Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and attention deficit disorder (ADD) refer to a range of problem behaviours. These may include impulsiveness, restlessness and hyperactivity, as well as inattentiveness, and often prevent children from learning and socialising well. ADHD is sometimes referred to as hyperkinetic disorder.
What are the symptoms?
For a diagnosis or description of ADHD a child would be expected to show the following difficulties in more than one setting, eg at school and at home. A child must have exhibited at least six of the following symptoms for at least six months to an extent that is unusual for their age and level of intelligence.
Fails to pay close attention to detail or makes careless errors during work or play.
Fails to finish tasks or sustain attention in play activities.
Seems not to listen to what is said to him or her.
Fails to follow through instructions or to finish homework or chores (not because of confrontational behaviour or failure to understand instructions).
Disorganised about tasks and activities.
Avoids tasks like homework that require sustained mental effort.
Loses things necessary for certain tasks or activities, such as pencils, books or toys.
Forgetful in the course of daily activities.
Runs around or excessively climbs over things. (In adolescents or adults only feelings of restlessness may occur.)
Unduly noisy in playing, or has difficulty in engaging in quiet leisure activities.
Leaves seat in classroom or in other situations where remaining seated is expected.
Fidgets with hands or feet or squirms on seat.
At least one of the following symptoms must have persisted at least for six months to an extent that is unusual for their age and level of intelligence.
Blurts out answers before the questions have been completed.
Fails to wait in lines or await turns in games or group situations.
Interrupts or intrudes on others, e.g. butts into others conversations or games.
Talks excessively without appropriate response to social restraint.
ADHD is estimated to affect 3 to 5% of school-aged children. Learning disabilities or emotional problems often accompany ADHD.
Drug Therapy for ADHD
Somewhere between 5 percent and 10 percent of U.S. school children are diagnosed with ADHD. If the multinational drug corporations would have their way, every one of these children would be on drugs such as Ritalin. If this were a safe drug this could possibly be justified, but Ritalin is more potent than another stimulant, cocaine. Using brain imaging, scientists have found that, in pill form, Ritalin occupies more of the neural transporters responsible for the ‘high’ experienced by addicts than smoked or injected cocaine.
ADHD drugs are known to carry serious side effects, including insomnia, changes in personality, cardiotoxicity, heart attack, stroke and even sudden death. In the UK, nine children have died after taking the drugs.
Food or Drugs?
Now affecting an estimated 1 in 10 boys and 1 in 30 girls in the UK, ADHD is often blamed on poor parenting or schooling. But there are a variety of other possible causes including heredity, smoking, alcohol or drug use during pregnancy, oxygen deprivation at birth, prenatal trauma, environmental pollution, allergy and inadequate nutrition.
Sadly, many hyperactive children are not tested for toxic chemicals or nutritional and allergic factors. Nor are they treated nutritionally or given counselling or family therapy. Instead, tens of thousands of our children are immediately put on drugs such as Ritalin and Concerta that have been shown, via good scientific evidence, not to work very well and even to be fairly dangerous.
Although it is unlikely that ADHD is purely a nutrient deficiency disease, most children with this diagnosis are deficient and do respond very well to nutritional supplements. The combination of the right vitamins, minerals and essential fats can truly transform children with learning and behavioural difficulties.
Nutritional Supplements that could help. (Refer to the individual supplement for cautions in use.)
|Supplement/Herb||What it does||Dosage|
|Evening Primrose Oil||ADHS sufferers are often deficient in omega6 fatty acids. Research has shown improvement in behaviour and learning ability.||Children – 1000mg daily. Adults 2 – 3000mg daily.|
|Fatty Acids||Research has shown improvement in behaviour and learning ability using a combination of fish oil and Evening Primrose oil.||Liquid form, age 2-5 10ml daily, age 5 & over 20ml daily. Halve dose after 3 months.|
|Acetyl LCarnitine||May help to improve brain function and memory.||100mg per kilo of bodyweight daily. Use under medical supervision.|
|Magnesium||Defiency is common in ADHD. It can improve behaviour and taken with calcium has a calming effect.||Children 200mg daily. Adults 400mg daily.|
|Multivitamin and mineral.||To correct any deficiencies caused by a poor or restricted diet.||As directed on a child’s multi.|
|Sedative or calming herbs can help hyperactivity. Give children 1 drop of tincture per stone of body weight. Adults can take the dosage as directed on the product.|
|Chamomile||A calming herb which is traditionally used for children.||3 times daily|
|Hops||A traditional calming herb that improves digestion, works well with valerian, passiflora and skullcap.||3 times daily|
|Passiflora||Sedative herb that is good for anxiety.||3 times daily|
|Siberian Ginseng||helps balance the system and strengthen the adrenal glands||3 times daily, 60 days on, 30 days off.|
|Skullcap (American)||Calming herb that works well with valerian for sleep problems.||3 times daily|
|St John’s Wort||Helps normalise motor activity and raise mood.||3 times daily|
|Valerian||Potent sedative herb which is excellent for sleep problems.||3 times daily|
Diet and Lifestyle
Children with hyperactivity and ADHD seem particularly sensitive to sugar, so remove all forms of refined sugar from the diet and any foods that contain it. Replace them with wholefoods and complex carbohydrates (brown rice and other whole grains, oats, lentils, beans, quinoa and vegetables), which should be eaten ‘grazing’-style throughout the day. Processed ‘juices’ should also be avoided because these deliver a large amount of sugar very quickly.
You can further improve their blood sugar balance by making sure carbohydrates are eaten with protein (half as much protein as carbohydrates at every meal and snack). Two easy examples are eating nuts with fruit, or fish with rice.
Cut out all caffeinated/fizzy drinks which can be loaded with sugar or artificial sweeteners which are neurotoxic. (See the news article on “sweet poison”)
Cut out foods with additives, dyes and chemicals, especially the yellow colouring tartrazine (R102).
Help your child get enough omega-3s. Children rarely eat enough rich sources of these, so give more oily fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel, wild or organic salmon, or tuna steaks – ( only have tuna every fortnight to once a month because of mercury content) and seeds such as flax, hemp, sunflower and pumpkin or their cold-pressed oils.
Fish oil improves the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) without any of the side effects of drugs like Ritalin and Concerta – and more effectively, a study by the University of Adelaide in Australia found. When 130 children between the ages of 7 and 12 with ADHD were given fish oil capsules daily, behaviour dramatically improved within three months. Further:
After seven months, the children were not as restless and showed improvements at school
Improvements in concentration and attention improved by one-third
After 15 weeks, 30-40 percent of the children taking fish oil had improvements
After 30 weeks, 40-50 percent improved
Children taking placebo capsules were later switched to fish oil and subsequently also experienced improved behaviour
Improvements were still being seen after the study ended, which suggests the fish oils may have long-term effects. When the researchers compared their results to studies of Ritalin and Concerta for ADHD, they found that fish oils were more effective
Make sure they have enough minerals and vitamins. Keep a filled fruit bowl, raw crudités and the like to hand for snacks, along with substantial portions of vegetables and fruit at meals.
Supplement probiotics such as lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacteria, especially following antibiotics to restore the balance of gut flora. A great product for kids is Solgar’s ABC Dophilus powder which can be stirred into a drink or yogurt.
Get rid of toxic effects. Arrange a food allergy test and hair mineral analysis test through a nutritional therapist to determine if food allergies and/or heavy metal toxicity are an issue.
Working with your doctor.
As well as working with your doctor, we advise consulting a nutritional therapist with experience of treating hyperactive children. They can assess your child’s ideal diet and supplement requirements, as well as testing for food allergy. Your child will need to follow the plan for a minimum of three to six months before either of you see any really substantial results, but their hyperactivity may start to calm and their concentration increase very quickly. As children start to feel better and behave better, the positive feedback they receive from their parents and teachers can encourage them to stick to their nutritional programme over the long term, and that’s what matters for their well-being as well as their progress.
In the meantime, keep your doctor, paediatrician or child psychiatrist informed of what you are doing and, as your child improves, discuss decreasing the dose of any stimulant medication with them, with the ultimate aim being to stop.
We recommend reading “Food is Better Medicine Than Drugs” for all the evidence to support this approach, and its comparative effectiveness and safety compared to the conventional treatment of ADHD. Also read Optimum Nutrition for your Child’s Mind by Patrick Holford and Deborah Colson.
Also check out “Optimum Nutrition for Babies and Young Children” by Lucy Burney. It has over 150 quick and tempting recipes to give your child the best start in life.
Recommended further reading:
- ADHD & Meditation
- ADHD & diet
- ADHD & the brain