Depending on where you live, in the United States or Canada, up to one half of children between the ages of 5-14 years in your area could be taking prescription drugs for attention or behavior issues. Many parents are not aware that less than 5% of these medicated kids actually have differences in their brains (that show up in test results) from non-medicated kids1. This means that approximately 95% of the kids currently taking drugs for either Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) do not have lab test results showing why they would need these medicines. Parents, scientists, doctors and educators each have their own opinions on how these disorders should be diagnosed and to date, there is no agreement.1,2
In my practice, I have met many parents who relate to me that they "need to know what is wrong with their child". It is safe to say that regardless of a "label", a noticeable behavioral problem exists. I choose to label this as an "imbalance" brought about by either excesses of toxins or deficiencies of nutrients for that individual. Fortunately, those who choose to explore natural alternatives to correct this imbalance may spare their child the side effects and unknown problems that can result from drug use.
Probable Causes of Behavioral Difficulties in Children – What Is At the Root?
The problem is a complex puzzle (your child's behavior) with many pieces that need to be assembled. Putting this puzzle together is a journey, an adventure, and a discovery… not a burden. If you approach this puzzle optimistically with an open-mind, you will assemble it to the best of your ability, and learn more about the unique capabilities of your child.
Potential "Pieces" of Your Child's Puzzle
- Neurological disorders (with a physiological basis) of the nervous system, which can be diagnosed. These must be ruled out by a health professional.
- Chemical imbalances caused by any of the following: interruptions or disturbances in brain development, the child's social environment, obvious nutritional deficiencies or excesses, pollution, and exposure to environmental toxins.
- Mineral deficiencies due to malnutrition, heavy metals that displace essential minerals, or digestive problems (malabsorption).
- Genetics-inherited weaknesses & tendencies-look for possible connections. For example, enzyme deficiencies that may increase a child's need for certain minerals (like zinc or iron). Another example is low secretory IgA levels, which may be inherited, due to early weaning or not breastfeeding, or an immune system imbalance. Low birth weight may be a predisposition.
- Food allergies & intolerances: food allergens (excluding those which cause IgE reactions) and an overactive immune system can affect the brain because the protein particles may mimic opiate receptors, or because they contribute to the overgrowth of unfriendly intestinal bacteria or yeasts.
- An improper diet of processed, refined, unwholesome and fast foods can contribute to blood sugar fluctuations that directly affect the brain, behavior, and mood.
- Yeast overgrowth due to heavy metals (disrupt immune function), antibiotic or drug use, or poor digestion. An imbalance of intestinal bacteria, favoring yeast growth will cause the yeast to root in the intestinal mucosa, causing "gaps" in the intestinal barrier, contributing to food intolerances.
How to get started
Lifestyle changes take commitment. You and your family must decide that changes are needed, and commit to a plan. Find practitioners who will work WITH you and become comfortable and educated with each step you take before progressing.
Change how you eat before you change what you eat. Focus on quality. Make as many meals as possible – that way you will know for sure what you are eating. Rebalance the body by focusing on the digestive, intestinal, and nervous systems.
Solving the puzzle is the first step. Remember to stay positive and open-minded. Continue to Part Two to learn what nutritional steps to take to help heal your child's body and mind.
PART TWO: A Balanced Diet for Children With ADD/ADHD >>
References:1Grant, J.D., MD. Life in the Last Lane. Paediatr Child Health 2002; 7(10): 681-688.
2 Lyon, M.R., MD. Healing the Hyperactive Brain. Focused Publishing, Calgary, 2000.