My Q Health | ADHD Is on the Rise: How to Use Nutrition to Treat Attention Deficit
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ADHD Is on the Rise: How to Use Nutrition to Treat Attention Deficit

ADHD Is on the Rise: How to Use Nutrition to Treat Attention Deficit

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On November 12, the CDC reported that 10 percent of children in the U.S. have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), an increase of almost 25 percent in just four years.

Between 2003 and 2007, a million children were given this diagnosis for the first time, raising the number of affected children to 5.54 million. Two-thirds of those children are being treated with drugs to enhance focus and concentration.

But research indicates that two drugs commonly prescribed to treat ADHD, Methylphenidate (Ritalin) and d-amphetamine (Dexedrine), can increase the rate of cigarette smoking. A study done at the University of Kentucky found that use of Methylphenidate increased the total number of cigarettes smoked, number of puffs, and carbon monoxide levels.

There is an effective alternative to drug therapy: nutrition.
A body of scientific research supports the importance of nutritional factors in ADHD. I have personally treated hundreds of children with ADHD over the past 30 years. Almost all have improved without the need for drug therapy. To help them and their parents I have used a series of questions that searches for the causes of ADHD in each individual child.

Parents seeking to learn more about how nutrition may impact their child’s behavior can use these questions as a guide:

(1. How nutritious is the child’s diet?
Over 50 percent of children with ADHD crave sweets, often at the expense of nutritious food. About 70 percent of children who crave sweets have much more control over their behavior when their food is low in added sugar. My first line of advice to parents is, keep your children away from sugary cereals, pancakes or waffles with syrup, soft drinks, candy, cakes, cookies, doughnuts, ice cream, frozen yogurt and chocolate. Every ounce of sugar reduction helps. Sugar alone does not cause hyperactivity. It reduces the nutritional quality of the diet and may aggravate other food intolerances (see below).

(2. Are there any foods or food additives to which the child is sensitive or intolerant?
During the 1960s, Dr. Benjamin Feingold, a California pediatrician, observed that many hyperactive children became excited after eating foods containing high concentrations of salicylates. These phenolic compounds occur naturally in many fruits and vegetables and are especially concentrated in raisins, nuts, apples and oranges. They are also used as preservatives (BHT and BHA, for example) or as the basis for artificial colors or flavors. Feingold developed a low salicylate diet that has helped many children overcome ADHD. Twenty-five years ago the National Institute of Mental Health convened a consensus panel which concluded that 8 to 10 percent of children with ADHD are sensitive to salicylates and benefit from the Feingold diet.

Shortly afterwards a study was done at the Hospital for Sick Children in London and published in the leading British journal, Lancet, which demonstrated that most children with severe ADHD are salicylate sensitive, but that 90 percent of these children have additional food intolerances. The conclusion is that the Feingold diet will not significantly benefit the majority of children with ADHD because they have more than one type of food sensitivity. The British researchers performed exhaustive dietary trials, closely supervised by hospital dietitians. After determining that 80 percent of the children had apparent food sensitivities as a cause of hyperactivity, they then performed double blind, placebo controlled challenges with the offending foods. Using this most rigorous clinical research method, the investigators confirmed the presence of food intolerance in the majority of children with ADHD.

Subsequent research by the leading investigator of this study suggested that these food intolerances represent true food allergy. The foods to which children with ADHD most commonly had allergic reactions were cow’s milk (which included milk, cheese, yogurt and ice cream), corn (an additive in many prepared foods), wheat, soy and eggs. Altogether, 48 different foods were incriminated as triggers for hyperactivity.

To read full article, visit the Huffington Post.


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