ADHD, ADD, Autism: A Naturopathic Approach
The ADHD, ADD & Autism: a Naturopathic Approach encompasses the possible treatments and considerations for this group with similar neurological dysfunction. Diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) with possible Hyperactivity (ADHD) is difficult, with Autism being even more so. Misdiagnosed children may simply be bored and under-stimulated or use the mischievous behaviour as a coping strategy to deal with family dysfunction. In addition, hearing loss, visual disturbances or dyslexia should all be ruled out before medication is administered. In this article we include Autism in the neurological category as similar naturopathic treatment and considerations apply.
Conventional medicine treats ADD with Ritalin (methylphenidate), a member of the cocaine family, as the drug of choice. Its side effects include temporary growth retardation, stomach aches, loss of appetite, poor sleep, Tourette’s syndrome and a chemical dependency that can manifest later in life.
The main issue is that most people are unaware of the cause of these conditions. When the culprits are identified and rectified, it can produce a vast improvement in symptoms. However, ignorance is not bliss when children must ingest drugs to facilitate the learning process and appropriate behaviour.
Two aspects prevail in ADHD: hyperactivity and/or a learning disability. The majority of hyperactivity has been linked to food additives, food allergies and sucrose (sugar) consumption. Factors relevant to learning disabilities should also be considered in children with hyperactivity. These include chronic otitis media (recurrent ear infections), nutrient deficiencies and heavy metals.
A strong association exists between sugar consumption and artificial food dyes. However, the negative effect of sugar on behaviour is explained by abnormal glucose tolerance, predominantly hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar). Eating sugar causes an initially high blood sugar level, which the insulin hormone decreases, resulting in a blood sugar level that is too low. This is termed reactive hypoglycaemia (crashing after sugar consumption), which eventually results in hyperactivity as adrenaline is released to compensate for the low blood sugar level.
Food Allergies & Food Additives
Food additives encompass a large range of chemicals, as in the USA 5,000 additives are used! Examples include anti-caking agents (e.g. calcium silicate), antioxidants (e.g. BHT & BHA), bleaching agents, colourings, flavourings, emulsifiers, minerals salts, preservatives (e.g. benzoates, nitrates & sulphites), thickeners and vegetable gums.
Elimination of only food additives from the diet is inadequate, since food allergies induce psychological symptoms such as hyperactivity, poor concentration, mood swings, anxiety, depression, fatigue and food cravings. Many clinical studies have shown that fifty percent of those that tried a hypoallergenic diet displayed a decrease in symptoms of hyperactivity.
A state of the art technology, to test for both immediate and delayed food allergy reactions, is called the ELISA test (Enzyme Linked Immuno-Sorbent Assay). It is available through Dr. Jiwani and involves an individual’s sample of blood, on which ninety-six different foods are tested in duplicate, to provide accurate and reproducible results.
Otitis Media (Recurrent Ear Infections)
Learning-disabled children have a current and early incidence of otitis media, twice as common as non-learning-disabled children. Therefore, prevention through identification and elimination of food allergies is key to dealing with chronic otitis media.
Any nutrient deficiency can result in impaired brain function. For example, processing and preservation of foods results in losses of vitamins and trace minerals, as in refined carbohydrates (bagels, bread, pasta & baked goods). Iron deficiency is quite common in children, and is associated with decreased attentiveness, persistence and voluntary activity. Elevated levels of cadmium (found in second-hand cigarette smoke) cause zinc deficiency. These abnormalities are both prevalent in learning disabled children. Poor nutrition and nutrient deficiencies go hand in hand, so supplementation of B complex, calcium and essential fatty acids (omega 3 & 6) may also be beneficial in many children. It has also been demonstrated that correction of even subtle nutritional variables has a substantial influence on learning and behaviour.
Many studies have shown the link between childhood learning disabilities and body stores of heavy metals, particularly lead. General patterns of increased hair levels of mercury, cadmium, lead, copper and manganese characterize learning disabilities. Hair mineral analysis, available through a naturopathic physician, detects elevated levels of heavy metals, which are prevalent with poor nutrition, due to lack of food factors which either chelate the heavy metals or decrease their absorption.
Homeopathic remedies tailored to a child’s genetic predisposition, physical attributes, mental and emotional differences account for a holistic, individualized approach. The child’s specific constitutional remedy stimulates the body’s inherent ability to heal itself. It is important to understand that other naturopathic treatments should be combined with homeopathy for best results.
Logically, the use of methylphenidate (Ritalin) for ADD & ADHD should be a last resort, if other alternatives fail. Failure of treatment should be evaluated to consider compliance, types of treatment and the doctor’s experience in the field.
This article is for educational purposes only and does not advocate self-diagnosis. Due to individual variability, consultation with a licensed health professional, such as a naturopathic physician is highly recommended, prior to starting a natural treatment plan.
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