Attention Deﬁcit Hyperactivity Disorder
Attention deﬁcit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is deﬁned as age-inappropriate impulsiveness, lack of concentration, and sometimes-excessive physical activity. This condition is associated with learning difﬁculties and a lack of social skills. Because there is no laboratory or physical test that diagnoses ADHD, its diagnosis is based on a clinical history of symptoms and behavior. Since it is a subjective diag- nosis, it brings up controversy as to whether the behavior is actually normal in many cases, especially for younger boys. There are three subtypes of ADHD, one of which mainly involves an attention problem and not a hyperactivity issue. Between 30 and
40 percent of children with ADHD have learning disabilities, although in many cases these children are quite bright. ADHD often goes undiagnosed, if not caught at an early age, and it affects many adults who may not be aware of their condition.
Many parents instinctively believe that the problem is connected to their children’s diet. They know that children can respond negatively to sugar or other foods, and they wonder if their child is simply suffering from an extreme version of this reaction. In most cases, these parents are absolutely correct. In the last few decades, sugars, preser- vatives, and colorings have been added to our food at an increasing rate. Too many chil- dren consume nothing but convenience foods, like hot dogs, fried chicken ﬁngers, and highly sweetened fruit drinks and sodas. Since children’s small bodies are especially vulnerable to additives in these foods, it is not surprising that many of them have a toxic response. For some, the response takes the form of traditional allergies—say, a runny nose or hives. For others, however, the poisons surface as extreme behavior problems.
Unfortunately, Western doctors have been trained to discount the importance of diet in hyperactive kids. Instead of nutritional therapy, they will often suggest medication to suppress the symptoms of ADHD: it is estimated that more than two million chil- dren take drugs like Ritalin on a daily basis. While medications may be necessary in a few cases, parents should cultivate a healthy wariness of giving them to their children. The long-term effects of ADHD medications are not yet well known, and there are signs that the drugs can retard growth and lead to substance abuse or emotional problems later in life. Teens who take Ritalin may be tempted to mix it with alcohol, marijuana, or other recreational drugs, creating a dangerous brew with unknown consequences. And as with many conventional prescription drugs, the most compelling argument against ADHD drugs is that they fail to address the cause of the problem. Without the underlying cause being treated, children may have to take Ritalin well into their twenties.
There are many underlying reasons why a child may have attention or behavior problems. Studies show that frequent ear infections and the regular use of antibiotics, as well as premature birth and family history, are associated with a greater likelihood
of developing this disorder. Holistically speaking, causative factors include food addi- tives and food allergies, environmental allergens, and heavy metal toxicity (such as lead, mercury, and aluminum). A poorly functioning digestive system and increased intes- tinal permeability lead to an increase in metabolic toxins that disrupt brain chemistry. Nutritional deﬁciencies of essential fatty acids, B vitamins, magnesium and other min- erals, and iron appear to play a role. Finally, do not underestimate the role of emotional stress and its relationship to ADHD. The breakdown of the family unit in our culture places abnormal stresses on a child, which can result in attention and behavior changes.
If your child has ADHD, try the home-care suggestions here for at least a month and optimally for three months. Some children settle down to a normal level of activ- ity after just a few days without troublesome foods; others will need three or four weeks before the toxins are out of their bodies. Buying and preparing natural foods can be a challenge for busy parents, but your perseverance will be rewarded with a healthier child and a stronger family. Nutritional supplements can work extremely well for most children to correct underlying biochemical imbalances.
• Inability to sit still
• Mood swings
• Short attention span
• Inability to concentrate
• Frequent tantrums
• Poor coordination and motor skills
• Impaired memory
• Failure to complete age-appropriate tasks
• Speech or learning disorders
• A diet that’s high in sugar and additives
• Food allergies/sensitivities
• Nutritional deﬁciencies
• Poor digestion and absorption
• Heavy metal poisoning
• Emotional stresses
The following tests can give you an assessment of possible metabolic reasons for ADHD:
Food allergy/sensitivity testing—blood, electrodermal testing (see the
Food Allergies section for more details) Vitamin and mineral analysis—blood Candida and ﬂora balance—stool analysis Toxic metals—hair or urine analysis Intestinal permeability—urine
Blood-sugar levels—fasting blood test Essential fatty-acid levels—fasting blood test Amino acid levels—urine or fasting blood test
Nutritional therapy should be an important component of the treatment of ADHD. The strategies described here will improve behavior and promote age-appropriate concen- tration and stability, and they will also help keep your child free of many other diet- related disorders. The same general recommendations hold true for adults with this condition.
The best way to ensure that your child eats an additive-free diet is to buy only fresh foods and prepare them yourself. You don’t need to prepare special meals for your child; instead, feed your entire family a whole-foods diet. Younger children will usu- ally eat what everyone else is eating, especially if you can reserve a small portion for them before you season the meal to the taste of adult palates.
B vitamins are healing to stressed-out nerves.
Healthful Bean Dip
Let your kids dip to their hearts’ content.
Black beans, cooked
Juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon cumin
1⁄4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1⁄2 clove of minced garlic (optional) Combine the previous ingredients
(leave out the garlic, if you like) in a
food processor, and whirl until the con- sistency is smooth. For a fancy presenta- tion and added nutrition, garnish with chopped tomato.
sources include brown rice, brewer’s yeast (which you can add to smoothies and yogurt), and leafy green vegetables.
Many children with ADHD suffer from an excess of cop- per or lead. Food that’s high in vitamin C will encourage the release of these toxins from the body, so feed your child cit- rus fruits for dessert.
Iron def iciency is linked to short attention spans and memory problems. If a blood test ﬁnds an iron deﬁciency, a daily tablespoon of unsulfured blackstrap molasses is a nat- urally sweet way to give your child an adequate amount of this mineral.
Tryptophan encourages the production of serotonin, a chemical that produces a sense of calm. Incorporate soy products, live unsweetened yogurt, whole grains, and organic turkey and chicken into meals and snacks. If your child has trouble sleeping, be sure to include some of these foods at dinner, and try a snack of turkey or chicken on whole-grain crackers before bedtime.
Anyone with food sensitivities should drink lots of clean water. Children over ten years of age should have a glass every two waking hours; children ten and under should drink half this amount.
Make sure to keep blood-sugar levels balanced by avoiding simple sugars and reﬁned carbohydrates and providing adequate protein with meals (nuts, legumes, lean poultry, and ﬁsh). Also, as much as possible include vegetables with meals, as they slow down blood sugar release. Eating smaller, more frequent meals and snacks (every two to three hours) works well. Make sure that breakfast is not skipped, as it sets the biochemical balance for the rest of the day.
Regularly serve brain-healthy foods that are rich in essential fatty acids. Examples include ﬁsh (trout, salmon, halibut), nuts (walnuts, almonds), and ground ﬂaxseeds (1 to 2 teaspoons for children and 1 to 2 tablespoons for adults).
Food to Avoid
If your child suffers from ADHD, it’s likely that he or she is allergic to at least one food product, if not several. Read the Food Allergies section in this book, and follow
the elimination diet and testing techniques to determine which foods may be caus- ing behavior problems. You may already suspect that a certain food is a trigger for your child, and you should target that product right away. You should also closely exam- ine your child’s consumption of the following, all of which are common allergens: wheat, dairy, corn, chocolate, peanuts, citrus, soy, food coloring, and preservatives.
• Do not feed your child anything with artiﬁcial colors, ﬂavors, or preservatives. This means you’ll have to eliminate fast food, as well as all junk and processed food. If you must buy canned or frozen products, read the labels carefully.
Even items advertised as “all natural” may contain small amounts of additives.
• Sugar is famous for making children hyper, and, in fact, excess sucrose often leads to hypoglycemia, a factor in ADHD. Obviously, candy, sodas, and sweets are out of the question, but so are most store-bought fruit juices, which usually contain added sugar, and products made with white ﬂour. If your child has
been eating large quantities of reﬁned sugar, you may see a dramatic difference in his or her behavior within just a few days of eliminating it.
Teenagers may want to try a short juice fast to cleanse their bodies of toxins and pre- pare themselves for their new diets. Don’t force a teen to fast, however, as you may set the stage for a future eating disorder. Never put a child on a fasting program.
For preadolescent children and teens who don’t want to go without solid food, try to increase the amount of raw fruits and vegetables in the diet, so that your child is eat- ing 50 to 75 percent raw foods for several days. This will help move toxins through the body at an accelerated rate. Kids who usually balk at vegetable dishes are often happy to eat a platter of raw crudités served with yogurt or a homemade bean dip.
Super Seven Prescriptions—ADHD
Super Prescription #1 Essential fatty acids
Take a product that contains a daily dosage of 500 to 1,000 mg of DHA. Also, take
100 mg of GLA, which is found in evening primrose oil, black currant, or borage oil. Products are available that have a combination of these essential fatty acids.
Super Prescription #2 Homeopathy
Pick the remedy that best matches your symptoms. Take a 6x, 12x, 6C, or 30C potency twice daily for two weeks to see if there are any positive improvements. After you notice improvement, stop taking the remedy, unless symptoms return. Consultation with a homeopathic practitioner is advised.
Super Prescription #3 Phosphatidylserine
Take 300 to 500 mg daily for three months. A maintenance dosage of 100 to 300 mg may be effective for some kids and adults. Phosphatidylserine is a naturally occurring substance found in high concentrations in brain cells; it helps brain cells function properly.
Super Prescription #4 Calcium and magnesium complex
Take a combination of these two minerals, at a dosage of 500 mg of calcium and
250 mg of magnesium twice daily. These two minerals relax the nervous system.
Super Prescription #5 Probiotic
Take a probiotic to maintain good bacteria levels in the digestive tract. Take as directed on the container.
A study involving 21 cases of youths ages 4 to 19 with ADHD found that daily supplementation of phosphatidyl- serine at dosages between 200 and 300 mg daily for 4 months beneﬁted greater than 90 percent of cases. Attention and learning were the symptoms most improved.
A study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine conﬁrmed that vitamin-mineral supplementation modestly raises the nonverbal intelli- gence of some groups of school- children.
Super Prescription #6 Vitamin B6
Give 100 mg daily for children ﬁve years or older. B6 is involved in the formation of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that has a calming effect. High doses of this vita- min are best used under the guidance of a nutrition-oriented doctor, along with a B-complex for balance.
Super Prescription #7 High-potency multivitamin
Take as directed on the container. It provides a base of nutrients required for brain function.
Ginkgo biloba brings oxygen and nutrients to the brain. Look for a product standard- ized to 24 percent ﬂavone glycosides. People who are 16 and older should take 60 to
120 mg twice a day. Give 30 to 60 mg twice a day to children ages 10 through 15. Those under 10 should be given 15 to 30 mg twice daily.
GABA is an amino acid that has a calming effect on the mind. Give 250 mg two to three times daily between meals.
Zinc deﬁciency can contribute to ADHD symptoms. Children ages 2 and older should get a daily total of 10 to 15 mg, along with 2 mg of copper.
B-complex vitamins supply all the B vitamins involved with brain function. Give a 50 mg B-complex daily.
Passionﬂower (Passiﬂora incarnata) can be effective in calming children with ADHD. Those 16 years of age and older should take 100 to 200 mg twice a day. Chil- dren ages 10 through 15 should take 50 to 100 mg twice daily. Children under 10 should be given 25 to 50 mg twice daily.
If your child is depressed, Saint-John’s-wort (Hypericum perforatum) may help. Children ages 10 through 15 should take 50 to 150 mg twice a day. Children under
10 should take 25 to 75 mg twice a day. Adolescents and young adults who are 16 and older can take 100 to 300 mg twice a day.
Pick the remedy that best matches your symptoms. Take a 6x, 12x, 6C, or 30C potency twice daily for two weeks to see if there are any positive results. After you notice improvement, stop taking the remedy, unless symptoms return. Consultation with a homeopathic practitioner is advised.
Anacardium Orientale is for children who tend to be cruel to animals and people. There is low self-esteem, and they are antisocial and absentminded. They often curse and swear.
Hyoscyamus Niger is for children who are very impulsive and violent, especially toward younger siblings. They are very talkative and sexually precocious.
Medorrhinum is for children who have major temper tantrums and are violent toward other kids. They have a hard time concentrating, are very warm, and crave oranges and ice.
Stramonium is for children who have many fears, such as of the dark or of animals. They have ﬁts of anger and rage and destroy things. Night terrors are common.
Sulphur is for children who are curious, stubborn, and hyperactive. They are very warm, sweat easily, have a great thirst for cold drinks, and crave spicy foods.
Tarentula Hispanica is for children who are extremely hurried and restless. They are mischievous, destructive, and impulsive. They love music and dancing.
Tuberculinum is for children who are very stubborn, demanding, and impatient and get bored easily. They often have violent tempers and may hit other people and ani- mals. They crave milk and smoked meats and are prone to respiratory infections.
Even young children can be taught acupressure techniques to practice when they feel upset. In fact, by teaching them to identify disquieting emotions and to take time out for a calming acupressure session, you’ll give them a valuable life skill. For informa- tion about pressure points and administering treatment, see pages 668–675.
• Lung 1 releases tension and helps restore normal, deep breathing.
• If your child’s hyperactivity seems to be triggered by frustration, teach him or her to press Conception Vessel 12 while slowly repeating the point’s descrip- tive name, Center of Power.
Young children—if you can persuade them to remain still long enough—enjoy soothing massages from their parents. Teenagers may prefer to have an appointment with a massage therapist; you can also show them the self-care techniques listed in the Bodywork chapter of this book.
Work the areas corresponding to the diaphragm and the solar plexus to encourage a sense of peace and stillness.
Other Bodywork Recommendations
Craniosacral therapy by a qualiﬁed practitioner is highly recommended to balance out the nervous system for people with ADHD.
Aromatherapy makes a relaxing complement to the other treatments suggested here. Use chamomile, lavender, or sandalwood to encourage serenity; try them in a bath or a massage, or add a few drops to diffuser and let the pleasing scent waft through an entire room. These applications are especially helpful just before bedtime.
General Stress-Reduction Therapies
Although biofeedback may seem like the stress-reduction technique that’s least likely to work for children, it is actually highly effective for kids with ADHD, many
of whom enjoy the interaction with machines and computers. Of all the biofeedback techniques, EEG seems to work best for hyperactivity.
Consider signing up for a parent-and-child yoga class. Children usually have fun making the animal poses, and you’ll both enjoy the lifelong health beneﬁts of this ancient discipline.
Bach Flower Remedies
Select the appropriate remedy and place 5 drops of the liquid under your child’s tongue. For children over ﬁfteen, you can use 10 drops. Hold the drops in place for thirty seconds and swallow. Use as often as needed.
Rescue Remedy will help soothe a child in an emotional crisis.
Impatiens is for children who move, talk, and think quickly and who are angered by people who don’t keep up with them.
Children who are plagued by recurring destructive impulses should take Cherry
Crab Apple will help children who are ashamed of their hyperactive behavior.
• Encourage your child to play or exercise outside in the fresh air. Limit expo- sure to sedentary, passive activities, like watching television or playing video games.
• Consider buying an air ﬁlter to purify your household of environmental aller- gens.
• Work with a counselor to help your child with behavior modiﬁcation and learning styles. Every child is different and requires an individualized approach. Emotional counseling may be necessary for healing, especially in cases of broken families or abuse.