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Why Nearly 45 Percent of American School-Aged Children Suffer From Chronic Health Conditions

Updated: Feb 22

Nearly 45 percent of American school-aged children suffer from chronic health issues, according to a 2018 National Survey of Children’s Health. That’s over 27 million children.

Parents are often stuck trying to figure out what went wrong.

Some doctors say chronic diseases are too hard to treat, while others are happy to give medication to mask the symptoms. And then there are doctors who completely embrace the challenge and somehow turn the patient’s health around.

More and more, we’re finding that this third group of doctors are not limiting themselves to system medicine. Instead, they are reaching for wisdom from other medical modalities that have been used successfully for thousands of years.

In this episode, integrative pediatrician Dr. Joel “Gator” Warsh shares his insights on chronic disease and what parents can do to help their children.

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Interview trailer:

Watch the full interview:



Dr. Joel ‘Gator’ Warsh:

So the numbers just keep going up and up. It’s higher than that in adults. And the question is, why? What’s going on? What are we doing that’s creating this inflammation in our body, where everybody is so inflamed and everyone’s getting sick and getting allergies, and autoimmune conditions, and everything else.

Dan Skorbach:

Today American children are more sick than ever. Doctors are calling this an epidemic of chronic disease. And parents are stuck figuring out what went wrong. Much of our modern healthcare is focused on stopping the symptoms. But could doctors and parents be overlooking the most basic foundation of health?

Nearly 44.5 percent of school aged children suffer from at least one chronic health problem. That’s according to a 2018 National Survey of Children’s Health.

And that is a huge number. That’s 27,515,344 kids.

These children are suffering from asthma, food allergies, diabetes, seizures. They could be on the spectrum, have ADHD or depression.

There’s about 27 chronic health conditions that this survey has tracked nationwide. And I mean it’s mind blowing that nearly half of American school children have at least one of them.

The costs of this are significant. Parents with a chronically ill child on average have to pay an extra of $3,361 per year in health care bills.

And here you have to wonder, are we as parents paying for health care that is just putting a bandaid on the problem, or are we actually addressing the root cause of the chronic disease?

Well, different doctors have different takes on this. Some say chronic diseases are too hard to treat. Some are happy to give medication to mask the symptoms. And then there are doctors who completely embrace the challenge and somehow turn the patient’s health around.

More and more, we’re finding that this third group of doctors are not limiting themselves to system medicine. Instead they are reaching to wisdom from other medical modalities that have been successfully in use for thousands of years.

We had the pleasure to chat with an integrative pediatrician. Dr. Joel ‘Gator’ Warsh runs an integrative pediatric clinic in sunny Los Angeles.

Here his focus is on addressing the root cause of illness. And when it comes to many chronic conditions, it’s important to start with the basics.

Dr. Joel ‘Gator’ Warsh:

During my training, where I remember there was a very overweight child. And this child continued to come into the hospital over and over again, for all sorts of different issues. And we would see him every couple of weeks.

And nobody ever discussed anything except treatments. They weren’t talking about, like the diet or what was going on, and what was being eaten.

And one day I spoke to the family kind of on my own. They were my patient at that time and I had a much more in depth conversation.

And we started talking a little bit about some of the things that I was reading about and thinking about. Which are not out there ‘“woo-woo” kind of stuff. It was like thinking about diet and exercise, and sleep, and running through what this child is eating. What did they eat yesterday before they got rushed to hospital for their stomach issues?

The family was in the room, and the grandmother was there. And you know, we kind of went over it a little bit. I had brought up some of the stuff. And the team kind of brushed it off after I had discussed what I had found. Which is like, he was not eating the best food, eating junk food. And I was like, well, maybe that’s a big contributor. But they didn’t really get into it all.

And after, the grandma came to me and was like, “you know, nobody has really ever asked us about this stuff. I’m very confident that it is a big deal if he does not eat well. Would you think we could come to you as patients after?” And they did.

They did end up becoming my patients in the clinic. And we changed up the diet, the child was exercising more and the vast majority of this child’s symptoms went away. And they didn’t really go back to the hospital that I know of, after that point, for the couple more years that I was there.

And so that was one of those cases, that was just a light bulb moment where it was like, huh, you know, medicine has its great place. But if you’re eating Doritos every day or whatever candy every day, and that’s the thing that’s causing your inflammation in your gut, and then you’re having severe pain and vomiting, well, maybe if you just change that, then you don’t need a medicine.

Dan Skorbach:

And eating better food may sound like an obvious thing to do. But improving a child’s diet can be really hard. A child spends most of his day at school.

And many school cafeterias don’t have wholesome food on their menus.

And even if you’re sending your kid with a healthy lunch, they may be trading their snacks for sugar between friends.

At home too, if it’s not your neighbor bringing cookies, it’s the grandparents. Or the well-meaning uncle.

So the best way to really start fixing this problem is to take baby steps. And step one, is to take artificial dyes out of your home.

On packaging they look like this. Red forty. Blue two. Yellow eight.

Dr. Joel ‘Gator’ Warsh:

That’s a very easy thing to take out of your diet. You don’t need them at all. There’s a lot of research, especially with red dye, that it can be a big factor when it comes to mental health and ADHD, and causing hyperactivity. And there’s lots of research on the different dyes, but it doesn’t really matter. You don’t even need to know that. It’s not good for you. And it’s not made in any way where there’s anything that’s going to be good for you. It’s not a real food.

So why do you need it in your food? We color our food to make it look prettier, because they want you to buy it and not think about what’s in there. And so these are the kinds of things that I think are very easy first steps for parents. If you just start to read the label, then we can start to take some of these things out of our diet. And you should never prepare food with these and just don’t buy things with food dyes in them at all. And that’s going to go a long way.

I’ve definitely seen kids where they do these kinds of things and their symptoms improved. Not necessarily your ADHD just goes away. But if you just change up your diet and things improve by 5 percent. That’s pretty good.

Dan Skorbach:

And that’s something else to think about. Chronic diseases can take a long time to improve. So it requires real commitment from parents.

Dr. Joel ‘Gator’ Warsh:

We want to see magic, right? We want magic. What’s the pill that is going to change our kid? That’s going to make them healthy? But if you want to do it right, you want to do it the more holistic, natural way.

There may be a pill that can improve symptoms faster, but then you’re probably going to get a lot of side effects with those. And it may not last for very long in terms of twhat you’re seeing from the pill.

But the better way to do it, is to figure out all the triggers for yourself, and then really slowly improve things over a few years. If you had a problem that took 15 years to develop. It’s not going to go away in three days. You’re going to have to work your way through it and change up some things. And then slowly, your body is going to adapt and change and go into a better direction. And that’s what we want, right? We want to see you healthier tomorrow than today. And sometimes, again, you need a pill for whatever in the short term, but for a long term chronic thing, the pill is not going to solve anything, and might just treat some symptoms as a band aid.

Dan Skorbach:

So what’s the number one mistake we make as parents? We forget to check the labels on the food that we buy for our kids. It’s not just the artificial dyes. It’s the unhealthy oils. It’s corn syrup. Preservatives. It’s the garlic powder that could be made from garlic coming out of China, and be loaded with heavy metals. Kids get exposed to enough of this stuff in school and birthday parties. But at home, you’re in charge. And you can talk to your kids about it, so that they learn how to discern good food from things that look good, but may not do much good when they’re on the inside.

So please share this video so we can motivate more parents and grandparents to check food labels. It’s the least we can do for our future generation. Also check out Dr. Gator’s instagram where he shares hard to find information about kids’ health. We’ll put the link in the description below.

This is Frontline Health, I’m Dan Skorbach, stay healthy America.


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