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  • Writer's pictureJulia Gillis

Book Review: Brain Inflamed by Kenneth Bock, MD; Uncovering the Hidden Causes of Anxiety, Depression & other Mood Disorders in Teens

This doctor started working with youth with autism before many doctors were working with youth with autism. His book covers the many symptoms in tweens & teens that are above & beyond 'teen angst' which have, at times, been miscategorized as psychological illnesses or mental disorders.

Chapter by chapter he uncovers the physiological expressions & responses of conditions such as OCD, extreme mood swings, ODD, autism, ADHD, cognitive dysfunction, depression, lethargy, anxiety, rage episodes & panic attacks - connecting them to biological underpinnings, rather than psychiatric issues.

Although some of these conditions (ADHD, autism) are not 'curable' there can be a number of symptoms presented that are exaggerated due to factors not related to the ADHD or autism diagnosis. These 'symptoms' may not be stemming from the conditions but actually due to nutritional imbalances, toxicity, oxidative stress, immune system imbalances, allergies or chronic inflammation - even unaddressed infections like dormant Lyme Disease. For example, a child with autism may be presenting OCD behaviors. The OCD may be amplifying other traits of the autism but not actually part of the child's autistic behavior spectrum. The OCD might only be present due to an unacknowledged nutritional allergy or an agitated infection from a recent sociological stressor.

Many parents already at their wits end, often hit a wall in the system when attempting to advocate for their child. This book looks at the many routes a parent can take & questions they can ask when they feel the medical system isn't taking their concerns or their child's symptoms seriously. It also offers helpful reference points for 'normal' behaviors in the different spectrums & ways to identify symptoms that are extra, exaggerated or not at all related to a permanent, diagnosed condition.

It's worth cherry picking this repeated piece of information mentioned in his book: when he approaches most treatments, he begins by cutting out gluten, processed sugar & dairy. It's the fail safe. If you are looking at a child who has started to exhibit any physical, physiological or psychological symptoms that are disruptive to their daily comfort or health - start here. Is it the solution for everything? Absolutely not. But if it could potentially cut the symptoms in half - why wouldn't you? And when we are watching so may adults suffer due to these nutritional elements - limiting our children's exposure could change the trajectory of their lives for the better. It's worth the small effort of optimizing their nutritional health to exponentially increase the effects of whatever 'other' treatment methods are required to help them.

I have a few critiques for this book: if you do not have a high level of medical literacy, you could struggle with this book. The target market is PARENTS of children displaying alarming symptoms. The doctor states that it is for parents, who he knows, are probably very stressed out over the behaviors & conditions of their child. Although the book can also be for other practitioners in this field & has all of the scientific explanations of how he came to his discoveries & conclusions, plus the treatment approaches he takes, including specific medications he uses.

He is thorough; which is awesome. But there is a dense, thick, bog of medical & health science language in this book. He deep dives into way more medical information than is necessary for the audience of struggling parents that need this book.

I absolutely support parents (and everyone else) having the medical & health science information present. The first five chapters have extensive explanations of our biological system operations & functions.

He chapters are as follows:

  1. Welcome to the spectrum

  2. Immune system 101

  3. Gut feelings

  4. Out of Control: Infection-triggered autoimmune brain inflammation

  5. Bitten by the Bug: Lyme, Bartonella, and other tick-borne diseases

  6. Stopped cold: Hashimoto's & other thyroid disorders

  7. Dead on their feet: adrenal dysfunction & low blood sugar

  8. Overreacting to life: allergies & sensitivities

  9. Bottlenecked: nutritional deficiencies, toxicants & metabolic disruptions

I feel like chapter 9 should have been placed at the beginning of this book, but Dr. Bock does offer the book's layout as one that parents can jump around from chapter to chapter depending on what they feel are the most applicable to their child's struggle.

His conclusion at the end of the book is definitely appreciated as a great general reminder to parents that the information in the book is not meant to scare parents. The stories of children he has treated are opportunities for clues for any parents struggling to figure out, "Is there something I'm missing or something to ask the medical system that isn't catching what we need to save my kid?"

This is also a good book to read before becoming a parent - just to operate with vigilance as your child develops.

I'm a huge advocate of people 'training' themselves in parenthood before becoming a parent. The amount of research I've done on nutritional health & mental health helps me be a better parent on a daily basis. The best defense is a great offence. We should all be showing up to parenthood with a tool bag as full as we can manage. Raising a little human is no joke. We've got enough humans running around, making the world a worse place, simply due to negligent parenting. Don't add to the problem.


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Julia is a Holistic Health Consultant, holding a Double Diploma in Community Support & Addictions Work, is a Certified Transformation Specialist, Personal Trainer & Nutrition Coach & a Lvl 2 Reiki Practitioner. She specializes in Trauma Informed Practice & Resiliency Coaching and Holistic Pregnancy & Postpartum Health Coaching. 

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