Dietary changes, not drugs, correct this common psychiatric diagnosis
In the last 20 years, medical care for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has grown into an industry that tends to treat symptoms and not cure the problem. Children with the disorder are handed a psychiatric label, a drug prescription and a discouraging diagnosis. ADHD symptoms persists into adulthood even with medical treatment. According to statistics supporting the Americans with Disabilities Act, 3 percent to 10 percent of the U.S. population have ADHD symptoms.

There is an alternative treatment that doesn't require drugs, however. As a specialist in ADHD and other chronic health problems, I've determined that diet is one of the most significant factors behind ADHD symptoms, it's what people eat or don't eat that creates the degrees of the disorder. For this article, I will focus on children with ADHD symptoms.

Blood Sugar based on my observations, the most common underlying cause of the behavioral symptoms of ADHD, particularly in children, is hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). When individuals have a low blood sugar response, the body releases adrenaline to normalize blood sugar levels. In children, the adrenaline release may cause them to act out, even aggressively. The behavioral symptoms associated with low blood sugar can include agitation, anger, hostility, hyperactivity, irritability and an inability to sit still and concentrate. Other physical signs are headaches, insomnia, rapid heart beat, shakiness and sugar cravings.

There are several ways a child may become hypoglycemic. One way is not eating often enough. Eating a morning, afternoon and evening protein snack, in addition to three meals each day, is recommended for children with symptoms of hypoglycemia. They should also eat foods of protein; compared to carbohydrates, protein breaks down into glucose slowly, sending only small amounts of the sugar into the bloodstream at one time.

Carbohydrate intake should always be in the form of complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables. In some people, simple sugars in candy, cookies and soft drinks trigger glucose metabolism problems. Eating too much simple sugar or eating it on an empty stomach may also cause reactive low blood sugar later. Thus, blood sugar increases after eating sugary food, but drops below normal levels a few hours later. When this occurs, adrenaline is released and produces the undesirable symptoms of ADHD.
Simply eliminating sugary foods often changes a child's behavior for the better. Low blood sugar symptoms will not occur in every single child who misses a meal or eats sugar, but it has been noted that children do not need to have as low a blood sugar level as adults to have low blood sugar symptoms.

Food Allergies Based on my clinical observations, food allergies or food sensitivities are the second most common cause of ADHD symptoms. (Allergies stem from specific biochemical reactions in the immune system, while sensitivities result in reactions that are not specifically the same as allergies.) Children who have typical allergic symptoms such as skin rashes, runny noses, watery and itchy eyes and chronic coughing or clearing of the throat may also manifest allergic symptoms through their behavior. The mast cells in our body that are related to allergic reactions are found in the brain as well as the skin, nose, eyes, throat and lungs. If mast cells in the lungs are related to asthma, then mast cells in the brain may be involved in changes in the nervous system and be the basis of ADHD symptoms. It is therefore not surprising to see behavioral symptoms in children who suffer from allergies.

Removing the offending food from the diet or using the appropriate allergy treatment remedies the symptoms. It's important to note that both the testing and treatment for behavioral symptoms are done differently than the conventional testing and treatment for allergies. If all the allergens are placed on the arm or back at one time, as is done conventionally, there is no way to determine which symptoms were caused by which allergen, and therefore it is impossible to have accurate results. Thus, it is essential to test these agents one at a time. In a similar manner, a diet that eliminates foods and adds them back one at a time can help determine which food a child is reacting to and how badly he or she reacts.

Nutritional Shortfall The third area to consider for the non-drug treatment of ADHD symptoms is nutrient availability. Most of the biochemical processes in our body, including enzyme reactions, only work in the presence of vitamins and mineral cofactors. Magnesium, for example, is required in at least 350 processes. Other important cofactors include calcium, zinc and vitamin B 12 . The body can compensate for short-term nutritional deficiencies, but if cofactors are continually lacking, the body will not function properly.

"But we eat a balanced diet" is a common reply to this explanation. A balanced diet as defined by the food pyramid may not be the best diet for everyone. Ironically, sometimes the very food thought to be good for children may be the food they are sensitive to. This problem is compounded by the many products available today that are not really food. Artificial sweeteners and fats formulated from chemicals are substances the body may not be able to metabolize.

I recommend nutritional supplements for all of my patients with ADHD symptoms. Supplements such as evening primrose oil, DHA, magnesium, vitamins E and C, and zinc help the body work. It is important to note that different people have different vitamin and mineral needs, and testing may be required to determine the appropriate supplements for each patient.

A healthy intestinal tract is just as important as a healthy diet for treating ADHD symptoms. The nutritional value of all foods depends on proper absorption in the intestinal tract. Tests conducted at the Block Center in the Dallas/Fort Worth area revealed interesting statistics about ADHD patients' intestinal tracts. More than 95 percent contained too much yeast, another 50 percent contained harmful bacteria, and approximately 25 percent contained parasites. All of these factors adversely affect food breakdown and absorption. The intestinal track actually communicates with the brain through nervous system messages.

Correcting these abnormalities and improving intestinal tract function requires a variety of treatments, particularly recolonization of beneficial gut bacteria such as lactobacillus, acidophilus and bifidobacterium.

Learning Differences Other causes of ADHD symptoms include thyroid problems and learning differences. Such factors should always be evaluated and thyroid problems can be evaluated with a simple blood test.

It is extremely important to address learning differences. Most children diagnosed with ADHD symptoms simply learn differently than other children. They are usually intelligent, but tend to be kinesthetic and tactile learners while most teaching styles rely on the auditory and visual senses. They would benefit from a more even playing field in schools. Rather than calling them learning disabled and putting them in special classes, these children should be taught how to learn.
These underlying medical or educational problems must be corrected once discovered; children do not outgrow ADHD symptoms as was once commonly thought.

Burdening children with a psychiatric diagnosis of ADHD is detrimental. Once labeled with the disorder, these children are treated with drugs that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency monitors because of the abuse and addictiveness associated with them. These prescribed drugs do not even cure the problem they merely mask the symptoms if they do help. Once the medication is stopped, the symptoms return.

There are also certain risks to taking such drugs. Medical studies have shown that methylphenidate (Ritalin), commonly prescribed for ADHD, has similar properties to cocaine. It goes to the same receptor sites in the brain and gives the recipient the same "high" as cocaine does.

Many other drugs prescribed for children who have been diagnosed with ADHD are not even indicated for children and have heart attack, stroke and death as possible side effects.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Mary Ann Block - The Mother Who Went to Medical School To Save Her Child.

Dr. Block, top-selling author on family health and an international expert on children’s learning and behavior problems without drugs, now offers families the same kind of health care she desperately needed when her daughter was ill, healthcare that takes the time to find the cause instead of just using drugs to cover the symptoms.

All material provided is for educational purposes only. Reading this material does not create a doctor-patient relationship nor should the information contained in it be considered specific medical advice with respect to a specific patient and/or a specific condition. Consult your own physician regarding the applicability of any opinions or recommendations with respect to your symptoms or medical condition. Dr. Block specifically disclaims any liability, loss or risk personal or otherwise, that is or may be incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly of use or application of any of the information provided in this material.