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Home > Research Department  > Health Concerns Articles > ADD:  Attention Deficit Disorder
    Health Concerns Articles  
ADD:  ATTENTION DEFICIT DISORDER
Articles by a Naturopathic Doctor ( N.D.)

ADD KIDS NEED MORE OF CERTAIN NUTRIENTS

Kids love to eat junk food, but for kids with ADD this can be a major problem - they need more B vitamins, magnesium, & EFAs than other kids to focus.
A NUTRITIONAL DEFICIT CAN BE A MAJOR CAUSE OF THE INABILITY TO FOCUS, ESPECIALLY OF ESSENTIAL FATS & B VITAMINS.

Do you remember growing up with children who were called precocious or energetic?  Were you one of these children?  Children who act in this way now are labelled ADD or ADHD if they meet certain criteria.  Many of them are placed on medications to help them to focus.  But there are natural therapies that can treat the root cause of their inattention and provide lasting relief ...

What is ADD/ADHD?
ADD (Attention deficit Disorder is a neuro-developmental disorder characterized by an inability to focus/concentrate, and impulsiveness with or without hyperactivity (ADHD). Signs and symptoms begin to show at approximately 4 years old. The condition is not often diagnosed until children begin to struggle or fall behind well into their school years. ADD effects 3-5% of all school aged children, making it the most commonly diagnosed behavioural disorder in children. It occurs more often in boys than girls, and usually with a more pronounced hyperactive component. Girls tend to be more inattentive then hyperactive, and diagnosis can often occur later or missed altogether because of this.

Diagnostic Criteria
The symptoms of ADD fall under three main categories: Inattention, Impulsivity and Hyperactivity. Not all children with ADD will experience symptoms from all categories. A diagnosis is made when symptoms are observed for a minimum of 6 months, are severe enough to cause significant difficulties, and occur in more than one setting. Children must exhibit at least 6 symptoms in the inattentive OR hyperactive categories, with at least come of the symptoms presenting before the age of 7. ADD can also be diagnosed in older children and adults, although it is more difficult to diagnose and the criteria are slightly different.

Signs of inattentiveness
- Cannot focus or concentrate; easily distracted.
- Does not follow/pay attention to what he/she has been told
- Has a hard time finishing large or complicated tasks without frequent reminders to stay on track.
- Is not well organized; may appear forgetful or careless
- May daydream

Signs of impulsiveness
- Frequently interrupts and blurts out answers
- Impatient, cannot tolerate waiting, line-ups, can become extremely agitated.
- Unable to control impulses (acts and often speaks without thought – crosses the street without looking, makes rude comments, socially inappropriate).
- Over reacts, may not be able to control frustration or anger (very common in adults with ADD/ADHD, who have gone untreated.

Signs of hyperactivity
- Cannot play independently or quietly.
- Cannot sit still or fidgets when sitting for longer than a few minutes.
- Restless, jittery, and always moving
- Talks excessively, in a loud/inappropriate voice.

What you can do to help your kids focus:

- Don't buy junk food
- Limit intake of bad fats
- Give them lots of veggies to eat
- Give them a good multi
- Take supplements & herbs to support healthy brain: EFAs, magnesium, ginkgo  
- When you're expecting, take  a good EFA supplement
- Limit TV and video games
- Talk with them every day

DID YOU KNOW?
(ADD  FACTS)

- Adults can also have ADD.
- Ritalin, the most commonly prescribed drug has serious side effects
- Eating fish can give the brain important essential fats, in particular DHA.

What Causes ADD?
The cause of ADD/ADHD is still relatively unknown. Studies have confirmed there is a genetic component. A child with ADD/ADHD is likely to have siblings that are also affected. Having a parent with ADD/ADHD triples one's risk of developing the disorder. Research is also showing that that the majority of individuals with ADD/ADHD that have been tested have been shown to have an area of thinner brain tissue. This thinning is found in the areas of the brain responsible for attention. The finding is not permanent, and as the brain matter develops to normal thickness, ADD/ADHD symptoms have been shown to improve. Chemical imbalances in the brain have also been found in those who suffer from these conditions. 

A lack of norepinephrine causes dysfunction in the area of the brain responsible tuning out background noise/unimportant information.

Environmental factors have long been thought to play a role in the development of ADD/ADHD. Cigarette smoke, and alcohol use during pregnancy has been shown to affect the fetus negatively in a number of ways, one being higher rates of ADD/ADHD in childhood. Heavy metals, like mercury and lead has also been implicated in ADD/ADHD. Lead, often found in paint and plumbing systems of old homes, has been linked to short attention span, and disruptive, even violent behaviours.

Nutrition may also play a role. Poor nutrition, both of the mother during pregnancy, and in childhood, has been associated with a greater incidence of ADD/ADHD. Food additive and preservatives from processed foods, being the biggest group to avoid in terms of prevention. Low levels of calcium and magnesium have also been found in children with hyperactivity and attention deficit.

Although it is not well-supported, some theories suggest that a history of illness or infection and subsequent anti-biotic use early in life can also increase the risk of developing ADD/ADHD. Other suspected causes of ADD/ADHD are stress, emotional problems, birth trauma and premature birth

Depression and Anxiety
Children with ADD/ADHD will often present co-existing disorders, such as: anxiety and depression, learning disabilities, conduct disorders, and bi-polar. The individual with ADD/ADHD can be frustrated by difficulties they experience socially and academically, and unfortunately there is little information as to why these concurrent disorders are seemingly connected; they may or may not be caused by one single disorder but it’s difficult to tell which are responsible. An effective therapy for ADD sufferers is behavioural therapy as it provides assistance with social issues as well as help with practical tasks like school work and coping appropriately with strong emotions.

Conventional Treatment
A commonly prescribed pharmaceutical medication for the treatment of ADHD is Ritalin (or Methylphenidate), one of the many pharmaceutical stimulant classes of drugs used to treat the disorder. There is some controversy over the last 10 years, that these medications and being over and wrongly prescribed. Interestingly, the stimulant medications have a significant calming effect on individuals affected by ADD/ADHD. Those who are not, however, will notice these medications have an opposite effect, which some doctors, teachers and parents thinking that these individuals are simply being under medicated. These medications often cause a lack of appetite and can cause sleep problems (insomnia) in many children, as well as slowed growth, weight loss, increased heart rate and blood pressure and dependency. Some believe it may increase the susceptibility to Parkinson’s disease. It goes without saying that some parents are looking for natural alternatives to these medications.  

Clinical Nutrition and Lifestyle Interventions
Dietary treatment of ADD/ADHD begins by an assessment of nutritional status and food sensitivities.  Deficiencies of nutrients can alter the functioning of the nervous system.  Balancing blood sugar is important because fluctuations can cause ADD/ADHD type symptoms. A nutritious, whole foods diet is essential for the management of ADD/ADHD. Fast foods and processed foods should be avoided completely. Instead, focus on fresh organic fruit and vegetables, as well as adequate protein, fibre and healthy fats. Ensure that the child eats a wholesome breakfast with protein to prevent a mid-morning attention drop. A high quality, (sugar and food colourings/dye free) multivitamin may help to supplement nutrient deficiencies with pickier eaters. Essential fatty acids, like EPA and DHA found in fish oils, as well as GLA from Borage and Evening primrose oils, have been shown to be vitally important for proper brain development. Ginkgo biloba and American ginseng are two herbs that are showing promising results in terms of natural treatments for ADD/ADHD, improving behaviour over a number of parameters. L-theanine is an amino acid present in green tea that can help to reduce anxiety, as well as improve concentration, mood and sleep quality, and is gaining popularity for its use in ADD/ADHD treatment. B vitamins, as well as magnesium, are some other nutrients that may need to be assessed and supplemented individually, as they are integral to healthy nervous system function.

Proper brain development begins in utero.  Expectant and nursing mothers taking pharmaceutical grade fish oil supplements have been shown to have calmer babies.  These babies develop daily schedules more quickly than babies born to mothers who did not take fish oil.  Decreasing stress during pregnancy and limiting the intake of caffeine, alcohol and other stimulants may also prevent ADD/ADHD symptoms from developing.

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP YOUR KIDS FOCUS:
- Don't buy junk food – processed foods, candies high in sugar and artificial colourings.
- Limit intake of bad fats – introduce flax seed (oil), pumpkin seeds, a high quality olive oil, and fish oil, instead.
- Eating fish twice a week provides the brain with important essential fatty acids, in particular DHA.
- Give them lots of veggies to eat
- Give them a good multivitamin
- Consider additional supplements & herbs to support healthy brain function: EFAs, magnesium, ginkgo, L-theanine
- Take fish oil when pregnant, as well as avoiding alcohol and excessive caffeine.
- Limit TV and video games
- Talk with them every day, encourage reading and puzzles, and make sure to get outside for exercise on a daily basis.

DID YOU KNOW? (ADD FACTS)
- Current estimates state that ADD/ADHD affects 1-5 % of all children worldwide.
- Adults can also have ADD – A diagnosis of adult onset ADD/ADHD is becoming much more widely seen and accepted.
- Ritalin, the most commonly prescribed drug for attention problems and hyperactivity, has serious side effects, including hyperactivity

The following list of supplements can be used to correct acidosis and maintain proper ph.  (CLICK SUPPLEMENT NAME FOR PRODUCTS)

SUPPLEMENT DOSAGE THERAPEUTIC EFFECT
Calcium and magnesium

Calcium 800mg daily, Magnesium 200-300mg daily .

Are natural tranquilizers.  Relieves muscle spasms, tension and tics.  Deficiencies can lead to hyperactivity.  If loose stool occurs divide magnesium into smaller doses.
Essential Fatty acids including fish, flax and evening primrose oil. As directed, dosages will change depending on the variety of oils in the product. Maintains eye and brain functioning.  Provides fatty acids for building the cell membranes in the brain.  They are deficient in most children’s diets.
Vitamin B complex As directed, containing 5-10mg of B6. Many of the B vitamins are involved in nervous system regulation and the production of neurochemicals.
Multivitamin with chromium and zinc As directed Provides all nutrients needed by the body.  Chromium balances blood sugar.  Low zinc levels can cause hyperactivity symptoms.
Gingko biloba As directed Increases brain functioning and memory.  Works well in combination with calming herbs such as St. Johns wort, valerian, hops and lemon balm.
FISH OIL 800-1000 mg of EPA + DHA combined. Essential for proper brain development and function. Children with ADD/ADHD are commonly deficient.
Multivitamin + MINERAL As directed To prevent deficiencies which can lead to impaired brain function. Vitamin C, some of the B-vitamins, magnesium, selenium and others are commonly deficient in children with ADD/ADHD.
AMERICAN GINSENG 200-400 mg/day Potent antioxidant, supports immune function, supports healthy stress response and cognitive function. Often combined with ginkgo biloba for additive effects.
GINKGO BILOBA 50-100 mg/day Has been shown to effectively decrease behaviour and impulsivity in children with ADD/ADHD, when combined with american ginseng.
L-THEANINE (SUNTHEANINE) 200 mg, 2-3x/day. reduces anxiety, improves concentration and sleep quality, while regulating mood.
Also beneficial for ADD: Vitamin C with bioflavinoids, vitamin E, Gamma-aminobutyric acid, coenzyme A, pycnogenol, SAMe, acetylcholine, phosphatidyl serine, L-cysteine, bacopa, catnip, chamomile, fennel, kava kava, hops, lemon balm, passionflower, skullcap, valerian, homeopathic remedies and tissue salts.
For informational purposes only.  Please consult your health care practitioner before taking natural health care products. Click here for full disclaimer.


All articles copyright National Nutrition 2001 - 2015.  For educational purposes only.  Please note that while National Nutrition supports your right to use natural health care products for any therapeutic purpose that you see fit, that the information on this website should not be considered as a claim or as a substitute for medical advice.

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