Dr. Olejak Answers Your Back-to-School Questions on Behavior and Practical Concerns

Question: One thing that takes away from my child's ability to learn is his behaviors. How can I improve his behaviors to prepare for school?

Dr. Olejak:Dear Mom Wanting Better Behavior,

All too often parents are unsatisfied with their children’s behavior but they have not really taken the steps to: 

  • Create clear boundaries 
  • Set expectations 
  • Reward good behavior 
  • Deliver and enforce a consequence when appropriate  

The consequence is easy when something looks amiss, but those first three steps are really prevention steps to avoid having to be the sheriff and lay down the law. Diet and unwanted organisms play a role in this process as well.  

The three main dietary considerations “don’ts” are food dyes and refined sugar; the “do’s” are essential fatty acids.  Since Dr. Feingold published his book in 1985 there has been mounting evidence that dyes in food affect the nervous system; something called an excito-toxin.  Even the FDA is convening a committee to try to figure out if food dyes make kids hyperactive. Sugar and artificial sweeteners also fall into the category of excitatory compounds.  One of the most egregious is aspartame (trade name NutraSweet).  Sugar has the effect of putting the brain on a roller coaster with the highs and lows that follow insulin secretion.  DHA and EPA are well-established fats as brain food.  Every pregnant and lactating mother should be taking EPA and DHA and new research shows that the beneficial effects of this omega-3 fat continue throughout our lifetime by enhancing brain and eye function, reducing sad moods, and forgetfulness.,,

As a rule parents should view a recommendation from school officials or psychologists’ to use behavior-altering interventions with extreme care and research.  These addictive and brain altering substances are classed with cocaine by the DEA,. Supporting the liver when a western intervention is used is imperative to the health of your child. Their residue likes to sit in the liver congesting it – supporting phase 1 and 2 detox pathways in the liver support the it’s toxic departure from the body and increase healthy brain / nervous system function.

The gut also plays a role in explosive behavior. Unknown to most people there are more serotonin receptors in the gut than in the brain.  Hence the expressions to “feel something in your gut” or “felt on a gut level.”  Unwanted organisms can alter the balance of toxins in the gut or put pressure on the brain and nervous tissue. 

One way to support normal gut flora is with Artemisia & Clove.  If you suspect unwanted organisms the Comprehensive Diagnostic Stool Analysis (CDSA) is one way to find out if pathogenic microbes are in the gut.


Question: Every year my child comes home with a backpack that practically weighs more than I do.  This can't possibly be good on her back. Do heavy backpacks like hers contribute to structural issues that may hinder learning?

Dr. Olejak: Dear Heavy Backpack,

There is no doubt that heavy items on a child’s back during the developmental years leads to changes in the spine.[1] As a chiropractor, son of a chiropractor and chiropractic father of two young girls I can assure you there is a need for structural alignment. As to postural changes hindering learning, we know that there is a relationship between cognition and posture.[2] We know this empirically because when we are emotionally down our posture reflects this with stooped shoulders and forward flexion of the head. It seems reasonable that the process works in both directions: visceral  somatic and somatic  visceral.

Studies that were compiled by Foreman & Croft and others[2],[3] also found that postural changes from trauma were found to alter blood flow to the brain via changes in the sympathetic nervous system. Everything we know about functional MRI[4] now tells us that without blood flow to certain areas there is less mental activity. This may be one reason why ginkgo has been found useful in supporting blood flow to the brain.[5]

One area of the spine that is particularly affected is the mid-thoracic, which provides nerve supply to the adrenals at T8-9. With my children I’ve consistently checked that area and also made sure they had adrenal support. The ingredients in Loving Energy (organic solomon seal root, eleuthro root, reishi mushroom, licorice root, polygonatum root, and schizandra berry) directly support the gland and compliment the chiropractic care nicely. 

What can you do to reduce stress on your child’s spine?: 

  • Instead of a backpack my kids use a roller bag. I travel a lot and thought to myself ‘what’s good for the airport can surely work in school’
  • Take only what you need home and to school.  
  • Some schools offer resources online which eliminates the need for book lugging.
  • Encourage your school to adopt the use of tablets. Many modern schools now teach from eVersions of textbooks and some tablet makers like Apple support textbook development on their machines.

No child is going to get out of childhood without scrapes, bumps, bruises and some damage to ligaments and tendons. It is a rite of growing up. The thing to do is be aware, observe and ask questions so you can intervene with the right treatment at the right time.  



[1] http://www.spine-health.com/conditions/back-pain/backpacks-and-back-pain-children

[2] Foreman, S & Croft A. The Acceleration/Decelleration Syndrome ISBN-10: 0683033158

[3] http://www.chiro.org/LINKS/subluxation.shtml

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Functional_magnetic_resonance_imaging