integrative healthcare practitioners. Nikki, mother to Noah, age 6, helped her son reverse his autism diagnosis: “He’s doing amazing. I feel like his true personality is coming through again. And he’s just so charismatic. He walks into a room and he lights it up. And he has so many friends. He’s got more best friends than I can count.”
It is time for the scientific and medical community to catch up with the inspiring work that parents all over this country are doing. The Documenting Hope Project intends to speed the transition in healthcare from the current model of “sick care” to one that embraces prevention and true disease reversal.
How Can I Get Involved?
Documenting Hope is a people-powered project. We are currently raising money so that we can pay for the full healing and recovery of the 14 children and also document it rigorously. To learn more, please watch the film trailer included in this post, tell your friends, and please make a donation today. www.documentinghope.com/donate. Documenting Hope is sponsored by Epidemic Answers, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness to the new childhood epidemics and helping parents find healing solutions. www.epidemicanswers.org.