by: Dr. Craig A. Maxwell
If you suspect your child has ADHD, you’re not alone. Millions of parents just like you are looking for information on ADD so they can better understand how to cope with their child’s troubling behavior. If you suspect you have attention deficit disorder yourself, there are natural steps you can take to reclaim your focus and live a healthier, more productive life.
What is ADHD?
ADHD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a common behavioral disorder that affects 8-10% of school-aged children. Children with ADHD may understand what their parents, caregivers, and teachers expect of them but have difficulty completing tasks due to the inability to pay attention. Children with attention deficit disorder may look badly-parented on the surface but they are virtually unable to control their impulses. They are no more able to hold their attention to a task anymore than a blind child is able to see.
The Three Types of ADHD
- The Inattentive Type
The inattentive type of ADD is sometimes harder to diagnose because it doesn’t present with the expected hyperactivity.
Children with this type of ADHD are:
- Easily distracted
- Slow to comprehend information
- Prone to daydream
- Unable to follow instructions
- Very forgetful
- Noted to make careless mistakes on homework or tests
- Don’t listen when spoken to
- Are easily bored
- Miss details
- Prone to have trouble with organization
- Hyperactive-Impulsive Type
This type of ADD is more obvious because of its outward symptoms. Children with this type of attention deficit disorder are often very difficult to manage.
Symptoms of hyperactive-impulsive attention deficit disorder include:
- Inability to play quietly
- Non-stop talking
- Intruding on the personal space of others
- Difficulty listening
- Blurting out answers
- Excessive running, jumping, and climbing
- Difficulty remaining seated
- Fidgeting when seated
ADHD combined type is a combination of both the hyperactive and impulsive types of attention deficit disorder. Your child may have difficulty focusing on tasks and also have trouble with impulse control. He may be the child who gapes open-mouthed out the window one minute only to jump up and run amok the next. ADHD combined type affects about one third of children with attention deficit disorder.
Causes of Attention Deficit Disorder
Attention deficit disorder in a child can have frustrated parents thinking there must be something they’ve done to cause it. The most common causes of ADHD in children are genetics, environment, food, and brain injury.
Let’s take a more detailed look:
- Genetics – Children with ADHD are four times as likely to have a relative with this disorder than not. Children with ADHD have less white matter in their brains than children without the disorder. They have thinner brain tissue in the areas associated with attention and seem to have less dopamine in their brains.
- Food and Nutrition – A child’s diet is imperative to a developing brain. Children who live on processed foods such as sodas and brightly-colored candy, cereals, and fruit juices may develop serious behavioral problems. This is because food dyes such as Red #40 and Blue Lake have been known to cause ADD and aggressive behavior. Children who lack healthy amounts of omega-3 fatty acids may also present with behavioral problems.
- Environment – Mothers who smoke while pregnant may have an increased risk of giving birth to a child who develops ADHD. There is also evidence to suggest the mercury in vaccines can contribute to the development of this behavioral disorder. Furthermore, lead exposure during the early developmental stages may contribute to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
- Brain Injury – Exposure to toxins or severe head injury can also lead to ADHD due to frontal lobe damage.
Attention Deficit Disorder in Adults
Attention deficit disorder is not just a children’s behavioral issue. It is estimated 4-5% of the adult population is affected by attention deficit disorder.
Adults with this behavioral disorder exhibit the following symptoms:
- Low self-esteem
- Chronic boredom
- Mood swings
- Inability to maintain a job
- Poor organizational skills
- Difficulty maintaining personal relationships
- Poor memory
- Chronic lateness
Adults with attention deficit disorder may present with one extreme of symptoms to the other. They’re either very antisocial or want to be around others all the time. Some adults with attention deficit disorder enjoy constant stimulation while others prefer to avoid it. Adult ADHD can present as a mood disorder, anxiety disorder or just plain laziness. Adults with this behavioral disorder can benefit from diagnosis and treatment. The more an adult understands the disorder, the more empowered he or she will feel.
Treatments for ADHD
The most common conventional therapy for children with ADHD is stimulant medication. It may be strange for a parent to hear that her child needs more stimulation. After all, he’s climbing the walls already! Stimulant medication helps regulate brain chemicals, such as dopamine and norepinephrine, which help transmit signals to the nerves and brain.
Unfortunately, there are many side effects associated with ADHD medications including headaches, gastrointestinal upset, insomnia, nightmares, weight loss, anxiety, lack of appetite, and increased blood pressure.
Because of the side effects associated with stimulant medication, I often recommend natural alternatives for children and adults with attention deficit disorder.
- Dietary Changes
Children who have behavioral and learning disorders already have one strike against them. They will have difficulty making friends and will often fall behind in school. For children with learning and behavioral disorders, it is absolutely essential they eat a healthy, well-balanced diet.
This means plenty of whole foods such as organic meat, poultry, and wild-caught fish, omega-3 rich nuts, organic fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. Low-fat dairy is also important as children need healthy fat for proper brain development. Stay away from margarine though. Feed your children real butter instead. Also, avoid food dyes. They can be found in cereal, fruit juices, candy, and gum. Food dyes such as Red #40 and Blue Lake have been proven to worsen ADHD symptoms in children.
Another common cause of ADHD symptoms in both children and adults is undiagnosed gluten intolerance. Your brain and your gut are very closely connected. In a person with gluten intolerance or celiac disease, the body is unable to digest gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and some oats. This can lead to chronic inflammation and malabsorption of nutrients. It may also lead to a condition called leaky gut syndrome, whereby undigested food particles enter the bloodstream and cause allergic reaction, autoimmune disease, chronic inflammation, and behavioral problems. If your child has the symptoms of ADHD, cut gluten from the diet completely for one month to see if symptoms improve.
When it comes to treating ADHD with supplements, the formula recommendation is a bit different for children than it is for adults. In this section, I’ll highlight the best treatments for both children and adults with attention deficit disorder.
Supplement Recommendations for Children with ADHD
To combat symptoms of ADHD, your child needs optimum nutrition. Ideally, children would get all the nutrition they need from food. However, even in the healthiest of diets, it’s difficult for children to get adequate levels of minerals. For optimum brain and body health, your child needs a good foundation. For children 12 and under, I recommend Diamond Nutritional’s Children’s Foundation Vitamins.
- Vitamin A – 4,000 IU
- Vitamin C – 350 mg
- Vitamin D3 – 400 IU
- Vitamin E – 50 IU
- Vitamin K – 10 mcg
- Thiamine – 10 mg
- Riboflavin – 10 mg
- Niacin – 10 mg
- Vitamin B6 – 10 mg
- Folic Acid – 400 mcg
- Vitamin B12 – 25 mcg
- Biotin – 30 mcg
- Pantothenic Acid – 10 mg
- Calcium – 50 mg
- Iron – 1.25 mg
- Iodine – 75 mcg
- Magnesium – 50 mcg
- Zinc – 2.5 mg
- Selenium – 10 mcg
- Manganese – 100 mcg
- Chromium – 25 mcg
- Molybdenum – 1 mcg
- Potassium – 25 mg
- Inositol – 5 mg
- PABA USP – 5 mg
- Vanadyl Sulfate Hydrate – 100 mcg
- Boron – 25 mcg
Many commercial chewable vitamins contain additives and dyes that can make your child’s ADHD symptoms worse. Diamond Nutritional’s Children’s Foundation Vitamins provides all the nutrition your child needs in a whole-food preservative-free foundation!
Diamond Nutritional’s Balanced Omega Chewables
Children with attention deficit disorder need a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids in their diet. Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation and improve cognitive function. For children 12 and under, I recommend Diamond Nutritional’s Balanced Omega. Unlike other fish oil supplements, this formula offers a great flavor kids love with no fishy aftertaste. Each dose contains 300-600 mg of molecularly-distilled EPA/DHA for optimum brain health.
An imbalance of intestinal microflora is a leading cause of behavioral problems in children. Children who eat a diet high in refined carbohydrates, sugars, and food dyes have a higher incident of ADHD symptoms.
There is also a strong connection between gut health and brain health. If a child’s gut is imbalanced, mental and behavioral symptoms are common. To correct this imbalance, I recommend Diamond Nutritional’s Children’s Probiotic Formula for children ages 12 and under.
This formula contains seven strains of good bacteria with 5 billion CFUs (colony forming units) of live, active cultures in each scoop. These seven strains are lactobacillus acidophilus, lactobacillus rhamnosus, lactobacillus casei, bifidobacterium longum, streptococcus thermophilus, bifidobacterium bifidum, and bifidobacterium lactis.
Supplement Recommendations for Adults with ADHD
You may already be taking a vitamin supplement but is it synthetic? Many commercial vitamin supplements are created in a lab. Diamond Nutritional’s Foundation Vitamin Formula is a whole-food vitamin designed to give you the nutrition you need in a formula your body can easily absorb.
- Vitamin A – 7,500 IU
- Vitamin C – 500 mg
- Vitamin D3 – 500 IU
- Vitamin E – 100 IU
- Vitamin K – 50 mcg
- Thiamine – 25 mg
- Riboflavin – 25 mg
- Niacin – 25 mg
- Vitamin B6 – 38 mg
- Folic Acid – 400 mcg
- Vitamin B12 – 500 mcg
- Biotin – 200 mcg
- Panthothenic Acid – 150 mg
- Calcium – 100 mg
- Iodine – 113 mcg
- Magnesium – 200 mg
- Zinc – 10 mg
- Selenium – 100 mcg
- Copper – 1 mg
- Manganese – 2.5 mg
- Chromium – 200 mcg
- Molybdenum – 25 mcg
- Potassium – 50 mg
- Choline Bitartrate USP – 50 mg
- Inositol – 50 mg
- Mixed Tocopherols – 50 mg
- Lipoic Acid – 25 mg
- N-Acetyl-Cysteine USP – 25 mg
- Rutin – 25 mg
- Lutein – 3 mg
- Boron – 1.5 mg
- Lycopene – 1 mg
- Vanadyl Sulfate Hydrate – 1 mg
A good omega-3 fatty acid supplement is a must for adults with attention deficit disorder. For optimum results, I recommend Diamond Nutritional’s Balanced Omega Formula. Even if you’re already taking a fish oil supplement, you may not be getting all the nutrients you need. This is because people with ADHD need a potent combination of EPA and DHA.
Most products may claim to 1,000 mg. or 1,200 mg. on the front label but on the back but the EPA and DHA may only add up to 300 mg. or so. The rest are nothing but fillers and dyes. Our formula contains nothing more than 100% molecularly distilled fish oil for powerful nutrition without the repeat or risk of mercury contamination!
For adults with attention deficit disorder, I also recommend a good quality probiotic. When you improve gut health, you also improve brain health. If your digestive system is not working optimally, behavioral and mental difficulties can result.
For my patients, I recommend Diamond Nutritional’s Ultra Probiotic Formula. Unlike other probiotics on the market, which contain only 1 or 2 active cultures in a low-dose capsule, each packet of Ultra Probiotic Formula contains 225 billion CFUs (colony-forming units) complete with six unique probiotic strains to populate the gut fast and relieve the hyperactivity and inattention associated with ADHD.
These strains include lactobacillus plantarum, lactobacillus acidophilus, bifidobacterium lactis, lactobacillus salivarius, lactobacillus casei, and bifidobacterium bifidum.
- Physical Activity
Children with any type of learning, social or behavioral problem will often find themselves shut away inside with the television or computer on. This will only make their behavior and attention problems worse. Get your child outside and engaged in activities, even if you have to monitor him and explain the rules of games over and over again. Go on nature hikes together and teach her about the world around her. Studies have shown that children who get out into nature on a regular basis show an improvement in their ADHD symptoms.
Whether you’re looking for information on ADD for yourself or your child, there are plenty of options out there for you. You don’t have to go the traditional route when it comes to treating childhood or adult ADHD. Making a few dietary and lifestyle changes may be all you need to build a better future for your children and yourself!