Holford calls this chapter “The Attention Deficit Disaster”. A recent estimate states that 8-10% of children in the world have ADHD. The Good news is that more often than not – children with ADHD have one or more nutritional imbalances which once identified and corrected – can dramatically improve their energy, focus, concentration and behaviour! Fantastic!
Ritalin – contains many properties similar to those of cocaine – one study actually found it more potent than cocaine (pg 310 Optimum Nutrition for the Mind). This study concluded that the only reason it is not as addictive is because it takes longer for the Ritalin to take effect (about an hour) whereas Cocaine takes only seconds. Nearly 1 in 5 children in the
are on Ritalin.
Holford goes on to explain how Ritalin initiates changes in brain structure and function that remain long after the therapeutic effects have dissipated. And then he points out that RITALIN DOES NOT WORK. The US National Institutes of Health concluded that there is no evidence of any long term improvement in scholastic performance on Ritalin. (pg 310) One report in 2005 concluded that, “the evidence is not compelling that the drugs improve the thinking or quality of life of adults or help with adult anxiety or depression” and there is “no evidence on long-term safety in young children or adolescents.” Of course most of us know that a child given Ritalin or other stimulant drug is more likely to become addicted to smoking or abuse other stimulant substances later in life, such as cocaine.
Okay – enough about Ritalin – Where else can you turn?
A person with ADHD could be deficient in Magnesium, B6, zinc, any number of nutrients. Dr Lendon Smith – for example - reported that approx 80% of children were able to stop taking Ritalin after as little as 3 weeks once they start supplementing 500 mg of magnesium daily. (manganese, iron, zinc, Vit C and B6 also help the body produce noradrenalin – which is likely the reason why magnesium helps so much)
One study found that 95% of children with ADHD are deficient in Magnesium.
Another study found that B6 and magnesium are 10 times more effective than Ritalin!
I don’t want you to get the idea that only these specific nutrients will help your child. It is the complete picture that will be oh so very helpful! Healthy diet with a great broad spectrum supplement with some boosts in these nutrients are great ways to start...and of course...
You knew this would be listed right? How much have we learned together these last months about how ESSENTIAL fats are to our brains?! Here is a short list of symptoms of deficiency: Excessive Thirst, dry skin, eczema and asthma. Some feel that children with ADHD have a higher need of EPA’s because they are absorbing them poorly or they aren’t able to convert them well into prostaglandins which help with brain communication..
“Children receiving extra essential fats in supplements were both behaving and learning better within 12 weeks.” (pg 316)
Eat more oily fish and seeds and nuts. (I have talked more about this here)
Lead, copper, alumincum. Many toxic elements deplete the body of essential nutrients like zinc which of course causes nutritional deficiencies. Hair mineral analysis would rule out heavy metal intoxication. I am not sure yet how to get this done in Canada but I think this site is where to start.
Artificial Food Additives – we can end up eating as much as 5 kg of additives a year. No wonder the incidence of ADHD is increasing exponentially!!
89% of children with ADHD reacted to food colorings, 72% to flavourings, 60% to MSG, 45 % to all synthetic additives, 50% to cow’s milk, 60% to chocolate and 40 % to oranges. (pg 317)
They placed 78 hyperactive kids on a ‘few foods’ diet eliminating both chemical additives and common food allergens and 76% improved. With this study they even checked for a reverse placebo effect and found that the children’s behavior rapidly became worse and so did their performance in psychological testing when the sensitive foods were secretly introduced.
"Combining vitamins, minerals and essential fats while eliminating allergens can be remarkably effective at relieving the symptoms of ADHD" (pg 318).
A friend of mine has her whole family on this diet – it eliminates the artificial additives but also natural compounds called salicylates. She finds this diet enormously effective for her children and studies have found that it is. Holford encourages that since the list of foods containing salicylates (Granny Smith apples, strawberries etc.) is extremely long and contains otherwise nutritious foods, this diet should be considered as a secondary course of action. Salicylates inhibit the conversion and usage of EFA’s so it may be sufficient to increase the supply of EFA’s which as we discussed earlier, has proven to help.
Sugar – I have had doctors say to me that sugar does not affect behaviour. And it is true that some studies say that sugar actually produces a calming effect. This may well be the initial normalization of the blood that is hypoglycemic. A diet that is full of refined carbs, stimulants, sweets, chocolate etc and empty of fibre to slow down the glucose absorption is going to lead to behaviours that are up and down - fluctuating wildly throughout the day. It is inevitably going to lead to serious problems with the blood-glucose levels. It is completely necessary for everyone but especially a child with ADHD to eliminate all forms of refined sugar and replace them with whole foods and complex carbohydrates (like brown rice, oats, lentils, beans, quinoa and vegetables) and always eaten with half as much protein. One example is nuts with fruit.
(Remember - Chromium also helps stabilize blood sugar.)
Holford stresses the importance of seeing a qualified practitioner who can devise a specific nutritional strategy for your child. I hope that this post helps you realize the significance of the possibilities that are out there for treating children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The possibilities can change the world!