Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) options for children (and adults)
Millions of children take stimulant drugs for attention and hyperactivity problems, also known as Attention deficit disorder (ADD) or sometimes referred to as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
However, concerns about the side effects of these medications, ranging from personality changes to stunted growth, have prompted many to look to natural medicine as an alternative.
Evidence is mounting to support the use of supplementation in the management of ADD patients. Some studies even go so far as to suggest that they may be a viable first-line treatment with fewer side effects than conventional treatment.
Natural medicine can combat ADD (Attention deficit disorder) on multiple fronts addressing its many underlying causes, rather than just focusing on one as conventional medicine does.
Conventional medication, is life-changing for some, but should drugs with so much potential for collateral damage really be the first port of call when safer alternatives are available?
Firstly, let us clear out the contention. I am not saying that conventional treatment should be disregarded. It has a very strong place in the treatment of ADD
What I would like to focus on are the contributing factors that we can address to support the brain and body. By doing that, I have seen great results with patients and some of them opted to then wean off of their conventional treatment.
A natural approach to treating Attention deficit disorder.
With ADD, there are three conditions, deficiencies, toxicities and sensitivities – correct these and behaviour will improve.
Common deficiencies in those with Attention Deficit Disorder
People with Attention deficit disorder (ADD) have multiple nutritional and hormonal deficiencies. There are also deficiencies in certain chemical messengers in the brain, called neurotransmitters - dopamine, noradrenaline and serotonin. These chemicals are responsible for factors like attention, mood, focus, sleep, memory, learning, cognition and motivation.
Children with Attention Deficit Disorder frequently have deficiencies in
- Omega 3 fatty acids
- B vitamins (especially B6)
- Amino acids (necessary for the production of neurotransmitters)
Supplementation with some of these nutrients has improved behaviour in children with ADD.
A study comparing dietary supplementation with conventional treatment found that dietary supplementation improved attention and self-control in children with ADD. It also suggested that the supplementation may be just as effective as conventional medication.
The supplement contained a mixture of natural ingredients chosen to address the underlying causes of attention deficit disorder. This was a mix of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, amino acids, essential fatty acids, phospholipids and probiotics.
Low hormone levels can also aggravate ADD symptoms. Visit a doctor who specialises in integrative medicine for thyroid hormone and DHEA level tests and supplementation if necessary. If sleep disturbances are present, supplementation with melatonin can be beneficial too.
However, correcting nutritional and hormonal deficiencies is not the only reason to supplement. Other nutrients may also be beneficial. For example, supplementation with Ginko Biloba and ginseng improves multiple Attention Deficit Disorder symptoms.
Environmental toxins (e.g. mercury, lead, PCBs) cause a wide spectrum of behavioural disorders and are emerging as possible contributors to ADD. ADD children often have higher levels of lead in their bodies than children without attention deficit disorder, and studies have found that removing heavy metals using a chelating agent can result in clinical improvement.
Children should be tested for heavy metals and other toxins. Treatment with chelation therapy to remove these toxins, if necessary.
More often than not, attention deficit disorder goes hand-in-hand with allergic disorders (allergies, asthma, eczema), nutritional intolerances and gut problems. Supplementation with omega 3 fatty acids, probiotics and prebiotics, as well as dietary interventions may help combat these problems.
A dietician can assist with an appropriate allergen-free diet, an elimination diet and guidelines for avoiding food additives, processed foods, sugar and refined carbs. Food allergy and sensitivity testing is also strongly advised.
ADD also comes with structural and functional brain abnormalities, causing impulse control problems, making some believe that the reason behind ADD is purely genetic.
However, many scientists say that it is more likely that some individuals are genetically predisposed to certain nutritional deficiencies and an impaired ability to detoxify. The resulting deficiencies, toxicities and sensitivities in these individuals play on their genetic vulnerability to brain abnormalities resulting in attention deficit disorder.
So, by targeting the deficiencies, toxicities and sensitivities underlying Attention Deficit Disorder with nutritional supplementation, behaviour can be improved. This without having to resort to purely symptom-treatment with conventional treatments, and its undesirable side-effects as the first option.
One of the simplest things to target the Attention Deficit Disorder brain for optimisation is, of course, the food that we eat. Here are some of my favourites:
5 Brain Booster Foods
Overnight Oats Focus Breakfast
The combination of probiotics, anti-oxidants and omegas can give you a good start to the morning - both for body and brain! You can have fun with this and come up with your own variations as well.
- 1/2 cup live full cream yoghurt (or unsweetened plain almond milk)
- 3/4 Tbsp chia seeds
- 2 Tbsp natural salted peanut butter or almond butter
- 1 Tbsp honey
- 1/2 cup gluten-free rolled oats
Put the mix into a container and put in the fridge overnight.
At breakfast time, add some blueberries and sliced banana and enjoy!
Supplements to support the Attention Deficit Disorder brain
Below is a summary of supplements that can aid the Attention Deficit Disorder brain. As always, it is best to do this under the supervision of a doctor.
- Over 12s: 1 capsule daily
- 3-7-year-olds: 1 capsule daily on an empty stomach (30 minutes before meals)
- 7-12-year-olds: 2 capsules daily on an empty stomach (30 minutes before meals)
- over 12s: 2 capsules once or twice daily, on an empty stomach (30 minutes before meals)
- 4-7-year-olds: half a tablet daily, with or shortly after meals
- Over 7s: half to 1 tablet twice daily, with or shortly after meals
- Over 1 year: 1 capsule daily
- 4-7 years old: 1 100mg capsule daily
- 7-12 years old: 1 100mg capsule twice daily
- Over 12: 2 100mg capsules once or twice daily
- 4-12-year-olds: 1 capsule daily, with or shortly after a meal
- Over 12 years old: 1 capsule twice daily, with or shortly after meals
- 7-12-year-olds: 2 capsules twice daily, on an empty stomach (30 minutes before meals)
- Over 12 years old: 4 capsules twice daily, on an empty stomach (30 minutes before meals)
- Do not take after 4 pm as it may cause insomnia