ADHD/ADD a growing crisis
By: Adam Graves ND, LAc

Treating children with ADD/ADHD medication can be a doubled edge sword. One side is that the medications can be effective and help provide relief; the other side is that they can have severe adverse effects and don’t provide a real long term solution for children with ADD/ADHD. In 2006 the FDA advisory board recommended a Black Box Warning on Ritalin, Concerta, Methylin, Metadate, Adderall and Adderall XR. A Black Box Warning is the strongest warning placed on medication, a label only 10% of all medications carry. This warning was recommended due to the adverse effects of these mediations such as sudden death, toxic reactions and heart attacks along with the possibility of increasing aggression, hostility, anxiety, depression, paranoia and the unknown long term effects on brain development. Currently, the American Heart Association also recommends that anyone starting these medications, child or adult, have a heart evaluation. Since these are serious adverse effects a more holistic approach to ADD/ADHD should be used. These facts create a serious risk for the children of this nation. Is there any hope for kids with ADHD/ADD?

When one first begins the treatment of ADHD/ADD, it must be viewed as a multifactoral problem that cannot be quickly remedied by a pill. A child’s behavior and emotions can be affected by diet, nutrient deficiencies, neurotransmitter imbalances, food sensitivities, environment, genetics and social factors. Proper treatment must address all these issues. Once all these issues are addressed and no improvements are detected, only then should medications can be considered. So what does this approach look like?

First, a proper diagnosis should be made by a doctor, psychologist or psychiatrist. Once a proper diagnosis has been made, then the treatment options need to be considered. First is parental support. With the support of a counselor or psychologist, improvements in the child’s behavior can be made and parents can feel empowered with tools to help their children succeed. One study compared medications to counseling and concluded that the medications did not show any greater benefits for children with ADHD/ADD. Next neurotransmitter imbalances ie, serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine need to be balanced using amino acid therapy. In a recent study amino acid precursors demonstrated greater effectiveness over Ritalin and Stattera and without any side effects. (citation) If no improvement is seen with the above interventions than diet, food sensitivities and nutrient deficiencies need to be addressed. Children with ADHD/ADD can be sensitive to many different dietary choices they can have blood sugar imbalances and /or food sensitivities. Parents can begin with a diet that helps stabilize their child’s blood sugar and avoids artificial colors and sweeteners. A child’s breakfast should include a good source of protein and fiber and be limited on the amount of sugar and refined foods like sweet cereals and juice. A few examples of this may be eggs, turkey bacon, yogurt, natural peanut butter or even a high fiber protein bar. This step helps prevent the mid-morning crash in blood sugar that can cause children with ADHD/ADD to act out. The same goes for lunch, dinner and snacks. Meals should include protein, veggies and whole grains such as a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread with carrot sticks, apple sauce, etc. Healthy snack or meal ideas can be found at your local library or by simple searches on the internet. Food sensitivities can also play a role. In clinical practice, the main offending foods tend to be dairy, wheat/gluten, and/or eggs. Children with ADHD/ADD tend to have an oversensitive nervous system that is easily stimulated by these foods. Testing for these foods sensitivities is done easily in children with a finger stick using an ELISA food allergy test. Children with ADHD/ADD also have documented deficiencies in magnesium, zinc, vitamin B6 and essential fatty acids to name a few. A starting point for a child with ADHD/ADD would be to take a high quality multi mineral/vitamin formula, an essential fatty acid formula, high in DHA, and a good probiotic supplement. Once the diet, nutrient deficiencies and behavior modifications are addressed, then children have the foundations to make improvements. If progress is not significant, food sensitivities or other root causes should be explored with a naturopathic doctor. It is only after the above interventions have made and still nothing seems to help than medications can be considered for severe cases. With this approach the full potential of these children can be achieved and fulfilled. They cannot only live a full and normal life, but surpass their teachers’, counselors’ and parents’ expectations.

All recommendations or dietary changes should be done under the supervision of a doctor. Dr. Adam Graves is a naturopathic doctor and acupuncturist.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Graves is a licensed Naturopathic Physician and Acupuncturist. He received his Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine and Masters of Science in Acupuncture at Bastyr University, in Seattle, Washington. Dr. Graves has a passion for helping his patients in their journey towards health. This is evident in his compassion and honest approach. When not helping others, he loves spending time with his wife and two children.