Suzanne Duffy-Savage, a self-employed mom, lives in West Barnstable, MA. She shared her story exclusively with FirstforWomen.com.
Starting in first grade, every day after school, Shane would get home, drop his backpack on the floor, and lock himself in the bathroom. Then he'd have a meltdown that lasted 30 minutes. By the time he was in fourth grade, those 30 minutes had turned into 90-minute tantrums. He was having such anxiety about school.
I asked him why, but he could never pinpoint anything. I talked to his teachers and the principal because I was concerned he was being bullied. But the opposite was true: Shane was popular with everyone--classmates, staff, teachers.
At the same time, he was repeatedly scratching a spot on his head above his right eye. Every time he got anxious, he'd scratch frantically, until third grade when he had a 2-inch long, inch-wide bald spot. It was so noticeable we asked the school if Shane could wear a baseball cap all the time so kids would stop asking about it.
He had other tics as well--he'd move his mouth as if he were going to crack his jaw, jerk his hand and wrist, and hunch his shoulder forward. And the tantrums were getting longer and worse. I dreaded picking Shane up from school because I knew what was going to happen. I'd greet him with the usual mom stuff--"Hi, how was your day?"--but he wouldn't talk to me. He'd head straight to the bathroom as soon as we got home.
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When he was 9, a child psychologist diagnosed him with generalized anxiety and gave him techniques to keep his hands busy, like squeezing stress balls and snapping wrist bands. They didn't work. The head scratching got worse, as did the tantrums. His grades weren't great, either, but since Shane was in the middle of the class and compliant, the school didn't know what we were talking about. I think Shane was holding himself together at school all day and then releasing pent-up worries once he got home.
We went to more doctors, who told us that Shane had a learning disability, ADHD, and Tourette's. The first two made sense to me; even though Shane never was hyperactive, he had trouble keeping up in class, which might have made him so anxious. But the Tourette's, a neurological disorder that causes people to have tics, from eye blinking to grunting sounds, threw us a little. The doctor prescribed two different medications.
We were uneasy about medicating Shane, but something had to change. The quality of our lives wasn't good, and Shane couldn't go through school like this. So I decided to try it. Shane's tics and anxiety got better for a while, but then they both came creeping back in. At age 11, a neurologist wanted to put him on a third medication. I didn't want to do that.
About that time, a good friend shared a Facebook post about an 11-year-old with Tourette's. It was from Mark Mincolla, Ph.D., a natural health practitioner, and he'd helped the boy. I made an appointment with Dr. Mincolla right away. After he'd tested Shane for food allergies, he prescribed a series of supplements, as well as a list of foods to avoid. Shane took apple pectin to detox, omega-3s to help his learning disability, taurine for the Tourette's, and theanine for anxiety. He couldn't eat wheat, beef, sugar, watermelon, or pistachios. I left the office thinking, "What are we going to eat?!"
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I bought gluten-free pasta, fish, and turkey. We all followed the same diet. I didn't want Shane to feel isolated during mealtime. When Shane went to parties or sleepovers, I'd send him with a cooler of foods he could eat, like gluten-free pizza and pancakes. He didn't mind as long as he could be with his friends.
Those first two weeks, his Tourette's got worse, and I texted Dr. Mincolla. He told me Shane was detoxing, and we should stick to the diet for a while longer. After another week, the tics tapered off until they were gone after one month. Gradually, over that first year, Shane tapered off his medications until he stopped those as well.
Neither Shane nor I can get complacent about his diet. And even though Dr. Mincolla has added things back in--like wheat--he can't eat it every day. If Shane does slip up, even he notices how he's moodier and more anxious a couple of days later. But that disappears if we go back to following the diet.
The biggest change: there's no after-school drama. His grades are great--all As and Bs. Soon after Shane started seeing Dr. Mincolla I overheard him singing in his room as he got ready for school. And I remember thinking, "I forgot he used to do that as a toddler!" Somewhere during elementary school, he'd stopped being happy on school mornings. Shane still gets anxious about new things and challenges, but after we talk about it, he deals with it. But he has no signs of Tourette's and he hasn't had a bald spot on his head for over two years.
Watch Suzanne, Shane, and Dr. Mincolla discuss Shane's miraculous transformation in the video below.
SHANE from Mark Mincolla on Vimeo.
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