By nature, children are active and full of energy. However, we are dealing with ADD or ADHD if children’s hyperactivity is accompanied with: perceptual motor impairment, emotional instability, short attention span; failure to finish things; inability to listen; poor concentration; impulsive and aggressive behaviors.
The guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) require that a child exhibit impulsivity or inattention – with or without hyperactivity – severe enough to cause functional impairment in 2 or more settings over a period of at least 6 months before a diagnosis can be reached.
There are concerns over this ‘epidemic’ in children nowadays. The frequency of ADD with hyperactivity has been reported to be from 4 to 20 percent of school-age children. There are greater incidences in boys than girls. In fact, 10 boys have it for every 1 girl. Over two million American school-aged boys take the drug methylphenidate ‘Ritalin’. which is often the first choice of treatment in mild cases, and it is apparently often improperly prescribed to children who do not even suffer from the disorder.
Therefore, I urge the parents to acknowledge themselves with the short and long-term side effects of this medicine before giving it to their child, especially if he is under 6 years of age. Actually, medication should never be the only treatment or even the first treatment. Medication may or may not promote long-term positive changes. However, I do encourage counseling and it is very important that the whole family try to get involved. Parents should know that just the presence of a warmly supportive adult could diminish inattention and hyperactivity in a child with these disorders.
What parents don’t know is that many cases of ADD and ADHD may simply be reflecting poor nutritional status especially earlier in life during physical, mental and social development. Nutrient deficiency exists in a significant number of children with these disorders; food additives and food allergies being major factors. Such children are often ‘unusually sensitive’ to diet and nutrition. This is why they will react to food additives when others are fine. Thus, food allergy testing and heavy metal presence assessment are very important.
Why the heavy metal assessment you might ask. This is because learning disabilities seem to be characterized by a general pattern of high levels of mercury, cadmium, lead, copper and manganese as determined by hair analysis. What is interesting is that poor nutrition and elevation of heavy metal levels usually go hand in hand, due to decreased consumption of food factors known to chelate these heavy metals or decrease their absorption.
A child suffering from ADD or ADHD completely falls apart when his blood sugar is too low and becomes hyper when it is too high. This shows how nutritional states affect directly the brain. Fortunately, correcting any underlying nutritional deficiency results in an almost immediate improvement in mental function as proved by several clinical studies which have shown that nutritional supplementation can improve mental function in school-aged children.
Provide the child with nutritious and attractive meals served in an atmosphere free of tension and meant to be consumed in a leisurely fashion.
Food additives and food coloring; exposure to environmental toxins; excessive refined sugar intake; aspartame as it is a neurotoxin; processed foods and meals made from white flour such as white bread, white rice, cakes, etc; trans -fats and hydrogenated vegetable oils, processed foods are full of them. Read the nutrition labels carefully when you shop from supermarkets. Avoid large meals and fasting. Frequent small meals and snacks are much better.
- Increase their water intake. If he insists on drinking juice, the best choice is apple juice with no sugar added.
- A diet rich in fruits and vegetables as well as fish and whole grains, brown rice, oats and lentils.
- An increased amount of vitamin C and antioxidant-rich foods, because this vitamin is a weak chelator and it will bind and eliminate heavy metals. Examples: Kiwi, raspberry, peaches, blackcurrant, lemon, guava, broccoli, cauliflower, tomato, green cabbage, peppers, and Brussels sprouts.
- An increased intake of Zinc-rich foods as it helps with memory and learning problems. Also, it is stated that children with ADHD have Zinc levels that are only 2/3 the level of those without ADHD.
Examples: Pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, all bran cereals, pine nuts, pecan nuts, cashew nuts, fish and eggs.
- An increased intake of Magnesium rich foods helps. It is known that 95 percent of children are deficient in magnesium. Examples: tofu, legumes, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, wheat bran, Brazil nuts, soybean flour, almonds, cashews, blackstrap molasses, pumpkin and squash seeds, pine nuts, and black walnuts. Other good dietary sources of this mineral include peanuts, whole-wheat flour, oat flour, beet greens, spinach, pistachio nuts, shredded wheat, bran cereals, oatmeal, bananas, and cocoa powder. Many herbs, spices, and seaweeds supply magnesium, such as agar seaweed, coriander, celery seed, sage, dried mustard, basil, fennel seed, and cumin.
- An increased intake of food rich in omega 3 because boys with ADD have lower levels of it. Examples: oily fish such as mackerel, herring, sardines, salmon, and tuna. Also, we can find omega 3 in dark green vegetables, canola, sunflower, flaxseed oils, and walnuts.
- An increased intake of food rich in Iron. Examples: Pumpkin seeds, dried figs, organic raisins, dried apricots, almonds, watercress, red kidney beans and spinach.
- Adjust the types of fats your family eats. Use: Extra virgin olive oil, organic canola oil, and sesame oil for cold food such as salads.
- Supplements: A high potency multivitamin and mineral formula; Magnesium 400 mg/day; Vitamin C 500 mg/day; Flaxseed oil as prescribed on the bottle; Vitamin B6 50mg/day
When your child is diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, there are lots of things you can do to help him improve other than just give him medication.
- First, you have to make sure that he is correctly diagnosed, you should go for food allergy testing and heavy metal presence assessment, and seek counseling where all the family is involved.
- Second, you have to work on his diet plan by avoiding certain food and by adding others in addition to supplementing certain nutrients that will work on his deficiencies and improve his brain functioning and his overall wellbeing.