What is ADHD?
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is reaching epidemic proportions in the USA with over 6 million children aged 14 – 17 diagnosed with the condition in 2016.1 That’s an increase of over 42% in the last 8 years! Boys are three times more likely to be affected than girls.
It’s important for parents to understand exactly what ADHD is, and isn’t.
ADHD is not a disease – it’s a condition caused by lifestyle choices that can be altered.
ADHD was voted into existence in 1987 by the American Psychiatric Association and inserted in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
Psychiatrists made a list of common behaviours that teachers & parents objected to and then labelled them a “disease”! Since then the list has grown to18 criteria and any child exhibiting 6 or more of these behaviours is diagnosed as suffering from ADHD. Most of the “diagnosing” originates in the classroom and school counsellor offices.
So ADHD has never been shown to be a “chemical imbalance” or a “biological brain abnormality“, as parents are so often led to believe. In fact, from 1993 to 1997 Dr. Fred Baughman, a respected US pediatric neurologist, challenged the DEA, the FDA, Ciba-Geigy (makers of Ritalin) and top ADHD researchers to show any scientific proof that ADHD is a disease. None was forthcoming and the U.S. National Institutes of Health now state that there is no independent, valid test for ADHD, and there is no data to indicate that ADHD is due to a brain malfunction.
How Is It Treated?
The most common treatment is Ritalin, which is one of a group of extremely addictive and dangerous drugs.
According to the FDA, Ritalin has serious side effects including increased blood pressure, heart rate, respiration and temperature; appetite loss; stomach pains; weight loss; growth retardation; nervousness; agitation; irritability; violent & bizarre behaviour; paranoia; hallucinations; facial tics; muscle twitches; insomnia; addiction, suicidal tendencies and even – death!
One report, funded by the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, showed that children on drugs like Ritalin have a 500% higher risk of sudden death compared to the norm.2
There has to be a better way!
How Blood Sugar Levels Affect Children
A teaspoon of sugar will have a far greater effect on a child than on an adult. This is because of body size. So when a child eats a bowl of sugar laden cereal, for instance, the effect is going to be far more pronounced than if an adult ate the same bowl.
Because excess blood sugar is very detrimental to our veins and capillaries, the body tries to regulate the levels of blood sugar by secreting insulin.
When a child eats sugary cereal, their blood sugar levels skyrocket. A while later the levels drop because of the insulin produced by the pancreas. The child then goes out for break, has a doughnut, sweets and a soda and the blood sugar levels go through the roof again. This happens continuously throughout the day - blood sugar levels spiking and then plummeting. When they spike, the child is excitable and labelled ‘a disruptive influence’. When they plummet, the child has difficulty concentrating and is considered ‘learning impaired’.
The child is sent to the school councillor for evaluation, with a report showing that he/she is a disruptive influence, has difficulty focusing and lacks concentration.
Outcome: The child is labelled ADHD and Ritalin, or some similar drug, is recommended.
Keeping Blood Sugar Levels Stable
As Patrick Holford, author of ‘Food Is Better Medicine Than Drugs” says: “If you feed your child rocket fuel- that is, a diet high in sugar and caffeine- don’t be surprised if their behaviour is out of control!”3 A diet full of sugar, refined carbohydrates, additives & preservatives isn’t good for anyone, especially children.
There is a huge body of research, from all over the world, showing that if we improve children’s diets, we improve their health, and especially, behavioural and learning problems.
What can we do?
1. Change the child to a sugar free, low GI diet
Start the day with a good breakfast containing some protein, as this helps to slow the absorption of sugars into the bloodstream.
Old fashioned rolled oats (not the quick ‘heat and eat’ oats) makes a very nutritious breakfast. Put a little in a bowl, add some hot (not boiling) water. Add in chopped fruit, nuts and seeds, some natural unsweetened yogurt and you’ve got a breakfast that is quick to prepare, highly nutritious and won’t spike your child’s blood sugar. Eggs and wholemeal toast is another good option.
Don’t give kids money to buy food at school. A good lunch box with real food can make a huge difference. Make sure that each snack contains some protein, for example, a wholemeal sandwich with cheese.
Add in a water bottle (stainless steel rather than plastic or aluminium) with cold herb tea, water with a slice of lemon or freshly squeezed fruit juice, rather than sugary drinks.
The key is feeding your child a diet rich in low GI foods. Give them lots of fresh fruit, vegetables and unrefined carbohydrates (wholegrains, brown rice, pulses), nuts and seeds. Avoid processed, packaged and fast foods. Adding protein to every meal is very important, it helps to slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. Be aware that low-fat and no-fat dairy products are loaded with hidden sugar and additives to make them palatable.
2. Eliminate colourants, preservatives & additives from their diet
There is overwhelming evidence showing that these chemicals in food are detrimental, especially to ADHD children. Become a label reader!
A 2001 study, by the Hyperactive Children’s Support Group in the UK 4 found the following:
- 89% reacted to food colourings
- 72% to flavourings
- 60% to MSG
- 45% to all synthetic additives
- 50% to dairy products
- 60% to chocolate
3. Give them nutritional supplements
Studies show that supplementation helps improve ADHD children’s performance.5 It’s essential that your child gets a good quality multivitamin and mineral complex every day.
Another critical nutrient for children is Omega 3, which helps concentration and academic performance. 6
We can make an enormous difference to our children by being aware of their need for foods that keep their blood sugar levels stable. Following the simple steps above can ensure we give them the best chance of a happy and healthy start to life.
- Food is better medicine than Drugs – pg 320. Patrick Holford & Jerome Burne
- B. O’Rielly, Hypreactive Children’s Support Group Conference, London, June 2001
- S.J. Schoenthaler et al., “The Effect of Randomised Vitamin Supplementation....” Journal of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine, vol 7 (4), 1997
- A. Richardson and P. Montgomery, “The Oxford-Durham Study: A Randomized.......” Pediatrics vol115 (5), 2005, pp 1360-6