Helping Children

Some Topics

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

This descriptive term refers to restless, distractible children who have a knack for disrupting any environment that tries to enclose and control them. Many physicians have described diet revision treatment for children's' behavioral and learning problems. Egger remarked: "A role for food allergy in the hyperkinetic syndrome has been postulated since early this century."

The pharmacological approach to attention deficit, hyperactivity disorder XE "Hyperactivity disorder" (ADHD) is based on a drug-neurotransmitter model of brain function. The dopamine system is involved in reward-seeking behavior, sexual behavior, control of movement, regulation of pituitary-hormone secretion, and memory functions. A simple model of schizophrenia postulates increased or unregulated dopamine circuits; drugs that block dopamine activity ameliorate the schizophrenic syndrome. An interesting neurochemical relationship between hyperactivity and schizophrenia has been postulated, where the two conditions seem to have opposite features. ADHD may be attributed to dopamine deficiency. Dopamine synthesis slowly increases as children grow and may not reach full capacity until late teens. This is one of the built-in maturation lags that prevent children from assuming more adult-like behavior in their early life. Dopamine in young animals exerts a protective influence against hyperactivity. Since schizophrenia is associated with increased dopaminergic activity and is improved by dopamine-blocking agents, there is a reciprocal relationship between psychosis and hyperactivity. Nutritional strategies may attempt to modify the amino acid profile of the diet to encourage dopamine synthesis by augmenting intake of phenylalanine and tyrosine and supplying extra cofactors such as vitamin B6 (pyridoxine). A more direct drug approach is to utilize molecules that stimulate dopamine circuits or act as dopamine agonists.

The Physical Symptoms

The most common symptoms are allergic shiners (dark circles under the eyes) and stuffy nose. ADHD kids tend to have histories of nose congestion, recurrent middle-ear infections, and sleep disturbances, starting in infancy. Some have more specific allergic problems such as eczema, hives, and asthma but most have non-specific symptoms that do not fit the familiar patterns of allergy. Digestive disturbances are common but may be episodic with long normal periods - bouts of gas, distention, pain lead the list - some children have bouts of diarrhea others tend to be constipated. Some have headaches and many have leg pains often at night. Often parents will state that the child has recurring colds or flu and are prescribed antibiotics too frequently.

The Problems at School

The school profile of children with delayed pattern food allergies, involves a typical set of learning and behavioral problems. Teachers observe inattention, fluctuating performance, restlessness, distractibility, or aggressive behaviors, or remark on the quiet, withdrawn, disinterested nature of the child. Often the child is criticized for laziness or attention seeking, or the parents are blamed for undisciplined behavior. Psychological evaluation often reveals average to above-average intelligence with attention deficits. Some will appear clumsy, with awkward handwriting which varies from day to day, often appearing disorganized or tremulous. The more seriously afflicted children will fail to learn properly and will require assessment for learning disability and some form of remediation. If the behavioral aberrance is marked, they may be referred to school psychologists or psychiatrists. Difficulties in learning language skills top the list of learning problems and the diagnosis of dyslexia is often made. The irritable, restless child is considered "hyperactive" and may be disruptive in the classroom.

Food Allergy and ADHD

ADHD can be understood as as an expression of a food-driven hypersensitivity disease. Many children with ADHD will have symptoms and signs of delayed pattern food allergy. We are not talking about common allergy, diagnosed by skin tests. We are talking about delayed patterns of food allergy which cannot be detected by tests.

Bobner et al reviewed studies linking nutritional disorders with behavioral and learning problems in children. In their introduction they state: "Millions of dollars are spent annually on special education programs for children whose behavior prevent them from participating in the regular school setting despite average or above average intellectual capacity. A growing body of research indicates that some of these behavioral disorders are related to nutritional problems."

Many factors are considered in the literature including nutrient deficiencies, toxic heavy metals and food allergy. A correlation between physical symptoms such as chronic rhinitis and recurrent otitis media and learning-behavioral problems suggests that food allergy may underlie learning disabilities. Increasing numbers of children who are aggressive with antisocial behavior, and serious mood swings concern us. Sick children who behave badly create a ripple effect of disturbances in their families, neighborhoods and classrooms.

Egger et al published studies showing the effect of foods on migraine headaches, epilepsy, and hyperactivity in children, has stated: "Taken together, the available research suggests that different types of adverse food reactions correlate with neurological and psychiatric symptoms. The diversity of foods suggestive of allergy, and the adverse effects may correlate with immunological abnormalities."

Ritalin and Amphetamines

Drug options have included pemoline, L-dopa, bromocriptine, amantadine, and lergotrile. Ritalin and amphetamines increase dopaminergic activity and decrease hyperactivity while they increase stereotypy. Ritalin has become the "drug of choice" for children with ADHD. Any child treated with Ritalin is moved from the hyperactivity end of the spectrum toward a schizophrenia-like state. Ritalin therapy poses risks, some obvious and others concealed. The most obvious Ritalin effect is appetite suppression and retarded growth. Some parents complain that their Ritalin-treated child acts like a "zombie. " They describe emotional blunting and detachment from family and friends, a schizophrenic attribute. Children on higher doses and with chronic use of Ritalin may manifest paranoid XE "Paranoia" features: there is a tendency to be overly suspicious, to withdraw, to get angry, and to display restless, non-productive behavior

In the US, a FDA advisory committee heard testimony indicating that 2.5 million children take stimulants for ADHD, including nearly 10 percent of all 10-year-old boys in the United States. The use of these agents is much less prevalent in European countries, where the diagnosis of ADHD is relatively uncommon. The popularity of the diagnosis, Adult ADHD is relatively recent leading to at least 1.5 million adults who take stimulants on a daily basis, with 10 percent of users older than 50 years of age. Drug-related events reviewed by the committee included 25 cases of sudden death in children or adults that included myocardial infarction, stroke, and serious heart arrhythmias. The committee concluded: “We rejected the notion that the administration of potent sympathomimetic agents to millions of Americans is appropriate. We sought to emphasize more selective and restricted use, while increasing awareness of potential hazards. We argued that the FDA should act soon and decisively. “

Professor Sroufe wrote: “Three million children in the USA take drugs for problems in focusing. Toward the end of last year, many of their parents were deeply alarmed because there was a shortage of drugs like Ritalin and Adderall that they considered absolutely essential to their children’s functioning. But are these drugs really helping children? Should we really keep expanding the number of prescriptions filled? In 30 years there has been a twentyfold increase in the consumption of drugs for attention-deficit disorder. As a psychologist who has been studying the development of troubled children for more than 40 years, I believe we should be asking why we rely so heavily on these drugs. Attention-deficit drugs increase concentration in the short term, which is why they work so well for college students cramming for exams. But when given to children over long periods of time, they neither improve school achievement nor reduce behavior problems. The drugs can also have serious side effects, including stunting growth. Sadly, few physicians and parents seem to be aware of what we have been learning about the lack of effectiveness of these drugs.”

A highly regarded Cochrane Review showed that there is only very low-quality evidence to support the use of methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta, other brands) in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) leading the reviewers to urge more caution when prescribing stimulants. Dr Storebø and Dr Zwi stated: "We should view the average reduction in symptom scores attributable to treatment with a high degree of caution," they add. "Clinicians need to weigh what we now believe to be an uncertain degree of benefit against the many adverse events that are known to be associated with methylphenidate, such as appetite suppression and sleep difficulties. The general perception of methylphenidate as an effective drug for all children with ADHD seems out of step with the new evidence. This new information from our review should challenge the mindset of clinicians because there is more uncertainty to factor in to balancing the benefits and risks of these medications."(Methylphenidate for children and adolescents with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. November 25 2015.)

Proper Diet Revision

All of these symptoms may remit surprisingly and dramatically when food selection is changed. The details of a successful food plan vary from individual to individual. The most globally successful diet revision in all these illnesses involves complete revision of the problematic diet.

  1. Selective "elimination diets" tend not to work.
  2. There are no tests for this type of food allergy.
  3. The proper technique of diet revision therapy is designed to solve simultaneous problems in the child's food supply.

Consideration is given to

  • minimizing exposure to junk food and food additives,
  • choosing nourishing, primary, low allergenic foods as dietary staples,
  • assuring nutrient adequacy by careful monitoring of the child's food intake.