Children, ADHD, and Nutrition
The diagnosis and treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has skyrocketed in recent years, with a tremendous increase in the percentage of our elementary school children who are taking amphetamines and stimulants such as Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta, Cyclert, and others. These medications, with their reported adverse effects and potential dangers, were simply unnecessary for so many children whom I have seen as patients. I have witnessed consistently positive results when these children followed a comprehensive program of nutritional excellence.
One such success story involves George Grant, age eleven, the nicest and most polite boy you would ever meet. Although his parents reported an improvement in his concentration and behavior since beginning Ritalin two years prior to his appointment with me, they were unsatisfied. George had frequent headaches and stomachaches from the medication, and he had tried the other stimulant medications and found that the same problems occurred.
I enjoyed meeting George and talking to him; he was surprisingly mature and interested in his school performance, and did not want his grades to suffer. I told them that it would take about three to six months to really evaluate whether nutritional intervention would work as effectively as the Ritalin, but there was one thing I could promise them: George would feel better, sleep better, have a better appetite, and his headaches and stomachaches would go away within a few weeks with high-nutrient eating.
His parents were very happy when we were able to use less Ritalin over the next two months, and then when George was on summer break he stopped taking his Ritalin completely. At school the following September, he was drug-free and performing better than he ever did on Ritalin. His parents sent me a copy of his report card, showing all A's and impressive comments from his teachers.
Besides a multivitamin, the only other nutritional supplement I recommend for children with ADHD is additional Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid. Children's diets today are notoriously low in the beneficial omega-3 fats found in foods such as walnuts, flax seeds, soybeans, leafy greens, and certain fish, and an inadequate level of DHA fat has been demonstrated to be important in the etiology of many diseases, especially ADHD. This important nutrient is typically found to be low in the blood of ADHD sufferers compared to other children without ADHD, and also has been found to improve the behavior and symptoms of ADHD. Therefore, supplementation is certainly indicated. The dose may vary from 100 to 600 mg daily depending on the age and the condition of the child. And keep in mind, this nutritional approached to ADHD does not magically make the problem disappear overnight; it could take six months to observe a significant change in behavior.