By: Amanda Froelich,
It’s one of the top prescribed drugs for children exhibiting short attention span, emotional bursts, and occasional volatile fits, symptoms of ADHD. Estimated that 7 million children in the US (1 out of 5) are on Ritalin in the US, there’s been a dangerous rise of 180-fold since 1991 to control the behavior of under-stimulated and malnourished children. With no nutritional therapy implemented, the use of Ritalin is continuing to rise. But for those who have influential action and conscious choice regarding this method of treatment, do you actually understand what this drug is or its effects on the upcoming generations?
Created as a calming stimulant, Ritalin is actually very similar to Cocaine in the fact that it increases dopamine production and sensitivity. However, there are shocking studies revealing that this ‘wonder drug’ is in fact one of the most detrimental to the health of your child, doing more damage than good.
For example, side effects of Ritalin range from increasing blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration, facial tics, to euphoria, nervousness, irritability, agitation, psychotic episodes, violent behavior, paranoia, and even death. More than that, there is no evidence Ritalin actually works. The US National Institute of Health concludes there is “no evidence of any long-term improvement in scholastic performance on Ritalin.” The Oregon Evidence-based Practice Center agrees with its study showing that although 27 different drugs are prescribed for ADHD “the evidence is not compelling that the drugs improve the thinking or quality of life of adults or help with adult anxiety or depression”.
Finally, through Dr. Bernard Rimland’s research, it has been concluded that Ritalin may help 1/3 of children and makes 1/3 worse. The statistics, family repercussions, and lack of action focused on counteracting the many causes of ADHD have created a difficult diagnosis to deal with.
However, there is substantial proof that through dietary regimen, lifestyle change, and physiological balance, immense relief from ADHD and behavioral issues can be achieved. If you seek the best alternative solution for your child, young one in your family, or are open to alternative therapies in general, the following solutions will generate relief.
1. Increase Vitamin C
As easy as drinking some fresh-squeezed orange juice or sharing a freshly-cut pineapple, increasing the consumption of Vitamin C has been proven to significantly help afflicted children. Dr. Abram Hoffer, a pioneer in Orthomolecular medicine has shown that large amounts of Vitamin C significantly improved the behavior of 32 out of 33 children with ADHD.
Although the recommended intake for fresh fruits and vegetables (the number one sources of Vitamin C) ranges from 4-6 each per day, rarely do adults, let alone children, consume that amount.
It should be in great effort the neglect to use food as medicine is changed; importantly, the sources of the essential foods should also be fresh and as unprocessed as possible. A smoothie is a great way to introduce more Vitamin C and micro-nutrients into a young one’s diet.
2. Balance Important Minerals
As you will read further along, a diet high in refined sugars, processed meats, dairy, and poor-quality grains contributes to nutrient deficiency. Some important nutrients for ensuring optimum brain balance and body function are: Manganese, Iron, Copper, Zinc, Vitamin C, and B6 – all involved with the proper metabolism of essential fats and regulation of noradrenalin (which leads to dopamine) production.
Two commonly deficient vitamins/minerals are B6 and Magnesium. Extraordinary research by Dr. Bernard Rimland has found that supplementing B6 and Magnesium is 10x more effective than Ritalin! Just by supplementing these two aids, children improved significantly. Magnesium’s importance was also proven in a Polish study in 1997 that 95% of ADHD diagnosed children were deficient.
Gain the benefits of Magnesium by increasing your child’s natural intake of magnesium-rich foods: dark, leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, wild-caught fish, beans and lentils, gluten-free whole grains, avocados, and even fruits like bananas. Supplementation, if necessary, should be recommended by a holistic health practitioner or Naturopathic doctor.
3. Rethink Your Antibiotics
Antibiotics are widely used in western medicine to inhibit bacteria – even the beneficial. However, the lack of of ‘good’ micro-flora means there is impaired gut function. This can lead to digestive issues, poor absorption of micro-nutrients, and even over-abundance of Candida. How does this relate to hyperactivity?
Regarding imbalance, Dr. Neil Ward has found within a study of 530 hyperactive children that a significantly higher percentage of children with ADHD had taken several courses of antibiotics in early childhood than the children without ADHD. Further investigations revealed that those who had three or more antibiotics before the age of three tested for significantly lower levels of Zinc, Calcium, Chromium, and Selenium.
When sick, the body launches into a detoxification mode to naturally remove foreign content and re-balance. While western medicine has good intent, it very detrimental to sustaining the natural balance which the body always strives to maintain. Because of the implication in affecting ADHD, consider rethinking vaccinations and antibiotics for your child.
4. Heal from Toxins and Heavy Metals
Unfortunately high levels of toxins, or anti-nutrients, can induce ADHD symptoms. For example, the number one heavy metal toxin in adults and children is lead which produces symptoms of aggression, poor impulse control, and short attention span. Excess Copper, proven to be a large factor in aggressive behavior with inmates, contributes to Zinc deficiency, a very important mineral for brain health and neurotransmitter regulation.
Zinc is commonly found to be deficient in ADHD sufferers; even through just small dietary changes, a small increase of this mineral has proven to be beneficial in improving behavior. In fact, several studies have sown that by improving the diet of young offenders with low-zinc, poor diet, and bad behavior, a 40-60% increase of behavioral improvement was experienced.
Lifestyle factors definitely affect the amount of toxins in one’s body, but by choosing to eat a wholesome, chemical-free diet, it’s possible to naturally detoxify from such offenders.
Herbs like Parsley, Cilantro, and leafy greens are also very beneficial for chelating toxins, metals, and cleansing the body.
5. Allergies – Gluten, Dairy, Additives
Whether it’s asthma, autism, or ADHD, food allergies most definitely play a large role in the behavior and health of young and old. Georgetown University found that children with ADHD are seven times more likely to have food allergies than other children and 56 percent of ADHD children aged 7-10 tested positive for food allergies, compared to less than 8 percent of controls. Hopefully you can see why with the especially sensitive bodies of the young, special attention should be given to the food options for the future.
With artificial additives, gluten, and dairy as the main offenders in behavioral and health problems, the reduction of these foods has shown major improvement with ADHD. An investigation by the Hyperactive Children’s Support Group found that 89 percent of children with ADHD reacted to food colorings, 72 percent to flavorings, 60 percent to MSG, 45 percent to all synthetic additives, 50 percent to cow’s milk, 60 percent to chocolate, and 40 percent to oranges.
Chemical sweeteners and artificial flavorings are top culprit; the average individual consumes around 5 kg of additives a year! And inflammatory foods such as milk and wheat (which contrary to popular belief are not health foods) can create such effects as nasal problems, excessive mucus, ear infections, facial swelling, and discoloration around the eyes, tonsillitis, digestive problems, bad breath, eczema, asthma, headaches and bed-wetting. Chronic conditions are more often than not related to one’s lifestyle and food, therefore remove the offensive foods and you’re statistically bound to witness the benefits that accompany.
This conclusion supports the realization that food does matter and if your child suffers from ADHD, it’d be an intelligent action to seriously re-think what’s on the dinner table.
6. Eat Real Food
If you can’t eat fast food, processed and packaged treats, sugary snacks, and highly refined, fiber-less breads, what can you eat? The answer is real food. Food that hasn’t been denatured, fried, or treated with chemicals. Food that doesn’t have a list of ingredients your grandmother couldn’t pronounce. Food that you could pick, steam, and eat from the garden. Foods in their wholesome, natural state such as: whole grains (gluten-free), legumes, sprouts, seeds, nuts, leafy greens, vegetables, fruit, and occasionally fish or lean, organic meat if one chooses. The answer is simple: go back to the roots of humanity and choose the foods that nourish and support the well-being of the body.
In healing from ADHD, this is essential. The London Based Institute of Child Health has reported “up to 90 percent of hyperactive children benefit from eliminating food that contains artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives, processed, and manufactured foods, and culprit foods identified by either an exclusion diet or blood test”. The human body was not meant to be shocked with man-made foods and driven into ‘dis-ease’. It is possible to heal, find balance, and thrive.
7. Balance that Sugar
Part of the issue of living off of a diet high in refined carbohydrates is that it leads to blood sugar imbalance, a top contributor to brain dysfunction and ADHD. By following #6, you can avert this catastrophe. Dietary studies show that hyperactive children eat ore sugar than other children and reducing dietary sugar has been found to halve disciplinary actions in young offenders.
Compared with allergy, blood sugar imbalance are linked with poor food choices: fiber-less, high in chemicals, and low-nutrient options. Long term this creates abnormal glucose levels and metabolism. Replacing all refined sugar and any foods that contain it with complex-carbohydrates whole foods (brown rice, whole grains, oats, lentils, beans, quinoa, vegetables, and fruit) will keep blood sugar and the mood essentially balanced.
8. Reward Deficiency Syndrome
Finally, most children with ADHD suffer from what is called a ‘reward deficiency syndrome’. Children with a constant need for stimulation have been shown to not produce enough of the motivating neurotransmitter dopamine. Ritalin and Cocaine both increase dopamine production and dopamine sensitivity, at least in the short term. Long term, however, one needs even more stimulation. That’s why it’s been proven those on Ritalin tend to turn to other drugs as they get older. If you wish a better life for your child than that of a drug addict, this is one more reason to choose the holistic route over pharmaceuticals.
DMAE brain nutrient is highly effective; it increases acetylcholine and can actually block the acetylcholine receptor. This allows more dopamine to be released, thereby stimulating the brain. In effect, this nutrient has high success with reward deficiency syndrome and ADHD. Unlike Ritalin, however, it doesn’t increase the need for external stimulation and doesn’t have undesirable side effects.
All in all, there is hope if someone in your family has ADHD. With more pharmaceutical drugs being thrown at the problem, it’s clear the actual imbalance is not being ‘cured’ or treated, but rather suppressed with only undesirable side effects and an increase of behavioral problems to show. With all illnesses of the body, understand it’s cause and opt for the holistic route if it so fits your lifestyle. Long-term, you’ll realize it’s the most sustainable method for thriving in the modern day world.
Patrick Holford’s: Optimum Nutrition
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Khalsa, D.S. and Stauth, C., Brain Longevity, Warner Books, 1997
Lombard, J. and Germano, C., The Brain Wellness Plan, Kensington Books, 1997
Warren, T., Beating Alzheimer’s, Avery 1991