As both a parent and a natural health practitioner, NH21 is particularly interested in childhood nutrition and the therapeutic principle of ‘prevention’ being better than ‘cure’.
Hence this week’s review of global health news settling nicely upon an article by Emer Delany – Dietician, that looks into the causes and treatments of Attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder (ADHD), which is;
“a condition with a persistent pattern of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity in which children find it very difficult to focus their attention or control their behaviour.” (1)
“Children with ADHD demonstrate symptoms of restlessness and are unable to sit still for very long. They are easily distracted as they find it hard to pay attention and are often criticised for being careless and making too many mistakes. Some appear not to listen, find it very hard to wait their turn and can be disruptive during play.”
The parent in me might then question whether any child could possibly not have ADHD; yet the practitioner would not wish to belittle the challenges faced by those who genuinely do suffer with this common brain disorder; marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning and development.
While there is no known medical cure for ADHD, current treatments aim to reduce symptoms and improve functioning; these include medication, psychotherapy, education and training, or a combination of them all.
Intriguingly however, the most common type of medication used for treating ADHD is a chemical stimulant; which according to the National Institute of Mental Health;
“Although it may seem unusual to treat ADHD with a medication that is considered a stimulant, it works because it increases the brain chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine, which play essential roles in thinking and attention.” (2)
But here, one might question the logic, and perhaps hypocrisy, of orthodox medical science.
The ‘alternative’ practice of homeopathy is based in the concept that “like cures like”, advocating treatment of any disease with minute doses of natural substances that in a healthy person would produce the symptoms of that disease.
This, of course, is also the basis of vaccination and immunization; give a child a small dose of measles and the body learns how to fight measles.
But are we really to believe that powerful, pharmaceutical-grade stimulants will benefit the developing brain of a hyperactive child?
Ritalin (methylphenidate) is a central nervous system stimulant. It affects chemicals in the brain and nerves that contribute to hyperactivity and impulse control. (3)
Records indicate that in both the UK and US, prescriptions for this powerful narcotic have more than doubled in the past 10 years. Particularly disturbing is official advice that Ritalin is not approved for use by anyone younger than 6 years old – when ADHD symptoms can appear as early as aged 3.
Methylphenidate can affect growth in children, and produces an array of side-effects including chest pain and trouble breathing, hallucinations, aggression, hostility and paranoia; plus, numbness, seizures, muscle twitches and remarkably, feelings of nervousness, irritability and indeed new behavioral problems – the very symptoms it is prescribed to treat!
Can this really be considered treatment? Or might we rather look to reduce the causative factors?
Like many illnesses, theories abound as to the cause; with failure to comprehensively identify its origins leading to arbitrary categorizations such as “unknown”.
All-the-same, even hardened medical scientists are, at least partly, agreeable to the concept that environmental factors play a significant role in the development of ADHD; with risk factors thought to include:
- Cigarette smoking, alcohol use, or drug use during pregnancy.
- Exposure to environmental toxins during pregnancy.
- Exposure to environmental toxins at a young age.
- High sugar food items, artificial food additives and caffeinated beverages.
The so-called Standard American (Western) Diet, or SAD (pun-intended), is high in meat, dairy, fat and sugar, as well as refined, processed, junk foods; plus low in fruit and vegetables. The shift in Western diets to include more animal sourced foods, sugar and corn syrup happened especially quickly after World War II. (4)
Research studies have found numerous links between the Standard American Diet and risks of diseases and conditions that relate to the production of free-radicals and accompanying chronic inflammation.
Although it is impossible to comprehensively define such factors as “causative”, sheer logic determines that the ingestion of non-foods would have detrimental effects on human physiology; and that narcotics such as Ritalin might be withheld at least until extensive nutritional analysis has been undertaken, and dietary modifications adapted for several weeks, if not months.
Additional protocols could include reduced TV and computer time, matched by increased physical activity and the encouragement of creative endeavors such as art projects, drama and dance; all of which are proven scientifically to produce the brain chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine that Ritalin so poorly attempts to mimic.
Emer Delany rightly advises caution, stating that;
“ADHD is a complex condition that requires specialist input and advice. If you are concerned about your child and believe they may need help, contact your GP.”
NH21 would simply add that a second, and even third, opinion might be in order before proceeding with a course of harmful psychiatric drugs. As might a discerning look at the home kitchen.
Unfortunately, without wishing to allocate blame, there remains the undeniable fact that a developing child simply cannot have a healthy functioning brain if not given the proper nutrients with which to develop optimal brain function.