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March 21, 2018  |  Login
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
by James F. Balch, M.D. and Mark Stengler, N.D.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is defined as age-inappropriate impulsiveness, lack of concentration, and sometimes-excessive physical activity. This condition is associated with learning difficulties and a lack of social skills. Because there is no laboratory or physical test that diagnoses ADHD, its diagnosis is based on a clinical history of symptoms and behavior. Since it is a subjective diagnosis, it brings up controversy as to whether the behavior is actually normal in many cases, especially for younger boys. There are three subtypes of ADHD, one of which mainly involves an attention problem and not a hyperactivity issue. Between 30 and 40 percent of children with ADHD have learning disabilities, although in many cases these children are quite bright. ADHD often goes undiagnosed, if not caught at an early age, and it affects many adults who may not be aware of their condition.

Many parents instinctively believe that the problem is connected to their children's diet. They know that children can respond negatively to sugar or other foods, and they wonder if their child is simply suffering from an extreme version of this reaction. In most cases, these parents are absolutely correct. In the last few decades, sugars, preservatives, and colorings have been added to our food at an increasing rate. Too many children consume nothing but convenience foods, like hot dogs, fried chicken fingers, and highly sweetened fruit drinks and sodas. Since children's small bodies are especially vulnerable to additives in these foods, it is not surprising that many of them have a toxic response. For some, the response takes the form of traditional allergies-say, a runny nose or hives. For others, however, the poisons surface as extreme behavior problems.

Unfortunately, Western doctors have been trained to discount the importance of diet in hyperactive kids. Instead of nutritional therapy, they will often suggest medication to suppress the symptoms of ADHD: it is estimated that more than two million children take drugs like Ritalin on a daily basis. While medications may be necessary in a few cases, parents should cultivate a healthy wariness of giving them to their children. The long-term effects of ADHD medications are not yet well known, and there are signs that the drugs can retard growth and lead to substance abuse or emotional problems later in life. Teens who take Ritalin may be tempted to mix it with alcohol, marijuana, or other recreational drugs, creating a dangerous brew with unknown consequences. And as with many conventional prescription drugs, the most compelling argument against ADHD drugs is that they fail to address the cause of the problem. Without the underlying cause being treated, children may have to take Ritalin well into their twenties.

There are many underlying reasons why a child may have attention or behavior ­ problems. Studies show that frequent ear infections and the regular use of antibiotics, as well as premature birth and family history, are associated with a greater likelihood of ­ developing this disorder. Holistically speaking, causative factors include food additives and food allergies, environmental allergens, and heavy metal toxicity (such as lead, mercury, and aluminum). A poorly functioning digestive system and increased intestinal permeability lead to an increase in metabolic toxins that disrupt brain chemistry. Nutritional deficiencies of essential fatty acids, B vitamins, magnesium and other minerals, and iron appear to play a role. Finally, do not underestimate the role of emotional stress and its relationship to ADHD. The breakdown of the family unit in our culture places abnormal stresses on a child, which can result in attention and behavior changes.

If your child has ADHD, try the home-care suggestions here for at least a month and optimally for three months. more

Next: What are the Symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?

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