Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

a child playing with a puzzle

Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is defined as a mental disorder primarily characterized by a “persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that is more frequent and severe than is typically observed in individuals at a comparable level of development.” Whatever the original cause, it must currently be considered a manifestation of behavioral, psychological, or biological dysfunction of the individual.

Considered an epidemic throughout the United States, ADHD is the most common behavioral disorder in children. The prevalence of ADHD diagnosis has been increasing over the last 15 years. It is estimated that 3-10 percent of American school children have been diagnosed with the disorder (more than 6 million). This may be due to an absolute increase in the number of children with the disorder, and increase in screening, or changes in social tolerance of certain childhood behaviors. ADHD is three to ten times more common in males than females.

The American Psychiatric Association has described ADHD as a disorder whose main features include “hyperactivity, impulsiveness and the inability to sustain attention or concentration.” There are 3 types: ADD (attention deficit disorder), ADHD (primarily a hyperactive/impulsive type), and ADHD-Combined Type (both inattentive and hyperactive). It is best to approach the treatment of ADHD naturally, recognizing three common problems: poor diet, allergies (environmental and food allergies), and lack of beneficial supplementation.

ADHD begins in childhood and often persists into adulthood. The exact etiology is unknown, but major etiologic contributors include adverse responses to food additives; intolerance to foods; sensitivity to environmental chemicals, molds, and fungi; and exposure to neuro-developmental toxins such as heavy metals and industrial pollutants.

Most children with this disorder have serious sugar-intake problems. Sugar depletes chromium from the brain, causing violent tendencies. Americans eat more sugar per person than the citizens of any other country in the world. Most children are nutrient deficient, especially with minerals, B-complex vitamins, flavonoids, omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids, and phosphatidylserine (PS). Chromium is a normal mineral that used to be in our soil, and therefore our food (i.e., nuts). But massive over-use of our land by corporate farms over the past 200 years has resulted in few minerals being added back into the soil.

Symptoms

  1. There is abnormal or persistent inattention for at least six months.
  2. It must be established if the symptoms were present before the age of seven.
  3. These symptoms must be present in two settings, usually at school (at work if an adult) and at home.
  4. There must be clear evidence of “clinically significant impairment in social, academic, or occupational functioning.”
  5. The symptoms must not be secondary to another disorder (i.e., Tourette’s, depression, head trauma, anxiety, autism) or family changes (i.e., divorce, separation).

Risks

A number of primary and secondary mechanisms have been proposed as causes of or influences on ADD/ADHD. These include:

  1. Possible brain dysfunction, ranging from information-transfer problems to brain chemistry-neurotransmitter deficits.
  2. Genetic influences.
  3. Environmental toxins and metal pollutants (i.e., lead, copper, arsenic, cadmium, aluminum, alcohol and cigarette smoking).
  4. Contaminants such as dust, molds, indoor chemicals, radon, sewage, pesticides and/or noxious odors.
  5. Food additives, artificial flavorings (aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, MSG), dyes and colorings.
  6. Food allergies.
  7. Nutrient depletions with low-protein and high refined-carbohydrate diets, as well as essential fatty-acid and phospholipid deficiencies.
  8. Amino-acid deficiencies.
  9. Thyroid dysfunction.

Diet

Healthy foods, fresh air, water, and adequate rest are the key ingredients for health, especially for our children.  Despite the abundance of food in our society, nutritional deficiencies are common. Kids with ADHD should include more fruits and vegetables in their diets.  Other healthy foods include whole grains (bread, cereal, and crackers that contain only rice or oats), complex carbohydrates like brown rice, millet or buckwheat. Foods to be avoided include those with simple carbohydrates, such as sugar-laced breakfast cereals, pasta, pastries and rice cakes.

Avoid sugar consumption

In the United States 150 pounds of sugar are consumed each year by our young people, up to 50 percent of their diet. This is the #1 problem with ADHD. Statistics prove that 70% of ADHD kids improve when sugar intake is seriously reduced! Sugar derived from glucose, fructose, sucrose, honey, or orange juice causes an inability of white blood cells to destroy bacteria, adding to a suppressed immune system.  It is also believed that the consumption of sugar is linked to mineral imbalance, obesity, food allergies, asthma, tooth decay, eczema and headaches.

Avoid artificial sweeteners

Perhaps even worse than the over consumption of sugar is the ingestion of artificial sweeteners, especially aspartame (Nutrasweet, Equal).  Aspartame may be a neuro-toxin and should strictly be avoided in children.  Other artificial sweeteners such as saccharin, MSG and Splenda should also be avoided.  Also severely limit consumption of all sodas and soft drinks which contain phosphates. Avoid other food additives (artificial food colorings, flavorings and preservatives) as well as salicylates that occur naturally in some foods (mainly junk foods.)

Look for food allergens

Since food allergies are so common among children (80% of ADHD kids may have them) it is critical to eliminate and desensitize foods that may induce allergic responses. It is best to try and utilize the FOOD ELIMINATION DIET. Start with the elimination of dairy foods (including milk, cheese, yogurt, and/or ice cream) for 2-3 weeks. Reintroduce whole foods, such as whole grains, fish, citrus, vegetables, and poultry. Dairy foods have been known to cause behavioral problems in some ADD/ADHD sufferers. Other common food allergens may include wheat, nuts, eggs, and soy. If bedwetting is a problem, it can be caused by milk or gluten allergies or excess fruit juices.

Add quality protein to the diet

Consumption of additional protein may be indicated if hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) is a problem. There are good reasons why protein should be part of the child’s diet (like the addition of amino acids.) Protein, like fat, helps satisfy hunger pangs in addition to its role in providing essential nutrients. Healthy protein snacks include bean dips, hummus, low-fat string cheese, egg salad, smoked salmon and a hard-boiled egg. Protein bars (soy, whey or rice) are also acceptable snacks.

Add healthy fats to the diet

Healthy fats are critical for our overall physical and mental well-being. Plus, they may make our hunger pangs feel satisfied. Healthy fats include omega-3 fatty acids (found in cod-liver oil, wild salmon, walnuts and flax oil) and monounsaturated fatty acids (found in avocados and olives). Some healthy-choice vegetable oils include extra virgin olive oil and unrefined sesame oil. Limit consumption of soy, safflower, canola and corn oils. The Feingold Diet has been a well established dietary approach by the medical community for ADHD children.

examples of foods from the feingold diet as described in the caption
Almonds, apples, plums and raisins are all examples of foods recommended by the Feingold Diet.

Problems with Prescription Drugs

  1. The prescription medicine RITALIN may have serious long-term side effects, including decreased appetite, weight loss, insomnia, slowed growth, increased heart rate and blood pressure, and periods of increased irritability. Other prescription drugs such as DEXEDRINE, CYLERT and ADDERALL can possibly cause periods of anger and aggression, and should be used as a last resort.
  2. Abnormalities in the brain circuitry and possible hypo-functioning of dopaminergic pathways are apparent in ADHD, and are consistent with the use of methylphenidate (RITALIN) and other potent psycho-stimulants. Because of the ongoing controversy over using psychotropic drugs on ADHD children for long periods, it is imperative that some alternative methods are incorporated into a well-balanced treatment protocol.
  3. NOTE: Psycho-stimulant medications are generally the first choice in medicating ADHD patients. Approximately 70 percent of children treated show improvement in primary ADHD symptoms and in conduct disorder.
  4. Some subjects are prone to abusing stimulants or may suffer from clinical depression or anxiety. The antidepressant drugs PROZAC and WELLBUTRIN are being used with increasing frequency. Withdrawal from these drugs has been linked to increased violence and other disastrous outcomes.
  5. The non-narcotic drug STRATERRA (Atomoxetine) has recently been associated with an increased risk for agitation, irritability, unusual changes in behavior, depression and suicidal thoughts. This drug should be closely monitored by the physician and healthcare providers. Dose changes may be indicated.

Alternative Therapies

  1. BIOFEEDBACK
    Biofeedback has been shown to help ADD children focus, think, and improve their behavior.
  2. DIET
    Eat organic when possible; avoid pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, and growth hormones.
  3. RECOGNIZE FOOD ALLERGIES
    A large percentage of ADD kids have food allergies. Sugar and food additives are suspect.
  4. ELIMINATE ASPARTAME
    This substance may be disruptive to the brain and can cause headache and irritability.
  5. DETOXIFICATION
    Cleansing the body may be beneficial, as are exercise, sweating, saunas, and hot baths. A hair or urine analysis could rule out heavy metal intoxication. Lead, copper, mercury, arsenic, and other heavy metals have been linked to behavioral problems.
  6. IVA/CPT DIAGNOSTIC TEST
    This test sets composite quotient scales on prudence, consistency, stamina, vigilance, focus, and speed.

Supplement Protocol

  1. OMEGA-3 AND OMEGA-6 ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS (ESPECIALLY DHA)
    The omega-3 fatty acids play a specific role in brain development and the regeneration of nerve cells. They also reduce brain inflammation and protect the vascular system. EFAs are often deficient in ADD/ADHD kids and can cause neurological abnormalities as well as a weak immune system. Docosahexaenoic (DHA) is an essential nutrient for infants, children, and teens to maintain cellular fluidity and support memory, focus, cognition and emotional well-being. DHA aids in proper fetal development, making it especially useful for expectant mothers and nursing women. Our BioResonance Therapeutics Biomega-3 contains Omega-3, DHA and and EPA.
    Dosage: DHA 100-300 mg daily; EPA 75-300 mg daily, as directed by a qualified health practitioner. Flaxseed (linolenic acid) can be substituted for children who will not take fish oils. Dosage: As directed per age. In some cases the oil may be squeezed from the capsule and rubbed into the palms of babies and young children. American boys store three times less omega-3 and omega-6 essential fats than girls.
  2. MULTIPLE VITAMIN-MINERAL FORMULA
    Dietary supplementation can improve academic performance in healthy school-aged children. Nutrients are needed for body equilibrium.  Dosage: As directed on label.
  3. B-COMPLEX VITAMINS
    B vitamins are needed to correct brain function and digestion. They also enhance adrenal gland function (for stress), regulate neurotransmitters, and aid in processing carbohydrates for energy. Dosage: 25-50mg up to three times a day. Extra supplementation with niacin (100 mg), folic acid, and pantothenic acid (B5) is needed during times of stress.
  4. MAGNESIUM and CALCIUM
    Magnesium/calcium levels tend to be low in ADHD children. Magnesium supplementation is especially useful for sleep disturbances and for calming all parts of the body. Dosage: 100 mg daily for younger children, 200-400 mg for older. Magnesium was deficient in 95% of children examined and supplementation may significantly decrease their hyperactivity. Low calcium/magnesium levels may be revealed through hair analysis. Use liquid calcium/magnesium for kids.
  5. VITAMIN B6 (PYRIDOXINE)
    This vitamin might help ameliorate hyperactivity, as indicated from widespread physician experience. B6 is an essential cofactor for a majority of metabolic pathways of amino acids, including normalizing serotonin and dopamine. Dosage: 10-20 mg a day.
  6. ATTEND (homeopathic formula)
    Attend is a nutrient combination designed to address the specific dietary and neuro-chemical deficiencies that occur in people with ADD/ADHD. It also contains KAVA, CHAMOMILE, PASSION FLOWER, CATNIP, and THYME.  Dosage: As directed on package.
  7. PYCNOGENOL or GRAPESEED EXTRACT
    These are powerful antioxidants offering cellular protection for the body and brain. Some exciting research on positive effects is being done in Canada. Dosage: Up to 50 mg 3 times a day.
  8. CHROMIUM PICOLONATE
    This is needed for the metabolism of glucose and the production of energy. Nearly 74% of ADD/ADHD kids have some type of glucose disorder. When blood sugar drops, activity is increased. Excessive sugar intake significantly depletes chromium.  Dosage: 100-500 mcg daily.
  9. VITAMIN C (with QUERCETIN)
    Vitamin C is effective for allergy treatment, for blocking histamines, and for nerve-transmitting substances and hormones. Vitamin C is helpful to support the immune system.  It is a cofactor for the synthesis of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, imbalances of which are linked to ADHD. Vitamin C is depleted during times of stress, and when supplemented with antibiotic use, it may be associated with a 3 to 15-fold rise in blood levels of the antibiotic. Dosage: child: 250-500 mg daily; teenager or adult: 500-1,000 mg daily.
  10. GABA
    GABA is an amino acid that relaxes the body in much the same way as some tranquilizers, without the side effects. It decreases hyperactivity, as well as learning disabilities, mental retardation, and tendencies toward violence. Dosage: As directed by a qualified practitioner.
  11. ZINC
    Low blood levels of zinc strongly correlate to ADHD patients, and urinary zinc clearance can be lower than what is generally considered normal. This may be due to poor intake and absorption. Dosage: 5-35 mg daily, as directed.
  12. TYROSINE
    An amino acid, tyrosine is the precursor to dopamine and norepinephrine. Dosage: As directed by a qualified practitioner.
  13. COENZYME Q10
    Coenzyme Q10 has been used to help support the immune system and detoxify many dangerous substances. It can also ease depression and fatigue, and improve energy and mental processes. Dosage: 10-100 mg daily.
  14. PHOSPHATIDYLSERINE (PS)
    A phospholipid substance and major building block of nerve cells in the brain, PS raises brain energy, integrates electrical activity across brain zones, improves mood, and restores hormones out of rhythm. PS can have a stimulant-type action in an ADHD brain. With few side effects, it has been moderately successful in the treatment of ADHD and other brain functions. Dosage: 100-400 mg daily.
  15. PROBIOTIC SUPPORT (ACIDOPHILUS, BIFUDIS)
    It is estimated that 75% of children may have leaky gut syndrome. If intestinal parasites are found, they should be eliminated. Add fiber (oat bran and guar gum). Dosage: As directed on package for children.
  16. IRON
    This is the most common of all nutrient deficiencies in U.S. school-aged children. Low levels of iron are associated with markedly decreased attentiveness, narrower attention span, decreased persistence, and lower activity levels. Low iron could also be a factor in the regulation of dopamine, a neurotransmitter synthesized by the adrenal gland and implicated in some forms of psychosis. Most students reacted positively to supplementation. Dosage: Five mg per kg of body weight of iron for 30 days has improved patients.
  17. GINKGO BILOBA and other HERBS
    Ginkgo supplementation may improve brain function and concentration. Other herbs that contain “salicylates,” which are anti-inflammatory and relax the central nervous system include BIRCH, WILLOW, PEPPERMINT, CRAMP BARK, and MEADOWSWEET.  Dosage: As directed on package.
  18. BOCOPA
    An Indian herb that boosts brain function, bocopa reduces anxiety and is useful in treating ADHD. One Indian study examined bocopa’s effects on 8-10 year-old children with ADHD. After 12 weeks, those who used the herb performed significantly better on learning tests than the placebo group. Dosage: See a qualified practitioner.
  19. SEROTONIN
    ADHD may affect serotonin levels, as lower blood levels appear in children with hyperactivity and aggression. Supplementation with 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), a serotonin precursor, may help more severe ADHD symptoms.  Dosage: Under the supervision of a qualified practitioner.
  20. COLLOIDAL MINERALS
    Colloidal minerals, especially zinc, help to treat cooper toxicity.

 

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