ADHD can often be successfully treated naturally to the point where the need for medication may be significantly decreased or even eliminated. Research has shown that improvements can be made with ADHD through diet, nutrition and chiropractic care. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (a division of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services) has published a report, “Diet, ADHD, and Behavior”, that reviews studies on the effect of diet on behavior (including ADHD) and touches on side effects of the stimulant drugs that have been used to treat behavior disorders in millions of children. CSPI’s report reviews more than 20 controlled studies of diet and behavior. Most of the studies found that food dyes and, in some cases, other additives and foods provoked symptoms of ADHD or other behavior problems in some children. They recommend the first avenue of treatment should be the elimination of foods with dyes and additives from a child with ADHD’s diet. They recommend this be done before any medication is prescribed due to the side effects of the medications as well as Ritalin being a “possible human carcinogen”. Therefore, if your child is properly diagnosed with ADHD, your first step in treatment should be to change their diet to organic foods with as few food dyes, additives, and preservatives as possible.
Food sensitivities and allergies are starting to be more widely looked at in terms of the treatment of ADHD patients. In the research of diet and its connection to ADHD, nutritionists commonly find the elimination of foods such as oranges, chocolate, corn, wheat, eggs and milk, may work to improve a child’s mental functioning and, thereby, alleviate, to some degree, the symptoms associated with ADHD. During an allergic reaction, or food sensitivity reaction, the body releases a chemical known as histamine. Histamine, in physiological terms, works to increase the removal of blood serum from around the brain tissue, thereby reducing adequate blood flow to the tiny capillaries which nourish the brain. When this reaction of histamine occurs within the body, the brain becomes unbalanced and the first indications of complication, from a psychological aspect, involve loss of memory, attention and cognitive function. Using a diary or journal to log the activities and foods of your child, over a 30 day period, will often provide insight into the natural culprits which may be creating more complex ADHD symptoms; being mindful that food sensitivities, generally, take several hours to appear following consumption. Once the foods are identified, steps can be taken to remove those exposures from the child’s diet and, thereby, remedy the symptoms of ADHD.
Another area that’s getting a lot of research lately is Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation. Dr Basant Puri, a consultant and senior lecturer at Hammersmith Hospital has been using sophisticated imaging techniques to study the role of fatty acids in brain function. He says he has unearthed a wealth of evidence about how supplementation with specific fatty acids can not only help those with ADD/ADHD (attention deficit/ hyperactivity disorder), but also dyslexia and dyspraxia. “In clinical trials we have seen significant improvements in ADHD symptoms in children administered with fatty acid supplements,” he said. Typically those who get a benefit enjoy improved attention and concentration, a reduction in anxiety and impulsivity and generally an improvement in self esteem. Fatty acids are important for the brain growth of all children and particularly so for those with learning conditions. Dr. Puri recommends that the best results have come from supplementation with a combination of marine and botanical oils rich in a specific fatty acid called Eicosapentaenoic Acid or EPA. Similarly, a Purdue University study showed that kids low in Omega-3 essential fatty acids are significantly more likely to be hyperactive, have learning disorders, and to display behavioral problems. Your brain is more than 60% structural fat, just as your muscles are made of protein and your bones are made of calcium. But it’s not just any fat that our brains are made of – it has to be Omega-3 fats, and the typical American diet is low in these types of fats. We eat man-made trans-fats and excessive amounts of saturated fats and vegetable oils high in Omega-6 fatty acids, all of which interfere which our body’s attempt to utilize the tiny amount of Omega-3 fats that it gets.
Because ADHD can be caused by both biochemical imbalances and brain under-stimulation, chiropractic care is often needed to help stimulate the nervous system and restore normal brain stimulation. Research has shown not only that the developing brain relies on normal structural integrity and joint movement, but that complex neurochemical communication and pathways involved in helping us to “feel good” are tied into spinal biomechanics. Children’s nervous systems need the constant stimulation of movement in order to develop and function properly. Abnormal position or movement of the spinal vertebra can develop and this can lead to nerve interference. It is this interference that chiropractors correct. In the October 2004 issue of the peer-reviewed research publication, the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics (JMPT), a case study shows a child with ADHD who was helped with chiropractic care. The case study was of a 5 year old boy who had been diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 2. The child’s pediatrician prescribed Ritalin, Adderall, and Haldol for 3 years. After 27 visits to a chiropractor, “The patient experienced significant reduction in symptoms. Additionally, the medical doctor concluded that the reduction in symptoms was significant enough to discontinue the medication.” This case study can be found at the following link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=15510091
So, if you do have a child with ADHD, there are a number of alternatives that you can try before using medications that have numerous side effects and may possibly be carcinogenic. I hope this series was helpful for you, and if you have any questions or comments, please post them or contact me directly.