It's a parent's worst nightmare. One day your child is a fully functional human being — perhaps a straight-A student, a budding virtuoso, or a ringer on the soccer field. Then things start to change, maybe gradually, or perhaps all at once. Your child becomes withdrawn, irritable, shows OCD characteristics, has separation anxiety, or develops verbal or motor tics. They may become entirely dysfunctional virtually overnight.
This is a tragic reality for some parents. When they reach this point, many start searching in desperation for answers. Doctor visits, lab tests, medical device assessments — with what end result? A diagnosis, perhaps. PANS. PANDAS. Maybe autism.
And now, the real work begins — finding viable treatments for a health "syndrome" (not an actual disease but a collection of symptoms). All with the goal to help your child regain a normal life.
What Are PANS and PANDAS?
PANS: Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome
PANDAS: Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections
These are two similar conditions in children. They involve neuropsychiatric changes triggered by toxins and infections. The onset of PANS and PANDAS differ. PANDAS typically manifests after the child recovers from a Group A Streptococcal (GAS) infection. PANS refers to PANDAS-like cases where you cannot blame strep for causing the symptoms. (1)
Other microbes or toxins implicated in PANS include: (2, 3)
There can also be environmental triggers to PANS and PANDAS, such as: (3)
PANDAS Network estimates that PANS/PANDAS affects about 1 in 200 children. And boys are 2.5 to 4.7 times more likely than girls to develop PANS/PANDAS. (4, 5)
Signs and Symptoms of PANS and PANDAS
While the onset of both conditions comes from different causes, they present the same way clinically. Healthy, fully-functioning youngsters experience rapid transformation and decline. Many of the PANS and PANDAS symptoms manifest over several days or weeks. These include the following: (6)
- Behavioral regression
- Eating disorders
- Frequent urination
- Involuntary body movements
- Mood swings
- Motor tics
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Rage outbursts
- Rapid academic decline (math and handwriting skills)
- Sensory hypersensitivity or insensitivity
- Separation anxiety
- Sleep disorders
- Suicidal ideation
- Urinary issues
These criteria typically result in a clinical diagnosis of PANS and PANDAS: (4, 7)
- An association with strep infection (PANDAS)
- An abrupt onset of symptoms or a flare-up of symptoms, followed by a period of recovery, then relapse
- Neuropsychiatric symptoms (including anxiety, depression, eating disorders, OCD behavior, tics, uncontrolled anger, etc.)
- Onset that occurs before puberty
Autoimmune and Inflammatory Involvement
PANS and PANDAS are autoimmune conditions that disrupt a child's normal neurologic functioning. In these children, the immune system functions abnormally and produces autoantibodies. These attack not only the invading microbes but healthy "receptors" and other targets in the brain. This misguided attack results in brain inflammation and an abrupt onset of symptoms. (4, 8, 9)
These syndromes are further associated with "molecular mimicry." Basically, the immune system "sees" similarities between normal body tissues and a particular molecule on an infectious agent. It then mistakenly attacks the body tissues. (9)
In PANS and PANDAS, it is thought that a mimicry-type response occurs. It causes antibodies to attack a brain region called the basal ganglia. This area presides over behavior and movement. (9)
Because of the neuropsychiatric symptoms, children with PANS and PANDAS are often misdiagnosed as having a psychiatric illness. That often leads to psychiatric drug treatments to manage symptoms. But this won't address the root cause — the infection-triggered autoimmune inflammatory condition. (9)
A Foundational Approach to Healing
For kids with PANDAS, it’s fair to say strep infection alone isn’t the culprit. More than likely, strep infection is the straw that broke the camel’s back. (8)
What we see are kids with overflowing buckets. There are too many pathogenic and toxic threats coming at them daily. Their small bodies cannot handle the onslaught.
Bacteria, environmental chemicals, glyphosate in food and water, EMFs, heavy metals, mold toxins, nutrient-depleted food, parasites, radioactive elements, and pathogens—these challenges and more overburden their developing bodies.
Then, when exposed to infections, the kids crash. Bodies weakened from the unhealthy internal and external environment cannot keep opportunistic infections at bay.
In short, toxicity in the body plays a critical role in triggering these syndromes. So with that in mind, clearing toxins and restoring the body’s foundation can help return the body to a balanced state.
A foundational approach to addressing PANS and PANDAS includes:
- Eliminating the underlying infectious agent
- Controlling the overactive immune response that triggers inflammation and neuropsychiatric symptoms.
Opening the child’s drainage pathways and bolstering the body with herbs, binders, and nutritional support are important first steps. This approach would look something like this: (4, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14)
Anti-inflammatory herbs — Since inflammation can trigger neurological problems in the brain, anti-inflammatory herbs play an important role in healing.
Broad-spectrum minerals — Those with PANS/PANDAS could use essential minerals to support their nutrient-depleted bodies.
Binders — These bind pathogens and toxins, clears them from the body, and provides additional support on the way out.
Herbs for constipation — Many times, overburdened bodies cannot remove toxins and pathogens because of clogged drainage pathways. If toxic threats aren’t exiting the brain, colon, kidneys, liver and bile duct, and lymphatic system, they back up and poison the body further. Certain herbs can help open drainage pathways for effective detox.
Mitochondrial support— PANS and PANDAS kids often have weakened mitochondria. This causes fatigue and compromised immune defense.
Oxygen support — For cells, organs, and tissues to properly function, the body needs oxygen. This is a fundamental area of health.
Once you lower the pathogenic threats, toxic body burden, and inflammation, the immune system can self-regulate and regain its healthy function. Then it can perform the job it was designed to do — supporting and protecting your child.