There has been mention on social media recently about the possible undesirable effects of long-term ADHD medication usage on the brain. While some children do benefit from these drugs, we naturally hesitate to put them at meaningless risk. It makes perfect sense, then, to consider every possible alternative to help address those frustrating symptoms shown by children diagnosed with ADHD rather than settling for a prescription. Drugs are not the only solution.
The best source of help might be a medical doctor who practices functional or integrative medicine. They are listed on the internet and a short search should reveal someone near you and whether or not they have a particular interest in children.
Why a functional medical practitioner? Because they are thorough! Your first appointment will probably last at least an hour because rather than looking to make a snap diagnosis, they focus on what might be the cause of the ADHD behaviours and what triggers those behaviours. Indeed, as Integrated Learning Therapy (ILT) practitioners find, most children with learning and attentional difficulties have multiple triggers including (but not limited to) food sensitivities and intolerances, environmental offenders including toxins, a diet lacking in essential nutrients and an unhealthy gut.
If you suspect that diet might be underlying your child’s struggles, here are five major dietary steps that you can take before going the medication route:
- Follow an anti-inflammatory diet. This is easier than it sounds because such a diet is basically what the world considers to be a healthy eating plan. The Mediterranean diet is a good example and the internet abounds with recipes. Chronic inflammation underlies ADHD (as well as many other health conditions), and our modern lifestyle and ways of eating (processed foods, reliance on pastas, pizzas and refined foods) promote inflammation. Good oils, like omega-3, help with inflammation too, so if a child resists eating grilled or baked fish, offer walnuts and pumpkin seeds or a good fish oil supplement.
- Consider an elimination diet. Gluten, dairy, and other potential food sensitivities can wreak havoc on our immune systems. This in turn causes increased inflammation with problems like leaky gut. ILT practitioners find that changing diet brings about hugely positive changes in mood, health and school performance in children labelled with ADHD.
- Resist the allure of foods based on refined, white flours and sugars and full of additives. Supply your family with whole, nutrient-rich foods. The simple sugars found in ‘white’ foods (bread, flour) are frequently found to increase ADHD behaviours, particularly attention problems and hyperactivity. deficiencies. Artificial colours and preservatives can be hidden triggers – often shown by explosive behaviours, aggression or lethargy. You might see a dramatic turn about in a child’s behaviour when they are fuelled by fruits, vegetables and good proteins.
- Make sure your child is not deficient in critical nutrients.You might need medical help for this as only a blood test will show which vitamins and minerals are lacking in your child. Generally, many children with ADHD show low levels of B-vitamins, vitamin D, Magnesium and Zinc. Many parents do give their children a multivitamin supplement but it is sometimes less helpful to guess and work in the dark.
- Consider the health of your child’s gut. There is increasing knowledge of the importance of the gut-brain connection and ILT practitioners see the influence of gut health on learning and behaviour on a daily basis! An adequate diet will supply probiotics, prebiotics and fibre-rich foods that encourage good bacteria in the intestines. In turn, these will eliminate the bad.
ILT practitioners value the help and insights shared by Integrative/Functional medical doctors. We see the benefits of following these guidelines in our own work with children who are failing to thrive in their schools. Here is a letter received from one of our practitioners recently:
I had a meeting with xxxx yesterday after his month on the diet. Wow, he is a different boy. Eyes are sparkly and wide awake, chatting and answering questions. Walked in with confidence. Mom did so well with the diet and he was good in following her lead.
His teacher noticed improvements in his participation in class and concentration and mom and dad are very happy so far.
ILT practitioners have many similar success stories to share. It pays to look holistically at a child and to avoid diagnoses that are made without due regard for the complexities of a condition such as ADHD.
From Medical X Press
Many children have difficulty with learning at some point, but those with learning disabilities often have several specific and persistent signs, which can start in preschool years. Recognizing them as soon as possible allows a child to get needed help and make better progress.
General signs include difficulty with reading, writing, math skills, understanding or following directions, paying attention, retaining information, staying organized or understanding words or concepts, including time, according to the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
You or a teachermay also notice problems with behaviour, such as not responding appropriately to situations or when dealing with new things.
Signs of learning problems in pre-schoolers include starting to talk later than their peers, having a hard time pronouncing words and learning the alphabet, numbers and days of the week, extreme restlessness, difficulty interacting with their peers and following a simple routine. You might notice that the child struggles with rhyming words and that his vocabulary is slow to increase—one sign of this is not being able to find the right word when talking.
In primary school-aged learners, signs of learning difficulty might include confusing basic words, transposing or substituting letters, numbers and arithmetic signs, acting impulsively and even having poor coordination or being accident-prone. A child may be slow to learn or have difficultyremembering lessons.
The full version of this article appeared in Medical X Press this week and ended with the suggestion that an evaluation should be your first step in helping the child. Integrated Learning Therapy (ILT) is a good place to start because our practitioners look for the underlying causes of these symptoms, rather than looking at the symptoms themselves. For example, if a child’s reading age is found to be lower than expected, the question to ask immediately is not how to improve the reading but rather WHY the child is having trouble learning to read.
Dyslexia is not just a severe reading disorder characterized by reversals. It is a syndrome, meaning that it shows many and varied reading and non-reading symptoms such as:
* Memory instability for letters, words, numbers
* A tendency to skip over or scramble letters, words, and sentences
* A poor, slow reading ability prone to compensatory head
tilting, finger pointing and rapid fatigue
* Reversals of letters such as b and d, words such as saw and was, and
numbers such as 6 and 9 or 16 and 61* Letter and word blurring, doubling, movement, scrambling, omission,
insertion, size change , etc.
* Poor concentration, distractibility, light sensitivity (photophobia), delayed visual and phonetic processing, etc.
* Messy, poorly angulated, or drifting handwriting prone to size,
spacing, and letter-sequencing errors.
SPELLING, MATH, MEMORY, AND GRAMMAR
* Difficulties remembering spelling, grammar, math, names, dates, and
lists , or sequences such as the alphabet, the days of the week and
months of the year, and directions.
* Speech disorders such as slurring, stuttering, minor articulation
errors, poor word recall, and auditory-input and motor-output speech
* Right/left and related directional uncertainty.
* Delay in learning to tell time.
CONCENTRATION AND ACTIVITY
* Impaired concentration, distractibility, hyperactivity, or
BEHAVIOR, TEMPER, OR IMPULSE DISTUBANCES
BALANCE AND COORDINATION
* Difficulties with balance and coordination functions, i.e. walking,
running, skipping, hopping, tying shoelaces, and buttoning buttons.
OTHER RELATED ISSUES
* Difficulties with headaches, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, motion
sickness, abdominal complaints, excessive sweating, and bed-wetting
* Feeling stupid, ugly, incompetent, brainless.
* Fears of the dark, heights, getting lost, going to school
* Fear or the avoidance of various balance, coordination, sports, and
* Mood disturbances.
* Obsessions and compulsions.
Because dyslexia is often mistakenly viewed as a severe reading
impairment rather than a syndrome of the above mentioned symptoms,
many believe that normal or even superior reading individuals can’t be
dyslexics – despite the presence of typical dyslexic – related
difficulties with writing, grammar, spelling, math, memory, speech,
sense of direction, and time, etc.
As a result, typical dyslexics with normal or superior reading scores
are termed Learning Disabled – as if dyslexia and LD were separate and
Several approaches, supported by research, believe dyslexia to be a
syndrome of many and varied symptoms differing in intensity. And thus
some dyslexics will have severe reading, spelling and speech
difficulties while others will have major problems with only math,
memory and concentration.
What many don’t realise is that many of the symptoms understood to be part of this syndrome are linked to irregular functioning of the vestibular system (better known as the inner-ear). Not all Dyslexics are alike but many can be helped by activities aimed at improving vestibular functioning. This means that particular, coordinated, slow movements can help many children who are struggling at school.
There will be more information about this in following posts.