Is it coincidence that in the last 50 years, as fast food chains and processed foods increasingly adorn our dinner tables, 3-8% of children are diagnosed with behavioural problems? The effect of diet, nutrition, and environmental toxins on ADD/ADHD is an issue that merits greater recognition by parents and health care providers. Emerging research provides scientific evidence of a relationship between the food your child eats, the toxins they are exposed to, and an increased risk for ADD/ADHD.
What Does ADD/ADHD Look LIke?
ADD/ADHD is one of the most common disorders among North American school children (although adults are increasingly being diagnosed). An overwhelming number of North American children are reportedly suffering from difficulty in delayed gratification, inattentiveness, distractibility, impulsive behaviour, anxiety, and excessive motor activity. If you or your Doctor is considering using medication to manage your child’s behavioural problem(s), you need to be aware of how these drugs work and the risks involved for your child.
Current Medical Treatment
Ritalin, Concerta, Focalin, Adderall, and Metadate are the most commonly prescribed medications for controlling ADD/ADHD related symptoms. These drugs DO NOT cure ADD/ADHD but provide a short term solution to behavior problems. These drugs are called Central Nervous System stimulants and are related structurally and functionally to methamphetamines (“crystal meth”) and cocaine. Therefore, the drugs used to modify ADD/ADHD behaviours also carry side effects similar to cocaine and crystal meth use. If your child is on medication and experiences any of the following, report it immediately to your Doctor: fever, skin rash or hives, loss of appetite, blurred vision, muscle cramps. weight loss, insomnia, and depression. More serious side effects include delayed growth rates in young children, and psychological and physiological dependence. The good news is that there are NATURAL and EFFECTIVE ways to treat children diagnosed with ADD/ADHD.
Addressing The Cause
The behaviour of children diagnosed with ADD/ADHD can be caused by many factors. It is important to address ALL these factors to help your child regain their health and vitality. Scientific evidence shows a strong relationship between food sensitivities, food additives, sugar consumption, environmental pollutants, and particular nutrient deficiencies and ADD/ADHD-like behaviour. Researchers are speculating that these factors are the real cause(s) of what is currently being identified by medical practitioners as ADD/ADHD, and by addressing these factors it is possible to see a permanent resolution of symptoms.
Several studies suggest children who eliminate food additives may exhibit a dramatic reduction in hyperactive behaviour. Preschool children may be more sensitive to food dyes, as one study found preschool children to respond more favorably to the elimination of food additives than school aged children.
Children who consume white sugar are more susceptible to blood sugar imbalances, namely low blood sugar, which can look very similar to hyperactivity. Although sugar is probably not the single cause of your child’s behavioural problems, I strongly encourage you to restrict sugar.
There is approximately a 70% incidence of allergy in the hyperactive population. When compared with non-hyperactive individuals, people with ADHD have a significantly higher incidence of asthma, ear infections, and stomachaches. To determine if your child has food allergies, ask your caregiver for appropriate allergy testing, or try a period of food elimination with your child and watch for an improvement in their behaviour. I have seen many individuals respond extremely well while eliminating allergens.
Recent research has also found an association between high blood levels of organic pollutants and the prevalence of developmental problems including learning disabilities and ADD/ADHD. Organic pollutants are commonly found in animal feed, fish, meat and dairy products. Other toxins appearing to have a relationship with ADD/ADHD is prenatal exposure to tobacco and lead.
A Naturopathic Doctor can help you determine if any of the above factors are causing your child’s behaviour problems. Through appropriate laboratory testing, physical examination, and a thorough medical history, your Naturopathic Doctor will provide an individualized treatment plan to help your child be healthy and happy.
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