October 19, 2011
Off The Grid
Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD) are behavioral conditions characterized by a short attention span, which may be accompanied by hyperactivity. Approximately 5 percent of Americans have ADD/ADHD and half to two thirds of children diagnosed with it will carry it into adulthood. Children diagnosed with ADD/ADHD may also have various learning disabilities and may be disruptive in school and other public places.
More boys than girls are afflicted with this disorder. Many are rightly diagnosed with these maladies, but there are those who have been so “branded” just because they are very active, rambunctious children—again boys more often than girls. Just because a school psychologist or other doctor has told you your child’s overactive behavior is ADD/ADHD, it may not be true. Some teachers and school administrators don’t want to have to deal with disciplining active children, so they have them diagnosed and medicated. For peace of mind, get more than one opinion. You may want to have two other doctors, who aren’t connected to the school district, check out your child(ren).
More than 2 million children with ADD/ADHD are being treated with drugs that are equivalent to “legal speed”— stimulant drugs by prescription. There are concerns with this type of treatment. The first is that stimulants can suppress their growth. Next, the side effects they carry and their addictive nature are troublesome. There is also the possibility that those that have these prescriptions may not be taking them, but passing them on to their friends for the “high” that most people get from stimulants.
Once you have determined if you or your child has ADD/ADHD, you will want to choose how to treat it without drug therapy. The first thing to try is changes in diet. Some people are sensitive to refined white flours and sugars. Others are sensitive to chemical additives in food. Before making any dietary changes, talk with your healthcare provider. Among the usual dietary suspects are:
Any artificial flavorings
Any artificial colorings (yellow, green, and red are the worst offenders)
Chemical additives and preservatives (like BHA and BHT)
Bleached/Refined Sugar and Flour
Foods containing salicylates (chili powder, apples and cider, cloves, grapes, oranges, peaches, peppers, tomatoes, plums, prunes, and all berries)
An elimination diet is the best option to start with. In brief, eliminate the above usual suspects from your diet. Continue this way for several weeks before adding them back in. If there are no behavioral changes, good or bad, you will want to try something else. If behavior improves, then you can begin adding allergens to the diet one at a time. Eat that one allergen, in small quantities, once a day for two or three days. If behavior doesn’t change, you may add another possible allergen and continue in this manner until you have found if any trigger the ADD/ADHD symptoms and behaviors.
Feingold Diet – A type of elimination diet that is well known for its use among ADD/ADHD patients. It eliminates all chemical additives and all foods containing salicylates. It requires vigilant control over the sufferer’s eating habits. It also prohibits aspirin, as it contains salicylates. There has been some successes reported by patients who have tried it, but it would be hard to compel one to stick to it. In any case, it is wise to avoid foods with artificial flavors, colors, and chemical additives in order to ensure a healthy, natural diet.
Essential Fatty Acids – Omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel) and certain vegetable oils (flax seed, hemp seed) are essential to proper brain function. These may also be beneficial to those with ADD/ADHD. But it is not clear if docosahexaenoic (DHA) and eicosapentaneoic (EPA) are advantageous.
Zinc – This mineral is essential for proper metabolism of certain neurotransmitters that have a role in ADD/ADHD. Deficiencies have been found in some with this disorder. However, long-term use of zinc can cause anemia and other side effects in those without deficiencies. Zinc also has no effect on ADD/ADHD in those patients. But testing for trace minerals, like zinc, is not typical when assessing those who are suspected of having this disorder.
Biofeedback and auditory feedback have shown some success in increasing the attention of children with low academic performance levels.
Neurofeedback – An approach that uses electronic devices to help patients (usually children) control their own brainwave activity. Electrodes are pasted to the head and pick up signals from the brain. Patients watch images, like moving graphs, on a computer monitor reflecting patient’s brain wave activity. Patients are taught certain high-level mental activities when screen images show that they are fully concentrating. Treatment typically recurs in fifty-minute sessions twice a week. Some studies report significant improvement in attentiveness, response time and less impulsiveness.
Interactive Metronome/Musical Therapy – This therapy uses feedback from sound to improve the patients’ attention, motor control, and some academic skills. Patients wear headphones as well as sensors on the hand and feet. They perform various exercises to a rhythmic computer beat. Sessions continue for three to five weeks. Some studies report improvements. Also, parents of some with ADD/ADHD report those who learned to play musical instruments significantly helped.
Some with mild ADD/ADHD symptoms have tried daily massage therapy. This can improve mood and attentiveness and reduce hyperactivity. Some may find relief with relaxation training, prayer and meditation, and music therapy.
Herbs and Supplements – Some find relief with one or a combination of these herbal remedies instead of prescribed drug treatments. Check with your healthcare provider as some do not recommend these for children.
St. John’s Wort
Pine Bark Extract
Listol, a combination of:
Huperzine A Extract
As with all alternative health treatments, you should always check with your doctor or healthcare practitioner before starting treatment for any condition.