Is ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) Over-Diagnosed? Hyperactivity could be a sign of either hypoglycemia or food allergies or both. Americans consume 8-10 lbs. of additives and 150 lbs. of sugar a year; both play a huge role in ADHD. Sensitivities to food chemicals and sugars definitely worsen symptoms. The Journal of Pediatric Research says children with ADHD are less able to compensate for the stressful effects sugar has on the brain. Post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression also mimic ADHD symptoms.
Is Ritalin the best option?
Drug therapy with Ritalin, (Methylphenidate) a central nervous system stimulant is the conventional approach for dealing with ADHD. Department of Education figures show that since 1990, the production of Ritalin type drugs has risen 741%! Prescriptions in the U.S. have doubled in the last 10 years. In some schools, 6 out of 100 children take Ritalin every day! Today school officials and medical professionals often push Ritalin on kids in an effort to curb school disturbances.
Ritalin does not cure ADHD, and it has side effects. Sleeplessness, facial tics, headache, stomachache, depression, decreased appetite, high blood pressure, seizures and heart palpitations have all been linked to Ritalin. It shouldn’t be used if a child is severely depressed, has hypertension or epilepsy. More worries: Canadian research shows that more than 9% of children who take Ritalin develop symptoms like hallucinations or paranoia. New information shows that Ritalin may even affect a child’s growth.
Ritalin interacts with other drugs, too. There are 234 known drug interactions with Ritalin, including some over-the-counter cold medicines. Like other amphetamines, Ritalin may cause small vessel damage in the heart. In one disturbing report, a 14 year-old boy died of a heart attack related to long term Ritalin use. Ritalin is chemically similar to cocaine. In fact, today Ritalin is one of the top ten abused prescription drugs, on the street and on college campuses.
Other ADHD drugs, like Adderral and Concerta are not much better, disrupting sleep patterns and seriously depressing appetite, bad news for a developing body! Like Ritalin, they are habit-forming and produce side effects like dizziness, anxiety, headaches, stomach aches and paranoia. One million prescriptions were written for Strattera, a non-stimulant medicine for ADHD, when it was first released. Mood swings, reduced appetite, nausea and fatigue top the list of Strattera’s side effects. Reports include increased anxiety and hot flashes, a problem for menopausal women who may be using the drug.
Diet improvement is the real key to changing ADHD symptoms.
Sometimes drug therapy may be necessary to stabilize ADHD symptoms, but most experts agree that nutritional therapy should be your primary focus for long term relief.
- Simple diet changes can make a big difference. Results are almost immediately evident, generally within 1 to 3 weeks. When behavior normalizes, maintain the improved diet to prevent reversion.
- Food sensitivities are a big part of attention disorders. Reduce sugar (always involved in ADHD). Use stevia instead of sugar to sweeten drinks or baked foods. Reduce colas/sodas (Excess phosphorus). Try green tea instead (many kids like it.) Avoid red meats (nitrates).
- Determine food allergies. Test foods like milk, wheat, corn, chocolate, citrus with an elimination diet.
- Ongoing diet: green salads, high vegetable proteins (beans, soy foods, nuts, seeds), whole grains, plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables… no junk or fast foods. Use organically grown foods when possible. Miso soup before bed.
- Include calming tryptophan-rich foods like turkey, tuna, wheat germ, yogurt and eggs. Add lecithin granules to whole grain cereal or yogurt for brain boosting phosphatides.
- Add EFA-rich foods: sea foods and sea veggies, spinach, cantaloupe, soy foods. Stay away from trans fats in fried food, baked goods and snack foods which disrupt brain function. I like Maine Coast Sea Vegetables daily for stabilizing minerals and EFAs.
To Life-long health,
Linda Page Ph.D., Traditional Naturopath