This illness is now considered the most common childhood behavior disorder with a six-fold increase in boys over girls. Children with this condition become at advanced risk for gambling, depression, anxiety and eating disorders. –innersourcehealth.com/docs/ADHD
Within nutritional communities, a particularly large amount of energy is diverted into exploring how diet affects the symptoms of ADHD, in an effort to lessen the holistic impact of the disorder.
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or ADHD, is one of the most prevalent psychiatric conditions in childhood, with a six-fold increase in boys over girls. The United States claims the greatest prevalence of ADHD over any other nation. Children with this condition become at advanced risk for gambling, depression, anxiety and eating disorders. –innersourcehealth.com/docs/ADHD
Dietary changes have been suggested as a way of reducing the symptoms of ADHD. A total of 52 studies were identified, some investigating whether ADHD symptoms can improve by avoiding certain food elements (20 studies), and some whether certain food elements may reduce ADHD symptoms (32 studies). The conclusion of this study postulated that elimination diets and fish oil supplementation seem to be the most promising dietary interventions for a reduction in ADHD symptoms in children. (Diet in the treatment of ADHD in children—A systematic review of the literature, Maren Johanne Heilskov Rytter et al).
But what if the symptoms of ADHD was connected to a larger, undiagnosed problem? Take for instance the work of “Paula Tallal at Rutgers, her research has shown that somewhere between 5 and 10 percent of preschool children have a language disability that makes it difficult for them to read, write or even follow instructions. Sometimes these children were called dyslexic. [Her] research showed that children with language disabilities have auditory processing problems with common consonant-vowel combinations that are spoken quickly. Merzenich [professor emeritus neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco] believed that these children’s auditory cortex neurons were firing too slowly, so they couldn’t distinguish between two very similar sounds or be certain if two sounds occurred close together, which was first and which was second.
Normally neurons, after they have processed a sound, are ready to fire again after about a 30-millisecond rest. [However] eighty percent of language-impaired children took at least three times that long…when their neuron-firing patterns were examined, the signals weren’t clear. They were muddy in, muddy out says Merzenich. Improper hearing led to weaknesses in all the language tasks, so they were weak in vocabulary, comprehension, speech, reading and writing.” (The Brain that Changes Itself, Norman Doidge)
The American Medical community describes ADHD as a chronic condition, whose symptoms includes attention difficulty, delayed processing abilities, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. ADHD can’t be cured, but treatment may help. Treatments include medication (such as stimulants, cognition-enhancing medication, antihypertensive drugs) and talk therapy. (Google Statistics ADHD). Given that ritalin and adderall are the most prevalent prescriptions prescribed to American students diagnosed with ADHD, it would be useful to take a closer look at the symptoms of administering these drugs to our children.
Ritalin (methylphenidate) is a central nervous system stimulant. It affects chemicals in the brain and nerves that contribute to hyperactivity and impulse control. Ritalin is used to treat attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and narcolepsy.
Some stimulants have caused sudden death in certain people. Tell your doctor if you have:
•heart problems or a congenital heart defect;
•high blood pressure; or
•a family history of heart disease or sudden death
Ritalin (methylphenidate) may impair your thinking or reactions, and affect growth in children. Tell your doctor if your child is not growing at a normal rate while using this medicine. Methylphenidate may be habit forming. Never share this medicine with another person, especially someone with a history of drug abuse or addiction. Using Ritalin improperly can cause death or serious side effects on the heart. (drugs.com)
Adderall contains a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. Amphetamine and dextroamphetamine are central nervous system stimulants that affect chemicals in the brain and nerves that contribute to hyperactivity and impulse control. Adderall is used to treat narcolepsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Adderall can affect growth in children. Tell your doctor if your child is not growing at a normal rate while using this medicine. Common side effects include: stomach pain, loss of appetite, weight loss, mood changes, feeling nervous, fast heart rate, headache, dizziness and sleep problems, such as insomnia. (drugs.com)
But what if we approached the treatment of ADHD from a more humanistic perspective? For one, the introduction of foreign microbes into our bodies, without fully understanding its holistic impact, should be frowned upon. Also, exposing children to the habit of relying on pills as a way to regain control of themselves should send alarming signals to every responsible adult. Fortunately, alternatives are available.
In some cases, people who have had a lifetime of cognitive difficulties get better after only thirty to sixty hours of treatment. Neurologists have identified more humanistic alternatives to decrease these neuronal disabilities. Fast ForWord, a brain exercising program, designed as a children’s game could be an ideal option to explore. What is amazing about it is how quickly the change occurs.
Breakthrough discoveries on temporal processing, or the length of time something should take, may have a golden solution. You cant move properly, perceive properly, or predict properly, if you cant determine how long events last. Merzenich discovered that when you train people to distinguish very fast vibrations on their skin, lasting only 75 milliseconds, these same people could detect 75-millisecond sounds as well. In 1996 Merzenich, Paula Tallal, Bill Jenkins and Steve Miller created a program called Fast ForWord. The program exercises brain function involved in language from decoding sounds up to comprehension—a kind of cerebral cross-training [especially important training for students who struggle with staying attentive.]
The children who did Fast ForWord made significant progress on standard speech, language, and auditory-processing tests, ended up with normal or better-than-normal language scores, and kept their gains when re-tested six weeks after training. They improved far more than children in the control group. (The Brain that Changes Itself, Norman Doidge).
Naturopathic Therapies for ADHD
Clinical Case: Joshua
Joshua was a 8 year-old, diagnosed with ADHD and placed on Ritalin. Unlike some kids with ADHD, Joshua did well academically, but acted very restless in school which was getting him in trouble with the teachers. He also struggled with being a bit recluse from peer relationships, suffered from insomnia, had frequent colds, and had some digestive problems. The Ritalin had helped his symptoms, but when his mother discontinued the medication about four months prior, Joshua’s moody symptoms returned.
After a one-hour first visit with Joshua and his mom, we recommended a regular schedule of protein-based small frequent meals as opposed to less-frequent larger meals, to help increase food intake and balance blood sugar. [We recommended the] avoidance of juice and milk products and that he continued his behavioral therapy. We also recommended counseling for the parents to help them learn how to work together when addressing Joshua care for best consistency. We stressed the need for consistent ritual around bedtime.
Joshua was placed on essential fatty acids (mainly found in nuts such as almonds, cashew and walnuts), a multiple vitamin, bacopa, melatonin in the evening, and recommended child-specific probiotics for his digestive issues. In one month, Joshua’s digestive symptoms and colds had cleared. In four months, we began to work with his prescribing doctor to wean off his medications, at which point we increased his bacopa. Joshua remained off the medication for two months with no regression in his symptoms, so we began the process of decreasing the bacopa, and continued monitoring of his diet, food schedule, environment and other nutrients status. (Pina LoGiudice ND, LAc|Peter Bongiorno ND, LAc — New York Association of Naturopathic Physicians)
Botanical remedies, known as herbs, have been used in children’s care for hundreds of years, if not millennia. One study of St. John’s wort, found this herb, traditionally used in depression, as safe, but ineffective for symptoms of ADHD in children.This study was an eight-week trial, which may not have been enough time to truly allow St. John’s wort to fully take effect. With other natural recommendations, St. John’s wort may still be a reasonable addition, but longer term study is needed.
Another double blind study at a medical school in India revealed benefit after 12 weeks of using the botanical medicine Bacopa monnieri in regards to sentence repetition, logical memory and learning tasks. The children were still found [to have sustain their] improv[ement], four weeks after the herb had been discontinued. Bacopa did not show any side effects.
Other nutrients that have been studied with some preliminary positive results include the amino acid L-carnitine, pycnogenol, and the herb ginkgo. Other herbs can be used for symptomatic help commonly associated with ADHD, such as California poppy for anxiety, or chamomile for digestive issues.
Summary of Naturopathic Therapies for ADHD
1 – Diet: low sugar, higher protein, chemical-free, consider food sensitivities and salicylate free foods, assure adequate water intake
2 – Sleep: consistent early bedtimes
3 – Exercise: every day
4 – Environment: identify home-life conflict, limit TV and video
5 – Essential Fatty Acids: tree nuts
6 – Herbal Remedies: Bacopa
Food is medication. So when we eat, we either heal or harm ourselves. Unfortunately, an unprecedented amount of students are told each year that their behavior is symptomatic of ADHD. What that label does to a child physiologically, is still being grappled with. However, members of the medical community are fully aware of the physical impact of ADHD in children. And, (to what some might consider to be as a valiant effort) amphetamines are simply not the most viable solution.
If our goal, as stewards of the American experience, is to encourage and facilitate a healthy and invigorating future for all our children, then it is important that we heal students diagnosed with ADHD, holistically. And we start that road to recovery by encouraging them to develop healthier relationships with their food. We educate ourselves, so we could express to them that food is their ultimate source of health and wellbeing. Not prescription pills, which are highly addicting and detrimental to their health.
ADHD has been on the rise in America since the 80s. The prescription tablets first approach has not worked for our students/children. This article has provided a pathway forward into curing the dis-ease. Not treat the symptoms. It is time we decreased our children dependency on pills.