With attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) on the rise, due to doctors now recognizing this disorder and having a drug to treat it with, and due to changes in the environment and eating habits of kids increasing the risk factors for ADHD, not enough emphasis is being put into the natural treatment of ADHD
I won’t go into what ADHD is because most people already have an idea, and if you have a child that has ADHD you are not so much worried about what it is, but why does my child have this and how can I fix it without drugs. There is not one reason why a child (or adult) has ADHD but there is a number of predisposing factors like genetics, diet and nutrition, heavy metal toxicity and dysfunction between the gut and the brain which is an area that is receiving a lot of interest lately due to the amount of research being done in this area.
The gut/ brain connection is evident in a lot of kids with ADHD and this can be due to food intolerances, additives and preservatives in foods and an inability to effectively detoxify heavy metals out of the body. This imbalance in the gut leads to problems with the neurotransmitters Dopamine and Noradrenaline which are both crucial neurotransmitters for brain function and without them working effectively all of the behaviours of ADHD are amplified. That is why just treating the brain with drugs is a very short sighted symptomatic approach and does not get to the heart of the matter.
I believe treatment for all children/ adults with ADHD starts with treating dysfunctions in the gut and the ability to metabolize and detoxify toxins, as well as addressing the diet. There are a number of different ways to do this and first I would get a comprehensive Organic Acids test (this is an easy to do urine test) to work out some of the nutritional, toxin and neurotransmitter imbalances, because unless you address this then treatment will be slow. The next step is to identify through elimination and challenge what foods, chemicals, preservatives and additives the child is sensitive to, this can seem like a daunting task but I do have a system to make this as easy as possible depending on the child’s situation.
Omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFA’S) are key nutrients that have shown to provide therapeutic benefits in the treatment of ADHD and a number of studies have shown the link between low levels of omega 3’s and ADHD. The specific part of the omega 3 that is giving the benefits is DHA and a dose of around 1,000mg of DHA specifically has been shown to improve dopamine levels and dopamine receptor activity. Note that many kids formulas only have around 100mg’s of DHA which is far too low and will not give a therapeutic result, Metagenics is the only company that I know that has a kid’s formula that has a DHA dosage of 1,000mg.
Iron is important for Dopamine synthesis and may explain why symptoms of iron deficiency include inattentiveness, poor concentration, decreased IQ and irritability. Children with ADHD have been shown to have lower levels of iron and the lower the levels correlated with more severe ADHD
Magnesium is commonly found to be deficient in children with ADHD. Decreased magnesium is associated with increased hyperactivity, sleep disturbance and poor attention span. Supplementation of Magnesium and B6 have been found to improve aggressiveness, attention and hyperactivity after only one month.
Zinc is an important mineral for all children and lower levels of Zinc have been shown to occur in kid’s with ADHD and the lower the levels the more severe the ADHD.
There are many other nutrients that could be deficient and may help with ADHD but you do not want to be loading your child up with lot’s of supplements and I find that just using one or two supplements that are of high quality and have all the nutrients needed will get great results.
You cannot talk about treating ADHD without talking about the diet and there is overwhelming evidence now showing diet affects cognitive function and behaviour.
Dietary factors that have been linked to ADHD include food additives, colors and flavours, as well as a high dietary intake of refined sugar, and highly processed foods….which is basically the standard Western diet.
There are three steps to diet change to address ADHD. The first is following a “Wellness” diet which cuts out most processed foods, eliminates excess sugars and gets a balance of good fats, proteins and complex carbohydrates. If this does not give great results you then need to eliminate all additives, colors and flavours as these are known to trigger ADHD. Finally if this does not work, I highly recommend getting a test like the Organic Acids test done to work out exactly what is happening, other options are genetic tests, which are quite cheap to get done these days.
If you have any questions or would like to organize a detailed program for your child contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael is head consultant at Planet Naturopath - Functional Medicine and Nutrition Solutions. As Seen