Brain Gut Connection Part 4

This is Part 4 of the Brain Gut Connection series.  It is my understanding of the impact of nutrition and genetics in children with special needs as explained to me in conversation with Elinor Silverstein.


Elinor is very passionate about is the importance of the Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) enzyme. It is encoded by the MTHFR gene. Variations in this gene were formerly thought to be quite rare but it is now known to be more common. Elinor has had hundreds of people tested for this gene variation and all but 1 have had it. Dr. Allen Green, MD states that 1 in 3 people now have this gene variation. The impact on health and the ability to help people with this variation is huge.

Elinor explains that the methyl enzyme is used in the process of combining folic acid (B9) and methyl ions (one carbon bound to three hydrogen atoms) into L-5-methyltetrahydrofolate (L-5-MTHF) the metabolically active form of folic acid. Deficiency in activated folate has been implicated in heart disease, difficulty issues with pregnancy and fetal development, difficulty carrying pregnancy to term, movement disorders, and even high blood pressure in slender healthy people who should not have high b.p., brain fog and others.

In addition, Elinor indicates the inability to convert methyl is tied directly to many other health issues including metabolism of nutrients and the detoxification process. When these processes are disrupted it has a big impact on health in the short term or long term as deficiencies and toxic load increase over time.


B12 is essential for healthy nerve cells. It works with Folic acid to build the genetic materials of all cells, maintains healthy cell function and development, and assists in the production of enzymes. B12 is a key micronutrient that supports immunity and lymphocyte function. Elinor notes that it is important for people to know that when a senior citizen does not receive the methylated form of B12 there are often signs of serious neuropathy in the legs and feet, fuzziness in the head or confusion, or even senior depression, and versions of dimentia associated with it. All this is directly tied in to the fact that a very crucial nutrient, B12, is not getting to the central nervous system and to the brain.

Elinor explains that there are two forms of B12 – methylcobalamin and cyanocobalamin. She says that a person with the MTHFR gene often might not utilize B12 well, and if they take the vitamin supplement in the form of cyanocobalamin it will only make the blood levels go up, but not actually get utilized by the cells. The most usable form in these cases is the methylcobalamin form. It can be used in the cells and transported to the brain and nerves very easily which leads to healthy brain functioning and active nerves all the way down to the legs and feet. She talks more about this in more detail for nerve health.

Elinor says, “You just don’t want such large doses floating around not going everywhere they are needed after many shots (of cyanocobalamin). I know, my mother felt better after the first injection of cyano– but after several injections her blood levels were crazy high, because they were not completely being utilized and the doctor wanted to stop her injections. I told him that if you stop, she will not feel well again. She needed methylcobalamin instead, and she would feel as good, AND the levels would stay good, healthy and normal, because they would be UTILIZED in every way they should be. Sooooo AWESOME, Yea!!!”

NOTE: Elinor recommends everyone supplement B12. ”Yes, everyone should. It’s so cheap, and so easy to do. I give myself a shot every month just under the skin with methylcobalamin. Both my sons do, and so does my mother.” ”Live long and prosper, and take your methyl B-12!”

Toxic Load

Elinor explains there are 3 stages for detoxification in our bodies. We take in toxins from our environment through what we eat, breath, drink and have skin exposure to. Stage 1 these toxins are absorbed by the liver. Stage 2 the toxins combine with with L-5-MTHF to then send the toxins to be excreted. Stage 3 is excretion, primarily through the kidneys as urine and intestines as stool. If there is not enough active folic acid to do the toxin conversion the liver pushes the extra toxins out to the blood stream where they deposit in blood vessels, organs, muscles, tissues, the brain, and the peripheral nervous system.

Elinor, herself, gets tested every two years to measure her body load of heavy metals using a urine challenge test. The test for heavy metals uses Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA), a chelating agent. It is most reliable to administer the EDTA by IV in your doctors office because it does not depend on the EDTA passing out of the intestine as an oral dose does. And, it is not expensive.

The body load of heavy metals and other toxins can get progressively worse. Factors such as vaccines or anesthesia can compound the problem by increasing the demand on the liver to do its job. People with the MTHFR gene variation will usually have difficulty metabolizing anesthetics. They may have more difficulty waking up and may be throw up until they start to recover from the toxic overload.

An inexpensive blood test can identify whether this gene variation might be an issue for you or your family member. If one finds they have the variation here are a few things you can do to augment this methylation process. Elinor says, ”Take sublingual B12 daily, however, I found for myself that the shot every few weeks works much better. Also, eat sulfuric foods like fermented cabbage and kimchi. You can also add kale, broccoli, and other good dark greens that contain sulfuric compounds. I really love garlic and onions. All of these foods are sulfuric in nature which helps in addition to B12 and activated Folate to make the methylation process. How awesome it truly is when our foods can be our medicine!”

Future articles willI be about spasticity in the gut and visceral work, nerve health, and constipation and seizures recommendations for nutrient supplementation. 


Anat Baniel Method and Masgutova Neurosensorimotor Reflex Integration

Anat-Baniel-Method-for-children NMRI ReflexPeople have asked me Why do Anat Baniel Method (ABM) if you are already doing Masgutova Neurosensorimotor Reflex Integration (MNRI)? or vice versa.  Each makes a contribution, but for me, nothing gives children with special needs the joy of learning that ABM does.  Sometimes, turning on learning is such a challenge that it absolutely has to feel that good to be worth it.  I know that helping a child experience that joy is what makes me feel my work is worthwhile.  

 Can you tell I feel strongly about ABM?  It’s my primary focus and the foundation of my work with special needs children.  Read on and you will see why I also incorporate and recommend MNRI when I feel it can help.

 We are very fortunate to live in a time when there are many options for treatments, schools, and helping professionals for children with special needs.  Just 60 years ago there were not, and disabled children were kept at home and not included in society.  Recommendations and referrals come from many sources and parents of children with special needs have the responsibility to choose who will help their child.  There is no one professional who parents can rely on to tell them “THIS is the solution”.

 Parents not only have to choose WHAT experience to bring to their child but also WHO will be helping.  Professional classifications and certifications are designated to help consumers know how to find specialists and to give some idea about the knowledge and service that person has to offer.  No matter what field, there is always a range of experience and specialty to select from and a variety of personalities, people skills, and ways of presenting. Making these decisions is part of the challenge of being a parent of a special needs child.  Each helping professional chooses the area they wish to specialize in and offer to others.

 I chose learning as the solution out of limitation for my son and it began my journey into the world of movement, learning and brain plasticity.  I have always needed variety, creativity, and challenge in my work.  At 16 years old I lasted all of 2 days in a library clerk job filing books.  What was I thinking to take that job? Well, I love books and didn’t realize that FILING books is far different from READING books.  Live and learn.   With ABM every lesson with every child is a new puzzle to see what I can offer.  No two are ever the same so I am constantly creating solutions.  It’s the perfect job for me. 

 After so many years learning and working with Feldenkrais and Anat Baniel Methods (I can’t believe it’s been 20 years) I became intrigued with the outcomes Dr. Svetlana Masgutova was getting by working with the brain and reflexes and wanted to discover if there was something I could learn from her. 

 Feldenkrais, ABM, MNRI, Brain Gym, Brain Fitness software have in common the focus on the brain body connection and learning using the plasticity of the brain to help people improve how they feel, act and function.   What we previously have learned usually influences our understanding of new information.  My understanding of Dr. Masgutova’s work is with that previous ABM context.  Other students of her work have often come from other arenas or with less ABM experience so my interpretation and application is somewhat unique.

 I learned in the classroom workshops that Dr. Masgutova teaches around the United States how powerful and simple accessing that primitive reflexive part of the lower brain could be.  Doing something with intent has a huge impact and what I learned was to have the intent to shift a reflexive pattern by targeting it directly to allow learning to occur.  Dr. Feldenkrais and Anat Baniel use the understanding and knowledge of reflexes extensively.  Reflexes are not usually focused on in isolation but are built in to the journey toward voluntary organized action.  I have found that in some situations that intent and focus on a specific reflex/specific area of the brain can enhance how I can be helpful.

 The workshops are a combination of lecture and experiential learning and I actively practiced the “exercises” with my clients and family to see how effective they could be and how I could incorporate them in to what I know and do.  During this exploratory time my father had a powerful experience of being able to regain his sense of stability after falling when I applied the work to quiet his foot reflex (babinski) which had been triggered to protect him in the fall.  My son reported strong feelings of change in his brain during the asymmetrical tonic neck reflex exercises.  I myself had a very powerful reaction to a hip leveling reflex during a workshop when I was still needed to guard my movement after abdominal surgery.  Each of these experiences showed me that Masgutova has indeed developed a way to directly access how the brain is organizing itself and it can be powerful.

 Masgutova is quite specific in instructing parents and professionals how to do these exercises.  She has eliminated the evaluation process for families and any need to adapt what is done by providing the evaluations and changes in program in visits to her team every 4 to 6 months.  The home programs give parents a way to contribute to their child’s development and there are a lot of children benefiting.

 As I gained familiarity with MNRI I could see that though Masgutova and Feldenkrais have many of the same sources of information their focus diverged with Feldenkrais’ core of learning in gravity and the importance of bones, and Masgutova’s core of pre-gravitational (in utero) reflexes and reflexive protective mechanisms.  I find the two perspectives give me more tools to be helpful, especially with children with special needs who are often still so influenced by reflexes that their learning is hugely inhibited.

 I am very glad that I experienced Feldenkrais/ABM first and was able to add the reflex knowledge to my understanding of how the human system works.  I would like all children to have the experience of the joyfulness of learning and discovering that ABM brings.

I heard a story about an early Masgutova camp in California.  50% of the children were learning quite a bit faster than the other half.  When they looked for the common factor it was discovered those were the children who had been receiving ABM lessons before beginning the reflex work. If ABM is the first experience for a child with difficulty learning every other kind of experience will be enhanced. 

 I recently heard that the words “teaching” and “learning” had negative connotations for people because most have had the experience of feeling bad about their ability to learn.  What a shame.  I almost can’t comprehend it.  I would caution parents to be aware of what their child is experiencing and try to help them have the joyfulness and curiosity of exploring the world that is possible for everyone.  It’s a gift you give them that will last their whole life.  Choosing WHAT and WHO is helping your child can make all the difference.

NOTE:  Portions of this article appear in on the website CP Daily Living.  I highly recommend this amazing website as a huge source of information.

Here is a direct link to my contribution about MNRI on CP Dailly LIving

For more about MNRI also see Dr. Masgutova’s comprehensive site


Review of Protective IPad cases for children

IPads have been a huge success with children.  I use one in my practice sometiimes to teach cause and effect, give motivation, etc.  Parents of children with communication challenges are finding the iPad technology can be a far less expensive solution to enhancing communication than the AAC devices that cost thousands of dollars.  There aren’t yet perfect solutions for foolproof and reliable access of communication boards and buttons on the iPad, but I believe using the iPad for communication is like digital pictures vs film.

When I had to pay for ever photo I had developed was selective about how many photos I took.  I missed many opportunities for creating memories.  Once digital pictures became available I could click away without concern for costs.  A complex AAC device worth thousands of dollars has to be a guarenteed to succeed to justify spending the money.  How many school districts or parents can give children the time to discover if they CAN use the expensive talking devices?  The relatively inexpensive and very available iPad makes it possible to let children with disabilities experiment with pushing buttons, cause and effect, and inexpensive speech programs.  

I encouraged one client to purchase an iPad for her son who had autistic like behavior caused by Lyme’s disease damage in his brain.  He had no speech but was very good at expressing his opinion and could follow some directions with lots of prompts.  He preferred to figure things out for himself.  He LOVED using the iPhone to listen to music and was very adept at going through the options so I saw the potential to expand his skill.   With the new iPad he experimented until he knew how to do interactive programs, select shows on Youtube to watch, and demonstrated he knew all his colors, letters and could spell.  Difficulty following directions at school meant no one had any idea that he had any of this knowledge.  Once he could demonstrate what he knew his placement in school was changed and everyone had a whole new expectation of what he could do.

Still, an iPad IS a few hundred dollars, and if you put it in the hands of a child it will eventually hit the ground.  This little guy’s mom came in one day with the iPad front glass completely shattered and held together by scotch tape.  The good news is that she called Apple and they offered to replace it free of charge ONE time.  It was up to her to buy a protective case….

This video shows protective cases from a parents perspecitve.  I like that this mom has the cases there, shows the front, back, ports, etc., and points out the features that work and don’t work with small children.  It’s worth a look if your child is using your iPad.   Once you have listened to this review there are plenty of others on YouTube to help you select something that will protect your iPad from damage.