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ADHD Drugs, Diet and Naturopathic Medicine - Ottawa Holistic Wellness

ADHD Drugs, Diet and Naturopathic Medicine

I recently watched a stand-up comedy special starring Norm MacDonald. He was commenting on his childhood, and how all he wanted to do while sitting in a classroom was to go outside and play with a big tree branch.

He then wondered about hyperactive kids today and their feelings about being stuck in a classroom with the addition of authority figures yelling, “Now we’re going to drug you.”

While this commentary is an oversimplification of the plight of modern kids, it does raise the question of whether or not medications are the only option when dealing with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Diagnosis

Researchers estimate that 5% of all Canadian children ages 3 to 9 fit the criteria for a diagnosis of ADHD (1). Boys are more commonly affected. Inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity, in both the classroom and at home, are the main symptoms of ADHD.

The recent changes to the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) now include details to help doctors identify ADHD in adults, and changes the previous age cutoff in children from 7 to 12 years old (2).

It is important to not jump to a quick diagnosis of ADHD, as many other disorders mimic it.

Autism and ADD / ADHD

Often, Children who are on the autism spectrum often have ADHD.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) is often mistaken for ADHD. In ODD, children display angry and irritable mood, argumentative or defiant behaviour, or vindictiveness for at least six months.

Children and adults with ODD will direct their anger towards at least one person who is not a sibling and will have significant problems at work, in the classroom, or at home (3).

While children with ODD are more likely also to have a learning disability, the important issue here is to receive a thorough workup and diagnosis from a trained psychologist. An accurate diagnosis will ensure that appropriate treatment for you or your child.

ADHD Drugs

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that preschool children with ADHD receive behavioural therapy as a first line treatment.

In school children with ADHD, stimulant ADHD drugs like methylphenidate (aka Ritalin) and atomoxetine are considered first line treatment (4).

Common side effects of these ADHD drugs include reduced appetite and weight loss, problems sleeping, and stunted growth. Long-term use of methylphenidate can also lead to depletion of zinc in children with ADHD (5).

When supplemented with zinc + methylphenidate, children with ADHD in a 2004 study improved in teacher and parent rating scales compared to children taking placebo + methylphenidate (6).

Diet and Allergies

In a 2016 a retrospective study of around 4200 children in the Netherlands, researchers found that children with ADHD were more likely to be medicated for asthma, seasonal allergies, and eczema.

Furthermore, ADHD was deemed to be more common in children whose parents were taking medications for asthma and seasonal allergies (7).

In 2015, a systematic review of hypoallergenic diets for children with ADHD found a small but significant improvement in symptom severity (8).

Another 2015 study showed that supplementing fish oil into children’s diets for 16 weeks brought down both inflammatory markers and ADHD symptom severity (9).

Summary

The reality is that some people require ADHD drugs to control their symptoms.

A variety of naturopathic interventions can target the side effects of commonly prescribed ADHD medications, ADHD symptoms, and conditions often found alongside ADD / ADHD like allergies and digestive concerns.

Speak with your Naturopathic Doctor to find out which interventions are best suited for you or your child.

Disclaimer

This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Now I would like to hear from you. Does your child have ADHD? What have you tried to help their symptoms? Let us know in the comments below.

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childhood wellbeing

Diet and childhood wellbeing

For well over two decades, research has been correlating diet with childhood wellbeing.

Studies have shown that diets containing high quantities of sugar, food additives (preservatives and artificial colouring) or common allergenic foods can have a negative impact on their behaviour and state of health.

Some food related symptoms can be attention-deficit disorders (ADD, ADHD), hyperactivity, destructive aggressive behaviour, restlessness, fits, headaches, abdominal pain, and/or skin disorders.

Nutritional deficiencies may also be contributing to these behaviours and symptoms.

Common deficiencies in children

The two most common deficiencies in children are:

An iron deficiency which can cause anaemia and symptoms of tiredness, weakness, weak immune system and impaired brain function (less oxygen reaching the brain). And iron deficiency could also affect growth and development.

Lack of Vitamin D which may cause growth delays in children, rickets (soft bones), and contribute to a weakened immune system.

Other deficiencies may include:

Vitamin B1, thiamin-deficiency which is known to cause aggressive behaviour

Fatty acids deficiency which causes mixed/oily/dry skin and small bumps on the back of the upper arms among other skin-related issues.

Food allergies in children

Research has also shown that changes in diet such as eliminating the culprits and including whole foods (greens, vegetables, and unprocessed foods) can help to correct most of the behavioural issues, food-related health issues and nutritional deficiencies.

Related studies have found that participants who had reported physical symptoms such as abdominal pain and headaches, noticed significant improvements when eliminating food preservatives, food colouring, sugar and allergens from their diet.

Moreover, participants would also relapse into their symptoms during the reintroduction of these foods.

When seeking to determine the root cause of behaviour or other related symptoms, potential food allergens should be eliminated from the diet.

These allergens include milk, eggs, cheese, corn, wheat, pork, beef, peanuts, soft drinks, high fructose syrup, refined/white/brown sugar, chocolate and ketchup among others.

Keep in mind that foods you might consider ‘healthy’ may still contain with food preservatives, food colouring, high quantities of sugar and/or allergens. Always make sure to read the list of ingredients of anything you intend to feed your child to avoid being fooled by marketing strategies and labels.

Ways to improve childhood wellbeing

Four Things you can do now to improve your childhood wellbeing:

1. An Elimination Diet

Your child could benefit from an oligoantigenic diet, also known as the elimination diet, or a modified version of it. Remember, there are foods that contain essential vitamins and minerals needed for optimal growth and development. Always consult with your Naturopathic Doctor before starting these nutritional changes.

2. Add supplementation

Some children may benefit from the supplementation of Omega 3’s, greens, vitamins and minerals.

It’s not always easy to convince children to eat their vegetables and some may be more selective with the foods they want to eat.

Children may need additional supplementation for iron, vitamin D, zinc and more. Consult your Naturopathic Doctor for appropriate supplements and dosage.

3. Active play time

Allowing a child to burn energy is vital.

If a child doesn’t use their energy reserves they can become restless and hyperactive. Focus and sleep patterns can be disrupted.

Children need at least 60min of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily. Including vigorous-intensity activities 3 times a week, and bone and muscle strengthening activities 3 times a week. Find sports and activities that your child really enjoys.

4. Read all ingredients lists

Labels and advertisements can be deceiving.

Stay away from processed products that have the words “fat-free” and “sugar-free”. These words just mean they are replacing fat or sugar with chemicals.

Keep in your cart products with ingredients you can read and are 5 or fewer ingredients.

Some of the ingredients to watch out for are blue 1, blue 2, green 3, red 3, red 40, yellow 5, FD&C lakes (combination of colours or dyes), orange B (in sausages and hot dogs casings), BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene) & BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole), Sulfites, artificial sweeteners (Aspartame, Acesulfame-K, Saccharin), added sugar (High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), Corn Syrup, Dextrose), Propyl Gallate, Potassium Bromate, Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), Olestra (Olean), Heptylparaben and Sodium Nitrate.

This is not an exhaustive list but will help get you started. Have this list accessible when go grocery shopping.

Many behavioural issues and uncomfortable symptoms can be eliminated through dietary adjustments.

Contact Dr Frances Pierantoni, ND for more information on receiving a personalised assessment and strategy for you and your family.

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Disclaimer

This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.