I have been asked for a generalized run down on how a naturopath would approach dealing with a child with ADHD. Well of course each child is different and each child is in a different set of circumstances so that is a little difficult. Often what parents think is ADHD is in fact a sensitivity to a preservative or additive in foods or similar. ADHD is something of a label given to a set of symptoms which centre around behaviours. It is interesting and should be pointed out that in natural health care, we are not looking for a “label” for symptoms, we are looking for the root causes of imbalances that produce these symptoms. We are taking into account the whole being and not just one aspect like Allopathic Medicine and psychiatry does. These labels are really just a reason to prescribe drugs which have also shown now to be harmful and in many cases un-necessary. But for the sake of information, here is what I would use as a general guideline.
- Remove common food triggers from the diet for a period of 2-3 weeks. Whilst there may be no identifiable food allergies or intolerances initially, it is very helpful to lift the load off the digestive system
- Lactic acid bacteria (L. acidophilus and B. animalis) to manage gut dysbiosis
- Glutamine is an essential nutrient for the cells lining the small intestine
- For those children sensitive to certain grains, alternatives to consider include spelt, kamut, millet, barley and rice
- It has been found that simply eliminating sugar from the diet does not bring about significant improvement over the long term. However, blood sugar irregularities should be investigated as they can contribute to mood swings
- Chromium supplementation to address impaired glucose tolerance resulting from disturbed insulin response (again, digestive dysfunction and food intolerances can impair insulin response)
- Minimise the consumption of artificial colourings and flavourings, antioxidant preservatives and processed foods including refined carbohydrates
- Ensure adequate protein is provided by the diet.
Identify the possibility of heavy metal involvement
Lead toxicity may contribute to hyperactivity and other behavioural problems in children. Children are more sensitive to lead toxicity because of their greater capacity for lead absorption. Studies show that disturbances of attention function are a consistent effect of lead exposure, and that the effects of lead are most evident in the performance areas of the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children – Revised (an educational test), and in perceptual and motor function.
Over-exposure to heavy metals (such as lead) can interfere with nutrient uptake. Lead may interfere with calcium absorption, and in fact, lead absorption can be stimulated by calcium deficiency. It is also important for the practitioner to be aware that blood levels of lead below those associated with obvious symptoms may still have adverse effects on the brain. If heavy metal toxicity is identified, treatment with the following should be considered:
- Alpha-lipoic acid
- Vitamin C
- Chlorella, garlic and coriander (fresh): useful for assisting chelating agents – a combination which could be taken as a juice.
A HTMA (Hair Toxicity Mineral Analysis) would be needed to ascertain the levels in the body tissues and how much of each nutrient is needed and in what dose.
Other nutrients to consider:
Consider the child’s age before using any of these.
- Fish oil: the increased requirement for the omega-3 essential fatty acids in people with ADD/ADHD has been extensively studied. Research concludes that some hyperactive children have a deficiency of omega-3 essential fatty acids. This may be due to an inability to absorb them adequately from the gastrointestinal tract, dietary deficiency, or the result of the need for increased levels of essential fatty acids compared to other children.
- Zinc is necessary for the metabolism of essential fatty acids. Many children diagnosed with ADD or ADHD are deficient in this vital mineral. It is interesting to note that zinc concentrates in the hippocampus of the brain, an area involved in learning and memory. Zinc deficiency has been found to be a factor in hyperactivity and concentration and it has been suggested that adequate stimulant response depends upon adequate plasma zinc levels.
- Iron deficiency may lead to anxiety, aggressiveness and poor attention span, and any deficiency should be investigated and addressed. The frequent occurrence of ‘restless legs syndrome’ in children with ADD/ADHD may be associated with iron deficiencies.
- Magnesium deficiency is very common in children and this has implications for the nervous system. Magnesium has a calming effect and has been shown in a study to decrease hyperactivity in magnesium deficient children with ADHD. Low levels of magnesium produce an increase in irritability of the nervous system.
- Calcium is synergistic with magnesium and important for the nervous system. Children can easily become deficient in calcium at times of accelerated growth. In a pilot study conducted by the Austin Hospital Department of Psychiatry, it was found that children with ADHD placed on mineral supplementation had a reduced degree of hyperactive disturbance.
- B group vitamins, particularly vitamins B1, B9, B6 and B3, are indicated for metabolism and support to the nervous system. Vitamin B6 has been particularly identified as having relevance to ADD/ADHD due to its requirement for the synthesis of neurotransmitters.
Consider the childs age before using any of these.
- Ginkgo biloba has been found to be beneficial for neurotransmitter function and has been found to support cognitive function. Studies have shown that children with ADD had reduced blood flow in the brain compared to controls.
- Brahmi (Bacopa monniera) is an Ayurvedic herb having a positive influence on many nerve endings found in the brain that are important for memory and cognition. The herb is indicated for use as a brain tonic for improving memory, concentration and learning.
- St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) has effects on serotonin levels of the brain. It should be considered in patients with ADD/ADHD, as blood levels of serotonin tend to be lower in sufferers of ADD/ADHD with the more severe markers of hyperactivity, impulsiveness, aggressiveness and lack of concentration.
- Sleep disorders may be a factor for children with ADD/ADHD, and nervous system herbs to be considered include valerian (Valeriana officinalis) , passion flower (Passiflora incarnata) , scullcap (Scutellaria laterifolia) and vervain (Verbena officinalis) . Chamomile tea (Matricaria recutita) can function as a relaxant and digestive support, and is particularly suitable for children, with the added benefit that it contains minerals such as magnesium. Calcium and magnesium supplementation may also help re-establish good sleeping pattern.
In addition to these I personally would use the NESHealth scan and infoceutical therapy program as this provides a very in depth way of helping the body rebalance and it allows me to see clearly where I need to work to help with behavioural centres in the energetic system.
Of course this is NOT to replace a properly designed therapy program but more as a guide as to what you can expect as well as some simple measures you can do for yourself. I hope this helps and thanks for the question.
Have a great day.
Craig Hitchens – Natural Health Practitioner
The information contained in this article is accurate at the time of posting but may change thereafter. This information is for informational purposes only and is NOT to replace professional advice and does not constitute a treatment programme in any way. Before undertaking any therapy programme, consult a professional. Craig Hitchens and Craig Hitchens Therapies makes no claim to be able to cure or treat disease in an ALLOPATHIC MEDICAL CAPACITY.