Although many parents expect their children may catch strep throat in their life, most are not aware that this can lead to neuropsychiatric symptoms in some children such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, food restriction, insomnia, anxiety and oppositional behavior. Streptococcus bacteria are known to cause autoimmune reactions that can damage the heart or joints, also called rheumatic fever. Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections, also referred to as PANDAS, is a post-strep autoimmune response, in which antibodies produced to fight the infection attack a child’s brain and cause sudden onset psychiatric symptoms. Children’s personalities can change overnight. The criteria has been redefined to what is now called Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome (PANS) to include similar symptoms resulting from other infections such as Mycoplasma, Lyme, Bartonella, and viral infections.
A recently published Danish study followed 1 million children, and showed a link between exposure to strep and other infections, with an increased risk of mental disorders, OCDs and tics. Children with strep through infections were found to be at the highest risk, however the increased risk from any infection supports the PANDAS and PANS theory.
Treatment of PANDAS/PANS involves not only treating the infection, but also treating the autoimmune reaction caused by the infection. Treatment of the infection may require antibiotics or herbal antimicrobials depending on the original infection. Naturopathic medicine has excellent tools for regulating the immune system and repairing neurological damage caused by the autoantibodies. Specialized diets, naturopathic herbal medications, and certain vitamins and minerals help to decrease inflammation and regulate the immune response. Antioxidants, such as glutathione and alpha-lipoic acid can also help to repair neurological damage. Amino acids can support neurotransmitter production to help with mood, sleep and behavior.
A special thanks to Calgary PANDAS/PANS families for organizing a recent information evening on PANDAS/PANS. The event included a PANDAS documentary screening, families sharing their own stories of how PANDAS/PANS has affected their lives, and a panel discussion with Dr. Meghan Haggarty, Naturopath and other PANDAS experts on advocacy, research, and the treatment of PANDAS/PANS. Increased awareness of this disease can help other families to get the help they need and deserve. Dr. Haggarty, Naturopath is available for group talks on PANDAS/PANS. Please contact our office to have Dr. Haggarty, Naturopath speak at your engagement.