PART I: Deborah Merlin, VICTORY OVER ADHD
Deborah Merlin’s mission was to become an advocate for her special needs twins. Medical professionals only offered drugs. She sought alternative methods, did extensive ADHD and other health-related research, and kept impeccable records. In 1993, she co-chaired the Westside Cities Council to help promote Public Law 99457, part H, to implement early intervention services from birth through three years of age for children at risk. In 1990 and 1991, she coordinated outreach to pediatricians (under Public Law 99457, part H) and coordinated presentations at hospitals to educate pediatricians on early intervention services and resources for children at risk from infancy to three years of age. She is a frequent guest speaker on radio shows through out the United States and Canada. She is a consultant to parents who need support, provides resources regarding their children’s individual needs, and she is an artist.
Caryn Hartglass: Hello, I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food. Thank you for joining me today. Thank you for listening! I hope you’re enjoying this very Fall-like day if you’re here in where we’re experiencing Autumn. I’m in New York City right now and it’s November 2nd.
Do you know what yesterday was? Yesterday was World Vegan Day! So October 1st is World Vegetarian Day and all of the month of October in addition to being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it’s also Vegetarian Awareness Month. I would prefer to focus on the vegetarian thing than the Breast Cancer Awareness thing but moving on, November is Vegan Awareness Month, World Vegan Month, or something like that. Anyway, it’s worth celebrating and learning more about.
So today we have some really interesting guests and lots of things to think about. I want to bring on my first guest on: Deborah Merlin. Her mission was to become an advocate for her special-needs twins. Medical professionals only offered drugs. She sought alternative methods, did extensive ADHD- and other health-related research, and kept impeccable records. In 1993 she co-chaired the West Side City’s Council to help promote Public Law 99-457, Part H to implement early intervention services from birth through three years of age for children at risk. In 1990 and 1991, she coordinated outreach to pediatricians under Public Law 99-457, Part H and coordinated presentations at hospitals to educate pediatricians on early intervention services and resources for children at risk from infancy to three years of age. She is a frequent guest on radio shows throughout the United States and Canada. She is a consultant to parents who need support, provides resources regarding their children’s individual needs, and she is an artist.
Welcome to It’s All About Food, Deborah!
Deborah Merlin: Thank you! Thank you for having me on, Caryn.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah! Well I read your story, Victory Over ADHD, and my heart was breaking the whole time in between screaming…
Deborah Merlin: It was quite a journey.
Caryn Hartglass: Quite a journey! It seemed so unnecessary and it’s so important that you’re giving this information out, and I just think of the people that don’t have this information and are still going through what you went through.
Deborah Merlin:This is one of the reasons why I wrote the book. Because it’s a journey and it took many years to figure out what the best things were for treating their symptoms. And so I was doing my research, and even when writing my first book I realized that I didn’t know everything and I continued, and still to this day I am always learning more resources to share with parents. So it keeps on going.
Caryn Hartglass: Well the good news is today in 2011, that we have the Internet and probably when you were just getting into this, the information wasn’t there.
Deborah Merlin: No, which probably made my journey a little longer. But even with the internet I’m surprised about how many parents still don’t know what’s causing their children’s symptoms.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, they don’t know or they don’t want to know. Because as you—even though you learned things that helped your children, applying some of that knowledge wasn’t easy.
Deborah Merlin: That’s true. But there are great tips that I can share for that, for example, with diet. And I was the poster mother who did everything wrong when my kids were young. They were both picky eaters and they were very small for their age—they were skinny. And at this point, I was just trying to get them to eat anything.
Caryn Hartglass: A lot of parents do that.
Deborah Merlin: I would read the cereal box and it would say “Fortified with vitamins.” But those are synthetic vitamins, not real vitamins. And in the cereal there is also a lot of artificial food coloring, and sugars, and wheat, which all contribute to ADHD symptoms, particularly the hyperactivity.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay so let’s just back up a little bit. You were pregnant with twins and they were born early.
Deborah Merlin: Yeah, they were born ten weeks early.
Caryn Hartglass: Ten weeks early. And you had a difficult time the last three weeks or so before they were born.
Deborah Merlin: Yes. I was in the hospital at strict bed rest. I went into early labor at twenty-seven weeks and so by the time I got to the hospital I was already 1 centimeter dilated. And one of the twins was 90% effaced, which means he was ready to come out. So I could not even get up to go to the bathroom. They had to put a catheter in me. And I had to lay in a bed where the back of the bed was lowered so my head was down.
Caryn Hartglass: Very comfortable. both laugh]
Deborah Merlin: No, it wasn’t. But it was worth it because I was able to carry them three more weeks…
Caryn Hartglass: Which really makes a significant difference in their development.
Deborah Merlin: You bet!
Caryn Hartglass: And their potential intelligence.
Deborah Merlin: Absolutely. But it’s still too soon.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. Okay, what is ADHD? It stands for:
Deborah Merlin: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. And there’s ADD—without the hyperactivity.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. And a lot of people throw these things out and say they have it or their kids have it.
Deborah Merlin: And you know, they probably do. [both laugh] I grew up in New Jersey in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and early ‘70s when the pesticide DDT was being sprayed. And I actually blogged about this on my website. Because I grew up with ADD. I had such a hard time focusing in class. And I think there were two contributing factors: I had many amalgam fillings in my mouth. Also, the pesticide DDT has been linked to neurological disorders. So I was particularly sensitive to both. I was outside a lot as a young girl. So I was always being exposed to DDT.
Caryn Hartglass: Well a lot of things have changed since the end of World War II, when the chemical industry was really growing and developing, and they changed their focus from creating things that killed people—well, directly killed people, to creating things that were supposed to help us but in the end really do harm us. A lot of their focus was put into things like pesticides, herbicides, and food. We’re now really starting to see after several generations what kind of horrible impact it’s doing to our health.
Deborah Merlin: Yes and I’m surprised that the FDA hasn’t taken more action as far as the food we’re eating, with artificial food coloring.
Caryn Hartglass: Unfortunately it’s linked to a lot of money so they don’t move very quickly in our best interests. But that’s why your book and your story is so important. Because people are responsible for their own actions and whether or not the government approves things, we need to know what we’re putting in our bodies. We need to know about our food and make informed responsible choices.
So your twins were born and you went through from baby to toddler to young children to teenagers to adults—a whole journey of challenges.
Deborah Merlin: Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: So they were born, and right away you had problems with one of them.
Deborah Merlin: Yes, as you said they were ten weeks premature. And one of the twins actually did better than expected, being that premature. But the other twin did not as well. He had underdeveloped lungs which resulted in hyaline membrane disease. And he was in the NICU for 4 months. He was on the ventilator for a month and then on oxygen for a couple months before they weaned him off the oxygen. But he was labeled “failure to thrive.” So we brought him home and he was failing to thrive. He would not take milk. I was pumping my breast milk at that point because their sucking reflexes weren’t that great. And I didn’t know how much milk they were getting, so the only way I could measure it was: pump my breast milk, put it in the bottle, and feed them. And he was only taking like 8 ounces a day and then throwing it up. So he was readmitted to the hospital four times after he was released. We finally hired a nursing agency to come in at night to gavage-feed him—where they insert a tube from his nose down to his stomach.
Caryn Hartglass: I’ve seen that done. It’s really unpleasant.
Deborah Merlin: Yeah, and it was particularly unpleasant for him because the first nursing agency was gavaging him with adult-sized feeding tubes.
Caryn Hartglass: Now this is one of the spots in the book where I’m screaming. You know, the medical community: we can’t live with them, we can’t live without them. They certainly do tremendous things. Your children probably wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the medical community.
Deborah Merlin: Absolutely.
Caryn Hartglass: And yet, there are so many things where you say ‘What are you thinking?’
Deborah Merlin: But fortunately, the very last time we had to hospitalize him, the nurse who was working with him was also having a hard time feeding him. She handed me a card of a nurse who specializes in high-risk infant care, and we hired her immediately. The very first night she came to our house, she switched the feeding tubes from adult to infant and, for the very first time in his life, the next morning he woke up smiling.
Caryn Hartglass: Amazing! Such a little thing to make all the difference.
Deborah Merlin: Yes. The adult-size tubes were actually trapping air in his stomach and causing major discomfort. He would wake up really cranky every day. That was just the beginning.
Caryn Hartglass: That was just the beginning. Right, so you’ve had countless challenges with doctors and also with the schools. But doctors—many of them—just want to give children medication.
Deborah Merlin: Yup. That’s all they know. It’s what they learn in medical school.
Caryn Hartglass: And this was happening in the early ‘90s, when you began this journey. I remember John Robbins coming out with a book called Reclaiming Our Health. Did you happen to read that at the time or were you aware of that book?
Deborah Merlin: No, I was aware of nothing at the time. I really was so consumed with just them surviving, meeting their needs. I left my job to raise them. It was overwhelming—having two children with special needs. But I was also fortunate because the right people showed up at the right time. So I did have help along the way. But it wasn’t just their ADHD symptoms. It was asthma, it was food allergies, it was facial ticks, it was irritability, and a violent temper with no impulse control. I was dealing with all these different symptoms.
Caryn Hartglass: But aren’t they all related?
Deborah Merlin: Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: They seem like different issues, but they all come down to what the children are putting in their bodies.
Deborah Merlin: Absolutely.
Caryn Hartglass: I know you discovered different things at different times, but what were things that you removed from their diet and what did you add to their diet?
Deborah Merlin: That was the first part of my journey. If you notice a lot of ADHD kids have big circles under their eyes. They tend to be allergic. One of my twins had frequent ear infections and he had constant fluid filled up in his ears. And I’d taken him to an allergist. And they were getting environmental allergy shots twice a week. But she was always concerned that there was always fluid in his ears. So I was told about this Chinese doctor. I told her I was going to take them to a Chinese doctor and she warned me: “You have to be careful with these alternative doctors.” So I took them. And the first thing he did was take my son off of milk. He took both of them off of dairy immediately. And it was so interesting because he had the autism label hovering over him as well as ADHD. And it turns out that the fluid in his ears were making it so he couldn’t hear properly, which was making him appear autistic. As soon as the milk was removed—within a month—I took him back to the allergist and the fluid was gone. And his symptoms disappeared. He became much more social. He was feeling great. He wasn’t under water anymore.
Caryn Hartglass: What’s interesting is that there’s a lot of knowledge with herbal medicine from the Chinese and what’s unfortunate is they are picking up a lot of our habits. And where they never consumed dairy, the dairy industry is picking up quite a bit over in China. So as we’re slowly learning what it does to us, they’re decades behind us.
Deborah Merlin: That’s true. And dairy has been linked to many diseases, such as cancer. So we have to become aware and do our own research. Go to Google and type “diseases associated with dairy.” And I’m shocked to see how many diseases are linked to dairy.
Caryn Hartglass: There are a lot of them.
Deborah Merlin: I work a lot with mothers, and some dads, but mostly moms who have kids with ADHD and so many of their kids have had frequent ear infections. It’s the dairy.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, it’s not just the kids with ADHD. A lot of children have ear infections. And doctors come up with shots and tubes in the ear.
Deborah Merlin: Our pediatrician prescribed antibiotics. So my kids were getting antibiotics for a dairy allergy. I mean how dumb is that? And so from that resulted an overgrowth of yeast in their bodies. So they had gut issues too. So one thing led to another. But I actually think that what really began it all—of course with the prematurity you would expect to be some delays—but they probably should have not gotten the vaccinations because a baby’s immune system is so immature anyway. It’s not developed yet. But premature kids are more at risk for developing adverse reactions to the vaccinations. And I was always blaming everything on their prematurity, including their food allergies. But it turns out vaccines have also been linked to food allergies.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. So you didn’t know this in the beginning. And you just let the doctors give whatever vaccines they wanted to. Did you have any…
Deborah Merlin: I was totally clueless. Another thing I had learned since is that Tylenol, which is routinely given with the vaccinations so the kids don’t run fevers, actually inhibits the liver from making glutathione which detoxes from the heavy metals. It’s actually the Tylenol that could be triggering the autism and the ADHD epidemic.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow, now that I never heard of.
Deborah Merlin: There’s actually a lot of new information coming out about that right now. So that’s also a determining factor. And if the kids are running fevers, I was told by a naturopath doctor just this past weekend that it’s better for the kids to run the fever because they’re fighting something off—-they’re fighting an infection off.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, that’s interesting. There are a lot of things that our body does to heal: sweats, has fever, a variety of things. Even a runny nose. Sometimes it’s better to just let it do its thing because it’s just clearing—it’s vitality.
Deborah Merlin: I recently learned about a man whose lyme disease was cured because he was running a very hot fever when he got sick with pneumonia. He almost died. When he recovered, the lyme disease was gone.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah I heard stories about really high fever killing off different problems before. There are a variety of different heat therapies too that people can look in to. But that’s a whole other subject.
Deborah Merlin: It’s interesting that you mention that. Infrared saunas are very effective for detoxing. And these kids tend to be toxic. As a matter of fact, 20% of the kids in the United States who have ADHD actually have heavy metal toxicity—lead toxicity specifically. So when kids are showing up with these symptoms, they automatically should be tested for lead toxicity. And it’s easy enough to treat—to remove from the body. And of course mercury and cadmium are two other common heavy metals that show up with these kids.
Caryn Hartglass: There are so many different things that happen and one thing may happen because of the other. And then they all add to the pool of problems.
Deborah Merlin: Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: So you had the prematurity and then there were all these other things that came into play because unfortunately of what the children were being fed and it confused the issue. And then some of the things that children will do when they have autistic symptoms or similar is they’ll chew on their toys. And what’s in those toys that they’re chewing on?
Deborah Merlin: Especially twenty years ago and even more recently. All these toys are made in China. So they’re chewing on lead and plastic with toxic BPA chemical. So that’s true, there are many things we need to look at.
Caryn Hartglass: You really have to constantly be out of the box and don’t take anything for granted.
Deborah Merlin: And I’m sure your listeners, because they’re listening to your show, are already thinking outside the box.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. I think so.
Deborah Merlin: As we went along the journey. One of the twins, the one who was sick in the NICU; as he was getting older, his symptoms were getting worse. His facial ticks were getting very severe and he was developing a very violent temper with no impulse control. And at this point, I guess he was ten, eleven years old, I went to see my acupuncturist who happened to be a medical doctor and I was complaining about my son and his irritability, and he suggested we do a QEEG on him, which is a quantitative computer analysis that measures brain activity. And we found out that he was having seizures.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh wow!
Deborah Merlin: We didn’t know it. So that really brought a lot of information to us.
Caryn Hartglass: And did you know how to—was there a way to reduce those seizures?
Deborah Merlin:Yes, but what probably caused them, seriously, were the vaccinations. And they weren’t seizures like the grand mal where you fall down and swallow your tongue. They were very subtle. The doctor described it as football players running at all different speeds—that’s how his brain was moving. And it can cause a lot of irritability. So my doctor—when he got the results, he didn’t want to prescribe anti-seizure medicine, because that also has a lot of side effects, including death. So he ordered an amino acid panel. And we found out that his amino acids were really low. Within a few days of supplementing him with amino acids, all his symptoms vanished.
Caryn Hartglass: Is that crazy? Amino acids: building blocks of protein!
Deborah Merlin: No more facial ticks (and I’m telling you, his facial ticks were bad), no more violent temper. His grades went from failing to As and Bs in a month. It just blew me away. And that’s really why I wrote the book. Because who would know. And I started asking people “Do you know what amino acids are?” And a couple of smarter people would say “they’re the building blocks of life” but beyond that people really couldn’t tell you—even the doctors.
Caryn Hartglass: Now were these some of these the essential amino acids that the body can’t manufacture ourselves or were they both?
Deborah Merlin: They were both. The whole panel was low. And then I had the other twin tested, and myself. And we were lower than he was! But for some reason it was just showing up in him differently. But I could not believe what an impact it had on me and how much better I felt once I started taking it.
Caryn Hartglass: So you started supplementing, I imagine, with amino acids. But what about the diet?
Deborah Merlin: Well I had already made great strides in correcting the diet before that. When they were six, seven, they were off the dairy and off the artificial food coloring. What was interesting, when we had just moved and we were were at the market and it was hot out, one of my sons talked me into buying one of those multi-colored popsicles. And wow, was that a rude awakening.
Caryn Hartglass: With number yellow, number blue, number…
Deborah Merlin: Oh god, the worst ingredients. They were climbing the walls by the time they were half way done with the popsicles. I grabbed them and threw the whole box away. But if that were me now I would have taken that box back to the supermarket and demanded my money back.
Caryn Hartglass: Or tell them not to sell that to children! And you know how crazy that is—I don’t know if you’ve made your own popsicles. Or you can buy them in health food stores. But how hard is it to just freeze fruit juice.
Deborah Merlin: Right. You can just take organic fruit juice and freeze it.
Caryn Hartglass: Or sometimes I like to take ripe melons like honeydew or cantaloupe and put it in a blender and then freeze that in a popsicle stick. Oh my god, that’s so good! Because it gives it a little more heft, a little more chew.
Deborah Merlin: But again, I appreciated all these lessons because I learned so much and now I’m able to help other parents. And I still see parents in the market buying all these artificial food-coloring cereals and cookies. And their kids are running up and down the aisles just like my kids used to. It’s still happening.
Caryn Hartglass: Do you talk to them when they don’t ask questions?
Deborah Merlin: That’s such a good question because I was at a supermarket last year and that happened where the woman behind me was hastily putting all of her groceries on the conveyor belt and complains to the cashier. “I’ll be right back. I have to go get my son. He never listens to me.” And she had three boxes of cereal with artificial food coloring, she had animal crackers with the artificial food icing, with sprinkles, and candy. And I looked at the cashier and said “He can’t listen to her. His brain is starving.” And she said “Well you should tell her, you should tell her.” And I said “No I can’t because my husband tells me not to proselytize.” But what I did was I wrote an article and I had it published because that way I could reach more parents. But in a way I wish I had talked to her, but I don’t know if she would have listened.
Caryn Hartglass: What you’re competing with, unfortunately, is millions and millions of dollars go into marketing to children. And it should be outlawed.
Deborah Merlin: Yeah, all those commercials that they’re watching.
Caryn Hartglass: The companies know what they’re doing. They specifically market them to children to hook them for life.
Deborah Merlin: Yes. So these kids are eating dead food and of course it affects their brain and how they focus. So just making some major adjustments in the diet can go a long way in treating their symptoms. But I also think that all these kids should be tested for heavy metal toxicity. And they can do it with a hair clipping. My kids had elevated levels of lead. But not an extreme range, but high enough that it could affect their IQ.
Caryn Hartglass: So how old are your boys now?
Deborah Merlin: They are twenty-two.
Caryn Hartglass: And how are they?
Deborah Merlin: They’re well. They’re both in college. One is working full time. He’s doing an internship for a movie studio. So they’re thriving. They’re doing great.
Caryn Hartglass: What do they think about the work you’re doing and the book that you wrote?
Deborah Merlin: Well, they’re living their own life. When I wrote my first book my twins hugged me and said “I’m really proud of you, Mom.” But they’re really not focused on that. But they’re conscientious about their diets.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s good. Great!
Deborah Merlin: Yeah, that really helps.
Caryn Hartglass Do you have a website?
Deborah Merlin: Yes, Victoryoveradhd.com.
Caryn Hartglass: Well there we go! Victoryoveradhd.com. Deborah thank you so much! It was a pleasure talking to you and you’re really a courageous woman, a courageous mother, parent. And your kids are lucky to have you. They chose you.
Deborah Merlin: Yeah, they did. I chose them too. But thank you, Caryn! Thank you for having me on this show. I really appreciate it.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you! Bye bye.
Deborah Merlin: Bye bye.
Caryn Hartglass: You’re listening to It’s All About Food. We’re going to take a very quick break. And then get out your wallets. We’re going to start talking about what to do with your money with humane investing. We’ll be right back.
Transcribed by Rachel Hoglund, 3//32014